Noble Auction 115 - 4 Days At Close to $70,000 per Hour

We wouldn’t ordinarily frame the passage of time in terms of dollars and cents, however if we divide the total turnover in the last Noble auction by the number of hours it took for the whole auction to run to completion, the sales activity works out to have gone down at around $70,000 per hour. Four days in the room plus another one actually viewing the stock beforehand makes for a long week - it can sometimes feel a lot longer than $70,000 per hour.

An auction of this size is by necessity split into numerous different sections and sessions, and not all of them are as active or keenly contested as each other of course. Overall however, $3.22 million in sales certainly looks to be yet another respectable result. Drilling down into each different section shows that a strong headline result doesn’t depict the whole story, and there is a lot more to the Australian numismatic market than meets the eye. Here are the major statistics from this auction that you’ll want to know:

Noble Auction 115 Summary
Lots Offered 5,138
Lots Sold 3,889
Turnover (including buyer's premium) $3,229,026
Clearance Rate 75.69%
# Lots above $10k 23
Av. Lot Value $830.30

There are a couple of points to take away from these results:

1. More than 5,000 lots offered - this was a massive auction relative to others held recently in Australia;

2. Close to 4,000 lots sold - not everything got away - 1,249 unsold lots is more than are in most other auctions!;

3. 75.68% clearance rate - this was reasonably low in percentage terms relative to others held in recent times, however could be a reflection of the sheer scope of material included;

4. 23 lots valued greater than $10,000 sold - this is many more than some auctions move in a year;

5. Average lot value of $830.30 - again, this is higher than most auctions held in recent times, and has no doubt been skewed by the higher value lots listed below.

Items Valued Greater than $10,000 Sold Via Noble Auction 115

Lot Item Hammer Nett Area
1236 1814 Holey Dollar, plugged Fine $44,000 $52,470 Colonial Coins
1237 1813 Dump, good VF $16,000 $19,080 Colonial Coins
1247 1856 Sovereign good EF $12,500 $14,906 Australian Gold Coins
1252 1860 Sovereign, Uncirculated $12,500 $14,906 Australian Gold Coins
1264 1856 Half Sovereign, Choice Uncirculated $25,000 $29,813 Australian Gold Coins
1266 1858 Sydney Half Sovereign, RR error, good VF $23,000 $27,428 Australian Gold Coins
1268 1862 Sydney Half Sovereign, Uncirculated $10,000 $11,925 Australian Gold Coins
1270 1866 Sydney Half Sovereign, Uncirculated $12,500 $14,906 Australian Gold Coins
1350 1896 Melbourne Proof Half Sovereign, FDC $50,000 $59,625 Proof Coins
1352 1921 Pattern Kookaburra Penny Type 12 $20,000 $23,850 Proof Coins
1353 1927 Canberra Proof Florin $10,000 $11,925 Proof Coins
1413 1932 Florin Uncirculated $11,000 $13,118 Commonwealth Coins
1459 1930 Pennyabout VF $18,000 $21,465 Commonwealth Coins
1460 1930 Penny good Fine $16,000 $19,080 Commonwealth Coins
1461 1930 Penny good Fine $16,000 $19,080 Commonwealth Coins
1884 Great Britain 1937 Gold Proof Set $12,000 $14,310 British Coins
2733 United States 1883 Hawaii Dollar, Choice Uncirculated $10,000 $11,925 World Coins
3913 West Australian Bank Issued One Pound 1897 EF $26,000 $31,005 Pre-Federation Banknotes
3996 1918 Ten Pounds Fine $12,500 $14,906 Pre-Decimal Banknotes
3999 1943 Consecutive Run of 30 Ten Pounds Uncirculated $25,000 $29,813 Pre-Decimal Banknotes
4162 Alexander the Great Gold Distater $16,500 $19,676 Ancient Coins
4654 Celtic Britain Gold Stater 25 BC about EF $10,000 $11,925 Ancient Coins
4966 Group of 5 Medals Inc. Military Cross to AIF Lieutenant $32,000 $38,160 Military Medals

Day Sessions - Australian Coins

There wasn’t a lot to speak of in the early coin sessions - the tokens, error coins and such that are usually seen first up wasn’t as strong as in previous sales. There were so many Australian gold and predecimal coins in this sale that the pre-evening sessions contained a lot more coins than usual. The clearance rate for the early predecimal session showed that there was little interest in silver coins that were expected to “no grade” with PCGS - a reasonably high percentage were passed in, more than I’ve seen in any comparable session in recent months. This was less the case for the copper coins, while prices for pre-decimal “mint” rolls of Uncirculated coins were quite strong indeed. Some dealers and collectors will punt on 1 or 2 coins in a batch being graded at a condition rarity level, which pays for all the others - it was great to see some competitive action on them.

Evening Session - Australian Coins

Moving onto the evening session for the coins, there was some broad-based interest in the proclamation and colonial coins - bids were coming from dealers and collectors on the floor, as well as postal bids and via the internet. Prices weren’t setting any records, however activity was quite healthy indeed. Liquidity for the Colonial Holey Dollars and Dumps in this sale was better than in previous auctions, perhaps because the vendor/s were finally prepared to meet the market. Prices weren’t great, however that seems to be what’s required for certain coins at the moment.

I thought the gold coin sessions (both during the day and the evening) were really interesting - here was an offering of some of the best Australian sovereigns and half sovereigns that had been seen since the Quartermaster Collection was offered in 2009, and although 6 of those coins cracked my admittedly arbitrary $10,000 high water mark, their surfaces were such that I don’t see all (or even many) of them being included on the more competitive PCGS registry sets any time soon.

It really is remarkable when an incredible series of coins that have long been regarded as among the finest known examples of their date are left untouched by many of the most active buyers in the market. This really is a generational change that is unprecedented, and has a huge impact on how vendors and collectors need to operate in the current market if they’re to be responsible for achieving their own objectives. I saw so many coins that were quite acceptable to collectors and dealers just ten years ago get passed in or make a soft sales price because they don’t meet the criteria that PCGS has for surface quality.

The prime reason for that is that “back in the olden days” when all coins here were traded “raw” (and weren’t independently graded), there wasn’t the same imperative to only handle coins with original surfaces. There was a great deal of focus placed on the distinction between a mint-state coin and one with a bit of rub or wear, however clearly it wasn’t unusual for a mint-state coin to have some scuffing in the fields, or a hairline. Collectors back then could be excused for not knowing that this standard would be imposed in the coming years, however those of us that are active in the market today have no such excuse - whether you like buying slabbed coins or not, the reality is that coins with surface “issues” are harder to sell and fetch less money in today’s market.

We can see from the prices realised that gold coins that were valued at a modest premium over their melt value had no problems selling, however coins that were just one step above that level (i.e. anything ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand above melt) really wasn’t popular if the surfaces weren’t beyond reproach.

There was one brief moment of excitement when it came to an 1856 half sovereign with the rare reverse type - the auctioneer hadn’t described it as such, nor was it estimated accordingly. As is the way with such things, it was the worst kept secret in the sale, and it ended up making ten times estimate from memory. Setting aside the excitement over the competitive bidding, the coin made what I thought was a very strong price, indicating that collector interest in Sydney half sovereign varieties remains quite keen.

The proof coins on offer clearly had them “on the market” (well, most of them anyways). Opportunistic buying could be seen on a number of the coins included, which is a great sign that a few people are prepared to take a punt on proofs when they get down to a level that offers value.

The evening session for the Commonwealth silver coins was a repeat of the action during the day - any coin that had an odd tone, a hairline or some scuffs was left well alone - there are more than a few gaps in the prices realised of this section of the catalogue.

The 1930 pennies included in this sale that were reserved in line with the current market had no issues being sold, the other two were a bit rich.

Day Sessions - British and World Coins

As always, the British and world coin sessions were quite active in this auction. The headline coin was a fine gold sovereign of Queen Elizabeth I in superlative condition - it really is amazing to see a large gold coin that is more than 450 years old still in incredible condition, however this coin was estimated (and presumably reserved) at full retail value, and was left alone as a result. There was spirited bidding on the other featured gold rarity - the 1937 gold proof set. Top quality examples of those coins bring big dollars when independently graded - this set made a strong price, without it being bananas.

Australian Banknotes

The evening session for the Australian banknotes was quite remarkable - if only for the fact there was a queue to get into the door! That hasn’t happened for many, many years, but may be a reflection of a lot of potential bidders wanting to register at the same time. There was a good number of people in the room to be sure, however they weren’t falling out the windows.

The queue (as well as the bidders on the internet and in the mail bid book) made for some really broad-based bidding - it has been some time since a room bidder has needed to swivel right the way around to see who they’re bidding against, however there were bids coming from all angles in that session. I don’t know that the notes on offer were particularly spectacular, however that didn’t deter many people from participating. The clearance rate for the predecimal notes was far better than for the equivalent coins, it’s been a long time since we could say that, no doubt at all.

Without crunching the numbers statistically, the clearance rate for the pre-federation notes certainly seemed to be better than in months past, and not only that but the demand was very broad based - bids were coming not just from those dealers that have been active in them over the past few years, but also from collectors via the mail and the internet. Specimens, proofs and issued notes all sold well, and while we have no reason to be skipping through the streets just yet, we’re now seeing prices that are better than any achieved since the demise of the Rare Coin Company (mid 2012), which has to be a real turning point.

The highlight of this session for mine was that for the West Australian Bank issued £1 note. Graded good EF, this note was informally mentioned as being ex the archives of Westpac Bank, and consequently from the Bank of NSW, and consequently the Western Australian Bank. Not only did the note have that impeccable provenance, it was in incredible quality. The most recent trading range for these notes is arguably between $15,000 and $20,000, and I was expecting to see it reach the higher end of that scale. It didn’t take too long for some enthusiastic bidders to push it up far above and beyond that mark - the price this note realised is pretty much in line with what a note achieved back in April 2010 - when the market was ticking along without a care in the world. 

If this kind of activity continues, we can only conclude that the banknote market is regaining the ground that it has lost in the years since then. I was very pleased to see the action in the note session, it really was very heartening.

It was amazing to see a consecutive run of 30 £10 notes dating back to the middle of WWII - not only were these notes old, but they hadn’t been tampered with, which is incredible in itself. So many banknotes were pressed, flattened and generally dicked around with during the last boom that it is unusual to see one note remain as it was issued, let alone a run of them.  The purchasing power of that batch of notes would have been incredible, I expect we’ll look back and say that the price realised was a bargain, however there clearly weren’t too many people prepared to throw down their cash on such a long-term play.

The decimal specimen notes offered were relatively weak, largely due to their condition in my opinion. Where there was confidence in the quality of the star notes on offer (either due to the provenance or research on their serial numbers), they made quite strong prices. Any stars that were sub-par and not estimated accordingly were left alone, which is hardly surprising.

Friday - Ancient Coins and Militaria

Ancient coins and militaria rounded out the week for Noble 115 - there were some world-class Greek, Roman and Celtic coins on offer, several of them brought strong prices. A historic group of five medals found a new home also, and while ancients and militaria might not be the most mainstream areas of collecting in Australia, strong prices in those areas still shows a solid appetite for tangible assets.

All up, I’d say Noble’s 115 was a success, even if no records were written and largely everything went to expectations. It’ll take a significant offering of fresh material, or some kind of “disruptive” macro event to shake things up, but in the meantime, it’s business as usual.






Category: Market News

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