One of the" exciting aspects of collecting is the feeling of elation one may derive from the discovery of something hidden or unique. In a sense, we all are looking for something undiscovered or elusive. It is sometimes humorous to note just how far we will go in this quest. One day earlier this month, while wandering down Main Street in Lodi, I was stopped by Jim Peterson. Jim and his father run the local meat processing plant - a standard feature of most small towns in Wisconsin. One of the conditions of small-town living, which has its pros and cons, is familiarity. Now Jim, and most everyone else in town, knows that I am a lover of ancient Greek and Roman coins. So, when Jim noticed an ad in the local "Shopper" announcing a Coin Auction, he took note.
When he discovered that the auction was to include Roman coins, he did the neighborly thing by bringing it promptly to my attention.
Sure enough, upon inspection, the ad did mention some "very old Roman coins" to be included in the Richland Center sale.
Now Richland Center is not known as a hotbed of antiquarian activity. It is a rural farming community about 60 miles northwest of Madison in a rather unpopulated portion of the state. But not too long ago a Raphael painting was reportedly discovered in Medford, Wisconsin; and Medford makes Richland Center look like Gotham City. Willing to risk the hour-long drive (each way), just on the off chance they might have an Otho sestertius hidden in the lots, I trucked off (literally) filled with anticipation in my little Toyota pickup.
I thought of Bob Levy and his experiences at the NF A auction surely, I wouldn't see the same faces ready to challenge my desire to own the treasures forthcoming.
I thought about the time I found a sestertius of Tranquillina for $1.50 in a junk box along the Seine at Paris, and the little hoard of Macrianus and Quietus that came my way for $2 each. Then I thought some more about the Medford Raphael. The drive didn't take long.
The auction was held at the community center in Richland Center, and my heart was pounding as I entered the room. There was only a dozen or so bidders in attendance, and all but one was wearing bib overalls or the like. Now, I am not one to stereotype, but this was definitely not Beverly Hills.
I introduced myself to the auctioneer and asked to view the lots of Roman coins. After some lengthy confusion, he produced a small "baggy" with a rubber band sealing it shut. Inside were five Roman bronzes marked simply "B.C."
One was a centenionalis of Constantius II, one a barbarous radiate of Tetricus I, and three were small AE-34 pieces from the fourth century. My anticipation vanished rather abruptly.
I did notice, however, that the local Lion's club was sponsoring lunch for the auction, and the ladies had put out a spread of home-baked pies that would rival the entries at our State Fair. A cup of coffee and piece of fresh rhubarb pie (the first of the season) did much to relieve the hollow feeling that lot viewing had created.
Out of curiosity, I stayed for the calling of that single lot of ancients; it was only #46. The lot went for $12 - and as some are prone to extol the virtues of being underbidder - I am willing to admit to having been the one to drive that lot to such lofty heights.
On the ride home I had a chance to reflect on the day's experience. It was a beautiful day, one of those days when you're glad you live in Wisconsin. They usually come right at the end of winter. I didn't find my Otho sestertius or another one of Tranquillina. But I did, for a time, enjoy the thrill of the search and the anticipation that goes with it. I certainly have ample opportunity to look at ancient coins and even the opportunity to find bargains, but I seldom take the time anymore to just go out for a drive in the country. I hope Richland Center has another coin auction next spring, and that someone has a couple ancient treasures to entice me away from the office for a day!
Have a nice summer and thanks for letting us hear your point of view.