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Would you buy it?


kirispupis
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  • Benefactor

The following are dilemnas I've faced recently given different opportunities. In some cases, I made a call, while in others I'm still debating. I'm curious to hear what you would do.

  1. You find a type you've been after for some time at a seller/auction house you trust. It's an unpublished type, but what makes you more nervous is the weight is off. You know this type ranges from 15g-16g, though can occasionally be found down to 14g, but this one is 13.65g. Do you bite?
  2. A ruler you're after has a number of issues, but the most common are obols and staters. Most of the staters are out of your price range, but there are a few - relatively beat up - that you can manage. For about 30% less, there are obols of great quality. Which do you pick up - a lower quality stater or a higher quality obol?
  3. There's one relatively common type you've been really after that also comes in a variety of denominations. With patience, you can buy a pretty nice copy of the cheapest denomination. This is a high demand type, but you've also found a decent copy of the highest denomination. It's near the top of your price range, but the obverse (which is the famous part) is very nice, while the reverse is badly off-center. Even given that, you feel the coin is very cheap and hasn't been picked up because it's listed somewhere most don't notice (though you trust the seller). Do you pick it up, or do you spend less for a very nice lower denomination?
  4. A coin pops up for a decent price that is just outside of your collecting zone. You notice that it's incredibly rare. You find it interesting, but it isn't something you normally pick up. Do you buy it?
  5. A coin has just come live at auction and no one's paying attention to it. The attribution puts it square in the middle of what you collect, but you're pretty sure that attribution is wrong - though since the auction is live you don't have the time to verify that. The coin is right at the minimum bid and is very cheap. Do you pick it up and figure out the attribution later?

 

FWIW, the following were my answers.

  1. No
  2. The obol, though I haven't found one yet I want
  3. Still debating 🙂 (mainly because I've bought a lot of coins lately and my wife isn't too happy)
  4. Yes
  5. Yes

Here's #4, though in retrospect I could have waited since his types have been coming up more lately. I'm still debating whether to go after Skythian kings, though I pick them up when I find a rare one that's cheap.

331A1760-Edit.jpg.350ee9ff73196690c7cb037d2b4ed052.jpg

Kings of Skythia, Skilouros
Olbia, circa 130-114/13 BCE
Æ 2.79g, 15mm, 12h.
Laureate head of Apollo to right
/ [Β]ΑΣΙΛΕ[ΩΣ Σ]ΚΙΛΟΥ[PΟΥ], kithara; OΛ below
Frolova, Skilura -; SNG SHM Moskau -; Anokhin (2011), 578 = CNG, Triton XVI, 105; HGC 3.2, 2045
Ex collection of GK
Ex Roma

 

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  • Benefactor

Nice coin!  The corrosion actually lends character to the coin.  Some collectors are interested in only coins that look as if they came from the mint yesterday. I find the appearance of an ancient coin, having been in the ground for hundreds or thousands of years, with all of the deposits, patina and corrosion very satisfying to own, especially if it is a very rare type.

Regarding #1, weight is often influenced by the condition of the coin, so if a type is supposed to fall into the 14 to 16 grams range, but the coin in question is 13.65 grams, I would need to determine if the lower weight is due to corrosion, removal of metal or some other environmental factor that can reduce weight.  If the coin is really high grade, with no apparent environmental issues, then I would need to determine if the lower weight is due to a reduced flan size.  This is a factor with archaic owls, whose weights can vary considerably.  Finally, I would look for signs of plating.  I am sure a reputable dealer would have done this, and plated ancients do show signs somewhere of a copper core showing in spot on the surface.  So in answer to #1, perhaps.

Regarding #2, yes, I would consider purchasing the coin, as long as it is presentable and not corroded into total obscurity.  There are lots of ancient silver coins out there with varying degree of horn silver.  More often than not the horn silver indicates corrosion.  How much corrosion, though?  If the main elements of the design and some of the legend are still visible, and the coin is very rare and super expensive in higher grades, I would buy the coin if it meets my criteria for a coin in this condition.  So, a conditional yes.

For #3, I tend to have blinders when it comes to denomination. A super rare obol, due to its diminutive size, just doesn't light a spark for me.  I really like the larger coin formats (tetradrachms, sestertii, etc.)  for the obvious reason that they provide the optimal space for artistic and interesting designs.  Even so, the Athenian owls (tetradrachms) are so narrow that it is virtually guaranteed that some part of the design would be off the flan.  Still, the tetradrachm format allows for sometime beautiful renderings of the portrait and owl.  

#4, that sometimes happens, especially in an after sale and sometimes with a retail seller.  This is really being at the right place at the right time, being impulsive, and having sufficient knowledge about the coin and the auction house/seller to make an informed decision.  This is true for coins that come to the market from recent hoards.  If a number of the same coin is be offered at auction, and the coins offered vary in condition, there's a good chance that one or two may not attract any bids, due to the selection, plus the fact that the coin may have a fairly narrow collector base.  So yes for #4.

#5 - This is a comfort zone issue. I've found most auction house attributions to be spot on.  I have found the occasional error with online sellers, and with NGC.  I like imitative coinage, where the devil is truly in the attribution details.  I am willing to take risks if the coin is in the affordable range, the design is intriguing and my fifth sense based on my experience collecting coins, world and ancient, tells me to "go for it".   So, yes for #5.  You only go through life once, and part of the thrill of collecting ancient and other coins is making an odd ball discovery.  Who knows, perhaps I will compile information on imitative of owls worthy of an attribution designation, such as the schlemiel number, Sch -1, Sch-2, Sch-3......

Edited by robinjojo
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1. You find a type you've been after for some time at a seller/auction house you trust. It's an unpublished type, but what makes you more nervous is the weight is off. You know this type ranges from 15g-16g, though can occasionally be found down to 14g, but this one is 13.65g. Do you bite?

Yes. Here is a similar situation. This coin is certainly published but the weight is far off at 2.74 g. I think many people considered this a red flag. I risked without even being sure what am I looking at - a contemporary counterfeit, a core of a fourree ... or even a fake?? actually it's a silver denarius losing weight because of crystallization.  I showed this coin to several specialists who found only 1 red flag - that I got it too cheaply =)). The color is normal silver, my photo shows it darker than it really is. I cleaned the coin as it was showing an ugly black patina (normally I don't do this but it was ugly)

image.png.694239cbb010e699fce6fe417dd2924d.png

In your particular scenario, the coin is unpublished - so this indicates the weight interval is not exact. If a) I am after the type and b) it is offered by a seller I trust, I would buy it.

2. A ruler you're after has a number of issues, but the most common are obols and staters. Most of the staters are out of your price range, but there are a few - relatively beat up - that you can manage. For about 30% less, there are obols of great quality. Which do you pick up - a lower quality stater or a higher quality obol?

Tough one. Depends how beat up is the stater. I am more indulgent than the average collector. If the design is visible, the wear did not hide the artistic elements/legends - if any - I would go for the stater. If the condition is way too modest, I would go for the obol, especially if I can get a dramatically nicer coin. Example I have in mind (somewhat similar) - the Athens tetradrachms. I can't afford a tetradrachm showing full design and in a nice condition. I don't like the tetradrachms that are in the price range I am comfortable with. So I would gladly take a nice obol or hemiobol than a decrepit tetradrachm. 

I like worn coins, but there is a limit, buying an ugly and expensive rarity and NOT liking it is a waste of money for me.

3. There's one relatively common type you've been really after that also comes in a variety of denominations. With patience, you can buy a pretty nice copy of the cheapest denomination. This is a high demand type, but you've also found a decent copy of the highest denomination. It's near the top of your price range, but the obverse (which is the famous part) is very nice, while the reverse is badly off-center. Even given that, you feel the coin is very cheap and hasn't been picked up because it's listed somewhere most don't notice (though you trust the seller). Do you pick it up, or do you spend less for a very nice lower denomination?

Again a tough choice. Would probably go for a smaller denomination. My explanation is the same as the previous point. Especially of the coin is near the top of my price range, I might wonder in a few weeks/month what was I thinking. If it's a true bargain, then it's a different story.

4. A coin pops up for a decent price that is just outside of your collecting zone. You notice that it's incredibly rare. You find it interesting, but it isn't something you normally pick up. Do you buy it?

Again it depends what means outside of my collecting zone. I collect Republican, Greek, Imperial and Provincial coins, so a lot of freedom. Without specializing. I decided not to collect Seleukid coins to limit my collecting area. I recently found a rare modest drachm. I got it. I don't regret it. But  my decision would have been different for a, let's say, medieval coin. Or Islamic coin. Or Indian coin. These are too far from my areas to have any interest in them.

5. A coin has just come live at auction and no one's paying attention to it. The attribution puts it square in the middle of what you collect, but you're pretty sure that attribution is wrong - though since the auction is live you don't have the time to verify that. The coin is right at the minimum bid and is very cheap. Do you pick it up and figure out the attribution later?

Yes. Because it is very cheap. I bought some coins in similar scenarios having just a thought that something is incorrect. Attributed them later. Sometimes my hunch was correct. Sometimes it wasn't. Didn't regret them when they were cheap. But when I see a coin I am not sure about and I see a bidding war, I just elegantly retreat.

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1. Probably. I've come to realise that for many ancients, and even some modern coins, the weight isn't the indicator of authenticity I thought it was. It would have to be a type with a lot of examples making up the 'should be' range, and almost no outliers, for me to believe it was sacrosanct. That's not to say I wouldn't be on high alert.

2. The obol, unless I already had a load of them and no staters, when I'd probably take the stater if it wasn't too hideous.

3. Same as (2).

4. No. Unless it's very cheap and won't depleat my budget for the coins I want. If it's outside my collecting zone, it's rarity means nothing to me, and could be something of an irrelevance. There are a lot of ancients that are incredibly rare under certain categorisations but no-one cares.

5. Only if it's very cheap. I've done this a few times, and never found out later it was worth a lot more. Most attribution errors seem to be in the auction house's favour. Except on eBay, but attribution errors (or no attribution at all) are par for the course there.

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2 hours ago, kirispupis said:

The following are dilemnas I've faced recently given different opportunities. In some cases, I made a call, while in others I'm still debating. I'm curious to hear what you would do...

I like your questions @kirispupis, and congrats on your Kings of Skythia purchase, it is a coin I would fall for.

1. unpublished type, and the weight is off - Do you bite?

For me this is an easy "no"

2. obol or stater to pick up the ruler you are interested in?

In most cases I might skip the coin altogether - rather than go for a litra or obol, that said, this litra interested me more than my willingness to pay for the larger denominations

https://www.sullacoins.com/post/a-litra-from-akragas

1669063349_AgrigentumObol.jpg.a25d4e55eed6255241c203498ba15004.jpg

3. decent copy of the highest denomination or a very nice lower denomination

I don't mind "offcenter" (honest wear and double strike).  Overall I found this coin attractive, interesting, and fair price with Tigranes II high on my list - so I went with the higher denomination.

https://www.sullacoins.com/post/tigranes-ii-the-great

1811966101_TigranesIITetradrachm2.jpg.e9068ac7b0b166bf6f12ad441f11a4c1.jpg

4. outside of your collecting zone, incredibly rare, and interesting - Do you buy it?

assuming rare and in a range I would consider "affordable" - I'd buy it - this coin provides the example

https://www.sullacoins.com/post/an-emerging-story

1959752858_Post-KidariteVinayaditya5th.jpg.96824af51268e381d90e79f5c3b0c1af.jpg

5. attribution is wrong - do you pick it up and figure out the attribution later?

no shortage of minor errors in attribution, although I couldn't come up with one quickly that made a big difference in price - this graded and encapsulated "Caracalla" quite entertaining - I almost regret breaking it free.

https://www.sullacoins.com/post/son-of-caracalla

1268622251_ANACSCert.jpg.514fc11f7406f9cd79ced161211e26a6.jpg

1813634651_Elagabalussacrificing.jpg.05b9488092fa134ff4a81ef770c681ba.jpg

 

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  • Benefactor

Thanks everyone. A few more details on the actual examples.

#1

I won't name the specific type, since the auction house may be upset and I'm honestly not sure about authenticity, but this is a type that was previously rare, but a number of examples have come onto the market lately and what used to be a >$1k coin has now fallen drastically. I researched to find any information that would provide an answer for such a varying weight, but couldn't find anything (because it used to be very rare). Pushing me to the negative was the fact that another example of the type (of an even lower weight) was pulled from the same auction. To be honest, the coin had other faults, so I didn't mine skipping it - real or not. It's also a Pri 3 - so no big loss.

#2 

I usually don't discuss coins I haven't yet purchased, but in this case it's a common coin and a Pri 3, so I'm not sure when I'll pick it up. It's a Pharnabazos stater or obol. There are a number of decently priced staters available, but all are quite rough and IMHO lack the distinctive character that makes this type famous. Some obols, however, have it. So, if I come across a decently priced obol with great features, I'll pick it up. I probably won't move on this type for awhile, though, so if I have a chance at a nice stater, I'll take it.

#3

For obvious reasons, I won't detail this one. I'm still going back and forth, and honestly if I hadn't just spent a lot on coins, I would have grabbed it already. I did bid on a lower denomination at auction, but lost it when even that went sky high.

#4

Already showed that coin. I wasn't specifically looking for Skilouros, but when I noticed not a lot of activity on my example, I grabbed it. There are only 21 of his coins listed on ACSearch, though I suspect a hoard has been found as more are appearing now. From some research, my coin was the second cheapest ever for a Skilouros coin, and the other two examples of my type sold for far more, so at least until they dig up 30 more of these - I got a deal.

#5

I spent all of 11 Euros on this coin, so I wasn't too worried. The attribution was for a city that, to my knowledge, didn't produce coins between 350-250 BCE, so it wasn't on my radar. I therefore had strong doubts about the attribution, though the coin was of the style between 350-250 BCE. After more investigation, my suspicions were confirmed. The coin wasn't from the city the auctioneer had listed, but was from 350-250 BCE. Once I took a good look at the coin, it was pretty obvious where it came from, and I can only assume at this price range they didn't have the best numismatists working on it. However, the type itself may be rare, so more research is necessary. At the very least, I feel I'm getting my 11 Euros worth just from the research. 🙂 

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