Extensive travel to coin shows around Australia
October and November are going to be very good months for Sterling & Currency's frequent flyer account - I've got no less than 6 interstate & international trips over that 8 week period - an experience that's starting to feel something like the old cartoon series "Wacky Races", unfortunately without Penelope Pitstop however.
Episode One was set in Adelaide for the ANDA trade show on the weekend of October 15th and 16th, and although it was quiet overall, as far as I could see there was positive activity in all segments of the market (we sold a range of items from sovereigns to colonial coins to decimal and pre-decimal banknotes). It probably isn't fair to compare crowd sizes at ANDA shows held in those capital cities that have populations that are significantly different, and I have to confess that when we had no more than 6 members of the public in the room late Saturday afternoon I did have my concerns! Sunday morning was another matter altogether, and there were far more collectors out and about. It wasn't a great show however we met a number of new faces that are keen to build their knowledge of how the market works and the mechanics of different market segments, which is always positive.
Status International auction 282 on Castlereagh Street in Sydney is the scene for chapter 2, one that seems to always yield a few diamonds out of the rough. This sale includes a very wide range of "world" (i.e. "foreign") coins, items that are in very strong demand in the European and US coin markets. I say strong demand because despite the economic circumstances of those two major world markets, trade in their numismatic markets has possibly never been stronger. While collectors are largely ethno-centric in that most covet coins and notes directly related to their own heritage and culture, there are obviously segments in all numismatic markets where collectors are keen to chase down coins from other nations, cultures and eras. There are so many lots of world coins in this sale that Status needed to print an additional catalogue so all suitable lots could be photographed - a thick single catalogue would have fallen apart pretty quickly apparently!
The auction kicked off with the usual bulk lots of decimal coins, circulated pre-decimal coins and pre-decimal notes. I didn't notice any particular difference in the clearance rates or prices realised for these items when compared to auctions in months past - this end of the market seems to be ticking along just fine. Although economic uncertainty may be preventing some sections of the Australian population from spending money (and some sections have pulled their horns in significantly), people that are gainfully employed and able to live within even humble means are still quite happy to dabble in inexpensive coins and notes across the board. The dealers that service them (vest-pocket and otherwise) seemed to have their usual air of subdued enthusiasm (?) when chasing lots - they all know when to pull their cards down to ensure they don't pay a cent more than necessary that's for sure!
Status 282 also included the usual wide array of colonial coins, some of which, although inexpensive, are seldom seen here in Australia. These were augmented by a few low-grade dumps three of these four lots sold. The Australian gold coin section began with no less than four Type II Adelaide Pounds, which although relatively low in grade were not entirely inexpensive (three of them made prices higher than $10,000 apiece), showing that demand for historic Australian gold coins remains solid when items present themselves as being solid value for money. This pattern carried on through the rest of the gold coins - although no small number of coins were passed in, many did indeed sell and it is the commonality between the sold coins that shows today's buyers really demand value, value and value. I'm not yet convinced that the market for the rarer die variety sovereigns and half sovereigns (those coins struck with dies that feature ever-so-slightly different portrait or reverse designs)is sufficiently sophisticated for current catalogue values are going to be met regularly when any reasonably quantity of coins comes onto the market - the results of this auction at least seem to confirm that.
There was a good range of pre-decimal coins in this sale also - everything from great big bulk lots of stuff to key items in great grade. The circulated examples of the key dates in this sale pretty much all got away (1923 halfpennies, 1925 and 1930 pennies, 192/21 overdate threepences) - it looks like both the vendors met the market at the right and that was all that was needed. This is a far better result than we've seen for some time, which is positive. The small amount of fresh and original material in this sale sold well - one 1917 shilling graded as PCGS MS 65+ (plus!) made $3,400 hammer (just a few dollars short of $4,000 nett), which to many will seem an exceptional result given that the current McDonald catalogue value for a Gem Unc coin pales in comparison at $1,850! This is further evidence that there are more than a few collectors of Commonwealth coins that are prepared to pay significant premiums for coins that can transparently confirmed as being "population rare", that is the finest known example of their date.
There wasn't much in the way of pre-decimal proofs in this sale, those that were included couldn't be accused of being among the finest known examples, and brought prices that reflected that. The 1955 Perth copper coins remain key however - the single penny in this sale that appeared to have surfaces that would preclude it from being PCGS graded still managed to find a new home. A significant collection of historical medallions was consigned to this sale from one os IS Wright's staff - Mr David Allen. When entering the numismatic trade in the 1990's David's obvious knowledge and geniality made him someone it was easy to warm to, and it strikes me as very humorous indeed that the same man known to toss pennies into the street (or the concourse at Wynyard train station as the case may have been) is the very same person that has sought out a series of truly rare and historic tokens and medallions. These were complemented by a few Internment tokens that either haven't been seen before or for some years - nice examples of these are still in good demand.
The first part of the Australian banknote section included a truly rare unissued NSW Colonial Police Fund 5/- note - there are thought to be only around 20 of these incredibly rare items, and they circulated alongside the Holey Dollars at a time when the foundations of our national economy were being laid. I expect the buyer that picked up this example for a price a fair bit less than a circulated 1930 penny would be well pleased. Keen observers of the banknote market won't be surprised to hear that the clearance rates for the banknotes weren't high - pedestrian notes were left behind, however most of the attractive, fresh and original notes did make their mark. The absence of regular opposed bidding in this section shows either that the good people at IS Wright know exactly where to set their estimates or demand for banknotes has eased off significantly compared to where it was just a few years ago - perhaps both.
This sale also included a reasonable array of scarcer polymer first and last prefixes - and didn't they sell! There was a noticeable difference in bidding activity in this section compared to the other note sections (ie pre-decimal and standard paper decimal), which certainly surprised me. The breadth of varieties in the polymer note series is probably easier for novice collectors to appreciate, which is leading to ever-building demand - that isn't yet the case with the varieties in our gold coinage however.
A pending flight to Perth meant I had to depart before the world coins ended, so I'm not yet sure what happened there. All up Status 282 was probably a quieter auction that reflects the market we're in.
I'm off to Melbourne on Monday for the next episode of numismatic Wacky Races (Downie auction 309), then to the Gold Coast a week after that for International Auction Galleries Sale 75. There's good material on offer in both sales, so it'll be good to get amongst it. I do wish the auctioneers had somehow worked it out between themselves to not run into each other so much (there hasn't been anything on my calendar since July!), however we'll git while the goin's good - will keep you posted!