INVESTMENT ADVICE FOR
STAMP AND COIN COLLECTORS.

 


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Above: Always desirable, always collectable, its just a matter of price. These historical George III (1760-1820) Guineas  are sometimes available for $1000 to $2000 Australian dollars, ie usually mid grade, VF to EF, with the normal minor faults and marks, expected for a coin in this price range and age.

George III Gold Guinea, circa 1790s. Such a historic period with the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars,  not to mention the colonization of Australia, all happened during George III's reign. A little over 8 grams of 22 carat gold, also with a collector interest. 

(This article was written in 2008 and has been added to since then. In 2008 the price of a gold sovereign was $450, it is now more like $700, a dozen or so years later. In 2008 the price of a GB gold guinea in mid grade was $700, now it is at least $1000.)

Collecting Coins and Stamps is a wonderful hobby, practiced as long ago as ancient times where affluent Romans would collect coins of the ancient Greeks who ruled before them. 

People such as myself, who love history and the past, find a real connection with coins and stamps, one of the truly affordable souvenirs of history. Being the first mass production item, coins from historic periods are surprisingly affordable, although some are extremely rare.

Too many people confuse the hobby with investment however.

If stamp and coin collecting is a hobby, then cost is secondary, just as is playing golf, or building model planes, going fishing, etc.

If you make the connection with history and the world in general then you can't fail to enjoy coins or stamps. They are also a wonderful education for children, and can be a relatively cheap geography and social sciences lesson.

Coins and stamps will always have some value at the end, unlike many other hobbies. They are certainly a better bet than the pokies, and are really another form of entertainment. If you treat them this way, you will never be disappointed.

Collectables wait for you. They need minimal maintenance or attention in the times you are otherwise occupied.

If you are investing, then different criteria are involved than when you are  collecting.   

Collecting means following your passion and interest.  For example, I collect Ancient Greek & Roman silver and bronze coins. 

Most coins I buy are usually sold later at a modest gain, which, with all expenses taken into account, is more often like a small loss, in real terms. 

Why do I collect them then? 

Because of the history and artistry involved, the sense of romance about long ago, I suppose. Certainly not for the monetary gain, which I know, will usually be minimal.

Investing means taking a different view. Most items need to be both RARE and WANTED to appreciate in value. Although many of my ancient coins are rare, they have to be wanted, and whilst they are overseas, it is not so much the case in Australia. 

If you buy common material, that is available anywhere, such as mint product, as an "investment", it will always be common and be readily available on the secondary market, often at discounted prices. An "investment" is not a good buy just because you can afford it..

 This strategy might mean possession of less items, but, if properly chosen, they should hold their relative value and give you the pleasure of ownership. Condition is important but not absolute. Overall appearance and centering is as important as any technical grading. 

If you are considering Investing some money in coins/stamps, consider this.

If you have a few thousand dollars or less in total to spend over the lifetime of your interest, this is not really an investment.

Treat it more as a hobby, given what a dollar buys you these days.

For people with larger amounts than a few thousand dollars, please, please, test the water first. 

Buy some lower grade, cheaper coins or stamps to get a feel for grading and what you need to look for that determines different grades.  

Buy a book or two and/or some catalogues first, to get some background knowledge of the series that interests you.  

Subscribe to the monthly Coin or Stamp magazines, which have useful articles and advice for collectors. If you don't KNOW about the background to coins and stamps, how do you know what is scarce and wanted... 

PLEASE - Don't invest in coins and stamps if you don't care about history or the artistry and romance of these objects. 

Stick the money in the bank or under the bed instead.

STAY WELL, WELL CLEAR OF ANYONE OFFERING "GUARANTEED" RETURNS ON RARE COINS, STAMPS OR NOTES!

This is an impossible guarantee in a floating market and usually leads to tears.

It is a Ponzi scheme in another form. 

They tell you your investments are increasing, but wait till you try to cash them in and recover the original amount. 

Also coins and notes sold by people offering guaranteed returns are usually way, way overpriced.

(Clint Eastwood to Charlie Sheen's father in "The Rookie") IF YOU WANT A GUARANTEE - BUY A TOASTER!!

Do not rely on other people to tell you what to buy. Study the market and learn for yourself, find something that INTERESTS you, that is always a good start.

Often investment is a matter of timing or luck. No one can say for certain whether something will increase in price, in REAL terms. 

Anyone who bought Australian Mint Product in the 1966-74 period is still well ahead in the investment stakes. 

  If you invested in the 1975- 1999 period at the issue price, then, in many cases, you are well behind in REAL terms and will be for a while. This is because everyone did the same thing in those years and the Mint and the post office responded by issuing larger amounts. However, these sets 1975-1999 might also become rather scarce in future years, because so many complete sets have been broken up and the coins individually slabbed in recent times. If this trend continues, complete, original sets will become scarcer. 

Some more recent mint product has often retained the value better than say, proof sets from the 1980s-90's. Also, on a percentage basis, lower priced mint product has performed much better than higher valued mint product. The yearly Mint sets (either UNC or Proof sets) are the best to buy. They are always wanted by people for birth year gifts and have proved to be a good investment at issue price over most of the years they were issued.

Buyers of quality Australian pre-decimal banknotes that did their buying 30 years ago are sitting on a fortune now. That can't be said, in real terms, for people who bought bundles of  $1/$2 notes in the 1980s. Some later 2000's & current Australian proof and mint issues and stamps look a reasonable bet, as mintage was much lower in many cases, than in the years 1977- 99. 

Here is an example of timing and luck. Husband dies at end of 1965. Wife gets $4000 from estate in early 1966 (you could have bought a house in 1966 for that money) 

It is put into 200 of the new 1966 $20 notes. Notes sold for $50 each in 2006 = $10,000. 

That represents a massive LOSS in REAL terms when inflation is taken into account, BECAUSE 1966 $20s were made in large quantities and are common. 

Here is the rub. If the death had occurred one year later and the notes were bought in 1967, they would have been Coombs/Randall signatures and 200 UNC $20 Coombs/Randall notes are RARE and would be worth $500,000+ today. 

Investment in collectables is largely a matter of timing, knowledge and luck.

CONDITION: It is quite possible to take a mania for condition too far. 

Good examples of this are to be found in Australian mint & proof sets and Australian decimal stamps. 

If you relax and start to enjoy the hobby, rather than worrying about the investment side of it, big savings can be had in this area. Example. 1985,86,87,88,89 proof sets. 

New and perfect, cost $50 to $60 each, depending on where and when you bought them. Same sets, missing outer box, (collectors often throw the boxes out, for all sorts of silly reasons) or with scratches/cracks in case (coins still perfect mind you) price $25 to $30. 

You can often save $20-$30 or more on mint product that has soiled or damaged or missing outer boxes. As long is as the coins are securely housed and not stolen property, that should be your two main concerns in this area. 

The idea is to get some joy of ownership, that doesn't mean sticking them away in a box and never looking at them.  

Sure, with things that are rare and desirable, we take particular note of condition, many items from the 1970's-1980's do not quite fit that category.... 

Australian decimal stamp yearbooks 1981 to the present are another example. They are meant to be read and enjoyed, not stuck away never to be looked at. So what if a few pages have finger marks or minor faults...

It is called life, wear and tear..  Believe me, when they are sold as a bulk lot, they go most times for EXACTLY the same price as brand new ones that have never been touched or opened...

Investment in stamps/coins is a medium to long term goal. 

Few people succeed in the short term, or if they buy common material as an investment, because of the cost involved with buying and selling

Remember that there is always a cost of selling your items, a fact too many people fail to take into account. Investing in coins/stamps is NOT for the impatient, who want to turn their money around quickly, unless you are lucky or an expert.

If you would like to Put some money safely aside into coins then I suggest GOLD and Silver coins at fairly close to the bullion price. 

They are always wanted, and can be traded with a minimum of knowledge. This is important if you are putting coins aside for children who have to negotiate it after you are gone.. 

Whilst gains may be uncertain, losses will be minimal, and Gold and Silver coins are easily converted back into CASH...

Gold and silver has been used as a medium of exchange for THOUSANDS of years. Gold is beautiful, durable, portable and reasonably scarce. Men have fought, slaved, sweated and died over it for many centuries.. 

It is an international currency and one day again VERY SOON may be the ONLY currency, as paper money is only backed by a promise and nothing much more substantial.

The US Fed and now every other country is printing billions every month, It is going to end in hyper inflation or worse, eventually, just like Germany circa 1923.

The USA is broke and in decline. The Chinese & Asian century is dawning, meaning inevitable conflict and massive change. 

Australia one day will be Asian, with a population of HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of people.

If ever a rich, indulged, spoilt country was ripe for invasion, it is Australia. Without our fellow English speaking and democratic peoples, the declining and hopelessly divided USA, we would be dead, plucked ducks. As for Britain, the Empire went to dust 50+ years ago.

We are so lucky there is water all around us.

Democracy, rule of law and the systems we take for granted are a very fragile and fleeting structure when measured in the time frame, terms and actions of history. There have been very few democracies throughout history and most of those have been relatively short lived.

Even our guns are gone, melted down by Howard and Co. They could have at least stored some of those weapons with the army, we will need them in the future and maybe sooner than you think.

For now, the USA have the aircraft carriers and the nuclear submarines, but for how much longer can they afford them?

Would the USA risk nuclear war to save Australia? I wonder? Australia could well be the pawn in future US-Chinese conflict, because, let's face it, whichever superpower controls Australia with its vast mineral, agricultural and energy resources, really controls the world.

Russia broke up as a superpower because the USA simply spent them to death, now the USA is going the same way.

(Some thoughts about the rise of China, written late 2020).

First, I have nothing against the Chinese people. My next door neighbour is Chinese and we get on well and have helped each other out on numerous occasions. If they cut themselves, their blood is red, the same as mine.

China has a long, distinguished history of civilization and invention, such as paper and gunpowder, the Chinese are an intelligent, hard working race of people.

The people who run China, the Chinese Communist (Fascist) Party are the problem. They have no respect for human rights and hate the West. 

They are mis-named, because they really are the Nazis of the 21st century, imprisoning millions in concentration camps and practicing widespread rape and sterilisation of ethnic minorities, shamelessly breaking their international treaty obligations such as the Sino-British treaty of 1984 over Hong Kong, trampling on the borders of other countries such as India and in the South China Sea, buying up Pacific Island and Indian Ocean countries with obvious economic blackmail, plus their state sponsored widespread hacking and theft of intellectual property, widespread copying of anything valuable (example: Melbourne Centenary florin, 1932 florin, 1938 crown, coins all relentlessly copied by the Chinese). 

Total control of Taiwan is next on the list for China, in fact Taiwan will most likely become the Munich 1938 of the 21st century. 

At Munich in 1938 the Czechs were thrown under the bus to the Nazis by Britain & France and the USA will not do much to stop one branch of Chinese people being taken over by the mainland. THE USA will shed little blood or treasure for the democratic rights of Taiwan. They will however, supply the Taiwanese with all the weapons they can pay for...

China is a country with no rule of law. People are held for months or years without trial, when they do come to trial the conviction rate is 99.9%, executions are the highest in the world, censorship is widespread and almost total, faith and religion is supressed and discouraged, dissent is ruthlessly crushed, arbitrary dentention of foreigners for political reasons is common and getting worse. 

For all the faults of Western democracy, there is at least an illusion of freedom of opinion and worship. The CCP runs a system totally alien and repugnant to the principles of democracy and freedom. With 1.4 billion people, no-one has much time in China for individual rights.

The West imposed 100 years of humiliation on China, this has not been forgotten and will be returned, in spades.

China has massively increased its defence spending and has a huge surplus of young men due to its population policy. One of the biggest sellers in China is sex dolls, sold to Chinese men who have little hope of finding a partner... 

What better than to put them in uniform and send them off to war? Expands your Empire and solves your population inbalance in one go. Whilst one Empire declines, another expands, that is the lesson of history. What is history anyway? One long tale of invasion, conquest and fighting over land and resources. 

Maybe the Chinese do not need to invade, why invade what you are already buying and own the best parts of anyway? China has bought up or owns key parts of Australia, especially power and water assets. Do you really think this is going to end well for Australia? 

The traitors who leased the port of Darwin to the Chinese should be strung up. It would be like Pig Iron Bob Menzies leasing the port of Darwin to the Japanese in 1939. 

Now they want to build a "resort" (read naval base) 50 km from Australia in PNG. They have economically blackmailed Sri Lanka into providing them a deep water port (naval base) and if we are not careful, will soon control all the shipping lanes to Australia. The Solomon Islands and PNG are VITAL to Australia's national security and thousands of lives were expended in WW2 to keep these allies from falling to the Japanese.

Every dollar spent with China gives them a few more cents to spend on weapons, economic blackmail of other countries and surveillance. Stop dealing with China, stop being seduced by Chinese money. It will end very badly for democratic countries. Old Chinese proverb. "He who feeds the crocodile gets eaten last" 

Besides, much of their product is polluted rubbish that will be in landfill in 5 years or less.

Whilst we close our power stations and decimate our industry, China is in the process of opening 22 (count them, twenty two) more coal fired power stations. So much for global warming...

The USA, as seen by their involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has also learnt NOTHING from history whilst wasting TEN TRILLION dollars and thousands of lives, even though they went through the eerily similar Vietnam only 25 years before!

If Australia was invaded, which it most likely will be one day (hopefully, not in our lifetime) what would your Australian plastic dollars and bank accounts be worth then????

Any person serious about protecting the value of money or worried about the currency system, or the course of future history, SHOULD HAVE SOME OF THEIR MONEY IN SILVER OR GOLD coins or bars.

Not all of it, because silver and gold earns no interest or dividend whilst you are holding it (not really an issue these days, as interest rates are virtually zero and will be for a long time), but a small amount, say at least 10% of your overall investment holding. 

Call it insurance. 

Better still, have your own self-managed Superanuation fund, buy some gold and silver and claim a tax deduction for it!

Shares, paper money and bank/government guarantees mean absolutely nothing more than a promise to repay and are backed by virtually confidence alone.

When that confidence is lost, goodbye savings, goodbye banks, goodbye governments, hello inflation and chaos.

Gold and silver is real and tangible, much more reassuring than figures on a piece of paper.

If you want to have the least possible spread between buy and potential sell price, BUY .999 fineness or above gold and silver bars or coins at as close to the bullion price as you can, as these are not subject to GST.

Every capital city has a bullion dealer who can help you out with .999 or above gold bars or modern gold coins.

If you have an interest in history and would like some coins that have a high bullion value, but also a historical or numismatic interest, buy Australian gold sovereigns or Australian pre-decimal coin denomination sets in average grades and 1966 silver coins or world silver coins at fairly close to bullion price. 

Whilst you may not make much money on them, neither will you lose much either, as these items are popular, fun to research and easy to re-sell, especially since eBay and the Internet came along.

I sometimes have available silver round Australian 50c coins from 1966. Three make exactly an ounce of fine silver and silver is an attractive metal that is always in demand. At present, I buy them for about $10-$11 each and sell them for about $12-$13 each, depending on grade. 

Also, sometimes in my stock is modern mint product at virtually the silver values, eg Masterpieces in silver sets, $10 State series silver coins from the 1980s, etc. 

 I usually have sets or near sets of Aussie silver 3d, 6d, shillings and florins. These have a good bullion value and also a historic or numismatic interest.

Regarding gold, I usually have available some nice late 19th and early 20th century sovereigns, mostly minted in Australia, some in England. 

These are so historic and easily traded and are often seen in higher grades for close to the bullion price. 

These are a perfect way to collect and learn about old Australian gold coins and coins in general without risking too much, as the bullion value of even the worst of them is reasonably close to the sale price. 

Many sovereigns from the early 20th century are a much safer investment than many silver and copper coins from this period, and, in the same grade, much more affordable. 

Compare a 1915 Melbourne sovereign in near UNC for about $750 (2020 price) and the price of any similar grade Australian silver or copper coin from 1915.

Also that copper or silver coin from 1915 has minimal intrinsic value, where as the 1915 Sovereign has high gold intrinsic value.

By all means, buy high grade copper/silver 1915 Australian coins if you want to. Just make sure you know exactly what you are doing regarding grade versus price.

If you have an interest in history, buy some historical coins made under the authority of famous figures or depicting famous scenes such as Trajan's Gate or the Colosseum. 

These have a worldwide market and are always popular. Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Nero, Alfred the Great, William the Conqueror, Genghis Khan, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, etc, all struck coins.

Another area to consider, if you have an interest in Australian history, is the series of merchant halfpenny and penny tokens made during the Australian gold rush period 1850s-1870s.

They are a real part of our history and whilst some are rare and expensive, many are quite cheap in lower to mid grades. There are about 600 of them, with about 300 different types.

They are an often overlooked part of our past, but are historically interesting and worthwhile.

Most collections or investments, if formed coherently and over a long period will average out the gains and losses, leaving one wiser and with a tangible asset. Items like the trade tokens mentioned above fall into this category. 

Also, most importantly, collecting banknotes, stamps and coins will return an investment in knowledge and history that can't be measured totally in monetary terms. 

Finding a dealer who you can trust and who will look after you is VERY important also. I remember some good relationships over the years with other dealers when I was purely a collector. 

The enemy of every dealer is time, we gladly give it to customers that are prepared to return us something to help us stay in business. Those dealers were happy to look after me and share their knowledge, because they could see I was enthusiastic and was not just a one-off buyer, or worse, someone out to waste their time and pick their brains. 

Knowledge does not come cheaply, how much would a University Degree in coins cost? 

My library of reference books cost $1000's and is still grossly inadequate. 

Examples of what to avoid and the responsibilities of the dealer and the buyer.

                                                                                            Appearances can deceive, sometimes.

 I know some very honourable mail-order and Internet dealers, ie Michael Kupermann, Dick Pot, Geoff Yates, John Watson, who don't have shops. 

Shops cost a lot to run and staff, sometimes they can be a benefit to the collector, but one usually pays more for that service, especially when selling items. 

On most items that I buy, I usually beat shop buying prices, often by a fair margin...

1. Australian 1850s Taylor patterns.

 Some of the coins being offered by people who should (and do) know better are in fact forgeries made by David Gee. 

Be very careful in this area. A read of the book "Heads I Win" all about the infamous Mr Gee, is a must for any rare Australian coin collector.

2. IMPROVED BANKNOTES. 

 I sold an Australian 10 pound King George V banknote in VF for $1250 in 2005. 

It had been originally sold in 1996 by a dealer who knows better, as aUNC for $3000+ 

The note had been cleaned and pressed and had a pinhole. It was still a nice looking note, and rare, but VF was the realistic grade and $1250 in 2005 a realistic price. 

Cleaning and "improving" old Australian banknotes is a virtual industry in Australia. 

There is nothing wrong with this, in many cases it is restoration. What IS wrong is the failure to discount the price accordingly.  

It is logical really. Most  notes that are 50 or more years old, if truly UNC will not look "white" around the borders. Paper tones with age, due to pollutants and trace elements in the air. Most truly UNC notes, will in fact, have a grey sheen to them and not be white. 

There are VERY FEW truly UNC notes around from the King George V period. Many that look UNC have, in fact, been "improved" This is logical to a point and seems to be what the market demands.

How many 5 & 10 pound notes from the 1930s/40s never got circulated? Very few, 5 pounds  was a LOT of money in this period and those notes got spent. 

Look also for repairs, which can often escape the eye on first glance. If a note has been repaired, it should be in the description and the price discounted accordingly. 

Notes are a lot harder than coins to grade.

 3. Coins in fancy packaging.

This presents the coins better, but does not necessarily add to the value and is often a large portion of the original price. 

You often pay a lot for this packaging, which is pretty, but is not going to necessarily make the coins more valuable. 

Decimal Australian Gold coins priced at far above the intrinsic or gold value are often a good example of something to be wary of.. Australian 2000 Olympics gold set and silver set of 16 for example - compare issue price to what they sell for on eBay now..  

Fancy packaging, glossy brochures.. Who pays for these? The collector, who else?

4. CLEANED Higher priced (over say, $200) AUSTRALIAN PRE-DECIMAL Silver coins. 

My friend, Gerry McGinley, who is one of the straight shooters in this industry, has a 1934 florin, sold by a notorious dealer from the 1980's. Originally sold and described as UNC, it is in fact VF and has a bad scratch in the kings crown. Original sale price $1400, actual value about $20.

How did it get sold as UNC you ask? Simple. It has been cleaned and made to look a higher grade than it is. 

With most old florins you look at on a dealers tray, they should be different colours. 

Silver tones naturally with age, like paper, and will go a myriad of different colours, blues, greys, etc. 

If all the coins 1910-1940 look the same colour on a dealer's tray, alarm bells should start ringing. It is usually because they have been CLEANED, this is especially true of coins pre 1940. 

To be Uncirculated, Australian silver coins 1910-64 must have MINT LUSTRE or MINT BLOOM. This is difficult to put in words, but is a frosty looking "sheen" that was on them when they left the mint. All silver coins eventually lose this sheen as the toning (ageing) process takes over. 

This can take up to 200 years, depending on how they are stored. it is very rare indeed to see a silver coin more than 200 years old with mint lustre and toning usually begins after about 50-60 years, sometimes less, depending on how they were stored. 

Cleaned coins still have a value, but less than if the coin was truly UNC. If they are individual coins with a value over $200 each and not described as such, then your or your children are in for grief in years to come..

5. "Investment" Portfolios. 

 I have seen some lovely examples in the area of Investment Portfolios, usually sold in the 1970's - 1980's by slick salesman with fancy lifestyles and/or bad gambling habits. 

Coin portfolios sold for $10,000 TWENTY+ YEARS AGO that are worth $1500 today, etc. BEWARE of anything being offered as an "INVESTMENT" No-one can say for certain whether coins sold now will be a good investment or not. 

People peddling the term "INVESTMENT" are usually doing it to make more sales. If it is such a great investment, why are they selling it?? True, you can take an educated guess at what MIGHT be a good investment, but no-one knows for certain. 

Percentage wise, a lot of LOWER priced items have been the best investment.

Example. Australian Victoria Cross Dollar. Cost price $7.95 in 2000, retail value today (2020) about $80 or so. 

Future prices are VERY MUCH dependent on economic and maybe climatic conditions.  Remember - THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A 100% SAFE RISK FREE INVESTMENT! 

Such an animal doesn't exist, if it did, we would all have money in it! 

Coins and stamps, however, have more tangibles than just money, they have HISTORY right there in your hands.

                                                                                                                  Some other investment tips.

6. Too good to be true - it usually is!

If a coin/stamp is rare, it sells for much closer to the catalogue price than common items.

If something was genuine and worth $3000 - how come you were smart enough to get it for $500? 

The Internet is a big fantasy land, where people will give you what you think you want.

As I type this, some Asian (usually Chinese) sweatshop is turning out realistic copies of Australian coins.

Their work gets better, but they still have a way to go...

Buy from a reputable, professional dealer who backs what he/she sells with some consistency in the market and with some experience of what they are selling. Most professional dealers are members of a trade organization such as ANDA or APTA.  

Expect to pay a realistic price, dealers do not buy rare coins for nothing, we have to pay decent money for them in these competitive, internet driven days.  

Buying from non professionals is just not worth it over such things as Holey Dollars, 1934-35 Melbourne Centenary Florins, 1933 or 1915 shillings, 1938 crowns in particular, 1930 pennies and 1923 halfpennies, of which there are many fakes, ranging from crude to expert.

Have a look at the copies section of this website to see some examples.

As a full time coin dealer for over 20 years, it is my job to keep up with these things and I still sometimes get burned, so as an amateur:

What chance have you got?

Think about that, before dropping big money on so called rare coins with non professionals, ask first, what are the credentials and track record of the person selling them?

If they are someone on eBay or Gumtree with 200 feedbacks and they have 5 x 1938 crowns and half a dozen 1932 florins, 1933 shillings, 1934-35 Melbourne florins, but hardly any other coins listed for sale or recently sold, then just leave it go.

If they tell you the 1930 penny they have, was found under the floorboards of an old hotel, just leave it go.

If they tell you it was part of Grand dadís estate, just leave it go.

No layman who is convinced they have a real 1930 penny will negotiate it to the public.

They will seek the help of a coin dealer or large coin auction house.

6a Condition.

If you are on a budget, it is better to buy a RARER item in poor condition (at a price that reflects the condition) than a common item in TOP condition.

In my opinion, anyway. Rare is always wanted, there is always a market for it, no matter the condition.

Common is common and often turns up in high grade for very little.

7. Auctions - good luck!!  

Auctions - some good buys and bargains to be had and some traps for the unwary.

Most auctions have high buyer & seller & postage charges, most auctions even slug the buyer for credit card use at well above the merchant rate.

Recently I bought a single stamp from a Victorian stamp auction house, who will remain un-named. 
Their ridiculous postage fee on that single stamp was $18.21, I could have posted a similar item to them by Registered mail for $6. 
Just really short sighted business practice. They still waste their money by sending me catalogues, I just throw them in the recycling bin.

 Sometimes at auctions, it seems as if you are bidding against the pot plant in the corner, the ceiling fan or the vendor of the material...

Sometimes material sells very cheaply at auctions, other times it can sell for ridiculously high prices. 

If buying at auctions, view the items, do your research, set your price and stick to it, it is very easy to get outbid on what you want, get bored and end up with a whole lot of rubbish you didn't really want, this I have done at auction too many times...

Getting a refund for poorly described or defective items or any sort of prompt service from some auction houses, is very, very hard.

As a seller, getting auction houses to properly lot and describe your material can be difficult too..

They always encourage you to auction the material, even when, in some cases, it is MUCH more in the sellers interest to take a cash price from a dealer and be done with it.

They are often acting in their own (20-30% commission) best interest, NOT the best interests of the seller.

They tell you they will get the best return, when they do not (which is most of the time on common or cheaper material) they say that the market is quiet at the moment..

Gold $200 coins, most Australian gold sovereigns, Australian coin sets, Lower to mid grade or common Australian pre-decimal coins, Australian mint decimal stamps, Australian stamp yearbooks, etc all fall into this category.

As a dealer, I buy these types of items for cash at a better rate, than ANY auction house, after all their fees and charges, in this country gets you.

And who do you think buys most of the material auctions sell?

Dealers like me, that is who, without them, auctions would not happen, so you might as well avoid the middle man, where practicable.

Rare or unusual material, I will admit, that is sometimes a different matter. 

Something like a genuine 1930 penny or high grade, rare Australian pre-decimal coins/notes are often good items to auction..

8. Dishonest percentage returns.

 A favourite trick of "investment" peddlers, is to show you a graph of the rise in price of a coin or other item over some years.

Example 1930 penny. In 1975 approx cost $2000, value in 2008 of $20000, gain $18000 divide by 33 years = 54.54% percent a year gain. Right? Wrong. 

This dishonest  scenario TOTALLY fails to take into account Inflation and the fact that money BUYS CONSIDERABLY LESS per dollar than it did in 1975. What did you earn per week in 1975?

Yes, they have gone up in real terms, but only over the last 10 years, where they have jumped considerably in price, from approx $12000 in average grade to $20,000, due mainly to other factors, ie some shocking Superanuation returns 1998-2003 and again 2008 and 2009, low interest rates, lack of alternative investments, etc. 

A fairer way to look at this is as follows. Average weekly wage in 1975 $120, average weekly wage in 2008 about  $1000. In 1975 it took approx 16 weeks pay to buy a 1930 penny. In 2008 it took about 20 weeks pay to buy a 1930 penny. So yes, they have increased in real terms and represent a reasonable investment, but certainly NOT to the tune of 54.54% per year or anywhere near it. 

The best INVESTMENT you can make in coins or stamps is KNOWLEDGE and that only comes from diligent study and work, by reading and comparing and handling the items of interest to you.  

For example, I shudder to think of the amount of money people have dropped in higher grade Sydney Mint sovereigns over the years and I have been one of them. 

This area in higher grades is a hard area to RE-SELL when you have had enough of it. Reselling Sydney Mint sovereigns in higher grade usually means taking them back to the dealer who specializes in this area or putting them up for auction with a large auction house. 

With auction commissions often running at OVER 30% (at least 16.5% for buyer and often up to 15% for seller) this means that it takes a long time to see a return, if ever in real terms.

On the other hand, in high grade, those Sydney Mint sovereigns are just so damned beautiful.

So, if the money is not an issue, go for it. 

You only get one shot at life and it is there to be enjoyed, however, they may not be the "investment" you thought they were... 

9. Who are you buying from - will they look after you?

Here is an email sent by a so-called "dealer" in reply to one of their customers, who received a pile of rubbish, masquerading as something better and requested a refund..

"I will respond to your email in due course, the rudeness of the email probably says more about you than me. When I receive this type of email, it goes to the bottom of the reply pile. You will hear at my convenience, any further rudeness, and there will be no response, better to keep your mouth closed"

A perfect example of how NOT to treat a customer...

Deal with professionals with a long time in the industry, if buying sight unseen. 

You want a refund? I will give you one, within 30 days. Whilst in some cases, I admit, I won't be thrilled about it, I will do it, as I am REQUIRED to do by Australian consumer law and also, you bought it sight unseen, so in my opinion, that entitles you to a refund if not satisfied.

10. Coin in slabs graded by 3rd party grading companies.

This is an area you need to be very careful of and consider whether money is an issue or not. 

If money is not the issue, enjoy yourself, have a good time.

If you are treating them as an "investment" consider this:

Many slabbed coins I have seen appear to be overgraded and way, way overpriced. Some have obviously been cleaned.

High grade Australian coins pre 1940 or proof pre-decimal Australian coins - I can see some logic behind collecting slabbed examples of these, however, 3rd party grading companies seem to overgrade Australian pre-decimal coins. 

The American Numerical or Sheldon system, a number is assigned to the coin, in most cases it seems, WITHOUT taking into account the overall APPEARANCE! 

So, you have the ridiculous situation of let's say, a 1939 sixpence with 15 carbon spots all over it, grades MS64 and priced at $1250.

Or a 1927 Canberra florin, almost black in colour, downright ugly, graded MS 64 and priced at $400.

No one who knows about coins would pay more than $10 each for such coins.

Technically they might be a 64 or whatever number is given to them, but the carbon spots or black tone totally ruin the appearance,  making them next to worthless to anyone with half a brain and a pair of eyes.

This failure to discount the grade because of the appearance is a BIG problem with this area, in my opinion.

Australian coins after 1940 as an investment, in slabs, just forget it, most of them are reasonably common, even in high grades, not worth getting them slabbed (unless you are re-selling them) or paying the prices that dealers of slabbed coins charge, remember, just to get the coin slabbed costs $30 or more, which is the realistic value of many later high grade pre-decimal coins after 1940.

Here a few of examples of truly idiotic prices paid for slabbed coins recently.

1964 Penny MS 67 $1200 - it is a very common 50c to $20 (absolute tops) coin no matter what the grade

1943S MS 67 6d $11,000. Are you joking?? It is a $20 to $100 coin tops, often comes along in high grade.

1951 PL 6d $8000. More money than sense, a $50 coin at best, anyone with any knowledge knows this coin often comes along in high grade.

1958 MS 67 Penny $1500! And not even a proof. Forget it, it is a $50 coin tops.

1970 Cook 50c Specimen (you can buy them from me for $5 to $10) for $1500

There are strange people out there on ego trips with more money than common sense. 

Still, good luck to them, if you have got the money, someone will take it from you..

Good times for a few dealers who are making a lot of money out of it, they buy 3 million dollar houses and call them "the house that slabbed coins built".

Good times for the coin grading companies, who are making a lot of money out of it.

The American coin grading system from MS 63 through MS70 is a ridiculous exercise in hair splitting, pandering to a bunch of pie-eyed morons with zero knowledge being spoon fed whilst on an ego trip. 

I challenge anyone to show me the difference in coins graded MS 65 or above. 

There is virtually none, certainly nothing a normal person could notice, but there is a big price difference.

As more coins are slabbed, as they are being rapidly, the price will drop, especially for the more common dates after the 1930s. 

Also, try taking your slabbed coins back to where you bought them and getting most of your money back, absolutely ZERO chance... 

NO dealers who sell slabbed coins wants to buy them back. They want to buy raw coins they can get slabbed and charge a big margin on.

The dealer/s will not be interested in your slabbed coins at anything like what you paid for them, or will say they are not buying at this time. So, when selling time comes, forget dealers and that cuts out a large part of the market. You have to find another collector who is a bigger wood duck than you are..

You bet dealers won't be interested, not at idiotic prices such as those mentioned above, when anyone with any knowledge can buy them for the prices I stated.

Here is a couple of examples I saw recently on a dealer's website. 1960 Australian florin MS64 $280 and 1961 florin MS 64 $280. This is ridiculous. These are COMMON coins that NO DEALER would dream of paying more than $10 each for. Slab cost, say $30 = $40 total, sell price $280 (?) Paying big prices for COMMON dated coins (and that means most Australian coins after 1940) in slabs is wealth destruction on an industrial scale. I have got BETTER LOOKING examples here of 1960 & 1961 florins that I would not charge more than $30 each for...

I cannot in good conscience, try to hang people with slabbed examples of common date pre-decimal coins or decimal coins, even though they obviously have much more money than SENSE and yes, I am both jealous and fascinated by how some people can be parted with their money... Example. 1978 proof 1c in a slab at $75. You can buy the ENTIRE 1978 proof set, still sealed in its case for $35 to $40, so why buy individual coins at 10 times as much? Just crazy.

I can see the value in a historical gold sovereign at $700 (2020 price) or so, it is backed by a gold value and also has a collector interest.

Or, say, for $700 you can get about 15-20 ounces of physical silver for that, at the current (2020) prices. 

A couple of years back, silver was $49 US for a little while, if it has been there before, it might go there again..

A 1951 PL Australian sixpence for $8000? Yeah, right!  Maybe, I am just not rich enough, or maybe, coming from a working class background, I appreciate the value of money.. The dealer who sold this coin for $8000, bought an exactly similar slabbed and graded one a year or so later in a Nobles auction for $500. What does that tell you about what it is really "worth" ?

10a Pre Decimal Specimen coins. 

Sigh... Coins being peddled to an over financed, under educated audience getting told what they want to believe!

A coin is either PROOF, ie finished to a higher standard from special dies and usually with a different finish, or it is a STANDARD strike for circulation.

That is it; you cannot be a litle bit pregnant, you either are or you are not! 

It might be a nice, fresh strike from a new die, but if it is NOT Proof, then it is from an ordinary working die.

The die wore as it got used, the first strikes from it were always the best.  

Lets call it Specimen and add thousands to the price. Ridiculous, yet they still fall for it.


Relax, learn and enjoy!!  

Coin and stamp collecting at its best is a harmless, relaxing, stimulating hobby, something that takes you away into a world of your own and far from the often harsh reality of modern life. 

I like looking at my ancient coins and wondering about what they saw...

It can also be a reasonable investment for those prepared to study their hobby and realize that investment is knowledge and pleasure of ownership as well as monetary return.

ADVICE FOR PEOPLE WITH SERIOUS INTENT.  Whilst I have a good range of Ancient, Medieval, British & Proclamation period coins, I often sell Australian coins & notes 1910-1964 in the lower to mid range price bracket, where I feel happy to be.  This is mainly due to the amount of restoration and the subjectivity of grading higher valued Australian pre-decimal coins and banknotes.

I can and sometimes do, sell higher priced coins & notes, eg 1930 pennies, 1923 halfpennies, rare banknotes and rare stamps for you at a fair commission or buy them outright, as I have many contacts amongst the dealer fraternity and know the Australian market pretty well...

Perhaps the most important investment advice I can offer is BOOKS.

Knowledge is everything in collectables, if you are not prepared to spend money on books, catalogues, magazines, etc to research your field then what hope have you got?? 

I cannot believe the number of people who put money into coins and notes WITHOUT any proper research! 

People who think they are investing and do not research their investments, deserve what they get! 

I have available, or can order, most major numismatic or philatelic publications. Also, I sometimes have cheap, relevant, 2nd hand books and journals so please ask on the field you require and I will try to help. 

If you don't care for the history and romance of notes, stamps and coins, then don't invest in them, because nine times out of 10 you will get burnt.

As a hobby, I can't find anything I'd rather be doing.

Richard Welling.

Adelaide, written 2008 and updated since then.

email: oldcoins@senet.com.au

website: www.oldcoin.com.au