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Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Sheik is dead.... Long live the Sheik

Qatar's Sheikh Saud Died of Complications Related to Heart Condition

Sheikh Saud Al-Thani, 2002 Photo: B. Pietro Filardo via Wikimedia Commons
Sheikh Saud Al-Thani, 2002
Photo: B. Pietro Filardo via Wikimedia Commons
Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed Al-Thani of Qatar, once considered the world's biggest art collector, who died on November 9 (see "World's Biggest Art Collector Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed Al-Thani Dies at Age 48"), died of complications related to a heart condition, artnet News has learned from a source with connections to the Qatar Museums Authority. Sheikh Saud was reportedly in London for treatment but died before his scheduled procedure. The Qatar Museums Authority was not immediately available for comment but has maintained that Sheikh Saud died of natural causes since the news of his passing broke on Monday.

"The Sheik" as he had been referred to in coin circles, shook up the world of Ancients back in 2012 when he sent prices skyward for top material, routinely paying hundreds of thousand for coins that had previously sold for a fraction of the price.   At times, after ringing up bills into the millions, he took possession of merchandise, and then was slow to pay.  All this was settled to the seeming satisfaction of both the sheik and the auction houses earlier this year and he had begun to buy again, before dying from heart complications.

But what the Sheik proved beyond contradiction was that top material in the ancient coin world is thin enough that one single buyer with both motivation and means is able to move prices dramatically.  In a world now dominated by billionaires, it's only a matter of time until the Sheik is replaced by another similarly motivated plutarch - or an entire coterie of plutarchs, and prices for top material will be moved out of the range of ordinary collectors.

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