In today’s Internet age of instant gratification, a lot of business
that used to be conducted by attending gallery auctions and coin shows
is now being done on the Internet. But are we missing something?
Still, the Internet is here to stay and in some aspects can be
more effective than conventions and auctions. Last week I quoted a
collector of plantation tokens issued in Central and South America who
has found very little at coin shows, as most such tokens are
inexpensive and dealers do not stock them, but who has bought hundreds
on the Internet — including from sellers in distant lands who do not
attend shows anyway.
Further on this subject, one of my correspondents was Ray
Williams, a poster example of a “nice guy,” erstwhile president of the
Colonial Coin Collectors Club and a longtime hobby booster.
Ray said that as a resident of New Jersey, “I’m in driving
distance of your auctions held in New York, Baltimore, and
Philadelphia. Seeing other Colonial collectors & dealers bidding
is interesting and educational. Plus, I’m friends with many of them
and we socialize before and after the auction. This is a very
important element the Internet cannot provide!”
Further, he finds that while photographs are helpful, within his
specialty of Colonial coins, “Seeing the coin in person at lot viewing
can make a big difference in bidding strategy.”
I agree. In his field, standard grading rules do not apply. A coin
that appears to be in just Very Good grade can actually be Extremely
Fine, if it is a variety from dies with indistinct features or is
characteristically weakly struck at the centers.
I had an interesting exchange some time ago with several
specialists. I enjoy Vermont coppers of the 1785 to 1788 years and
have studied this series carefully. A variety described as Ryder 16 in
The State Coinages of New England is always found weak at the centers.
A commercial “grading expert” insisted that a particular example
was Very Fine, but I and others familiar with the field studied it
carefully and assigned the grade of About Uncirculated.
The bottom line seems to be that the Internet is wonderful and has
vastly expanded opportunities for buyers and sellers alike. On the
other hand, attending auctions and conventions remains a wonderful
experience to see, learn and enjoy the company of the people involved.
It is best to use both venues, it seems!
My next show is the Whitman Coins & Collectibles Expo in
Baltimore in June. If I am lucky I will see you there!
Q. David Bowers is chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries
and numismatic director of Whitman Publishing LLC. He can be reached
at his private email, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or at Q. David Bowers LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.