The upcoming January 4 – 5 NYINC World Coins & Ancient Coins Signature Auction in New York City features a monumental offering from South Africa. The legendary 1897 gold sixpence is entirely unique, and it has remained off the market for many decades. Tracing its provenance back to the 1930s, this piece once existed in the Royle Baldwin Collection. Royle Baldwin, a member of the Baldwin numismatic family, assembled a matchless cabinet of many of the rarest and earliest trial pieces of South Africa. In this collection, the coins sat for around 70 years until the collection was certified by NGC in 2006. Tightly held over the interim, this offering will be the first time in history that this piece has crossed the block at public auction.
Though its uniqueness is in many respects its most desirable attribute, this fact is compounded by the outstanding beauty that it presents! Immediately identifiable as a carefully produced Proof striking, the fields retain high reflectivity. Pleasing cameo contrast is also on display, as evidenced by the NGC-assigned Proof-63 Cameo grade, setting the raised devices starkly against the flat fields. Die polish blends with light handling to help define the grade, with a tiny mark in front of Kruger’s mouth servings as an important identification marker. This coin is a true and unqualified “national treasure.”
When contemplating the value of a unique coin, the process one often has to take to arrive at a final number is a complicated one; that task is unquestionably further complicated when the coin, such as the present, has been off the market for decades with no relevant sales records to serve as a basis.
That said, history does allow us to make some comparisons. For instance, the 1898 Sammy Marks “Tickey”, or off-metal threepence in gold, of which 215 were struck, is encountered at auction from time to time. The latest sales record we have for that coin comes from September of 2013, when we sold an example graded SP64 by PCGS for $79,637.98. While the entire 215 coin mintage is unlikely to exist today, it’s certainly no stretch to say the present gold sixpence is 100 times rarer than its threepence brethren.
Another comparison piece is the “Single 9 Overstamp” 1898 Pond. Like the present coin, that piece is unique, and actually a variety of the “99” Pond of which 120 were made. This rarity is reported to have traded privately in 2010 for 2,500,000 rands (this number is published as “multi-million rands” in the Hern catalog, with other industry sources clarifying a specific amount; in 2010, 2,500,000 rands was the equivalent of $340,000 at the 2010 average exchange rate).
Finally, the 1892 gold halfcrown in gold is a worthwhile study-piece. That coin, also a unique piece of similar appeal, brought £3600 in 1963 when it was last sold in a Glendinnings auction. At that time, a 1874 “coarse beard” pond, of which 174 were minted, brought £100, an easily calculable ratio of 36 to 1. Today, with the average selling price for an unflawed Mint State “course beard” pond likely being around $80,000, that 36 to 1 ratio projects the gold halfcrown at over $2,500,000!
Using these three coins as valuation brackets, we now have a better idea of what this unique sixpence could be worth. On the low side, we have the sales record for a unique variety of the “99” pond, a coin that this sixpence certainly surpasses in appeal, bringing approximately $340,000. On the other end, projecting value as a multiple of rarity, or previous historical premium for a similar rarity, we get two numbers that are in the multi-millions! Admittedly a significant range, ultimately, wherever the hammer falls, lies the true answer.
Given the unique nature of this coin, and the very real possibility that it again leaves the numismatic community for generations after this offering, we would like to wish all bidders vying for the ownership of this jewel the very best of luck.