Featured Condition and price balance

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Valentinian, Feb 3, 2020.

  1. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    We all know that coins in better condition cost more--sometimes a lot more. Not long ago we had a thread in which a US nickel in MS68+ was $25,000 when the same type in MS66 was listed at $85. That seems crazy to me.

    But, we in ancient coins are not immune to condition-fever. I bought this coin recently at a well-publicized public auction for under $25, shipping included:

    It is a large Byzantine follis of Anastasius. At 34 mm (a US half dollar is under 31 mm) and 18.08 grams it is pretty impressive in hand. It has lots of wear and an uneven strike, but a bold obverse legend and a very good patina. It is Sear Byzantine Coins 19.

    If the type were in better condition it would cost more--maybe a lot more. Take a look at this example from the recent Triton auction of CNG:


    The CNG coin is obviously much better. However, it cost the buyer $5400 plus shipping. That is over 200 times as much.

    I talk on the phone with distant friends about the balance between condition and price. It is not an easy-to-decide consideration.

    If you see a type you want and it is significantly cheaper you are willing to pay, but also in lesser condition than you would prefer, do you buy it anyway because it is cheap for the type? Or, if you don't buy it and the next one is even better than the usual condition you choose, but significantly higher-priced, do you pay the premium? Or, maybe you don't worry about the condition/price balance and just buy a coin you want at what it costs because "That's what it costs."

    We'd love to hear your thoughts on condition and price.
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. Pishpash

    Pishpash Supporter! Supporter

    I don't have deep pockets, so this doesn't concern me too much. If I like it, can I afford it?
    PlanoSteve likes this.
  4. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    While I agree the price would never cross my mind, it is an exceptional coin. I have never seen an example even close to this level of preservation. I bet most left the mint in a lower grade. This is an example of the larger module coins Anastasius implemented later on, (when he first reformed the coinage the follis was much smaller). I am guessing that since it had been 300 years since they last struck such sized coins, the mint had a lot to learn. I have seen effectively mint state examples, but all were poorly struck or the die was badly worn.

    However as much as I like this earliest Byzantine eye candy, I am with you Warren. Price is definitely the counterbalance with condition. I had to wait over a decade to find a Cleo VII tet that was not a aG coin, (barely outlines of the busts), versus a 5 figure coin. This was my compromise coin I got a couple or years ago, (with @TIF 's kindly advice solicited). Btw @TIF I don't know if I ever told you, but MUCH better in hand. What looks like dark splotches on either side are pretty iridescent toned silver.

    Antony Cleopatra.jpg
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2020
  5. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    My answer is "it depends". To use a US coin analogy, I'd rather have an XF45 of a rare type than an MS68 of a common type.

    With ancients, I consider style to be one of the prime factors and would very happily sacrifice some attributes to pay more for a nicer styled coin. Case in point: I just willingly paid >50x the price of a normal coin for a superbly styled one of the same variety so I'm clearly at a point where my sanity is questionable.

    That said, there are some coins which are simply never beautiful or available in high grade. For these, I'm opportunistic - maybe a slightly inferior example will be sufficient or perhaps I can upgrade it at some point. It all needs to be considered on a type-by-type basis.

    I'm hoping to post examples of each of these cases this week if I have enough time to take some pictures of new purchases as it'll help illustrate both facets of my mentality.
  6. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    I'm a bottom feeder, so it's a different game for me. For me, if a coin sells for £100+ I just don't bother thinking about it.

    It's not that simple though, because not only do coin prices seem to scale infinitely up with condition, but the £10-150 price bracket is often a graveyard where pretty poor condition coins with few redeeming features go to sit for VF+ prices indefinitely.

    My strategy has evolved to keeping an eye on multiple sources and snapping up coins in my areas of interest that have good style and eye appeal. Sometimes I get lucky on something in nice condition, and sometimes I find myself with a little extra money to give me some more scope, but either way I've ended up with (in my opinion of course) an interesting, attractive and historical selection that just keeps expanding.
  7. physics-fan3.14

    physics-fan3.14 You got any more of them.... prooflikes? Supporter

    Strike is very important to me - I'd rather have a well struck coin, and pay a premium for it, than to have a weakly struck coin missing details. This applies equally to ancient, modern, foreign, US, etc.

    Thus, while the coin you bought is attractive and clearly the price is right, it would bother me to have such a weakly struck coin. That's my own personal preference, however, and I'd gladly pay more for a well struck coin.
  8. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    I prefer this coin over one I saw at the NYINC show priced at $12K. You have Antony's full name and some of KLEopatra and they're both nicely styled. Sure, that coin had slightly less wear and a bit better metal but I wouldn't want it at $2K, let alone $12K.

    We all have our parameters and prioritized preferences within those parameters but I think your Cleopatra is a win all around.
  9. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    I will pay more for better grades of comparatively rare coins but not a premium for common coins in better grades. One observer's VF+ or EF can be another's FDC. If you are thinking about it from an investment perspective, which I for the most part am not since I am primarily a hobbyist and not investor, this strategy makes sense.
    Valentinian likes this.
  10. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    I would rather have a hundred F-VF coins with a variety of designs than one FDC example of one of the hundred. I want to have examples of coins from all areas of Roman numismatics, from all historical figures, with a huge variety of denominations and reverse types.

    Some features of "lesser grade" coins bother me more than others. I don't mind smooth, even wear, but rough surfaces and damaged patinas are often a deal-breaker for me.

    Guess which of these I prefer ...

    High grade but rough surface:

    Faustina Sr AVGVSTA Ceres Sestertius.jpg

    Lower technical grade and with a big flan crack, but smooth surfaces:

    Faustina Sr AVGVSTA Vesta standing sestertius.jpg
  11. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    That depends on a number of points, for example:

    1. How expensive would an example in better condition be? I wouldn't buy a $5 LRB with significant wear since I can afford to buy an extremely attractive $30 example at the next opportunity that arises. At the same time, I am happy with my current Julius Caesar elephant denarius, which has some obvious (but in my eyes forgiveable) flaws, because a significantly better example would cost more than I am currently willing and able to pay.

    Römische Republik – Denar, Julius Caesar, Elephant.png
    Roman Republic, Imperatorial Coinage, Julius Caesar, AR denarius, 49–48 BC, military mint moving with Caesar. Obv: [CA]ESAR; elephant walking r., trampling snake. Rev: priestly implements: culullus, aspergillum, axe, apex. 20mm, 3.70g. Ref: RRC 443/1.

    2. How rare is the type? It would be great to have a better example of the Brandenburg denar below, mostly because it's the only medieval coin showing a crossbow (actually, it even shows two of them). Yet, these coins are notoriously hard to find, so I bought the most acceptable example I could find in quite a while of looking out for one. At this level of almost esoteric rarity I am willing to make compromises.

    MA – Deutschland etc., Brandenburg Denar, Markgraf mit Armbrüsten.png
    Margraviate of Brandenburg, under House Wittelsbach, Otto V, denar, ca. 1365–1373, uncertain mint. Obv: margrave standing facing, holding two crossbows. Rev: ornamented triangle with trefoils and pellets. 16mm, 0.69g. Ref: Bahrfeldt 692; Dannenberg 252.

    3. Are we talking about ugly rough surfaces, missing parts of the main design, or other disfiguring wear? Or is the wear pattern attractive and the damage maybe even interesting? In the latter case, I don't really mind that much at all. Below is an example of what I consider attractive wear and another one of interesting "damage."

    Rom – Faustina II, sesterz, Juno.png
    Faustina the Younger, Roman Empire, sestertius, ca. 161–164 AD, Rome mint. Obv: [F]AVSTINA AVGV[STA], diademed portrait right. Rev: IV[NONI] REGINAE, S-C, Iuno standing left with patera and sceptre, peacock left. 30mm, 27g. Ref: RIC III, 1651.

    Römische Republik – Denar, Norbanus, Venu::Ähre, fasces, caduceus.png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: C. Norbanus, AR denarius, 83 BC, Rome mint. Obv: C. NORBANVS; head of Venus, diademed, r.; to l., control number LXXIII; banker’s mark: cornucopia? Rev: ear of wheat, fasces, and caduceus. 19mm, 3.53g. Ref: RRC 357/1b. Ex Bing collection.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2020
  12. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Talk about fine style, @Orielensis ! The artistry on the portrait of that Faustina II sestertius is exceptional.
    Orielensis likes this.
  13. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Economists have pondered this questions for some 200 years. Why is a useless diamond more valuable than a useful glass of water? And why is the glass of water more valuable than a diamond to a person who is about to die of thirst?

    The answer is marginal value. The two prices, i.e. USD 25 vs. USD 5400 are (to a large extent at least) determined by the last additional or marginal unit. Put differently, I have no trouble finding another and another and another low quality follis of Anastasius, but it may be next to impossible to find another Anastasius follis of the quality sold for USD 5400 at the CNG auction.

    PS But I admit - taking off my economist's hat and putting on my coin collector's hat - I find USD 5400 too high a price for this coin, but again at least two guys saw it differently. This is another important lesson from economics' value theory, value is "subjective" and the buyer must have valued the utility that he derives from owning this particular coin higher than the Utility that he derives from owning USD 5400.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2020
    Ed Snible and Gary R. Wilson like this.
  14. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Sanity is overrated; unless the money means something to you (like food), why not? I look forward to every coin you post. Some of us look forward to selling our coins for a profit; others hope to never know.
    svessien, Xodus, medoraman and 2 others like this.
  15. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    An interesting thread. For the past five years or so, after getting back into ancients in a big (but bottom-feeding) way, I find my attitudes towards what I "git" to be evolving. I'm not thinking much like a numismatist these days - condition and grade do not seem to be much of a factor. Which is another way of saying from an "investment" standpoint, my collection is a disaster...:(:greedy:

    In Valentinian's OP, I prefer the one he got over the really nice expensive one. I think the lettering's better, the color's better, and I even like the broken-nosed Joe Palooka portrait better. But I also like the wear - something about the wear on an ancient coin adds to its appeal.

    I pretty much feel the same way about the other coins posted so far in this thread - interesting, lived-in, lovely coins of less-than-stellar grade. They're wonderful.

    All a matter of taste, of course. Or I'm just justifying my own bottom-feeding, low-grade proclivities. :shame:

    Whatever it is, there is something about a big old batch of scruffy Byzantines that gets me excited, more than a FDC that costs more than my last three cars combined. A recent lot for cheap:

    _Lot - Byzantine Follis 5 from Adam Jan 2020 (0).jpg
  16. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    I agree. As long as a person is not betting his family's future, buy what your heart buys. Every coin I own is with "waste it" money, since I will never sell. If my family is not dependent on the funds, then spend it how it makes you feel best. :)
    Marsyas Mike and Roman Collector like this.
  17. Xodus

    Xodus Well-Known Member

    I make like $15/hour so I am pretty picky with the coins I buy. I am not too concerned with the condition as long as the patina looks pretty cool to me and I'm okay with it having "character".
    Tejas, Carthago, svessien and 4 others like this.
  18. svessien

    svessien Senior Member Supporter

    When I started collecting, I jumped at any bargain I could find. I spent hours and hours looking for the cheapest way to build a collection of great volume. I didn’t care too much about quality or limiting the field of collecting, as long at it was a coin, it was a good one. Then, having some spare cash and thinking it was a good price, I bought this coin:


    That was a collecting-life changing experience. Ancient coins of this quality is borderline art, I think. Selling off my lesser quality coins, I also got to understand that what’s cheap to buy also pays little off when selling, and that selling huge quantities takes time and effort. I now try to limit my collection to less than 500 coins, and upgrade in quality rather than expanding into new territory.
    I’m still glad I started out with a wide area and a lot of volume, though. I learned a lot from it, and it narrowed naturally from there.
  19. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    That's a pretty coin @svessien. I have one I prurchased several years ago. It's one of my favorites in my collection. The tarnish seems to be turning to black, but members here have discouraged me from cleaning it off, so I have left it alone.
    Julius Caesar 2.jpg
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page