So How Has the World Pandemic Lockdown Affected the Numismatic Trade?

You don't need me to let you know what life has been like since March 12th - that distant bygone date when the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially declared COVID-19 as a pandemic.

Just in Australia, we've had restricted movement not only internationally and interstate but within states and within regions. This has forced many of us to be at home for many, many more hours than we otherwise would have been, and as the Devil is said to find work for idle hands, many of us have turned to our hobbies to keep ourselves occupied and with some sense of forward movement.

As the magnitude of this disease unfolded around the world, and we began to read forecasts of the impact it would and could have on incomes for businesses and individuals, I absolutely expected the economic consequences to be far worse than we've seen so far.


Collectors Without Income or Savings - Forced Sellers

I was concerned we'd see people who were without income and savings being forced to sell items from their collections and wasn't sure just what demand there would be for them from those that happened to be better positioned to cope.

How wrong I was - whether it's due to the Commonwealth Government's JobKeeper program, the better financial health of the general man than I expected or complete indifference to financial ruin, many collectors have been quite content to focus on their collections over the past two and a half months.

Will this activity run out of puff as soon as JobKeeper ends its run? Once the next few credit card statements come in? Or are we going to keep ticking along well into 2021? One thing we do know about markets is that they feed off themselves - as behaviour is reinforced positively with movement upward in prices, market momentum builds over time.


Online Shopping and Payments Facilitates Activity

Online shopping is obviously facilitating this activity, it's a way of keeping busy while remaining isolated at the same time. One interesting nuance of this current situation is the impact that social distancing; concern for health and the prevention of anything-but-local travel is having on the oft-quoted "supply chain" for numismatic items on the secondary market.

It's been some time since I was active in any meaningful way in coins and sets offered directly from Australia's mints, but I expect if I were actively selling them and I sold out, I could replenish my stocks as soon as they ran out, simply by placing an order with the relevant Mint.


The Supply Chain for the Secondary Market - Will It Break Before We Return to "Normal"?

When it comes to products on the secondary market however, re-supply isn't quite as simple. When I know that a customer has a specific coin, note or set that they're no longer beholden with, I know I can contact them with an idea of perhaps selling it or trading it against something else that suits their current collecting patterns more closely. In the absence of that, it is challenging to locate regular supply when the general public and collectors aren't entertaining heading out and about to deal with a relatively complex project such as selling a collection of coins or notes.

I reckon most of us are specifically focused on getting through each day or week at the moment and are waiting for some kind of indication that life is returning to "normal" before we get stuck into anything that requires a good degree of planning and exercise of the grey cells.

One major challenge for someone looking to sell a valuable collection of tangible assets without being able to physically deliver it to a dealer and discuss it in detail is, how do you deliver it and discuss it in detail without leaving yourself open to the risk of loss in transit or having a whole lot of hassle once it has been delivered?

That's a whole other discussion that'll be forthcoming in the coming months, but I've mentioned it because if this situation doesn't change in the coming months, dealers such as myself will find it challenging to replenish their stock by any means! If the conversations I've had with my colleagues that run auction houses are any guide at all, they're in exactly the same position - this means we could see some strong price movement as dealers begin to compete with an already-active cohort of collectors.


Numismatic Auction Activity Between March and June 2020

So how has the Australian and world numismatic industry fared during this pandemic lockdown?

If I remember rightly, the IAG Auction 91 was held just after the WHO pandemic declaration, but before Australia's interstate borders were closed. That was a solid sale, one that went ahead in unprecedented conditions and brought a lot of buyers and sellers together.

Noble 123 was held (virtually) in Sydney in the weeks that followed - those conditions were also unprecedented, yet did little to dent enthusiasm for the coins and notes on offer.

The next event was Downie's Auction 336 - total turnover including the buyer's premium cracked the million-dollar mark. The clearance rate sat at 91.87% overall, which is remarkable for a sale containing 3,678 lots. The average lot value was around $250, which although relatively low reflected the material on offer. Just 3 lots valued above $10,000 got away, which again was a reflection of the material available rather than the demand at play.

IAG held their 15th online sale just last week, and that was also a bumper event. A clearance rate in excess of 90% coupled with interest from more than 1,300 participants shows activity is certainly widespread at the moment.

One additional auction held that has a lot of relevance to our market didn't take place within Australia's boundaries - it was the Caranett Collection of Commonwealth sovereigns, sold by Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas (USA). Heritage is acknowledged as the largest auctioneers of collectables in the world, their systems and reach are, without doubt, first-class.


The Caranett Collection Auction - Heritage in Dallas (USA)

The Caranett Collection was a named set of gold sovereigns of the British Commonwealth, one that had been well known and admired on the PCGS Registry Set boards for some years. At the time it went to auction, it had a current #1 rank in at least five different sets.

The collection included 285 different coins across 4 countries, which makes the total realisation of US$694,490 (equivalent to A$1,083,543) from 387 bidders all the more remarkable. 

I don't have the time right at the moment to show you the prices realised for the Australian gold sovereigns in this auction in their full context - ideally, I'd like you to see just how strong they were against the "catalogue" value they have.

This is, of course, problematic, in that the current printed catalogue is a woefully inadequate guide to this market, if not to the value of coins that can be readily understood under the "raw" standard, then certainly to coins in superlative condition.

So we will simply show the results as-is. Those of you that have some knowledge of this area of the Australian numismatic market will know just how strong some of these results are, and just how different some of them are relative to where they were 5, 10 or 20 years ago.

99002 "St. George" Sovereign 1872-S MS62 $1,740 $2,715
99003 "St. George" Sovereign 1873-M MS62 $810 $1,264
99004 "St. George" Sovereign 1873-S MS62 $2,040 $3,183
99005 "St. George" Sovereign 1874-M MS62 $1,320 $2,059
99006 "St. George" Sovereign 1874-S MS61 $840 $1,310
99007 "St. George" Sovereign 1875-M MS62 $840 $1,310
99008 "St. George" Sovereign 1875-S MS62 $1,320 $2,059
99009 "St. George" Sovereign 1876-M MS62+ $552 $861
99010 "St. George" Sovereign 1876-S MS62 $960 $1,498
99011 "St. George" Sovereign 1877-M MS62+ $900 $1,404
99012 "St. George" Sovereign 1878-M MS63 $841 $1,312
99013 "Shield" Sovereign 1878-S MS62 $1,110 $1,732
99014 "St. George" Sovereign 1879-M MS63 $990 $1,544
99015 "Shield" Sovereign 1879-S MS61 : $1,320 $2,059
99016 "St. George" Sovereign 1880-M MS62 $870 $1,357
99017 "St. George" Sovereign 1881-M MS62+ $960 $1,498
99018 "St. George" Sovereign 1881-S MS62 $900 $1,404
99019 "St. George" Sovereign 1882-M MS62 $1,080 $1,685
99020 "St. George" Sovereign 1882-S MS62 $900 $1,404
99021 "St. George" Sovereign 1883-M MS63 $1,080 $1,685
99022 "St. George" Sovereign 1883-S MS63 : $1,800 $2,808
99023 "St. George" Sovereign 1883-S MS62 $1,080 $1,685
99024 "St. George" Sovereign 1884-M MS64 $2,520 $3,931
99025 "St. George" Sovereign 1884-S MS62 $576 $899
99026 "St. George" Sovereign 1885-M MS63 $960 $1,498
99027 "Shield" Sovereign 1885-S MS62 $690 $1,076
99028 "St. George" Sovereign 1886-M MS63 $960 $1,498
99029 "St. George" Sovereign 1886-S MS62 $810 $1,264
99030 "Young Head/St. George" Sovereign 1887-M MS62+ $900 $1,404
99031 "Young Head/St. George" Sovereign 1887-S MS63 $2,280 $3,557
99032 "Jubilee Head" Sovereign 1887-M MS62+ $1,560 $2,434
99033 "Jubilee Head" Sovereign 1887-S MS62 $2,640 $4,119
99034 Sovereign 1888-M MS62 $780 $1,217
99035 Sovereign 1888-S MS63 $1,080 $1,685
99036 Sovereign 1889-M MS63 $1,140 $1,778
99037 Sovereign 1889-S MS64 $2,880 $4,493
99038 Sovereign 1890-M MS62 $1,080 $1,685
99039 Sovereign 1890-M MS61 $516 $805
99040 Sovereign 1890-S MS63 $960 $1,498
99041 Sovereign 1891-M MS62 $528 $824
99042 Sovereign 1891-S MS62 $840 $1,310
99043 Sovereign 1892-M MS62 $564 $880
99044 Sovereign 1892-S MS62+ $720 $1,123
99045 Sovereign 1893-M MS62 $588 $917
99046 Sovereign 1893-S MS63 $1,140 $1,778
99047 Sovereign 1893-M MS62 $750 $1,170
99048 Sovereign 1893-S MS63 $2,040 $3,183
99049 Sovereign 1894-M MS63 $630 $983
99050 Sovereign 1894-S MS64 $4,080 $6,365
99051 Sovereign 1895-M MS64 $1,260 $1,966
99052 Sovereign 1895-S MS63 $960 $1,498
99053 Sovereign 1896-M MS63 $1,110 $1,732
99054 Sovereign 1896-S MS63 $1,170 $1,825
99055 Sovereign 1897-M MS64 : $1,100 $1,716
99056 Sovereign 1897-M MS63 $750 $1,170
99057 Sovereign 1897-S MS63+ $2,640 $4,119
99058 Sovereign 1898-M MS65 $6,600 $10,296
99059 Sovereign 1898-S MS63 $1,920 $2,995
99060 Sovereign 1899-M MS64 $2,160 $3,370
99061 Sovereign 1899-P MS63 $3,840 $5,991
99062 Sovereign 1899-P MS63 $2,760 $4,306
99063 Sovereign 1899-S MS63 $1,560 $2,434
99064 Sovereign 1900-M MS63 $1,080 $1,685
99065 Sovereign 1900-P MS63 $1,170 $1,825
99066 Sovereign 1900-S MS63 $1,050 $1,638
99067 Sovereign 1901-M MS63+ $1,320 $2,059
99068 Sovereign 1901-P MS63 $1,320 $2,059
99069 Sovereign 1901-S MS63 $1,320 $2,059
99070 1/2 Sovereign 1910-S MS62 $780 $1,217
99071 Sovereign 1902-M MS63 $960 $1,498
99072 Sovereign 1902-P MS63+ $2,880 $4,493
99073 Sovereign 1902-S MS63 $1,080 $1,685
99074 Sovereign 1903-M MS64 $2,640 $4,119
99075 Sovereign 1903-P MS63 $2,040 $3,183
99076 Sovereign 1903-S MS64 $1,560 $2,434
99077 Sovereign 1904-M MS63 $1,020 $1,591
99078 Sovereign 1904-P MS63 $1,440 $2,246
99079 Sovereign 1904-S MS63 $1,020 $1,591
99080 Sovereign 1905-M MS64 $4,800 $7,488
99081 Sovereign 1905-P MS64 $2,880 $4,493
99082 Sovereign 1905-S MS63 $660 $1,030
99083 Sovereign 1906-M MS64 $2,160 $3,370
99084 Sovereign 1906-P MS64 $3,433 $5,356
99085 Sovereign 1906-S MS63 $720 $1,123
99086 Sovereign 1907-M MS64 $960 $1,498
99087 Sovereign 1907-P MS63 $960 $1,498
99088 Sovereign 1907-S MS64 $1,200 $1,872
99089 Sovereign 1908-M MS64 $1,560 $2,434
99090 Sovereign 1908-P MS64 $1,140 $1,778
99091 Sovereign 1908-S MS64 $2,160 $3,370
99092 Sovereign 1909-M MS63 $800 $1,248
99093 Sovereign 1909-P MS63 $1,080 $1,685
99094 Sovereign 1909-S MS64 $2,040 $3,183
99095 Sovereign 1910-M MS64 $2,040 $3,183
99096 Sovereign 1910-P MS63 $1,050 $1,638
99097 Sovereign 1910-S MS64 $1,140 $1,778
99098 1/2 Sovereign 1911-P MS64 $1,320 $2,059
99099 1/2 Sovereign 1911-S MS64 $1,110 $1,732
99100 1/2 Sovereign 1912-S MS64 $504 $786
99101 1/2 Sovereign 1914-S MS63 $552 $861
99102 1/2 Sovereign 1915-M MS64 : $360 $562
99103 1/2 Sovereign 1915-M MS63 $492 $768
99104 1/2 Sovereign 1915-S MS65 : $456 $711
99105 1/2 Sovereign 1915-S MS64+ $456 $711
99106 1/2 Sovereign 1916-S MS65 $600 $936
99107 Sovereign 1911-M MS64 $1,320 $2,059
99108 Sovereign 1911-P MS64 $2,880 $4,493
99109 Sovereign 1911-S MS64 $870 $1,357
99110 Sovereign 1912-M MS64 $630 $983
99111 Sovereign 1912-P MS64 $1,020 $1,591
99112 Sovereign 1912-S MS65 $810 $1,264
99113 Sovereign 1913-M MS64 $540 $842
99114 Sovereign 1913-P MS64 $2,040 $3,183
99115 Sovereign 1913-S MS65 $1,320 $2,059
99116 Sovereign 1914-M MS64 $960 $1,498
99117 Sovereign 1914-P MS64 $1,200 $1,872
99118 Sovereign 1914-S MS65 $1,140 $1,778
99119 Sovereign 1915-M MS65 $1,800 $2,808
99120 Sovereign 1915-P MS64 $1,320 $2,059
99121 Sovereign 1915-S MS65 $1,680 $2,621
99122 Sovereign 1916-M MS64 $1,020 $1,591
99123 Sovereign 1916-P MS64 $960 $1,498
99124 Sovereign 1916-S MS64+ $1,380 $2,153
99125 Sovereign 1917-M MS65 $2,160 $3,370
99126 Sovereign 1917-P MS65 $2,280 $3,557
99127 Sovereign 1917-S MS66 $4,800 $7,488
99128 Sovereign 1918-M MS64 $960 $1,498
99129 Sovereign 1918-P MS65 : $1,680 $2,621
99130 Sovereign 1918-P MS64 $630 $983
99131 Sovereign 1918-S MS66 $2,040 $3,183
99132 Sovereign 1919-M MS64 $2,880 $4,493
99133 Sovereign 1919-P MS65 $3,000 $4,680
99134 Sovereign 1919-S MS64 $2,640 $4,119
99135 Sovereign 1920-M MS63 $6,600 $10,296
99136 Sovereign 1920-P MS64 $1,140 $1,778
99137 Sovereign 1921-M MS64 $33,600 $52,418
99138 Sovereign 1921-P MS64 $1,020 $1,591
99139 Sovereign 1921-S MS64 $2,880 $4,493
99140 Sovereign 1921-S MS63 $2,400 $3,744
99141 Sovereign 1922-P MS64 $1,680 $2,621
99142 Sovereign 1923-M MS65 $1,620 $2,527
99143 Sovereign 1923-P MS64 $1,560 $2,434
99144 Sovereign 1923-S MS64 $28,800 $44,930
99145 Sovereign 1924-M MS65 $3,120 $4,867
99146 Sovereign 1924-P MS63+ $1,560 $2,434
99147 Sovereign 1925-M MS64 $1,020 $1,591
99148 Sovereign 1925-P MS64 $3,360 $5,242
99149 Sovereign 1925-P MS64 $2,880 $4,493
99150 Sovereign 1925-S MS65 $1,440 $2,246
99151 Sovereign 1926-M MS64 $1,920 $2,995
99152 Sovereign 1926-P MS64 $2,640 $4,119
99153 Sovereign 1926-P MS63 $1,800 $2,808
99154 Sovereign 1926-S MS64 $26,400 $41,186
99155 Sovereign 1927-P MS64 $1,140 $1,778
99156 Sovereign 1927-P MS63 $660 $1,030
99157 Sovereign 1928-M MS63 $3,120 $4,867
99158 Sovereign 1928-P MS64 $1,080 $1,685
99159 Sovereign 1928-P MS64 $1,200 $1,872
99160 Sovereign 1929-P MS64 $1,080 $1,685
99161 Sovereign 1930-M MS64 $2,280 $3,557
99162 Sovereign 1930-M MS64 $1,140 $1,778
99163 Sovereign 1930-P MS64 $1,020 $1,591
99164 Sovereign 1931-M MS64 $3,840 $5,991
99165 Sovereign 1931-P MS65 $1,080 $1,685

How Does This Bode for the Market for Australian Gold Coins?

The old saying goes that one swallow doesn't make a spring, but there's no doubt to me the above activity is more a reflection of the demand that has been ticking along for the past few years rather than a sudden jump in activity due to the pandemic lockdown or the recent rise in precious metal prices.

The market for Australian gold sovereigns and half sovereigns is truly global, as this auction indicates. The difference is though, this is arguably the first auction of a comprehensive collection of such coins that has been PCGS-graded and features a wide range of coins in superior grade.

I believe the results here show a market that is perhaps 8 years behind the market for Australian Commonwealth coins - values in that segment boomed when it was clear to collectors just how much additional value could be gained for top-quality examples that have been independently assessed by PCGS.

Good quality Australian gold coins that have been independently assessed by PCGS look to be well in favour with collectors at the moment - the amazing thing is that these results have been achieved at a time when those collectors have been active without fanfare or recognition.


Category: Market News

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Comments (4)

amazing auction result

By: on 7 June 2020
Hi Andrew Both Phil Hickman and myself bid on a few coins and were totally blown out of the water, but this only reinforces what I have been banging the drum for the past seven years, Australian gold is very rare, with the number of coins graded by PCGS and NGS numbering under 30,000 for 1855-1931, but the most amazing thing about this collection is that the Young Head rarities were missing : 1871S, 1872M, 1879S, 1880S. Having reached the point where my collection is virtually complete, and my Young Head collection is the finest in PCGS Registry Set, I feel some level of satisfaction. Hope all is well with you Regards

Thanks for an update on the Numismatic market, And

By: on 6 June 2020
My experience from Indonesia is that the local market is soft because of inability to access new material though the postal system. Both import and export is difficult at the moment. Precious metals, both silver and gold, are in demand but little supply as general uncertainty make potential sellers reluctant to sell. Being only 2-3 months into the full realization of the so-called "New Order" most people that are interested in trading numismatic items and especially precious metals, the demand is still there. What happens when the economic impact of the vastly diminished economic activity really affects discretionary spending is anyone's guess in this market. Except for government employees -and there are a lot of those- most people are left to sink or swim on their own here. Regardless of earthquake, tsunami or now a plandemic, people have to rely more on family networks to see them through than on recurring state assistance. This has an affect on non-precious metal numismatic items as well as local interest in paper money. As a trader in better world paper money I have purchased many interesting rare items over the past year that await the slabbing process.


By: on 6 June 2020
Fantastic article Andrew a great read

Hi Andrew

By: on 6 June 2020
A stunning collection, but it did not contain the rare Young Head Sovereigns, 1871S, 1772M, and the must have 1879S, and no 1880S YH, I have all these in my collection in PCGS MS state. Regards John Webber

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