Before the letters stan pouring in from offended connoisseurs, it seems appropriate for me to comment on this month's "Back Page". For some time now, Dr. Saslow has expressed in this paid advertisement his often-controversial views about ancient coin collecting, the coin market, players in the market, collector mentality, and just about any other facet of the hobby that one might envision. Many of our readers enjoy his witty, satirical, and usually blunt commentary - some are offended. We really hate to offend readers, in any fashion, but sometimes there is no perch high enough to avoid getting our heels nipped. Dr. Saslow has a right to his opinion, and we allow him to express that opinion, within reasonable and mutually agreed upon constraints. His views are obviously his own, as he himself has often stated, and are not necessarily those of The Celator. We allow a fairly high degree of latitude in these ads because we believe that most ancient coin collectors are erudite enough to make their own decisions and follow their own instincts regardless of the advice or opinions of others. We also hope and believe that The Celator helps them to do that.
This month, Dr. Saslow suggests that "Artsyness" is a current fad and that some people, especially "Europeans" are paying exorbitant prices for coins due to the "artistic nature of the die work. He suggests that the "expression" of a Hellenistic portrait, for example, is not justification for substantially higher estimates and prices realized al auction.
On behalf of connoisseurs world· wide we have to take exception to Dr. Saslow's view. I am reminded that a well-known British dealer remarked to me at the New York International in December that American collectors are overly preoccupied with catalog numbers and subtypes. Strangely enough, Dr. Saslow picked up this same theme in a recent "Back Page". Perhaps he was right, but if we don't develop an appreciation of nuances, and we don't concern ourselves with artistic rendering, we are left pretty much with collecting whatever happens to hit the market on a given day. BINGO?
Ancient coins are really extraordinary works of art. As in all art media, there are varying degrees of competence among the artists (Celators) who created the motifs. Competence in art has always been admired, as well as rewarded - sometimes handsomely. We believe that this is a natural phenomenon, an appropriate condition of life, and a justified determinant for valuation. We do not believe that art appreciation is a "fad" (see my article this issue) or that individuals who have refined their taste are "ridiculous" for paying multiples to obtain the piece of art that they want. Not everyone wants to or has to become a connoisseur of art - but those that do, have every right to exercise their choice by bidding or buying at whatever level they find appropriate. Often, connoisseurs are attracted to the preferences of those who came before them and seek out coins from famous collections. While pedigrees, in and of themselves, are useless, the fact that a great work of art was owned by a universally recognized connoisseur is of some significance. Each coin must stand on its own merit but having a "track record" doesn't hurt.
If Europeans consistently outbid Americans for great works of numismatic art it may say something about the differing perceptions of value, or the world economy, but it does not mean that Americans are unable to appreciate fine works of art or that sales of artistic coins are not "geared to Americans".
We agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Saslow's advice "buy the coin because you like it", but let's not condemn a fellow collector because he or she likes it more and is willing to pay more for it than we are. Well, now you have the "Front Page" view and the "Back Page" view, and you can decide for yourself how you want to collector go another way altogether! That's the joy of numismatics.
It is lime for another leap forward in the evolution of The Celator and we are poised to make some big improvements, but we need help. Quality can sometimes be improved through effort, but there are elements of production that we cannot improve without added cost. We are committed to retaining our subscription rate at the current level, at least as long as the U.S. Postal Service will cooperate, and we feel that our present economical advertising rates arc beneficial to collectors as well as dealers. The one area of potential increase which would sustain growth and improvement is in subscription levels. We need to DOUBLE our paid readership and we need to do it NOW! We are embarking on a new campaign to in· crease sales, but we have found through experience that nothing works like word of mouth. Therefore, we appeal to you to spread the word. As an added incentive, between March 1 and April 30 (1992) we will extend the current subscription term of any present subscriber by three months for each NEW paid subscriber received as a referral. Simply mention the referral at the time of request. This applies to either mail-ins or credit card call-ins (Previous sub· scribers are being offered another incentive program by mail and qualify for only one of these offers). Here's a chance to get that "Life" subscription you've been wanting - just multiply your life expectancy times four and start signing them up.
We've warned the postmaster to put on extra staff to handle the response so there should still be enough manpower to pass on those letters sharing your point of view!