“Rare” Coins and Dark Thoughts

It sometimes feels like we’re under siege in the shop.

Every day we get phone calls or personal callers with “rare coins” to sell. I don’t mind it if the coins are old (by which I mean pre-decimal) because there is at least some hope of something interesting cropping up. The “rare coins” that provoke me to thoughts of homicide are the ones that are reported as being rare in the press, on the internet,or, even worse, on ebay.

Recently we’ve had several reports of rare 2007 £2 coins. It’s a commemorative issue which marks the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. The rarity is not in the coin itself (with a mintage of over 8,000,000 it’s actually reasonably common) but in the placement of the edge inscription.

The motto AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER is impressed around the edge. According to the intellectual giants who stoke the hellish fires of rare coin “knowledge” the lettering should be right way up when the Queen’s head is uppermost. If it is upside down, the coin is the “rare” variety.

2007 £2 coin

2007 £2 coin – reverse

Now, this is where things start to come unstuck. The edge inscriptions are put on by a roller before the final striking and people who know about the process are happy that the inscription is going to land in accordance with the laws of chance – 50% will be right way up and 50% will be rare varieties worth £300 on ebay.

Or, to look at it another way, there is no rare variety. There’s also no evidence of one selling for £300 on ebay in the last month or so.

Turning to the actual prices realised on ebay, which are often very different from the fanciful figures put on the coins that don’t actually sell, I found one that sold  for £500, one for £102, one for £23, three for £20 and only two others in double figures.

Some people clearly shouldn’t be allowed on ebay without supervision.

Thirty three coins, after allowing for ebay fees, sold for £2 or less, with several selling for 99 pence.

That’s from a total of 155 sales in the last 6 weeks.

I will let the figures speak for themselves.




33 thoughts on ““Rare” Coins and Dark Thoughts

  1. Pingback: So Much Stuff, So Little Time | quercuscommunity

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  3. beatingthebounds

    On detected treasure – we had a case locally. The landowner and detectorist have an anxious wait while the British Museum (or some such authority, can;t remember the exact details) make an assessment, but then will likely share a substantial settlement, or be able to sell the items on the open market. That’s if the find is ‘treasure trove’, which I think depends on what it is: i.e. if it consists of precious metals etc. If not the Crown has no claim on it and unfortunately, very valuable items can leave the country without any legal restraint: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crosby_Garrett_Helmet

    1. quercuscommunity

      The export of antiquities is a complex moral subject. It gets even more complicated when you think of things the Romans left here – where should they go – where they were made or where they were discarded?

      1. beatingthebounds

        Fascinating thought – the big find near us was a Viking hoard. Buried in Lancashire, with arm bracelets possibly from Scandinavia and coins from as far afield as Baghdad, it’s destined to stay in Lancashire (thankfully) but you could easily argue that it’s historical significance is far wider.

  4. beatingthebounds

    I used to feel that it would be possible to make a career out of buying bargains from Aldi, rebranding them, and then selling them on ebay for a tidy profit. There’s a significant proportion of the population who just can’t be bothered to shop around, or find out the true value of things, or simply think that winning a bidding war on ebay means that they have automatically bought a bargain. I’m pretty sure that we have dispensed with secondhand children’s items on ebay for more than they cost us when new. Beggars belief!

  5. paolsoren

    I once held a rare coin in the palm of my hand. But there was only one parking spot and I had to see a girl. So there wasn’t really any choice. Lost ’em both.

      1. Donnalee

        I would think a lot of folks see it as a way to find riches that no one else in the history of a really crowded island that’s been occupied for thousands of years found. I think it still has to go to the crown too, doesn’t it, if you find something of real value? Not to mention whoever’s land you might be on, if you’re just out trespassing–

  6. Laurie Graves

    Oh, my! Your post really brings home the importance of knowing the value of what you are buying. I never buy anything from ebay. Too ignorant and too much of a coward. I know I’d get fleeced.;)

  7. arlingwoman

    Wow, I’m in no danger of finding any of these coins. I do have some silver dollars and Indian head pennies and such, but more as an interesting thing than something valuable. People can be a little crazy about collectibles.

    1. quercuscommunity

      Yes, they are interesting things. We had a child in today with some coins his grandfather had given him – he was more interested in the story than the value, which was fortunate.

  8. Donnalee

    Everyone thinks their idea of ‘rare’ will make their fortune. I’m sure you’ve had people bring in things with “Sutton Hoo And Co.” stamped on them, found under a hedgerow somewhere they swear.


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