World Coins

Rare sovereigns, shillings attract buyers

London in late September is COINEX time, Britain’s major annual coin show.

London auctioneers strive to present major auctions during this time when so many collectors and dealers are attending what the British call a “coin fair.” While this year was no exception in terms of quality and quantity of exceptional material — and prices to match — two auctions were particularly relevant to collectors of important 19th and 20th century British coins.

British coinage covers well over two millennia and collectors tend to be more oriented to type and variety collections than to runs of dates. The autumn auctions of sovereigns and shillings provided an unusual and rare opportunity to recalibrate values on a high quality run of each of these series. Both collections reflected efforts to buy the finest possible examples, and the sparse representation of coins of Mint State 65-plus quality indicates just how rare such coins are.

The Baldwin’s auction of a major date and variety collection of sovereigns made headlines in the international business press. A 1920-S sovereign of the Sydney Mint sold for $1.25 million (£780,000), in a sale that established records for many pieces that have little recent price history. Many of the coins offered were strictly graded “Good Extremely Fine,” a grade that could be anywhere from About Uncirculated 58 to MS-62 in American grading.

Similar comments apply to the collection of Victoria shillings in the sale by Dix Noonan Webb of a date and type collection emphasizing quality. This is a popular denomination, and the Victoria Young Head type is particularly attractive. Again, coins that would rate MS-65 were few and far between.

While the strong prices achieved in these and other auctions this fall point to continued strength in the market for British coins, these prices also demonstrate the continued premium buyers are willing to pay for quality.

Little interest is being shown in the lower end of the market, and problem coins are as difficult to sell as ever. ¦

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