It’s been a little over a month since we had our numismatic journey across 3 states in a week or so, let’s take a brief look over each auction first, and I’ll review the statistics afterwards:
International Auction Galleries Postal Sale 5: This was perhaps the first solely-online auction held by one of Australia’s mainstream numismatic auction houses, so was notable for that reason. The material on offer wasn’t ever represented as being the cream of the crop, more a solid offering of garden variety items across the board. This model seems to suit the current market, if the clearance rate was anything to go by. As a dealer, I found it quite hard to find anything at all I could use, showing just how accessible these online auctions are to active and confident collectors.
Status International Auction 315 (Sydney): As the Status auction was being held the day before Roxbury’s, I got in and reviewed the inventory in the sale the day before, and left some mail bids. I can’t say there was a whole lot of collectors or fellow dealers with me in the viewing room, which was perhaps a reflection of how tough it is for auctioneers to get the latest and loudest coins or notes that are in strong demand. This was easily the biggest sale of the four held in late May, however as the sales results show, the majority of it was passed in. I can’t say there was any pattern to the clearance rate, however more coins got away than notes.
Roxbury’s Auction Auction 94 (Brisbane): Roxbury’s was fairly well attended in the room, however there perhaps weren’t quite as many people as there have been in the Roxbury’s sales held last year or earlier this year. This auction had more high-value rarities in it than the other sales did, however they were only able to get 4 items away with a hammer price higher than $10,000. Roxbury’s was notable for the fact it had 45 pre-federation notes in it (issued notes, specimens and printer’s proofs) - this is more than most auctions in recent years. Unfortunately, only 1 of those notes sold, and even that was a private trader’s note that made a hammer price of less than $1,000! A result like that really can be quite hard for the market to digest - I could see collectors in the room thinking “None of this is selling at all! The market is totally dead!” My conclusion was different however. Pre-federation notes have been selling privately and via auction in recent months, just not at the prices indicated in the Roxbury’s catalogue! The reality is that the market is presently in a phase where if collectors and dealers are expected to pony up at auction with hard cash, they want that effort and risk taken into account with the price. Educated collectors know that demand is thin in this area of the market at the moment, and judging by the results here, they’re prepared to wait for items in their area of interest to turn up cheaply. I believe that vendors really need to keep this in mind when approaching the market - nobody likes taking a loss, and nobody wants to "give” a rare note away, however as the results of this auction show, vendors need to meet the market if they’re going to have any hope of exiting the market.
The same comments applied to the pre-decimal proof coins as well as the specimen banknotes in this sale - they needed to be on the market at a level in line with recent auction results for collectors to entertain buying them. The rest of the bread and butter items in this sale sold quite well, showing that sections of the market remain alive and well!
Downie’s 319A The Royal Australian Mint Master Collection (Melbourne): The first portion of Downie’s sale 319 contained items formerly in the RAM “Master Collection”, coins that "were not produced for sale – rather, they were produced as a quality standard to inform the level of production.” While the date range of the coins included didn’t stretch back any earlier than the late 1980’s, there was still keen interest across the board. Very few coins from the RAM “Master Collection” were passed in, showing not only were they on the market, but that there was collector demand for them. An interesting note is that a number of the coins had been apparently marked in ink by RAM staff to identify them as being in the Master Collection - this is thought to have a reasonable impact on their acceptability for grading by PCGS. The most notable result was a 2004 $1 Eureka commemorative coin without a mintmark that made $2,300 hammer price. Not bad for a $1 coin!
Downie’s Auction 319B (Melbourne): Leading into this sale, I had the thought that it wasn’t going to far particularly well. In the time since their prior auction, Downie’s had lost a senior staff member from the auction department and had relocated from Melbourne’s CBD to the suburbs. The results show yet again that the market is bigger than any one individual - this auction had easily the highest turnover out of all of the sales held in that fortnight! The items on offer were interesting right across the board - Australian gold, copper and silver coins, foreign notes and coins, predecimal proofs and banknotes. The majority of the sale had been estimated in line with the current market, and had been (apparently!) graded in line with market expectations, so the clearance rate was quite healthy. Prices were strong in some sections, and quiet in others, however that happens at any stage of the market. Of all the sales held across those 2 weeks in May, I though this auction showed best where the market is at - items will sell, no matter which section of the market we’re talking about, provided the items offered up are graded within market expectations, and estimated within the trading range of recent months.
The summarised figures for each auction gives us an idea of how the market is tracking at the moment:
|Auction||Turnover||Total Lots||Sold||Clearance||Av. Lot Value||Highest Value Lot Sold|
|Status International||$431,480||3822||1101||28.81%||$392.25||$15,000 - 1930 Penny|
|Roxbury’s||$390,430||1069||776||72.59%||$503.13||$13,000 - 1930 Penny|
|Downie's 319a (RAM Master Collection)||$240,026||1146||1088||94.94%||$220.61||$44,200 - 2012 Kilogram Gold Coin|
|Downie's 319b||$760,988||2976||2366||79.50%||$325.76||$15,000 - 1930 Penny|
|International Auction Galleries||$277,897||700||616||88.00%||$451.13||$17,000 - 1930 Penny|
Here’s what I take away from the statistics above:
1. Turnover ain’t what it used to be! 5-10 years ago, I would’ve expected to see turnover figures 2-5 times those outlined above. Although the number of lots sold is clearly within cooee of what auctions used to sell, the total turnover of the average auction is a fraction of what it used to be.
2. Collectors and dealers are prepared to buy, provided the items offered up are graded within market expectations, and estimated within the trading range of recent months.
3. There are far fewer collectors (and dealers) prepared to spend thousands of dollars on a single item than there used to be. It’s incredible to consider that out of nearly 10,000 items, only 13 of the lots sold brought a hammer price higher than $10,000! The highest value lot sold was a kilogram gold coin that basically sold for it’s scrap metal value, the highest value lot sold in each of the other auctions was a 1930 penny.
The 1930 Penny Still Reigns Supreme
For my mind, this was the main fact to take away from that fortnight’s activity, out of all the rare and valuable coins and notes that can be found in Australia’s numismatic history, the 1930 penny still reigns supreme as the collectible that collectors still have confidence in when the market is at it’s quietest.
I reviewed the recent auction statistics for the 1930 penny, and can let you know that despite the fact the market is currently tough for most numismatic items valued in the thousands, the clearance rate for the 1930 penny has been higher than the clearance rate for the rest of the market! Out of the 46 1930 pennies offered up over the past 2 years, only 7 of those didn’t sell. One of those was the extremely rare London obverse type, the others were either badly damaged or had been quite clearly estimated well over the current market.
Just goes to show why it’s been Australia’s most popular rare coin for the better part of the past century!