Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by VirginiaMan, Jun 12, 2019.
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Since you're in the US I recommend starting out with US-based auction houses like CNG or Vauctions so the only variables you have to worry about are buyers' fees and shipping. Often foreign auction houses end up having a lot more variables that go into the calculation that determines how many dollars need to come out of your wallet to get a given coin to you including buyers' fees, shipping, currency conversion, bank or payment processing charges, etc.. You may also have to figure out a new payment service like Transferwise. It can be a bit overwhelming dealing with all that and it also being your first auction. That said, all the auction houses above are highly recommended by me and if you see a coin you really want at one of those I say go for it.
I have bought from all of these sources and also recommend them all. In addition I would also recommend Savoca, Numismatik Naumann, Dix Noonan Webb, Hess Divo, Sincona, Dr Busso Peus, and Harlan Berk.
As others have said, definitely make sure you know what all of the buyers' fees, shipping/handling/processing fees, and currency exchange rates are before you put in a bid...it can make a huge difference on the final price.
AMCC is great!
1. Faustina I Aureus
2. Trajan sestertius
VirginiaMan, this suggestion is well worth heeding. If you're looking for a certain price range, or types of coins (Greek silver, Roman gold, 12 Caesars, late Roman bronzes, etc.), you'll get more constructive and focused responses by letting us know about that price range and area(s) of interest.
Probably the best answer of the whole entire thread. @VirginiaMan Some auction houses like CNG don't really cater to budget collectors, but there are plenty of other auctions that do. For example, FORVM auctions typically have decent budget coins for beginners and bottom feeders (a category which I occasionally count myself in depending on the time of year), our very own @John Anthony has plenty of budget offerings in his auctions, as well as through direct sales, our very own @Ken Dorney occasionally holds auctions with plenty of budget friendly choices, as well as directly sells coins for budget conscious yet discriminating collectors at coolcoins.com . Agora Auctions hosts auctions for others, as well as their own auctions, with plenty of budget coins to bid on (some with starting bids as low as $30). And there's more auction houses as well as direct sales dealers out there for the budget minded and the newbies just looking to dip their toes in the field without blowing a fortune.
Savoca and Savoca London's Blue Auctions. The coins are Not identified beyond "Trajan denarius, X g, Y mm" or "Gordian III, Thrace, Hadrianopolis, X g, Y mm," but I know what I'm looking at and don't need further information. The coins typically range from F - gVF, and sometimes have other issues, such as poor centering or surface irregularities. Because the coins aren't attributed by reference number and are the type of coins ignored by many well-heeled collectors, it's a cherry-picker's paradise. I've picked up numerous scarce varieties for my various specialty collections that went unrecognized as such. Moreover, I like that they deliver by FedEx, which allows me to have them held at a nearby business for me and nobody has to be at home to sign for them.
Numismatik Naumann: Higher standard when it comes to condition and grade than Savoca Blue but still affordable. Good variety of Roman provincial coins. Sometimes the competition is fierce on certain items and they end up hammering for several-fold the estimate. Don't expect to cherry-pick from them; they know what they have and they sell each coin carefully attributed.
Frank Robinson: Like Savoca, the items are not fully attributed to reference number but if there's something unusual about the coin, Frank will point it out, often with a snarky comment, such as "scarce variety without the altar at the goddess's feet, if you happen to care about such things." Frank's catalogs are entertaining, always have something for everyone, and his customer service is top-notch. Photos are horrible and the coins reliably look better in hand. Minimum bid prices have been escalating in recent years (he used to not have any minimums) and there are fewer true bargains available than there used to be. He doesn't charge a buyer's commission, either.
I regularly participate in @John Anthony 's private auction, @Bing 's private auction, and @Ken Dorney 's auctions. They always have something interesting and the coins are well-researched and the prices are very reasonable.
TimeLine Auctions have been a source of interesting coins for my subspecialty collections. They are primarily an art and antiquities firm, NOT a coin dealer. As such, their coins are listed last in their catalogs and their customer base often ignores them. Moreover, the coins may be low-grade or have problems. This sometimes results in a truly rare coin being ignored altogether and selling (to me) for the starting bid. They have a big buyer's commission and shipping charge, so beware and take this into account.
Bertolami is similar to Timeline in its focus and customer base, allowing some rare coins to go unrecognized and to sell for starting bid or scarcely higher.
CNG and Berk are each top-notch and all of their coins are well-researched and properly attributed. You have no chance of cherry-picking an unrecognized variety. They have a large customer base and competition can be fierce for certain items. Many of the coins are beyond my budget, but occasionally I'll pick up something in my price range.
I participate in other auctions, too, such as Pegasi, Great Collections, Heritage, Roma, Agora, Auctiones GmbH, Leu, Artemide, BAG, and so on, but they are not my go-to auctions for various reasons ranging from unrealistic starting bids to unappealing coins to poor customer service.
Savoca: I can echo the positive things others have said above. There usually are good bargains to be made in their Blue Auctions. Savoca's descriptions are minimal, though, and you'll have to do all attributions by catalogue number yourself. I bought from them quite often and have never been let down by their shipping and customer service. Once I had to ask them to hold a package for me for a while since I was travelling – they answered promptly and courteously, and were a pleasure to deal with. In my book, that's an extra point. They do live bidding on biddr, which I find quite comfortable to use. (typical price range: €10–100)
Ancient and Medieval Coins Canada: A new company run by our forum member @Severus Alexander. They hold two auctions a year. The first auction was a true blast with excellent pictures, great descriptions, and very fair prices. I am very much looking forward to the second auction, which will be held in September. They also use biddr. (typical price range: CAD 10–considerably higher)
Frank Robinson: I agree with what @Roman Collector has said above. Strongly recommended. (typical price range: $25–considerably higher)
Artemide Aste: Their e-Live auctions often have attractive, fully attributed coins at affordable starting prices, and sometimes there is a bargain to be made. Shipping is from Austria and can take a week or so to the US, but I never had any problems. Everytime I had a question, I found their customer service to be very helpful and competent. They accept pre bids via biddr, but I recommend to create an account on their website to see the current bids and participate in live bidding. Their coins come with carefully designed and printed auction tickets including a QR code leading to the coin's auction listing in their online archive – some might think of this as gimmicky, but I find it thoughtful. (typical price range: €25–considerably higher)
CNG: Excellent coins, good service, quite pricey. Since their starting bids are considerably higher than those of the auction houses mentioned above, I only bid here when I truly want a coin. Though I have never been disappointed by the quality of their coins, their website could in my opinion use an update. (typical price range: $100–the sky)
Additional advice: When buying from European auction houses, check the current Euro-Dollar exchange rate first to avoid unpleasant surprises. For the same reason, check the buyer's premium, which tends to be between 10% and 22.5% of the hammer price. Many auction houses primarily accept payment by check or wire transfer – using transferwise often is a good solution.
I've had good luck with just about all of the auction houses mentioned. The only one I've really had a problem with is HD Rauch. I feel they were very unprofessional in handling a problem I have with a purchase from them which ended up costing me money. I've had a couple of auction houses, including some already mentioned, sell me coins that were not authentic, but they readily recognized the problem and made me good.
I also buy from CNG, ROMA, Savoca, and many of the others mentioned above.
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