Coin catalogs arrive regularly in our office. And there are always sales to view on the internet. Many of the sale catalogs we see are heavyweight, literally and figuratively—works that offer thousands of lots. By comparison, our catalogs are small—seldom much over 400 lots—and we calculate mailing charges by the ounce rather than the pound.
While we could pull together much larger sales, we have not for several reasons. We choose to be selective, seeking items that are interesting, appealing and represent good value in an era where high prices are what make the headlines. A huge sale would mean we could not spend time researching some of the details that many of these coins deserve. It could also mean that some consignments might get lost in a crowded catalog. And with just three of us, we prefer approaching our sales as a quality rather than quantity enterprise.
In some senses our catalogs are “boutique” enterprises—carefully selected items offered in an informative and appealing format to enthusiasts and collectors with the experience and knowledge to understand and even enhance our presentation. While “boutique” also can imply expensive, a strong price point does not necessarily mean good value. Yes, we offer expensive coins but we believe a coin that costs five figures should be worth that. We strive to present good value at all price levels.
All this has been discussed around our office for the past months as our son Lief has begun to make his mark on our firm. He has brought us into the 21st century with his computer skills. He has streamlined much of our office work, developed a web site that increasingly offers more, and has brought a wave of freshness and energy into our office. (He is not very good about quitting time: there is something about having to tell him to go home that makes me think he is understanding all too quickly that life as a numismatist is a calling, not a career.)
This catalog opens with appealing gold from different sources. Most of the hammered British gold is in a consignment from a collector who has purchased from us for many years. I was heartened, by the way, at his observation that he initially started doing business with us because we do not charge a buyer’s fee. His lots should do well—they are excellent quality and highly desirable pieces, as are the Roman, Byzantine, and World pieces.
The ancient section written by Lief and Marnie includes many pieces from a dealer whose specialties are other than ancient coins but whose enthusiasm for these artistic and historic pieces led him to collect a substantial number over many years. Some of his best are in this sale. The ancient market is often driven by quantities of things that become available from time to time, so a collection that ranges across time and areas as this one does, offers buying opportunities that have become elusive, such as the ex Sitichoro Hoard Rhodes tetrobol and the choice Probus antoninianii. Select pieces from our own stock round out the offering.
The British Isles section merits close examination, including many stellar or simply interesting lots, such as an exceptional condition rare first issue hammered shilling of Charles II, dies by Thomas Simon, a Cromwell crown, a long run of George V wreath crowns, some Maundy sets with leather pouches, and three rare Scottish countermarked dollars.
The British token section contains two great consignments. We did well enough with part 1 of the collector’s Scottish collection in our last auction that he sent the rest, his favorite pieces. There are some great rarities in the Scottish section and some opportunities that are seldom encountered. (The Fullarton pieces are splendid!) A second consignment of tokens apparently put back at the time of striking in the 18th century has some phenomenal pieces. The superb and historically fascinating Tom Paine cartoon coin has been an advertising feature for us since the consignment came in. The small hoard of mint state Birchall pieces is phenomenal as well—there is something very satisfying and special about having several identical pieces from the same hoard with nothing more affecting their condition than a bit of age and toning. And there is a strong probability that Samuel Birchall himself created the package originally. (I wrote a longer acount of this group for the CTCC Journal, and will send you a copy on request.)
The world coin section contains some pieces that have fascinated me over the last few years. I kept many of them around simply because I liked them. You can decide for yourself when you look through the lots, but these appealed to me because they were unusual or particularly historic or they marked something that seemed to me worthwhile. For sheer fascination and artistic merit, the Napoleonic medals are so appealing that they deserve to be displayed. I have handled many pieces from this fascinating and beautifully produced series and these stand out as particularly appealing on the twin bases of design and artistic merit. For this auction, I have selected a group with figures of fantasy, allegory and myth.
There are also colonial and early U.S. coins, though not a great number. Early American material has always fascinated me. My recreational reading over the past few months has been tending toward early and 19th century American history and biography (reading list on request). Having the coins in hand from these eras—including hard times tokens from the Andrew Jackson era—provides a frisson of delight.
Our late fall sale is already in the planning stage. While there is still room for consignments, we have a core of items set aside. As I write this, we have just completed our first e-auction—an online sale of 100 lots. We plan to have regular sales throughout the coming year, two major sales such as the one you have in your hand, interspersed by several e-auctions. All our e-auctions will be printed and mailed to you—this is for those of you, like me, who grew up on paper-and-ink and still prefer it.
We have enjoyed putting this sale together, and hope you find things of interest. We would not be where we are without your interest and support. Most of you we know by name so that when we hear from you, we remember who you are. And we have had wonderful conversations with many of you. This personal dimension has been a great source of satisfaction and pleasure for us. Thank you.