A Profile of the Landmark Rare Coin Auction Held in March 1989 - the Pratley Collection of Australia

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.