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Foy and Gibson Bags for the Centenary Florins - Worth More Than Most of the Coins Themselves!

One of the fascinating things that I find about watching markets move is seeing trends emerging in demand. One trend that has picked up a bit of pace in recent months / years is a strong rise in demand for the small paper envelopes that were used by Foy and Gibson when they sold florins commemorating the centenary of white settlement in Victoria, an event known in the numismatic trade as the "Melbourne Centenary".

The Victorian and Melbourne Centenary Celebrations commemorated a hundred years of European settlement at Victoria’s first two permanent outposts – Portland Bay in 1834 and Melbourne in 1835. Over 300 events and functions were conducted over nine months, from October 1934 to June 1935.

In line with ensuring that the celebrations were well funded, the Centenary Council arranged with representatives of the British Treasury & the Commonwealth Government for special florins commemorating the events to be struck and then sold at a premium above face value, with the profits going to the Centenary Council.

The average weekly wage in Australia was still just 80% of what it was in 1929, and sales of all memorabilia relating to the celebrations were quite subdued. Sales of the florins were so lacklustre that as the time of the final events approached in June 1935, just 15,000 coins had been sold. Mention was made in the Melbourne newspaper that “a local company has an option on 30,000” coins. The department store of Foy & Gibson distributed numerous Melbourne Centenary Florins in small paper pouches to their customers, and so it is thought this was the company referred to.

If Foy & Gibson paid the Centenary Council one shilling for each coin they obtained, the total cost of £1,500 would have been money well spent on goodwill for their customers – each receiving an unusual coin at face value in their change.

Despite the fact that there were probably more Melbourne Centenary Florins issued in the Foy & Gibson bags than without them (Foy & Gibson’s allocation was 30,000, while sales through the Town Hall were just 24,000), the bags are quite rare today.

Out of a maximum initial number of 30,000, surely less than several hundred bags remain in existence today, particularly in attractive condition. An even smaller number of the Melbourne Centenary florins allocated to Foy & Gibson’s were distributed by the company’s Perth branch - certainly bags issued by that branch are extremely rare indeed.

Perth Foy & Gibson BagWhich brings me to my point regarding this demand trend, reflected in the price paid recently on eBay for a Perth Foy's bag - no less than $711! That is more than what an UNC coin goes for at the moment.

There are several reasons why this bag went for such a decent price - all of the Foy's bags are rare, the Perth bags are even rarer still, and this one was in excellent condition.

Although it's long been known that these bags were tough to get, it's only been in recent times that there has been more than a few collectors prepared to pay good money in order to get them.

Just why would someone want a bag to go along with a coin in their collection? I guess it's because the Foy & Gibson bags capture the social history of the day in such a tangible way, and there really is a rip roaring background to the foundation of the business.

Just what price level will the bags get to? It's going to be interesting to see.

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