Medal News

Volume 41, Number 11, November 2003

Paying the price

Volume 41, Number 11, November 2003

It can’t have escaped anyone’s notice that the prices of medals are steadily increasing, and in some cases, particularly at recent auctions, that increase can only be described as “staggering”. There have been some phenomenal prices paid for groups in the last few months and on more than one occasion I have heard the lament that this hobby is becoming just too expensive. A few months ago I wrote that the “inflation” in the medal world was mainly due to discerning collectors being prepared to pay top dollar when the choice pieces they wanted came on the market – that still holds true but it would be a brave man who completely denied the presence of investment buyers at the salerooms up and down the country. As the stock market has proved unreliable at best over the past few years it isn’t surprising that the administrators of pension funds, savings schemes et al look elsewhere for places to invest; property has always been a safe bet but with scare mongering talk of crashes , negative equity and the like it’s no wonder that “antiques and collectables” are now in their sights. This leaves the “true” collector with something of a dilemma, after all most of us would vehemently deny that we were in this for the money but then none of us would be too pleased if we came to sell items from our collections only to get back less than we paid for them! So what do we do in circumstances like this? Do we carry on collecting, regardless of cost because we enjoy it but in the knowledge that because some prices are very high now we might actually make a loss? Or do we close our wallets, refuse to pay the prices that are currently being asked and wait for the investors to look elsewhere in the hope that the prices plateau if not actually fall? On the face of it neither of these seems a particularly attractive option, after all the first pre-supposes some kind of “crash” in medal prices and nobody wants to be caught out, no matter how dedicated a collector they are, whilst the second means that the collector has to let some choice pieces slip through his hands, pieces that might not come to light for many more years and pre-supposes that the investors will indeed one day get fed up and move on to richer pickings. There is of course a third way, an option that many people do seem to be taking – and that is to actually buy/accumulate as much as possible now because who knows how long this “inflation” can go on and won’t we be kicking ourselves this time next year when prices are even higher! I have lost count of the number of collectors and dealers alike who have bemoaned their lack of foresight when MMs were just £30 each rather than the £300+ they are fetching now and when you could hardly give Trios away! My advice, for what it’s worth is to try and take something from all of the above – certainly if pieces do come up that you are after it might be prudent to buy now because the price could indeed go up further – just as long as you collect for the sake of the hobby and because it is an interest rather than because you think you’ll make some money at the end of it. At the same time don’t get too carried away, you’ll find that dramatically overspending on something just because you feel you should have it, or because you’re worried it might not be at that price in the future, tends takes away something of the enjoyment of actually having it. That said only you the collector can know what overspending actually is, just because the price of something this year is 10/15/20% higher than last year doesn’t mean it isn’t worth buying – if you want it for your collection, if you will enjoy researching it, enjoy owning it and get pleasure out of being its keeper for this part of its history then how can you put a price on that?

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