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Conder tokens teach pricing lesson

As mentioned in an earlier story, Q. David Bowers was president of Paramount International Coin Corporation before I went with the company in 1967. Before he left, he made a trip to Great Britain and must have hired a separate boat to bring back all his plunder. It was a great variety of material. I do not recall what all there was but there were many, many rolls of 1950 and 1951 British pennies, a large quantity of silver crowns and a goodly number of copper Conder tokens.

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I was with Paramount five years and year after year those British coins appeared on the inventory sheets. They were going nowhere. I am a sucker for beauty. The Conder tokens were truly magnificent. I must plead ignorance concerning the word “Conder” and Conder tokens. The dictionary does not help and the coin references I have do not make any mention.

(Editor’s note: The 18th century tokens struck privately in Great Britain took their name from James Conder, who was the first to catalog them in 1798.)

I know that it seems that the Conder tokens never seem to be mentioned and never offered anywhere now and were not part of the usual trade then. The fact was that what Paramount had were near perfect full proofs and just marvelous to look upon.

When I was making plans to leave Paramount, I knew they wanted desperately to move some of this material from Great Britain. I had a chance to “buy low.” (See my story on investing.) Whether I could “sell high” I did not know, but with the Conder tokens, I did not care. I wanted them around just to look at. They were that appealing. I bought all of the Conder tokens, several of the 1950 and 1951 pennies and several crowns.

I sold all the crowns to an investor who was a doctor in Troy, Ohio, for little more than the bullion value and dribbled out the other material over time.

Finally I decided to take the Conder tokens to a show. I left Barbara at the table while I went out to work the floor to make show expenses the easy way. My instructions to Barbara were, “I want $40 each for the tokens, $35 if someone takes them all.” I came back to the table in a short time and Barbara greeted me happily with the news that she had sold all the Conder tokens.

“What did you get?”

“$35.” She had sold the whole group which I had prized so highly for a total of $35 instead of $35 each.

Well, easy come, easy go. That is the formula for losing over $700 in one fell swoop. And remember, $700 then was far more precious than $700 now. A table at the American Numismatic Association convention was a whopping $200 then.

I had an expensive lesson. I hope you will not find yourself in a similar situation.

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