Corona Virus' affect on the coin market

Noble Numismatics held their 123rd numismatic action in Sydney between March 31st and April 2nd, which was smack bang in the middle of the lockdown imposed by the Australian Commonwealth and New South Wales State governments to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Although this was the very first online-only sale held by Noble Numismatics, it didn’t totally kill off the market’s appetite for new numismatic material - total turnover for the auction was in excess of $3.40 million, which was largely in line with their sale in November 2019.

I believe if we can take anything from the now long-forgotten zaniness of our fellow citizens over toilet paper earlier in the year, it’s that human beings will stop at nothing to own items they really want or believe they need to own.

Large sections of the Australian numismatic market have been quiet for some years now, so we can forget that solid assets such as rare coins and notes can be in strong demand with a wide range of people, results such as that Noble sale - in the face of truly challenging circumstances only confirm that.

The Tale of the Tape

 

Turnover

# Sold

Total

$3,463,251

2960

Lots Offered

 

3801

Clearance Rate

 

77.87%

Av. Lot Value

 

$1,170

# of Lots above $10k

 

40

 

Looking over the statistics, I believe the clearance rate shows the truly wide variety of material that Noble handles - they cover every single sector of the numismatic market, no matter how many collectors are involved. Some of the areas are really only populated by a small number of specialist collectors, so not everything sells first time round.

Despite the quantity of items offered for sale, the average lot value remains relatively high. That is undoubtedly due to the inclusion of a good number of historic and valuable coins and notes. The key items sold are as follows:

Rank

Lot #

Item

Area

Hammer

Nett

2

252

1991 1kg Kangaroo Nugget Proof Coin

Australian

$74,000

$90,280

28

884

1930 Penny about VF

Australian

$14,000

$17,080

9

1086

1813 NSW Holey Dollar Very Good

Australian

$27,000

$32,940

17

1087

1813 NSW Dump good VF

Australian

$18,000

$21,960

39

1090

Adelaide Pound Type II about EF

Australian

$10,000

$12,200

20

1188

1919 Specimen Penny

Australian

$17,100

$20,862

13

1190

1928 Proof Florin

Australian

$23,750

$28,975

31

1199

1913 Florin PCGS MS65

Australian

$11,875

$14,488

8

1201

1914-H Florin PCGS MS66

Australian

$28,500

$34,770

32

1202

1915 Florin PCGS MS64

Australian

$11,875

$14,488

16

1218

1932 Florin PCGS MS64

Australian

$19,000

$23,180

21

1285

1930 Pennny PCGS VF35

Australian

$17,000

$20,740

40

1468

Chinese Silver Dollar

World Coins

$10,000

$12,200

37

1744

5 * Austria 100 Coronas

World Coins

$10,200

$12,444

38

1745

5 * Austria 100 Coronas

World Coins

$10,200

$12,444

33

1746

5 * Austria 100 Coronas

World Coins

$11,200

$13,664

34

1794

British India Proof Mohur 1870

World Coins

$11,000

$13,420

26

2085

Edward VI Crown

Great Britain

$15,000

$18,300

1

2092

1558 8 Testerns

Great Britain

$80,000

$97,600

11

2093

1558 4 Testerns

Great Britain

$26,000

$31,720

5

2094

1558 2 Testerns

Great Britain

$34,000

$41,480

7

2095

1558 1 Testern

Great Britain

$29,000

$35,380

35

2607

Set of 3 NBA Specimen Notes

Australian

$11,000

$13,420

18

2954

Bruttium Tetradrachm

Ancient

$18,000

$21,960

22

2973

Sicily Tetradrachm

Ancient

$17,000

$20,740

27

2983

Syracuse Tetradrachm

Ancient

$15,000

$18,300

6

2999

Syracuse Tetradrachm

Ancient

$32,000

$39,040

29

3000

Syracuse Tetradrachm

Ancient

$12,500

$15,250

10

3043

Macedon Tetradrachm

Ancient

$27,000

$32,940

23

3225

Lydia Stater 561BC

Ancient

$17,000

$20,740

12

3227

Ptolemy II Pentadrachm

Ancient

$24,000

$29,280

3

3230

Mark Antony Aureus

Ancient

$40,000

$48,800

30

3234

Marcus Aurelius Aureus

Ancient

$12,500

$15,250

4

3236

Septimius Severus Aureus

Ancient

$39,000

$47,580

15

3238

Septimius Severus Aureus

Ancient

$20,000

$24,400

19

3239

Caracalla Aureus

Ancient

$18,000

$21,960

14

3240

Caracalla Aureus

Ancient

$23,000

$28,060

25

3244

Maximianus Aureus

Ancient

$16,000

$19,520

36

3638

Boer War Platter

World Coins

$10,500

$12,810

24

3696

Polar Medal

World Coins

$17,000

$20,740

 

That’s obviously quite an extensive list, and is many more lots than we’ve seen in a number of recent numismatic auctions.

The interesting point to note is that although more Australian coin and note collectors collect Australian coins and notes, that doesn’t seem to be where the majority of the money is at the moment. All statistics can be taken a number of different ways, the above list is no different at all. That said, I believe the fact that Australian items “only” make up around 1/3 of the value of the high-value lots listed here is worth noting. 2/3 of the main activity in the Noble Numismatics auction 123 were either foreign, British or ancient coins and notes. Visit ten Australian coin dealers (either in person or online) and you’ll see that Australian items make up the majority of their inventory.

Many of the items in the list above wouldn’t be out of place in any major numismatic auction in the world - those ancient gold coins were historic and in incredible quality, as were the English westerns and the Tetradrachms from Syracuse. I believe this shows there’s a case to be made to have some assets that aren’t impacted directly by activity in the domestic economy - there’s literally a whole world of material to choose from!

Session 1 - Decimal Coins

The headline lot in the first session was a 1 kilogram Kangaroo Nugget proof gold coin from 1991. The mintage for this coin was just 100 pieces, and there’s no doubt to me most of those would have been melted down over the years. If the buyer of this coin was interested in it as a numismatic collectible they certainly got it for a bargain price - comparing the price realised to the A$ spot price for gold shows me it made a teeny premium of $3,473 over it’s metal value, or 3.85% over spot. Although this is a decent sum of money, in reality it’s no different to the price someone would pay for a bullion 1kg kangaroo nugget gold coin from the Perth Mint today.

Session 3 - PNG, NZ and Tokens

This section of the auction had a range of tokens from an old-time collection built by a prominent US numismatist. A number of the tokens looked to be in great quality, the clearance rate and prices realised reflected that.

One of the convict love tokens slotted in the next section made decent money - $5,000 against a $6,000 estimate. 

Session 4 - Australian Commonwealth Coins

This session had a good range of Australian predecimal silver coins in attractive condition - they might not be flavour of the month right at the moment, but there was a lot of detail on many of the coins listed. Not a lot of successful bidding activity prevailed however, the clearance rate was low compared to other sections of the sale. Lot 884 was described as a 1930 penny in about VF quality, it would have been a bargain at the nett price of around $17,000 if it looked as good in the hand as the images suggested.

The gold coins fared far better - just 4 lots out of close to 170 sold. The coins were in the main circulated and didn’t contain any superlative rarities, but that level of activity shows that interest in these coins is higher than it has been in years past.

Session 5 - The Evening Coin Session

This session contained the more valuable Australian coins, the prices showed a good amount of activity. The proclamation coins were a little on the quiet side, which wasn’t surprising given the circumstances. Although Noble Numismatics provide high resolution images for all of their relatively valuable lots, I find it hard to get a clear idea of surface quality when it comes to coins like the Holey Dollar when working on images alone. Lot 1086 had a nett price of just $33,000, which for mine was the cheapest we’ve seen one of these historic coins bring in around 5 years. The coin was described as having been water-worn - if it looked OK in the hand this would have been one of the bargains of the sale.

An attractive Dump was the next lot, and it made a fair price given the current market. Four more Type II Adelaide Pounds were next on the block, they all sold which bodes well for the liquidity in this section of the market. Activity in the gold coins that followed was mixed - bidding was spread across the lots offered, but bidding activity alone only tells part of the story. Comparing the prices realised against the retail values that those coins have shows that there’s still some volatility or patchiness in demand - it isn’t yet strong across the board.

It has to be said that the pre-decimal proof coins that followed were pretty soft. The 1916 silver specimen sets from the Melbourne Mint are incredibly historic - they are our nation's first coins actually struck on Australian soil. As they’re specimens rather than proofs, they are not easily to positively attribute, over the years to all of the coins offered as specimens have enjoyed the confidence of potential bidders. None of the coins got away, despite the estimates being incredibly low for what these coins should bring, even in the current market. The 1916-I specimen penny that followed was passed in also, while the proof 1924 halfpenny was knocked down at a modest $5,000 hammer price. All of this activity shows me there was very little confidence in these items, or this section of the market at the moment.

The 1919 specimen penny offered up a few dozen lots later made a shave less than the hammer price, which although it wasn’t a perfect outcome, was solid given the circumstances. That was among the first Australian copper coins struck by an Australian mint, so was incredibly historic as a result. Most of the other proofs that followed were passed in also, even though the quality was a lot higher. The same vendor owned the fantastic range of Australian florins and pennies that followed - all were truly high quality, and all had been graded by PCGS.

It has to be said that the clearance rate and the prices realised for that collection didn’t reflect the standing these coins have. Only a modest percentage of the coins got away, and there was little competitive bidding on those that did. It’s interesting to see just which of the coins made relatively strong prices - there are clearly still some dedicated registry set collectors actively competing to finish their sets. Australian pre-decimal coins are clearly going through a re-calibration phase at the moment, which bodes really well for collectors that are interested in acquiring them.

Sessions 6  and 7 - World Coins

These sessions can often include deep collections in very specific areas, as well as much smaller amounts of coins from a wide range of foreign countries. This session had a collection of West Indian coins; French silver coins, South African coins and more. No particularly spectacular results were achieved. In the gold session, the British Indian coins were competed over by a number of different bidders. Other gold coins that proved popular were from Rhodesia and Thailand.

Session 8 - British Gold and Silver Coins

British hammered coins are popular right around the world at present, the better coins in the early part of this session enjoyed that attention. A number made far more than their estimated price, the clearance rate remained solid right throughout this session. The hammered silver coins in the same session enjoyed just as much attention - the images clearly showed just how good the better quality coins were, very few were passed in. Four important “portcullis” coins were included - these are incredibly rare; are historic as Britain’s first colonial coins, and were in solid condition to boot. On that basis, they were some of the stars of the entire sale - I don’t expect to see them on the market for many years to come.

There were many more attractive and valuable coins in the hammered and milled section, most of them had no problems finding buyers.

Without actually sighting the coins to compare the catalogue descriptions against the reality of their quality, it’s hard to assess the prices realised as an indication of how strong this sale was. The prices realised show there was interest, if nothing else.

World Banknotes

There were far less foreign / world notes than there were coins consigned to this sale, the interest was there however. Specialist collectors of Rhodesian and Russian notes would have been pleased with the material on offer. There were less New Zealand notes in this sale than we normally see.

Australian Banknotes

There were close to two dozen different lots of pre-federation notes in this sale, the majority of them were either black and white printer’s proofs or private trader’s notes. Proofs traded for huge money back in the heyday of the last market cycle, but they’ve certainly eased back since then. I saw a number of proofs in this sale sell for no more than a few hundred dollars apiece, which surely has to make them completely affordable to a whole new collector market. Although these proofs can’t (in the main) be described as rare, they are certainly scarce and historic. I can see that there’d be many collectors quite happy to accumulate a number of proofs from regions close to their heart if they remain at these price levels.

It’s hard to comment on the price activity on the pre-decimal notes that followed without having seen the actual quality of the notes relative to their descriptions and broader market values. Checking the prices realised, the clearance rate was quite good, it seems like the more expensive material was passed in, and demand remains strongest at the lowest levels of quality and price. The same can be said for the star replacement notes and specimens.

Ancient Coins

This is one segment of numismatics that truly does span the world - collectors on each continent are active in Greek, Roman and Byzantine coins. This sale included a range of truly desirable coins - rarity, history and quality all in one. A small number of Greek silver tetradrachms were included,from old collections and in fantastic quality. These sold well, and were some of the more valuable items in the entire auction. There were a number of world-class Greek gold coins in the sale also, they were followed by a solid range of Roman gold coins. One rare gold aureus struck for Mark Antony sold at the hammer price, and was one of just 4 examples known anywhere in the world. 

Nearly all of the other high-quality ancient Roman gold coins were picked up, showing there is a demand for such items even when there are significant barriers to doing so.

Reviewing the numbers for this sale, I have to say they look to be particularly positive. The pandemic lockdown clearly didn’t totally kill off the market’s appetite for new numismatic material if total turnover was largely in line with their sale in November 2019. As I mentioned earlier, I believe if we can take anything from the now long-forgotten zaniness of our fellow citizens over toilet paper earlier in the year, it’s that human beings will stop at nothing to own items they really want or believe they need to own.

 


Category: Market Movements

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