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Why Wouldn't You Collect Ancients?


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Why Wouldn't You Collect Ancients  

38 members have voted

  1. 1. Why Wouldn't You Collect Ancients

    • No, they are too old.
      0
    • No, they are too expensive
      7
    • No, I don't know anything about them
      17
    • No, I am afraid of forgeries, fakes etc.
      14


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Ancient coins seem to mystify the sensations, they are mysterious, often misunderstood, and seemingly so removed from modern history that perhaps only the determined and inquisitive foray into such an interest.

 

Myself, I appreciate more of the artistry of the pieces, I view them not so much as numismatic history as much as a miniature and metallic artistic impressions of the cultures that created them.

 

What would pique your interests?

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Often, price is a major factor when it comes to such in my opinion. With copper coins, you get a fair bit of corrosions which can be a pain to remove. Silver often is an excellent choice. If you want decent grade ones, price factors shoots up, and gold coins? Sure thing, when you win a lotto.

 

While I personally don't mind well made reproductions, the price of such are still a bit prohibitive at times. Another thing that does bug me is that if you don't know the history of the country of origin well enough, you just cannot appericate them well enough. Afterall, if you try to explain what coin you have, unless someone knows the history well enough, with no dates and just mere illustrations, it could prove to be quite taxing. Although that in reverse could mean there is the thrill to such though.

 

Indeed, I can see clearly that such coins can or should easily overrule our current coin designs. Sadly, I think I should be content over what I am collecting right now or else there will be bigger holes in my pockets. :ninja:

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I'd certainly collect them if I had greater interest in them, but I would purchase from well-known reputable dealers or collectors I know. I sure as hell wouldn't start by using ebay as my source for material.

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As i do collect Ancients i can't answer the above questions because they aren't necessarily issues for me.

 

However, if i were to wonder why i only collected say Roman ancients and not other ancients, then i can contribute.

 

I think you hit it on the head when you said Ancient history seems so removed from modern history. Sometimes i find that the appealing advantage (coins as escapism), but sometimes i think particularly with say Greek coins an understanding and appreciation of the history behind the coins adds that dimension of interest that makes collectors buy them.

 

Consider most Ancient Greek coin collectors (i don't mean those that haphazardly acquire a few, but those collectors that actually collect them and know them), well the majority tend to be interllectuals that spend alot of time reading up on the period and understanding the political systems, the geographical climate, the literature and the philosophiy and religion. Plato, Socrates, Hippocrates, Pisistratus, Solon etc. names that might ring a bell.

 

Ancient coins become less about coins and their value and more about a culture study. But that requires alot of effort to learn, and there's alot of funny hard to remember names that crop up. Geez just try reading Tacitus, the names can really get you confused.

 

Roman coins are a bit easier to identify with because alot of people know a few things about the Roman way of life and dare i say might have seen the odd Roman epic film, be it Gladiator or something, it can give you an appreciation for the era (even if it's not entirely accurate). But the Roman period gets more airspace with the lay audience than say Greece or the Middle East does.

 

I think it all comes down to how well you feel you can associate with something. Personally i have no interest in any coins from China, India, Africa or anywhere else, they seem too far removed from me, this goes for coins issued in my own country say before the Roman conquest, the Celtic coinage is just something i feel i can't identify with. So i rarely bat an eyelid at it.

 

This might sound perhaps narrow minded, but i think alot of collectors have these boundaries you've only got to look at US collectors that collect only liteside, you ask them why and they answer that they feel they've got nothing in common with coins from anywhere else. So whilst that is on a geographical level, the same goes for viewing it on an historical period level.

 

I think it's a case of stick with what you know. But generally i'm a very cautious unadventurous person and i don't like new things, so take above view with pinch of NaCl.

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Nice post Aetheling, I appreciate that when I started collecting ancients, frankly my first "real" significant ancient purchase was the Athenian Tetradrachm I purchased about two years ago. Now when I reflect on it, I envision that I really did not know a lot about the coin or the culture that issued it, I just had enough money and trusted the reputation of the dealer that sold it.

 

But seriously the ancients for me are more about the cultural artistic expression than they are as numismatic objects, the symbolism is important, the figures of Athena, Artemis, Arethusa, Persephone, Zeus etc become fascinating in the study of the culture. As you note, often times you spiral into the deeper aspects of the culture which issued them.

 

Like yourself, I have never delved or had interest in the coinages of India, China etc, but since I am travelling to China soon, I find that I have a bit of an interest lately in knowing a little more about ancient Chinese coins, I sure won't buy any there, as they have fakes galore, but might not mind buying a nice piece of spade money or knife money from a reputable seller at some point in the future. I collected more modern Chinese, well more like Manchu era coins for a long time and have several hundred cash coins from the various provinces.

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Guest Stujoe

I think for me it is a combination of fakes, cost and a lack of knowledge on my part. Having said that, I do own a few.

 

I also think that any collector interested in history is missing out if they don't own at least one even if it is a cheap Roman bronze like mine are. There are not too many ancient artifacts that the average person can own and just being able to hold an ancient coin in my hands was a worthwhile experience.

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Often, price is a major factor when it comes to such in my opinion. With copper coins, you get a fair bit of corrosions which can be a pain to remove. Silver often is an excellent choice. If you want decent grade ones, price factors shoots up, and gold coins? Sure thing, when you win a lotto. 

 

Price can be an issue but I think in copper and sometimes small silver there is a lot available for modest figures. One member of our coin club specializes in Greek bronzes. While a lot of coins are in bad shape, you can find pieces with nice patinas. His collection is quite beautiful, and I don't think he spends $100 on a single coin often if at all. Yes, the big sesterti or thick ptolemaic bronzes are going to cost three or even four figures but the smaller denominations can be had for the price of a good dinner.

 

In ancient coins, just as in US or any other area, there are coins for all price levels.

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Good points Aetheling. The issue of connecting to the coins and the people is a real one. I love history, especially of the Middle East so I've read a bit on the early coin producing cultures. But, I've never had a big interest in Asian coinage or history. So I definitely agree with your points.

 

I think one way people could tie together ancients and modern coins is by collecting the modern coin and then an ancient coin that introduced the particular design. Not so much portraits, but the seated goddess, the eagles, the wreaths. Most themes have existed for a long time and such a collection or correlation would be quite interesting. At least to me :ninja:

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Great points everybody. For me it's quite simple - resources. I have limited resources to apply to my collecting efforts and choose to concentrate them in a few areas that are special to me.

 

I pay attention to the ancients when they're posted and I have a few. I've used a few in class when I was teaching. They're loaded with history. I feel that I can appreciate them and learn from them while dedicating my resources elsewhere.

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I'm fond of ancients but don't seriously collect them. Why? Mostly beacuse I'm concentrating on other stuff (Holy Roman Empire) but also due to the vastness of the filed I've had trouble finding a starting point. I do enjoy browsing through them in person and online and have picked a few up from a local bidboard. I have a bunch of the Sears books and am kinda-sorta leaning in the Byzantine gold direction, but would also like to own aportriat denarius of Augustus.

 

Just too much cool stuff out there! :ninja:

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Price can be an issue but I think in copper and sometimes small silver there is a lot available for modest figures.  One member of our coin club specializes in Greek bronzes.  While a lot of coins are in bad shape, you can find pieces with nice patinas.  His collection is quite beautiful, and I don't think he spends $100 on a single coin often if at all.  Yes, the big sesterti or thick ptolemaic bronzes are going to cost three or even four figures but the smaller denominations can be had for the price of a good dinner. 

 

In ancient coins, just as in US or any other area, there are coins for all price levels.

 

 

One thing I will mention with regards to pricing on ancient bronzes, particularly the Greek bronzes, they go up exponentially in price when they approach better grades. Some coins, for instance the little AE's from Ephesus, Ionia, are rarely found in nicer condition, consequently inexpensive examples can be found for under $50, but nicer ones go for hundreds.

 

My priciest Ptolemaic bronze, an AE46 would sell for about 20X times what I paid for it in the 1980's from a local dealer.

 

Some of the silver, notably the small issues from Miletos and Chersonessos can sometimes be found for under $20. I only collect the Chersonessus coins with bees or lizards on them though, talk about specialising.

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I have to pass on the question as well since I do collect ancients. I have always been interested in them, mostly for their history and artistry. I did not collect them for years because I had other interests. I left collecting for 15 years (I set it aside, I still looked at coins) and found new interests when I returned. I bought a Celtic coin, a Roman coin, and a medieval coin to test the waters. I enjoyed all three, researched relative costs, the range of collectible coins, etc and my new collecting interest was launched. It is true that many, many coins are beyond my price range, but the same is true for U.S. and even modern commemoratives.

 

I started with the low end of the cost range, but I concentrated on the best quality pieces in the range. I got to know dealers, handled as many coins as I could, bought the relevant books, read lots, and became comfortable with my new collecting interests. With comfort, I began to acquire more expensive pieces and further refine my interests. I still cannot afford prices in excess of $2,000 or more, but there are a few items I would venture to purchase one of these days. With that limit, I can collect for many years and never accomplish all my collecting goals because so many pieces are very rare, but not that expensive. In other words, I have a collecting topic that will keep me involved unless I decide to change direction some day. In the mean time, I have a collection that I can be proud of and can be enjoyed without being haunted by holes in an album that I will never be able to fill.

 

Slightly off topic, but relevant none the less. Welcome to our new moderators for the ancient coin forum!

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The real reason isn't up there--so far, I've yet to see an ancient that scratched an itch. However, since that might be because I know very little about them, that's how I voted. But so far, it's mainly that I haven't seen one that I really really want.

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I am also not able to answer the poll because I do collect them - at least casually. There are definitely some price issues with ancients, but you can engage in some degree of collecting with a very modest budget.

 

I started with the Klawans and Bresett intro book and a few bags of 'uncleaned' ancients. Although this is a good way to start a slug collection, I did learn a great deal. After a while, I gained some idea of what attribution meant. Spent many hours on Wildwinds.com and a host of other sites. Moved on to Sayles VIII and an older copy of Sear's Roman Coins and their values. Also picked up a cataloge/book by Carson, Hill and Kent. The education continues and will, I hope, for a long time.

 

Late Roman Empire is a great resting place for me. It's popular. It's full of history- I can speculate that my ancestors used the coins in my collection! Relatively inexpensive pieces are abundant. Given the vastness of the area we call 'ancients' it is relatively well defined. On the other hand, if you loosely define Late Roman Empire as a 200 year period (the Carson, et al book defines it as 324-498), then you are about on par with the entire period of US coinage. My collection is only about 30 pieces but I am very happy with it and plan on continuing to add a few pieces every year.

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I don't collecto ancients currently because of my lack of knowledge in the area. For all I know I could pay 3x the amount for a coin and not even know it. I like to understand where a coin came from, what it is made of, etc.

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Guest Stujoe
For me it really is none of the above.  I collect mostly by design and I'm just not a big fan of the crudeness of them.  They just don't appeal to me.  It's really that simple.

 

Yeah. There is that. For me, I find that to be much more true with medieval coinage in my eyes, though.

 

 

For me, there are a number of pretty ancients but those tend to be the pricey ones as everyone wants them! The stuff that is cheap is usually the cruder bronzes and stuff like the few I have.

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