Coin News

Volume 44, Number 2, February 2006

The long term view

Volume 44, Number 2, February 2006

In recent months metal prices on the world markets, particularly gold and silver prices, have sky rocketed; as we go to press gold stands at its highest price for many years, and whilst not at the heady days of the mid-seventies it’s still at a level unparalleled for some time and thus those of us whose everyday lives bring us into contact with these commodities are left with something of a dilemma. Sitting in our collections we have silver and gold coins worth far more today than they have been for years and many of these coins are actually worth more as lumps of metal as they are as numismatic pieces – so what to do? Do we bite the bullet and sell, knowing that these coins are worth as much as they are, but also knowing that if we are to dispose of them they are likely to cease to be coins and will soon make their way into bars or ingots ready to be used elsewhere? Or do we hold on to them, ignore their scrap value and instead choose to see them remain as coins regardless of what they are worth in that state? To many such a question will be irrelevant, after all those lucky enough to hold hammered angels or nobles, or guineas from the reigns of Anne or James, wouldn’t dream of selling and those whose collections contain krugerrands and other “bullion” pieces, pieces whose price is based solely upon the value of the metal they contain, probably won’t think twice about disposing of them. But what of those of us occupying the middle ground? What of those whose collections contain a smattering of late Victorian and Edwardian sovereigns? What of those of us who find ourselves with shillings and florins from before 1920 that are now worth more than they have been in ages? What are we to do? Many collectors view such pieces as little more than round lumps of bullion anyway and up and down the country you’ll see numismatists scouring antique shops for pre’47 or pre ’20 silver shillings and threepenny bits not for their collectable value but rather because they know they can get several times face value from their local dealer - but that is already creating a problem. As more and more collectors are coming into our hobby so they are finding a distinct scarcity of certain coins, not the rare hammered pieces but rather the once common silver coins of the early 20th century. So many of these have gone for scrap that now completing a date run of EF shillings or florins is no easy task and suddenly collectors are waking up to the fact that all those coins sold over the years and melted down really have gone for good. The scrap silver boom created by the Hunt brothers in the late seventies probably did the most damage, certainly the medal world is now deeply regretting the loss of so many World War I medals and the coin world knows it too has lost out greatly, but that isn’t to say the current high metal prices won’t play their part in reducing still further the stock of coins available. NO one is denying that “selling for scrap” has place in our hobby, it does – how many people start off by collecting “rubbish”, those battered, damaged and practically unclassifiable coins most collectors would never touch, and then progress by selling them for their metal content in order to finance finer acquisitions? Quite a few of us I bet! To take that element out of the hobby would be to deny many new collectors (and many dealers) golden opportunities and no one would want that but that aside we must not lose sight of the fact we are coin collectors, we aren’t in this just for the money, don’t collect just because something has a scrap value but rather because, to us at least, it represents something more. By all means carry on selling the true “scrap” but please do remember, as metal prices soar and as those VF shillings and late “Vickie sovs” start looking more like bullion than like coins, that once they are sold and melted down they really will been gone forever and our hobby will be a poorer place because of it.

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