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Escala focuses on U.S.

Greg Manning Auctions has been purchased by Escala Group, Inc.

Greg Manning Auctions has a new name. It is Escala Group, Inc.
The parent firm of Spectrum Numismatics, A-Mark Precious Metals, Teletrade, Bowers and Merena Auctions and Kingswood Coin Auctions has a new president and chief executive officer, Jose Miguel Herrero, to go with it.

On Oct. 11, Herrero joined with Numismatics Division head Greg Roberts to talk to Numismatic News about their future and how they view their firm’s role in numismatics.

“The North American market is the most important market in the world today,” Herrero said. Corporate strategy will be crafted to recognize this fact while at the same time building on the firm’s operations in Europe and Asia.

That puts readers of Numismatic News right in the heart of the target market of a company that in 2004 had aggregate sales (total proceeds from the sale of consigned and owned inventory, plus commissions) of $313 million, nearly half of it in numismatics. While neither Herrero or Roberts can specify their corporate growth expectations in order to comply with securities laws,

Roberts said, “A big area for the market right now I’m finding with A-Mark is in modern and back-dated silver and gold (American) Eagles. I don’t know it was there 10 years ago.”

He characterized the market as having experienced a “tremendous advance in demand.” The firm is working with the U.S. Mint to help meet that demand.
“We hope to provide a complete range of products, services and financing for our wholesale customers and be a conduit from the Mint to the end user,” Roberts explained.

Rapid growth is not confined to just bullion coins. Roberts pointed to auction results and demand for collector coins as equally explosive.

“We’re very optimistic about the coin hobby or coin business. (There has been) tremendous growth over the last four or five years.” He cited auction lots bringing over $50,000 each as a “sign of growth in that market.

“The market is expanding. The customers I’m seeing are much more sophisticated than I’ve seen in my history,” he continued.

Roberts’ personal history in numismatics goes back to 1974 when he started collecting at the age of 12. He went from the Covina (Calif.) Coin Club bid board into professional numismatics in his junior and senior years in high school.

Just 43 now, Roberts has a quarter century in the professional business. He joined Spectrum in the early 1990s when it was still an independent company and eventually became a partner.

“In the year 2000, we decided to be part of a bigger company,” Roberts said. A deal was done with Greg Manning in February of that year.

Growth by acquisition continues to be an integral part of the Escala Group’s ongoing corporate strategy.

“Acquisitions have played an important role in the past,” Herrero said as he affirmed their continuing importance in the future. “We can be a world player in fine collectibles ... We expect to be in more segments as we move forward.”

Though Herrero has no personal experience in collectibles, the firm relies on its inside experts to run the various businesses. Roberts fits that role for coins as Numismatics Division head. “We pretty much run as autonomous brands out here,” Roberts explained.

“Spectrum and A-Mark brands are two of the stronger brands,” he said. They are not affected by the name change. Nor are any of the other companies the firm owns.

Herrero explained that the name change was intended to “give a message to the market of the strategic direction of the company. ... We separated the corporate name from the operating companies that we have.”

In short, the names long familiar to their many clients will continue to be the names of the firms Escala owns and operates.

Herrero, who is 50, brings a background of having worked for Auctentia, an auction business in Europe that was acquired in 2001 by Escala’s parent firm, Afinsa. As a consequence, he joined the board of directors in 2003 and has now been named president and CEO.

He has an MBA from University of California – Berkeley and also served as CEO of an Internet company in Spain 1996-2000.

What of Greg Manning, the man for whom the firm was originally named? He remains in stamps, the firm’s founding market, as president of the North American and Asian Philatelic Auction Division and vice chairman of the board of directors. Stamps is still roughly 50 percent of the business, though its percentage will change as Escala Group follows its new path of organic growth and growth by acquisition

Roberts perhaps offered the best summary description of the future of Escala Group when he said, “We offer just about every kind of coin a collector would want. We hope to provide coins for every type of collector or investor.”

Now that’s something Numismatic News readers can appreciate.