World Coins

World coins continue to find top market at auction

The coin and paper money auctions held alongside the Florida United Numismatists convention in Tampa and the New York International Numismatic Convention in New York City during the first few weeks of January provide a comprehensive test of the health of the coin market.

This year’s leader in the sales was a massive Polish gold 100-ducat coin that brought $2,160,000 at the Classical Numismatic Group Triton XXI auction on Jan. 9 in New York City. It was graded Extremely Fine by CNG.

The imposing gold coin was struck in 1621 by Jacob Jacobson van Emden for Poland’s King Sigismund III Vasa and celebrated Poland’s victory over Turks at the Battle of Chocim. Just six examples are known, each struck from the same set of dies engraved by Samuel Ammon. It was last offered a decade ago as the cover lot of Stack’s Jan. 14, 2008, sale of the Kroisos Collection, where it set a record for a Polish coin at auction when it sold for $1,380,000.

It’s the definition of a trophy coin: struck from gold, historically important, rare, well designed, and at nearly 70 millimeters in diameter and weighing almost 350 grams, it is physically impressive.

Stack’s Bowers Galleries also saw successes at the NYINC sales with its Eldorado Collection of Columbian coins realizing $3.8 million, led by an 1844 8-escudo rarity that sold for $456,000.

As the top of nearly all collectible markets has a focus aimed nearly exclusively on trophies, these types of super-rarities should continue to see strong price appreciation in the coming years, even if the number of seven-figure rare coins to cross the auction block has decreased in 2016 and 2017. The decline stems not from a lack of demand, but rather, because few collectors (or their heirs) have a pressing present need to sell trophy coins.

Many collectors are reluctant to risk a top-level coin not selling at auction. The market has a long memory, and the ultra-high-end numismatic market surely remembers the failure of the D. Brent Pogue 1822 Capped Head gold $5 half eagle and the finest-known 1804 Draped Bust dollar to meet their substantial reserve prices in 2016.

Auctions in general continue to grow in popularity: Christie’s sold $7.3 billion worth of art and collectibles worldwide in 2017 — a 26 percent increase on the previous year. Phillips saw $708.8 million in auction and private sales last year, representing a 25 percent boost from 2016, and Sotheby’s is set to release its numbers at the end of February.

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Online numbers continue to grow as auctioneers invest in this area. Heritage announced on Jan. 30 that it recorded $438 million in online sales in 2017, with more than 53.7 percent of its total $815 million in revenue coming from online bidders — a 26 percent surge over 2016, along with rapid expansion in its world and ancient coin division.

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