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It sold for how much?!?



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?



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I bought a modern coin that went up 10 times in value soon after I purchased it. Its still holding pretty high after having been released almost two years ago. It's odd but I think if you get two people in an auction that feel the item they are bidding is a must have acquisition, the final hammer can go very high. If not there are occasional good buys out there. Keep your auction watch lists up to date and strictly adhere to your maximum bid, there may yet be some good deals to be had. Perhaps you'll watch ten and win one. It all depends on the demand at the time of the auction. Of course eye appeal, grades, and other miscellaneous factors have a lot to do with demand. Don't give up on locating items at coin shops or direct sales from other collectors. They can be your best value. In the end, it really is a treasure hunt. Below is the coin of which I am referring.


2019_British_2-Pound_Una and the Lion_C.jpg

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I was interested in a coin at a recent auction with an estimate of 600-800 which I thought was a little low and wouldn't have been surprised at 1200 - it went for 3500! It was a top pop but was the 2nd most common issue of the series to find in uncirculated condition, I will wait for an ungraded example to appear.:ph34r:

I think top pop coins are attracting bids that really can't be justified - often 5 to 10x just one grade lower - sometimes I think that the coin doesn't warrant the grade at all and people are buying the label. I am more than happy with a grade below 'top pop' as long as the coin is nice :bigsmile:

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Another great entry, Don!

I love that even though you're tending to other things currently, you're still keeping your finger on the pulse in your collecting area.  As for me, with what I collect, I haven't experienced anything like this and I probably won't for a couple of reasons.  The first is that most of Faustina the Younger's coins are very, very common.  Even 1,891 years after she was born, her coins remain extremely common.  I think I said this in another of your entries but I'll repeat it here....Faustina the Younger coinage is almost like the 1980's baseball cards of Second Century CE coinage.  Secondly, most people who collect Roman coins aren't collecting them the way that I do.  I only know of a couple of other people trying to build a comprehensive collection of the coinage of a single ruler and none of them are chasing Faustina.  As far as I know, I'm the only one collecting her coinage with the goal of a full set, or rather, as much of a full set as we know of.  You can never be sure you have everything with ancients and, likely, you don't and never will.   So, most people buy a single Faustina and move onto another person whose coin they do not have yet.  As a result, my little numismatic world hasn't changed much with the rising prices.  I'm actually very happy about that.  I don't chase Faustina for money.  I chase her out of love.  But, for you guys who are collecting in areas that are crazy, I do hope things settle down some for you.  I can imagine that this price craziness has been something of a drag for many of you.


Edited by Mohawk
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Were you able to view the lot in person? I know even the big auction houses have trouble catching a coins true appearance at times. At the last ANA/Heritage auction that I was able to attend in person the on-site lot viewing I did completely changed how I was bidding. 

That said, there are definitely crazy prices in the areas that I collect and it is not often that I can view lots in person prior to bidding. I don't have deep pockets so I have to be picky what I bid on. Going into a big auction I may have 6 items that I am both interested in and feel like I have a chance of obtaining. Out of those, I may only bid seriously on 1 or 2 of them. Attached is my most recent auction win. I ended up paying 4 times the estimate but the estimate was rediculously low. This came from the CNG sale earlier in the week. They actually had videos posted of most of the items in the sale which is important to me. If interested it can be seen here. https://cngcoins.com/photos/CNG_Links/video/CNG_118/1277.html

Still not as good as an on site inspection but in my opinion, more informative than a photo. 


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@coinsbygary As always, excellent picture, Gary! I do not plan to step away from adding additions to my collection, but I do intend to be far more selective. For instance, I have purchased two items from trusted dealers in the last month, both from the Boulton estate. Nowadays, it has to be something truly remarkable to get me to spend money.

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@ColonialCoinsUK I started as a U.S. coin collector before moving to English and Irish copper, and the “top pop” game was always a bit frustrating to me. I am far more content to have a nice coin than a nice holder (i.e., I collect coins, not holders)! You and I are very much alike in that regard, Mike. 

It seems as though more demand is being placed on world coins in these “top pop” holders in recent years, which makes me wonder if the recent influx of competition is primarily U.S.-based. This may have changed in the last couple of years, but generally speaking, TPGS and thus “top pops” are far less meaningful amongst European collectors, so I doubt their influence is as significant. The odd part about the Irish piece I mentioned above is that it isn’t even a true “top pop” coin!

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@Mowhawk I appreciate the kind words, Tom! It is nice to see that a few of us have been spared from the current craziness of the market. It appears you have found the perfect niche area of focus to keep you occupied for some time without necessarily breaking the bank.

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@World_Coin_NutYou bring up a fair point. I did not view the coin in hand, but I do not think it would have drastically changed my opinion even if I had. I have seen enough of these pieces in hand to be comfortable stating that there are nicer raw examples in the marketplace if you know where to look.

Although not recently, I take a similar approach and focus my efforts on one or two lots that I have a reasonable chance of winning. I, too, am no stranger to paying multiples of the high estimate when I really want something. I did just that earlier this year, paying nearly 6x the high estimate, but it was a unique piece that I knew I would likely never get the chance to purchase again.

I wish more auction houses would post videos. That would make assessing the coin much easier as opposed to a photo. Of course, nothing can replace an in-hand inspection. Nice coin, by the way!  

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