Just a few weeks after the major event that was Noble Numismatics 118, Downie’s had their auction #328. Although the headline items in this sale would leave most Australian collectors fairly non-plussed, it was still a very productive event.
Total turnover for the sale amounted to $843,611, with a clearance rate of 88.98% - well in line with recent sales by Downie’s and the like. What was unusual however was the fact that not one single lot of the 2,795 sold made a hammer price greater than $10,000, which is unusual even for the times our market is in at present. If I run an eye over the few mainstream Australian lots that were offered up with estimates close to or above our arbitrary high water mark, this perhaps wasn’t as shocking as it first might seem - the only note really at that level was a Type I Specimen note set, the only coin really at that level was a corroded 1930 penny. Neither of those items are really resonating with collectors at present, so they were not surprisingly left alone.
The sale kicked off with some really interesting and unusual decimal curiosities, both coins and notes. When within what current collectors would regard as affordable levels they changed hands, when they were set at anything close to a premium, they were left alone. Due to the fundamental link they have to the evolution of polymer printing technology, I think the polymer test notes that originated out of CSIRO in the 1970’s are important to every collector of Australian notes, not just to polymer note collectors. That said, the market is still in it’s early stages of acceptance and understanding of these notes, so now really isn’t the time for them to have premium prices placed on them. None of the 3 notes offered in this auction sold, which bears that theory out. The specimen notes that followed were mixed - the two that got away were priced well, so there is still a pulse to the market. The QEII proofs showed that this is perhaps the softest area of the Australian coin market at present - I didn’t personally examine the 1955 Perth proof copper pair that was in this sale, however they looked acceptable from the images, and made a fraction of what they would have in years passed.
The Commonwealth coins in this sale all looked to be fairly inoffensive, in that they were mainly all “raw”. Some dedicated buyers did clearly search through them however, as at least one coin made 3 times the published estimate, after some competitive bidding.
There wasn’t much to speak of in the Australian notes - the decimal notes were active as always; the pre-federation note section didn’t include anything particularly startling, neither did the Commonwealth series of notes.
The headline items for this auction was a very specialised series of coins related to the Order of Malta, which according to the source cited by Wikipedia is "a Catholic lay religious order traditionally of military, chivalrous and noble nature.” Although there would clearly be a world market for coins such as this, there was very little demand for the coins struck in the early years of this series.
Downie Auction 328 won’t go down in the records as being a record sale by any measure, however with more than $800,000 turnover and a more than acceptable clearance rate, it was another solid day in the office for the Australian numismatic market.