Although this editorial is actually being written prior to the Hunt Sale, being held in New York by Sotheby's, it is clear that this numismatic event will be one of the most memorable in this century. We will be returning from a very compacted week on Sunday night and printing The Celator on Monday morning. Therefore, the news report of this sale will probably be written somewhere over Pennsylvania or Ohio as we wing back to the Midwest. With true dedication, and the kind of zeal only a fledgling publisher could muster, we'll be typesetting the account sometime late Sunday night and early Monday morning. Look for our comments in the "Art and the Market" section of this issue.
We have always looked at coins from the point of view that they are indeed major works of art. Several numismatists over the past century have propounded this view, but it took a collection of this magnitude, offered for sale by a house noted especially for dealing in major art, to really drive the point home. The catalogs alone are masterpieces. The coins. collected by Nelson Bunker Hunt, were clearly selected for their exceptional style and execution. Portraits are spectacular and represent the finest work of Greek and Roman celators. Also included are such incidentals as a complete type set of ancient decadrachms - that is. one of each known major variety, including a Poros Decadrachm of Alexander the Great.
The sale itself will undoubtedly be as much a gala social event as a spectacular auction. Enthusiasm and anticipation have been building for months, and the air in New York City promises to be supercharged. Wild estimates of an overflowing auction room, some projecting over a thousand bidders, may be rather optimistic but time will tell. According to Sotheby's, the auction room will hold approximately 600 people. The firm has arranged to reserve 25% of the seating in order to assure room for their regular customers.
Some dealers, who might normally be in attendance, apparently see little chance of success in the bidding arena and have chosen not to make the trip. One can certainly expect estimates to be greatly exceeded in this sale, not only because of the inevitable competition, the outstanding pedigrees and the exceptional coins, but because the estimates are in most cases very conservative. Never-the-less, participation in this event would seem to be worth the effort even if it results in an empty buy sheet.
An event of this type always raises doubts about the strength of the market and its ability to absorb such an influx of material. It would seem inevitable that some impact would be felt, the numbers are certainly staggering enough. These same doubts are raised each time a new hoard of coins appears. Initially. prices for like items previously in the market tend to drop, but even the largest of hoards seem to disperse rather routinely. When a collection comes up for sale it is of course different in the respect that the coins are all or mostly different. The imagined impact, in this case, is that from the total resource available to purchase coins, money will be drawn and not replaced. Therefore, theoretically, other desirable coins on the market will find less support. It is clear that the Hunt sales have already affected the buying and selling of coins. Pre-sale stockpiling of funds has definitely caused a ripple in normal trading. It has not, however, caused any major disruption. Furthermore, it has had very little effect on the vast majority of collectors. It would seem natural that the post auction period will also see some minor turmoil, but like the stock market phenomenon most of the effect has probably already been absorbed.
We will have a table at the Mid-America show in Milwaukee (MECCA) on 29-30 June and 1 July, and also at the one day show in St. Louis (Sheraton Plaza) on July 8. Stop by and say hello if you're in the area. Our normal stack of letters didn't materialize this month. as many are enjoying the summer sun, I'm sure. Have a great vacation, and when you get home let us hear your point of view.