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“Bargain Hunt” and of course “Antiques Roadshow” are testament to that. Part of the reason for this is of course the large sums that coins regularly fetch these days, particularly at auction. These headline sums, like that realised at the Baldwin’s sale in Hong Kong for the Chang Tso Lin pattern gold $50 (see “Market Scene”), inevitably attract attention and everyone hopes that they too can see their coins making a life changing amount of money. . . you just don’t see matchboxes making half a million dollars!
The problem is that whilst gold $50 coins, unique 20 rouble pieces like that featured in St James’s next sale, 1933 pennies, double eagles or even double leopards, may grab the headlines, the vast majority of us will not only never own such coins, the chances are we’ll never even get to see them and must instead “make do” with lesser pieces that whilst interesting will never make us vastly rich! Now this then begs the question: just how relevant to our hobby are these “headline” coins? Are they really part of the same pastime as a Victorian shilling, long cross penny or modern year set? There are some who say not and who think of the big money coins as a different animal to the run of the mill pieces that appear on dealers’ lists and at fairs. After all, they are far beyond the scope of most collectors and should be treated as pleasant distractions and nothing more. Indeed, we do occasionally get letters with regard to this very subject, particularly in relation to our “Market Scene” coverage. Why, the writers ask, do we bother to highlight the huge prices for the star coins when they have no relevance to most collectors at all? Why don’t we instead spotlight the ordinary lots? Those that most of our readers have an outside chance of owning? Well, we like to think we do that too, but we do accept that often it’s the big money coins that get most of the coverage. The reason for this is something I think of as the “Top Gear” principle. For those of you who don’t know, “Top Gear” is a motoring programme hosted by the outspoken Jeremy Clarkson, a man for whom the concept of “global warming” is actually a great excuse not to have to buy a 14 tog duvet! His attitude, as well as that of his co-presenters, is that “bigger, faster, noisier is better” and they regularly showcase, not the everyday cars that most of their viewers will actually drive, but rather the Aston Martins, Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis that they aspire to. Yes, they recognise that no more than a handful of those watching will ever own such a machine, but they also know that nearly everyone of their audience would want to! So it is with these unattainable coins—we may never get to own one ourselves, but we sure wish we could and who knows... maybe one day, Lottery win