Noble's auction # 90 won't go down in the annals of Australian numismatic history as being the biggest, best or worst of auctions, however it will be warmly remembered by a number of fortunate bidders that were able to buy well. Most of the auction was either quite competitive or well covered, however there were one or two sessions where the buying was extremely good.
Recounting the events of this auction has me think back to the seminal 60's surf film "The Endless Summer" (anyone that has had even a passing involvement with surf culture in the past 40 years will be aware of this film), where two young Americans travel right across the globe in search of the perfect wave. When arriving at a new locale to a rainy / windswept / flat beach, Mike and Robert encountered more than a few locals that (often rather gleefully!) pointed out that they just missed out on getting some awesome waves. One of the catchlines for the movie was "You shoulda been here yesterday" (best delivered deadpan with a broad Aussie accent), based on this very situation. The boys did indeed end up scoring some awesome waves, so there's hope for us all yet!
Much of the Noble sale was reasonably well covered, certain sections were in fact quite competitive. Decimal coin activity was in line with auctions in previous months, while all of the good (ie those in nice grade and those not tampered with) Commonwealth coins made solid money. Melbourne Centenary florins were quite strong again, they do seem really popular in all grades with type collectors at the moment. 1930 pennies seem to have lifted slightly off the lower base they'd been at in the past 6 months, while there sure were quite a few 1923 halfpennies trying to find new homes.
English coins were very competitive - there were probably 4 times as many people in the room for English coinage than there were for the Australian banknotes, and although I don't think that statistic alone says much, it does show that there are a number of collectors active at the moment that are quite happily chipping away at their own collections of English coins (generally milled silver from the mid 1600's onwards) in all grades, and quite content to travel to an auction with the intent of picking up the odd coin or two. Add to this mix a range of dealers from Australia and elsewhere, and we have a clear explanation for the competition.
Activity in the market for foreign coins varies depending on the country or region, however the usual "hot" areas of the market were well covered again, and I didn't see too many screaming bargains being offered up. Although I attended the foreign banknote session/s, I confess I spent more time doing the SMH crossword than tracking bidding activity - from what I could see however, the fare here was quite standard and nothing out of the ordinary took place.
Which brings us to the Australian banknotes, starting with those dating back to the Pre-Federation period. I've always had a question mark above the longevity of the relatively high values in the pre-fed note market, partly because of their relatively esoteric nature (such notes are not as straight forward as those from later periods), partly because they are reasonably thinly traded, and partly because sales are generally channelled through a relatively small number of dealers. A wise elderly Indian man once told me in rather direct terms that I did not know my "backside" from a hole in the ground, and given the way that values in the Pre-Fed note market are holding up at the moment, the guru sure was accurate. I was reminded by several dealers of the value that these notes offer relative to other items that trade for around the same amount, and was assured that there is more than sufficient demand for them.
The described condition of the pre-decimal notes in this sale were not always agreed with by the bidders in attendance, so a lot of the notes up for sale either didn't meet expectations or were passed in as a result. I think this market (even at the upper levels) is still finding it's level after a prolonged period of extremely strong growth, and we might see further volatility in the months to come until that takes place. Certainly buyers of pre-decimal notes in top quality have opportunities to acquire items at extremely competitive prices, and only hindsight will tell if buying now is a wise idea.
Star replacement notes (both decimal and pre-decimal) were offered in good numbers in this sale, and it isn't unheard of for short-term spurts in supply to temporarily depress prices so those prepared to take a long-term stake in the market are able to be rewarded for doing so. This was also the case with decimal specimen notes - although one or two specimen notes got away at reasonable prices, the investors out there seeking to profit from the current economic crisis will not want to know what the others made! I don't forsee how a comparable range of top quality notes will be seen for a reasonable period yet, so the bargains that were to be had here are probably going to end up being once in a lifetime opportunities that will be savoured by those that made their own luck and were at the auction on the day, and had the cash ready to pounce.
So even though Robert and Mike had some trials when traversing Australia / the Pacific / Africa in their search of perfection, they were eventually rewarded for their efforts, as the video below shows. Rather than rue the missed opportunities of Noble's # 90, it's far better to keep our eyes open for the next ones to come along.