Provenances of Ancient Coins -- Coinweek Article

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Dec 20, 2020.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Dealer Ed Waddell has published an article on CoinWeek about provenances of ancient coins and famous collectors including Sir Arthur John Evans, Professor Samuel Pozzi, and Sir Hermann Weber. Here's the link.

    Here's one of the coins illustrated:


    And in a similar vein, here's an article on Rediscovering Old Provenances in Cultural Property News.
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  3. Alegandron

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

    LOL, JUST read it before I came to this post. I was thinking of you as I read it. I just KNEW you would post the link!
    finny, Orfew and Roman Collector like this.
  4. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    If you want to see a lot of beautiful (but expensive!) ancient coins, many with old provenances, take a look at Ed Waddell's website.
    octavius, finny, Restitutor and 2 others like this.
  5. pprp

    pprp Well-Known Member

    Himself and Shanna Schmidt are usually buying from other dealer auctions if they see a provenance (hidden or not) and try to resell, consistently "forgetting" to mention the last known provenance- the auction they bought it from. For example the drachm from Samos in his site is from the latest Nomos sale and I remember @Terence Cheesman said he was outbid on it

    So a 15s search in one of the coin search machines can save you from discovering later what should have been a crucial parameter in deciding the fairness of price.
    Paul M., Clavdivs, finny and 2 others like this.
  6. Cicero12

    Cicero12 Supporter! Supporter

    A great article from a giant of American numismatics!
    finny, DonnaML and Roman Collector like this.
  7. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

  8. Cicero12

    Cicero12 Supporter! Supporter

    this is a great book and resource! Also a very interesting read.
    DonnaML, finny and Roman Collector like this.
  9. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths Supporter

    I wish it was a download, like kindle. It looks a coin nerds dream.
    finny likes this.
  10. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    My point was that Mr. Waddell's coins are beautiful to look at; I specifically mentioned that his coins are expensive.

    But I suspect that many, if not most, dealers omit the most recent auction history if that's how they acquired the coin. It's true of a number of coins I've bought from various dealers. And I see nothing wrong with it. Obviously dealers want to make a profit. And since when are sellers of any goods in the habit of disclosing their own cost? Besides, a 2020 or 2019 provenance is not old enough to increase the value or marketability of a coin, the usual purpose of listing provenance history.

    Anyway, we all have the ability to do our own research and decide if a price asked is a "fair price." It's not as if dealers have exclusive access to acsearch. For example, I recently saw a coin listed on VCoins that I really want, for a very high price -- at least for me. Buying it at the price asked would break the $1,000 barrier for me; I've never paid that much for a single ancient coin. There was no provenance given, so I researched the type on acsearch and discovered that this very coin sold at auction in 2019 for less than half of the price now asked.

    So I wrote to the dealer (I won't identify either him or the coin) and asked if he was willing to give me any kind of discount, in light of the fact that the coin sold less than two years ago for significantly less. (I didn't suggest, and am not suggesting, that he bought the coin himself at that price, because of course I have no way of knowing if there was anyone in between.) His response was to tell me that no, he doesn't give any discounts unless a coin has been listed and remains unsold for at least six months. As for the previous price, he said that he bought the coin for what he considers a bargain price, and believes that the price he asks now is more than justified.

    As far as I'm concerned, he's entitled to ask what he thinks is a fair price, and I'm entitled to decide whether to meet that price. A fair price, after all, is nothing more than the price agreed between a willing buyer and a willing seller, assuming that each has access to relevant information affecting market value. Maybe I'll eventually decide to meet his price, and maybe not. Or it'll go unsold for six months and he'll apply a discount. Or someone else will buy it in the meantime. I don't see anything wrong or "unfair" about how this dealer -- or Mr. Waddell -- is proceeding.
    Orielensis, octavius, PeteB and 9 others like this.
  11. John Skelton

    John Skelton Morgan man!

    I'm not into ancient coins...yet. But when I do, I figure on buying only slabbed coins, to hopefully avoid fakes.

    But when I do, I would hope to have your advice on it. Your practical and sound analysis above gives me confidence in your knowledge. Yes, I know there are others here who have just as much expertise as you, but your decision about the coin you were considering impressed me.
    DonnaML likes this.
  12. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    I own it. An important book. The author reproduces one plate from each firm to show what they looked like. Better would have been to offer, digitally or as a companion volume, all of these plates. Many of them are from catalogs with 1 to 10 surviving copies.
  13. IdesOfMarch01

    IdesOfMarch01 Well-Known Member

    I have rarely read a post that more accurately and objectively describes and summarizes the process of buying ancient coins through a dealer vs. through auctions. I would encourage all collectors here, and especially new ones, to reread this post and learn from it.

    In particular, I would reinforce the following:

    - There's nothing wrong or devious about a dealer acquiring a coin via auction and not disclosing that fact, or the price he/she paid, on their website. If you want to research recent prices for similar coins (and the particular one in which you're interested), that's what ACSEARCH, CNG, etc. are for.

    - Rather than "fairness of price," think in terms of "value to me." Maybe the dealer found a bargain at an auction and realized the coin was undervalued, maybe not. That's mostly irrelevant. Do your research and figure out what it's worth to you.

    - Never hesitate to make a reasonable offer to a dealer. The worst that can happen is for the dealer to reject your offer. The dealer is the person taking the financial risk by having the coin in inventory, so the dealer will determine whether your offer is an adequate financial return based on various factors that are relevant to his/her business.

    Personally, I rarely (if ever) find that recent auction results for a specific coin are valuable from a provenance standpoint, although they're very helpful from a bidding standpoint.
  14. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis Supporter

    On top of this, if the recent provenance matters to you, most dealers have been willing to tell me where a coin came from after I bought it. Sometimes they can't give a lot of details, but more often than not a dealer will tell me which auction they bought it at, a bit about a collection they bought, which other coins came from the same collection, what country the collector/consignor is from, etc(which is very useful when researching provenances).
    finny, Volodya, DonnaML and 1 other person like this.
  15. Aleph

    Aleph Active Member

    I have been really pissed at a couple of dealers who do this. For example, about a year ago I was in an auction fight for a particularly nice silver Constantine era tessera, I have a group of the corresponding silver and bronze pieces from the same series and so was very interested in completing this rare group. I finally gave up the fight because the price was passing the level of funds I could spend at the time. Well, about a month later this pops up on vcoins, Yes, recent auction appearance conveniently omitted. Middle finger extended to said dealer! More recently, a rare lead tessera ex. Trau collection was being offered by Kunker. Two days later when I went to move on it, it was gone. Ok, someone else very much wanted it too, c’est la vie. A couple months later. It pops up on a leu auction.

    Look, I release it is a free market and all that Randian nonsense. But, when dealers are overtly flipping coins like this, in essence why they are doing is inserting a large fee on price and inflating the price (not to mention a lot of ill will). I know dealers need to make a living too, but it is pretty hard to swallow when you get muscled out of coin by someone who is just looking to make a buck with a huge markup. I would kindly ask dealers not to do this on individual specialist pieces (group lots are totally dealer fair game). If nothing else, it is very obvious to the small group of interested folks for specialist pieces when this is done! And no, it is no consolation that the Schmidt piece is still unsold after ~8 months- I would much rather just have the coin.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2020
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  16. Carausius

    Carausius Brother, can you spare a sestertius?

    Totally disagree. I disagree every time this subject comes up. The combination of government regulation and live internet auctions have effectively squeezed dealers for sources of new material. Government regulations have dried-up hoard sources. Historically, auctions were primarily bid by dealers on behalf of clients and for their stock. Now said dealers are competing for every coin against two-bit collectors like me from across the globe. In effect, collectors are treading on their territory, not the other way around. And now the results of those auctions are available for all to see, making the dealers' retail job even harder. Dealers recognize value and profit margin. They will bid a coin up to where they think they can make a fair profit. Prices are currently very strong, in part because the COVID pandemic has collectors at home with more time to bid. As a result, dealers have to bid even stronger for stock. Add to this general internet and regulatory pressure the fact that coin shows have been cancelled for most of the past year and for much of 2021, which eliminates another source of dealer stock - other dealers and vest pocket sellers.

    If you are routinely losing to dealers, you are not bidding high enough. In any case, you must accept that dealers are your competitors in every auction, and understand why.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2020
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  17. David@PCC


    I see this happen all the time, but to my knowledge it hasn't happened to a coin I was bidding on. I had a conversation with Nicholas from Pegasi about this very topic when he asked about a Ptolemy puck I had in my case. He was reluctant to buy it because it was from a recent auction. Of course potential buyers will not be happy when they find out how much the mark up was from just a short time ago. The consensus was we charge what they are worth. Personally I think dealers that charge a small mark up sell more coins instead of ones that gouge like in this post.
    Curtisimo, finny and DonnaML like this.
  18. finny

    finny Active Member

    @Aleph I have to respectfully disagree. Heres why:
    1. I worked retail jobs while putting myself through school. We would get employee discounts of 40% off books, and 35% off movies, and nothing off electronics like game consoles. Essentially I learned that certain items have insanely high markups. Other things, like game consoles, or the Amazon Kindle may actually sell at a loss because they count on the profit coming from the later sales of games and apps, etc. So don't think for a hot minute that we don't all pay high markups for every day goods. And if you get a "deal" there's usually a catch of some sort anyway.
    2. Think about the nature of the ancient coin market specifically. There is no factory where they can just restock as needed. As others have alluded to there are also many laws and regulations and even just plain old ethics to be aware of and navigate. So how do you picture dealers getting their stock in this particular market? To me I can understand the emotional response where you might feel like it's like scalpers selling concert tickets, but it's really very different. I value good dealers for the services they provide - the knowledge they provide and the extra feeling of confidence and trust I can feel when I buy from a reliable dealer.

    I guess also it's not like this is food or medicine or something essential. This is a hobby market, so price regulations seem inappropriate for this area.
    Roman Collector, octavius and DonnaML like this.
  19. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    Echoing the points from @IdesOfMarch01 and others, dealers are applying their time, skill, and experience to identify what coins to buy, every once in a while paying less for a coin than they think it's worth, then offering it closer to their perceived price, profiting their margin, permitting them to stay in business.

    It's the same situation as a collector saying "I got a deal on this coin" but dealers put their money where their mouth is with a shorter time horizon for resale. Many dealers carry a significant quantity of stock and we should thank them for having wholesale bids to help stabilize prices in markets/situations where other collectors aren't bidding or already have examples of the type.

    Perhaps their valuation is different from yours, in which case, there is no obligation for you to pay their desired markup: the market will eventually speak and they'll either sell the coin at their price or keep it in their case.

    Many of my favorite coins came privately from dealers. They made money each time and I got the coins I wanted at prices I could justify. I wouldn't have had access to the coins if I chiseled them down on every transaction: I try to avoid overpaying but I recognize that professionals deserve compensation for their skilled labor and capital outlay.

    There have been a handful of cases where dealers have sold me big-ticket coins for very modest (2-5%) markups when subsequent inferior examples have sold for 2-3x what I paid at auction: there's merit in straightforward transactions with repeat customers and, in my eyes, dealers should be treated as friends, not adversaries.
    Curtisimo, DonnaML, PeteB and 4 others like this.
  20. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Interesting discussion on this thread. I completely agree with the posts saying that dealers provide a valuable service and I have no problem paying a mark up on their inventory. What they paid themselves is irrelevant and I can decide for myself what I am willing to pay. In many cases I feel better buying expensive coins from a dealer because I know they took the time to examine the coin before they bought it themselves and weren’t burning and turning like some high volume auction houses (this is not a dig at auction houses, just an observation that some handle a lot of inventory). I also don’t mind bidding against dealers.

    As to the practice of not disclosing the most recent purchasing history of a coin I do think that is a bad habit of many dealers and auctions that needs to change. I think coin sales should always include as much provenance info as possible even if it is only where the dealer / auction house acquired the coin for sale. If the consignor wants to remain anonymous the listing could still say something like “from a private collection acquired between (x date) and (y date) in (z region).” I know it has been suggested that some auction houses will give this information when asked but that has not been my experience in many cases. Many of them will either not respond or will say they can’t share that information. I could even see providing detailed information only to the winning bidder or purchaser but I think that there should be an expectation that every coin sale will come with complete-as-possible provenance information without exception.

    The chain of provenance has to start somewhere and in my opinion even recent sales are important and could be more so in the future.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2020
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  21. Restitutor

    Restitutor Well-Known Member

    Last edited: Dec 22, 2020
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