After a few months of relatively limited auction activity in Australian rare coins and notes, the last two weeks in October included no less than three numismatic auctions, pretty much one after the other.
Although individually the auctions may not have set any great heights, as a group they showed that there is still plenty of interest in rare coins and notes at the moment, at each level of the market and in all segments.
Roxbury's Auction Galleries in Brisbane was the first off the rank on October 20th, this sale enjoyed a healthy clearance rate through their 1,249 lots. Although I didn't attend the sale myself, reports are that the bidding was broadly based in each segment of the market. I don't see any surprises within the prices realised, most items sold within expectations it seems.
Roxbury's Brisbane auction was followed near on a week later by the Status International sale in Sydney. This catalogue was far larger, and included a comprehensive range of items at all ends of the scale in each major market segment. The early sessions of bulk and inexpensive lots of world coins, decimal coins and odd lots were keenly tracked as usual, and the room was rather full when the afternoon session began.
Buyers of shipwreck coinage continue to be selective in terms of the quality of the items they'll chase, while the proclamation and colonial coin section enjoyed a healthy clearance rate. So many of the coins that were in this session are really only of interest to collectors that have already built a good representation of the proclamation series, this indicates to me that the market for Australia's earliest coins remains mature.
The action in Australian gold coins, both sovereigns and half sovereigns was far more circumspect however. In marked contrast to the brisk activity in the Bentley Collection over in London just a few weeks prior, the clearance rate for the Australian gold coins in this sale would surely have been measured only in the mid 50%'s at best. This is despite the fact there was a near complete run of dates in the sovereigns - right from 1855 right through to 1931. Active buyers at the moment really are focused on quality - not anywhere near as much as pre-decimal coin collectors (perhaps yet), however they do seem to be intent only on mint-state examples. Any coins less than UNC condition appeal in the main to value-focused collectors, these are the type of people that are not yet prepared to chase a coin in order to get it.
Each of the key dates that were listed found new homes,the prices they made may not have been the highest, however I'd assert that keen interest in off-grade rarities at any price is a good indicator of a healthy market. Quieter markets see such items without any interest at all.
The Australian Commonwealth coins were competitive in those areas they were expected to be, and quiet in areas that have been subdued throughout the year. This sale probably featured more PCGS-graded Commonwealth material than has been seen in a traditional auction to date, and while I didn't see a huge destination between the clearance rate and prices realised between the raw Commonwealth coins and those that had been PCGS graded, however PCGS-graded coins that did not have premium reserves did seem to get away.
The pre-decimal proof coins by contrast were quite exciting - this section included a good range of coins that hadn't been seen on the market for a while, not least among them was the 1937 pattern penny and shilling. The 1937 uniface penny was clear and away the most valuable item in the sale (or any of the three sales for that matter), and was knocked down at a hammer price of $230,000 for a nett price just shy of $270,000. Bidding opened at just $60,000, so it was an exciting ride to the final price, a number of bidders were in the mix on the way up. The 1937 pattern shilling opened at $60,000 and closed at $82,000 for a nett price of around $96,000. A number of the other proof coins in this sale were unfortunately impaired with surface marks or the like, so were left alone accordingly. The Perth proofs dating to the KGVI period were a little stronger than I expected, and certainly had broad support at the prices they opened at.
As someone that was sitting in the room, I can say (with some regret) that there was not one room bid for any of the pre-federation notes that were included in this sale. While there was some duplication in terms of the banks that were represented, and the type of note forms that were on offer, it is a sign of the times that buyers really do want to see value when buying here. Activity was marginally better in the pre-decimal note series, although possibly not by much. I believe this is a function of the reserve / pricing structure that was used - while it is all good and well for vendors to ask for a price that is at the higher end of current expectations, I don't think they can then complain when those expectations aren't automatically reached. The same can be said for the star replacement notes in this sale - there were a couple of bargains to be had, but then again a number of the notes that were passed in had qualifications to their grades.
The Downie's auction in Melbourne was the last of the three auctions to be scheduled, looking over the prices realised I think it's fair to conclude the figures realised suffered at least a little due to the scheduling of the auction. Make no mistake, the clearance rate remained quite healthy, it's just that some of the prices the sold items made were a little on the lean side.
Decimal error and variety coins were quite keenly contested, so there is nothing unusual there. The clearance rate for pre-decimal notes was a marked contrast to that seen in the Status auction, showing that any vendors looking to consign items for sale by auction at the moment need to be conservative with their expectations of grade and reserved price.
I have little doubt that the total sales volume for the three auctions together would have reached between $2.5 million and $3 million - a pleasing result considering the sales were made over a two week period in three different cities.
The Noble Numismatics auction in late November rounds out the year - a quick scan of the catalogue shows that it has a range of rarities at what appear to be prudent grades and estimates. The Holey Dollar listed for sale looks to be exceptional value if it ends up anywhere near the estimate, ditto for the wide range of pre-federation notes that are marked to appear.