News & Analysis – World Coin Rarities, markets, & collecting #401
A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds …..
From Monday, January 8 to Sunday, January 14, there were a large number of auction sessions for ancient and world coins at the Grand Hyatt Hotel adjacent to Grand Central Station in New York City. CNG, Goldbergs and partners, Heritage, Spink, St. James with Baldwin’s, and Stack’s-Bowers all conducted auctions. It would be impossible to fairly analyze all such events now. Several of the rarest European coins sold are covered here, and some relatively inexpensive coins are mentioned.
Russian rarities did not soar as they often have so far in this century. Furthermore, the offerings of Russian coins were nowhere near as interesting and extensive as offerings in New York in January during past years. There were some Russian rarities in the Heritage and Stack’s-Bowers events.
One of the partners with the Goldbergs for “The New York Sale”, Dmitry Markov, managed the consignments of Russian coins that were sold during the evening of Thursday, January 11. Around 40 Russian-speaking collectors and dealers were in attendance at the beginning of that session, quite a few of whom I recognized. While the selection in that sale was impressive in terms of depth, there were no individual coins that were particularly newsworthy. There were many rare and entertaining Russian coins from centuries past that could be purchased for $500 to $2,500 each.
A “Choice Extremely Fine” silver denga minted in Moscow during the late 1400s sold for $378, a moderate to strong price. An NGC-certified EF-40 1723 Moscow rouble went for $1,033, a moderate price in terms of market realities, though perhaps a good deal from a logical perspective. In the realm of Russian coins, some appealing 18th-century roubles in circulated grades are modestly priced.
As with classic U.S. coins, values for Russian rarities skyrocketed from 2002 to 2007 or so. Markets for rare U.S. coins peaked in July or August 2008. I am unsure as to when markets for Russian coins peaked, but they increased in value, percentage-wise, to a far greater extent than U.S. coins between 2002 and 2007. Current market levels remain well above 2002 or 2003 levels, though are not easy for me to interpret as many Russian rarities are sold privately in Europe.
Curiously, the second-highest result for a Russian coin in all Heritage auctions occurred on January 8. An 1895 10 roubles coin, apparently of the type that was adopted in 1895 and lasted until 1897, brought $228,000. This gold coin is PCGS-certified as SP-62, though it is unlikely that the quality or lack thereof of this piece was much of a factor in the bidding. This is a great rarity.
All Russian 10 roubles gold pieces dating from 1895 to 1897 are extremely rare, with a very small number of each available to collectors. The mintage figure of “125” listed for each in the Krause references is, undoubtedly, an overestimate.
The $228,000 price paid for this 1895 10 roubles is not surprising, though it is substantial. Curiously, the record for a Russian coin in a Heritage auction was the $264,500 result in June 2007 for an NGC-graded Proof-65 1839 rouble. The same coin was previously in the Robert Hesselgesser Collection and was auctioned by the Goldbergs in June 2000 for $16,675 – which was considered a healthy amount at the time. That 1839 rouble seems to have been in the same NGC holder in 2007 as it was in 2000, with Hesselgesser’s name on the label.
On January 8, 2018, Heritage auctioned an NGC-certified ‘MS-64 Prooflike’ 1833 Platinum 12 Rouble coin for $84,000. In contrast, Heritage auctioned an NGC-certified AU-55 1835 Platinum 12 Rouble for $94,000 in April 2012. The 1833 and the 1835 are roughly equivalent in terms of rarity. Though neither is a key date, both are far rarer than the 1831. The physical characteristics of the individual coins are important factors, too, and I have not seen all the Russian coins that I mentioned.
The offerings last week of coins from the British isles merit a separate analysis. Although no one collection consigned was overwhelming, the offerings in total were astonishing. This was the most extensive and incredible offering of British coins ever in one week in the U.S. Quite a few, though, did not sell or brought weak to moderate prices.
The 1663 Petition Crown pattern, which was covered in detail two weeks ago, realized $649,000. Is this result an auction record for a British silver coin or pattern?
Also on January 10, the Goldbergs, in conjunction with Sovereign Rarities, sold a very large and extremely rare Charles I silver coin, a 1644 Pound (20 shillings). It weighs more than four times as much as a U.S. silver dollar, and is sort of equivalent to four taler coins that were struck in German societies.
This Charles I silver Pound was struck at the Oxford Mint while the English Civil War was in progress. It is a rare and distinctive coin.
This 1644 silver Pound is particularly attractive, with minimal wear and pleasant toning. It is much better struck than many other Charles I silver Pounds and Half-Pounds that I have examined. This coin is characterized by some technical imperfections that are relatively minor for a large silver coin from the 1640s. Altogether, it’s an exciting coin. The price realized, $277,300, is more than 20% above the U.S. dollar equivalent of the price realized for the exact same coin at an auction in May 2015.
Central and Eastern Europe
The Polish 1621 100-Ducat coin that reportedly realized $2.16 million has already been widely covered in the media. This mammoth coin was in a CNG auction session that was conducted during the afternoon of Wednesday, January 10 in the same room on the ballroom level of the Grand Hyatt New York that the Goldbergs and partners used on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. This 1621 gold coin is far more appealing in actuality than it appears to be in published images.
I am unsure about the edge, because the rarities I see are typically in PCGS or NGC holders and because I am unsure about the formation of the edge of this coin when it was struck. This 100-Ducat coin weighs more than 10 U.S. $20 gold coins, and was struck in a less technologically advanced manner.
The reverse is technically amazing for such a large gold coin that is nearly 400 years old. The obverse has some hairlines and contact marks, which are not severe.
The cool luster, yellow-gold color and reflective raised lines from die striae altogether result in a very impressive appearance. This coin has an impact.
Moreover, its design is consistent with the designs of coins in central Europe during that time period and it is definitely a business strike. There are multiple factors that lead to a conclusion that this piece is a coin rather than a medal or a pattern.
Although coins from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth are interesting in general, more people collect German and Austrian coins than collect Polish coins. For centuries, coin collecting has been a very popular hobby in the region now known as the nation of Germany and in surrounding areas.
The auctions last week contained notable Austrian coins. A Salzburg Four-Ducat gold coin that was minted between 1560 and 1586 merits mention. Curiously, though a Four-Ducat coin is not considered small, it weighs around 1/25th (4%) as much the just mentioned 100-Ducat Polish coin of 1621. This Salzburg Four-Ducat is broader in diameter than a U.S. $10 gold coin, though it does not weigh as much.
The ducat as a monetary unit is discussed at length in the fifth part of my series about the Millennia Collection of world coins. Although the NGC grade of AU-58 for this Salzburg Four-Ducat is arguable due to quite a bit of wear and some edge imperfections, the quality of the coin is exceptional for a gold piece from the 1500s. It is an extraordinary coin. The apparent price realized of $33,000 ($27,500 plus 20%), is in line with prices realized for similar coins and for this same exact coin in recent auctions.
The same auction price is reported by CNG for an important Salzburg 10-Ducat coin from 1668, a Max Gandolph von Küenburg gold piece of an elaborate design. This 1668 Salzburg 10-Ducat contains more gold and is heavier overall than a U.S. $20 gold coin. It is NGC-graded as AU-53, though it has the details of a grade higher than 53. This piece may have been net graded due to some issues that are relatively minor for a coin from 1668. If this piece was a 19th-century U.S. coin, it would be non-gradable. For a large gold coin form 1668, its technical level is way above average.
One of the more fascinating coins sold last week was a Six-Ducat gold coin issued by the German State of Münster in 1661. The design is elaborate and imposing. Indeed, the city-view, heraldic ornamentation, and religious symbolism all seem to fit together in a unusually entertaining manner.
As in regard to many other coins from centuries past, the certified grade is or should be a net or compromise grade. This Münster 1661 Six-Ducat was NGC-certified MS-61.
There are some issues between one of the towers and the letters MONA, plus this coin was heavily cleaned in a few small areas. There are light hairlines from cleaning all over that mix well with mint-caused raised lines from indentations on the dies. Also, there are some minor issues about the letters ‘MEVM’ on the reverse. Even so, the reverse by itself might merit a grade of MS-62 or even -63, mostly due to eye appeal.
On the whole, this is really a very attractive coin that must be seen in actuality to be appreciated. I am not only referring to the craftsmanship and exceptional strike; some of the design elements are a natural orange color that contrasts nicely with normal green-gold inner fields. Many of the outer design elements exhibit an appealing russet tint.
The $90,000 price for this Münster Six-Ducat might seem unreasonably high to someone who has never seen the coin. This result did not surprise me.
The Kingdom of Hungary 1715/2 overdate 10-Ducat gold coin in the CNG event was one of the highlights of the week. A 10-Ducat of the era is slightly heavier and much broader in diameter than a U.S. $20 gold coin (double eagle) of the 19th century.
This 1715/2 is certainly uncirculated, and gradable by U.S. standards. The NGC grade of MS-63 is fair enough. The CNG cataloguer last year and a Stack’s cataloguer in 2007 referred to this coin as being “unique”!
It is noteworthy that this 1715/2 10-Ducat was in the Kroisos Collection, which Stack’s (NY) auctioned in January 2008. The price realized was $97,750 in 2008 and $444,000 last week, a very strong result. The already mentioned Polish 1621 100-Ducat was also in the Kroisos Collection. It realized $1.38 million in 2008.
The CNG auction last week featured an incredible run of coins of Transylvania. Though now part of Romania, Transylvania has been part of various empires at times during the last 1000 years. Transylvania has its own distinctive history and culture.
In 1765, Transylvania became integrated into the Hapsburg Empire. Joseph II reigned from 1765 to 1790 and a 1778 Transylvanian Three-Ducat gold piece in the CNG auction depicts him. Only a few of these are known to exist now.
This uncirculated 1778 gold Three-Ducat is NGC-graded as MS-61. It does not merit a higher grade mostly because of a heavy cleaning that left notable hairlines. Though clearly a business strike, this Three-Ducat is extremely prooflike. It is a very cool coin, ultra reflective and semi-cameo.
The next lot, a Two-Ducat coin from the same year, with a notably different design, is also NGC-certified as MS-61. This Two-Ducat brought $1,920 a moment after the just-mentioned Three-Ducat realized $168,000. Clearly, the rarity of this Transylvanian 1778 Three-Ducat is the primary determinant of its value.
Reportedly, a Hungarian firm, Nudelman Numismatica, auctioned this exact same 1778 Three-Ducat for 180,000 Euros on September 27, 2015, an amount which was then equivalent to around US$200,000!
France & Italy
An undated French Gold Crown (Couronne d’Or) was said by the Heritage cataloguer to be “from 29 January 1340”. This piece is NGC-graded MS-63. The price realized was surprising: $78,000. Market values for French coins are nowhere near the values of somewhat equivalent, or at least analogous, British and Russian coins. This is a newsworthy price for a French coin.
Heritage has never auctioned a French coin for as much as US$150,000. The highest price realized by a French coin in a Heritage auction was the $144,000 paid last week for a Napoleon III 1855-A 100-Franc coin. This piece is NGC-certified as ‘Specimen-64*’ and is extremely rare.
An ‘A’ mintmark refers to the Paris Mint. A ‘BB’ mintmark indicates Strasbourg.
A Napoleon III 100-Franc gold coin has a diameter than is almost as wide as that of a U.S. $20 gold coin. There was an 1862-A 100-Franc in the CNG auction. This 1862-A is a textbook example of a 62 grade coin, and was so graded by PCGS. The $2,040 result was a little strong. For a type set, however, this piece was a much better deal than some of the other 100-Franc coins that sold last week. A PCGS-graded MS-61 1862-BB 100-Franc went for $2,400 and there were other coins of this type that brought similar amounts in New York last week.
In the CNG auction, a couple of not rare, French Napoleon III 10-Franc gold coins captured my attention because of their originality. A PCGS-graded MS-65 1858-A brought $780, a good deal. The 1860-BB 10-Franc in the CNG auction was PCGS-graded MS-64 and sold for $480, another good deal for an excellent coin.
A particularly interesting coin in the Heritage event was a 1640-A Four-Louis gold piece. There has been some debate as to whether it is a coin or a pattern. The four, eight and 10 Louis denominations were never really launched. Quite a few of the Four- and Eight-Louis D’Or pieces were minted and were used.
The NGC-graded VF-25 piece in this Heritage auction is not the only well-circulated Four Louis D’Or that survives. The $72,000 auction result is in line with market levels and is reasonable from a logical perspective. It is an extremely rare and historically important piece.
The coins of Venice tend to be more artistically creative than British and French coins, which emphasize busts of monarchs and traditional coats of arms. Very large gold coins of Venice are particularly rare and interesting.
In that region, the term zecchino was used rather than ducat during some time periods. Zecchini is the plural of zecchino. Zecchini were not always minted in accordance with the traditional standard of 3.5 grams per ducat of about a 98.6% gold alloy. The weight and fineness variations per unit are of little consequence to most collectors now.
During the 1700s in Venice, coins of 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and even 12-Zecchini denominations were minted in sufficient quantities such that they are collectible in the present. Coins of denominations higher than 12-Zecchini are extraordinarily rare. There are or were several denominations above 12-Zecchini.
I have never seen a 100-Zecchini coin, though they were minted in Venice. In January 2008, Stack’s offered two different Venice 50-Zecchini pieces from the late 1700s.
For two coin newspapers, I covered the ANR auction of the Eliasberg collection of world gold coins, which was conducted in New York in April 2005. The Venice 50-Zecchini piece in that auction realized $379,500, a shockingly high price at the time. Before 2006, it was very unusual for a coin minted after 500 AD and outside of North America to sell for as much as $75,000.
This same Eliasberg 50-Zecchini appeared in multiple Stack’s (NY) auctions a few years later. In January 2008, it brought $299,000.
On January 13, 2018, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned a Venice 40-Zecchini piece from the same time period. This 40-Zecchini was minted under the administration of Paolo Renier, 1779-89. The Eliasberg 50-Zecchini was struck under the administration of Alvise Mocenigo IV, 1763-78. These two coins are similar in some ways, artistically and in format.
The Eliasberg 50-Zecchini coin was NGC-certified AU-55. The just auctioned 40-Zecchini coin is PCGS-graded as EF-45. The difference in quality is a little greater than this ten point spread in certified grades would suggest. Even so, these are both attractive and imposing coins that have an emotional impact while they are examined by coin enthusiasts.
The just-mentioned Paolo Renier 40-Zecchini coin was held by one family for generations. It realized $180,000 on Saturday, January 13, 2018.
While really exciting coins tend to spur bidders, and market levels for a few series are currently increasing, values of rare world coins in general are not rising. Many remain good values for collectors, especially when contrasted with prices for classic U.S. copper and gold coins.
© 2018 Greg Reynolds