The current market, especially for certain world coins, is absolutely insane. As I alluded to in my earlier journals, I have decided to slow down a bit to focus my efforts on more pressing personal matters, but I have kept a close eye on the auctions out of pure curiosity. As a mere spectator, I place a few lots on my watch list and resist checking on it again until after the auction is over. I have made an early Saturday morning routine of making a cup of coffee and relaxing while I see how my watched lots performed. I wasn't too shocked initially, as I had always thought the world coin market was a bit underappreciated, but recently I find myself nearly spitting out my coffee in shock as the page loads. Of course, there are exceptions in which an "average" coin sells for "average" money but generally speaking, prices are up across the board.
The most recent coin to send my coffee spewing across my computer screen was a gilt-proof 1805 Irish Penny graded by NGC as PF-66 Cameo. Although this coin is nice and seemingly deserving of the cameo designation, the fields look hazy, and honestly, the coin does not seem to merit the grade assigned. I have personally handled much nicer examples, both raw and graded, over the years. Nonetheless, gilt Soho proofs tend to command high prices, and I assessed the auction estimate of $800-1200 to be absurdly low. Although I'm not too fond of the coin for the grade, I know the label in a U.S.-based auction house would command a premium, and I estimated it would sell for around $2500. You can imagine my shock when I checked it the following Saturday morning and realized it sold for $8,400!
The next hour was spent trying to figure out why this coin sold for as much as it did. My initial hunch was that the label unduly influenced the price, as the coin itself was far from the nicest example I have encountered. As is often the case, the cameo and ultra-cameo designation for this series can command multiples of the selling price for a non-designated piece. It seemed plausible that this piece might be the finest graded in numeric grade and designation (i.e., none graded above 66 cameo and no 66 ultra-cameos). Although PF-66 is the highest assigned grade, there are two ultra-cameos assigned the same grade at NGC. In fact, there is only a single gilt example graded by NGC that was not awarded either a cameo or ultra-cameo designation out of the 11 recorded. That said, it seems very unlikely that the combination of the assigned grade and cameo designation alone could count for the high price. Although I could not find an auction record for any of the ultra-cameos, an NGC PF-65 cameo example sold in January of 2018 for $1400 (including the BP). It seems insane to think that a single-point bump, which would still not truly qualify the coin as a "top pop" is enough to justify the extra $7400! Assuming this was not some sort of fluke, I can't help but wonder what the two NGC PF-66 ultra-cameos would fetch at auction today.
Other notable "label coins" came up to auction recently that fell short of their auction estimates. Perhaps the most notable example from my realm of collecting was a gilt-proof 1799 British ½ Penny graded NGC PF-68 cameo. The auction estimate was $4000-6000, but it limped across the auction block at $2880 (with BP). The assigned grade paired with the cameo designation is a grand slam for the label enthusiasts. The next closest graded gilt-proof example is a PF-66 ultra-cameo, and it isn't even the same variety. With that context, the price realized for the Irish piece seems even more outlandish.
Many of you have expressed similar situations, and I would be very curious to hear examples from your collecting area that also highlight the madness of the current world coin market. Would you mind sharing those here?