Wednesday, 9 December 2009

What recession and other musings – the case of Gemini VI

I was sent a copy of the Gemini VI sale catalogue yesterday in “dead tree” format (excellent, you can’t beat having these in hard copy), although it is available to browse online HERE.

A good selection of Greek, Roman (imperial and provincial) coins on offer, although sadly, or perhaps fortunately, no Carausius to tempt me.

The star of the sale though, whatever your interests, has to be the Byzantine gold medallion of Tiberius II Constantine (pictured above) with an estimate of $2,500,000, and this got me thinking about the global recession and what the potential market would be for such a piece of “bling”.

Only yesterday a Rembrandt and a Raphael sold in London for a total approaching £50,000,000, the Raphael, estimated at £16 million and making £29.2 million being a record for a work on paper, demonstrating that there is still money available to invest in works of art.

I was also intrigued by the actual description of the medallion, in particular the state of preservation being described as ” Two parts of the original frame had become separated and the medallion itself had a slightly wavy surface. These have been resolved as were two very minor scrapes”. How much work has been done, when and what did it look like before? Such restoration work has provoked much comment on message boards with quite divided opinions when they have come to light in the past. I’m pleased that this work has been noted in the description and I wonder whether it really does materially affect the article’s value in either direction? Some would argue that restoration would reduce its worth while others the enhanced beauty would increase it.

I, for one, will be looking for the outcome of the Gemini sale and the result of this piece in particular. Will there be a buyer or not and at what price?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Pescennius Niger and Oliver Wendell Holmes

The coins of Pecennius Niger, the eastern challenger to the Roman throne in AD 193, exhibit three characteristics, rarity, desirability and ugliness. One of my two examples, illustrated above certainly exhibits the latter characteristic (my other example being much worse). These features were used by Oliver Wendell Holmes in his 1872 work The Poet at the Breakfast Table which features a conversation with an entomologist:

"What a superb butterfly you have in that case! -

-O, yes, yes, well enough. These Lepidoptera are for children to play with. Give me a Coleoptera, and the kings of the Coleoptera are the beetles! -

The particular beetle he showed me was an odious black wretch that one would kick out of his path, if he did not serve him worse than that. But he looked at it as a coin collector would look at a Pescennius Niger.

-A beauty!-he exclaimed, -and the only specimen of the kind in this country, to the best of my belief. A unique, sir, and there is pleasure in exclusive posession. Not another beetle like that short of South America, sir -"

Whilst I cannot claim unique I was pleased to acquire this specimen, it being a variety not fully as the description in RIC, the closest attribution I can give is cf 23-5.

My wretched second specimen, below, is RIC 5.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Another Royal Mint quality control problem.....

I was passed this 2008 penny on Sunday. It has a raised blob before the date. Not the first one that I've seen. I haven't picked at it to determine whether it is a die fault or whether it is the bronze surface lifting from the iron core.