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How Many Collectors Of Ancient Coins Are There?

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 Posted 12/09/2015  12:39 am Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add Joe2007 to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Anybody want to speculate?

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 Posted 12/09/2015  01:13 am  Show Profile   Check echizento's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add echizento to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
It has to be in the thousands and growing everyday. Far less than collectors of U.S. and World coins though.
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 Posted 12/09/2015  08:27 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Bob L to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
It's an interesting question. In 2003's "Ancient Coin Collecting'" Wayne Sayles wrote that "we would speculate that 50,000 (active collectors of ancients) is not an unreasonable estimate, and that indeed may be a conservative figure." He then explains his reasoning, which is based on the number of coin dealers at that time, and the number of people on their mailing lists (an average of 3,000 each), allowing for about 90% overlap of names. It's interesting to follow his train of thought, but as he acknowledges, "it is impossible to determine the exact number...because there is no way to conduct a meaningful census." In any event, I suspect the number is higher today than at the time of Sayles' writing.
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 Posted 12/09/2015  09:21 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add DavidUK to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
It also would depend on your definition of an ancient collector.

For instance if you had an interest and had inherited a collection but were not actively seeking coins and adding to it would you be considered a collector?

If you have a large and extensive collection and buy only once in a blue moon I guess you would qualify.

What about if you collect modern coins but occasionally come across an ancient or two which you put in their own place in your collection, would that qualify you?

An interesting question anyway, but the numbers could be hard to verify because many people are secretive about such activities for security reasons etc
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 Posted 12/09/2015  10:52 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add lrbguy to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I would like to respond to that question, because it is very timely, and I have written a short essay response, but I am afraid to post it because I do not write well for short attention spans. Suffice it to say that I don't think ancient numismatics as a hobby is growing in numbers right now, for a host of good reasons. But I also think that with a paradigm shift among collectors it could.
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 Posted 12/09/2015  11:33 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I think it's a difficult thing to really pin down.

Is a metal detectorist with a few unidentified Romans a collector?

How about the bible history buff with one widow's mite and nothing else?

At any rate, I think the market speaks for itself. If there was even remotely as much interest in ancient coins as there is in US modern and classic coins, your typical AE4 would sell for $5-10, not $0.50-1.00.
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 Posted 12/09/2015  12:15 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Bob L to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Irbguy, I for one would love to read your expanded response.
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 Posted 12/09/2015  1:46 pm  Show Profile   Check echizento's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add echizento to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Irbguy by all means post your essay. I think we would enjoy reading it.
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 Posted 12/09/2015  2:45 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add lrbguy to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks for the encouragement, guys, but I realized in rereading it that the question asks for a speculation on how many ancients collectors there are, but my essay is more a reflection on the factors that are holding us back and something we can do about it. It should probably appear as a separate thread, since it is more a call to action than a speculation.

I apologize for not having thought that through before shooting off my mouth.

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 Posted 12/09/2015  3:38 pm  Show Profile   Check echizento's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add echizento to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I would like to read your thoughts on the hobby and am open to any idea on how we can improve even if it just applies to us here.
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 Posted 12/09/2015  6:21 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add chrsmat71 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
i went to a coin show not long ago, and actually found a few ancient coins. one of the dealers remembered me from shows a few years ago. he had a couple ancient Chinese coins, an I asked if he has some others stashed. he said, "oh yeah, you're the ancients guy! nope...i got rid of all my stuff, to hard to sell".

another fellow had some ancients, in one box stuck behind the counter. he said he had more but didn't bother dragging them to the show as they wouldn't sell.

i have a feeling we're pretty rare.
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 Posted 12/10/2015  12:50 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add FVRIVS RVFVS to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
You need separate even ancient collectors into sub groups. You have people who collect Romans and you have others who collect 'Greeks' and or eastern coinage.
The major difference though is whether the 'virus' is active or dormant only occasionally erupting in fevers and elevated blood pressures !
The ease of browsing the world has made it possible to spread the contagion.
But the insane prices some people will pay for quality coins makes it difficult for the young beginners.

Ancient collectors are an odd group of people !
IN GOD WE TRVST ....... all others pay cash !

COGITO ERGO SPVD
I think ...... therefore I yam
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 Posted 12/10/2015  01:17 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Joe2007 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks for the comments everyone!
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 Posted 12/10/2015  02:05 am  Show Profile   Check paralyse's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add paralyse to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I would speculate that there are no less than a hundred thousand collectors who live, breathe, and die for ancients, and probably millions or more who have at least one or two ancient coins in their collection.

I only have two or three ancient coins. It is a field that I would love to expand my collections in -- but the barriers to entry are many and sometimes high.

Some thoughts from my inexperienced point of view:

It seems that there are many, many fakes, and they can be very difficult to detect.

The books and literature to attribute your finds are expensive and often out of print.

Many sellers are not located in the US, resulting in large shipping fees and customs issues.

A large majority of ancient and medieval coins are not certified by a reputable TPG, which discourages modern numismatic investors who are hesistant to collect and invest in ancient and medieval coins without an expert having looked at the coin and declared it genuine/correctly graded/attributed.

The history behind ancient coins is not emphasized. (from the Phoenicians, Greeks, Byzantine Empire, Celts and Romans, the Saxons...the great Islamic conquests and the Crusades to take them back, the Holy Roman Empire, the German States, the Spanish & French & English kingdoms...most of this is not taught to our children in school anymore, indeed ever, except perhaps very briefly mentioned.) Without this to encourage young collectors' interests and demand for coins there is not much impetus for young numismatists to start ancient/medieval coin collecting. There are great stories to be told, but no one really tells them anymore.

There are not really very many standardized price guides. Modern coin collectors in the US are used to having many price guides that tell them wholesale and/or retail values for dates and mint marks. This is a barrier to bidding/buying ancient and medieval coins because you often have no idea if the price the seller is asking is a great deal, a reasonable price, a bit high, or way overpriced. No one wants to spend $200 on a coin and then find out that you can buy them all day long for $30. The counterpart to this is that dealers are reluctant to stock ancient inventory; they don't know much about it either, and they have limited resources for pricing and margins. This negatively affects both acquisition and resale. As a result, ancient coin dealers tend to focus only on ancients and specialize in that area, isolating them from other collectors who might become interested in ancients if they saw the coins in showcases and books at their local coin shops.

There is a lack of newsstand publications which focus on Ancient/Medieval collecting. The ANA's Numismatist occasionally runs articles, but there is nothing on the order of a COINage or Coin World or Coins Magazine for ancient coinage.

A number of unscrupulous sellers feel the need to flat-out mislead non-informed collectors about some things over and over: apparently every medieval Spanish coin or bit or cob was "pirate treasure", every prutah or lepton is a "Bible coin", cleaning that lot of dug LRB's is an easy and fast process that will let you find fabulous rare coins for cheap, etc.

The denomination and composition of popular ancients such as Roman/Greek coins can be difficult to grasp without a bit of effort; diobols, tetradrachms, dupondii, denarii, tremisses, solidi...etc. This leads to mislabelling and misidentification by sellers and buyers. Silvered AE's get sold as AR's, there's billon, copper, brass, electrum, and the various gold alloys.

Finally, pricing for popular ancient coins in general tends to be quite expensive, perhaps excepting antoniniani/radiates/LRB's; with middle to higher grade coins, even uncertified, going for $50 to $500 or much more. This discourages young collectors without high disposable incomes from joining the hobby of ancient coins; even a theoretically-simpler set such as "All Roman Emperors after the year 200 AD" is going to hit you in the pocketbook a bit.

Just my opinions, and hopefully not too much of a sidetrack.
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"Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done." -- Louis D. Brandeis
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Australia
19680 Posts
 Posted 12/10/2015  03:06 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add sel_69l to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
In another thread I guesstimated that there are about 70,000 people in the World, that are interested enough in coins to register with a coin Forum such as this one.

In this Forum there is a total of 202,425 topics, and in that 8,706 total topics in the Ancient coins section
(8706 divided by 202,425) times 70,000 registered members on forums gives 3010 people in the World, who are seriously interested in ancient coins.

That seems a bit low to me, and I would guess that 5 to 10 thousand people in the World may have an active interest in ancient coins.

200 years ago there were only ancient coin collectors and almost nobody collected current coins of that period.
Now, there is a large percentage of collectors who await the next modern current coin issue.
Edited by sel_69l
12/10/2015 03:20 am
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 Posted 12/10/2015  6:19 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Joe2007 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Sel,

A lot of collectables discussion is going on in various groups on Facebook. This forum's membership is small compared to some of them. Not that I'd ever discuss my coins on Facebook but many others apparently are not fazed by having your full name and a ton of other identifying details about you attached to your every comment.
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