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Treasure sales method makes history

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Who doesn’t like a good story about buried treasure? News of the incredible find in California will echo across the hobby for years. See the front page story about the discovery in California of 1,427 gold coins dated 1847 to 1894.

Once collectors finish with their warm daydreams about finding gold in their own backyards, they will start thinking about trying to buy some of the coins when they are put up for sale. That is where they, too, will make history.

If Kagin’s, Inc., follows through on its plans to sell most of the coins online through Amazon.com, it will be an historic event.
No such hoard has ever been sold that way before. It could set a precedent.

Previously, hoards usually have been sold through national marketing campaigns, or auctions conducted by numismatic auction houses.

Certainly some of the rarities from this California discovery will go through traditional numismatic venues. Million dollar rarities should. It will assure that maximum value is obtained.

But apparently many of the coins are common enough that they can be offered online. I don’t mean to disparage that method of sale, but I expect the reason for selling the coins online is in the hope of finding enough buyers who are carried away by the romance of buried treasure to be willing to pay significant premiums over what more pragmatic numismatic buyers would be willing to pay.

That, of course, is the goal of any properly conducted sale of such material.

Without being privy to insider details, I can only speculate.

Perhaps Amazon paid a premium for the privilege of being the sales medium. It would certainly be good publicity for the firm.

Perhaps a hard-headed calculation of likely sales prices indicated the desirability of avoiding auctions and the related consignor fees and buyer’s fees.

It will be fun to learn each new detail as this story unfolds in the coming months.

Most of the coins of this new treasure are $20 gold pieces. They have a high base price because of the nearly one troy ounce gold weight of each coin. Multiples of bullion value that these coins are likely to bring means that I will be excitedly writing about the sale and prices achieved, but I will not be a buyer.

But that brings up a bit of wisdom related to me long ago by Don Kagin’s late father, Art. He told me when I was young and wet behind the ears that collectors cannot afford to buy coins every day, but they can read about them every day.

He was certainly right. That has been the basis of Numismatic News for 62 years. I will certainly be following this new treasure story every way I can and I am sure readers will be as well.

As hardheaded as we numismatists are, it doesn’t hurt to take a mental flight of fancy occasionally. It refreshes us. It also reacquaints us with our original motivation to be collectors in the first place. That “Gee Whiz” factor is still there and it is still powerful. Isn’t it?

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