IAG auctions are notable affairs usually for the rare and exclusive material they contain, and this sale wasn’t an exception. It stands out for a couple of other reasons as well - it was yet a further example of the ready use of online bidding technology in the Australian numismatic world, and it was also the first auction held in Australia endorsed by ANDA.
The first 337 lots were conducted via an online / postal bid auction, whereby interested parties submitted bids prior to the 6pm closing time, and the highest bid won. These lots were mostly relatively inexpensive items from a broad range of areas (world coins, proclamation coins, predecimal coins and notes, etc), the clearance rate and prices showed they were all estimated to ensure they were “on the market”, and that they were graded within buyer expectations.
The “live” auction opened to a subdued room - I estimated there were less than two dozen people in attendance, which isn’t a great deal at all when compared to years previous. This is more a reflection of the preference for bidders to make use of the postal bid process than anything, however I have to say it’s hard to generate excitement with such a small crowd in attendance. The deathly quiet that gripped the room in the initial stages of the auction didn’t stop the lots from selling however!
The colonial and Pre-Federation notes included were quiet yet again, however it does seem that current vendors are undestanding that they need to meet the market if they’re to have any chance of returning to cash. I believe we’ll be seeing a floor in the market soon, and that floor will underpin values for some time to come.
The pre-decimal notes in this sale were a wide and varied bunch - inexpensive and heavily circulated items were included along with some true rarities in superb condition. Out of the 90 pre-decimal notes included, just 27 sold initially, for a clearance rate of just 30%. 10 of the 90 notes were estimated above $10,000, and only two of those sold initially. Not great results, but at least we know where we’re at right now.
I studied the prices realised pretty keenly during the week, and have determined that the notes that sold made figures ranging between a paltry 6% and a robust 82% of catalogue value (CV). Most notes sold sat within a reasonable range around 40% of 2013 catalogue values.
Now that you’ve finished spitting your dry martini right across the room, be aware that these statistics are just as much a reflection of the current utility of our printed price guides as it is a reflection of the current demand for collectible banknotes.
I’m not a big fan of using arbitrary rules of thumb when it comes to appraising coins and notes - I’ve encountered too many collectors that have come unstuck calculating their purchase prices by deducting a grade of the item they’ve seen on eBay, then dividing the resulting catalogue value by two to work out what they should pay in order to reduce their risk.
That said, once I charted all of the prices realised relative to their catalogue values, the 40% mark did seem to be a reasonable estimate. True rarities that remain just as tough to come by today as they were in the heyday of the banknote market in the early noughties, command much higher ratios of their respective CV’s, while those notes that seem to be more readily available these days than they used to don’t bring anywhere near as much.
Very few of the star replacement notes got away - quality and value carry the day at the moment, anything that falls short on either count is simply disregarded.
In the decimal specimen notes, just 1 of the 7 lots sold initially, and that was at a steep discount of 2/3rd’s of catalogue value. While this will be grim news to those that own similar notes, this result shows that we aren’t too far from a bottom.
In a rather odd turn of events, the gold coin section in this sale was quite active, I reckoned it was probably the most active session of gold coins I’ve seen in some time, a great result considering there weren’t too many in attendance at all, and further that IAG hasn’t been a major vendor of Australian gold coins in the past. This result reinforces my opinion that all it takes to generate a sale in the current market is an appropriate grade and an estimate / reserve that acknowledges current market levels.
This premise carried over into the colonial coins - the Holey Dollars and dumps. Values in the lower to middle ranges of this sector of the market haven’t been easy to comprehend in recent years. There’s little doubt that discerning and well-heeled collectors have been quite prepared to pay strong money in order to obtain the finest and most historic examples, however examples that are below that exacting mark haven’t been in as strong demand. A number of coins have bounced around at auction as a result - while vendors tried to make sense of things, clearance rates haven’t been great. While the results here weren’t great relative to years past, each of the coins offered found new homes, showing that we could be close to getting back to an active market again, albeit at a lower price level.
Patterns and proofs remain quiet, although both of the 1937 patterns did get away, albeit after the auction concluded.
The pre-decimal coins were reasonably active given the level of material that was included. The focus these days is very much on quality - PCGS condition rarities to be specific. I didn’t bespy too many in this sale, however that certainly didn’t harm the clearance rate. It’s interesting to be at an auction where most of the lots are knocked down to postal bidders - it’s almost like watching an unstoppable, mysterious force in action.
As always, the error notes were active, with a few making very strong prices indeed. This led onto the pre-decimal proofs, an area where an item needs to be either superlative quality or reserved to sell (preferably both) if it is to change hands. There were some attractive coins in this section of the sale, and I believe the new owners will be feeling very pleased with themselves.
The error coins offered a burst of activity to finish the night off - collectors active in this area of the market really do know what is rare and what isn’t, while the rest of us just look on and scratch our heads. Strong prices yet again, showing just how much demand there is when buyers and sellers are left alone to their own devices!
Status International Auction 301 followed the week after this sale - it dwarfed the IAG sale in terms of the number of items it had in it, however neither the clearance rates nor the total turnover didn’t compare this time round. There probably wasn’t much in this sale that indicated any new trends or price levels - the results it generated (as well as the character of the lots that were passed in) are in line with my comments above.
We have Downie’s to come this week, then Roxbury’s in the weeks following, while the 2013 auction calendar will be rounded out by Noble’s 104th sale in late November. Just whether these sales will continue the tone set by IAG remains to be seen.