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The Trifecta Rolls In - Downie's 323, IAG 85 and Noble's 114

Without any evidence at all to back my conclusion up, I remain convinced that Australia’s numismatic auctioneers are bound in some way to an accounting cycle that mere mortals such as ourselves cannot see - how else can we explain the fact that we haven’t had an auction of rare coins and notes in Australia since November 2016, yet in late March we had 3 rare coin and note auctions within the space of 21 days? While it may not be accounting cycles per se, there is a rhythm to these events that I’m not yet aware of. I’ll mumble about this for some time, however I expect you’ll be far more interested the results of those auctions more than my pointless conclusions about their collective timing...

First Past the Post - Downie’s 15-17 March 2017

Downie’s perhaps fly a little under the radar with their sales - featured items aren’t previewed in the numismatic media, their headline results aren’t trumpeted, and they don’t push them particularly hard. That said, their results are generally consistent and solid. Here are the headline figures for their last sale:

Headline Figures

Turnover

$904,629

# Items Offered

3,342

# Items Sold

2,966

Clearance Rate

88.75%

Average Lot Value

$305.00

$10k+ Lots Sold 

2

 

These results show that a lot of items were offered over the 3 days of the auction, and nearly all of them sold. An 89% clearance rate is solid indeed, and shows that in the main, the auctioneer and vendors prepared well for the day, and that the market set the prices for the items that changed hands. 

 

Reviewing the catalogue, there really wasn’t much to get excited about in the early coin sessions - few of the coins were rarities or in superlative quality, the prices realised reflect that. It is interesting then that out of the entire sale, the only two items to achieve a hammer price higher than $10,000 were in this section of the sale:

 

Lots Sold Above $10,000

Lot

Hammer

Nett

Item

13

$19,000

$22,657

Adelaide Pound 1852 Type II reverse about EF

163

$17,400

$20,750

1930 Penny good Fine

I believe both of these prices were solid for the grade of the items concerned - they weren’t above or even full retail figures, but neither were they excellent wholesale figures that a dealer or collector would be delighted with. I believe this shows that there is good liquidity in the Australian numismatic market for accurately-graded rarities at a price - a positive sign indeed. Perhaps if the vendor or the auctioneer had pushed for slightly higher prices on these coins, the results would have been different.

The 1922/21 overdate threepences in this sale were decent quality, and made prices in line with the market. Again, not incredibly strong, but not weak either. There were some nicer KGV sixpences offered, however not all of these got away. The action in the other pre-decimal coins was par for the course.

Action in the pre-decimal and decimal notes seems to have been a little lighter, if the grades of the notes are an indication of just how good the notes on offer were. Quality pre-decimal notes are as difficult to get as they always have been, and interest in them has been rising slowly across the board. There aren’t as many collectors willing to buy these notes via auction as there were in years past, which could account for the softer prices relative to retail values.

Action in the decimal and world coins was consistent across the board, there wasn’t much outlandish included, and the prices realised reflected that.

The world note session featured a wide range of Egyptian banknotes, many of them "from an old Palestine and Egypt collection compiled in the late 1940s”. These notes are quite popular with British Commonwealth collectors around the world, and can be incredibly scarce in superior quality. The prices here reflected that, with some of the lots fetching four times their pre-sale estimate. No doubt at least some of those notes went to specialist collectors and dealers in all parts of the compass. The British Palestine notes a little later on didn’t bring prices that were as strong.

The tradesmen’s tokens sold well, however weren’t particularly strong -  a good result nonetheless for a large quantity on offer.

There always seems to be something interesting in a Downie auction, this time around it seems it was the collection of Egyptian notes.

Next In Line - International Auction Galleries - 19 March 2017

It certainly is a tough gig heading to the Gold Coast for an auction, it beats Melbourne in July at least! The activity in the room was as warm as it was outside for this sale, here are the headline figures:

Headline Figures

Turnover

$806,829

# Items Offered

730

# Items Sold

593

Clearance Rate

81.23%

Average Lot Value

$1,360.59

$10k+ Lots Sold 

14

We can immediately see here that IAG offers fewer, more valuable items, and that this is reflected in the figures. They handled around a fifth of the material (by number) that Downie’s did, and while their clearance rate was ever-so slightly lower, it remained quite strong. We can see that the average lot value was nearly 5 times higher, and that many more items valued greater than $10,000 got away:

Lots Sold Above $10,000

Lot

Hammer

Nett

Item

Category

184

$11,100

$13,237

NBA £5 Issued Note

Pre Federation Note

186

$11,000

$13,118

CBC Sydney £1 Superscribed

Pre Decimal Note

187

$17,000

$20,273

R2A 10/- about EF

Pre Decimal Note

225

$32,000

$38,160

R9 10/- SPECIMEN

Pre Decimal Note

226

$33,000

$39,353

R23a £1 SPECIMEN

Pre Decimal Note

249

$18,000

$21,465

R30bs £1 Star AUNC

Pre Decimal Note

333

$20,000

$23,850

1813 Fifteen Pence / Dump A/1 good VF

Colonial Coin

334

$152,000

$181,260

1813 Holey Dollar about EF

Colonial Coin

336

$20,000

$23,850

Type 12 Kookaburra 1d

Pre Decimal Proof Coin

337

$20,000

$23,850

1935 Proof Copper Pair

Pre Decimal Proof Coin

341

$12,000

$14,310

1935 Proof penny

Pre Decimal Proof Coin

343

$64,000

$76,320

1914 H Florin Proof

Pre Decimal Proof Coin

395

$16,000

$19,080

1930 Penny Fine

Pre Decimal Coin

396

$15,000

$17,888

1930 Penny good Fine

Pre Decimal Coin

When discussing the IAG sale after the event with a few clients and colleagues, I said that I thought the buyers active in the IAG sale were more sophisticated than they were in the recent past - the rarity and importance of some of the notes on offer are really only appreciated by collectors that have been active for some time, and have a deep knowledge of those areas. This is a level of participation we haven’t seen for some time. In a clearing stage of the market (as I thought we had been in), “type” notes in high quality appeal to far more collectors than rarer varieties in lesser quality - this applies to markets in coins just as accurately.

It was pleasing to see some interest in the pre-decimal specimen notes that were offered here (finally!), as they have been nothing less than turgid for about 4-5 years now. Market values have come down drastically (just ask the folks that paid six figure sums for them about ten years back), however it seems there is more than one buyer in the market right now that sees value in them. There is no denying these notes are incredibly rare and historic - they are some of the first currency notes printed at key turning points in our nation’s economic history, or to our heads of government, so will have an undeniable appeal in years to come. If we can see some consistency with similar figures across a few more sales, that will give hesitant buyers confidence to enter the market also.

The clearance rate in the better coins was solid, even if the prices achieved weren’t entirely record-setting. In a market like this, vendors will accept cash in the hand over an uncertain shot at a slightly higher return, so I believe the auctioneer did their job well with the items they had here.

This sale was unusual in that it had a great range of PCGS-graded proclamation coins - coins of this calibre are often only ever sighted intermittently within many other coins of lesser standing.

Aside from the pre-decimal notes, action in the specimen notes was solid also - the Type I specimen notes sold (which was a great start), and were solid to boot. A complete date set of PCGS-graded Veiled Head sovereigns was passed in with zero interest - this set would’ve taken the owner no small amount of time and resources to complete, and although competition is fierce on an individual coin by coin basis between registry set collectors, there are far fewer buyers prepared to pay condition rarity money for completed sets.

Error coins and notes were strong as usual, and although few of the pre-decimal coins and proofs in the main session had been PCGS graded, that didn’t seem to stifle demand for them particularly. Prices weren’t exactly robust, however the clearance rate was solid.

IAG was over and done fairly promptly - strong results in a fraction of the time!

Finally - Noble Numismatics 114 - 28-31 March 2017

Due to the way the prices realised are published by Noble’s, it is a little difficult to crunch all of the numbers for their sales - this is what we do know however:

Headline Figures

Turnover

$3,200,000

# Items Offered

5,127

# Items Sold

 

Clearance Rate

 

Average Lot Value

 

$10k+ Lots Sold 

13

5,127 lots over 4 days really is a marathon in anyone’s book - the first session generally starts at 930 in the morning, while the evening sessions tend to wrap up between 930pm and 1030pm. I don’t know the exact number of lots sold, however I saw no reason while in the auction rooms to think the clearance rate would have been any different to the earlier two sales just discussed. The first morning session had some real excitement in it, with the inclusion of some fresh decimal error and variety coins - including a complete set of double sided coins from 1975, in proof no less! The more cynical collectors among us protested that they would have to have been "mint sport” - made by mint production staff either when the boss wasn’t looking or after hours. Whether they were or not is beside the point, they exist, and so therefore are collected. Ditto with all of the off-metal strikes of the decimal coins, these were mainly items like a 20¢ on a 10¢ planchet and the like. These coins are incredible to look at and are very seldom seen, and were chased accordingly.

There was quite a large and old collection of coins and tokens from New Zealand in this sale - collectors love nothing more than going through coins that haven’t been on the market for a few decades, and when we see the breadth, depth and quality of the coins in this sale, that’s very understandable. New Zealand coins are keenly chased by those collectors that are into them, however it has to be said that there aren’t too many of those relative to other areas of numismatics! Bidding was strong on the key items, and the clearance rate was quite solid.

There was a good number of proclamation coins in this sale, and although the quality wasn’t in the same league as those in the IAG sale, they sold well nonetheless. There was a good range of Australian gold coins in this sale - both sovereigns and halves. The clearance rate for the Adelaide Pounds was good, although it did drop off into the Sydney Mint sovereigns. Many of the Sydney Mint half sovereigns had been offered previously (and passed in at the current estimates), and so it wasn’t surprising to see them passed in again. The Shields and Young Heads seem to have come from an old-time collection, a date set of both series in superior quality. Not all of the coins had held up well against the de-facto PCGS grading standard, so were either quiet or passed in.

The strong results in that session showed the determination there can be for well-graded Australian gold coins. The pre-decimal proof coins really were something else - 5 of the first 6 pre-55 proofs were not unanimously acknowledged as being proofs at all, and their sales figures reflected that. The remainder of the pre-55 proofs were not in superlative quality, and suffered as a result. Through the QEII proofs, quality and unimpaired surfaces were clearly what collectors are after.

The vast majority of the most active predecimal coin collectors in the market at the moment are PCGS registry set collectors, which mens they either bid weakly on “raw” coins, or leave the risk to the dealers. Clearance rates and prices realised reflect that - coins that one might think would sell well bring softer prices then expected, while other coins don’t sell at all.

Wednesday had just as many British coins as Australian coins, the most attractive examples made good prices indeed - British coins are popular the world over of course, and remain as active here as they always have.

Thursday featured the foreign / world notes, as well as Australian notes from the earliest colonial times to today. The story for the Australian pre-fed notes wasn’t particularly different to that for previous auctions - black and white proofs were numerous and were patchy. The decent issued notes were contested to a level, while the specimens got away if they were reasonable value. There was not much in the way of fresh and interesting inventory in the pre-decimal notes, nor the decimal stars or specimens, so the prices there aren’t of much interest.

The world coins took up much of Friday’s activity, and there were a few solid collections of Chinese and Sarawak / Straits coins included. These sold well, sometimes for well above estimate, but in line with what one would expect informed collectors to push them to.

So there we have it - 21 days of activity across 3 states and cities, and just shy of $5 million in total sales. The Australian numismatic market certainly isn’t dead by any means - clearance rates seem to have improved in several market segments over where they were 12 months ago, even if prices aren’t stronger. Activity needs to build from a base, so vendors waiting for reasonable prices to emerge before they re-enter the market can take solace in that. 

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