Seize Intact! The invasion of Europe
Volume 46, Number 9, October 2008
We're all doomed...! There's no getting away from it any more—the subject of medal prices has got to be discussed. In recent months I have been quite surprised by the number of people (collectors I hasten to add, not dealers or auctioneers) who seem to be determined to depress us all by talk of falling medal prices and “bubbles bursting”, and I think it’s time to address the matter once and for all. Any of you who follow prices keenly will know that in recent years there has been something of a boom in the medal market. Fuelled by “alternative investors”, the family history enthusiasts and more and more information about service records, etc., coming into the public domain, our hobby has enjoyed a very strong period of growth and prices have shot up. Now, however, things are changing. In case you hadn’t noticed there is a bit of a credit crunch happening at the moment: money isn’t so easy to come by and house prices seem to be falling. This makes us feel less wealthy, even if we’re not. Couple that with rising fuel and food prices (which mean we actually are less wealthy) and it’s no surprise that the rapid increase in prices of non-essentials like medals has dropped off. Why is this happening? Well quite simply the flood of new collectors who were coming into the market has abated a little—those family historians happy to collect medals (or indeed anything) related to their surname, or even to units their ancestor might have served in, are now a little more wary about splashing out on something that is on the edge of their real interest and, let’s face it if it comes to a choice between feeding one’s family or buying medals then for many people medals might lose out. This has meant that in some cases items that might once have flown from lists or from auction sites are sitting there a little longer and the “run-of-the-mill” pieces are settling down to make more realistic money than sky-rocketing beyond even the deepest of pockets, as some had been in the past. Now let’s get this straight—this is actually no bad thing, we all know that medals couldn’t carry on going up in price as they were. If they had, then many of us would have had to look carefully at our hobby and might have had to make the difficult decision to cut right back or stop altogether. If that had happened then a “medal crash” akin to the crashes in other such hobbies in the past would have been likely and that is something that would have taken us all years to recover from. That isn’t happening now, this isn’t a medal-centric correction, it’s global. Prices of every collectable, every commodity are fluctuating wildly and no one is really sure what’s going on. This uncertainty is bound to be reflected in our own market so it should come as no surprise to anyone that things are not carrying on as they were. That all said our hobby is a long, long way from suffering really badly; certainly prices aren’t going up as rapidly as they were but nor are they falling dramatically either. Yes, there are some bargains to be had but equally some astonishing prices are also being fetched. Certainly quality items will always sell and are still making fantastic sums, you only have to look at recent auction results to realise that. The internet auctions are the same—one day something might go for 10–20% under what it might be expected to make, the next a similar item might fetch 20–30% more! Something else worth remembering is that if a particular sale seems to be delivering up bargains then maybe there are other reasons other than the credit crunch that are to blame. For example at a recent auction there were a number of items that I personally wanted to bid on and for various reasons I wasn’t able to either get to the sale or put in a commission bid.; I was therefore somewhat annoyed when they hammered far below what I would have paid. I happened to mention this to another collector who shares my interests who agreed that had he not been on holiday he too would have bid and was gutted that he had missed the bargains. A few days later another like minded collector telephoned to sound off about the low prices stating that he wished he had spent his money rather than waiting for a bigger sale that was coming up, the same day, a fourth collector did exactly the same thing. So there we were, all moaning about missing the bargains, all wondering about a price fall in our particular collecting area and then it hit me—take four dedicated collectors out of the room and it’s no wonder prices were lower than normal. None of us were there to push them up! None of us was holding back because of the credit crunch, none of us was reticent about buying for fear that we would be paying over the odds, we simply had other reasons why we couldn’t put in bids on that day. So next time you see some bargains come up at auction don’t worry about recession, slow downs or crunches, there may be less sinister reasons why the prices are not being fetched. And remember this, the same people moaning to anyone who’ll listen about how prices are falling and we’re all doomed are usually the same ones who were, only a year or two ago, moaning to anyone who’d listen that prices were out of control and we were all doomed . . . ! My advice? Sit back, carry on collecting and enjoy the hobby. Sure if you need to sell your collection now you might not get as much for it as you may have a year or so ago but that’s just because money is tighter not because medals are a bad thing to own. And if you don’t need to sell then enjoy the bargains if and when you can and who knows when this credit crunch is all over, and it will be, those same bargains may look all the sweeter when prices start to rise again. Of course by then the doom mongers will be back telling us again that rises are unsustainable etc. Some people are just like that!
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