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Provenance for me is nothing of true value


NewStyleKing

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On another platform, the great provenance search is active. Whilst our Sulla 80 says, "For me it is primarily: a coin is more interesting if it can be documented from a famous collection or an important journal articles/book.  (Cited from: https://www.cointalk.com/threads/finding-provenance.403741/)

For me it's the coins, maybe Dominique de Chambrier and/or Richard Beale will add piquancy to a coin...I doubt NewStyleKing/eBay would ever cut it!

 

Surely a coin is more interesting for what it might not or might say or imply. In NewStyles the period around the time of Mithradates Vl's shenanigans around Cappadocia, Bithynia etc start to show ...it is believed... symbols that might relate to pro-Mithradatic or Roman partisanship. Coupled with the names of the first magistrate , ( who influenced the symbol's type), can re-inforce this view! Eg Aristion, known to have been an Athenian magistrate coupled with basileus Mithradates names on a NewStyle with a clear Pontic symbol! Apellikon, a thief of Teos, Athenian diplomat of the Pontic court, symbol Griffin , (badge of Teos!) and failed Stregos who tried to take Delos (?) from the Romans.....etc....Kointos=Greek for the Roman name Quintus on a symboled coin seeming to show Roma being crowned by Nike, with the previous obverse die-liked Newstyle being Roma on her own.... So it's not provenance that's worth a damn it's what the coins can show or imply...Eid Mar anyone? Maybe modern provenance is a distraction from the fact that most coins have nothing really to say! Just a long line of anonymous names....Aesillas, Quaestor! 

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I agree that the merits of a coin should be the primary consideration.  Provenance is supplemental information which in many cases can be of dubious origin and usefulness, such as "From the collection of an English gentleman".  The coins we own have passed through innumerable hands for most; prior ownership is interesting information and should be included if it is of a reliable nature, and there is the crux of the issue.  Virtually all of my coins lack any provenance which I guess puts them in the Twilight Zone of legal status, but I think they will just pass on to another collector through auction, and so it goes.

I impressed by the depth of knowledge that you display on the subject of new style owls as well as 2nd - 1st century BC history, a field and period of Athenian coinage whose surface I haven't even scratched. 

Edited by robinjojo
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Surely our ancient coins are nothing more than lumps of metal that have a provenance to an ancient place of manufacture? 😉 More seriously though, how much less interesting would they be if we knew nothing about where they came from? Some people just enjoy knowing some of the additional provenance between then and now.

I own at least one coin that came from a hoard and has only a few decades of unaccounted provenance.  I think that knowledge is neat. To each his own. 🙂 

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8 hours ago, NewStyleKing said:

On another platform, the great provenance search is active. Whilst our Sulla 80 says, "For me it is primarily: a coin is more interesting if it can be documented from a famous collection or an important journal articles/book.  (Cited from: https://www.cointalk.com/threads/finding-provenance.403741/)

For me it's the coins, maybe Dominique de Chambrier and/or Richard Beale will add piquancy to a coin...I doubt NewStyleKing/eBay would ever cut it!

 

Surely a coin is more interesting for what it might not or might say or imply. In NewStyles the period around the time of Mithradates Vl's shenanigans around Cappadocia, Bithynia etc start to show ...it is believed... symbols that might relate to pro-Mithradatic or Roman partisanship. Coupled with the names of the first magistrate , ( who influenced the symbol's type), can re-inforce this view! Eg Aristion, known to have been an Athenian magistrate coupled with basileus Mithradates names on a NewStyle with a clear Pontic symbol! Apellikon, a thief of Teos, Athenian diplomat of the Pontic court, symbol Griffin , (badge of Teos!) and failed Stregos who tried to take Delos (?) from the Romans.....etc....Kointos=Greek for the Roman name Quintus on a symboled coin seeming to show Roma being crowned by Nike, with the previous obverse die-liked Newstyle being Roma on her own.... So it's not provenance that's worth a damn it's what the coins can show or imply...Eid Mar anyone? Maybe modern provenance is a distraction from the fact that most coins have nothing really to say! Just a long line of anonymous names....Aesillas, Quaestor! 

Surely you're trolling, right? 🤔

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8 hours ago, NewStyleKing said:

...Surely a coin is more interesting for what it might not or might say or imply.... So it's not provenance that's worth a damn it's what the coins can show or imply...

A coin can be interesting for its own sake as well as for its provenance. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

Edited by CPK
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6 minutes ago, CPK said:

A coin can be interesting for its own sake as well as for its provenance. The two aren't mutually exclusive.


Yes. I think the problem here is the assumption that it is one or the other. There are many attributes that people value differently, but all have some value, even if you might value one or two of them close to zero. I disagree that provenance is worthless, and I doubt it truly is even to you. But to some extent, that depends on what you mean by provenance. I would say the attributes are:

The Coin

1 - The attractiveness of the coin. The theme. How it fits into a collection.

2 - Coins whose content tells us about history. Many Celtic, Saxon, Parthian, Mongol etc coins are our only record of some rulers even existing. Symbols on LRBs give an insight into the propaganda power of Christianity. A recent find shone a light on Charlemagne's relationship with his wife and the view of women more generally.

3 - Coins whose content reflects history. I might be wrong, but I don't think the EID MAR tells us anything we didn't already know. But it represents a famous event or a time in history we're interested in.

4 - The coin's manufacture - the alloy mix, the method of striking or casting etc. This tells us about the technology and economic climate at the time.

The Provenance

5 - The findspot. Where it was found and the context in which it was found can give us an idea of what a coin was used for, by who, and how. Was it loose change? A ritual offering? A store of individual wealth? Of communal wealth? A grave good? Nailed to a door? In a shipwreck? It also helps date coins and work out circulation patterns. If the coin's findspot is recorded in a public record, that's even more valuable.

6 - Famous ownership. Obviously, no-one cares if a coin's previous owner was an anonymous 'gentleman'. But a lot of people in the US would make a massive deal out of any object demonstrably owned by Michael Jordan. The owner and the history are interlinked. For coin collectors, ownership by a famous numismatist adds both interest (because we know of the person) and credibility, because they knew what they were talking about. This might even extend to the coin featuring in a book.

7 - General ownership. This can be helpful to prove legal ownership. It's also interesting to know who owned a coin, just as some people are interested in knowing who used to live in their house or who their ancestors were. If that's Joe Bloggs back to 2018, that isn't very interesting or valuable information. It's worth something, even if that's a fraction of a penny - enough to make it minutely better than an identical coin without it. But no-one would care very much. If it's back to 1910, and it appeared in an old catalogue, it's getting more interesting.

I can say I have bought coins on the strength of one of each of the first 6 attributes regardless of anything else. They can all be incredibly interesting, and 2 of them relate to provenance. The last one is not a reason to buy a coin as it is only valuable because of the coin. If this is your definition of provenance, and not 5 or 6, your post makes more sense, even if the definition is too narrow. But it still adds 'true' value, if what is meant by 'true value' is cash.

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For me, provenance can add value to a coin, for various reasons.

I mostly care about provenance, which can be proven, to a certain extent. For example, if I can find decent photos of a coin on ACsearch, or CNG Research, or some sort of web site which shows decent photos of coins from previous auctions. Or, if someone has an invoice from the purchase of a coin, or screen shots from the purchase of a coin, or other types of documents from the purchase of a coin, preferably with decent photos of the coin on the documents. Or, if there are photos of a coin, in a book.

If the coin was purchased from a dealer or auction house, and if the dealer or auction house is known to be good at identifying fakes and therefore not selling fakes, then this gives me more confidence, that the coin is authentic. Or, if photos of the coin are in a book, and if the book was written by someone who was known to be good at identifying fakes, then this gives me more confidence, that the coin is authentic.

I also value other aspects of provenance, which @John Conduitt mentioned, such as find spot information, archeological information, and legality (if the coin was purchased, or in a book, before various MOUs were created).

I can also understand, why some collectors are interested, regarding who previously owned a coin, for reasons other than the above reasons. If someone likes to collect coins, then it can be interesting to know the "2nd life" of the coin, after the coin was dug out of the ground. The collecting of coins is an interesting phenomenon in itself, with various social and cultural aspects. Why did this person buy the coin? How much did this person pay for the coin?

Edited by sand
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Personally, I purchased this coin of Ariarathes X despite the fact that the condition was a bit below what I normally would have gone for.

AriarathesX.jpg.4aca6bbada89b8e2a41869d242c1b6b3.jpg

Kings of Cappadocia, Ariarathes X
42-36 BCE
AR Drachm 3.55g, 16mm
Diademed head of Ariarathes X right
Athena standing left, holding Nike in her right hand, shield in her right hand, spear to right.
SG 7305
Ex Apolph E Cahn Auction 68, lot 1510, November 26, 1930

 

What intrigued me was the fact that the coin was sold in an auction in 1930. You can see it in the auction catalog here. Doing some further research, this auction was for the coins of Moritz Simon, with more information about him here.

Granted, at $50 I didn't pay much extra for the provenance, but to me it's pretty neat. Therefore, I don't fault those who do pay extra for provenance.

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Within  provenance (to me where it's from to the extent  possible, eg a hoard or findspot) is very different  to pedigree (who owned  it) but many mix the 2. Within pedigree there are some old collectors who are swooned over -  or rather coins that they owned are - without, in  my view,  careful thought as  a large  number of old pedigrees were from coin hoarders of great wealth rather than collectors with a particularly good  eye.

Thus in auctions this fortnight there are pedigree references to Lockett, (I have coins from  him and discussed them)  but  he collected pretty much anything that moved backed by vast wealth. The BNS is cataloguing his collection, which is currently just  up to the following "specializations" with plenty still to come-

      Ancient British ,Roman – Part 1Roman pt.2Merovingian, Sceats, Stycas, Kent, East Anglia, Viking Mercia WessexEadred – Edward the MartyrEdward the Elder – EdmundAethelred II – HarthacnutEdward the Confessor – Harold IIWilliam IWilliam II – Henry IStephenTealby Short Cross – Long CrossEdward I – Richard IIHenry IV – Henry VHenry VI – Edward IVEdward IV – Richard IIIHenry VII – Henry VIIIEdward VI – ElizabethJames ICharles I Tower – Charles IICharles I Provincial Mints (I)Charles I Provincial Mints (II)Charles I TowerEnglish Misc. Anglo-Saxon Charles IScottish David I – AnneScottish Robert II – James VScottish Mary – James VIScottish Charles I – AnneIrish (I) John – James IIrish (2)Anglo-GallicEuropean Incl. Carolingian France ItalyEuropean Germany AustriaEuropean Incl. Netherlands Portugal SpainScandinavianByzantine and Derivatives GaulishGreek I AR Massalia – LucaniaGreek 2 AR Metapontum – TerinaGreek 3 AR SicilyGreek 4 AR Macedonia – ThraceGreek 5 AR Russia – EuboeaGreek 6 AR Athens – AchaeaGreek 7 AR Elis - LesbosGreek 8 AR Ionia – CappadociaGreek 9 AR Seleucid – BactriaGreek 10 AR AfricaGreek II AE Massalia – ItalyGreek 12 AE SicilyGreek 13 AE MacedoniaGreek 14 AE ThraceGreek 15 AE Thessaly – CreteGreek 16 AE Aegean – BithyniaGreek 17 AE Mysia - LesbosGreek 18 AE Phrygia – CyreneGreek 19 AE AfricaGreek 20 AE Clazomenae - Hierapolis

 

In a leading Swiss auction this month there's a breathless reference to the  American 19th century collector and beer magnate  Virgil Brand, who had 350,000 old coins, some  of which he was  known for keeping  in barrels. Great!  The value  of one  of his coins  to me  is mostly its known age owned,  not  the eye of  Brand.  Yes he  hoovered up some  great collections but his name  on the description means little.

 

It's almost as bad with some "plate" coins. In  my long ago and  misbegotten youth I thought that a  coin of say Velia described as  Williams (THIS COIN etc etc) was something amazing. Then I finally found the Williams  book (highly recommended) and he shows  plates of  many hundreds of coins. Which cooled  my THIS COIN enthusiasm quite promptly.

 

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A generation ago, provenance to a named collection was a fun extra that made a coin or other antiquity more salable, if not more valuable. Today, however, provenance is becoming increasingly important for the establishment of good title amid the ongoing "cultural property" controversy. What defines "cultural property"?

https://www.unesco.org/en/legal-affairs/convention-means-prohibiting-and-preventing-illicit-import-export-and-transfer-ownership-cultural

Edited by DLTcoins
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If a significant proportion of the market audience values an aspect of a thing, that aspect adds value to the thing.  Clearly a significant proportion (even if it's a minority) of ancient coin collectors value the provenance of a coin, so provenance adds value.  (Note: I'm not necessarily saying that's the only way for something to add value.)

I take it that the OP isn't questioning this obvious fact!  Rather he's saying he's part of the sub-group of collectors who don't value provenance.  Well, OK... de gustibus non est disputandum!

12 hours ago, NewStyleKing said:

Surely a coin is more interesting for what it might not or might say or imply.

Yep, I'm sure almost all of us would agree with that. But that doesn't imply anything about whether provenance also adds value, just to a lesser extent.  (As has been pointed out above.)

12 hours ago, NewStyleKing said:

Maybe modern provenance is a distraction from the fact that most coins have nothing really to say! Just a long line of anonymous names....Aesillas, Quaestor!

This strikes me as the most objectionable claim in the OP (i.e. the alleged fact that most coins have nothing really to say).  Almost every ancient coin carries some historical interest, if you dig into it.  This became especially clear to me when I had to write auction descriptions of coins that I had previously found not very interesting.  I ended up wanting to keep/buy most of the coins in the auction! 😆

Back to provenance: personally I think it's pretty cool, in a nerdy kinda way, that the following coin was previously owned by Nobel Prize winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann!

image.jpeg.a2040e7ecc32cb4bed1678edc1cde7c1.jpeg

Poland. Sigismund III Vasa (1587-1632) AR 6 Groschen. Danzig, 1596. Crowned and draped bust right / Crowned coat of arms. Kopicki 1240. 4.72g, 28mm, 12h.

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2 minutes ago, Severus Alexander said:

If a significant proportion of the market audience values an aspect of a thing, that aspect adds value to the thing.  Clearly a significant proportion (even if it's a minority) of ancient coin collectors value the provenance of a coin, so provenance adds value.  (Note: I'm not necessarily saying that's the only way for something to add value.)

I take it that the OP isn't questioning this obvious fact!  Rather he's saying he's part of the sub-group of collectors who don't value provenance.  Well, OK... de gustibus non est disputandum!

Yep, I'm sure almost all of us would agree with that. But that doesn't imply anything about whether provenance also adds value, just to a lesser extent.  (As has been pointed out above.)

This strikes me as the most objectionable claim in the OP (i.e. the alleged fact that most coins have nothing really to say).  Almost every ancient coin carries some historical interest, if you dig into it.  This became especially clear to me when I had to write auction descriptions of coins that I had previously found not very interesting.  I ended up wanting to keep/buy most of the coins in the auction! 😆

Back to provenance: personally I think it's pretty cool, in a nerdy kinda way, that the following coin was previously owned by Nobel Prize winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann!

image.jpeg.a2040e7ecc32cb4bed1678edc1cde7c1.jpeg

Poland. Sigismund III Vasa (1587-1632) AR 6 Groschen. Danzig, 1596. Crowned and draped bust right / Crowned coat of arms. Kopicki 1240. 4.72g, 28mm, 12h.

Great coin, could care less who owned it - unless it was JFK

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10 minutes ago, El Cazador said:

Great coin, could care less who owned it - unless it was JFK

So, you do care about provenance! I knew you would come around. 😉

Seriously, those who collect ancient coins who do not care about provenance are clearly in the minority. That preference isn't "wrong", but it is very peculiar.

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I think it has to do with one's reason for collecting...if, as seems to be the case with @NewStyleKing, you value coins primarily in terms of what they can contribute to academic study, then you will probably find not only provenance boring, but also a large amount of ancient coin types themselves.

If you're like most collectors, and find the coins fascinating for what they are - small pieces of ancient artwork, a tangible connection to the ancient past - then you will likely find provenance at least slightly interesting, as just another chapter in the coin's long historical story from its minting to the present day.

 

 

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While I can certainly respect provenance, it's about 87th on my list of reasons to buy a coin.  I certainly can find it interesting and I wish more coins had find sites (which I generally find more interesting than who owned it).  That being said, I try to be a decent historian and duly note and preserve any relevant previous owners, old tags, etc.

There's always exceptions.  One of my semi-recent buys was an ugly Lucius Verus denarius which had a cool 19th century tag. While I appreciate the history, I generally wouldn't pay a significant premium for provenance.

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3 hours ago, David Atherton said:

So, you do care about provenance! I knew you would come around. 😉

Seriously, those who collect ancient coins who do not care about provenance are clearly in the minority. That preference isn't "wrong", but it is very peculiar.

I am just not ready to pay 20-50% premium for somebody’s ownership, period 

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2 hours ago, CPK said:

I think it has to do with one's reason for collecting...if, as seems to be the case with @NewStyleKing, you value coins primarily in terms of what they can contribute to academic study, then you will probably find not only provenance boring, but also a large amount of ancient coin types themselves.

If you're like most collectors, and find the coins fascinating for what they are - small pieces of ancient artwork, a tangible connection to the ancient past - then you will likely find provenance at least slightly interesting, as just another chapter in the coin's long historical story from its minting to the present day.

You describe the OP very well. Except an academic would put a huge amount of value on the findspot. Maybe more than the individual coin. That’s why so many studies start with hoards. The context and the other coins found with it are crucial. Even the order they are placed in the hoard. You can’t be a serious academic ignoring provenance.
 

2 minutes ago, El Cazador said:

I am just not ready to pay 20-50% premium for somebody’s ownership, period 

As mentioned several times, it’s not only about whether the Marquis of somewhere owned it. It’s about a coin’s origin. And you don’t have to pay that much for most provenances. Most add very little, unless they are proven and interesting.

 

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This is a very interesting thread; different people find different ways to enjoy their hobby.

 

Provenance (find spots) is part of coin history as money. Its value tends to be promoted by academics.

Pedigree is part of coin history as collectables. Its value tends to be promoted by the sale industry.

 

Pedigree is increasingly advertised on account of establishment of goods titles, as pointed out by @DLTcoinsI feel this is a slippery trend for the hobby. 

  • It implies that being from a reputable dealer is no longer grounds for being reasonably satisfied that the coin is legitimate.
  • It encourages the collector to invest time and money in provenance searches, whether they are interested in pedigrees or not (this becomes a new industry).
  • Most legitimate coins, especially lower-value coins, would not have a robust photographic pedigree trail, stressing out honest collectors.
  • Essentially all pre-50th (and many much later) 'coin photographs' are photographs of their casts, not coins. I often find it difficult to be certain whether an old photograph is of the same coin (or its cast to be precise).
  • Do non-photographic provenances from the 'ex-XYZ collection' in the sale catalogue add any value as evidence without documentation of the previous ownership? I doubt.
  • Pedigree evidenced by old sale tickets may also be disputed. Often there would be many coins that would match the ticket, only mentioning a general type/catalogue number (which can be misattributed), with no photograph, accurate factual description of the individual coin attributes or invoices.
11 hours ago, Severus Alexander said:

Back to provenance: personally I think it's pretty cool, in a nerdy kinda way, that the following coin was previously owned by Nobel Prize winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann!

It is funny. The only time I felt attached to a provenance was for coins previously owned by Murray Gell-Mann, including the one from my avatar picture. He was my childhood hero when I was dreaming of becoming a nuclear physicist (which did not happen). Still, I only bought his coins that matched my collecting interests. I do not think I overpaid for the pedigree, and generally forgotten about their pedigree till now.

Edited by Rand
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But having a long modern provenance does not mean genuine. It means that a long line of people could have made a mistake and the others just played follow the leader!  Thus  the knack of feel, touch style strike weight etc  maybe are being ignored and numismatical "skills" are being lessened!  I try all these for my coins PLUS due diligence...I have taken risks only to be satisfied  when the coin was in my hands!.Luckily NewStyle Fakes are uncommon or obvious!

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I guess this is an appropriate time to remind my colleagues of the public service offered by the ****HREFN COLLECTION****

Our motto:  

“Don’t pay $100,000 for a dubious provenance when you can get a perfectly good dubious provenance for free.  Patronize the services of the ****HREFN COLLECTION**** today.”

 

Since inauguration of our service last March, up to thousands of potentially satisfied customers have considered availing themselves of our professional intrinsically invaluable services.   Now with eye-catching holographic stickers which can be pasted on slabs!

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Let's remember there are nine different types of coin collector.  Some of the kinds are interested in provenance, others are not.

@NewStyleKing is type 7, "The Researcher".  My experience is that type 7s are especially interested in coins that were used in key studies.  For example, I suspect NewStyleKing would pay extra for a coin that Margaret Thompson owned or cited in her book on New Style coins.  Or was known to her, but she didn't include, because she misinterpreted it.

Researcher collectors are usually not interested in market provenance unless it proves or disproves some piece of evidence that can be used in an article or paper.

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@edsnible, No I would not pay for a coin owned by MT or specifically cited, only generic types in the Rome-Pontic times=Mithradatic influenced, rare old catalogue types like the Thompson #3 recently sold by CNG  or a rare post Sullan.  I do not hold any value in provenance whatsoever of any type! Indeed ny Salton collection I bought because it's post Sullan and very very rare and indeed the Saltons did not say where it came from or seemingly were not bothered, thus their name , to me, detracts from it  for that reason...we have enough un-professional and pointless collectors salting away numismatically important coins ..and museums too..Archaeolgica  Museo  Chieti and IGCH 2056 always comes to mind ...possession and no publication!!! ( after 70 years of possession!) 

 

MT's gross chronology was wrong, but she not always had that view. Her interpretation of NewStyle hoards was her downfall and the confusing Aesillas overstrike and its chronology! The general internal chronology is very good and . with a few exceptions, still stands! Modern provenance really is neither here nor there..ask baron Dominique de Chambrier! If RB had not used it what would have happened then, because really it could never have been a genuine authentication peg....Indeed who can believe Vecchi's story too?  Once a liar always a liar?. Found on a battlefield in Greece..yeah, pull the other one! Nobody knows where they were minted, same with the Mark Anthony legionary coins!

 

Number 7 is the closest!

 

Rant rant, moan moan..........

Edited by NewStyleKing
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The only provenance I remotely care about is find spot and find context, as this may add to the historical insight, but unless there is a certificate or some such proving it then I wouldn't value that either as it's too easy to invent (then again, so would the paperwork, probably). I see the Rauceby Hoard everywhere now, I have no idea if the coins come with proof of coming from this hoard.

This ultimately means I don't have any coins with interesting provenance, as it's mostly worth £0 to me, so I wouldn't pay even a modest increase in price because of it.

This is of course contingent on me only buying £<200 coins. If I had coins worth multiple thousands, which comes with it potential legal issues and an increase in the quality of fakes, then provenance becomes a safety net worth paying for, but not for anything to do with the coin itself.

I suppose I am #9 on the list @Ed Snible provided.

Edited by Steppenfool
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