• When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network.


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Advice from a recovering collectaholic ...

15 posts in this topic

[ taken from across the street, in response to a question as to whether one should buy through dealers or at auction, and whether Heritage auctions have good deals, or junk ]


I think it is a mistake to categorically claim that all coins that Heritage handles are low-end. That is nonsense. What is true is that Heritage handles the largest volume. The reason is that many sellers & consignors see that Heritage has the largest reach of any auction house. The high volume of consignments runs from generic product & recycled junk to fabulous rarities and everything in-between. Heritage's use of web technology is awesome and far exceeds that of any other dealer / auction house. Their voluminous catalogs, online catalogs with photos, CD's, internet bidding, Ebay live bidding, mail & fax bidding, & telephone bidding ensure that everyone who wants to sees the coins and has a chance to bid on them. They are also straight-forward & easy to deal with contractually.


Every buyer, whether s/he is a collector or a dealer, needs to be able to identify which coins are worth bidding on. That is where dealer representation can be the most useful. Very few collectors have the market-savvy eyes of a dealer. One possible exception to this is a specialist who has spent years collecting a particular series. Specialsts may have more in-depth knowledge than dealers, especially regarding die varieties. However, the dealer is more likely able to assess the overall market value and salability of the coin.


When a collector buys a coin at auction, if it is a really good one, there is likely to be competitive pressure on it that drives the price up. The consignor who is selling that coin may get the hammer price, but you pay 15% more. So, assuming every coin you buy realizes the price at auction that you paid at auction to buy it, you will automatically lose 15% on every coin you buy. Granted that is still better than most collectibles hobbies (even including art & antiques) where you'd be lucky to get 50% of what you paid, unless you are collecting at the most expensive high-end levels.


On the other hand, when a collector has assembled a large collection within a series, and then consigns them all at once to auction, the market may be saturated, and the prices realized may be LESS than the collector paid. Then his loss will be more than 15%. Conversely, if his collection is truly of the highest quality, and is sold in a hot market, maybe it will realize MORE than he paid ... if s/he is lucky, it will realize at least 15% more, and then the collector will break even. Some might even MAKE money!! This has been happening with certain PCGS Registry series.


Another thing to realize is that TIMING IS EVERYTHING. And, it is impossible to time the coin market unless you are a major promoter who influences market timing. For example, if you bought a coin at a time when no-one else was looking at it, you might actually make money !! I assembled the #1 set of PCGS Indian $2.50 (now #2) on the Registry, and nobody else was even LOOKING at those coins then. Now they are hot as anything, and I sold my set quite comfortably. I bought pop-top MS Lib & shield nickels when nobody cared about them, and sold them at anywhere from 20% to 200% gain. Ditto for patterns. Of course, there were also many I lost money on .. especially the generic coins. The truly fabulous and valuable rarities that I acquired were relatively easy to sell for what I paid, and did not need to be consigned to auction (yes, that means if you wanted to buy them, you would have had to go through the dealers that I consigned them to or sold them to).


What I made money on: coins that were out of favor that came into favor (patterns, Indian $2.50); and pop-top PCGS Registry coins. For example, nickels that I made by taking NGC coins that I bought when Lib & shield nickels were out of favor, conserved them at NCS, and then got them crossed into PCGS holders. Part of my profit was from market stupidity that derives from the Registry program: people suddenly were willing to pay $6000 for better date PCGS MS66 Lib nickels, when I bought the same coins for $900 in NGC MS66 holders. (Why did I submit these coins for conservation? Because PCGS would generally only put white nickels into MS66+ holders ... I gave up on trying with any originally toned coins.)


What I lost money on: generic product, such as NGC coins that would not cross, and were not super rare, and did not have fabulous toning. Example, NGC MS66 Lib nickel, better date, that I paid $1500 for from a dealer, and then realized only $650 at auction (hammer price). Lost money on ordinary coins, with ordinary appearances. Also some fabulous coins that I bought at auction under very competitive circumstances, where because of timing, I could re-create those exact competitive circumstances when selling the coin. Also lost money on some Pop 1/0 coins that had become pop 5/0 by the time I sold them, because those series were getting hot, and everyone was trying hard to make new coins. (Hint: that can't happen when you have true absolute rarity.) Some beautiful coins that I bought from high-end retail dealers didn't perform as well at auction because of timing (for example, you sometimes can't know when you consign a coin that there will end up being five others of that date in the same auction !!!)


What I broke even on: all the truly classic rarities, including proof gold, early proof type, early MS type, early coppers. The more expensive classic coins were more likely to be break-even propositions.


How I did overall: it's not over yet, but I will end up about 7% ahead of where I started on the group that I have sold ... and I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have achieved that result. But if I look ONLY at the coins I sold by auction, I end up down about 15% on those ... gee, no surprise, that's the amount of the buyer's fee !!! My worst losses were on some coins that I truly overpaid for - but these were equally divided between coins that I bought retail & coins that I bought at auction, and they were equally divided between generic junk that I shouldn't have bought (or certainly not at that price), and superb beautiful coins that had intrinsic value, but I still paid too much.


How I sold: the best stuff went through top dealers. If you wanted to buy it, you had to know them. Dealers bought outright what they really wanted, and the rest went on consignment. Other pop-top Registry stuff went directly to Registry collectors who were accessible by e-mail from the PCGS Registry site. Additional pop-top Registry-type material went through specialty dealers to private collectors who do NOT put their sets on the Registry, but who have super sets that could easily beat anything on the PCGS Registry. The rest went by auction. This included many fabulous coins, and pop-top coins, that I didn't find buyers for the other ways. Not everything that went by auction was "junk" & "leftovers." (For example, most of the high-end proof seated dollars in the last few Bowers auctions came from here ...)


Why I sold: some things scared me. I saw pops going up as new coins were being made. I saw some coins made by insiders that should NEVER have been able to get into those holders. It made me feel the whole thing was rigged. I saw more AT coins showing up, and lasered proof gold. I saw the crossover game, the crackout game, the doctoring game, the dipping game, the Registry hype, the ridiculous moderns. I saw coins evolve from one holder to another, and go from dealer to dealer, and go from $15000 auction price to $75000 asking price. I got a sense that the whole thing is such an incredible racket. But mainly I sold for the usual reason: I had been so obsessed, and had put so much money into it, that I couldn't justify it any more !!


Bottom line: you should know & deal with the top dealers if you want to assemble a top collection, or sell one. But you should also pay attention to all the major auctions, and be well-versed in the auction venue as a means of buying and selling. You should spend several years or more looking at the series that you collect before you presume to think that you know what you are looking at !! You should talk to other collectors who share your interest in whatever specialties you collect - sometimes great coins pass from collector to collector if they know each other. You should remember that at every auction there are people with far more experience than you. Some of these people are truly mind-boggling in their talent and experience, either as numismatists, as dealers, or as insider-professionals who buy coins & work them into the right holders.


My advice: don't buy coins to make money. You can't, unless you get lucky, or you work with a truly top seasoned professional. Buy coins to enjoy them, and try to be smart enough not to LOSE too much money. You can't outsmart the coin market any more than the stock market. But you can educate yourself to the point where you don't do stupid things.


Hope this advice is useful to everyone !! laugh.giflaugh.giflaugh.gif




Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very excellent advice in all respects. Most of us learn these lessons the hard way. You might feel better about your seven percent return on investment if you compare it to what would have happened over the same time period with an investment in NASDAQ stocks, no?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That was a wonderful post that, while not representative of every segment of the numismatic market, should be required reading for anyone who registers on this site for the coin forums.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

superb!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i grade this thread proof ultra cameo 69 * star


the star with an ultra cameo would be really rare as the star MEANS monster extra heavy cameo


sincerely michael laugh.gifsmile.gifcool.gif

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Unbelievably well thought-out post Sunnywood. Thanks for all of the wisdom imparted. Even at that, it has to be tough to distill all of the experience that you speak of. Please write more volumes when you have the chance!



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for that post. It meant a lot to read it, and your wisdom came through. I started collecting coins again after many years of not paying any attention to it at all. I started reading again and re-developing interests and spending lots of money in directions that, in retrospect, I wish I hadn't (except for the fact that there are lessons involved here). I just got to the point where I couldn't bear having 30 coins where the only major difference was the year and/or the mintmark, otherwise, really, they were all essentially the same (yes, I know, no two coins are alike, but I just started wondering...why???). So what I decided to do, and please don't laugh, was to collect coins based on year. I started buying up coins minted in the years of birth of people in my life who were/are important to me.


Everything started to change. I felt more comfortable with my purchases, I was less willing to compromise, I believe the value of my collection has improved, and now there is real meaning in what I am doing. Also, I am studying coins I never had an interest in, and finding that things I never thought were beautiful, are profoundly beautiful.


Anyway, your post is inspirational.

Link to comment
Share on other sites