I have started to see a lot of new collectors pop up on CCF as well as LBC. First; Welcome and Second; Happy Collecting!!
For new readers, I only like to contribute when I see certain trends happening and don’t usually engage in a lot of postings. I just like to provide my observations from time to time, as I am quite active in this market. So here is my next installment (by the way, I did write a different piece but it became outdated in a matter of a week. Maybe it will resurrect itself in the near future):
As a new collector, you picked the right place to learn about Chinese coins. Many contributors have been collecting for years and are a reservoir of information. You just need to know what questions to ask. Keep in mind we are all still learning and don’t have all the answers. That being said, nothing pays off more than hard work. I have literally spent thousands of hours in front of a computer screen searching and learning. Why, because I have a passion for these things. This is the only way. Also, I never had the benefit of either CCF or LBC, so use the resource wisely.
First and foremost, buy Peter Anthony’s book!! “Gold and Silver Panda Coin Buyer’s Guide” The book is an invaluable reference guide that I use almost every day, and is one of kind!! I wish I knew about it sooner. Second, subscribe to Peter’s pricepedia. This will give you an idea whether or not something is a good buy or not. But keep in mind that this pricing is only a reference. Popularity can play tremendously into pricing that is not reflected in the pricepedia (just look at the price for a raw 1983 silver pig that sold for about $2300 yesterday on ebay. The pricepedia’s latest raw price was around $1600 from China).
Personally, I never bought what was popular; I always bought what I liked. For example, I have never owned a 1983, 84 or 85 silver panda. Why? The mintage was too high for me at 10,000. I found there were many other coins with lower mintages for a fraction of the cost. I am a believer that rarity wins over popularity. Other collectors like popularity, it’s a personal choice, and you have to make your own decisions. You also have to think and move fast, and try and make educated quick decisions. If you are unsure about something, pass on it until you become comfortable. Coins have a way of appearing in clusters. Also, pricing can move very very quickly and literally change week to week. You can also find more information at www.china-mint.info/
While my main focus was collecting, it was always done with an investor’s eye. The concept of collecting coins from China was appealing given the potential for a huge market in the years to come. I also liked the designs! Given this potential, I started out only collecting double sealed raw silver coins with mintages of 5,000 or less. This population of coins generally ran from about $50 to about $300 back when I started. Gold was too expensive for me and alternatively I saw good value in the silver. Also, the cost of making a mistake and receiving a bad coin was relatively low with silver vs. gold. I also realized early on there were quality issues with Chinese coins and unfortunately came to accept this. However I learned over the years which coins to buy and which ones to avoid. I was also always careful about not buying fakes. That being said, I still make mistakes today. It still amazes me today at what some people will buy on eBay. Today the best source for information on fakes is Peter’s www.pandacollector.com
website. Peter has excellent materials on bad panda’s and the fakes are getting better and better.
What should you do? This is currently a tough market for a new collector. Raw coins are expensive and the cost of making a mistake is high. White spots on raw coins concern me and cannot be seen until they are unwrapped and the coin hits the air. I was talking to NCS the other day about a raw 12 ounce silver unicorn that was submitted (not by me). When it was unwrapped a large white spot appeared over the unicorns head. Very unfortunate and cannot be seen until unsealed. Additionally, inventory is really scarce, as many quality coins are off the market, and if something becomes available you may have to make split second expensive decisions. This is not easy for a beginning collector.
My two cents, for what it’s worth and given current market conditions; always buy the rarest and highest graded coins you can afford. You probably heard this before on LBC but it is worth mentioning again. While you might always want a grade 69 in either PF or MS, it may not always be available or might be out of your price range, but at least try. If not available, then maybe buy the 68, and then try and upgrade in the future if the coin appears for sale again. Sometimes it may not, and you might just be happy you grabbed the 68. I have seen many 68’s for sale that look just as good as 69’s, especially the conserved ones from NCS. Also, Badon does an excellent job in providing recommendations and you should follow this. He is really an unsung hero in this market and deserves a lot of credit for the time invested.
In the end buy what appeals to you, buy the rarest you can afford, and once in a while go out on limb and buy something really special. I do, and I have never been disappointed.