[Ancient] Auction Activity During the Pandemic

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Curtisimo, Mar 26, 2020.

  1. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Less than a week ago CNG sent out an email with a few lines at the end that claimed the coin market was extremely strong and seeing increased activity. At the time I thought it was a pre-canned marketing throw away line but looking at auctions over the past week+ it seems that CNG’s observation is entirely accurate if not an understatement.

    Perhaps the increase isn’t spread evenly among auction houses or maybe the low end or the high end is being effected more? I’m not sure, but from the several auctions I’ve been watching bidding seems stronger across the board.

    This is counter to what I would have predicted. The increasing uncertainty about shipping arrangements as well as the recent economic fall out would seem to be factors working against discretionary spending on hobby items. For me at least I am conserving my financial resources in case of the very real possibility that I will need to help members of my family survive through economic uncertainty in the months ahead (or even if I lose my own job!).

    What do you think? Has the pandemic effected your coin purchasing habits? Do you think the recent surge in auction activity / prices is sustainable?


    Here is a coin showing Apollo, god of healing. Thank you to all the health care workers out there working hard to heal the sick.
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  3. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Eye of Horus

    I've been watching a few auctions and FB groups and the overall level of activity seems to be high, which I would not have expected now that we are a couple of weeks into the shelter-in-place. Presumably more folks are at home and have time to think about coins. The markets have taken a hit which has impacted me to a certain extent. But my discretionary coin budget has remained pretty consistent. If it turns out that the pandemic goes on for a few months it may be that we will start to see some changes.
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  4. svessien

    svessien Senior Member

    I think this should have been expected for the following reasons:

    - It is human psychology to gather resources when we feel threatened. This works sub-consciously, I believe.
    - Stock markets are crashing and people sell everything. Increased liquidity affects the market, although people may have taken a loss. Even possibly because people have taken a loss, and choose to spend the money on something they like in spite of what some guy with a bachelors degree in repeating old theories said was «smart».
    - People are at home, left to their computer screen. They don’t go to coin shows and the local coin store may be closed. Auctions are the best way to get coins now.
    - Some may have a sense of fatality, thinking if they’re about to go, they’re at least going to have that long wanted tetradrachm.
    - Boredom. Auctions are exciting, and stimulate the production of dopamine and adrenaline.
    - Fear of inflation holding cash. They just got 2 trillion new reasons for that.

    During the last market meltdown in 2007-09, I was certain the coin market would be a wonderful buyers market. It was the opposite. Those that watch the art market trends have shown that the art market lags the stock market by 6-18 months. The coin market has a lot in common with the art market.

    Whether we will have inflation or deflation in the times to come, I share the idea that it’s good to have hard assets. However, I believe that over-hyped assets will look naked as the times get harder.

    My two cents.
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  5. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I can only speak for myself. The pandemic hasn't really affected my income much, because I've been 90+% retired as of December anyway, although most of the part-time work I was doing has dried up for now. Plus, I recently turned 65, so I'm on Medicare and my health care costs are fairly predictable. And I have enough savings to last me quite a few years if I'm reasonably careful, when taken together with my Social Security payments. (I had and have zero invested in the stock market, so that decline hasn't affected me either, at least directly.)

    Nonetheless, the idea of being completely free with my coin purchases while I'm sitting here in the middle of New York City in the middle of a pandemic makes me very uncomfortable somehow, not that I was being exactly extravagant before. So I'm making a conscious effort to cut back a little bit. For example, if I do get a $1,200 payment from the federal government within the next month, I won't be running to spend it on Roman coins!
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020
  6. svessien

    svessien Senior Member

    I think it’s hard to say right now. How will the helicopter money from the government influence the markets? Increased volumes of money/credit tends to inflate the price on items that have a fixed volume, like gold for example. I think Panzerman is well hedged, and I regret selling one of my gold sovereigns back in 2011.
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  7. Agricantus

    Agricantus Allium aflatunense

    Since my state is under 'stay at home' order, I was able to watch the Roma sale. Insanity. I do not believe it is fear of inflation. Who starts an investment with a 25% hit (bp, vat, currency conversion)? Even buying a house puts one at around a 7% loss (maybe less in fsbo scenario).

    so, it must be a few of the other reasons that @svessien wrote.

    under normal circumstances, I would've gone 'all in' on a couple of coins in The Roma sale, but I was just a silent observer. I have too much debt to worry about, so no extravagant spending from me
  8. svessien

    svessien Senior Member

    I coudn’t do more than watch either. I was active on auctions a few weeks ago, though. They weren’t as crazy, luckily.
  9. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    This is not the first anti-intellectual post I have read on this site. In fact there are far too many of them here. If I disappear from this site one day soon this will be the reason.
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  10. svessien

    svessien Senior Member

    If you read it like that, I’m sorry.
    I do believe, however, that there is evidence that there are many people with a mid-level education giving economic advice with a higher degree of certainity than they ought to. I’m aiming at that.
  11. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I didn't read it that way, to be honest -- svessian said bachelor's degree, not PhD! And I was as flabbergasted as anyone by some of the comments in the "alternative archaeology" thread!
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  12. svessien

    svessien Senior Member

    I’m not having a good day. Perhaps that’s the case for @Orfew too, I don’t know.
    It’s a great coin board, and I don’t want to feel responsible for running anyone off.
    I also don’t want to be accused of doing so based on someones interpretation in a heated moment, Orfew.
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  13. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    The misinformation and garbage posts in that thread is quite astounding, considering this if a forum dedicated to the art and science of numismatics. Frankly, I was shocked at the lack of critical thinking on display.
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  14. Gary R. Wilson


    I've been participating in recent auctions-within limits. In other words, I'm not a high roller and bid on low to mid grade coins. I usually can't afford high end. I am retired but the house and cars are paid for. My collection and participation in auctions is a sort of therapy to get away from the current problems. Also, if you are careful on your buys, when it is time to sale you will be okay. When my wife starts to complain about the coins I just say that they can be resold. The money is not being thrown away. It's not like I'm going to bars or going on vacations. When that money is gone, it's gone. I'm sure others feel the same way.
  15. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I was too. Maybe I'm a snob about numismatics, but I wouldn't have expected that kind of thing from people who study ancient coins. Perhaps other kinds of coins!
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  16. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Many of these points make sense to me. Boredom mixed with a desire to continue doing something enjoyable (collecting).

    An inflow of investment money into the hobby in this climate just doesn’t make sense to me as one of the causes. It seems like there are so many safer places to store ones wealth even now.

    Some of the prices at auction recently seem incredibly unsustainable. I am still betting that in the long term the pandemic will drive coin prices down. There will be an inflection point where one of the big auctions sees a sharp drop and that will have a ripple effect... just my guess. Was there a big drop after the 2008 financial crisis? I wasn’t an active auction purchaser then.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020
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  17. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    I don’t think any offense was meant to academics by the comment. I think CoinTalk in general (at least the ancients board) is remarkable in that it doesn’t seem to have any widespread anti “anything” bias. The one possible exception being draconian cultural property advocates but who cares about those people (jk)! :troll:

    In fact I think many of the people on the board (myself included) have multiple degrees and a great appreciation for academics in general. The odd comment here or there doesn’t make a consensus... so keep posting those Flavians Andrew!
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  18. svessien

    svessien Senior Member

    As I can remember, the market was more quiet for some years after the financial crisis, but this was delayed. The Norwegian market, which I was following closely (in a false hope to get cheap coins) had a record year in 2010. 2008-09 weren’t cheap either.
    Without having the records to prove it, I believe that the starting bids started to increase after that. That, I think, is a sign of a bear market. When people feel confident they will get a good price, you can have bid start at 1$.

    I appreciate the counter argument about liquidity from the stock market sell off. However, I think it’s important to remember that markets aren’t nescessarily rational. Just look at us: We are spending big money on buying old money that doesn’t work anymore. We hardly know the supply side on many of the purchases, and we accept a grading standard that is subjective.
    Noam Chomsky has claimed that one of the fallacies when debating the capitalist society, is to consider it a «market of informed individuals making rational desicions». He claims that the opposite may be just as true, exemplifying it by the advertising industry: When marketing a good such as a car, the commercial doesn’t tell you much about the construction of the car, rather what kind of lifestyle people driving such cars have. I think he has a good point, and I think the term «market psychology» is being used assuming peoples behavior is rational. It very often isn’t. :)

    I agree with the very likely coming bear market. Better save some cash for that.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020
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  19. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Eye of Horus

    That one new age historical thread was sort of a chimera - an outlier, a lot of what was said was in jest.
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  20. Ryro

    Ryro You'll never be lovelier than you are now... Supporter

    Love the thread Curtis the Man! Have been thinking exactly the same thing watching auctions lately... note, watching. And LOVE reading thoughts on the issue as well!
    And can a guy, who married a really smart chick with a masters, who took numerous classes at the community college pleeeease get some love from this crowd?!
    I have stopped all purchases for the last several weeks to see how things shook. Thus far I’ve received all purchases, save one waiting export approval from the English lord of laddie’s and what not, and surprisingly have my last (ordered before it hit the states)(hopefully) arriving tomorrow.

    And to keep it honest,
    B44052AF-C08C-473A-8CDC-3DE22E519067.jpeg L. FURIUS CN.F. BROCCHUS
    Denarius (63 BCE). Rome.
    Obv: III - VIR / BROCCHI.
    Head of Ceres right, wearing grain wreath; grain ear to left, single grain to right.
    Rev: L FVRI / CN F.
    Curule chair between fasces.
    Crawford 414/1.
    Weight: 3.97 g.
    Diameter: 18 mm.

    the goddess of fertility and agriculture to make sure that we survive, thrive and have plenty of two ply to go around
  21. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I have a brother-in-law who cashed in all his stocks a couple weeks ago saying he wished he had done it sooner. I did not. Who was right remains to be seen. He does not buy coins but I suspect that there were some people with cash like this responsible for some of the coinflation CNG reported. I do not see how this can last long unless the big sellers are just ignoring the direction of authorities. Is this a good time to send all of your coins on consignment to be sold later this year? I doubt many people will be doing this today. What is the time elapsed between sending coins to a big auction and receiving the payout so you can invest it otherwise? This is not day-trading. If people stop consigning good coins, I suspect we will see more of the hoards (EL hekate, owls, etc.) so there should be no problem buying large lots of $500 coins but how deep is the backstock of coins that are rising so rapidly now?

    I don't buy and sell coins for investment. When I sell coins it is because I had two or no longer wanted so many of that category. There is only one of you that got a coin I wanted to keep but that was a trade for something I wanted more. I decided to continue buying coins I want long term for prices I am willing to pay. That may mean I will buy the fewest coins this year of any year in the last several decades. I might even get around to reading some of those coin books I was hoping to sell. There are other ways to participate in the hobby than buying high and selling low.
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