Snapshot of gold sovereign collecting in 1989

There are certain auctions that capture the zeitgest or mood of a particular period of activity in the Australian numismatic market, the auction of the Pratley collection of Australian half sovereigns, held in Sydney in March of 1989 by Spink Auctions (Australia), certainly captured the mood of the half sovereign market in Australia of the 1980's.


The Australian Half sovereign series is one that is formidable to many collectors - many dates are rare in any condition, and are nigh impossible to obtain in mint state. This presents an insurmountable problem for most collectors of average means, both financially and in terms of patience!

To complete a set of Australian half sovereigns requires dedication, knowledge and diligence (not to mention a good amount of ready funds) over an extended period of time. That dedication is not common to all collectors, so to complete a set of Australian half sovereigns in superior grade is regarded by many as being a real achievement.

The 1980's was perhaps the first time that Australian half sovereigns became desirable to a wide range of collectors. The unique manner in which they represent Australia's economic history was explored in some detail, and their desirability in superior grade was established beyond doubt.

Just one example of the prices obtained in this sale is lot 1528, a Type II Sydney Mint half sovereign dated 1866, described as being in about FDC condition and the finest known of just 8 coins better than EF condition.

This coin made a hammer price of $23,000 - a spectacular result when we consider that a good Very Fine 1930 penny in the same sale (lot 1701) made just $7,800. If that 1930 penny were to come to market in 2011, it could reasonably be expected to bring between $75,000 and $95,000.

This means that the market value of that particular half sovereign traded at a value three times the price of the good VF 1930 penny in 1989, yet trades at a 50% discount to the same coin two decades later!

Further analysis shows that the A FDC 1866 half sovereign has gone from selling at a premium of 2-10 times a number of other Australian numismatic rarities in the same 1989 auction, to now being valued at between just 20% and a maximum of 75% of those same rarities today.

Here is a table showing the prices realised for a range of items in the March 1989 auction:

 

LOT

ITEM

GRADE

ESTIMATE

HAMMER / NETT

Ratio - 1866 1/2

2011 Value

Ratio - 1866 1/2

1305

Presentation Ten Shilling Note R1a

A VF

$4,000

$3,500

657.14%

$95,000

47.37%

1318

1914 Collins Allen Twenty Pounds R64

EF

$12,000

$12,000

191.67%

$215,000

20.93%

1319

1924 Cerutty Collins Fifty Pounds R67c

A EF

$8,000

$7,500

306.67%

$150,000

30.00%

1413

1813 NSW Dump A/1

VF

$5,000

$7,500

306.67%

$74,000

60.81%

1418

1919 Type 3 Pattern Kookaburra Penny

G EF

$3,000

$3,900

589.74%

$120,000

37.50%

1419

1921 Type 11 Pattern Kookaburra Penny

UNC

$3,300

$3,500

657.14%

$110,000

40.91%

1420

1921 Type 12b Pattern Kookaburra Penny

G EF

$3,700

$2,700

851.85%

$95,000

47.37%

1424

1927 Proof Canberra Florin

FDC

$1,500

$2,000

1150.00%

$60,000

75.00%

1428

1899 Melbourne Proof Sovereign

FDC

$8,500

$10,000

230.00%

$150,000

30.00%

1430

1852 Type II Adelaide Pound

A UNC

$15,000

$15,400

149.35%

$120,000

37.50%

1528

1866 Sydney Mint Half Sovereign

A FDC

$15,000

$23,000

 

$45,000

 

1701

1930 Penny (Cover coin on ACR)

G VF

$7,500

$7,800

294.87%

$95,000

47.37%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Median

306.67%

Median

40.91%

 

 

 

 

Mean

489.55%

Mean

43.16%

 

The wide swing in median values illustrated here should show that there has been at least one stage in Australia's numismatic market when premium half sovereigns were clearly the most desirable of all numismatic items available. More than a few collectors are confident enough in the value that half sovereigns in premium grade offer today that they are buying them whenever they become available.

Just when we see another numismatic auction that has half sovereigns selling for prices as heady as those achieved by the Pratley collection in 1989 is yet to be seen, however it is certain that the day will indeed come.