Since returning from the New York International Numismatic Convention, we have repeatedly been asked about the condition of the "market" for ancient coins. Many collectors, and dealers, apparently felt that the strength or weakness of trading at this major event would tell us what the new year is going to be like. If there were any great revelations, they managed to elude us, as the signals were definitely mixed.
The consensus, throughout the past year, has generally been that "collector" coins have been in demand, while hoard coins and upper-end generic types have not done as well at auction or on the bourse floor. By collector coins, we mean those types that generally show up only in singular appearances, and somewhat infrequently. They tend to appeal to the collector who has waited patiently for some time and is willing to compete for the coin when it does find its way into the market. These are not always inexpensive coins. although that erroneous connection is sometimes made. Neither are collector coins necessarily rare. A collector of coins with some specialized motif might find a very desirable specimen in an otherwise unremarkable type. Even within a series of generally "inexpensive" coins, like Constantinian bronzes, for example, one will find that there are distinct differences between collector coins and generic types.
Anyone who attended the Superior Galleries sale of the Bromberg collection of Jewish coins should realize that collector coins can become very expensive. In most respects, the NYINC confirmed the consensus opinion which had built over the past year. Extraordinary coins from extraordinary collections brought extraordinary, indeed record breaking, prices. Auction attendees were also treated to some elementary lessons in world economics. As currencies fluctuate, and the popularity of certain issues increases or decreases within various countries and regions of the globe, we can see an unmistakable " now" of material across the seas. This was particularly evident in prices realized for Roman Republican coins in the Numismatic Fine Arts sale. At the moment, the tide is ebbing for American collectors, but the pendulum always seems to find its way back eventually.
Is the market in trouble? The answer seems to be that business is not as good as some would like, but not as bad as the economy in general. Optimism still seems to prevail. For example, we enjoyed the participation of 44 dealers in last year's Best of The Celator 1990, and this year (1991) the number climbed to 48. Shows are clearly not as successful, from an economic point of view, as they have been in the past. Lists, on the other hand, seem to be rising in popularity, and the mail-order business is doing very well for some dealers. With the U.S. dollar weaker, there has been less American dealer travel to Europe this year, and we see an increasing number of dealers from Europe attending U.S. shows. This is all rather curious, but perhaps not unexpected. The world is truly getting smaller each day. The market is unquestionably hindered by our current economic malaise, but it is not down and out by any means, and the relative strength, compared to other segments of the economy, is encouraging.
This month we celebrate our fifth anniversary at The Celator. It's been a wonderful five years, and we have plenty to reminisce about. We've had a few "hot" topics along the way -does anyone remember the Hobby Protection Act? Micro-letters? The Decadrachm Hoard? Slabbing? or The Black Sea Hoard? It's interesting to look back and observe the changes. In Volume I, No. I of The Celator we announced the preparation, by Dr. Martin Price, of a new work on the coinage of Alexander the Great. Dennis Kroh reported on the results of the 1986 New York International, and we reported on the retirement of Harvey Hoffer and the sale of the Harvey Hoffer Collection of the coins of Hadrian. We also announced, in that issue, the addition of Nick Economopoulos to the staff of Edward J. Waddell, Ltd. Somethings never change, and among old familiar faces in that issue were the "Coming Events", "Trivia Quiz", and "Coin File".
In a letter to the editor, one of our first, Tom McKenna wrote "I do wish you luck but have seen many such ventures launched, and quickly fail." Well, Tom sent us an ad anyway - as did Pegasi Coins, Royal Numismatics. The Time Machine Company, Frank Robinson, and Empire Coins. That's right - six ads (not counting a ton of house ads) and 12 pages of tabloid newspaper format. Last month's issue of The Celator included 60 pages, in a much-improved format, with 84 advertisers participating. Still, we are proud to say that the old faces remain, and the heart of The Celator (soon to become Celator, Inc.) beats on.
Just a reminder for those who might have procrastinated, The Best of The Celator 1991 is now in stock and available at $6.95 postpaid, or $20 for all four issues of this increasingly popular classic. We hope that the holiday season has been a very special one for all of you and look forward to hearing from you in the coming months with your own point of view!