Getting their man
Volume 60, Number 2, February 2023
Too high? I RECEIVED an interesting letter just before Christmas. It was from a gentleman who told us that it was, “Depressing to read articles every month of people buying items for hundreds of thousands of pounds with limited or no coverage for other collectors like me”. Now, I have to object to at least part of his complaint—we do try our best to cover as much as possible across the collecting spectrum and don’t only talk about coins worth £100,000s. True, some issues (like December) may be a little heavy on expensive gold coins but it’s not like that every month and we do, always, include coverage of more affordable items where we can—look at the View from the Bay, the New Issues etc. That said, the reader was absolutely correct that we do cover more expensive items—particularly in Auction Highlights and News & Views because those are the things that we believe are the highlights, they are the newsworthy bits! Whilst it’s perhaps more realistic for collectors to read about the lower value items making what they are supposed to, to read about half crowns in EF fetching £20–30 or Maundy sets selling for a few hundred pounds each, such stories wouldn’t usually be considered “news”. Things worth reporting on, things worthy of the name “Highlights” are, by their very nature, the unusual items, the expensive items, the attention-grabbing items. The more “ordinary” pieces just aren’t that interesting. Or are they? It is not our job, of course, to report on every single lot sold at auction, each auction house will publish their prices realised and it’s a simple matter of giving the auctioneer a call or going online to see what made what. As a rule, we haven’t got the room to report on everything and so it seems futile to report that a Royal Mint Unc set made £15 or a bag of 1967 3d pieces made £50 when there are other things to focus on. Whilst I know that many, indeed most, collectors are more likely to have Royal Mint Uncirculated sets or brass 3ds than double leopards or gold aureii, I’m still not convinced they would consider the former a “highlight” of any auction. Across the world, auction reports are the same: they focus on the big-ticket items, the rarities, the things that make the big bucks—you’ll never see a BBC report on a local artist’s paintings making £100, but when a Picasso makes £100m then that’s news. We have always followed that pattern, not everything we report on makes £100,000s but I fully accept we rarely report on anything that makes just a tenner. I call it the “Top Gear Principle”, when people tune in every week to the motoring show not to see reviews of spark plugs or windscreen wipers, but to see supercars or lumbering luxury SUVs costing a quarter of a million being blasted around a track. Few of us will ever own a such a car but we like watching them, like to think to ourselves “maybe one day” even if we know were we to win the lottery we’d never splash out on something quite as gaudy as the bright green Lamborghini featured on that week’s show. But am I right? Have I, for years, been kidding myself that COIN NEWS readers care about the big-ticket items? Are you really interested in knowing how much a Gothic crown sold for? Do you care about the coins of Alexander the Great? Does a Quintas Labienus denarius hammering at £75,000 leave you cold? Does learning about a William IV crown selling for £87,000 make you want to turn the page? To me, such things are the very essence of “highlights”. I don’t really want to know about the smaller stuff, I can find that information out if I need to, I know that, so I’d rather read about the stuff I can’t afford with that ever hopeful “maybe one day” in the back of my mind, but is that just me? Would you, the readers, rather we didn’t concentrate on the big sellers and instead focused on more realistic items, the items more of you are likely to have in your collections? (I do accept some of you have the bigger ticket items, they’re being bought by somebody after all, but you know what I mean!). We know we’ll never please everybody all of the time, of course. If we report on Royal Mint Uncirculated sets then you can guarantee those with bags of 1967 3ds will say that has no relevance to them and vice versa; numismatics is far too varied a subject to be able to get it exactly right but, if you genuinely don’t like reading about the items fetching tens and hundreds of thousands, especially in these more straitened times, then do let us know. We may not be able to please everybody, but we don’t want to annoy you either! Oh, and please remember—if we don’t seem to cover a particular subject you’d like to read more on, then that’s usually because we haven’t had anyone write an article on it up until now—so why don’t you? We’re always looking for new submissions and it may encourage others to put pen to paper too!
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