Featured How important is provenance?

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

  1. robp

    robp Well-Known Member

    No long time provenance ever reduced a collectable item's value. An ebay purchase from someone known to deal in copies would be a different matter though.
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  3. robp

    robp Well-Known Member

    A subtle benefit of provenance and particularly ones that go back in time is that the coin is likely to be a better example of the type in question, especially if illustrated in a catalogue 100 years ago or longer because the cost of illustrating lots was considerable. To put this relative cost into context, the Bruun catalogue in 1925 which comprised 965 lots and 24 plates was priced at one guinea (£1/1/-). Lot 185 sold for a guinea. For that guinea you would have bought 4 Edward the Confessor Radiate/Small Cross pennies from Hastings, Lincoln, Thetford and York, together with 3 cut halfpennies of the same type from Exeter, Lincoln and Thetford. Current price for the 7? Has to be at least £1000 if unimpaired, or half that if they had faults. These weren't illustrated, but triple unites that would cost £50-100K today were pictured.

    If you have documentary evidence of an old provenance, particularly an illustration, it is likely to be for a good reason.
  4. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    I have to at least challenge this statement - especially a Severan from the @dougsmit collection is in my view, likely to be considered premium provenance. I suspect I am not the only one.
  5. Nap

    Nap Well-Known Member

    Rob, I wonder how many people actually bought these catalogs compared with receiving them gratis. (Sort of like today..) In the grand scheme of things, they were very expensive! But do you think Mr. Lockett had to cough up his shillings each month to get a Glens catalog?

    And of course no bidder’s premium back then. And many coins were relatively much cheaper. So I don’t feel so bad for the collectors of yesteryear.
  6. robp

    robp Well-Known Member

    I don't know the answer to that. A quick perusal of the buyers at the Bruun sale tells us nothing that wasn't already known in that most big name buyers will have placed commission bids via the two regular suspects - Spink & Baldwin. I can only identify just over a dozen buyers who I know were collectors first and foremost, or at least not known as dealers. I suspect a good number of people were provided with catalogues, but equally a lot of catalogues were printed and the cost had to be covered where possible. Maybe the vendor paid for them and then tried to recoup the cost.
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  7. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    In collectables it adds value, I deal with Medieval woodcuts and engravings for work, the provenance is normally found as old collectors marks, telling us who the previous owners were.

    I had fun tracking down a couple of my coins history and with the help of the board I found the original catalog the coin was listed in. Here is the thread.

    The Numismatic Gumshoe on the Hunt for Provenance | Coin Talk
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  8. Only a Poor Old Man

    Only a Poor Old Man Well-Known Member

    @BenSi that is a very cool thing to do for a living! I wish I was employed doing something that is connected to my hobbies. I am actually also a collector of old books, so I wish there was a book sub-section in coin talk! My main area is religious themes and I am currently researching an old English Bible from the early 1700s that is full of nice folio-sized copper engravings. Unfortunately the artist is not mentioned in the title page so I don't know where to start. Any tips? Here is a sample:

    gnsis (2).jpg

    My living room smells of lavender as my bookcase is covered in it :bookworm: (Got to keep those bookworms away).

    And to stay on topic, provenance is a very important aspect of our hobby. I wish more sellers/auction houses would adapt an approach of where the provenance path of every coin is well documented. I don't care if some names would be the average John Smith, but it would be a great way of protecting the coins from unfavorable future legislation, which I believe is a real danger to our hobby. You see we live in 'sensitive' times where this type of legislation is very attractive to politicians as they can be draconian and look good to their 'progressive' audiences. A good recent example is what happened to UK dealers and collectors of antiques containing ivory... Just because some nasty poachers are hunting elephants to extinction in Africa, the UK government thought that it would help by banning the selling of ivory containing antiques and artifacts even if these are hundreds of years old. Only 'masterpieces' are exempt, and what is a masterpiece would be defined by some panel.. I don't know the final form of the legislation, but the collector societies I belong are still trying to put some sense into the government bureaucrats. Antique dealers and collectors specializing in items such as Japanese Netsuke facing their valuable collections becoming worthless.
  9. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

  10. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    Made a mistake. The importance of provenance or pedigrees is more dependent upon what you collect and what your plans for your collection might be in the future. I live in Canada and thus the market for some of what I collect might be rather small and so I would like to be able to send my coins out onto the international marketplace. The good pedigrees are something akin to insurance so that when i decide to sell my collection I can send it to the US or European market without fear of confiscation. Right now this is NOT the case however I do want to be pro active. I used to collect military firearms including automatic weapons and I have some experience of having to deal with governments being interested in my hobby and deciding that they needed to deal with it with ever increasing restrictions.
    However the hunt for provenance can lead one down some very interesting rabbit holes. Last January I bought this coin. Yes everyone has seen it. It has been in my 2020 Top 10. gallienusav1.jpg Gallienus Av Reduced Aureus 266-267 AD RIC 118 1.43 grms 18 mm Photo by W. Hansen. I found it in the Roma E auction 66 Lot 1116 and it referred to it being in the NAC Auction 49 Lot 375 (2008) When I looked up the NAC auction it is now that I ran into Apostole Zeno. NAC claimed that it was in the Zeno Collection Lot 2013 sold in 1955. This was not confirmed by Roma which is a bad sign. Okay looked up the Zeno Auction thumbnail (8).jpg Well this is clearly not the same coin. but I continued to search thumbnail (9) - Copy.jpg Found it. The coin is clearly lot 2019 which is confirmed by Gobl. So what do I got here Well... 250px-Azeno.jpg The coin was originaly owned by this guy Apostolo Zeno who wrote operas for the Haspburg royal family. First he lived in Venice. Venice.jpg Then he moved to Vienna Bernardo_Bellotto,_il_Canaletto_-_View_of_Vienna_from_the_Belvedere.jpg Eventually the coin got here to the Monastary of St Florian Austria_St.Florian_Monastery.jpg Where it stayed until it put up in auction and bought by this guy acc9adf21fc200ef03ab653b1ba74be3.jpg Leo Biaggi de Blasys. He was a major collector of Roman Aureii and at one time was worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross This is his signature 800px-WP_Eichmann_Passport.jpg It let this guy named in this document as Ricardo Klement get into Argentina and it is at his trial the world became familiar with the word Mossad Adolf_Eichmann,_1942.jpg Adolph Eichmann YUUUCH Nazis Well for a while the coin stayed here in Genoa
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2020
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  11. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    I reached my limit so I will finish upIt stayed in Genoa and it again went to auction Genoa.jpg Now it is here in Edmonton Alberta Canada cold-edmonton23.jpg 7513165.jpg Well in this Covid induced shutdown provenance or pedigrees can provide some forms of entertainment
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2020
  12. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    I’ve been thinking. A provenance from a well-known dealer or collector has the connotation of being genuine.

    As fakes get better, a provenance from a respected source can serve as a point of authenticity, I suppose. Idk
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  13. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    Sadly might not be one persons work a studio of people. However in the 18th century artists normally signed works. That is what believes me to be it is from a artist group.
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  14. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Provenance may indeed become very important over the next several years in terms of the free trade of our coins. It is also important for other reasons. My friend Brian (@Alegandron ) has an amazing collection that could not be more different than my own. However, there is one thing that brings our collections together, Brian and I both collect the stories of the coins as much as we collect the coins themselves. (I do hope that when it is safe to do so he will join me at my house in the great white north where we will consume too many steaks and too much of our fine Canadian beer) He has a standing invitation to do just that. For me the story of the coin is paramount and in some cases the provenance of a coin can be an important part of that story. If I were to own a coin of Brians in the future it would be because of a personal connection. There are other less personal stories as well that might make the provenance meaningful.

    As to coin hoards, I find that owning such a coin from a known hoard enhances the story for me. If we can trace the coin back to the ground it begs questions such as: Who buried it? Why was it it buried? Did the owner go off to war or bury the coins because of an invasion?How did the owner come to amass such a group of coins? Is there a thematic connection between the coins that may imply a collection? Were they buried in a time of plague? Did the previous owner keep slaves? How many languages did the previous owner speak and which ones?

    Knowing the name of a previous owner also means something to me. Again a previous owner is part of the story of the coin. I am thrilled to own coins from the collection of fellow collector and friend @David Atherton . Though I value the friendship there is also value in the fact that David is a well known collector of Flavian coins, and a coin from his collection has been curated by someone who knows the subject very well. Though I never knew Harry Sneh, I respect coins from his collection because David respects these as well. In short, provenance is about trust. It is not 100% of course but it does increase the probability of buying an authentic coin if it has passed through the hands of people I trust.

    I count myself lucky to own coins that were owned by people like E.E. Clain-Stefanelli, William Stancomb, Michel Prieur, Michael Kelly, Richard McAlee, Giovanni Dattari, Paul Schurer, Fritz Reusing, J Eric Engstrom, Phil Peck, and others of note. It so happens that where these refer to authors I try to have a copy of the book as well. In a number of cases these books include the publication of the coin as well. After all of the above have added their stories to the stories of the coins. Who would want to lose those connections.

    Will I pay more for provenance? I certainly will if the name is important to me or to the curation of my collection. One thing I know for sure is that having a coin from a collection such as David's changes the complexion of my collection.

    In short, provenance may become important for legal reasons in the future but it will always be important for adding to the stories these coins can tell.
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  15. Alegandron

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

    Namaste, Andrew. Thank you for the kind comments.

    I look forward to visiting when this mess is over with!

    Bovine and Canadian Barley Pop! Yum!
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  16. ValiantKnight

    ValiantKnight I AM the Senate! Supporter

    I know a few on here have some of my former coins, but I don’t know if they know/remember that they were mine, and I don’t want to come off as self-important by pointing that out when I see an ex-coin :oops:
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  17. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Supporter! Supporter

    I am only a couple of hours drive away... so I need to be in the room to at least document the conversation (and drink the beer)!!

    As for provenance... uugh tough one. My coins are fairly low end and its cool to have. As I have started to save a bit and buy slightly nicer coins .. its a bonus but not a deal breaker for me.
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  18. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    My friend you would be welcome to the beer, the steak and the conversation!

    (ummm...did I mention I have a 14cubic foot refrigerator in my basement?)
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  19. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Supporter! Supporter

    Should totally share that! Even using PM (if you want to stay private about it) .. would be appreciated I am sure!
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  20. iPen

    iPen Well-Known Member

    I personally don't think it matters unless it's from a widely popular figure or a prominent hoard. Even then, it would have to be at the upper end of that group.
  21. Bart9349

    Bart9349 Junior Member

    I guess I'm different from most on these boards.

    Provenance, other than possibly improving chances of authenticity, means little to me. Does it guarantee authenticity? Nope. Nothing does. Do I feel better because I have a piece of someone's previous collection? No. I guess as a non-numismatist, previous ownership means little to me. (I admit I would find a coin more interesting if one could prove it belonged to a historically significant person such as Louis XIV of France or Thomas Jefferson, however.)

    But by my knowing that a coin comes form a specific hoard, I feel like I'm really "holding a piece of history in my hands."

    Here's an inexpensive and otherwise unremarkable example of my point:

    ARConstans.jpg ARConstansB.jpg ARConstansS.jpg
    (My visitor, not my pictures.)

    Is the coin rare or expensive? No, but the history, for me, is priceless:



    Trying to put a coin into a historical context is the most exciting aspect of numismatics for me.

    Last edited: Dec 13, 2020
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