Steve Roach

The Art of Collecting

Steve Roach

Steve Roach, Coin World’s editor-at-large, 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. He joined Coin World in 2006 as a columnist, and has served as associate editor and editor-in-chief. He received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Michigan, a juris doctorate from the Ohio State University and is a Certified Member of the International Society of Appraisers.

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When does an object’s value impact our experience with it?

​What happens when an object’s value becomes more important than the object itself?

I was confronted by this question head on when viewing two exhibitions in Columbus, Ohio, this week.

The first was a small exhibit featuring paintings and sculptures from the collection of Les Wexner, founder of Limited Brands. The quality of the paintings, especially those by Pablo Picasso, was extraordinary, but because many were sold at auction over the past decade or so, I couldn’t separate the economic value of the art from my viewing.

Knowing that the gorgeous, sensual 1932 large Picasso canvas Nude in a Black Armchair brought $45.1 million at auction in 1999 and a comparable picture sold for more than $100 million recently distanced me from my visual experience with the painting.

Rather than admiring Picasso’s mastery, I thought about how a single object could be worth so much, and if, perhaps, there were other uses for that money which would provide more value to society.

The next exhibit, “In_We Trust: Art and Money” at the Columbus Museum of Art, brought it home, as 26 different artist deconstructed the concept of money.

As the exhibit curator Tyler Cann wrote in the exhibition catalog on money, “It connects, defines, and divides nations. It is pocket change and dead presidents. It is the key to happiness, and the root of all evil. It has no intrinsic value apart from what we’ve given it.”

There are those coins that have become more than coins. It is tough to think of a 1933 Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagle and not think of the nearly $7.6 million that one brought at a 2002 auction.

How does knowing an object’s worth in the marketplace change our viewing experience of it (and does it even matter?)

These types of questions keep our hobby interesting in a way that goes beyond dates, grades and Mint marks.

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