Part Two (of three parts) of The Bentley Collection of gold sovereigns was auctioned by Baldwin’s of London on September 27th. Baldwin’s quite correctly described it as being “The Ultimate Collection of BritishMilled Sovereigns”, given the post-auction publicity that surrounded the world record hammer price of £650,000 (just over A$1,000,000) for the 1920 Sydney sovereign that was achieved, this accolade certainly can't be disputed.
Although the Bentley collection contains "...an unprecedented collection of British sovereigns, 381 different British sovereigns, each as important as the other to the collector that built it…", the 1920 Sydney sovereign was always going to be the headline coin out of the entire Bentley collection.
Baldwin's claim that the sale of the 1920 Sydney marks broke several records - a record price for an Australian [gold] coin; a record price for a British Imperial gold sovereign; a record price for a British Colonial coin and also for a 20th century British coin. Coinworks in Melbourne sold a proof 1930 penny for more than A$1,500,000 in mid-2011, so the 1920 Sydney sovereign sale via auction fell somewhat short of the record price for an Australian coin. Here is a short interview with the successful bidder, Sydney rare coin dealer Robert Jaggard:
Not all of the high-priced sovereigns in this portion of the Bentley Collection were Australian however - in the fifty odd lots that followed the Australian sovereigns, no less than 13 of them made a hammer price in excess of £10,000 - quite high odds indeed.
There weren't too many surprises in the ten most valuable Australian sovereigns in Part II of the Bentley Collection:
1920 Sydney Sovereign (Circulation Strike) - £650,000
1931 Perth Proof Sovereign - £44,000
1929 Melbourne Proof Sovereign - £34,000
1888 Melbourne "Proof" Sovereign - £29,000
1926 Sydney Sovereign (Specimen Strike) - £28,000
1923 Sydney Sovereign - £25,000
1852 Type II Adelaide Pound - £21,000
1926 Sydney Sovereign (Circulation strike) £19,000
1922 Sydney Sovereign £14,500
1860 Sovereign - £14,000
It should be kept in mind that the buyer's premium for this auction was set at 20% of the hammer price, and that the exchange rate at the time was around £0.65 to the $A - you can double the above figures to get a very rough idea as to what the nett prices were in Australian dollars.
Although the Bentley Collection included the first 1920 Sydney sovereign to be seen on the open market since 2006, by my reckoning it marks the second or third significant collection of Australian sovereigns to be sold in the past 12 months. Many rarities have been successfully sold (most without any of the fanfare that the 1920 Sydney attracted) to happy buyers, all of this is a clear indication to me that the market for Australian sovereigns remains healthy and active, it is a market that fares quite well even when compared to other segments of the Australian numismatic market.