Monday 7 February 2011

The effect of the Internet

There is an interesting post on the English hammered coins discussion forum. Chris Wren writes about the effects of the internet on the coin market.
Before the computer/internet age, selling coins was done at fairs or by issuing printed lists through the post. Auctions in the old days were almost the sole preserve of dealers when it came to buying. Overseas buyers could almost never compete with natives due to the time it took before they received their copy of the list - the natives would have had theirs days before and, unless the foreigners were prepared to travel widely, they could not attend the fairs/auctions either. The internet has made it possible for anyone, anywhere to have a good chance of getting first in the queue. You can do it from the comfort of your armchair from anywhere in the world, even bidding in person in real time at most auctions. This has led to an expansion in the number of collectors across the world for ancient and hammered coins(many countries do not have native coinages extending back before the 19th century as they did not exist as states before then so they must look to the 'old' world to satisfy any interest in ancient things) and, remembering that the supply of available coins is finite, demand thus rises and hence prices do too [...]
The antiquities market today is completely different from that of the period up to the early 1990s. It is much larger and geographically unlimited, both in terms of numbers buying material and those now selling it. Objects move through it (and therefore across international borders) far more rapidly and more anonymously. The scope of antiquities these days being collected is far wider than that of yesteryear, far more 'minor' and fragmented antiquities.

More to the point, if the number of collectors and dealers has risen immeasurably since the early 1990s, a large proportion of the vast amount of dugup material now needed to sustain this market cannot be from the old collections and dealers stock. It must have been dug up in the last decade and a half to sustain the development of the trade in that period. A lot of it is currently being looted in the Old World to satisfy the 'needs' of dealers and collectors in the New World. It seems these people could not care less where it comes from though.

Vignette: Internet

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