Sestertius Market - Strong or Weak?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by IMP Shogun, Oct 21, 2020.

  1. IMP Shogun

    IMP Shogun Well-Known Member

    Good afternoon,

    I've seen quite a bit of commentary that pricing for ancient coins is "in igne" - but I've seen other indications that the market is very soft. If one were to look at ancient coins as a market one can measure the bid/ask spread or look at sold coins to see how they fare in a subsequent auction. Most of us look at prior auction data when determining a value of a coin, but many other factors are involved like personal preference or scarcity.

    I'm amazed at Sestertius pricing as it can range from zero to thousands (real quick!) and some of that volatility appears to be independent of grade.

    For example in the prior CNG auction 478 lot 364 Tiberius CIVITATIBVS ASIAE RESTITVTIS sold for $300 plus fees.

    July 17, 2019 in Auction 448 lot 430 the same coin sold for $500 +18% fee.

    On the bright side, while most hobbies leave you with zero, at least this one you can walk away with 50%.

    One coin does not make a good sample but this coin looks great, I'm surprised it had this type of value change and does provide an indication of what one may expect if they perhaps rush a purchase and then sell in a short period of time for a coin that may be hovering between subjective grades.
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  3. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    I just bought my first real Sestertius two days ago. Paid $30!
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  4. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    That seems like a pretty good deal. It's not uncommon to see sestertii in the higher grades for many thousands of dollars. Even the common third century examples in satisfactory condition sell for several hundred dollars. I suppose it would take a fairly wide ranging study to determine in fact if prices are trending towards "soft". I myself have not really seen that so far.
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  5. Romancollector

    Romancollector Well-Known Member


    I can verify this as I bought quite a few sestertii in the last month or so.... perhaps this soft trend is applicable to lower grade sestertii, but it is definitely not the case with higher grade examples. One example I just purchased cost more than some of my aureii.
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  6. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    Actually it says $350 + fees. Why did it get sold to someone who flipped it after only a year? My guess is it isn't a coin with much quality. It wasn't worth the $500 paid in 2019 and the buyer regretted it and decided to unload it. As @Romancollector wrote

    Agreed. I think lower grade coins have not participated in the recent price runup. We have seen that high grade coins with no problems (sestertii included) have attained remarkably strong (higher) prices in recent months.
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  7. Herodotus

    Herodotus Well-Known Member

    My eyes may deceive me, but your link shows that the coin just sold for $350, not $300.

    The ancient coin market is fluid. Hammer prices have as much do to with who's bidding, and at what particular time, as much as anything else.

    As you've alluded to, one lot in one auction is not indicative of a larger trend, being that the sample size is obviously miniscule.

    For example, in the same recent CNG auction, this sestertius of Caligula commanded a hammer price of $1600.

    Gaius (Caligula). AD 37-41. Æ Sestertius (35mm, 25.42 g, 6h). Rome mint. Struck AD 37-38. Laureate head left / S P Q R/ P • P/ OB CIVES/ SERVATOS in four lines within oak wreath. RIC I 37. Rough green patina. Near VF.

    The same coin hammered in 2018 for $700...

    And previous to that in 2010 for $1700...

    I'm not exactly sure what can be extrapolated from that.
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2020
  8. IMP Shogun

    IMP Shogun Well-Known Member

    That's a wild ride. Yes apologies I misquoted the clearing price.
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  9. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    This seems like a situation where original buyer thought they could sell for a profit, and didn’t. Then second buyer thought they got a steal and tried to sell for a profit, and didn’t. Rinse and repeat
    finny likes this.
  10. IMP Shogun

    IMP Shogun Well-Known Member

    Could the coin have been returned?
  11. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Like everything else, it all comes down to supply and demand. The demand for high-grade sestertii is extreme, but the demand for common, circulated sestertii is low.

    While high-grade sestertii have always been coveted by the well-heeled collector, I think the philosophy of collecting has changed in recent decades. Numismatists in the 18th and 19th centuries -- and even well into the 20th -- aimed for completeness, and when one looks at the collections of Sultzer, Banduri, Wiczay and others, it's apparent that their purpose was to amass as many different types as possible, grade being secondary. Many of the university museum collections -- even the British Museum and BnF collections -- contain thousands of bronze coins in F-VF grade.

    However, the modern trend in collecting has been toward type collecting, obtaining fewer but high-grade examples, getting them slabbed, and then commiserating with one's fellow collectors when a TPGS assigns a grade of MS-66 instead of MS-67. We see this somewhat in ancient collecting, when a collector/investor wants a coin of Trajan -- any Trajan as long as it's well-centered and extremely high grade -- without regard to reverse type or historical interest.

    Now throw in an infamous historical personage, such as Caligula or Nero, or a biblical tie-in, such as a IVDEA CAPTA issue, and the sky's the limit. There is such demand for high-grade material that a HUGE percentage of such sestertii have been tooled or smoothed.

    Meanwhile, coins such as this historically meaningful sestertius of Antoninus Pius, celebrating the birth of grandchildren, sell for less than $100 because they aren't desired by the one-per-ruler collector/investor. At least this one hasn't had more work done than Cardi B:

    Antoninus Pius TEMPORVM FELICITAS Sestertius.jpg
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2020
  12. IMP Shogun

    IMP Shogun Well-Known Member

    This is ASIAE RESTITVTIS but worn for sure and maybe doesn't fit the mold with unique portrait. I'm totally an old school collector then because even the patina on this coin adds value in my mind and the weaknesses I find kinda cool.

    I might have an eye for tooled and fake coins though as I like these unique issues that are like holding a York Peppermint Patty.
    Roman Collector likes this.
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