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Old May 16, 2007, 11:43 AM   #16
caesavg
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Dan - I think you basically answered your own question. Each person collects for different reasons. Having a better collection than someone else is a fool's errand? I think the collectors in the extremely well marketed "PCGS Registry" who compete for the best collection would wholeheartedly disagree.

http://www.pcgs.com/setregistry/
I suspect they would disagree! I had no idea such a thing existed. Thanks to these official bodies for finding ways to apply objective standards to everything, and for encouraging the endless pursuit of finer distinctions and more expensive coins!

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Investment Value? That's not a circular argument. There are collectors whose primary collecting interest is to buy "undervalued" coins and resell them for profit, but enjoy owning them while they have them.
What I meant was that saying these coins are worth the money because they are a good investment is circular because the real question is why they are worth more in the first place. "Expensive coins are good investments because more people want them," which is why they are expensive in the first place, is circular. Why do they want them? I am not talking about buying low and selling high. And I am not really even talking about grade, history, art, etc., which is why I use the example of a lower grade aureus compared to a higher grade denarius that looks pretty much the same. The thing I have trouble understanding is rarity (shall I call it "exclusiveness") as a worthy goal.

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So, why do people collect and why will someone pay whatever for a given coin? Because they either can or want to. You just have to accept it for what it is, even if it doesn't seem to make any sense to someone else. Just like why I can't figure out why someone would pay $1000+ for a Ty Beanie Baby. It doesn't make sense to me, but that doesn't make it wrong. Why will someone pay 5x the value of a coin in MS-68 vs. MS-67? Personally, I think it's because big dealers and auction houses target the type of obsessive/compulsive and competitive collector and tell them it's worth it. In those high grades, I think it's just all way too subjective and I agree it doesn't make much sense. But, it's not my money, so it doesn't have to make sense to me. Besides, I can't see such grading every taking off with ancients. Grading is WAY more subjective in what we collect.

--Zach Beasley
I agree. To each his own. The reason I am interested, though, is that I, and I am sure many others, find that investment value and let's call it "real" or "personal" value sometimes compete with each other. Sometimes, the coins a collector really "wants" aren't the wisest purchases. Quite the dilemma for a collector who wants to collect what he likes but doesn't want to throw his money away. Most collectors think they are getting "deals," but there really are two kinds of "deals." Sometimes, they are getting true market deals. Other times, their personal preferences simply conflict with the market and their "deals" won't turn into dollars when it comes time to sell -- unless, of course, they can change the market by convincing people that what they like is really the way to go and that everyone was just missing it all this time. A tried and true method. Which, conveniently, brings us back to the original question: what drives price, really, and is it something to encourage or discourage?

Dan

Let's hope my attempt at multiple quotes didn't mess this reply up.
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Old May 16, 2007, 11:59 AM   #17
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Maybe rareity is taken by many to be an index of supply, which in turn is tied to increased demand. The problem with this standard supply/demand equation with respect to ancient coins is the continued chance of hoard finds that may obviate the relative rareity of a piece. This being said, the increased availability of Athenian owl tets from the recent 2000+ hoard doesn't appear to have negatively impacted the price of these coins.

From an irrational/psychological standpoint, I would posit that seeking rareity by collectors is an attempt in establishing bragging rights and exclusivity.

Jeff
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Old May 16, 2007, 12:16 PM   #18
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I agree with Jeff: one of the main motives behind collecting is to possess things that arouse the envy of others.

To do that, the objects have got to be rare: very few produced in the first place, or in better condition than the other known examples!
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Old May 16, 2007, 12:31 PM   #19
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Maybe rareity is taken by many to be an index of supply, which in turn is tied to increased demand. The problem with this standard supply/demand equation with respect to ancient coins is the continued chance of hoard finds that may obviate the relative rareity of a piece. This being said, the increased availability of Athenian owl tets from the recent 2000+ hoard doesn't appear to have negatively impacted the price of these coins.

From an irrational/psychological standpoint, I would posit that seeking rareity by collectors is an attempt in establishing bragging rights and exclusivity.

Jeff
Jeff,

The problem with analyzing anything to do with ancient coins and ancient coin collecting is the fact that there is nothing to which it can be compared in its field. For example, population reports exist from the various grading companies on everything they have slabbed, as well as various resources also list the known mintage (or printed, in the case of banknotes) and prices for these materials in various grades. Well, ancients just aren't like that. The various volumes of RIC, written over several decades, have relative rarity ratings for a given coin, but most of those are obsolete with the findings of new material, as you pointed out will happen.

What we can talk about is the perceived rarity of a given coin and its value based on current market conditions. A coin may truly be rare, and may be able to justify a given price. However, a coin may be excessively rare and still be cheap because of condition or lack of collector support for a given series. Popularity also has a lot to do with it. Taking your Athenian owl for example, this is most likely the single most recognizable ancient coin. Thus, you will get interest for them from all sorts of non-ancient collectors, from someone who wants one as an example of the only ancient coin they will ever own, to someone who likes coins with animals, to someone who wants one for a piece of jewelry.

Supply and demand don't always work in the ancient coin world. Big name dealers, who are used to pushing 1909S-VDB Lincoln Cents for hundreds or thousands of dollars because they are very rare with only 484,000 minted stumble when they try to get into the ancients field and use the same sort of rarity marketing techniques. There are far fewer collectors of ancient coins, probably mostly because you really have to actively learn and study in order to understand what you have and most collectors simply don't want to work that hard at a hobby.

Also, new hoards may actually have the opposite effect on the market and INCREASE the price. This can happen when a series or type is not widely collected because the material has been too rare, but suddenly with availability, more people can now get into collecting it, thus driving up the overall price for all related material.

Although some people collect to brag, I can't say I've really run into this a lot with ancients. I have paid some truly stupid money for some coins, simply because I've chased them with other collectors of the same series or type and we both needed it for our research. One example is this coin:



Mule of Constantine I obverse and Constantius II reverse, 324-325, Sirmium
CONSTAN_TINVS AVG
Laureate head right
PROVIDEN_TIAE CAESS
Campgate with six rows, two turrets, no doors, star above, top and bottom rows empty blocks, ramp with stairs at base
RIC VII, --
Ex Carlos Escuer, eBay, 2003

There is still some debate as to whether or not this is a legitimate mule of a Constantine I obverse die, most likely for a SARMATIA DEVICTA reverse, or an ancient imitation of excellent style. The font in the legend hints at an imitation, as does the portrait, but I do not have any other Sirmium mule examples against which to compare at this time. Also, the obverse is slightly double-struck as can be seen by the forehead.

I paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $550 for this coin on eBay as I was competing with another campgate collector (who is also a member of this forum and a friend of mine) as we both needed this for our research on campgate issues. No bragging rights or exclusivity - we both simply wanted the coin for our research and documentation. Will I get my money back out of this coin? Doubtful, but who knows.

--Zach
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Old May 16, 2007, 12:39 PM   #20
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Zach,

Wouldn't the photo have served just as well for your documentation? Or couldn't you have studied it, weighed it, imaged it while it was in your friend's collection? Why did you also have to POSSESS the coin? Was that really necessary for your research?

Yours,

Curtis
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Old May 16, 2007, 12:50 PM   #21
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Zach,

Wouldn't the photo have served just as well for your documentation? Or couldn't you have studied it, weighed it, imaged it while it was in your friend's collection? Why did you also have to POSSESS the coin? Was that really necessary for your research?

Yours,

Curtis
Curtis,

An image and relevant data would also serve the purpose, except for the fact I tend to lose electronic things. Having worked in IT for many years and experienced hard drive failures and lost media, it was better to have the coin in hand to study. Especially since it will probably be a couple of decades before I get anything written. However, that was a few years ago now and I've come to realize that I can't afford to buy all of the examples which come up for sale in any given area I am studying at the time and now I do just try to keep track of who has what. Luckily, the ancients community in general is really good about sharing and one campgate collector I know, who has something like 10,000 examples in his collection, has offered to let me come over and document his pieces when I do finally start working seriously on the topic.

So, to answer your question, yes - I could have just let someone have it and contact him later to study it, but it took a few years for me to realize that was a possibility with fellow ancient collectors.

--Zach
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Old May 16, 2007, 01:21 PM   #22
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Zach,

Wouldn't the photo have served just as well for your documentation? Or couldn't you have studied it, weighed it, imaged it while it was in your friend's collection? Why did you also have to POSSESS the coin? Was that really necessary for your research?

Yours,

Curtis
Curtis,

I don't really like my other answer as I'm not explaining my current process clearly. What I am trying to say is yes, an image and relevant data is fine for my current studies if it is obvious what it is. For example campgates with legible exergual marks. The one exception for me right now are Hadrian's Eastern denarii. For this research, it is infintely more helpful having the coins in hand so as to be able to compare flan fabric, style, etc and actually have the coins on the table and move them around into groups. Hopefully I will eventually have enough examples to as to be able to track a given engraver at each mint and assign the pieces to a given mint to some degree of accuracy.

For those unaware of Hadrian's non-Rome denarii issues, here are some examples with greatly varying style and apparently from different mints:

Rome:



Hadrian, AR Denarius, 134-138, Rome
HADRIANVS-AVG COS III P P
Laureate head right
ROMA-FELIX
Roma seated left on curule chair, branch in right hand, scepter in left
18mm x 19mm, 3.27g
RIC II, 264 (C)

Antioch:



Hadrian, AR Denarius, 117-138, Antioch
IMP CAESAR TRAIAN HADRIANVS AVG
Laureate, cuirassed bust right
P M TR POT_ES COS III
Pax standing facing, head left, branch downward in right hand, cornucopiae in left
PAX in exergue
20mm, 2.91g
RIC II, --; BMCRE --; RSC --
Ex Barry Murphy, June 2006

Not Rome or Antioch:



Hadrian, AR Denarius, 134-138 (?), Undetermined Eastern Mint
HADRIANVS-AVG COS III P P
Bare head right, slight drapery on left shoulder
FORTV_NA AVG
Clementia or Concordia standing facing, head left, patera in right hand, cornucopiae in left
18mm x 20mm, 3.02g
RIC II, 245a (Rome)
Ex Kelly Ramage, eBay, October 2005



Hadrian, AR Denarius, 134-138, Undetermined Eastern Mint
HADRIANVS-AVG COS III P P
Bare head right
AEGYPTOS
Egypt reclining left, sistrum in right hand, left arm resting on modius filled with grain ears, ibis at feet
18mm x 20mm, 3.39g
RIC II, 297 (Rome)
Ex Gantcho Zagorski, eBay, June 2006



Hadrian, AR Denarius, 131-132 (?), Undetermined Eastern Mint
HADRIANVS-AVG COS III P P
Bare head right
COS-III
Concordia or Clementia standing facing, head left, patera in right hand, cornucopiae in left
19mm, 2.76g
RIC II, --
Ex Atlantis Coins, VCoins, January 2006



Hadrian, AR Denarius, 119-122 (?), Undetermined Eastern Mint
HADRIANVS-AVGVSTVS P P
Laureate head right
P M T_R P-COS III
Pax seated left, branch in right hand, scepter in left
17mm x 19mm, 2.40g
RIC II, --
Ex Ancient Imports, VCoins, November 2005; Ex Nelson Ballantyne Collection; Ex Old Roman Coins, eBay, January 2001

--Zach
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Old May 16, 2007, 05:05 PM   #23
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I agree with Jeff: one of the main motives behind collecting is to possess things that arouse the envy of others.

To do that, the objects have got to be rare: very few produced in the first place, or in better condition than the other known examples!
Here is another question. In some cases, for some people, isn't specialization the other side of the "rarity" coin, or, rather, the "exclusivity" coin. Specialization is a way of giving a collection distinction at a lower price than, say, a collection of rare Imperial medallions. Someone may not have the most expensive collection, but he may have the most complete collection of a particular type that no one can duplicate without years of effort (if at all). Agree or disagree?

I am interested in these issues because I think a little self-examination can go a long way towards figuring out how to structure a collection -- and not to pass judgment on anyone's particular motives. The nature of your goal -- whether you want to compete and conquer, make a contribution to the field in a particular area, donate coins to a museum, assemble something your heirs will care about, put together educational displays for schools, study minting techniques, invest and get a good return, pursue the elusive and unattainable, study ancient art, etc. -- will determine the nature of your collection. For some, only the best will do. For others, the best can be a waste of money.

How many people out there know why they are collecting what they are collecting? And I don't mean why do you like a particular aspect of ancient history, or why is your theme appealing. I mean why do you feel that the time, money, and effort is worth it? Is it to build something of value, to study and contribute, to donate, to display, to produce envy, to pass time, for social reasons, etc. Collectors are compelled not only to collect, but to collect in a particular way. Why are you doing it?

Dan
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Old May 16, 2007, 06:01 PM   #24
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Well, you're getting into my realm of expertise now...I figured it would come in handy one day.

Collecting behavior has been recognized as a lesser form of hoarding, which is a maladaptive behavior seen most often in those with obsessive-compulsive disorder. I often query patients about their personal interests and the presence of collecting hobbies when trying to ferret out personality characteristics that may be at interplay with their primary pathology. Collecting behaviors are multidimensional. For some it is the hunt and reward aspect that promotes and maintains the behavior; for others it tends to be cataloging and detail work that is the primary motivator. In all cases, however, most of the collectors I have run across have exhibited lifelong tendencies to accumulate and/or categorize materials. Serial collecting is not uncommon as these individuals (myself included) move on from one topic of interest to another.

As for a biological basis of collecting behavior, I believe the clues can be found in the psychiatric conditions that demonstrate the tendency at extremes [i.e., obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD)]. OCD is often characterized by a hyperactivity of the caudate nucleus; a subcortical brain structure found in each hemisphere on the anteromedial aspect of the lateral ventricles (see picture below). Over-activation of the caudate nucleus, which has very strong connections with the frontal lobes, tends to elicit maladaptive "hunter gather" behavioral response and feedback loops that promote uncontrolled ritualistic motor behavior (e.g., repeated rechecking of door locks, etc.). Conversely, disorders that selectively damage the caudate nucleus (e.g., Huntington's disease) show a general disorganization of motor behavior and lack of ritualistic checking.



So, for those assembled here who are lifelong collectors (but not maladaptively so), I would posit there is probably a genetic basis for our behavior connected to frontal lobe / caudate nucleus functioning. Many of us probably have family histories of individuals with similar collecting behaviors and/or outright OCD-like problems. For us (and millions others) collecting has become our adaptive response to this proclivity in our neural circuitry. This mechanistic hypothesis does not, however, explain why we collect ancient coins instead of fossils. For this preference, I would suggest that the topic of collecting owes more to the "nurture" in the nature/nurture balance.

One last aspect that interplays with the collecting behavior are the neural circuits involved in reward. That physiological rush you feel just before last call on a bid upon auction lot or seconds before an eBay close is an autonomic nervous response in anticipation of reward. It is the same feeling experienced by drug addicts anticipating making a score or a gambler before putting large on a single number before the Roulette wheel stops. The rush and reward involved in collecting are POWERFUL behavioral motivators.

Delightfully afflicted,
Jeff
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Old May 16, 2007, 06:23 PM   #25
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Do drugs or brain injuries cause people to lose interest in collecting, or to suddenly want to collect more?
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Old May 16, 2007, 07:18 PM   #26
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Tough question. Selective damage to the frontal lobes is known to produce extreme personality changes, and I suspect it is possible that damage to the frontal lobes might result in OCD-like collecting behavior. Generally, however, orbitofrontal brain damage results in a change in interpersonal behaviors and adherence to social mores. A great example is that of Phineas Gage, a 19th century railroad worker who incurred a penetrating head injury involving the frontal lobes by the explosion of a tamping iron. Before the injury, reportedly Phineas was a model citizen. After the injury, Phineas became a son-of-bitch who drank heavily and was diametrically opposite of his former self (see here for more interesting info). I don't think Phineas was ever a collector, but his case illustrates that behavioral changes are common in injuries involving the frontal lobes and/or subcortical structures highly connected to the frontal lobes.

Regarding drug use, I could see a situation where a drug replaces the function of what collecting may have provided for a person. Here the person is trading an adaptive habit for a maladaptive one.

Jeff
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Old May 16, 2007, 07:47 PM   #27
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Very nice picture, but is that the obverse or the reverse?

Richard
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Old May 16, 2007, 08:19 PM   #28
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Well, you're getting into my realm of expertise now...I figured it would come in handy one day.

Collecting behavior has been recognized as a lesser form of hoarding, which is a maladaptive behavior seen most often in those with obsessive-compulsive disorder. I often query patients about their personal interests and the presence of collecting hobbies when trying to ferret out personality characteristics that may be at interplay with their primary pathology. Collecting behaviors are multidimensional. For some it is the hunt and reward aspect that promotes and maintains the behavior; for others it tends to be cataloging and detail work that is the primary motivator. In all cases, however, most of the collectors I have run across have exhibited lifelong tendencies to accumulate and/or categorize materials. Serial collecting is not uncommon as these individuals (myself included) move on from one topic of interest to another.

As for a biological basis of collecting behavior, I believe the clues can be found in the psychiatric conditions that demonstrate the tendency at extremes [i.e., obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD)]. OCD is often characterized by a hyperactivity of the caudate nucleus; a subcortical brain structure found in each hemisphere on the anteromedial aspect of the lateral ventricles (see picture below). Over-activation of the caudate nucleus, which has very strong connections with the frontal lobes, tends to elicit maladaptive "hunter gather" behavioral response and feedback loops that promote uncontrolled ritualistic motor behavior (e.g., repeated rechecking of door locks, etc.). Conversely, disorders that selectively damage the caudate nucleus (e.g., Huntington's disease) show a general disorganization of motor behavior and lack of ritualistic checking.



So, for those assembled here who are lifelong collectors (but not maladaptively so), I would posit there is probably a genetic basis for our behavior connected to frontal lobe / caudate nucleus functioning. Many of us probably have family histories of individuals with similar collecting behaviors and/or outright OCD-like problems. For us (and millions others) collecting has become our adaptive response to this proclivity in our neural circuitry. This mechanistic hypothesis does not, however, explain why we collect ancient coins instead of fossils. For this preference, I would suggest that the topic of collecting owes more to the "nurture" in the nature/nurture balance.

One last aspect that interplays with the collecting behavior are the neural circuits involved in reward. That physiological rush you feel just before last call on a bid upon auction lot or seconds before an eBay close is an autonomic nervous response in anticipation of reward. It is the same feeling experienced by drug addicts anticipating making a score or a gambler before putting large on a single number before the Roulette wheel stops. The rush and reward involved in collecting are POWERFUL behavioral motivators.

Delightfully afflicted,
Jeff
I think you have become too smart for me to talk to. Thank god there is Zach.;-)
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Old May 16, 2007, 08:35 PM   #29
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I think you have become too smart for me to talk to. Thank god there is Zach.;-)
DOH! HEY! Just because lifting heavy stuff is one of my hobbies doesn't mean I'm not smart or somethin'. Does it? Ummm...I think my frontal lobe hurts

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Old May 16, 2007, 08:48 PM   #30
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Collecting behaviors are multidimensional. For some it is the hunt and reward aspect that promotes and maintains the behavior; for others it tends to be cataloging and detail work that is the primary motivator. In all cases, however, most of the collectors I have run across have exhibited lifelong tendencies to accumulate and/or categorize materials. Serial collecting is not uncommon as these individuals (myself included) move on from one topic of interest to another.
Great answer. Thanks for the detailed response. Do you have any thoughts about why some people are competitive collectors? Is there a correlation between the desire to hoard, hunt, catagorize, etc. and a desire to have items of desirable quality?

Also, I suspect that for many, if not most, collectors, the selection process consumes the bulk of their time. Are you aware of any collectors who actively work with their collections for years after their acquisition phase ends?
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