Edwardian Elegance

November 2010, Volume 47 No. 11
What price knowledge?

HAVING just returned from Coinex, held once again at the Millennium Hotel, Mayfair, I feel it safe to say that the event has now probably “settled in” to its new venue and is happy with the role it is playing in the coin hobby and trade—this is a prestigious, showpiece fair attracting a large number of dealers and collectors from across country and across the globe. The hotel, in the heart of one of London’s most salubrious districts is the right one for this kind of event and I am sure that it will remain the home of Coinex for some time to come. There is little point, I think, in giving a full report on the fair here—it was as you would expect such a premier event to be, with an excellent range of dealers exhibiting and some superb coins on offer. It was exactly how the BNTA want it to be and whilst the show is never going to break records for attendance, which it had never set out to, instead the aim was to attract the “numismatists” rather than those simply coming to nose around and there were indeed a decent number of “serious” collectors through the door on the Friday (when you had to pay £35 for entry if you wanted to come in before 2.00pm) and an equally respectable number in on the Saturday when the price of entry was cheaper but the real choice pieces and “bargains” were likely to have gone—or were they . . . ?

We all assume these days that it is the early bird that catches the bargains, or the mistakes, at these shows—that’s why there is always a scrum to get in and often a higher price to pay for early entry. We also assume that there are few real “bargains” to be had these days anyway, as the breadth and depth of knowledge amongst dealers and collectors is such that there is no chance of spotting a hitherto missed rarity on a table unless you’re first in, as everybody knows exactly what they are looking at these days. However, a story circulating amongst the dealers at Coinex this year shows that to be far from the truth.

Eagle-eyed readers may well have spotted two adverts in COIN NEWS last month that both featured the same coin. According to the “gossip” the coin originally appeared in a dealer’s stock at a recent fair and was spotted by an English auctioneer who, knowing it to be a rarity, advised the dealer to put it in auction to see what it would fetch on the open market. This was duly done and it made far more than the vendor originally had it on sale for, apparently some 70 times the original price—that’s quite a mark up and if the story had ended there it would have been worthy enough to tell, but it didn’t. It seems that the coin was bought by another dealer who had also spotted it as a rarity and he believed he could get more for it elsewhere – he was right and it subsequently sold in an auction in the United States for more than 20 times what he had paid for it—that’s 1,400 times the alleged original price! Now, the exact figures aren’t set in stone—you know what rumour mills are like, but the fact is that the coin sold once in one auction for far more than the vendor had believed it to be worth—so well done to the auctioneer for spotting it in the first place—and then again for a huge some that no-one could have believed possible—apart from the second dealer who obviously knew his stuff—so well done to him too!

The reason for me mentioning this here is to say that whilst we all confidently try and convince ourselves that the coin world just doesn’t have those exciting bargains any more, and that the only way any of us will ever find a true rarity is if we rush to tables before anyone else gets a chance to look, or if a collection turns up at a boot sale where there isn’t another coin collector to be found, that plainly isn’t the case. I don’t know the exact circumstances of the original discovery of this particular coin. I don’t know whether it had been sitting in the original dealer’s stock, overlooked by collectors or his contemporaries for a while or whether it was brand new to him, so I can’t comment as I only have “trade tales” to go on. But I do know that the first auction that it was placed in was a popular one, attended by dealers and collectors alike with no early bird advantage to be had, and whilst there was obviously enough interest in the coin to get the price to way beyond the original figure its true potential was missed by all except the eventual buyer. The man who bought the coin knew enough to realise it was an important piece, knew enough to realise where the best market to sell it was and knew enough to realise a very handsome return on his outlay. They say knowledge is power and nowhere is it more obvious than in a case like this. So if you want to be the one to make that kind of return, or if you want to have in your collection a coin so valuable that under normal circumstances you’d never own it, you really, really, have to know your stuff. Read all you can, talk to as many fellow collectors as you can, attend as many society meetings and fairs as you can, gain the knowledge that can net you that bargain. Be the one to know what others don’t and who knows? In fact you can start your quest for new knowledge today with the COIN YEARBOOK 2011 which we launched at Coinex and is available now!

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In This Issue

Spotlight31
Edwardian elegance
Britannia takes a stand
In focus33
Die varieties of the 1787 shilling
A prolific milled shilling
Background36
From Limehouse to Tokyo
An English episode in Japanese numismatics
Out and about41
The National Museum of Damascus
Safeguarding a long numismatic history
Medallic Miscellany45
Pollock of the Khyber
The story behind the Pollock Prize Medal
On the fringe49
Not what it seems . . .
Some interesting alterations of British coins
Back to basics65
Spicing up coins—Part I
Exploring variety in numismatics
Banknote feature69
Ballindalloch Works notes
Numbering the notes

Regulars

Editor’s Comment2
News & views10
View of the Bay18
Around the World20
New issues coin update22
Royal Mint Bulletin24
Market Scene27
Bookshelf55
Price Guide to MAUNDY SETS56
Coin Clinic58
Lexicon60
Coin Classroom63
Banknote News67
Price Guide to JERSEY NOTES74
New issues banknote update76
Letters to the Editor79
Dealer Directory81
Diary dates82
Semi-display adverts85
The Web Page87
Classified advertising89
ADVERTISERS INDEX91