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Steve Roach

The Art of Collecting

Steve Roach

Steve Roach, Coin World’s editor-in-chief, has been deeply involved with numismatics for more than 20 years, starting as a young coin collector in Michigan. Two years spent as a coin grader, nearly three years at a major coin wholesaler and a stint as a paintings specialist at an international auction house have given Steve a rich understanding of the hobby, its market and the unique personalities and exceptional objects that make collecting meaningful.

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Archive for 'June 2014'

    Rational values: Considering current prices for rare coins

    June 2, 2014 12:07 PM by

    I recently received a mailing from an art dealer in New York City specializing in 19th and 20th century American paintings.

    The message was simple. It asked, “Why is the combined value of a coke bottle, a car crash, and a balloon dog worth more than the total value of every American 19th- and 20th-century painting sold at auction in the last three years?”

    It answered, “Because it’s no longer good enough to just keep up with the Joneses. Why not buy what you love — seek rational values.”

    The mailing cheekily refers to eight-figure works of art by Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons that have sold at auction recently, and pokes some fun at the meteoric rise of the top of the contemporary art market over the past few years.

    It was especially appropriate in the wake of mid-May’s Contemporary and Modern painting auctions in New York City, which brought more than $1.5 billion and included nearly 20 works that sold for more than $20 million each.

    Christie’s Brett Gorvy had promised before the auctions that the sales would resemble “gladiator sport at the highest level.”

    Rational values is something that a market loses when the heat is turned up, as it is with the contemporary art market.

    In contrast, in a decade, how will the prices achieved for the various coins and tokens in the various Eric P. Newman auctions be considered?

    The top coins at these sales have rested at the $1 million to $2 million level and even the top rarities in American numismatics like 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent pieces and 1804 Draped Bust silver dollars trade at the $2 million to $4 million level at auction.

    The art dealer’s directive: “buy what you love — seek rational values” seems especially fitting in today’s market where the number of old collections coming to market dwindles each year.

    Coins from old collections like Newman’s may seem pricey now, but history has a tendency to reward quality and rarity with price appreciation.

    A great coin collection isn’t likely going to help you keep up with the Joneses (unless they’re coin collectors), but when compared with other markets, even expensive coins seem to provide rational values at their current price levels.

    One of the best parts of my job

    June 2, 2014 11:28 AM by

    The best parts of my job as editor-in-chief of Coin World is being able to better connect our readers with the coin collecting hobby. This requires me to get out of the office and travel, usually on weekends.

    Like any work travel, sometimes it’s a bit tedious, but more often than not it’s a pleasure. Such was the case when I visited the Central Ohio Numismatic Association and with the coordination of club president Stephen Petty, and with co-instructor Tony Cass, led two grading seminars on a gorgeous Saturday morning.

    The best coin events are like reunions with friends. Tony and I met when I was grading part-time at ANACS when it was headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. At ANACS I also met Eric Justice, who attended the seminar along with two of his sons.

    This was the second time the course was offered by the club. The class is an abbreviated version of the Introduction to Coin Grading class that I help teach every few years at the American Numismatic Association Summer Seminar in Colorado Springs, Colo.

    Unlike the ANA Summer Seminar, where students have the better part of a week to absorb grading, a coin club course is substantially shorter at just few hours. Tony and I pass out a box of 20, or so, coins and ask students to look at them, make notes on what makes them interesting, and assign them a market grade.

    After a break, we discuss the coins and use the individual coins to describe market grading, which takes into account wear, eye appeal and other intangible factors.

    Among the stumpers in the class was a 1935 Connecticut Tercentenary commemorative half dollar with thick, rich original toning that approximates the color of algae. The grade: Numismatic Guaranty Corp. Mint State 67 with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker indicating quality within the grade. It wasn’t a popular coin with the class, with students being thrown both by the weird color and the general unfamiliarity with the commemorative issue. However, since it was recently given a green CAC sticker, I had some confidence that the coin didn’t “turn” in the slab.

    At each of these seminars, I’d likely say that I learn just as much (if not more than) the students and it’s great to connect with Coin World’s readers.