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Getting Into Ancient Coins

 
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Author Previous TopicReplies: 9 / Views: 269Next Topic  
Valued Member

United States
467 Posts
 Posted 11/25/2021  10:15 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add johnny676767 to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
I have been primarily a US classic coin collector. I also collect a bit of world silver mainly from the 19th-20th century. Recently, I've become more interested in ancient coins, especially Roman imperials. I got to see some great coins recently at the Baltimore show.

What's your advice for getting into this field of collecting? I've got a few books and see a bunch of links here. Any specific books, sites or tips?

Thanks
Bedrock of the Community
Australia
19262 Posts
 Posted 11/25/2021  10:51 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add sel_69l to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Roman coins are more easily understood by a new collector of ancient coins generally.

Before acquiring your first Roman coin read all you can about roman coins.

In the first instance, I would go to a public library and pick up a simple introductory book on Roman history, and read that.
Then spend some time at a specialist ancient coin selling site, such as VCOINS, to get some idea of how much you should pay for the various types and condition range of Roman coins that are currently available for sale, World wide.

Wildwinds is a good site to assist in the identification of any ancient coin that you may have.

Not all dealers in the U.S. have ancient coins for sale but you are far better off if you can examine in hand, quite a few examples of Roman coins that you may be interested in, and you can become familiar with what a genuine Roman coin looks like.

Make sure that you buy from a reputable dealer so that you can avoid tourist fakes which are very plentiful.

Get to some coin shows if you can. It is very possible that at least one dealer may be present that has at least a few ancient coins for sale. Have a good talk with them, when they have some time to spare during the show.

The first Roman coin that I acquired was a silver denarius of Antoninus Pius. I bought if for $4.00, but that was around 50 years ago.

The first Greek coin that I acquired was my avatar coin bought direct from a famous coin dealer in London.

I now have a library of about 50 specialist books on ancient coins of all cultures, but it has taken me about 40 years to build it.

Collecting ancient coins can be a very satisfying hobby, that will last you a lifetime, and you can have a lifetime familiar acquaintanceship with collectors of a similar collecting mindset.

Pillar of the Community
United Kingdom
1839 Posts
 Posted 11/26/2021  04:00 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add maridvnvm to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
It is very up to you as to what approach you take.

Some people making the move that you are only feel secure buying slabbed ancients. I have bought many thousands of ancients in 20 years of collecting them and only have one slabbed coin and that is because I wanted the coin and the slab was incidental. If you choose to buy slabbed coins then feel free but the majority of ancient collectors don't go this way as they like to hold their coins.

One reason that people like slabbed ancients is that it gives them the assurance that the coin is authentic. This is due to the fact that there are a lot of fakes out there and there are a lot of fakes out there.

When you start out you should be trying to familiarise yourself with what you like but also what real looks like. If at all possible buy from a dealer or set of dealers that you can trust. This will allow you to buy authentic coin but to learn about the correct stylistic attributes that make the coin real. Handling the coin will help you learn what real coins feel like. This might sound daft but you can feel a cast fake in your hand almost immediately when you have handled enough real coins.

Before buying I would suggest also looking through some fakes databases to see if there are any similar coins there. This is not necessarily to check that the coin in question is fake but will give you another point of comparison between real and fake. If you can get to the stage when you know what the fake is fake and why the real one is real you have made a big step forward. THIS MAY TAKE SOME TIME.

Ask questions.... Posting you coin in a variety of coin forums will generally solicit feedback to questions. You might learn more about the context of your coin than you already know.

If you see a deal on ebay and you think that it is too good to be true then it generally is. This is not always the case and there are always bargains to be found but you need to know what you are buying.

If you do make a mistake and buy a fake don't be put off immediately. We have all done it. Treat it as a lesson. Create a black cabinet of your fakes and copies and learn from them. Why was it wrong? How will I spot it next time?

What do you want to buy? Gold? Silver? Early Bronze? Later Bronze? There a lots of options. Study a bit. Choose a period. Enjoy.

If you are buying from a dealer then you will be paying retail prices. Don't expect to make a profit selling the coins on.

In time you will find a collecting theme or themes that catches your imagination and you can go with it. Don't get stuck on other peoples "rules" about collecting. It is YOUR collection. For example if you decided to collect portrait pieces from the Severan period you could decide to mix Roman Imperial and Roman Provincial coins because that's what you have chosen to do others might restrict a similar collection to Imperial portraits only. Neither of these is right or wrong... they are just different.

When you have decided to make the plunge please share it with us. Perhaps explain why you chose what you chose. I am sure you will get some feedback.
Valued Member
United Kingdom
142 Posts
 Posted 11/26/2021  7:46 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add JohnConduitt to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I would start with a reputable dealer (as mentioned, this would be on VCoins, not eBay). You pay retail, because you're paying for their expertise and trustworthiness, much as you'd buy a slab for modern coins. Slabs make less sense for most Roman imperial coins, because there's no guarantee of authenticity, and the cost of the slab is too high relative to the coin. Unlike a TPG, a good dealer will guarantee the authenticity of their coins.

But it's very difficult to choose a focus before you have any coins - ancients are very different in look and feel to modern coins. You need to allow for mistakes, and for you to change your mind about what you want to collect.

Selling ancient coins is not difficult but will cost you - cheap Roman coins are very common, so they are price sensitive. On eBay you have fees to pay and there's postage on top, so even if someone pays the same price you did, you'll lose 25%+.

It takes a few months or so to get your eye in. A year or so later, you'll look at your first coins and notice all sorts of things you didn't back at the start. It's not just grade with ancients - it's strike, centring, style. You probably wouldn't have chosen them if you'd known.

Once you focus, it gets easier. You learn the series. I decided I wanted to collect London Mint imperial coins, and after 6 months I could pick out every London mint coin in an auction just by the portrait style. At that point, it's easier to spot fakes and you can maybe even venture onto eBay for some cheaper deals.

Much of this is the same as collecting US and world coins, but the variation in ancients means every coin is unique. Things like weight and even misspelt legends don't indicate fakes so much as just knowing a coin doesn't look right.
Edited by JohnConduitt
11/26/2021 8:04 pm
Valued Member
United States
467 Posts
 Posted 11/30/2021  11:27 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add johnny676767 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I was surprised to learn that NGC doesn't guarantee authenticity. I discovered that while trying to understand their grading system. Actually, buying slabbed coins was the approach I thought to take to try and avoid counterfeits. Anyway, this is my first purchase.





Pillar of the Community
United Kingdom
1839 Posts
 Posted 11/30/2021  1:55 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add maridvnvm to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
A nice and interesting coin. What made you choose this one. What can you tell us about the iconography?
Pillar of the Community
United States
1311 Posts
 Posted 11/30/2021  3:06 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Kushanshah to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
While NGC doesn't guarantee the authenticity of ancient coins (for legal reasons I assue), it is worth noting that the primary graders at NGC Ancients, David Vagi and Barry Murphy, are among the world's leading experts on ancient coins and will not certify coins of suspecte authenticity. Barry in particular is recognized for his expertise in Counterfeit Detection.

I will also add that this forum's automatic generation of commercial links from the text in our posts is tiresome and ethically questionable.
Edited by Kushanshah
11/30/2021 3:20 pm
Pillar of the Community
Russian Federation
3670 Posts
 Posted 11/30/2021  3:18 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add january1may to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
I will also add that the forum's automatic generation of commercial links from the text in our posts is tiresome and ethically questionable.


I doubt it's going away anytime soon, though.
Valued Member
United Kingdom
142 Posts
 Posted 11/30/2021  3:47 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add JohnConduitt to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
While NGC doesn't guarantee the authenticity of ancient coins (for legal reasons I assume), it is worth noting that the primary graders at NGC Ancients, David Vagi and Barry Murphy, are among the world's leading experts on ancient coins and will not certify coins of suspect authenticity.

This is very true. I think the lack of a guarantee is because ancients are much harder to guarantee or condemn, because of the variation in production - for some issues it's not even clear what's official and what isn't. But slabs are definitely a safety net.

However, you can buy a raw coin in an auction like CNG's, whose experts are also unlikely to let a fake through, and you get this:
'CNG guarantees the authenticity of the coins we sell. Any coin determined to be a forgery may be returned for a full refund of the purchase price.'

Coins from a CNG auction won't be cheap, but you have a guarantee, and you won't have the cost of a slab on top.

Even better, if the coins are raw, you can see for yourself what a real coin looks like - the feel, the weight, the edge - all crucial in spotting a fake, and features you lose sight of once a coin's in a slab.


Quote:
Anyway, this is my first purchase.

That Hadrian is a nice coin. If you research many ancient coins (even after you've bought them!) you find out all sorts of interesting facts about the iconography (to answer maridvnvm's question) or what they were minted for - to pay for a war, to celebrate victory, to fund an usurpation... You end up researching all sorts of things way beyond what you might've learned just by reading a book.
Pillar of the Community
Australia
960 Posts
 Posted 12/02/2021  7:44 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add David Graham to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:

I will also add that this forum's automatic generation of commercial links from the text in our posts is tiresome and ethically questionable.

Does NGC sponsor the site in any way?
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