Numismatics & Philatelics

10/17/2018     Coins, Bank Notes & Postage Stamps

NEW YORK, NY -- For over fifty years the number one question I have been asked from collectors, colleagues, lawyers, trust and estate officers is, “How do I know if my stamp or coin collection is of value?” Obviously no easy answer without explaining a myriad of factors.

Let’s first address Philatelic properties.

My first multi-faceted inquiry to The Question is, “How is the collection stored or protected? Is it in albums of high quality {leather bound} or just a three ring binder? Does the album have pages for every country with random images of stamps, more commonly know as a school-boy or entry level collection? Or is the collection the least desirable version, which is comprised of stamps torn off envelopes and stuffed into a plastic bag or a shoe box?”

Next you may say, "But I have a very old stamp from the 1800s." Okay, but since the first postage stamp ever issued was in 1840 by Great Britain, and people actually used them to send letters, notifications and bills, they were issued in the millions. As a consequence most are worth just a few cents apiece. But with exceptions, of course.

The 1840 1 penny Black of Great Britain as a normal stamp can be purchased for $20-50, but place that stamp on a folded letter with a May 1, 1840 cancel and it is worth $100,000. And this is where experience comes into play. In the early part of my career, I purchased a large box of early stamps and folded letters, and lo and behold in among all the chaff was a folded letter bearing said cover, of which there are only six known. It was a very exciting discovery, and one that I enjoyed selling twice. Who knows, maybe one day I‘ll buy it back from its present caretaker.

Now on to Numismatic holdings.

The criteria are very similar. “How are the coins stored and protected? Are they encapsulated and certified authentic? Are the coins in small 2x2 holders? Are they in Blue Books, the entry level median for coin collectors? Or are they loose in a cigar box or in a baggie?

Early United States and World coins were issued “for use” and as such very plentiful. As an example, the Indian Head Copper Pennies issued from 1858 through 1909 are mostly common and worth a few cents, but find a 1909-S from the San Francisco Mint and it’s worth $150 and up, depending on condition.

The Large Cents of 1793, America's first copper coin, is very rare, and Doyle is fortunate to be offering a Good example in our October 22 auction, with an estimate of $20,000. It was probably found in a shoe box or a dresser drawer.

All of these clues give me a flavor of the collection or holdings, and I can base my decision on how to proceed and offer advice to move forward.

Recently I was participating in an Evaluation Day event at a local library, and most of what I saw was entry level collections. Just as we were about to close down, a young boy walked in with his parents and a jar full of coins. We gently emptied them on to a tray. I sorted through what was mainly common Wheat pennies, War nickels and the like, and then something caught my eye -- a well-worn and grubby coin the size of a dime. It turned out to be a 2,000-year-old coin from the Roman Empire with a horse and chariot and an indistinguishable emperor. This was most exciting for the young boy and me, so we placed the coin securely in a protective flip, and he went home very happy.

My profession has taken me on an endless journey traveling the world to international conventions in the United States, from New York to Hawaii and south to New Orleans, throughout Europe and Asia, meeting and greeting people of all ages, races and occupations. All of us with same commonality of collecting stamps and coins. Fantasizing about the wonders of Thrace and Mesopotamia and those who used the coins in my hands, imaging a journey on a Flying Dutchman laden with silks and goods bound for Honk Kong only to be savaged by a raging cyclone, being a rider of the Pony Express company delivering mail only to be attacked and robbed. And so my imagination goes on, and I am still searching for hidden treasure.

We are fortunate to have many major rarities saved from loss or destruction available for the public to view. In the London, The Queens Collections or Royal Philatelic Collection can be seen at St. James’s Palace, and in Washington, DC, one can view numismatic rarities at the newly created museum as part of the Smithsonian Institution. Or view one of the public exhibitions of our sales of Coins, Bank Notes, Postage Stamps and Medals at at Doyle, where I will happily share my expertise with you.


Coins, Bank Notes, Postage Stamps & Medals

Auction Tuesday, October 22, 2018 at 2pm
Exhibition October 19-21