Noble 115 - Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width!
There are very few collectors indeed that are prepared to disregard quality for a nanosecond, particularly in the age of registry set competitions. That said, if a collector were to judge the merit of the next Noble Numismatics auction, they’ll feel the width of the catalogue filling out at a massive 4cm - it could well be amongst the widest Noble catalogues ever issued! (One of the finest known) to paraphrase a much-used auction lot description.
The catalogue itself weighs more than 2.5 kilograms, so there can be no fear that Noble Numismatics was “the last of the big sales”.
Just like sale 114, sale 115 takes place over 4 days this coming week, from Tuesday to Friday. The sessions will be staged from 930am to at least 930pm, so do spare a thought for the auctioneer that needs to be as sharp as a tack for 48 hours. (Not consecutive and without sleep as many medical professionals are unfortunately required to do these days, but a challenging task nonetheless.)
This sale is filled with several collections across a range of fields that have been built by advanced collectors in their field, and who are now exiting the market for one reason or another.
This is particularly the case with the coins rather than the notes this time round. The early part of Tuesday is again characterised by a good quantity of Cook memorabilia, as it was last time round - expect to see keen competition from the very dedicated collectors in this field. The range of Australian and NZ tokens put up has been remarked upon, indicating that another old-time collection has been shaken out of the tree.
The range of proclamation and colonial coins is solid, even in the larger gold coins that are not often seen here. It is in the area of Australian gold coins that shows the most depth in this auction. I can count at least three distinct collections formed by advanced collectors, with varying degrees of completion and focus on quality. The interesting difference between the market for Australian gold coins now and say just 10-15 years ago, is that way back in the olden days before the PCGS grading standard became the benchmark, the vast majority of collectors simply aimed to add mint-state coins to their collections, and were not as insistent on cracker-jack quality as collectors are today. Further to that, there was far less focus on surface impairments then as there is now.
Many of the Australian gold coins recovered from the wreck of the Douro (a British mail steamer that sank off the coast of Portugal in 1882, with some 30,000 gold sovereigns on board) were cleaned once they reached shore. Yet other mint-state sovereigns can be heavily bag marked, or can have what PCGS might today regard as surface issues such as hairlines. So although there may well be more gold sovereigns and halves in the upcoming Noble Numismatics auction than we’ve seen since the Quartermaster Collection was put up for sale way back in September 2009, they are yet to be viewed via the PCGS grading filter. Some coins will win out, while others will no doubt be left behind, as has happened with all of the other Australian coins that have reached the market over the past five years.
That said, I expect we’ll see some good competition from dealers and collectors that are keen to pick up a good range of coins that we haven’t seen in a number of years. Offerings like this can actually kick some interest off in a market, it’ll be interesting to see how these coins impact the market.
There are some really nice-looking patterns and proofs featured in this sale - if their estimates are anything to go by, we could see the coins bid on in the same way they used to be when the market was strong - from a range of bidders in and out of the room, and well beyond the published estimate. Just whether the auctioneer has set out to build that kind of excitement into the auction or not remains to be seen. Moving onto the Commonwealth coins, there really is some depth in this section as well. I don’t know that there’s the quality here to really get the juices flowing for the registry set collectors, however for collectors that are simply keen on picking up coins with a good level of detail and without any obvious problems, this could be a good event for them.
Before and after the Australian notes are featured, there are a couple of named collections offered up in fields that aren’t exactly mainstream - British copper tokens and war medals. I won’t be keeping an eye on those sessions, however I expect given the quantity and quality of the items offered up, I do expect them to be active.
The Australian banknote session will perhaps be less exciting than the evening coin session, there probably isn’t the same type of material on offer. There are certainly more pre-federation notes offered up in this sale than there was in Downie’s last week, however the majority of them are black and white proofs, with a few really appealing items salted within them. Ditto with the pre-decimal notes, there are a couple of pieces that we haven’t seen on the market for quite some time, while the majority are going to appeal to the middle of the road collectors.
Interestingly, there is a very comprehensive set of polymer $5 notes offered in this section. Since September last year, the 1st generation series of polymer $5 notes is now complete of course, so this is perhaps the first time we will have seen a really comprehensive range of them offered up. The auctioneer describes the lot as “225 notes plus 54 test notes”, which is a very comprehensive collection when we consider they are all just one denomination! With an $18,000 published estimate, the vendor is clearly expecting there to be a few cashed-up note collectors that are interested in picking them up in one fell swoop, rather than acquiring them over time. This lot will be an interesting test, that is for sure.
With more than 5,000 lots offered over 4 days, Noble Numismatics 115 is certain to be a keenly attended sale, it will be interesting to see just how it all fares.