Number of coins on sale at big Noble auction

Anyone involved in Australian numismatics will be quite familiar with the size of the Noble auction catalogues - it is nothing at all for one sale catalogue to weigh several kilograms, I’d shudder to think what their annual postage bill is.

Sale 112 was no exception - there were so many lots in this sale, they were split across two catalogues. The smaller of the two catalogues included the George Fenton Collection of Australian Commonwealth coins, and truly deserved it’s own listing.

That said, the Fenton collection of pre-decimal coins wasn’t the only notable session of this sale by any means. The first full day of the sale had the Australian colonial coins, gold coins, pre-decimal proofs and coins issued into circulation during the pre-decimal period.

Although there was a good number of proclamation and colonial coins in this sale, there wasn’t a great deal in terms of quality in my opinion. Certain coins in that series continue to push new price highs here in Australia (I’m mainly thinking of the British and British Indian gold and silver coins), no doubt they are forced up by the domestic markets those coins have.

One of the two Holey Dollars on offer sold, while the better Dumps remained weak - they seem to be yet to find their level in this current market cycle. There were a number of Adelaide Pounds in this sale, the better examples seem to have had reserves at the upper end of their current trading range, and were left alone by buyers as a result.

Australian Gold

The remainder of the Australian gold sovereigns and halves were quite solid I thought - the clearance rate was far better than it has been in recent years, no doubt a result of vendors being prepared to meet the market. Good quality sovereigns remain in decent demand, any Australian gold coin in reasonable quality and with an estimate to match generally finds a buyer these days. I thought the halves particularly were stronger than they have been - prices realised may not have been at record levels, however the clearance rate was solid, which is a good start.

Pre-Decimal Proofs & Pre-Decimal Coins

There were more Pre-1955 proof coins in this auction than there have been in any auction I can think of in recent years - 37 coins all up. With such a large number of coins included, we shouldn’t be surprised that the quality and value of the coins was quite mixed, ranging from fresh and attractive coins that had been clearly reserved in line with the current market, to impaired coins that had also been reserved in line with the market, to coins that were decent quality, but that had been clearly priced in line with where buyers were at just a few years ago.

The prices realised and clearance rate reflected this diversity - sales were patchy, however buyers didn’t get things their own way all the time by any means. There were a couple of quite strong results, the most valuable being the proof 1914 Heaton florin. It made $226,575 nett, which is less than it made in March 2013, however certainly more than what a comparable coin was passed in for in September 2014. Pre decimal proof coins still sell well, however buyers need to see obvious value on the table before they’re prepared to step up.

The predecimal coins that followed in the Tuesday evening session were “raw” (i.e. they had not been independently graded), which is not what the majority of the monied crowd is chasing these days. That said, dedicated collectors pored through the bulk lots and carded lots to find the hidden gems. I thought prices for the overdate threepences and 1930 pennies were solid.

British, World and Ancient Coins

The British coins the next day were solid - the few items in this sale that were truly superior quality made very strong prices, demand came in from all corners of the globe via the phone and the internet. I thought the price paid for the proof 1847 Gothic Crown ( a few dollars shy of A$18,000) was incredibly strong. The “world"" and “ancient” coin sessions were up next, and while these innocuous words are quite straightforward to say, when we keep that these terms cover the coins struck for pretty much every other country in the world other than Australia, and also all of the coins struck for the world’s ancient civilisations, we get some idea of the potential scope such a session might have.

Strong prices and competition in these sessions depends of course on the material offered - if an auctioneer can get a good collection of coins from a particular field, it doesn’t matter whether it is from a British Commonwealth country, somewhere in South East Asia or from hundreds of years ago, the most valuable coins generally rise to the fore. The “viewing” for these sessions is generally quite serious - dedicated collectors will make use of their specialised catalogues to attribute the items they’re considering buying, and these are the collectors that generally do the best. There was some very keen bidding in the Chinese silver coin session - a number of coins sold for what I had determined to be retail prices - the 1928 “Automobile” dollar from Kweichow in China made close to 10 times estimate, and about 5 times what comparable coins have sold for at auction elsewhere in recent months!

Hannibal Collection of Carthaginian Coins

Carthage was an ancient city/state that battled the civilisations of both ancient Greece and Rome at various times between the 4th and 2nd centuries BC. The coins of Carthage are a rich series, and this sale contained a comprehensive collection of close to 100 Carthaginian coins, ranging in value from the low hundreds to the tens of thousands. The collection not only covered each main period in Carthaginian history, it covered as many high-value denominations as cheaper low denominations. The classical designs clearly drew in demand from around the world, as several of the more important pieces sold for many tens of thousands of dollars. It was very impressive to see a well-formed collection meet with collector demand.

World Banknotes

New Zealand banknotes (decimal, pre-decimal and Pre Reserve Bank of New Zealand) were long an area that was the domain of the deep pocketed dealers of Australia - clearance rates in recent years have reflected that, however if the rising interest in these notes in this sale was any indication, vendors of this material seem to be coming back to earth. The clearance rate was better than it has been, even if prices were a fraction of what they have been. Such was the case for a number of the other world notes - strong demand in pockets.

Australian Banknotes

The earliest notes in this session were the decimal notes, and weren’t they strong in sections! Bundles (original packs of 100 notes) were particularly strong, I’m clear that prices are now 20% - 30% higher than they were just a few years ago. That hasn’t yet been translated into higher prices for the more valuable bundles, which appear to be far better value than the common R78 and R89 bundles at present.

There was some interest in the (mainly Tasmanian) bills of exchange, as well as in the Pre-Federation banknotes. Demand for these notes now comes from far wider quarters than it used to - more dealers and collectors are chasing these notes. One swallow does not make a spring however, so although the results were positive, we need to keep in mind the number of pre fed notes on offer here was limited, and the progress needs to be repeated if the market is to build.

The George Fenton Collection of Australian Pre Decimal Coins

The Fenton Collection was either the highlight of the sale, or one of them at least. It contained one of each Australian pre-decimal coin issued for circulation, each in premium condition, each independently graded, with nearly all known die varieties accounted for. That really is an incredible achievement when we think of it - some varieties are incredibly tough to get in any condition, let alone in finest-known quality. I won’t profess to know Mr Fenton at all, however it isn’t difficult to see from the composition of his collection that he had a very keen interest in Australian pre-decimal coins, and took a great deal of satisfaction in celebrating the finest known examples that were available to him. That combination of insistence on quality and determination to maintain that standard right across the board is very rare indeed.

I think it’s fair to say that the dispersal of the Fenton collection came about a little before time - a number of the Fenton coins were acquired from the Benchmark (2015) and Borg (2012) sales, so haven’t been off the market for too long at all. The unfortunate thing about collecting is that while we might buy and accumulate privately, when we develop a provenance we sell publicly, and shifts in market values become quite transparent. Whatever the reason for the disposal of these coins was, we can be sure that it wasn’t an easy or simple decision to make. Nobody likes to sell something for less than they’ve paid for it, and I think few collectors would have acted as pragmatically as Mr Fenton has - having made the decision to exit his collection, he wasn’t swayed by the discomfort and disappointment the likelihood of exiting them at prices lower than the paid. Any collector that has dithered over a purchase or sale for financial reasons will agree that this takes some strength of character.

Such sentimental considerations were quickly forgotten when the session started, for while there has been at least one other very keen and determined collector of these coins active in recent years, Mr Fenton was able to obtain many of the finest-known pre decimal coins graded to date by PCGS. Such coins don’t come around very often at all, so eyes were peeled at 730pm on the evening of the sale.

I’ve received several emails from clients that were nigh on shocked by the prices realised - they felt they were incredibly strong. While I’d agree that certain prices were higher than we’ve ever seen publicly, many of these prices were in fact lower than what such coins have changed hands for privately in recent years. Even the most astute observer of auction sales won’t be aware of what coins or notes are selling for between collectors and dealers (how can they?), so these results will be complete news to such collectors.

Fenton Collection - Headline Numbers:

Total # of Coins Offered: 379

Total Prices Realised: $871,264 nett (Does not include coins sold after the sale)

Clearance rate: 94% (23 lots unsold)

Number of Lots Sold for More Than $10,000: 13

Top 3 Lots by Value:

Lot 3240 - 1930 Penny PCGS AU50 (Equal finest known) $89,438 nett

Lot 3221 - 1920 Plain Penny PCGS MS65RB (Finest known) $59,625 nett

Lot 3025 - 1932 Florin PCGS MS64 (Equal finest known) $28,620 nett

Although the clearance rate in terms of lot numbers was very high, in terms of value it wasn’t as strong - the value of the unsold coins came to around 20% of the total value of the collection. Don’t think that all the key rarities were unsold however, as the denominations and dates listed within the most valuable coins sold is a who’s who of Australian numismatic rarities:

LOT

ESTIMATE

HAMMER

NETT

DENOMINATION

DATE

GRADE

RANK

3006

 

$9,000

$10,733

FLORIN

1913

64

2ND FINEST

3008

 

$17,000

$20,273

FLORIN

1914-H

64

2ND FINEST

3016

 

$8,500

$10,136

FLORIN

1922

65

EQUAL FINEST

3018

 

$8,800

$10,494

FLORIN

1924

65+

FINEST

3025

 

$24,000

$28,620

FLORIN

1932

64

EQUAL FINEST

3026

 

$8,500

$10,136

FLORIN

1933

64

4TH FINEST

3028

 

$9,000

$10,733

FLORIN

1934/5 MC

67

FINEST

3077

 

$9,000

$10,733

SHILLING

1933

64

2ND FINEST

3175

 

$13,500

$16,099

THREEPENCE

1933/4 OD

66

FINEST

3221

 

$50,000

$59,625

PENNY

1920 PLAIN

65RB

FINEST

3234

 

$15,000

$17,888

PENNY

1925

64RB

EQUAL FINEST

3240

 

$75,000

$89,438

PENNY

1930

50

FINEST

3245

 

$18,000

$21,465

PENNY

1933/2 OD

64RD

FINEST

That said, the roster of coins that weren’t sold also contains some important pieces:

LOT

ESTIMATE

HAMMER

NETT

DENOMINATION

DATE

GRADE

RANK

3004

$4,000

 

$0

FLORIN

1911

64

2ND FINEST

3005

$10,000

 

$0

FLORIN

1912

64

2ND FINEST

3009

$15,000

 

$0

FLORIN

1915

64

2ND FINEST

3069

$7,500

 

$0

SHILLING

1921

64

2ND FINEST

3113

$17,500

 

$0

SIXPENCE

1918

67

FINEST

3157

$2,000

 

$0

THREEPENCE

1912

64

3RD FINEST

3167

$75,000

 

$0

THREEPENCE

1921/22 OD

58

FINEST

3213

3500

 

$0

PENNY

1915 L

65BN

EQUAL FINEST

3224

$7,500

 

$0

PENNY

1920 I DAB

66RB

FINEST

3229

$1,500

 

$0

PENNY

1922 L

65RB

FINEST

3232

$750

 

$0

PENNY

1924 L

64RB

3RD FINEST

3242

$3,000

 

$0

PENNY

1931 L STD

65BN

EQUAL FINEST

3273

$350

 

$0

PENNY

1950 Y

64RB

EQUAL FINEST

3284

$300

 

$0

PENNY

1956 Y

65RB

2ND FINEST

3301

$12,000

 

$0

HALFPENNY

1915 H

64RB

EQUAL FINEST

3309

$12,000

 

$0

HALFPENNY

1923

AU 55

2ND FINEST

3319

$600

 

$0

HALFPENNY

1933

64RB

3RD FINEST

3327

$600

 

$0

HALFPENNY

1940

65RB

FINEST

3331

$1,250

 

$0

HALFPENNY

1942 I

63RB

2ND FINEST

This shows that no matter how pragmatic Mr Fenton was being, this auction wasn’t a fire sale by any means. I find it interesting to see the relative quality of the items that were passed in, and quite understand why a 1911 florin in PCGS MS64 wasn’t allowed to sell for $4,000! It is interesting to note that none of the lots passed in were outside the 3rd finest for their date, which is incredible.

If the bidding seemed strong, that is where the final price realised was far in excess of the published estimate, we need to keep in mind that the auctioneer and the vendor’s agent needed to set reserves and estimates that ensured the coins actually sold, and in situations like that it is best to plan for the worst, and hope for the best. So yes, while there were some strong prices, they were in fact in line with where the market has been for such coins in recent times. For those of us that like to marvel at such things, here are some of the more notable results:

Some Notable Hammer Prices:

Lot 3001 1937 Crown PCGS MS65 (Equal finest known of this denomination) $3,220 nett

Lot 3028 1934/5 Melbourne Centenary Florin PCGS MS67 (Equal finest known of this commemorative) $10,733 nett

Lot 3036 1942-S Florin PCGS MS65 (Equal finest known of this date) $1,550 nett

Lot 3050 1956 Florin PCGS MS66 (Equal finest known of this date) $1,550 nett

Lot 3093 1948 Shilling PCGS MS66 (Finest known of this date) $2,027 nett

Lot 3175 1933/4 Overdate Threepence PCGS MS66 (Finest known of this date) $16,099 nett

Lot 3187 1943-S Threepence PCGS MS67 (Finest known of this date and of this denomination from this mint) $5,009 nett

Lot 3221 1920 Plain Penny PCGS MS65RB (Finest known of this rare variety) $59,625

Lot 3245 1933/2 Overdate Penny PCGS MS64RD (Finest known of this variety) $21,645

Lot 3271 1949 Penny PCGS MS65RD (Finest known of this date) $2,027 nett

Lot 3288 1959 Penny PCGS MS65RD (Finest known of this date) $4,055 nett

Lot 3348 1954 Halfpenny PCGS MS65RB (Finest known of this date) $2,266 nett

Lot 3352 1962 Halfpenny PCGS MS67RB (Finest known of this date) $1,133 nett

I know that a few collectors were really pleased with their purchases, and that a few dealers were pleased with the items they’ve picked up and will apparently be salting away. Another chapter in Australian numismatics has opened and closed, so what can we take away from it?

- Independent grading has given many collectors the confidence to buy coins at a time when confidence really is lacking in other areas of the market

- Independent grading of superior quality coins is vital to accessing the most enthusiastic collectors in today’s market

- Independent grading isn’t the sole factor that comes into play in determining a return on one’s investment

Did you participate in the auction? Were you able to get a bid in sideways? Did you get a bargain? What do you think of the prices realised? Feel free to comment using the tool below.

 


Category: Market News

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