I Spent $1000 on Crummy Coins - Here's What I Learned

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by hotwheelsearl, May 26, 2020.

  1. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    If you've been glued to CT's ancient forum the past few weeks, then you may have seen my multiple posts where I spent lots and lots of money on generally crummy and poor coins.

    Here are my previous posts if you're interested:
    I Spent $50 On Random Roman Coins So You Don't Have To - reviewing Coalition Numismatic's "random" coins. Spoiler: mediocre.

    Hoard Repoardt - a summary of 800 coins I purchased from Yugoslavian hoards

    NRC Deluxe Beginner's Set Review - grading Noble Roman Coins "Deluxe Beginner's Set." Spoiler: it's not that good.

    NRC Premium Uncleaned Coins Review - grading NRC's "Premium Uncleaned Coins" from the Balkans. Spoiler: they weren't that good.

    Holding History "Looks Promising!" Uncleaned Review - grading HH's uncleans. Spoiler: they're overall excellent.
    Here's what I did, and my experience with the whole process.

    Introduction - A Tale of Too Much Money
    After losing my job due to the 'Rona, I found that unemployment paid me twice as much as I used to make. With all this extra money I suddenly felt an urge to spend frivolously on thing's I've always wanted- large lots of cleaned and/or uncleaned coins. Instead of doing the smart thing and save, invest, and otherwise NOT WASTE MY MONEY, I decided to be young and dumb and blow my wad on a bunch of old chunks of metal.

    Sin Number One - High Expectations
    I've purchased uncleaned coins in the past, around 2014 or 2015, never to good results. The only thing that was worth it was a Byzantine coin I don't remember that I traded for a $13 buffet meal at one of UCLA's dining halls. After taking a long hiatus, I found an eBay seller, "Coalition Numismatics" that sold "random" coins in various grades and sizes. I bought one of each, and spent $50. Most of the coins were overpriced and underappealing. The best was probably the $25 Lucius Verus denarius.

    Although this wasn't a very good deal, I got the bug and decided to try to hunt for some larger lots with better deals. And so, I found Ancient Treasures, a seller who sells loads of ancient coins and ancient artifacts.

    What I Learned - Sellers who sell random coins will generally not give you great coins. You will likely not get the large and sharp coins you see in the description pictures. Despite my buying one of each (in vain hopes of getting some preferential treatment from the seller), I walked away getting pretty much exactly what I paid for - okay coins at a mediocre price point.

    Sin Number Two - Two Many Coins, Two Much Time

    With my joblessness really settling in, I suddenly had too much time and money and decided to go ahead and buy 2 lots of 100 coins from the Balkans from Ancient Treasures, for $0.73 each. Out of these coins, I managed to sell all of them for about 150% profit. I kept a few nice ones, mainly a nice Elagabalus provincial Cistia Mistica, and a cool Ant Pi provincial Artemis.
    Antoninus Pius Moushmov 5086.JPG

    After seeing that I could sell these coins for profit, I pulled the trigger for another 3 lots of 100 each, from Ancient Treasures again, and at a cost of $0.89 per coin. This time, results were somewhat better than last time. I pulled Elagabalus, Commodus, Gordian III, Caracalla, and some small Greek coins.
    Sales were still pretty alright, but not as good as last time. Profit margin was much less, to the point where I barely broke even.

    I couldn't help myself so despite the lackluster sales of this lot, I pulled the trigger on another 300 coins at a cost of $0.81 per coin. This lot was much less good than the previous two, and I only got a few cool ones, like this Barbarous Constantine.
    The coins sold very slowly, and at lower prices than ever before. I still haven't sold all of the coins, and I suspect that I will have lost 10-15% on these sales.

    What I Learned - Lesson learned here is that unless you know very well what you're doing, buying large lots of random coins isn't a great idea. You can get some nice coins, but the vast majority are going to be junkers. For some reason, the unidentifiable sets are very easy to sell, while the better grade ones are tougher to sell, at least for a good enough price to get you to break even on prices. If you want to get your start into becoming a dealer, this is not the way to do it.

    Sin Number Three - Beginner's Trap
    After retiring from buying cleaned coins, I thought I'd venture into the uncleaned world. I did a ton of research into cleaning methods, techniques, and best practices. I found Noble Roman Coins, who sells a "Deluxe Beginner's Set." I thought this would be a good foray into the cleaning hobby, especially since this set is marketed directly to beginners. Unfortunately, the set fell far short of the mark, and I was mainly disappointed with the coins and the accessories included. It included 30 "Premium uncleaned coins" at a cost of $1.70 each. The coins were very very difficult to clean, unlike the description. I was under the impression that the coins would be easy to clean and a great way for a beginner to get into it. Unfortunately, that was not the case with 21 of 30 coins bound for the trash can. The best coin I got was this Claudius II Salus which is, admittedly, spectacular. But overall, unsatisfied.
    coin 9.JPG
    Any beginner spending 15 hours on cleaning would have been severely disappointed with both the quality and the types of coins that were revealed. At $7.50 federal minimum wage, $112.50 could purchase you one stellar coin, 5 good coins, or 10 decent coins.

    What I Learned - beware of any beginner's sets. In many industries, a beginner's set is also a beginner's trap and does not provide everything that a beginner needs to get a real start. This set provided less than half of the equipment that one would need to really get going, and forces one to buy the rest in addition to the set. I also learned that cleaning heavily encrusted coins is not fun at all, and usually you get some pretty poor results.

    Sin Number Four - Redemption and Release
    After having a pretty poor experience with the premium uncleaned coins from NRC, I made one final purchase for posterity. Holding History, an eBay seller, is someone who I've bought from once or twice before. Prices were good and coin quality was decent. This time, the listed some uncleaned coins which were advertised as "promising" and cost $6.57 per coin. Being completely fed up with cleaning, I did the nuclear option and tossed the bunch in lye and called it a night. Much to my very pleasant surprise, all 6 of the coins cleaned up pretty well and I was highly satisfied. My favorite is this Barbaric Constans.
    What I Learned - Buying uncleaned coins is a delicate process. You can either waste your money and get stressed out, or buy from a good dealer with good coins. You will spend more, but you will get much more for your money and much more satisfaction.

    The $1,000 Lesson - Basically, nobody should dive into a new hobby with a fat wad and no knowledge, and think that they're going to get good deals, good satisfaction, or good profit. I can guarantee you are lucky to get one of the three, and mostly likely none of the three. The best lesson I think I learned is that the best way to start a new hobby, like Roman coin collecting, is to learn as much as you can, develop and understand your collecting niche, and then, and only then, should you start spending four-digit amounts.

    Thanks for coming to my TED Talk. I hope any beginners looking to take the dive do not do what I did, and study my mistakes and take my advice on what not to do.
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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    I've been saying this for years. Mostly slugs and trash. Better to spend that money on something you will like and keep as a collector.

    BTW, I enjoyed reading through your lessons learned.
  4. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    It's one thing for others to tell you not to do something, and one thing for you to learn yourself that you should have listened after all.

    I could have used $1000 and gotten myself between 20 and 100 superb coins that I could have really enjoyed. Instead, I got over 800 coins that bring me no joy :(
  5. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I wonder if you sent $1000 to a dealer who participates on CT and ask him to send you $1000 worth of decent coins if you would be as happy. You had no idea what you were getting with uncleaned so you should not put limits on what the dealer sent and you should have no rights of return just like you had none with the uncleaned lots. I'm not in this business but I suspect that several here could provide 20 coins averaging $50 each that would be really nice.
  6. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    That would be an interesting experiment. A $1,000 random grab bag, with the expectation that each coin is worth the price.

    Maybe next time I run into a windfall with a bunch of money I'll do that. On second thought, probably not..
    benhur767, DonnaML and YoloBagels like this.
  7. NicholasMaximus

    NicholasMaximus Well-Known Member

    Just wanted to share a tip on unemployment earnings. They aren’t taking out enough taxes from your weekly payments and you might wind up owing the federal government money next year. I know it can be easy to spend when you have a windfall, especially when you are bored as hell. But my advice is to try putting away some money from each check for that potential tax bill.

    I worked at H&R Block for a couple of tax seasons before joining the military and going to college. The worst thing was seeing people expecting a refund and then getting stuck with a bill. I think millions of people are going to be in for a shock next year with all of this UI being used. Plus, if it turns out you don’t have to pay anything, than you can really treat yourself to some nice coins.
    DonnaML, YoloBagels and hotwheelsearl like this.
  8. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    That's a great point. Taxes are always pretty annoying.
    I should have saved that grand instead of frivolously spending it.

    But, then I wouldn't have the past few glorious writeups :) haha... :')
  9. NicholasMaximus

    NicholasMaximus Well-Known Member

    I have to admit, I like your style @hotwheelsearl lol.

    And I’m certainly not saying that grand was misspent. The great Ben Franklin said “an investment in knowledge, pays the best interest” and I think you can apply that here. Just going forward, something to think about.
  10. Aaron Apfel

    Aaron Apfel Active Member

    Great post, I've always loved buying uncleaned but have always struggled finding good sellers. I've only known one really good seller that I always made around 200% profit on, but they stopped doing business.

    I've always loved the gamble and the idea of not knowing what you might find. However, I think its safe to say that most, if not all uncleaned ancients have been cherry picked to some extent. With that being said, you usually at least get what you paid for if you're buying from a decent seller. In future I'll probably try find sellers that sell lots of cleaned coins.
  11. YoloBagels

    YoloBagels Well-Known Member

    An ancient coin still doing it's job over a thousand years later, wow!

    Wonderful post, thanks for sharing and putting that $1k towards our education. With grab bags you rarely ever get what you pay for, which is expected when you practically give the dealer free reign to shop for you. You make an excellent point on buying before educating, way too many people make the mistake of buying in before learning.

    Thanks for sharing!

  12. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ...well, you got to do something you wanted..coins, tools/instruments and shipping..$1,000.....fun and education....pricless.....not to mention you got a 'featured Thread'..:)
  13. robinjojo

    robinjojo Well-Known Member

    You certainly went through the school of hard knocks with these large lots of hoard coins.

    That Barbaric Constans bronze is really nice, so , as with many things in life, all is not lost.

    This reminds me of people who buy rough uncut stones for jewelry or specimens. More often than not the duds (fractured, lacking color, pattern, etc.) far outnumber the good stones. One collector said, with sadness, many decades ago, "Yes most were bad," but then he smiled and said "but you should see the beauties I got!"

    Many of the coin dealers listed on VCoins and MA Shops occasionally have large lots of uncleaned coins for sale, as do many auction houses, but mainly I stay away from lots, with some exceptions, and focus on individual coins - a better return on the dollar, at least in terms of enjoyment and education.
    galba68, hotwheelsearl and DonnaML like this.
  14. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    I think a grand is a great investment to get featured... :hilarious:
    ominus1 likes this.
  15. Herodotus

    Herodotus Well-Known Member

    Time is money...

    Or is it, money buys time?

    Whichever it is, one often may feel the need to quantify a price vs. value on one's own enjoyment.

    You could have gone to Las Vegas and dropped $1000 at a casino with potentially nothing tangible to show for it.

    The thrill of the hunt in search of a potential hidden rare treasure, and/or the satisfaction in learning how to attribute ancients is a desire that I certainly can relate with as a new collector.

    When/If you're ready to break out another thou... Here's one example of what it could get you, if you're looking for coins in a little better condition.

    Savoca Blue 31st Auction(4/26) - Lot 1706 - 100 coins
    Hammered for €700(+18% buyer's premium)(+€18 Fed Ex shipping) = €880 (Or $965).

    I passed on this one, but I did score a sweet lot of 150 bronze Seleukid coins from Leu Numismatik a few months back for 1K (including fees/shipped).

    About 15% were F at best (w/ harder to make out details), but the rest (F to aVF) are $15-$25 coins(relative to similar recently sold). A handful of them have the potential to fetch 2x-3x that much, if I ever decide to sell any of them.

    At an avg. cost of <$7 a coin, I think I did ok.

    The fun I had in attributing them... It's tough to put a price on that. Hours were spent. SEE: 1st sentence above.
    Last edited: May 27, 2020
  16. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    That’s a great point. I did go to Vegas earlier this year and lost $300 gambling with nothing to show for it but the worst, weeklong hangover of my LIFE after averaging 14 (free)drinks per day over three days ...

    But yes, after your example and an earlier one, I’m very convinced that spending more for much better coins would be a better experience in many aspects.
    Less manual labor in cleaning.
    Less eye strain in trying to tease out obliterated letters.
    And less monetary loss if I decided to sell.

    Give me another year or so and you might just see a “I spent $1000 on really good coins, here’s what I learned...”
    Herodotus likes this.
  17. Herodotus

    Herodotus Well-Known Member

    Buying old collections (auctioned as divided up group lots) can be rewarding too.

    I threw a couple of (what I thought to be competitive) proxy bids at this bad boy, but it hammered a few days ago at €1600 before fees -- a wee tad over my estimate and well...also my budget at the moment.

    Oh man, how I wanted it though. There's a few nice coins in there.

    (Picture can be zoomed if clicked on)
  18. non_cents

    non_cents The Frisco Kid

    Great stuff hotwheels :woot: I once had time on my hands (I still do, but I used to, too) and picked up a couple of supposed "uncleaned" lots. No intentions of trying to flip them as I am a novice ancient collector and mostly do it for the fun/attribution skills. Your recent threads, despite titled "so you don't have to", make me want to pick it up again more than ever!
    Last edited: May 27, 2020
    hotwheelsearl likes this.
  19. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    Haha! The bug is certainly infectious...

    As long as you know what you’re getting for the money you’re all set. I was in for some nasty surprises due to my expectations for something greater
  20. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    @hotwheelsearl: don't be too hard for yourself! As you stated: you sold most with a slight profit, so hopefully, in the end, you still had roughly around the $1000. Plus you gained a) knowledge on history, b) knowledge on coin valuation, c) knowledge on selling and buying coins and you shared it with all of us, for free. That shows good character (and reading the reactions on your posts, I believe most will agree).

    Cheap coins in good quality do exist. There are several threads on 'show your best coin for under x$'. Don't give up the hobby (coz I like your posts and writing style ;)).
    ominus1, DonnaML and hotwheelsearl like this.
  21. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Trajan Decius

    Well you learned a lot. I also learned a lot from my uncleaned days (2014-2017) before I woke up and realized the one-in-a-million coin is just that, a lottery number and not something actual. I did however get a Macrianus antoninianus that somebody forgot to pick out of the lot! But hardly one-in-a-million.
    hotwheelsearl likes this.
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