By Levon Vrtanesyan



Recently, I decided to conduct a price survey of Levon I drams being sold on eBay. A frustrating fact of life for me as a collector is the rising prices in Cilician Armenian coins, in particular more common silver coins. I see coins that are common selling for excessively high prices, sometimes realizing even higher values than rare coins.

Such a fact shocks and surprises me, particularly when I read and hear of older collecting stories of Levon I drams selling for mere dollars so as they would not be melted for their silver and so forth. Even when I began collecting several years ago, it would not be too unreasonable to find solid condition coins in the 20 to 30 dollar range.

Therefore, I prepared to survey the largest and most publicized numismatic marketplace – eBay, which sees dozens of Armenian coins sold at any given time. The coin destined for the survey was the generic Levon I dram – a fairly common yet attractive coin.

Listed below are the results of a 30 day period in October to November of 2007, which saw roughly 10 Levon I drams auctioned off on eBay. Listed is my personal liberal interpretation of the coin’s condition, the price it realize, and bidding activity on the coin. Included in the survey were only properly described and attributed coins. For example a coin listed as a Levon I dram that was actually a different coin, as a rarer dram of Smbat of Oshin would be excluded.

Condition/Price Realized (USD)/# of Bids
VF 91.00 22
-VF 15.50 3
VF 78.00 17
-VF 26.55 10
VF 46.07 10
+VF 62.11 3
-VF 45.00 30
-VF 85.00 14
-VF 30.00 2
-VF 100.75 10

The result of the survey pointed diverse sub-varieties of Levon I being sold, of different inscription and design variants, in average and slightly more marginal states of preservation. The average price of the coins being sold was a startling $57.998 USD per coin, with an average of 12.1 bids per coin. The cheapest coin during the period sold for a mere 15.50 and the most expensive went for a whopping 100.75. It appeared that condition or coin variety did not dictate its premium. Rather, there was herd mentality and generally, if there was active bidding on a particular coin it would further drive the price up. Further, auctioneers that started their coins at lower starting bids received more bidding activity and higher prices realized than those that started their auctions at higher starting bids.

Image quality was also another factor that may have contributed to the sale value of coins that I failed to mention. It is worthy to bring this up because during my research, I saw a lot of 8 Cilician coppers with a poor image sell for a mere 20.50 (about 2-3 dollars a coin!) and a different auctioneer selling individual Cilician coins with better images sold similar condition coins for as much as 20 or 30 dollars a coin.

Finally it is worth to mention the prices of several Levon I drams that were offered by dealers at the time this article was written, as well as several Levon I drams that were sold recently by major numismatic auction firms.

Condition/Price (USD)
-VF 65.00
-VF 75.00
-VF 75.00
+VF 99.00
VF 85.00
-VF 47.10
F 30.00

Condition/Price Realized (USD)
-VF 35.00
VF 188.00
VF 95.00
VF 78.00
VF 50.00
VF 50.00
+VF 58.00
-VF 40.00

Generally both dealer and auction prices followed similar format, though one has to remember that those coins currently in stock by dealers to not necessarily reflect what it is being sold for, but maybe what dealers are not selling. Auction prices varied as well, and the particular crowd at the auction determined whether the exact same coin would sell for 50, 100 or 200 dollars. So while sampling of several prices realized for Levon I drams shows a rising trend, the data is a random sampling of a very small percentage.

The prices of such common coins reflect not only frustration faced by advanced collectors and researchers, but also a comic situation of mindless sheep mentality and irresponsible bidding. It should be noted though coins realized similarly peculiar prices even in the 1980’s as one may look at the Credit Suisse Auction # 4 for similar madness.