Featured Two Byzantine Solidii from Heritage Auction 3085

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Al Kowsky, Aug 8, 2020.

  1. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    If anyone thought the ancient coin market was slowing down, think again :smuggrin:. I watched Part I of the ancient coins on Thursday, featuring the big ticket coins, & most coins sold well over estimate. Part II of the ancient coins was yesterday, featuring coins of lesser importance, & 2 coins grabbed my attention. The 1st coin was an extremely rare & controversial solidus struck early in the reign of Heraclius, pictured below. It had an estimate of $2,000-$4,000 & sold for $3,360.00 despite the scratches on both sides & weakness of strike. I think the grade of MS on this coin is rather generous too :smuggrin:.

    NGC 5746478-003.jpg
    The portrait on this coin is clearly not Heraclius, & looks to be Phocus instead o_O. This coin type was originally thought to be struck in Jerusalem, based on research by S. Bendall & M. F. Hendy, but that research has since been refuted & currently these coins are now listed as "uncertain Eastern mint" & possibly made by a moving military mint of Heraclius. The engraver who cut the dies for this coin obviously had no idea of what Heraclius looked like & conveniently used a portrait of Phocus instead :rolleyes:. Portraits of Phocus usually have a triangular shaped head with a pointed beard, like the coin below from my collection.

    NGC 4280854-003.jpg On the other hand, early portraits of Heaclius show him with a round head & short beard like the coin below, also from my collection.

    Sear 852, uncertain irregular mint.jpg
    For a long time this coin was also thought to be from the Jerusalem Mint, but that attribution is no longer accepted. The young son of Heraclius, Heraclius Constantine, next to him is beardless.

    The other coin in this auction that raised my eyebrows is pictured below. This common coin was given the lofty grade of Gem MS, Strike 5/5, Surface 5/5, & justifiably so. An NGC Gem MS is equivalent to FDC in the nomenclature more commonly used by coin collectors. With an estimate of $1,000-$1,500, this coin realized $5,520.00 :jawdrop:! High grade slabbed coins like this one were fetching very high prices thru both days of the auction.

    NGC 5744187-015.jpg
    BenSi, maridvnvm, Factor and 19 others like this.
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  3. Egry

    Egry Supporter! Supporter

    I couldn’t believe some of the realized prices at that auction, at the moment it seems to be a common phenomenon also at the other auctions I have observed. It almost seems like a possible coin value reset? Maybe all the gold bugs a running out of bullion to buy?

    I have a similar coin as the one you mentioned, my poor quality picture does not do it any justice. In my opinion mine is of an equivalent grade, graded as mint state UNC by the dealer I purchased it from, I would tend to agree with his assessment. I actually thought I overpaid for it, which was at 1/8th the price of what the one you mentioned realized for (which I’m assuming excludes the 20% buyers fee?).

    I’ve noticed a massive coin sale price increase over the last 6 weeks, and because I didn’t see any comments on CT I thought it was all in my head. Does anyone else have thoughts on this?
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2020
  4. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Ergy, You're right, all the major auction houses have been getting extraordinary prices recently, not just Heritage. I don't know if it's a passing phenomenon or if it will stay. Your solidus is a very handsome coin :D. Heritage has recorded 3 coins of that type in Ch MS condition that have sold in the last several months for $720.00.
  5. Mr.Q

    Mr.Q Well-Known Member

    I am realizing the same thing most coin prices are getting pretty pricey and not worth the effort.
    Egry likes this.
  6. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    I think stimulus money around the world, coupled with near zero interest rates, and no ability to go on vacation to set fire to a pile of hundreds has converged driving prices for many collectibles up.

    Luckily, most things I pursue I pursue for what they are, not their lofty grade, so has been somewhat less affected by this.
  7. Limes

    Limes Supporter! Supporter

    The handling costs of HA is the reason I decided to never buy from an USA based auctioneer again. It's all on me however, because I did not go through their elaborate terms well enough to realise what those costs can amount to, when living in Europe.
    In any case, their coins for offer are often very nice, but I am suprised about some of the prices realised. There are better buys possible, pricewise and quality wise. Just my opinion, based on a 'feeling', so worth absolutely nothing.
    And yes, prices are ridicoulous these days!
  8. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    medoraman, You make some excellent points ;)! With so many people confined to their homes & unable or unwilling to vacation, disposable income is piling up for many people. I'm retired & have learned to live on a Social Security budget so that $1,200.00 check from Uncle Sam was disposable income for me :shame:. I'm a "high grade" condition freak but have never paid the crazy prices that we see today. I hid my credit card for the last Heritage auction so I wouldn't be tempted to overpay like so many other collectors did :smuggrin:. The covid-19 scourge has had an impact on all our lives, & I too believe it's had an impact on the coin markets :sour:.
  9. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Limes, I think we've all had bad experiences with shipping world-wide, & covid-19 has a lot to do with it :mad:. It's no secret that the United States Postal Service has slowed-down dramatically because of White House budget cuts. Our postal service now is worse than I can remember. I can remember when it cost 3 cents to mail a letter, & now it costs 55 cents & takes longer to get to a destination :rage:.
    robinjojo, Limes, Orfew and 2 others like this.
  10. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    My recent experiences with Heritage Auctions have been very disappointing. It seems like they have a group of bidders who will pay any price for anything and totally ignore the 20% buyers’ fee.

    I bid about 10% more than the previous high price realized for a couple of certified coins. We are talking about 4-figure items. I came in third on one piece and was not even in the money on the second.

    The second piece was a brilliant Proof with a high grade (PR-66 Deep Cameo) on it. The close-up pictures looked good, but the slab photos and the photos on the TPG website made the piece look cloudy. I have been burned on the close-up pictures in the past because over exposure photos can hide problems. Without seeing this piece in person, I could not bid on it. Yet, it brought almost twice the previous all time high price realized ($4,000 vs. $8,000 and the $4,000 was way ahead of any of the other previous results.)

    Heritage looks to be the place to consign, but it sure isn’t the place to buy given these results.
    Restitutor likes this.
  11. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    John, You're right, there are many collectors & dealers bidding for clients who are willing to overpay for what they want :wacky:. They are distorting the market & ruing the hobby for the rest of us :sour:. Don't forget that Heritage is now charging sales tax on top of the 20% surcharge for buyers. In N.Y.S. where I live that means 28% on top of hammer price :eek:! All the major auction houses have a cadre of idiots willing to overpay for what they want :rolleyes:. The modern American coin market is much worse ever since the phenomenon of "registry collecting" began, where collectors compete with each other for the highest graded coins. For example see the coin below.

    1961 Quarter, PCGS MS67.jpg

    This coin is being offered by G.C. this Sunday & has 5 bidders who have pushed the price up to $1,262.00 so far. The mintage on the coin is over 37,000,000 & PCGS has 40 of these coins listed for that grade. In 2014 Heritage sold one of these coins for $3,818.75 :jawdrop:! I'll be curious to see what this coin sells for :smuggrin:.
    Restitutor likes this.
  12. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    I also collect political items, and the buyers' fee and sales tax is even worse on those. The buyers' fee is 25% and the sales tax is 8.5%. That works out to almost 36% over the hammer price.

    Heritage sends me survies asking for my opinion. I have told them their buyers' fee for political items is the highest in the industry and totally out of line. They won't listen to me, but I think they ought to know.
  13. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter


    But, generally speaking, the inconveniences that we as collectors are experiencing with fees and delays pale in comparison to families devastated by this pandemic both in terms of lives and livelihoods. We're just in an appallingly bad place right now as a country and as a world now.
  14. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    On the Byzantine bronze front, this follis arrived a few weeks ago, purchased from eBay.

    It seems that the gold fetches high bids for the most part, while most of the bronze coinage sells for less, although really rare bronze coins or coins that are exceptionally rare in quality of strike or artistry also bring in premiums, often very high.

    So, as a bottom feeder when it comes to his coinage, I picked up this coin for $190, which is fair given its grade and appearance.

    Here it is, from Justinian's Used "KAR" Lot, a post reform follis from Carthage.

    This is the first (and probably last for me) facing portrait follis from this mint. This flan is typically broad, at 39 mm. The detail is acceptable, with somewhat crusty green and brown patina.

    Byzantine Empire, 539 - 540 AD
    AE Follis
    Justinian I
    Obverse: Facing portrait, holding cross on globe and shield with horseman motif, cross to right, legend: DN IVSTINIANVS PP AVG.
    Reverse: Large M, ANNO to left, cross above, regnal year XIII to right (539 - 540 A.D.), officina S below, mintmark KAR.

    About VF

    22.3 grams
    39 mm, 6 h.
    D-Camera Justinian follis, Carthage, KAR, eBay, 8-9-20.jpg
  15. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    robinjojo, For the money you made a nice buy :D. A solid VF minus the incrustation would have cost you in the $400-500 range. I clicked the image of your coin for an enlarged view & it does have excellent detail :). Large Carthage follies don't often come up for sale.
  16. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you, Al.

    The coin, as the saying often goes, looks better in hand. I have a very difficult time taking decent photos of bronze coins, especially dark ones with contrasting areas of patina.

    Here's the photo from the seller who I bought the coin from:


    In some ways these images are worse than my images.
    Marsyas Mike likes this.
  17. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Here's one more "wide body" follis - better grade too, but not as rare.

    D-Camera Justinian I Follis, Antioch, 22.6 grams, H. Berk, 5-7-20.jpg
    Marsyas Mike and Alegandron like this.
  18. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    robinjojo, Wow :jawdrop:! The sellers photo is many times better than yours :smuggrin:. You better delete your photos & try again another day :(. I've struggled with bronze coins too, especially coins of uniform color. Believe it or not many time my photos of slabbed coins look better than the raw photos o_O, like the photos below.

    Constantius I as Caesar.jpg
    Sear 12821.jpg
    Galeria Valeria follis, Cyzicus, AK Collection.jpg
    Severus II, Sear #14538.jpg
    IMG_1591 (3).jpg
  19. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Your "City of God" follis looks like a beauty :D!
  20. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Numismatic jack of all trades & specialist in none Moderator

    I'm sorry, what did you say?

    For that matter, was I just about to say?

    After seeing that last coin in the OP, I'm still a bit thunderstruck and not yet breathing normally again. Pulse rate is still slightly elevated. :greedy:
  21. Restitutor

    Restitutor Well-Known Member

    Just received this email from Heritage as I’m sure many on this forum did. Seems to me we are in the worst ever time to buy coins for many of the reasons outlined in this thread already. As a new coin collector, this a bummer! Dealer fixed price coins are seeming more and more attractive by the day.

  22. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    Throughout my years as a collector, I have seen these types of messages many times. The auction houses spend more time stroking the consigners than the bidders. It's only logical. Without the material to sell, they can't attract the buyers. Still, it's not much fun becoming the lower man or woman in the pecking order.

    You are right. Going to dealers' fix price lists is more attractive than messing with these crazy auctions. The prices are just outrageous, especially when you add a 20% buyers fee to the bill. As a collector, it's hard to get enthusiastic about an item in an auction when you get kicked in the gut every time you bid.

    Usually the “estimate prices” that the auction houses put on their lots are low. That’s a way to attract more bids. A better guide is look at the previous sales, especially the more recent ones.

    Right now, it seems that the “more money than brains” crowd is dominating the Heritage auctions. These big auctions are the place, often the only place, to buy really special items. But if you looking for more run-of-mill items, a dealer you know and trust is very often the better choice.
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