Auctions continue to be a bellwether of the coin market. Despite some hand wringing in the numismatic press and negative signals from some dealers, the market actually seems quite healthy, judging from recent auction results.
Last week in Los Angeles, for example, a record or near record for rare ancient coins was realized in a two-day sale held by Numismatic Fine Arts. An unofficial total of $4.8 million was hammered down for nearly 1,000 Greek, Roman and Byzantine coins. Only a sale held 13 years ago in Europe is believed to have surpassed this auction.
Highlights of the sale included a gold octodrachm of King Antiochus the Great, a Greek provincial king who ruled Asia Minor from 223 to 187 BC. The only known example of this piece (pictured) sold for $140,000. A silver tetradrachm of King Seleucus I of Syria (pictured) sold for $130,000.
Numismatic Fine Arts is the largest company dealing exclusively in ancient coins in the United States. It will take about one year for the company to assemble coins for its next auction. However, a mail-bid sale is planned for this autumn. For information regarding this sale or ancient coins in general, contact Numismatic Fine Arts, 10100 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif. 90067, (213) 278-1535.
In another auction held a week earlier in New York, many record prices were reported for U.S. issues in the Frederick B. Taylor Collec-tion. The $2.2 million realized was above expectations, with a rare 1786 Immune Columbia copper, one of only three known, going for $33,000. It was purchased in 1970 by Taylor for $7,500. An 1856 Flying Eagle cent in Mint State 60 or better sold for $4,400, an 1892 Barber dime in proof-64 sold for $2,530, while an 1875 20-cent piece cost $3,300.
The Taylor Collection sale was conducted by Auctions by Bowers & Merena. For information regarding this sale or upcoming sales, contact Bowers & Merena, Box 1224, Wolfeboro, N.H. 03894.
On the horizon locally is the much-anticipated $10-million auction of the Buddy Ebsen collection and other properties, to be conducted by Superior Galleries, 9478 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills, Calif., (213) 203-9855. Catalogues for the three-day session--May 31-June 2--are $15.
Question: I have some silver dollars dated each year from 1879 to 1922; mostly 1884, 1886, 1887, etc. Can you give me their value? I also have uncirculated dimes 1921 to '41, 1954 and 1937; quarters 1957 to '63; half dollars, 1958 to 1964; and nickels, 1955 to 1958. Should I keep or sell?--G.A.
Answer: Your dollars are probably worth $8 to $10 each. The dimes are $1 to $2 each, quarters $2 to $3 each, half dollars are $4 to $5 each, and the nickels have no collector value. Unless your coins are high-quality pieces, there's little likelihood that they will go up greatly in value in the foreseeable future. Keep them if you enjoy coins; sell them if you need the money.
Q: Please tell me if the following have any value: 1916 1 penny, Georgius V, Great Britain; 1906 1 penny, Edward VII, Great Britain; 1891 1 cent, Victoria, Canada, and 1936 Indian head 5 cents.--M.S.
A: Your coins have little or no collector value unless they are uncirculated. Have them evaluated by a professional numismatist.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday--Sincon XVIII, the Society for International Numismatics convention, will be a double-header celebration. The show will salute the U.S. Constitution's bicentennial and also observe Hollywood's 100th anniversary. On view will be two Smithsonian exhibits: "Medals Given to Revolutionary War Heroes" and "Signers of the Constitutional Convention." Richard Dysart of TV's "L.A. Law" and Buddy Ebsen are expected to attend. A forum on how to sell your coins is planned for Friday at 8 p.m. Show hours are noon to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday at the Hyatt Hotel at Los Angeles International Airport, 6225 W. Century Blvd. Admission is $2 for the bourse; exhibits and forums are free; seniors 65 and over and children 11 and under admitted free to bourse. For information: (213) 399-1085.