A Fine Aureus or several EF Denarii?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by happy_collector, Jan 29, 2019.

  1. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    A thought came up today while searching online for Faustina denarius. If someone has a yearly budget for just one fine grade (F) aureus, should he/she go for it? Or spend on several higher quality (like GVF or EF) denarii instead? Curious what other CT members think. Thanks for comments!
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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Good question, and one each of us must determine for ourselves. For me, I would rather have two $50 coins rather than one $100. For me, and I think many on this board, the coins are all about the history. Pristine coins are nice, but I'd rather have more for the money.
  4. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Well-Known Member

    I agree with @Bing .. coins to me are a tangible piece of history. History I can touch, read about and learn about. Having one gold coin would not excite me as much as the learning and enjoyment many coins provide.
  5. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Thanks for your thoughts, Bing and Clavdivs. Much appreciated.
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  6. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    I like coins and I like acquiring them often and I'd rather have 10 $50 dollar coins than one $500 coin. For me, it's all about the numismatic interest, variety, history, and stories behind the coins.
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  7. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Thanks for your thoughts also, Roman Collector.
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  8. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    I agree with all the responders so far. After you have a thousand ancient coins, you can go for something really special. Until then, buy lots of coins! Then, post them here on CT with a writeup! You will get more pleasure from learning about ten inexpensive coins than from learning about one expensive coin.
  9. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    While holding a piece of ancient gold is an enjoyable experience, I would absolutely choose the denarii. The price of aurei is substantially supported by the fact that people gravitate toward gold for some visceral reason but aurei are not particularly rare regardless of grade.

    Personally, I've often bought an aureus just because that was the metal in which the type I wanted was struck. Gold for gold's sake isn't a valid argument to me. I wanted the Claudius "IMPER RECEPT" type in either silver or gold and I was outbid on the very few nice denarii (and the 5x more plentiful aurei during the same period) before I finally bought my aureus. While I'm happy with my coin, I might some day "upgrade" to a denarius if a really special example came up.

    Overall, I'd find a well-matched set of denarii in very nice style with interesting types and VF+ detail to be far more impressive than a few aurei. Also be forewarned: if you're looking for a challenge, it is hard to find great examples of denarii. It's first necessary to look at enough coins to identify when a particular coin is truly exceptional. It can sometimes be subtle but once you get there in experience level, it'll become second nature. You'll end up learning about more coins which will hone your eye and prepare yourself for if you some day want to add an aureus.
  10. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    You will learn more from 500 Fine denarii than from 50 EF ones or one aureus but one of the things you will learn is you won't be able to sell them as easily if that ever becomes a concern. The current fad is not how much you can learn from the coins but how little effort you can get away with and make other people ooou and aaah over your coins. There are many exceptions to this and many of them spend time on this list. I agree with Valentinian on the matter. Your first coins need to be educational. Your first coin need not be rare or expensive. There will be time for that and you can make mistakes more cheaply until you learn.
  11. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Many thanks for the additional pointers, Valentinan, AncientJoe and Doug. I am a comparatively new Greek/Roman coins collector. Re-picked up my ancient coins interest about 2 months ago, and joined CT forum last month.

    It is great to hear from experienced collectors. I'll surely gear towards education and coin researching fun now. I enjoy reading the many CT posts, especially a recent one about Faustina's hairstyle changes. This is something I had remotely thought about, and wow, someone actually talks about it... Really enjoyed that topic. Thanks again for all the comments!
  12. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    As a specialist, I don't always have the luxury to choose high end examples. I take what I can get. Given the choice, I'd rather have several coins in lower grade than one high end example. Although, acquiring common coins in high grade is something I do as well. I know this isn't what you asked, but you get the point.
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  13. Suarez

    Suarez Well-Known Member

    I'll be a contrarian and say that by that logic you could get a thousand marginal AEs and learn even more.

    Truth is you don't need to possess the object in order to learn from it. Having a very, very special item is special in its own right. You might get more joy out of that fine aureus, and show it to others and hold it and look at it and just keep remembering that it's yours than you will a bunch of ordinary other coins.

    I learned this lesson as a kid when my dad gave me the option of buying the toy I really wanted if I could wait another week until my birthday or get me a cheap toy on that day. I went for the cheap toy of course. And regretted it long enough that 40 years later I still think about it ;-)
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  14. TIF

    TIF Well that didn't last long :D Supporter

    While my personal preference is in line with most of the previous responders, this...

    is a good point!

    There are a few regular CT members who no longer collect or have coins (or who only have a few) but who are active in researching and adding to the body of numismatic knowledge.

    Budgetary constraints have drastically slowed my purchases and I'm starting to see the appeal of simply admiring other people's coins while continuing to read, learn, and contribute.

    For now though I'll continue buying what I can when I can :).
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  15. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I doubt that. There a thousands of low priced coins that are pretty boring and duplicate each other to the point that you gain nothing by adding another. Unfortunately, the same can be said for coins that sell for huge sums just because they are gold or mint state. The secret of collection is to find the ones that speak to you, not the ones that you think will impress the neighbors. I have coins for which I paid under $5 and coins that were over $500. It is not necessary that my next coin will be one or the other category but, if it is expensive, there will be an effect on how many other coins I can buy to a greater degree than a cheap one will. How we each balance such decisions is why each of our collections are different and, hopefully, fit our personal desires.
    The idea that a coin has to be expensive to avoid being 'ordinary' goes against every idea I have about collecting.
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  16. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody who doesn’t know anything...

    Last edited: Jan 30, 2019
  17. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    This is a fair point: there are more than enough coins photographed/documented/analyzed in museum and other public collections to satisfy any amount of learning.

    The only reason to own a coin is because you like it and want it for your own collecting parameters and preferences. At some point, one might question why bother owning any coins: you can just look at pictures. The same rationale would apply to any sphere of collecting - why own minerals, fossils, stamps, autographs, cars, art, etc.

    Ultimately, collecting is just some odd facet of the human condition and I don't really want to question it too deeply because owning coins (and minerals and fossils) makes me happy.
  18. jamesicus

    jamesicus Supporter! Supporter

    Those sentiments resonate particularly well with me. I am not well versed in psychology and seldom indulge in self-analysis, but I think the main attraction for me in actually owning the coins I do is so that I can hold them in my hands and contemplate them whenever I read a book, or conduct research, or watch a movie relating to the historical events associated with those coins - I then feel an almost mystical connection - “I feel the vibes” as they say these days. The following may be heresy to some here, but I have only minimal interest in the appearance and condition of my coins (although I do like them to be reasonably well centered with complete and legible inscriptions) - or how they were made - the only thing in this regard that specifically interests me is the inscriptional lettering because of my love of Calligraphy. Fortunately there is room for all our diverse interests in this hobby.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2019
  19. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    I am not so sure. Pictures are nice but at the end of the day they are two dimensional images of a three dimensional object. I remember looking at a tetradrachm of Rhegion signed by Kratesippios that was in a Bertolami (then ACR) auction. The coin was in rather poor shape but looking at the lions head I was struck by how the expression on the lions face changed as I changed the angle of the coin as I was looking at it. I have seen some coins that look really different when looked at from an angle. (the later Rhodian tetradrachms come to mind). It is useful to have at least a few coins in hand to form a reference sample to compare with what you can see in a picture. As to one of the other threads within this discussion I would probably prefer to have a really exceptional denarius with an interesting reverse, than an aureus that grades as a fine. Better yet I might like to have a sestertius with an interesting reverse.
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  20. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    While I value the number of coin photos available today I would say 99% of them are so poor that it is hard to tell everything about the coin I might like. A couple decades ago I was told that my correspondent really preferred plaster casts to photos. I wonder if he still feels that way. I have suggested several times that a stereo microscope is a great tool for coin students. I am a big fan of 3D imagery but very few people worth in that way and I do very few. Finally there is the matter that those who only look at coins photographed by someone else will have a harder time adding to the total knowledge of the subject. They will discover things that have already been discovered. I probably have more photos of my coins than most people but there are things to be seen on my coins hard to see even in the best photos. Finally there is that feel thing that make some of us so opposed to sealed slabs. I like to play in my coin vault and let them hit me on the head just like Scrooge McDuck. Let me see you do that with your photos.
    For the record, unlike Scrooge, I always wear pants when handling coins. I mention that for the comfort of those who have coins that used to be mine.
  21. jamesicus

    jamesicus Supporter! Supporter

    That is the coin I look at and admire more than any other in your collection. It is a very important historically associated coin issue that I have wanted to add to my collection for many years. However, I have encountered very few examples that complied with my criteria - or I didn’t have the funds available at the time to buy the ones that did. Several times in those circumstances I contemplated selling one of my Samurai swords in order to purchase the coin, but I always decided not to take that step at the last minute. Now it is too late in the game for me to do that - there is a lesson to be learned there.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2019
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