In the commentary prefacing Empire Coins fixed price catalog #57, Dennis Kroh addresses the question "Where have all the EF's gone?" Mr. Kroh sees a disturbing trend in which many new collectors to the field of ancient coinage are interested in purchasing only coins graded EF or better. The trend is a reflection, he feels, of habits and prejudices acquired in the collecting of modem coinage which is "crossover". This trend ostensibly has removed much of the available higher end material from the market and collectors are becoming frustrated. As a result, Kroh advises "acquiring coins for their individual historical merit and 'eye-appeal' rather than strictly by grade. This way you can obtain interesting items that are within your budget without being frustrated."
This is an interesting assessment, which may or may not have a correlation with "new-collector" habits. It stands to reason that a major shift in buying habits would affect the obviously limited supply of material. It is a slight exaggeration, however, to suggest that one cannot buy EF+ coins in today's market. Now, the price one might have to pay is another manner!
Regardless of market condition and the causes thereof, the advice offered by Mr. Kroh is superlative. It is, indeed, the very essence of collecting ancient coins. Collectors will always try to obtain the most perfect specimen of a type available, but unreasonable expectations only hinder the enjoyment of an otherwise exciting pastime.
11 must seem very confusing to the new collector when one is advised to buy the best that one's budget can support, and in the next breath is advised not to be too condition conscious. Knowing when to buy a coin in Fine condition, because it will probably never show up in EF is as much an art as a science. It takes years of knowing your specialization and knowing the market. So, what does the inexperienced collector do? READ and LOOK! Sale catalogs are one of the most informative and least expensive tools in preparing the collector for an intelligent purchase. Most catalogs illustrate at least some of the lots, and comparisons are easily made - keeping in mind that photos do not always tell the whole truth. When the coin you seek appears only occasionally in sales, and almost always in wretched condition, don't be afraid to snap up a Fine or VF when it does come along. Buying common coins in low grade is recommended only for the joy of attribution and research, don 't expect to get any money back out of the coin. Rare coins, however, are another matter. Many coins that a collector seeks are much rarer than catalogs might imply, they seldom show up for sale and therefore should not be hastily condemned if less than pristine.
The issue of "eye-appeal" is another aspect which is too often ignored. An example of a particular type in nice Fine condition, with pleasing style, smooth attractive patina, and nice centering is a beauty by anybody's standards. At the same time, a technically for example of this coin, with mottled and flaking patina, executed by a butcher of an artist, and struck 20% off center, is not going to win any beauty contests. This should seem fairly obvious, but the FDC mentality is sometimes overwhelming - if not irrational.
We second Mr. Kroh's advice whole heartedly and believe collectors will benefit greatly by it.
It is really remarkable that we have received so many excellent articles over the past five years and still, they continue to come. 1 want to express my sincere appreciation to the many contributors who have made The Celator worth reading. Sometimes we get behind on our correspondence and don't acknowledge receipt as quickly as we should (no excuses offered), but we do very much appreciate the effort that goes into these articles and never cease to be impressed by the wealth of knowledge resident in our small fraternity. We are currently running about three months behind in printing accepted articles, but wherever possible we add additional "copy" (as in this issue) with the wonderful confidence that there will be replacements. Our thanks and kudos to all.
We are in San Francisco for the International show as this issue goes to press and will be attending the ANA convention in Chicago in August. We'll also be at the Rare Coins Expo in Minneapolis on August 24-25.
Thanks for the interesting and provocative letters last month and this month, it's been anything but dull! If the mood strikes, take pen to paper and let us hear your point of view.