Featured Estimates for Ancient Coin Auctions

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by MSG 78, May 20, 2020.

  1. maridvnvm

    maridvnvm Well-Known Member

    Let me start by saying that I am in general a bottom feeder when it comes to collecting in general and my purchases from auction houses tends to be stuff that I really want for my specialist rather then my general collections.

    I find the varied approach to estimates done across the different auction houses quite bemusing. There are a range of them laid out above but I had always considered that the estimate was the auction house estimate of what the hammer price would be. There are many factors in my mind which can skew this.

    Collectors don't have a margin in mind and are often looking for a coin that they want to add to their collection and the point of buying at auction is that they can generally get this for less than they would spend from a retail outlet. In general if a collector is interested in a coin then the dealer will normally be outbid as the higher hammer price is eroding their margin too much unless they are willing to accept a lower margin for that coin (let's face it they still want stock). This can lead to a perception that there is inflation in the market if enough collectors are bidding and driving general hammer prices upwards.

    Specialists might see something in a coin that the auction house does not and in this case when two specialists in a field see a coin then all bets are off when it comes to estimate. In this case the specialist will normally win leaving the general collector and dealer behind.

    There are times however when the coin is a specialist coin and I fail to see how the auction house could possibly place the estimate on it that they come up with. In the most recent CNG EAuction 468 there was a Probus coin that sold for 12 times estimate. It was a very rare bust type and well beyond my means but when I saw it before seeing the estimate I guessed it would reach 10 times the estimate and was left bemused when I saw what the estimate was. The estimate would have been about right for a coin of this type with a more common bust type. At this point you have to question the value of providing an estimate on such a coin as the auction house was way out. There were many coins in this auction where the coins went for many times their estimate.

    I suppose this comes down to how you estimate the market price for such a coin to base your auction estimate on. If this market price is completely wrong then there is little or no value in having an estimate at all.
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  3. MSG 78

    MSG 78 Active Member

    Yep, we missed the estimate on that Probus. It happens. Fortunately there is enough activity in our sales that the bidders catch the mistake, as here. Dave and I were watching the sale and both immediately realized, as you noted, what was the story with that coin. Several of us look at the sale within 24 hours of it going live to try to catch any mistakes. But even then, one sometimes gets by us. If it's a description mistake or an omission of a necessary detail that impacts the price (smoothing or tooling for example) we generally pull the lot and you see it as "withdrawn". It will get corrected and placed in another auction.
    rrdenarius, maridvnvm and Orfew like this.
  4. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    I had often wondered why the estimates at CNG seemed much lower than the final price - and now I know. I don’t think there is any need to change the method, but maybe to make it more clear the reasoning behind the estimate (as you have just done). Perhaps this was already on the website somewhere and I just missed it...

    Anyway, I’m glad you have joined CoinTalk and look forward to more of these interesting insights!
    Restitutor and Orfew like this.
  5. Keith Twitchell

    Keith Twitchell Active Member

    I definitely appreciate the opportunity to weigh in on this. Ancient coins are a great love and fascination for me, but I simply do not have the time to develop the expertise I would like (and that many of the collectors in this forum possess and share). Obviously, I like low opening bids! However, I would prefer estimates that are closer at least to that "low retail" point that has been referenced previously. Very rarely am I able to participate live in an auction, or sit at my computer and place last-second bids, so I must submit bids ahead of time. My budget is far from unlimited. So if there are several coins I am interested in appearing in a particular auction, bidding is really difficult. Do I just pick one and bid three times the estimate? Do I spread the maximum I can spend right now by using some percentage formula on the estimates and applying it to all the coins? I realize the estimates are more of an art than a science, but estimates that are closer to what the auctioneer really thinks the item will go for (and really, isn't that the definition of an estimate?) would enable me to be a smarter and more successful bidder.

    This has been a very informative discussion for me to observe, so thanks for starting it and to all who have participated.
    Restitutor likes this.
  6. Thanks MSG78. I have won a fair number of coins at your auctions and have been pleased with each one. I always receive my winnings in less than a week and on the few occasions I have called CNG your staff responded wonderfully.

    For me, an estimate is just that - an estimate. I have never used estimates to evaluate a bid.

    What are your thoughts of using a going, going, gone process similar to biddr? I know I can put in a max bid but I would like the opportunity this process provides rather than try to time another bid at the last nanosecond.
  7. pprp

    pprp Well-Known Member

    Thanks for opening a communication channel to the community, I believe everyone here appreciates it.

    On many occasions I got coins from CNG that were sold well below or close to the estimate. I am collecting animals on Greek silver and I rarely get obsessed about getting a specific example with only 2 exceptions so far for which I was prepared to outbid any competition because most probably no other examples would be available during my lifetime.

    When I win something with a low bid, I am actually not happy. On one hand I am skeptical if the coin was a mistake with hidden or visible defects that I don't see. It's also not nice to feel like a garbage collector of unwanted coins. On the other hand I feel sorry for the consignors who suffered losses over the sale and I don't want their bad energy and curses getting directed to be.

    I am also quite concerned about finding myself in the same situation should I decide to sell or consign. For this reason I have never sold even 1 coin of my collection. But I am not immortal so the perspective of my inheritors getting a bad deal is greatly limiting my purchases.

    IMHO the sellers fees should be set to a minimum to encourage people to recycle and renew their collections. This is rarely the case. I think it's more important than debating the accuracy of the estimates.[/QUOTE]
    Last edited: May 21, 2020
  8. MSG 78

    MSG 78 Active Member

    We have the ability now to provide a live close to electronic auctions. (The old system CNG used for electronic auctions did not have that option.) We are still trying to decide how to manage these sales going forward with respect to which platform will work best. We think our new "Keystone sales" will be a live close while the Esales will remain as they are. But no final decision has been made. And to clarify, Keystone sales are still electronic sales but they are designed to feature a specific collection where there is sufficient material to have a stand alone sale.
    Orfew and Hamilcar Barca like this.
  9. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Eye of Horus

    I've only bid twice on CNG auctions so far. I only recently created my account. I really appreciate your taking the time to explain some of the rationale behind the auctions.
    Restitutor, Orfew and MSG 78 like this.
  10. MSG 78

    MSG 78 Active Member

    There are several things mentioned here. Coins do slip through the cracks in every auction. Obviously we hate to see a coin go too cheap as well. You may have noticed we are doing many more group lots at the end of recent sales. The reason for this addresses a second comment you made with respect to seller fees. It costs us about $25 to process a single coin for auction. (Figure into this: incoming consignor paperwork; ticketing the coin and assigning it to an auction; cataloging it; photographing it; placing it on the web; invoicing it; packaging it; shipping it; collecting the money; and then paying the consignor) We therefore have a minimum charge for single lots which goes away as the hammer price increases. Thus if the buyers fee exceeds the minimum, there is no minimum applied. So selling multiple low value coins in a single lot decreases the "hit" to the consignor. Fortunately, most of our consignors get this and everyone is happy. And frankly, sometimes lower value coins aren't best served by being in a CNG auction. But here addresses your comment about coins going cheaply. If a consignor wants their coins to all be listed individually, regardless of the recovery rate against their cost, we will do that. Generally speaking, those are the coins that tend to sell for low prices. We all know it going in and there isn't a problem.

    As for your collection of animals on coins, it's a great collection type. Usually these are best sold in auction all at once. Not as a single lot but as a collection with a specific theme. People get why you bought a coin when they understand the theme. They probably won't see it if coins are sold one at a time. Instructions for what to do with your collection are also extremely important for your heirs. Just telling them who to use to advise on selling the collection can be of immense value. That usually is a trusted friend or dealer. It's a great way to hedge against a loss of your hard spent collecting dollars in the future. I wish everyone would do it.
  11. scarborough

    scarborough Active Member

    Can we use this great conversation to ask about paper auction catalogues? Are they still worthwhile?

    Since dealers don’t charge regular buyers for them, it’s easy to think of printed catalogues as ‘free.’ But they’re not. They must represent a huge cost for dealers.

    At one time they were necessary.

    But I’ve given all of mine away years ago and instruct dealers not to send any. I feel I’m just as informed and have access to data for the past twenty years online.

    I suppose dealers consider printed catalogues a form of differentiation, similar in a way to the presentation boxes now issued by Roma.

    But these are costs that I’m paying for. I for one would really appreciate the reduction of buyer’s fees that have crept up from 10% in the 90s to around double that today.

    Please share your thoughts and comments.

    Thank you.
    Fugio1 and DonnaML like this.
  12. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Agreed, which is why there is a letter inside my safe deposit box along with the Powers of Attorney and the wills. The letter spells out specific instructions including the contact information for several people. The last thing I want is for my coins to be a burden for my wife.
  13. pprp

    pprp Well-Known Member

    Thanks for your reply. I am not collecting in the category which you understood. For example here are 3 of the coins I got in 2019 which I liked most:

    Hammers were 5000$ for the Akanthos, 2200$ for the Rhegium, and 1900$ for the Maroneia. In my opinion these were quite low prices but the coins didn't attract attention. The Rhegium came from CNG. All of these have some kind of issues like bad surface, oddly shaped flan or worn details. With the current seller fees in the market I would be happy to break even if I sell. I imagine with the rest of my coins that may be not that rare or without a century old provenance, I will suffer a big loss. This is quite demotivating and the main barrier in my collection.
  14. Ignoramus Maximus

    Ignoramus Maximus Active Member

    Frankly, to me estimates are about as valuable a tool as next weeks and last weeks weather forecast.
    Ultimately the coin is worth what somebody is willing to pay for it. Intrinsic value doesn't exsist, it's all a question of how and why a coin fits into someone's collection. Contrary to most commodities all ancient coins are unique. The ultimate hammer price is as much and (perhaps even more) determined by subjective perception of condition, patina, artistic quality, rarity, esthetic and collecting preference, budget, etc. etc., as it is determined by the price it ought to get. And then there is of course the competition from other bidders...

    So, estimates?

    I've learned to focus on the coins I want and that I think I can get for a price that I find acceptable. I've also learned to spot a coin that I think it's going to fetch a multiple of the estimate and I've learned to leave them be, if only to protect myself from disappointment ( and every now and then double disappointment, when I realize afterwards that I could have gotten them at a bargain if only I would have bid...:))

    Most buyers at auctions are experienced collectors/buyers and know what to expect. Estimates, high or low, don't mean too much to them, I think.

    To me the way an auction is held is more important. In a timed auction (CNG, Roma, Leu) you're basically bidding into a void, a max bid there is like throwing an offering into an abyss and then pray the gods will honor the offering and reward you what you desire ( and please, don't let me be weighed and found wanting) Prices could explode and double or even triple in a matter of seconds. I prefer the old fashioned 'going once, twice' type. They're much more transparent. At least I know where I stand vs the other bidders and can adjust my strategy accordingly, both in relation to this lot and other, upcoming lots. They're also a lot more fun to watch and participate in.
    ( I sometimes have a fleeting suspicion timed auctions are part of a cleverly engineered, market researched selling strategy to maximize yield ).

    In short, the question of timed vs 'going once...' auctions is much more important to me than estimates. Just my two obols worth...
    Last edited: May 21, 2020
    rrdenarius, Restitutor and Orfew like this.
  15. nicholasz219

    nicholasz219 Well-Known Member

    There are a lot of worthwhile thoughts in this thread and I, like others, am happy to be asked for some feedback. Thanks for listening @MSG 78.

    I tend to agree with @Ignoramus Maximus on many points here. His view generally seems to mesh with the view of MSG in that if you wanted a coin and didn’t mind paying retail, you would go to the shop of a dealer and pay retail to add the coin to your collection at a price you are comfortable with. But that is an entirely different experience than the auction experience where I believe that hope reigns supreme in that you may get a coin maybe only offered in the auction format and maybe at a relative bargain.

    I don’t think I’ve ever been successful at a CNG auction. Most of the material is out of my league. A lot of the stuff that I can afford in a CNG auction doesn’t make sense to buy because when I factor in juice and shipping, what seems like a bargain suddenly is very much not. Just as dealers must factor in costs to put a coin up for auction, I’ve got to do the same because somewhere in the future my wife will have to get rid of all of these things and the more money I spent on them now probably means a worse return on those items in the future. But if I can only expect about 60% back on retail then the more fees, shipping and being upside down on the exchange rate only makes the possibility of breaking even more unlikely. So if I bid on overseas auctions where I know I am fighting juice, the shipping and exchange rate I tend to target items that I think I can realistically win at relative bargains with all of those costs in mind AND I also bid on more of those lots to defray the costs.

    With that in mind, I would keep your fees where you need them to be to run your business and keep them as simple and up front as possible always. Estimate realistically on what you think hammer price to be because I think that is how most of the buyers look at it. I think keeping opening bids on the lower side generates excitement and more importantly, hope for collectors to get in at some point because they may get a break from retail even when adding in fees.

    I’m hopeful to win some coins in the future from CNG. I’ve tried and failed because of what @maridvnvm aptly described as a specialist war where I’m low on ammo.
    Ignoramus Maximus likes this.
  16. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    I've paid 60% of estimate and 10x estimate in CNG auctions. An estimate is just that: an estimate. I like CNG's 60% opens and it was interesting to see Roma use 60% in their last sale - I can't help but wonder if it was part of the reason why it attracted more attention.

    Being the first bidder on a lot is sometimes psychologically jarring. There are times when I'd only barely be interested in paying 80% but would be more comfortable with an underbidder or two, as irrational as that might sound.

    So, in my eyes, by opening lower, some coins will attract more interest than an 80% open especially if the estimate is closer to the real value. I understand that some consignors might not want to have a coin at such a low open/reserve but I think it helps overall, even though a coin or two may slip through the cracks periodically.
    GregH, rrdenarius, Carausius and 2 others like this.
  17. MSG 78

    MSG 78 Active Member

    No I misunderstood. Those coins will be a lot easier to sell, particularly given the provenances. You should be able to get a much better deal for higher value coins than a "standard contract". I don't think you should lose money. In fact, the market at the moment would love to have those coins. Don't get discouraged!
    Orfew likes this.
  18. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE

    In this day and age, I enjoy reviewing product online.

    I may be a pariah, but I toss all my catalogs. Too much wasted paperwork, when everything is online now. Your catalogs are excellent, but for a brief browse, and then I go to your website, it is a waste.

    In my opinion, having run Consumer Products companies for much of my career, all the "paper" cost of collateral materials can be eliminated. You can reduce overheads. Ultimately, you can lower costs to the end-user, and run a more effective business model.
    rrdenarius likes this.
  19. Carausius

    Carausius Brother, can you spare a sestertius?

    I think there's more to it than that. The printed catalogues form a continuous, written record of the firm's sales.

    I am a provenance hound. Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on viewpoint), provenance has become a very important part of our hobby. So it should come as little surprise that I support the continued printing of paper catalogues. Electronic records. while convenient, need backup from risk of catastrophic loss, obsolescence or intentional removal. 100 years from now, if CNG's website or acsearch or coinarchices are no longer available, collectors may need old, paper CNG catalogues as a source of provenance, just as we rely on 100 year old Ars Classica catalogues.
    Last edited: May 21, 2020
  20. IdesOfMarch01

    IdesOfMarch01 Well-Known Member

    From both a consignor's and auctioneer's perspective, the goal of an auction is (usually) to obtain the highest hammer price available for the consignor's coin in the current marketplace. The issue then becomes (1) how to set a minimum opening bid that encourages aggressive bids from collectors, and (2) does an "estimate" help, hinder, or have no effect on obtaining the highest hammer price?

    As with some other collectors here, I pay only passing attention to the auctioneer's estimate since I'll have done research online to determine what I think is the value of the coin (to my collection) and how high to set my maximum bid. The opening bid, however, can have an effect on my thinking if it seems high; if it's close to my maximum for the coin, I tend to think that the auctioneer might know something more about the potential bidders for the coin than I do, and I'm less likely to stretch my maximum in order to get the coin. So my analysis would be that setting the opening bids somewhat high would not produce the best results for the consignor and auctioneer.

    In that context, a lower opening bid will make me mentally more flexible since I'll be thinking that some bidders are looking for a bargain more than they're looking to add the coin to their collection or inventory, so I have a better chance of outbidding them when they no longer think the coin's a bargain. Don't get me wrong -- I like a bargain as much as the next collector -- but if I want a coin for my collection, whether or not I got a bargain is a secondary consideration, not the primary one. In this case I'm likely to stretch my budget in the hopes of leaving the bargain hunters behind, which works out better for the consignor and auctioneer.

    All this is a bit moot for me, though, since I always bid on coins through my dealer (the same as yours, Mike, when you were collecting!) and for many of the reasons posted here, I'm reluctant to (read: never) engage in online-only auctions. To the extent that an online auction could be conducted as closely as possible to a live auction (going once, going twice, sold...) I would consider bidding or having my dealer bid. But submitting a maximum bid and hoping for the best, or even worse, having to monitor an auction via the Internet, type in bids, and hope not to get sniped at the last nanosecond, just doesn't appeal to me. I'd have to really, really want a particular coin in order to deal with the whims and vagaries of an online auction. So far, I haven't seen any must-have coins for my collection during this live-auction hiatus, but I'm not sure what I'll do if/when that happens.
    Last edited: May 21, 2020
  21. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    Interesting thread @MSG 78 , thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    I am a bit like @IdesOfMarch01 , but with a bit lower price range.

    My purchases in the last few years have concentrated on cast bronze and Roman scale weights. These items are less common than the RR denarii I bought when I started my collection. In most auctions I look at the first page of RR coins and skim through Greek / Italian coins for cast bronze. After I note interesting pieces, I look at prices. I look at start price, and not estimate.
    This month, two cast bronze pieces were auctioned. I do not remember seeing similar pieces in the last 5 years. CNG offered a cast bronze Tressis in your last auction. Half a cast bar was offered the same week. Unfortunately both hammered a bit above my price range.

    tressis cng 5.13.20.jpg currency bar C Art Ast 5.13.20.jpg
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