Greg Bennick's latest interview for the Newman Numismatic Portal is with London dealer Richard Lobel. Here's the fifth part, where Richard talks about coin investing, the many coins he's had struck over the years, traveling, and the dealers he has known.
Greg Bennick: Amazing. So, what you don't need to do is you don't need to take investor
money and compromise your ideals is basically what you're saying.
Richard Lobel: No. Because if I take the money -- if I sell you coins for £1,000 pounds as a
collector, and you go and sell them back a few years later, and maybe you get £700 pounds. All
right. But you still enjoyed them. That's fine. I haven't promised you anything. You may get
£1,200 pounds, but more likely you're going to get £700 pounds. Let's be honest about that.
Because if you want to start talking about Royal Mint and US Mint material, right….
We deal in Royal Mint material, and we're probably one of the largest dealers in the secondary
market. When you, as a wholesaler, are tired of what you bought from the mint and got screwed
royally, because today for a crown, a £5 pound piece, 38 millimeters struck in sterling silver, not
pure silver, they now charge £95 pounds for that. I mean, it's an outrageous price. It is just, you
know. So, I'll wait until I can buy them for £30 pounds and I can sell them for £50 pounds. And
that's why the Mint and I have a love-hate relationship because they know I cut their prices.
Greg Bennick: Yeah. I was going to ask you about this because in the United States, one of the,
and there's certainly a few measurable and numberable elements in the coin market, which have
completely sapped collector dollars away over the years, in my opinion, is the Mint because they
offer a consistent thread of products that the second they leave the proverbial lot, they lose value.
Richard Lobel: Oh, they lose at least half. At least half.
Greg Bennick: Right.
Richard Lobel: We have, at the moment, a probate lot in with eight huge crates of coins we buy,
luckily the man is dead. I don't mean luckily, but he -- there's one crate of gold, which is better,
but it's seven crates of silver coin, and I'm telling you he's going to get a third of what he paid.
That's what it brings.
Greg Bennick: I see this all the time in the United States where people will buy Mint product
after Mint product, which are sold as numismatic delicacies and they're sold with the hint, it's a
subtlety, that people are buying investment coins. And they're simply not. And I think the levels
of disappointment are so immense ultimately. And you're saying that the Royal Mint is similar. I
don't want to condemn…
Richard Lobel: You know, it's worse than that. Now they've bought 25% of sovereign rarities
and they're selling coins, numismatic coins, at outrageous prices. I mean, they are selling -- We
just found in one of the safes, we just found 150, 1982 proof sovereigns. It turned out in -- four
years ago I bought 400 of them. We must have sold 250. We found 150 of them. We're going to
sell them for £495 pounds each. The Royal Mint charges £720 pounds each for them. And the
public will buy from them because they are the Royal Mint and therefore the price is right. It's
We sell an Indian coin, I bought a bunch at auction, came up, George VI. It's quite an interesting
piece, BU, and I bought them for £2 pounds each. And I thought they're really worth -- I charge
£14.95. I thought that's the right price because it's George VI, and it is a scarce two year type.
And then I see them on the Royal Mint website at £40 pounds each. Now, I mean, I think I'm
expensive at £14.95, but I'm not outrageous. And also, what we've done as a deal. One of the
authors on that book on British Indian coins. We bought Spink out of all the ones they had, so
they knocked them out. And so, we now combine the coin with the book to try and get people
interested and let them collect something else. But I think that the £40 pounds that the Royal
Mint charge for that coin is outrageous.
Greg Bennick: You know, it's odd. Right? Because it's not like the Mint here in the United
States is buying back these products. They don't do a market in these products. They just simply
sell and continue to sell and push out into the world all of these products. And it just -- there
there is no market for them. At least it doesn't seem to me.
Richard Lobel: If you call the Royal Mint, they'll recommend Coincraft, believe it or not. I
mean, that's the most insane thing I've ever seen. The only -- there's two marketing companies
in London. Harrington and Byrne, and Hatton's of London. And somebody bought a lot of gold
coins from these people. They sell mostly gold. And they sold it through Steve Fenton's auction,
Knightsbridge Coins. And he actually put there the price that the people had paid. And on
average, they brought 30% of what they paid. Gold. Gold we're talking about.
Greg Bennick: Wow.
Richard Lobel: You know, I was looking through Krause's Unusual World Coins the other day
and I've got 165 listings there of things I've struck. There's more, but they're not all listed with
my name because they don't know I struck them. You know, I've done a lot of things over the
years. But I've never charged what I think was an outrageous price for them.
The first coin I ever struck was in 1965, it was the Cuban souvenir peso. I did it with Richard
Margolis and Paul Weinstein. And we sold it in a case, silver, for $12.50 cents retail. They're
now slabbing them, bringing $800. I mean, this is crazy. I mean, I've got a friend of mine who
collects them in New York and I ask him,
Why? I struck them! I know they're not rare!
Greg Bennick: Well, tell me about striking coins. I actually was unaware that you struck coins
at any point. So, tell me about the process of striking coins and what did you strike and how did
you decide what to create for the numismatic community?
Richard Lobel: Well, the biggest thing I'm known for is Edward VIII. Because I've struck coins
for 24 different countries for Edward VIII. And this was because Geoffrey Hearn, the gentleman
I mentioned before, did the original Edward VIII piece, the series of five, well six because the
Great Britain was done twice. And in those days, it was all under the table. He used to sell them
to Hans MF Schulman in New York, and Foxy Steinberg. And in those days, in this country, the
Mint would almost have you arrested for dealing in them. Because they were Edward VIII. At
one point, if you cut a coin out, they'd have you arrested, defacing the --
But anyway, so the first one I got involved was with a Cuban souvenir peso, 1965. And the
reason was I was at a show, and I think it was at Pittsburgh. I'm not sure. Anyway, Richard hired
Paul to drive his coins because Richard had - I don't know if you knew Richard Margolis…
Greg Bennick: No.
Richard Lobel: He was dealing -- he was the one start that started the New York show, the one
that comes in -- But he was pedantic to the nth degree and wooden cabinets, all his coins were in
a cabinets, which in America was -- Richard turned out that his family owned one and a half
miles on either side of the main Jersey road. So, they were very wealthy. But he and Paul had
arranged to do this Cuban souvenir but because they were fighting because Paul had an…it was
raining and he had an accident, and he turned the car over, and all Richard was worried about
where are my coins they are all over the place.
So, I got involved in that. And I was young, it was great. We had them struck by Louie of Fulton
Street. These big, huge, guys with hairy arms, singlets, upstairs…but they did a beautiful job.
And we did all right until the US government stepped in and thought we were counterfeiting a
fantasy. I mean, this is….and we sold as many as we thought we could sell, and we decided we
weren't going to fight the US government. Which was probably a good idea.
Greg Bennick: Yeah. Fair enough.
Richard Lobel: We didn't realize they were going to be so terrific afterwards. And then it
wasn't till I moved to this country that I had things struck. I used Tower Mint at one point,
Raphael Maklouf, but he was a problem. But I struck a pair of Coronation, sorry, a pair of
investiture medallions, 1983 for the Prince Charles. When Prince Charles became Prince of
Wales, I struck a pair of medallions for that. And then it just went on. I just decided something
looked interesting. Charles and Diana got married. Terrific. Now it's unsalable because you got
to countermark Diana with Camilla. But all right. But at least the King is happy and God bless
him and wonderful. I think that's terrific. You know, and I just did things I wanted to do.
And then there's five, six pieces must be 30 years ago, 35 years ago, Christie's had for sale some
plasters from Humphrey Paget. I bought them, and I left them for years. And then Raphael ran
short of money at one point and wasn't willing to do things he wouldn't normally do. And I had
him make dies for them and I struck them. And one of them was turned out to be the George VI
New Zealand dollar. Am I boring you?
Greg Bennick: Not at all. Are you kidding me? This is fantastic.
Richard Lobel: In other words, the Prince Philip pattern here and then there's Bolivia. Anyway,
I struck them so many in silver, and I sold…like, for instance, I sold the entire George VI New
Zealand vintage to my late friend Bob Roberts in Australia, Sydney, Emma and Bob Roberts. He
was fantastic. He was a dynamite guy. I mean, he was absolutely wonderful. You know, my wife
and I, our hobby is traveling, and we have visited 115 different countries.
Greg Bennick: Wow!
Richard Lobel: And when I did a -- I used to do a quarter of a million kilometers a year flying
around the world on coin business. And I made sure that I got to know the people and I got to
know the dealers. I mean, like in Japan, it was Masamichi Oka from Taisei Stamp and Coin. And
some people called him Mikie, but he was a gentleman and you could not call them anything but
Masamichi. You had to call him Oka San. And it was wonderful.
And I would go to Japan to see him or I'd go to you know, I'd go all over. But I got to know the
people and I got to know Jacques Schulman in Amsterdam. I got to know Albert Del Monte in
Brussels. But knew them very well. Han Schulman, when he had to leave New York, shall we
say, and move to Spain….but when he would come to London, we'd go for dinner, and we'd
enjoy. And Hans actually, I have to admit, he saved my life one time.
Greg Bennick: Really?
Richard Lobel: I bought at an Glendening's auction….you know that Hans was the official
agent for King Farouk of Egypt.
Greg Bennick: That I didn't know. I didn't know that.
Richard Lobel: Right. And he was big. He was big. And everyone dealt with him through --
King Farouk only dealt with him. And he bought -- Well, he bought the dies years later. He
bought the dies that they used to strike some of the coins from King Farouk, but that's another
Greg Bennick: Sure.
Richard Lobel: But I bought these German pattern five marks in gold. Because I figured it's got
to be King Farouk. I knew -- Anyway. And I sold them to a client in Bermuda for $25,000.
Which was a lot of money at the time. There was five or six of them. And I told him they were
King Farouk's. And don't you think he went out and bought a King Farouk catalog, and they
weren't there. Well, let's say that being young, foolish, the $25,000 had long fled the office. So, I
said, what can I do? You know? And I wrote to Hans who was living in Alicante at the time. And
I explained -- I explained what had happened. You know, there's no sense lying. And I said
could they have been sold before the collection? You know, the auction, the big auction.
Greg Bennick: Sure.
Richard Lobel: And I enclosed a check for $200. You know, it wasn't much, and the letter came
back from Hans. He said, yes. I remember selling those. But give me full details so I can make
sure I'm correct. He gave me a letter. And the man had to eat them. And it's not nice, but you do
what you have to do when you're younger.
Greg Bennick: Yeah. Well what I love about all of this, the story of you striking coins, and then
just all the different things you struck and the approaches that you took and all of this leading up
to the Farouk story. What I love about all this is that you are this renegade spirit all throughout.
From the moment you landed in London, you are a renegade spirit and just doing things on your
Richard Lobel: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I hope I've always been myself.
Greg Bennick: Obviously, you certainly have been. And one thing I'm curious about in terms of
being yourself, I know that you're a multiple Guinness World Record holder. And I was
wondering if you could tell me -- you mentioned before that you…
Richard Lobel: When the Guinness Book of World Record used to do coins and banknotes, I
was listed 14 times.
Greg Bennick: And now, you mentioned the Indiana Jones story and the largest number of
banknotes and whatnot. What were the other things that you were listed for back in the day.
Richard Lobel: For the 1954 penny, that was an interesting thing because the statute of
limitation's up, so that's okay. At one point, you could not take more than £50 pounds a year out
of this country. But as a dealer, you could get a license from….I had a bank of England license.
And Paramount in the States owned a 1954 penny and they wanted $40,000 or $45,000 for it. In
fact, I think I bought it for $25,000 and I gave them a check for $40,000, and they gave me a
check back for the difference, which was very useful. I was listed for the, let's say the ‘54 penny,
the partial Edward VIII set until Larry…Ira Goldberg from Superior bought the entire set.
Greg Bennick: Oh, wow. Okay.
Richard Lobel: That was the only…the partial set was the duplicates of Mrs. R. Henry Norweb.
Greg Bennick: Oh, wow. Okay.
Richard Lobel: And Mrs. Norweb was known to never pay anything except out of interest. So,
you only got paid twice a year. But Spink had the partial set, and I bought them with someone. It
was a long story. And then they were sold to Educational and they were sold to Bowers and
Ruddy then I bought them back. It was -- I've gotten into a few interesting things over the years
lets put it that way.
Greg Bennick: Well, you touched on Edward VIII. I wanted to ask you, I know that you're a
specialist in Edward VIII memorabilia and in coins and whatnot. Can you talk about that and
why Edward VI is important to you and what stands out about him and his reign?
Richard Lobel: Well, the truth is, I was young, I was just reaching puberty and I learned that
man had given up the throne for the woman he loved and I was a romantic. I thought it was the
greatest thing in the world. Now I know he was a bit of a shit, but that's okay. But I collect -- I
for 50 years, collected Edward VIII, and I have two collections. I have ephemeral which starts
with his birth announcement in King George V's handwriting in the newspaper in 1894 when he
was announced. And I bought just recently his daybook from his valet, and it includes the day
that he abdicated and it just says
Fini on it.
Now he got married at a chateau in France, and I bought the entire archives for the chateau
including 63 handwritten letters from the Duchess of Windsor, hundreds of… Now I have the
second finest Edward VIII ephemeral collection in the world. The royal family has the best.
There's no question in the world.
But then I go to medallions. And if you've ever seen Giordano's book on Edward VIII, 80% of
that is my collection. I have the finest collection of Edward VIII medallions in the world.
Greg Bennick: Wow. I need to find this book. Tell me about the book because I want to look it
up and I want to add it to my collection.
Richard Lobel: It's Giordano's Views of a Prince I think it's called. It's a big thick book, but
80% of what he's illustrated in there is mine.
Greg Bennick: Fantastic.
Richard Lobel: And he gave me two line intros sort of hidden at the front, a really nice guy. But
I got back at him when he had to sell his collection at Spink to pay for the book. There were 225
lots, and I think I bought 190. I sat there in the first lot. I had £300 pounds to bid on it and I got it
for £70 pounds. I said, it's going to be a good day.
Greg Bennick: That's amazing. Amazing. So, let's talk just briefly about The Standard Catalog
of English and UK Coins. What was it like writing that and what is the most current and up to
date edition just so that….
Richard Lobel: Oh, it hasn't been done since 2000. It cost me to get into the book publishing
business a quarter of a million pounds. I lost a quarter of a million pounds on it. It is a business I
never want to go in again. I have no interest in it. I mean, I would publish a catalog of my
Edward VIII collection, but only to sell it. In fact, I've got a museum at least interested in it, but
it's six and a half million pounds. So, we're talking a lot of money.
Greg Bennick: Yeah.
Richard Lobel: But I mean, I've got things that….let's say, I've got the entire archives from the
chateau in France. I've got hairs from Edward VIII's head when he was one month old, and six
months old. I have just -- because I bought his nanny's collection. I bought -- I've just got
Greg Bennick: That's fantastic. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. So, the catalog, though, even
without going into the book publishing side of things, the catalog you authored. Right?
Richard Lobel: Right. What happened was I looked at -- at that time it was Seabee's book, now
Spink publish it, and they do a much better job. I said, it's not the way people collect. And I tried
to do, I believe people will collect will collect a shilling, will collect the half crown, will collect -
- And so I tried to put it that way. And I hired two people to actually do the work, three people, I
should say. That's how it cost me so much money. Alan Halestorm did the modern, Mark
Davidson did the earlier ones, Elaine Caligas did the editing sort of. But yes. No. And I corrected
-- there were all sorts --
If you can think of what you should not do to publish a book, I did it. It was -- I mean -- And it
got to the point where, let's say, a small dealer, bookshop would order three copies, but they
would never pay you, and it wasn't enough money to sue them. And then you had the big people
Krause -- they were terrific. Krause distributed in the States.
But WH Smith, which is a big chain of well, papers, you know, everything…we once late in
delivery for 15 minutes, and they refused the thing because you were 15 minutes late. I mean,
and people didn't pay, you know, even WH Smith didn't pay for six months. I mean, it was an
interesting thing. And then I decided to accept advertising. And you then try to get the dealers to
realize this is the best and it wasn't expensive. They didn't want to spend the money. Dealers in
general, they don't want to spend advertising money. They don't want to do what they should be
Greg Bennick: Wow. Well, it's relatable in a way. I played in bands for many years. And years
ago, when we would press seven-inch vinyl records, and we were doing our own distribution.
And we'd send out, say, 100 copies somewhere. We'd get paid for that 100 copies but then we
would send out 20 packages, maybe of five copies each to smaller distributors. And I would say,
whatever the proportion was, I don't want to name a percentage, would not pay…
Richard Lobel: 80% I would guess.
Greg Bennick: Am I going to go after somebody for five records for a total of $15 wholesale? I
Richard Lobel: It doesn't pay you.
Greg Bennick: It doesn't. It doesn't. It absolutely doesn't.
Richard Lobel: Yep. The book business is a specialist business and one I don't want to go into
ever again. Although we did two years ago, we bought -- Spink sold us a lot of the books -- We
bought, I don't know, 12,000 books. We've got a warehouse elsewhere for them. But it's great
because we were able to buy a two volume set on medallions of the basically print -- the civil
war over here with Charles I. And we were able -- they were sold for £175 pounds as a double
volume set with a slip case, really nice. Lots of illustrations. We now sell them for £59 pounds a
set, and we give you a free cannonball from the civil war.
Greg Bennick: That's amazing.
Richard Lobel: Because what I -- I have found that -- we try and put something else in there to
make it more interesting.
About the Interviewer
Greg Bennick (www.gregbennick.com) is a keynote speaker and long time coin collector with a focus on major mint error coins. Have ideas for other interviewees? Contact him anytime on the web or via instagram @minterrors.
To watch the complete video, see:
Richard Lobel of Coincraft Interviewed for the NNP by Greg Bennick
To read the complete transcript, see:
Richard Lobel of Coincraft Interviewed for the NNP by Greg Bennick (Transcript)
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
RICHARD LOBEL INTERVIEW, PART ONE
RICHARD LOBEL INTERVIEW PART TWO
RICHARD LOBEL INTERVIEW PART THREE
RICHARD LOBEL INTERVIEW PART FOUR
Wayne Homren, Editor
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