Volume 43, Number 3, March 2005
It has been interesting to see, over the past few months, the attitude of dealers and collectors to the changing market conditions. This time last year the Medal Market wasn’t just “healthy” but positively booming, medals were increasing in price, if not value, at a rate of knots – you could buy at a fair one-day and sell on-line the next for 10/20% more than you had paid. Single medals “standard” campaign medals, “lower class” gallantry all were flying from dealers’ trays in unprecedented numbers. Then at the end of last year and in the first couple of months of this that hasn’t been the case, things are slightly slower and what do we hear from some sectors of the hobby but cries of doom and gloom, genuine despair from those who feel the boom is over and that a “crash” is imminent. But why? Basic economics will tell you that the increases seen in the past few years could not carry on as they were – two years ago a World War I pair to a line regiment would fetch £25, today it would fetch nearly £40, sometimes more, an increase of 60% - when inflation runs at just 2%, nothing else has increased so rapidly; even the much vaunted housing market only saw increases of approximately 25%. If we had carried on at that rate then by the end of this year then a pair would have topped £50, a trio well over £100 – huge sums for medals that are hardly rare. Other factors have to be taken into account too, Christmas is always an expensive time and therefore it should be no surprise to any that auctions held in December should see lots that actually sold within the estimates rather than way above them and that fairs held in January were naturally going to suffer as the Barclaycard bills landed on the doormat and that pre-Christmas spending spree had to be paid for – it has always been the same. In all the years I’ve been in the hobby the immediate pre- and post-Christmas periods have never been as buoyant as spring and autumn in the same way Summer is always quieter because everyone is on holiday -so why the doom merchants think this year is any different I do no know. True the uncertainty in the housing market may well have led people to rein in a little and we must remember that as the stock market continues to increase in value so those who had been investing in medals now look again to more traditional areas – stocks, shares, etc. So yes there may well be less money around than before and yes that may mean that the huge increases in medal prices we have seen in the past will not be repeated this year – but that can only be a good thing for any true collector. Whilst most collectors and dealers accept that this is a levelling of the market rather than anything else, there are those who already are talking about meltdown, about medal prices rapidly falling. Based purely on the evidence of a couple of sales that did very well but didn’t break records and a few post-Christmas shows that weren’t completely filled with hundreds of eager collectors throwing money around, they are predicting gloom and doom for us all – I think that those who predict such nonsense really should look at the facts before they speak out. What has to be remembered is that even in the worst-case scenario as those who hoped for a fast buck and were riding the wave of the boom panic and want to “get out”; it doesn’t actually matter! So what if the market is suddenly flooded with QSA’s or WWI trios? What if collections accumulated by investors do suddenly come to light? Such actions won’t affect prices unduly – most of us collect to campaign, regiment or name so what matter a glut of medals if they are of no relevance to us? If we collect Elaandslaagte clasp QSAs then no amount of Modder River Clasp Medals is going to affect the price of those, if we collect to “Smith” no amount of medals named to “Jones” is going to make our acquisitions any cheaper, if we collect to the Norfolks then all the Suffolk medals in the world won’t change the price we’re paying and if we collect just one medal then a surfeit of those coming up for sale will rather delight us rather than make us despair as we are finally able to purchase awards to units hitherto far from our grasp. Very few of us buy indiscriminately, most of us have method in our madness, and most of us realise that our medals aren’t about to slump – what is going to happen, thankfully, is the mad rises of the past few years will begin to slow as the investors look elsewhere, and some begin to tighten their belts, and finally those of us who are true collectors will be able to once again acquire the medals we take such joy in owning without having to take out a second mortgage every time we want a decent group. The boom isn’t over; a slump isn’t coming but maybe a bit of reality is coming back into the market – about time too!
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