Most people marvel at holding an ancient Roman Empire coin believing they must be worth hundreds of dollars. Collectors know how common these are and what you should pay for them, if anything at all.
A junk ancient is a poor condition, corroded common emperor strike, such as a Roman nummus (low-grade cooper) Constantine I coin minted between 306 and 337. You can buy this one on Etsy for $15:
These often show up at estate or online coin dealer auctions, some of them slabbed by NGC, even though the holdering charge of $28-$45 costs more than the worth of the item. Here’s an example:
This nummus sold for $21 on HiBid:
To his credit, the auctioneer posted four photos of this coin, probably taking 10-15 minutes of his time, in addition to posting on the auction site. After he pays the consignor, he’s lucky to get $5 for that effort. So he’s out about $20 when you calculate time and auction fees. The consignor paid $28 for slabbing plus $15 for processing and mailing fees. He’ll get about $15 for the sale, losing $28. What about the buyer? He’s paying $25 for the coin with buyer’s premium plus another $15 dollars mailing fee. This is a $15 coin, so he’s out $25.
Combined losses — auctioneer, consignor, buyer — total $73.
When you add all that, you have to wonder what these junk coins are doing in online auctions.
Any ancient that references the Bible is likely to go for $30-40 regardless of worth. Here’s an example:
That’s the only photo of this unidentified coin. But it will sell for about $25-30. Why waste money on that when you can win a religious-icon coin like this on Great Collections for about $50, minus mailing:
Coins like the one below have no business being offered in online auctions because of their indistinguishable condition:
A specimen like that one should be included in a multi-coin low-grade lot, as in this online example:
These are worth considering and typically are won with a bid of $30-35. They make great coin club gifts for young numismatists as they might trigger a love of ancients from an early age.
Conversely, do not bid on ancient coin shards when you can get intact examples as shown above:
If you are interested in ancient coins and would like an inexpensive one for your collection, consider a silver denarius depicting Gordian III, Roman emperor from 238 to 244. Hundreds of thousands of coins were minted during his long reign, meaning you can win one like this on Great Collections for about $50.
If you know about ancients, as I do, and spot lots like this, you can make a big score:
I won that lot with a bid of $75, slabbed them with NGC, and scored hundreds of dollars in profit. I wrote about that for Coin Update in October 2020.
Happy hunting, but know your prey before you bid.