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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fall Auctions: estimates are meaningless...

For those new to the Ancients Auctions there are three iron clad rules to bear in mind.

1) Estimates are meaningless.  There are a host of reasons why a coin might be estimated at a certain level.  Certain houses may just look at the last auction price.  They may be protecting a coin.  They may be encouraging bidding.  They may be boxed in by consigners.  They may, as policy, estimate everything at less than half the expected price.  Etc.

2) Pictures lie.  This one is tough.  It doesn't mean that pictures purposefully mislead.  Sometimes a coin in hand can look much better than the picture.  Sometimes much worse.  It's the nature of photography.  Coins are often small with very high relief, so shadows are cast, different elements are highlited, tiny unnoticeable flaws are exaggerated, and metal quality enhanced or diminished.  This is just the nature of photography.

3) Grading is subjective.  Most coins at auction are raw: not NGC graded.  The grade assigned by the auction house is the opinion of the expert in that house who will have his own idiomatic system and will be under his own set of political constraints. 

And finally: many houses will run coins they know have been altered.  These coins are ungradeable.  Altered coins can slip through at any auction.  But try to avoid houses that run altered coins as a matter of policy.  I can't print that list here.  But if you contact me directly, I'll give you my OPINION on this.

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