What 2011 will bring for British Coin collecting?
Coins are a Work of Art
Consider a coin of the finest quality a work of art. The dies for coinage were created by the country’s finest artist to show the monarch at his best, often to mark a specific event. A coin that has survived the centuries is like an ancient artifact and no less important, it is being valued for its beauty, quality and rarity. Modern records show that great collections were being formed in the 17th centuries and point to the timelessness of the beauty and appeal of the best work of the engravers. The most select coins have always demanded a premium price. When an auctioneer tries to establish an estimate, it is just that, an estimate is only based on historic information and the auctioneers own sense of understanding the market all be it at present clearly wrong.
Those who depend only on history for “comparables” with reference to pricing you will invariably miss out on those rare occasions when the exceptional material comes to the market.
Fine art is different from strict financial investments. We saw recently the fault that exists in “financial tools” that purported to be worth specific amounts but we woke up one day and found the value no longer existed.
On Dec 2nd 2010 a Testoon a portrait coin of Mary, Queen of Scotland [see on www.petitioncrown.com ] caught the eye of many collectors, it was last recoded sale was for 16 gbp in 1936, it is a magnificent piece, it was interesting that at the closing price three people required the coin for different reasons, one an ancient collector of coins who in fact did not collect ladies but fell in love with the quality of this lady and detail, another who collected because of the history of this Queen of Scotland that had a difficult life and the other who buys coin as “A Work of Art”.
This Testoon described as seen when you hold it in the hand has a “presence” that ties directly to 1562. This portrait could be from the National Portrait Gallery. This was not just a coin in a recent London sale but a part of British heritage. This is also a coin that has a “wow” factor, an “eye appeal” that is immediately arresting and almost breathtaking. This exceptional portrait coin reflecting a high Renaissance influence is rare in any condition and exceptionally rare in such high relief and outstanding condition.
Then you hold the piece, minted in 1562 and dream to whom such a piece of Mary, the Catholic Queen of Scots would have belonged, the pouch it would have travelled in, whose hands it would have been in during the past 449 years ago, her last days in Fotheringhay Castle where the scene was set for Queen Mary to be execution. That morning when Mary was to be executed was a dismal day and as you dream you can see the people tether their horses to witness a grotesque killing on the scaffolding where it took three attempts by the executioner to sever the head.
What will all this mean in the future? To the hobby of Numismatics – The market of numismatics will change. Enter a new breed of collector and dealer has a background of art, that considers coins as part of fine art market, the ART OF COINS as part of art appreciation – dealers that before would minimize there need to invest in their stock will start to invest in stocks so they can make a credible offering to the collector as the general art world does.
The recent auctions show new collectors have started entering the market worldwide; this new generation of collectors does not have the “hang-ups” of the old time collector. Price is not measured by yearly increases or decreases; it reverts back 100+ years were individual pieces of quality fetched amazing premiums. Others call him an investor, an opportunist. Call him what you will, he is the next generation of collector. He (or, increasingly, she) sees a coin, falls in love with it and wishes to own it. The work of art is the driving factor for the coin as a “work of art”. Those with the perception to recognize that “price” does not guarantee “quality” will also understand that “quality” establishes its own price. All what I write should not disturb the existing market but bring another layer of collectors to our hobby.
A few weeks ago one ancient coin of beauty was expected to be 3’000 euro maybe 6’000 euro in an extreme case, the coins was an “extreme coins and sold with commission for 32’000 euro but truly a work of art and in superb condition. Quite simple the market will develop at a speed that will encourage those that do not like the new dynamics to sell at prices they did not dream to get?
It makes little difference if parts of the market dips, as the renaissance type coins find new levels, what is important is the change that has started and it is attracting a new younger breed of collectors that will continue are ancient hobby into the future. I feel lucky that I have two boys who enjoy the hobby both with different areas that interest them.
The auction rooms will for a little more time host a lot of bemused and confused faces, dealers and collectors alike as the new generation feel there feet. Time to start now