Monday, October 20, 2014

Market Watch for September

The leaves are turning and dropping to the ground. As with the season, the CT marketplace has slowed somewhat, but it remains colorful. One-hundred and ten pieces were sold in September with 94 of them coming from comtok who is selling off part of a collection.
     Most pieces have been selling inexpensively with only a few (or one) bidder(s). Eighty-six CTs crossed the block for under $20 in the C range -- many uncontested. There have been some very good deals in this mix with more than a few 18th century pieces finding a new home. Twenty-one CTs sold in the B range that includes all trades between $20 and $49.  Only three tokens sold above the $50 mark: one each in the BB, A, and AA ranges.
Obverse of Ladykirk CT
     Tops among these three CTs was a crude, diminutive rectangle from Ladykirk. This is an attractive, albeit primitive, piece for its simple incuse lettering -- LK -- on the obverse and the bold four-digit date -- 1716 -- punched deeply into the reverse. It is a rugged bit of church history that conjures up all sorts of images of the past. The piece is cataloged as BK696 (or BZ4334-6 [3 varieties] ... in this case BZ4335 that comes with curved 1 and large loop on the 6). Only two bidders vied for this one, casting 11 bids to push the price up to a whopping $130. Yes, this figure is not a typo: $130. Here is the link: Ladykirk CT for big bucks.
Reverse of Ladykirk CT
The straight 1 plus the small loop
on the 6 suggest BZ4334.
A curved 1 with big 6 loop is
BZ4335, & no first 1 is the last.
     On the same day (Sept. 29th), comtok offered a pair of these same pieces: LK//1716. The obverses were pictured (whereas in the previous sale the bold dated reverse was shown). One bid was all it took to get the pair for $15. So what do we make of this huge discrepancy?
     Looking back at previous sales of Ladykirk CTs we get these data. In February of 2013, the Bob Merchant specimen was sold by Simmons Gallery for about $25. Another piece sold on ebay in November of 2013 for about twice this much. In addition, several lots of very nice ones (with smooth, ashen surfaces) were sold cheaply, raising suspicions that these were spurious -- in particular, the specimens illustrated by Burzinski were rough, corroded bits with white sulfide frosting like the ones illustrated here. As such, very nice pieces with light (fishing lure) color need to be purchased cautiously.
     All arguments not withstanding, a hammer price of $130 for a Ladykirk CT is extremely strong. In contrast, the pair offered by comtok was a great buy. Here is the link for the pair of Ladykirk CTs: Two for the price of one.
     Moving on, a Clackmannan heart, dated 1731, attracted 6 bidders, casting 10 bids, to produce a healthy sale price of $76. Two bidders really wanted this one, but they showed restraint, as the hammer price was consistent with previous sales. These hearts also tend to be mildly corroded -- I have never seen one with smooth surfaces across a half-dozen sales. This one was average to above-average with no distracting marks. It is cataloged as BK187 or BZ1460.
     The final CT that brought a price over $50 was a Glasgow-styled square from Prince Edward Island: an 1832 New London piece in excellent condition (PE-216). It crossed the block at $69 with only two bids -- just shy of book values of $70-90. This was a far cry from the hot battle reported in this blog last November when two bidders cast 19 bids for a similar one, pushing the price to $86.
     All told, it was an interesting month. The characteristics of a thin market were in plain view: bidding wars with price spikes juxtaposed with lackluster interest towards many very nice pieces selling cheaply. And, let's not forget the heart: it was contested by two rational buyers who knew its value.