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Saturday, January 18, 2014


The winter auctions at the Waldorf yielded healthy results this year.  And it exposed a vast and growing gulf between the US and European markets: the attitude towards graded coins.  The New York International Coin Show is truly international.  All the top European houses were represented, and the auctions rooms were filled with European bidders.  And the Europeans have not yet embraced graded coins, especially in the Roman market - where they absolutely dominate.  But Americans are beginning to flock to Ancients, especially Greek, and they consider holders to be essential.

Heritage kicked off the schedule, as per usual with its World and Ancients auction.  Heritage represents bidder worldwide - but they have an especially deep pool of US clients.  Many collectors who have been buying US Coins are being lured across the aisle into World and Ancients precisely on account of the NGC graded holders.  Heritage is making a great push to auction slabbed ancients - particularly Greek, and it's driving the market here in the US.  And Heritage is doing a terrific job of hiring new experts who can accurately describe the coins, and put them in an historical context.  They also take great photos and have developed the single best online platform in the coin world.  Thus good material fetched great prices throughout the Heritage auctions which included a healthy Ancients sections, a world section, and then the Eric P Newman collection of World coins.  Tops material went for top prices, uniformly.  And because Heritage is putting in the resources to develop their Ancients and World departments and platforms it is clear that they will continue to attract bidders from their deep pool of US clients, as well as from clients worldwide.  If things keep going in this direction, within a few short years Heritage will dominate the US ancients market.

CNG followed with Triton which has the deepest and most impressive array of ancients - Greek, Roman, and Byzantine of any US coin house.  The auctions was filled with European bidders - especially from other top European auctions houses who were on the phone to their top bidders.  NAC, notably, was on the phone to the Sheik, who has paid off enough of his debts to make him eligible to continue bidding in many auctions.  Predictably, lots he wanted, he bought.

But the Europeans buy differently from Americans.  They are not so obsessed with the tiny gradations in quality as they are with rarity, provenance, and historical importance.  Therefor, some coins that would have brought much more at Heritage went very reasonably, and other connoisser pieces that would have fallen off the charts at Heritage - such as tiny electrum fractions, and regional rarities brought tremendous high prices.

Baldwin's of London followed with the New York Sale which included an array of impressive Roman gold Aurei - all of it unslabbed, and all of it going for very high prices - again bid up by top European dealers all on the phones to their top clients - many of whom are wealthy Russians, seeking to get money out of Russia.   Many of them would certainly not bid on the same coins is plastic holders.  Day two included mostly Russian coins and medals, which all brought healthy prices - certainly through some of the same bidders.

Stacks Bowers followed with a large auction of notably lower quality.  There's always a few gems in an auction of this size and prices were fine considering the quality, but they are having trouble competing with Heritage and the world and ancients departments.

Gemini followed, though this auction was notably lacking in top Greek and Roman gold.

Finally, the floor show itself was something of a disappointment as so much of the top quality now goes into auction, there was very little of interest left for the show.  This can't be healthy for floor shows over time.

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