Featured How important is provenance?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by JayAg47, Dec 9, 2020.

  1. JayAg47

    JayAg47 Well-Known Member

    I keep seeing coins being posted here with the tag of who used to own and all, even paying some premium for their namesake! whereas every single coin in my collection comes from the retailer, whether be it from Vcoins or just ebay!
    Can I simply add my name to the coins to start the provenance from there?!
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2020
    PaulTudor, finny and Restitutor like this.
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  3. Pishpash

    Pishpash Supporter! Supporter

    You can. Provenance will become more and more important as time goes on. If you read the MOUs of various countries, owners of coins with no provenance may not be able to trade in the future.
  4. Nap

    Nap Well-Known Member

    Unless you find it in the ground yourself all coins were owned by someone else before you. I try to keep track of where my coins came from. Should any concern about authenticity or legality to own ever arise, it helps to have that information.

    However, not all provenances are equal. A coin that is ex- Joe Shmoe the vest pocket dealer is not as good as one that came from a famous collection from 100 years ago.

    I will pay extra for a good provenance from a well-known collector of yesteryear.

    Generally, I won't pay extra for a hoard provenance, unless the hoard is known for being particularly significant or of very high quality.
    Orfew, finny and benhur767 like this.
  5. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Since all coins have a provenance what makes one special over the other is what name is on the coin if we know it at all. If you happen to be a king or author of the definitive text on the coin, your name will be kept with your coins. If you are a nobody like me, no one will care. Many of the provenances most valued do not require anything more than age with coins traceable to the 1700's having more swagger than those from the 1900's and infinitely more than things dug up last week and never in a 'name' collection. Certainly part of this is a belief that the government will confiscate all coins not traceable to a certain date as stolen goods but the fact is, almost every coin 2000 years old was probably stolen at least once in all that time ('pickpockets' existed before there were 'pockets') and predicting what some government will do is not something done easily.

    I consider it cool to know my coin belonged to someone of whom I have heard but I am not willing to pay several times a price to have it traceable to someone in the last century. I have many coins traceable to the last century mostly because I have owned them 20 to 60 years. Dealers are not beating down my door to buy them for my name.
  6. Restitutor

    Restitutor Well-Known Member

    Isn’t confiscating coins that were legally purchased an ex post facto law and therefore it wouldn’t be enforceable? I am not a lawyer but I don’t understand how this would fly in the US. Existing coins owned already would have to be grandfathered I hope?
    John Conduitt likes this.
  7. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    Don't forget that 95% of the time a collector's name gains value only after the guy's DEAD...
    JayAg47, Magnus87, Jim Dale and 2 others like this.
  8. John Conduitt

    John Conduitt Well-Known Member

    As far as I'm concerned, provenance does 2 things:

    1) Gives evidence that a coin is not fake. If you know someone knowledgeable or trustworthy owned it and thought it was real e.g. you can see the pictures of it in the archives of well-known auction houses or dealers, you have more confidence in it. If it came from a hoard, you might have provenance back to its manufacture - there have certainly been fewer people owning it who might've faked or altered it.

    2) Shows where the coin has been. This is the story of the coin. If it was in a famous collection, someone's attic or in the ground for 2000 years, it's interesting to know, no matter how famous they were, rather than just seeing a piece of metal that appeared from nowhere. This can also be used to prove ownership.

    How important these are will depend on:

    - how likely the coin is to be a fake.
    - how interesting the story is.
    - how reliable the story is. How long is the provenance? Is there proof?

    You wouldn't pay a significant premium to know Joe Bloggs owned it for a year. But it's a scale, where no provenance at all is zero. If you offered me two identical coins, one with no provenance and one that a regular named collector owned, I would take the latter - so it must be worth something, however small.

    Quite frankly, I don't understand why everyone doesn't record the provenance of every coin, no matter how insignificant they think it is. It doesn't cost anything and might add value. Once it's lost, it's lost.

    Some dealers are terrible for this - they even discard provenance - probably because they don't want you to know how much they paid for it. But you can find out anyway if it was sold at auction. (Some dealers realise it is important and send you previous tickets and receipts, even with prices on them e.g. Chris Rudd is great - you almost always get told where a coin was found, even if they have to be vague).
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2020
  9. Cicero12

    Cicero12 Supporter! Supporter

    I would echo @John Conduitt. I believe provenance serves his two outlined points. On his first point, provenance adds an additional layer of assurance that a coin is real. Of course, old and important collections did have fakes, and some, such as Mazzini, had quite a few. However, when a coin has passed through the hands of many notable collectors and dealers, it does lend the coin additional gravitas.

    On his second point, I believe “where a coin has been” is important for 2 reasons. The first is that the coin may come from a line of distinguished or interesting collectors, such as famous archaeologists, nobility or even royalty. This may help increase value as some collectors, like myself, do enjoy owning coins that belonged to well-known collectors. Additionally, and as noted by others in this thread, knowing where a coin has been, and how long it has been on the market, helps give assurances it was not recently looted, and so is not subject to MOUs that are, or may come, into effect.
  10. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I agree. Confiscation of legally purchased coins is a highly unrealistic concern. It's a bit more realistic to be concerned that future laws and MOUs will make coins more difficult to transfer without a lengthy provenance.
  11. Cicero12

    Cicero12 Supporter! Supporter

    yes, existing coins would likely be exempted, but if it came time to sell, it would be your obligation to prove they were coins you’ve owned for “x” years. Perhaps further motivation for us all to post our coins here so we have a visual provenance record :)
    JayAg47, finny, kazuma78 and 2 others like this.
  12. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    To be a legal purchase, the seller must have good title. To be a legal import, the customs declaration must be correct.

    Several countries claim a blanket ownership of everything over 100 years old. Without a provenance showing the coin was privately owned in the past it is hard to establish the seller had good title.

    Legal issues aside, another reason to buy based on provenance is when you believe the previous owner had better taste than yourself! I buy a lot of ugly coins. Sometimes I regret them later. Doctor Pozzi bought no ugly coins. If you buy something that used to be his, you don't have to worry about your own lack of taste!
    zumbly, ab initio, finny and 2 others like this.
  13. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Regarding the matter of Provenance showing a coin is not fake: This listing shows a coin from the famous Dattari collection a hundred+ years ago. Dattari/Savio was illustrated by pencil rubbings.

    This is my fake. How do I know mine is a fake? CNG sold the one from which mine was cast last year. Admittedly photos would allow a bit better chance of seeing a problem but big name provenanced coins can serve as masters for making cast fakes so you have to be able to be certain that you have the exact specimen and not its evil twin.
  14. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths Supporter

    I had this guy bad-temperedly banging on my door and yelling unintelligibly.
    Long story short he wanted the Athens NewStyle back that he lost in 88/7 BC and tracked it down through provenance to me. His name Apellikon was on it so I gave it up to the original owner. Bugger provenance...it cost me.

    Here is my last picture of it. Now part of the Apellikon pocket collection, Athens.
    PROVENANCE;Ex Mr Apellikon 146 Parthenon Way,Kerameter, Athens, Ex Lucius Cornelius Sulla,Ex Apostello Zero,ex Count Funkledorf temp French Revolution, ex CNG,ExSteven Corn, ex HJB,Ex NewStyleKing.
    Now Back where it belongs!
  15. robp

    robp Well-Known Member

    The coin involved in this thread is a good example of why a provenance is so important. Geoff lent this coin to the British Museum for a few years where it was on display to the public, but after some time its provenance was questioned regarding the length of time it had been in his possession and could he prove private ownership before the cut-off date. It was one of those coins that was nearly owned for long enough, but now in danger of confiscation. Needless to say, he promptly removed it from the BM to avoid it going anywhere, not to mention a significant financial loss. Fortunately for him, an image was subsequently found of it in the catalogue for the Sarti sale in 1906 which contained a large number of bronzes from the Bolsena hoard. Happy days and a great deal of relief.

    This was the coin which was illustrated in the thread on the postcard produced for the BM. Previously in the attached thread, but presumably deleted.
  16. halfcent1793

    halfcent1793 Well-Known Member

    Some collectors care a lot about provenance, but others not so much. That said, one day counterfeiters will be able to make fakes that cannot be distinguished from the real coins. When that day comes, a coin's provenance will be the only thing that gives it value to collectors.
    Jim Dale likes this.
  17. techwriter

    techwriter Supporter! Supporter

    Let me see:
    1. a few coins from J. Douglas Ferguson (the dean of Canadian Numismatics; deceased)
    2. a few paper money issues from the Eric P. Newman auctions.
    3. was underbidder on several issues from the Garrett collection, just got too rich
    4. have a note or two from Steve Taylor; past president of the ANA
    Jim Dale likes this.
  18. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    I had a funny experience with regards to the question of provenance. I recently purchased a coin on Vcoins which is making its way to me in the post from America.

    As is my usual practice I sent an email after paying to ask for any provenance information that the seller might have. The response I got, about a week later, sounded like I had spat in his cornflakes. It told me that everything he knew about the cheap coin was in the listing, and warned me about other sellers listing fake provenance to generate business.

    I personally would have been happy with being told that it was purchased from a private collection in x country, or that it was purchased at y auction, but I guess that that is asking too much.
  19. Jim Dale

    Jim Dale Well-Known Member

    I don't get the history of coins that I have bought, however, I do document the purchases. For U.S. Mint purchases, I keep a listing of order numbers, their record of sale, and a copy of the listing, and the Packing Slip. My first purchase from the Mint was in 2008. I now have 4 3 inch binders with that information. I also keep an Excel worksheet of the purchases.
    For ebay purchases, I print out the offering the record of sale and any documentation that comes with the purchases.
    Any other purchase, I can only keep what they give me. I have bought a few coins on the "black market" without documentation.
    If that is a Provenance, I guess I have one.
  20. pprp

    pprp Well-Known Member

    Apparently for the Chilean billionaire and the subordinate buying for him it's very important. They buy provenances (noted or hidden) and they are ready to outbid everybody else.
  21. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Basileus Megalos

    I suppose it is nice to have a detailed provenance. The fact is, most if not all of our coins were owned by someone else beforehand. I only have a handful of coins with provenances. If the owner was a personage of some repute, I guess that pushes up the value. I have a few formerly of "the doctor so-and-so collection" suggesting that because the owner was an M.D. they are somehow more valuable. When I or my heirs decide to sell my collection I guess I will tag it with the Dr. designation as well. (Ph.D. in Finance in my case). If it makes more money for the grantees of my trust then I suppose it will be a good outcome.
    DonnaML likes this.
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