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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 36, September 3, 2006, Article 12

HERITAGE AUCTION GALLERIES VENTURES INTO TOKENS AND MEDALS

Dick Johnson writes: "A very attractive color catalog arrived from
Heritage Auction Galleries this week. Their core business is, of
course, coin and currency auctions. From that Heritage has branched
out into a widening circle of collectibles: comics, sports
collectibles, jewelry, timepieces, other fields.

This auction sale is Heritageís first foray into tokens and medals
exclusively. It features the Troy Wiseman collection of Hard Times
tokens. The color photographs of the items, mostly in top condition,
are superb. But the descriptions leave something to be desired.

Auction house executives who believe their catalogers are omnipotent
and can catalog anything numismatic may be doing their consigner and
potential buyers a disservice. Cataloging in this field requires
specialized knowledge. It is obvious this cataloging was done by
coin experts. Collectors of tokens and medals are topical collectors
and this information is more important than, say, one of perhaps
three hundred colors of toning, typical of uncirculated coins.

The Wiseman collection, it appears, was third party graded. While
it does not state this, any token and medal that could fit a 2x2
envelope was slabbed and certified. The catalogers accepted this
grading without question. Example: A well worn token, Low 1 early
in the sale (lot 5750) was stated as "AU50" by NGC. Perhaps VF grade
at best (from the photograph). In contrast, when the catalogers had
to grade oversize medals themselves, a mint state Woodrow Wilson
Medal from the Paris Mint was graded XF (lot 6787).

A real test of medal expertise is if catalogers can keep the three
American Ellis engravers straight. Sure enough, lot 6110, the Lincoln
Rail Splitter Campaign Medal, does not even mention this was engraved
by Darwin Ellis (father of Jarvis Ellis, no relation to Salathiel
Ellis, all three engraved 19th century tokens and medals). The
catalogers didnít mention the Ellis name on truncation of Lincolnís
bust. Werenít they curious?

A word to both grading services and auction houses: if you are going
to work with tokens and medals you need some knowledgeable people. A
word to collectors: ease up on slabbing tokens and medals, it is the
uninformed collector who needs the assurance of slabbed items. Youíll
find the buyers of tokens and medals are highly specialized,
knowledgeable, and very well informed. They know what they want
and like their specimens raw."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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