World Coins

Global rare coin market rises

A circa 405 to 403/2 B.C. silver tetradrachm of Katane in Sicily, was one of two items that had to be withdrawn from the Jan. 4 auction of “Selections of Cabinet W,” after New York and federal officials arrested the owner and detained the coins. The “coin” is also reportedly fake.

All images courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group and Nomos AG.

More than $180 million in rare coins may change hands at auctions during the first week of January, as both the Florida United Numismatists show in Orlando, Fla., and the New York International Numismatic Convention, in New York City, will be taking place. The FUN convention’s focus is primarily on U.S. coins while NYINC focuses on coins of the world, ancient to modern.

Major auctions accompany these conventions. Heritage Auctions anticipates that its FUN auctions may realize more than $80 million, and NYINC chairman Kevin Foley has said that there is a realistic chance that the nine auction houses conducting 16 auction sessions at NYINC may realize more than $100 million.

For comparison, a $180 million total for the FUN/NYINC auctions is roughly equivalent to Christie’s and Sotheby’s auctions for Old Masters Week in New York at the end of January. However, the per-lot price during Old Masters Week is significantly higher, as is the top level of the market for Old Masters where a great painting can achieve $20 million to $30 million.

Yet, the coin market is catching up to other classes of rarities and the market for high-end ancient coins is perhaps at its highest level ever, with global demand lifting prices across the board.

For example, Classical Numismatic Group in association with Nomos AG will offer the Cabinet W collection, 19 lots of masterpieces of Greek coinage that have opening bids together totaling more than $6.7 million.

Included in the collection is a rare silver decadrachm of Akragas, circa 409 to 406 B.C., one of just 12 known examples. It carries an estimate of $2.5 million. If met, it would establish a record price for an ancient Greek coin. It is the third example offered at auction in 31 years, with the last comparable example being sold as part of the famed Nelson Bunker Hunt Collection. That example sold in 1990 for $572,000, a then-record price for an ancient Greek coin.

The sale of 19 singularly rare and beautiful coins together creates an exclusive auction, comprising only the highest quality coins, which has the potential to attract people new to the hobby who want to put money into investments that are the best of their type.

Other six-figure rarities are present from around the globe — China, Russia, South Africa, ancient Rome, and elsewhere — as the coin market expands globally. ¦

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