Valour in Afghanistan
Volume 51, Number 1, January 2013
Backwards and forwards THE joint December/January issue of MEDAL NEWS is always a good opportunity for reflection and forward thinking—those of you who know your Roman mythology will remember that the month of January is named after the two-faced god Janus who was the god of beginnings and endings, of transitions and of gateways. His two faces looked back and forward, scanning the past and the future and this issue is always a little like that. 2012 hasn’t (yet) seen the end of the world (we have a month left I accept) despite what the Mayans and Hollywood predicted and in fact it didn’t even see the end of civilisation as we know it—despite what the media predicted! As the year draws to a close the financial institutions haven’t gone into melt down, the Eurozone has, somehow, managed to survive and most of us can still afford to eat. Yes, it is true that for some money has become a little tighter as prices rise and people start worrying about their jobs, but in general those of us in the rarefied atmosphere of the medal world haven’t really been that badly hit in 2012. As I write this we have just had the second and last Britannia Medal Fair of 2012 and once again it was a great success with both dealers and collectors commenting on how buoyant everything seemed, how there was a “buzz” around the room— and so there was. From the moment the dealers started setting up at 8.00am, through the opening of the doors to the public at 9.30am and on to the official close at 2.00pm there was activity everywhere, people everywhere and, I hope, deals being done everywhere—I certainly saw a great many happy faces. But I am not saying this just to plug how great Britannia was (although it was, and the next one is Sunday March 17, 2013 . . .), but rather as an illustration of how strong our hobby remains. This is borne out by the magnificent array of items coming up for auction and available on dealers’ lists. There seems to be no end of simply stunning groups and rare singles appearing and, more importantly, disappearing just as quickly. The sheer number of amazing groups for sale might lead some to speculate that because times are hard they are coming to market because their owners are being forced to sell, and whilst I am sure that is true for some of the items coming from families, the key fact is that they are all finding new homes. Look at any list or website, any auction catalogue and you will see medals vanishing as quickly as they appear, you will see very few unsold lots and you will note that prices aren’t just holding steady but they are creeping up. True, the huge increases of a few years ago aren’t in quite as much evidence anymore, but in the main you won’t find many things cheaper now than you did before the financial crisis hit four years ago. The simple fact is, the medal market remains a very buoyant one. But that was 2012, what I wonder does 2013 have in store for us? I don’t, of course, have a crystal ball. I can’t pick lottery numbers to save my life and the last time I bet on the Grand National my horse was still running when it came to Derby Day, but even I would hazard a guess that this coming year will see more of the same—and maybe a little bit more on top. This financial crisis cannot go on forever, they never do, everything in the world of finance is cyclical and every recession/depression we have ever had has one day ended and has been replaced by years of boom time (sorry Gordon Brown, you can’t end boom and bust—even Joseph knew that when he interpreted Pharaoh’s seven thin cows/seven fat cows dream). I don’t know when it will end, but I know it will and as it does I see our little hobby growing and growing once again—if you think prices have been strong this year, you just wait until next, when people are feeling more secure about their jobs, inflation isn’t so high, the gas and electricity companies have been censured for price fixing (we know it’s coming) and the Eurozone has finally collapsed or cemented itself secure . . . when that happens we will see “outsiders” coming back into our hobby, the family historians, the antique collectors with a yearning for something new, those with a bit of spare cash eager to move away from the paltry bank rates (we just know they aren’t going up as fast as they should). All of them will start coming into our hobby as they have done in years gone by—and the coming centenary of World War I will only add to that, and as they do so you will see a surge in prices again. Availability will tail off as families, no longer eager for cash, will stop selling and buyers will become more plentiful. As this happens so we “serious” collectors will look back on this “recession” with some fondness, I think. But please don’t get me wrong, I’m not really complaining, just pointing out that as Janus looks back so he sees a strong hobby with some great items coming up on a regular basis, all of which are snapped up by eager collectors, and as he looks forward he sees a hobby growing as more and more people come into it, with prices on the up and thus the value of our collections rising regularly. That’s not a bad gateway to be standing in now is it?
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