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Vol 08 No. 10 October 1994

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About This File

This past Spring the Franklin Mint. a private collectibles manufacturer in Pennsylvania. began a promotion which offered ancient coins for sale. The offering consisted mostly of garden variety third and fourth century Roman coins packaged in a fancy holder. The "set" of 20 Roman coins was (and presumably still is) offered at $2,200. Concurrently with the launch of this promotion, a supportive article appeared on the front page of Coin World. In reaction, a number of collectors of ancient coins expressed outrage, not only over the promotional price of these extremely common coins, but also over the characterization of them as being in short supply. Equally perturbed was ancient coin dealer Harlan J. Berk. At the NYINC Spring show Berk circulated a survey in which he asked fellow ancient coin dealers to indicate the prices they would charge for specimens equal to those in the Franklin Mint brochure. The result was surprisingly consistent. Most of the coins offered at $110 each by the Franklin Mint were valued by consensus at $ 15 to $20 retail; some were considered $5 "Junk Box" coins. The survey results were published by Coin World, and suddenly the issue became a contentious debate. The heat is apparently building because an article in The Wall Street Journal and a segment of the television program The Wall Street Journal Report have focused on the debate.

We would expect to see the Franklin Mint defending their honor, but strangely they seem to be in the background. Who has their picture splashed before the public as the defender of the Franklin Mint's promotion? None other than ANA president David Ganz. Now it never occurred to me that Ganz might know anything about ancient coins. I can't recall ever seeing Mr. Ganz at an auction of ancient coins, or at an ancient coin dealer's bourse table. He certainly is not a Celator reader, so, what did Mr. Ganz have to offer the media and the general public from his obscure but apparently important perspective? Well, Coin World has kindly reported that before the television camera "Ganz stated that he believed the Franklin Mint 's profit margin is no different than that of other coin dealers in the ancient coin business."

Let's analyze that statement just a bit. The typical wholesale price for average grade bronzes and debased antoninianii of the third and fourth century is somewhere around $5 to $8 in quantities (and massive quantities do exist). The Berk survey indicated that most dealers would ask perhaps twice that amount for an individual coin in a retail transaction. The Franklin Mint is asking nearly fourteen times that figure. Does Mr. Ganz really believe that ancient coin dealers work on a 1400% markup? Ah, but don't forget the wooden box that comes with your Franklin Mint coins, and also the valuable historical description!

We don't intend to carry the standards in this latest defensive action, Harlan Berk is doing a fine job of that, but we can't help being a little annoyed by the portrayal of Ganz as a qualified expert on ancient coin prices. Even more annoying is the constant character assassination that ancient coin dealers and the ancient coin market have endured in recent years. Will we ever be free of the interlopers?

Every month we hear from a few subscribers who have not received their issue of The Celator. Our production schedule is quite reliable, and for U.S. subscribers the date of mailing is printed on your protective throw-away wrap. The U.S. Postal Service claims a delivery time of 7 to 10 days for second class mail, so most readers should receive their copy by the first of each month. Unfortunately, certain parts of the country experience erratic delays that are completely beyond our control. If we replace an issue, we have to send it first class, at a much higher rate, so we usually ask our readers to wait and see if their copy might arrive a few days late.

We have an even worse situation with foreign addresses. The foreign subscriptions are filled by International Surface Air Lift (ISAL). This is a class of service that moves the piece of ma il from the U.S. to the destination country by air, and then it goes into the local post for surface delivery. It is much less ex pensive than any other form of air mail, but there are also delivery problems at times. We have had at least three occasions where our entire shipment to a particular country was lost. This is devastating, because we cannot reship by ISAL due to the minimums required. Therefore, we prefer to replace any foreign subscriber copies along with the next monthly mailing. This is not an ideal solution, but it is about the only choice that we have.

It would be much better, of course, to ship by first class mail or regular air mail, but the cost is prohibitive. At the present time, over one half of the price of subscription s to a foreign country is consumed by postage. Shipping by standard air mail would triple the subscription price- not a comforting thought to most. If you do not receive your copy at the usual time, please give it a few more days and then call us. We will be happy to replace lost copies.

Yours truly will be spending September in Greece, but Steve and Stephanie will be here to take care of business as usual. They'll be happy to hear your point of view!


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