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Here is my privy opinion

Since I earn my living by writing, it is natural that readers want to know what I think about certain topics.

However, there are some questions that just don’t have a single simple answer.

In my email over the weekend someone wrote me to ask what I think of privy marks.

That’s all. I expect the question refers to modern privy marks rather than historical privy marks that identify mints, moneyers or assayers, but that was not addressed in the email.

We live in an age of custom products and any mint that adds a privy mark to a mass produced coin suddenly has a product that can be distinguished from all the other otherwise identical mass produced coins.

Krause Publications, the parent firm of Numismatic News, had  some gold Isle of Man quarter Angel coins privy marked to indicate that they were issued in conjunction with the Chicago International Coin Fair. If my memory is working today, it was back in 1991 when we did this. It was a special issue.

It was one of our many ideas to promote the show. As with all promotions, a novel idea helps when it is first employed and then ceases to be novel so it is not used again.

In this context, I very much like privy marks as part of a promotional arsenal at our disposal.

Other firms using privy marks do it for the same reason. They want to call attention to themselves. They want to differentiate what they are doing from what others are doing and a privy mark can help them do it.

Collectors buy what interests them. Some find privy marks very interesting.

I expect my email inquirer is a collector who is asking whether he should buy coins that have privy marks on them just because they have privy marks on them.

That is a question that every collector has to answer for himself.

I bought the gold quarter Angel at the show and I still have it. Fortunately, the price of gold has gone up quite a bit since it was issued, so the coin is more valuable today than when I acquired it.

Does the privy mark add value to it? I expect if I took it to a coin dealer today, I would get the standard price offered for foreign gold coins that contain a quarter ounce of gold.

On the other hand, if I consigned it to an auction and the lot description included information like how many were issued and that I once owned it, it is possible that it could sell for a premium to gold value.

It also means I need to go talk to Clifford Mishler, now retired, who was my boss at that time because I no longer remember how many were created for CICF nor any other details.

So does this explain what I think about privy marks?

Perhaps I think too much.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

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