Oh, for a Time Machine!

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by DonnaML, May 27, 2020.

  1. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    A while ago, in going through a box of old magazines, etc. that I've been transporting from residence to residence for a number of decades, I came across the very first mail-order coin list that was ever sent to me, at my parents' address when I was a senior in high school. It's the November-December 1971 list from a place called Manfra, Tordella & Brookes in Rockefeller Center that was very well-known once upon a time, as much for foreign exchange and foreign currencies as for numismatics. I vaguely remember going to their store at least once, and must have put my name down to be on their mailing list.

    It's too bad that I was mainly interested in British coins back then, because I doubt that I looked closely at their ancient coin section. It's not as if I had a lot of money to spend at the time, but given the prices, I certainly could have picked up a decent number of Roman coins over the course of a few months.

    A couple of things I notice: almost all the coins are described as F or VF; very few as EF or better. (I'm sure that they weren't targeting top-of-the-market customers -- they weren't Stack's, to mention one place that sold and auctioned high-end coins back then in New York -- but they weren't Gimbels, either. I suspect that an equivalent place today would describe its coins much more generously.) In addition, I see that despite a few references to BMC and RIC, almost all the catalog references are to Cohen. Even in 1971, it must have been seen as more accessible to people, at least in the USA, than BMC or RIC.

    Here are copies of the first page of the catalog, and the 5-page ancient coin section (which was all Roman, including some Roman Provincial; no Greek coins at all).

    MTB 1971 Cat, p. 1.jpg
    MTB 1971 Cat, pp. 2-3.jpg
    MTB 1971 Cat. pp. 4-5.jpg

    MTB 1971 Cat. p. 6.jpg
    Last edited: May 27, 2020
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  3. cpm9ball

    cpm9ball CANNOT RE-MEMBER

    I don't know why people keep wishing that they could go back in time. Me? I'd rather go forward in time to a date when nobody has hit the Powerball. ~ Chris
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  4. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    The small Helena commemorative AE4 was very expensive.
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  5. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thirty whole dollars! There were only half a dozen coins priced at $100 or higher, the most expensive being a Vitellius denarius with his children on the reverse, priced at $225.00
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  6. JeffC

    JeffC Well-Known Member

    If you have time, I wonder if you could show the pages with the U.S. Gold and Silver coins. Wonder what the prices charged were back then.
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  7. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    Per the inflation calculator:

    What cost $1 in 1971 would cost $6.40 in 2019.
    Also, if you were to buy exactly the same products in 2019 and 1971,
    they would cost you $1 and $0.15 respectively.

    Those were some pretty expensive coins!
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  8. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Perhaps tomorrow I can get it out again and scan a few more pages.
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  9. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    I would definitely have taken a chance on the “about Fine” Antinous drachm for $100. Fun list, thanks for sharing it!
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  10. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    $640 in today's dollars. I'm not sure what something like that would sell for nowadays. Is it comparable?
  11. LakeEffect

    LakeEffect Average Circulated

    I love the coin list. But since we're travelling to 1971, I'd entertain one of my other hobbies and get one of these for $4124 ...

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  12. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Cheap. Antinoos has gained in popularity. There was a Eastern Domna /Liberalitas for $42.50 (a lot then) which I am surprised they recognized was unusual. Note they had a typo in the listing since it is RIC 627. Finds that came West with the opening of the Eastern bloc made Syrian Domnas more available but at the same time more in demand. I would not have paid $42.50 for that coin in 1971. I don't have that one yet. There is one on acsearch I wish I could have won but don't know who did.
    I wonder if it is the same coin.
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  13. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    It seems that Gordian III coins were just as common then as they are now; there are 13 on the list, considerably more than anyone else. Next is Vespasian with 9.

    On the other hand, I wonder if Julian II bulls were scarcer in the USA in 1971 than now. I don't think anyone today would pay $22.50 x 6.40 for one in G-VG condition.

    In general, though, I get the feeling from skimming the list, without doing any research, that prices for ancient Roman coins have gone up by a multiplier of more than 6.40 since 1971. Of course it's difficult to tell without seeing photos of the coins.
  14. robinjojo

    robinjojo Well-Known Member

    I remember Manfra, Tordella & Brookes, although I didn't buy any coins from them. All sorts of establishments sold coins back then. In Detroit, Hudson's Department Store in downtown had a coin counter on the mezzanine, right next to the lunch counter. Gimbels also had a coin counter, as I recall.

    As for coin lists, the first ones that received were from Henry Christensen, Charles Wyatt, Freeman Craig and Karl Stephens. For ancients, it was Victor England (CNG) and Harlan Berk.

    As far as grading is concerned, I think the older establishments and collectors in general had more conservative standards, compared to what we generally have today. It was a different time, slower and more measured in terms of grading and selling coins. Now we have the Wild West of the Internet, where caveat emptor is the rule and not the exception.
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  15. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    If the grade provided was reasonable and the surfaces decent, it would have been a good buy at that price, IMHO. There is one on sale now retailing for abit more than that. I would say it's closer to a Good than a Fine, though, and the surfaces are abit poxy.

    Some that sold at auction in recent years:







    ~$2350 (this one now retailing on a certain Vcoins dealer's store for $10,750!)


  16. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..wow!..that is SO neat Donna!..:)
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  17. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    The one on sale is described as Fine? Wow. The usual wild over-grading from French dealers. I'm relieved that they don't call it AU!
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  18. paddyman98

    paddyman98 Let me burst your bubble! Supporter

    No website or e-mail address? o_O
    Last edited: May 28, 2020
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  19. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    As a retired history teacher I would first want to see how much of it we got right, than it would be off to the future.
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  20. maridvnvm

    maridvnvm Well-Known Member

    I have a couple of the Domna but not the same coin.

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  21. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Trajan Decius

    I've seen Antinous drachms at around $8k-10k in good condition. Poor condition examples for $1500-2000.
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