Tooling and Smoothing...

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by ancient coin hunter, Oct 22, 2020.

  1. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    I just bid on a Julio-Claudian sestertius in an upcoming auction (I won't name which one). Perplexing to me is that after making my bid (I am currently "winning" but probably won't be for long) I clicked on the details of the coin and found that it was described as "heavily tooled and smoothed" which was very disappointing.

    Should reputable auction houses even market these coins? I know there is a disclaimer but I also noted that there were no returns and also the winner will be subject to an 18% buyers' fee. To me, something about this is not kosher. Do you folks have any opinion on this practice?
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  3. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    I mean, as long as they clearly disclose it I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong about it.
  4. Romancollector

    Romancollector Well-Known Member

    Wow...I was actually almost in the exact same predicament with a Julio Claudian sestertius, in an upcoming auction. Maybe we’re referring to the same coin? I was going to bid on it until I compared a picture of it from a previous auction. The previous picture lacked a few of the details that the current picture had. Then I checked the current listing and some of the modifications (not all) had been mentioned, but I’m not sure if this was mentioned initially. However, I suspect that I would have noticed this because I read listings thoroughly, and I’ve been eyeing this coin for a while. In any case, I found a beautiful substitute (albeit probably more expensive) which was previously slabbed and was not deemed to be tooled. The tooled coin in question, which already has bids on it, is not cheap (at least for me).
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  5. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    There are many reasons to read carefully the description before bidding. For me, not an issue as long as clearly disclosed.
  6. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    I'm asking myself for many years how it is possible auction houses present in their sales that kind of coin. The answer is: there is a market for it. Some collectors don't care to buy something that had been altered. I'm not one of them but I respect those guys.The important thing for me is the honesty of the seller; the coins have to be clearly described as "smoothed" or "tooled". I even sometimes saw coins at FORVM with the description "tooled" and that's ok with me as long as it's crystal clear the piece had been retouched.
    finny, Inspector43 and +VGO.DVCKS like this.
  7. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    I suppose if one really wants an example of a specific coin and knows it is authentic (but tooled and this is disclosed up front) then it is OK. If there is indeed a market for such coins (which probably can be acquired for less than a pristine example) then I suppose we're just letting the free market mechanism work. I guess it's also true that some people see Paduans as historical and collectible even if they are Renaissance era forgeries.
    Sulla80 and +VGO.DVCKS like this.

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    ...For someone who finds the big, predominantly European auction sites kind of daunting in the first place, there's another factor to consider. ...Wish you could stop me in time, but, Economics. Call me naive (...and you'd be right), but at the operant prices, What are these people even Doing, Touching this stuff?
    ...From here, putting the (limited) details in the 'small print' of any given listing just smells, hmm, kind of underhanded. ...Unless I'm just living in the wrong world....
  9. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

  10. PlanoSteve

    PlanoSteve Supporter! Supporter

    As long as the "reputable" auction house discloses the "issues", I don't see why they should deprive certain collectors from obtaining certain specimens. A big issue is that many times someone will see something that attracts them, get unexpectedly excited, & spontaneously bid before reading the full description (come on now, we've all done this :D) - and this happens a lot.

    Granted, some people would not have these specimens, as @Ryro stated in his link above ("I would rather have a space in my collection than to fill a spot with these.") And that's OK.

    But others (myself included) would have a "disclosed" piece in their collection, just as they would a "Henning nickel" (I would) or a Daniel Carr coin (I wouldn't). (For me, a coin, fake or tooled, which fairly represents the "art" of the type, is OK, but acquisition cost would be a serious consideration.) It's up to the individual collector. (Note: I'm intentionally avoiding discussion regarding cost, as I feel that is up to the individual collector.)

    This is actually very much like car collecting (another hobby which can be very pricey)...some only want totally original (unrestored) condition, some want all original but in restored condition, & some want Restomod's. Some collect all 3 categories. If you follow the big auction houses, they offer all categories.

    So yeah, I think it's fine, as long as any issues are disclosed by the auction house (and remember, the term "reputable auction houses" was invoked) & as long as the bidder reads the offer in its entirety.

    JMHO :happy:;)
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  11. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    Well I've already been outbid - I guess I'm off the hook.
  12. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Supporter! Supporter

    Whew... I gotta say sometimes hoping you get outbid is the weirdest thing.
    I recall putting a bunch of pre-bids at auction a couple of years ago. expecting not to win any.. but they kept holding! After the third win I was cheering against myself :woot:. Good times!!

    Arcane76, +VGO.DVCKS, finny and 3 others like this.
  13. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    It's not the few that are obviously tooled and described as such that worry me but the many that are not so obvious.
    +VGO.DVCKS and hotwheelsearl like this.
  14. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I believe it is the job of a bidder to read and understand the descriptions and the terms of the sale. If a word is used (perhaps tooled or smoothed) that is not familiar or if the sale is conducted in a language in which the bidder is not fluent, it is no excuse for a bid being placed based on ignorance. In how many languages do you know the words Fake, Copy, etc.? Further, 'problems' clearly shown in the provided photos are not to be the basis of complaint even if the bidder chose only to view them on a phone or while tired or drunk. We should complain when a coin is tooled, smoothed, barbarous, fake or broken and the faults are not mentioned but it is on us to read and understand the descriptions fairly written. I have seen copies (Beckers, Electrotypes etc.) sell for the price of a 'good' coin. I wonder if the buyer understood the terms.
  15. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths Supporter

    Tooled no, smoothed maybe.
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  16. Carausius

    Carausius Brother, can you spare a sestertius?

    Yes. It's terrible practice to place a bid before reading the details of a coin. ;) I know that's not the "practice" you were seeking feedback on; but, honestly, to me, that was the most egregious "practice" in your post. Fortunately, you are off the hook.

    Smoothing (not tooling) - the scraping of surface defects - was standard cleaning practice decades ago. Many old collection bronzes exhibit varying degrees of smoothing. Collectors, like me, who favor provenanced coins will often accept some smoothing on an old provenanced bronze. So long as the smoothing is disclosed, I think it's fine to offer such coins.

    I'm less understanding of tooling - where devices are improved or altered; but if disclosed and bidders still bid, why would the auction house not offer them? The market will ultimately decide such things.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2020
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