It’s been a week since Noble Numismatics held their 108th auction, and the results are in. Total turnover was a cool $3.13 million - quite respectable in the current market, particularly when we consider that this time round, the auction was mainly of “standard” numismatic material.
The highlights of the morning session were the decimal error coins. There were some record prices set, confirming that this area of the market remains keenly contested by a tight number of very well-informed buyers that know exactly what they want.
The rest of the morning session included a number of bulk and remainder lots from the Jon Saxton collection. For those of you that don’t know him, Jon is a very well-regarded numismatist very active from the late 1990’s until perhaps about 5 years ago. John was an expat Australian living in the US when his passion for numismatics really took hold, he did some incredibly thorough and detailed research into many aspects of Australia’s pre-decimal coins. I understand that Jon has had some significant health issues in recent times, which brought on a desire to ensure his family didn’t have to deal with a major issue of moving on a collection that they didn’t have much knowledge of.
Jon’s preface to the auction catalogue included a statement to the effect that he didn’t regard himself as a “serious” collector (I’m paraphrasing here). Judging by the breadth of his collection (predecimal coins, errors, varieties, tokens, gold sovereigns and halves as well as Australian banknotes - both decimal and predecimal), as well as the value of many items included in it, he certainly was a very serious collector indeed. Anyone that goes to the trouble of preparing plasticine molds so they can explain how an overdate came into existence (as Jon did for an article in the CAB magazine some years ago) has to be nothing but!
In addition to Jon’s extensive collection, Noble 108 also included a number of very large hoards of Australian pre-decimal silver coins - mainly florins and crowns. I have to confess I didn’t have the stomach to sit through several hundred lots of circulated KGV florins and crowns (it’s not like I haven’t seen thousands of them before, albeit perhaps not in one group and provenanced out of Far North Queensland), so am not sure how these lots fared.
I did attend the evening session however - and wasn’t it a long one! It isn’t unusual for evening sessions at Noble’s to run towards 10pm, there were so many coins in this 108th sale that not all of the “better” Australian predecimal coins could be included - many of the lots bled into the morning session the next day.
The start of the evening session included several Holey Dollars in low grade. While they each had qualifications to their grade (they were both reasonably well circulated and had either contact marks or damage to them), they were intact, and thus affordable examples of our very first native colonial coins. Both coins were priced to market and sold - a positive sign for a market that hasn’t had the best liquidity in recent years. Not all of the dumps sold however, indicating that there could be some ways to go before vendors and buyers have a full meeting of the minds in this current cycle of the market.
Each of the Adelaide Pounds found a new home (including a much better than average Type I), as did the good EF 1856 sovereign. The better 1855 half sovereign sold to a very prudent buyer from Western Australia :), and the results for the remainder of the sovereigns were in line with recent market activity.
While the results in the pre-decimal proof section didn’t set the world on fire, liquidity was there, even if record prices weren’t. This is a solid sign, and indicates buyers and sellers are working things out, even if only reluctantly.
There really weren’t a lot of condition rarities in the pre-decimal coins, however the coins ticked over easily enough, in all price and grade ranges. Thursday morning’s session saw each of the 1930 pennies get away - even the coins with problems such as verdigris, rim damage or scratching sold for what I thought was strong money.
The 1916 Mule halfpenny was an attractive coin, and was priced to sell. This strategy really works in the current market - prices may be down relative to where they were a few short years ago, however if an auctioneer gives potential bidders confidence that an item is well graded, and on the market at a reasonable value, then they’ll be quite happy to duke it out just as much as they always did. While the Mule sold below estimate, it was the subject of some keen bidding on the way up.
The world coin session at Noble’s can really reveal which collectors and dealers know their stuff and do their homework - they’re the ones confident to bid exponentially above estimate on the weirdest of lots, while everyone else sits about slack-jawed at the “crazy” prices being paid. The Czech gold coins featured on the front cover sold well, and it seems the apparent decline in the Chinese economy hasn’t yet fully carried through to the market for Chinese coins. There were some other rather strong prices, however China certainly dominated the most valuable pieces in that session.
The New Zealand notes were rather quiet - this is in line with recent sales. Prices seem to be (continuing to) come back in line with what buyers are prepared to pay for them, however we probablt aren’t quite there yet.
The world note session looked very much like they always do - a veritable United Nations smorgasboard from all points of the compass. High value notes sold from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas, and every point in between.
The clearance rate for pre-federation notes was less than 30% - not great at all. More than a few proofs, speicmens and even issued notes were passed in. Prices certainly need to be sharp if an item in this area of the market is to get away. The predecimal notes sold reasonably well across the board - I get the impression that most vendors in this area of the market have resigned themselves to the way things are at the moment, present liquidity reflects that. Both decimal specimen notes sold, however the stars were rather quiet - not the first auction in recent months where that has been the case.
Interestingly, the error, uncut notes and banknote folders were rather active - these have been left well alone by mainstream dealers for a number of years, and have developed a market of their own via eBay and beyond. Major dollars aren’t involved, however it’s active nonetheless.
So, $3.13 over two and a half days of solid numismatic auctioneering - we’ve had tougher times!