Some thoughts for coin collectors:
I have many web pages with facts about ancient-coin types. This page is different. It consists of a few thoughts/opinions about collecting. (Newest at the top.)
1) On the word rare in coin descriptions. (August, 2021)
2) Selling coins and dealers' fees. Do dealers charge too much?
3) On buying for others. (Added Jan. 1, 2022)
4) A page on the effect of NGC on prices.
5) A page with comments on recent high prices for high-grade ancient coins.
On CoinTalk, May 22, 2021, on the use of "rare" by ancient-coin sellers.
Language is used to communicate. Words are part of language. Along the way we learn to expect what certain words, like "rare," mean. Then, as a thinking adult, you realize that some speakers and writers use words to trigger a reaction in you, but the writer is not using the word in a way that corresponds to reality. (Political commentary is often that way, but I won't go into that here.)
It is not the word "rare" that is wrong. If we didn't use it, sellers would be equally happy to misuse "seldom seen." Pay attention to what people say around you and you will notice that words and the reality they purport to describe often do not correspond closely. We collect coins, so words like "rare" are important to us.
In 2001 I wrote about "Rarity and the value of ancient Roman coins"
That page shows how easy it is to misrepresent and mislead even when speaking the literal truth. If one is willing to deviate from the truth (and many are), then words like "rare" are used to provoke a reaction (maybe, willingness to pay a higher price). It might not communicate a fact.
We are not going to be able to get people to stop lying. We can protect ourselves by learning how they provoke us. We need to learn trigger words and when they appear, slow down, think, and seek the real truth. That's well-known to be hard to do. That's why so many sellers call coins "rare"-- it works.
On CoinTalk, August 7, 2021 "Selling your coins and dealers' fees." Do dealers charge too much?
If you consign ancient coins to a CNG electronic auction, the minimum seller's fee is $25 (It used to be $40). If the coin hammers at $100, the buyer will pay $100+18% = $118 plus shipping, and you get $75. That's 64%. If anyone knows, from experience, how to get 70% of what the seller pays in a major auction, let us know.
You may have heard that some sellers negotiate to get a cut of the buyer's fee or a reduced seller's fee. Offer to sell with an auction firm numerous coins worth $50,000 each and that is likely. The effort in selling very expensive coins is similar to that of selling regular coins, so the dealer does not need as big a percentage. Offer one hundred $500 coins and it is not likely you will get a break on fees. Those are just "regular coins" to a high-quality firm like CNG.
When discussing the value of coins and venues, I didn't notice anyone mention the value of the time of the buyer. If you want a great Byzantine coin, you can look at the next CNG auction and expect to see some, but not many. You can look them over in a few minutes. Now, if you try that with eBay you can search on "Byzantine" coins and get page after page of junk and very rarely see a high-quality coin. I know collectors whose time is worth hundreds of dollars an hour. Is it worth their time to search eBay for bargains? No. Bid on a great coin on eBay (if you can find one actually being auctioned, as opposed to being offered at a high fixed-price) and you won't be competing with many collectors who would bid it up if were offered by CNG. No wonder CNG prices are higher.
Several posters above have noted that selling coins one-at-a-time with eBay is a hassle. Selling coins one-at-a-time is a hassle, regardless of how you do it. Several posters above have noted that dealers provide a service that has value. I think many collectors (usually who have not attempted to sell many coins themselves) undervalue their service.
Let's run some hypothetical numbers. Suppose profits are to be 10% and a dealer wants to make $50,000 a year. That's $500,000 a year turnover. A year of 50 weeks of 5 days a week makes 250 days. That makes a turnover of $2,000 a day. You can't do that selling $20 coins (100 photos and up to 100 e-mails with orders, payments, and mailings a day, and some of them are bound to go wrong!). And, there are very many expenses and hassles I won't enumerate. I haven't even mentioned the time it takes to find $500,000 worth of coins that seemed to you to be enough underpriced that you could sell them for much more than you paid for them (and that no other dealer snatched up first).
There are innumerable collectors who thought selling would be a good way to make money whose businesses soon folded when reality set in.
Dealers earn their fees.
A friend buys coins to give to his relatives. He wrote me he was thinking of completing a small set for one. I wrote him back:
I think there is as much fun in assembling a collection as in having one. I love my coins because I bought them and wanted them and sought them. My memories of studying, seeking, and buying are big part of the pleasure of having them. I would not think it a collector's pleasure to be gifted a full set and then have a full set with no memories attached.
I think it is very nice of you to buy coins for your relatives. However, I would discourage you from buying sets. I think that takes the pleasure out of it.
I agree it is hard to buy ancient coins now. They seem high priced. But, at least anything I win (even if I pay too much for it) will be something I wanted and experienced the buying of. Those memories can pay dividends for many years.
It is not my place to tell you want to do with your bids, but I am telling you my thoughts anyway. What are friends for?
4) A page on the effect of NGC on prices.
5) A page with comments on recent high prices for high-grade anceint coins.
Go to the Table of Contents for this whole educational site.