While coin collectors will focus on the prices realized for duplicate gold proof coins of 1859 sold in London, England, Wednesday by Morton & Eden Ltd. in association with Sotheby’s what really caught my eye was who did the buying.
There were 11 coins sold and all but one of them went to a Japanese firm called Gallery Precious of Tokyo. The top lot, an 1859 $10 gold piece, went to an American buyer, Goldberg Coins and Collectibles, a firm that acted as agent for an unnamed American collector.
Since when do Japanese buyers make such a splash? It has been over 20 years since their boom ended and their endless economic retrenchment began.
Will we see a Japanese owner for a 1913 Liberty Head nickel when it is sold in April by Heritage?
How about Eric P. Newman’s patterns?
Russian and Chinese money has flooded into the numismatic market in recent years but it is focused primarily on the coins of those countries held by collectors in the rest of the world.
Imagine the result of American auctions if serious Japanese money begins to compete with American collectors?
This could propel the market to a level of activity that we have not seen since before the beginning of the Great Recession.
I expect Japanese buyers are trying to diversify out of the yen, because it has declined by about 20 percent against the U.S. dollar in recent months and expectations are it will decline even more.
However, just as one swallow doesn’t make a summer, but this auction outcome is still one that will make owners of top American rarities drool.
Will Walter Perschke find a Japanese buyer to pay his price for the Brasher doubloon he has owned for more than three decades?
If it happens, I expect somebody somewhere will begin to complain about American cultural patrimony leaving our shores – but that’s an issue for another day.
A willing source of new money and strong prices might just mean happy days are here again for the business of American numismatics.
The following are the results of the sale of the proof 1859 coins:
PCGS PR-65 CAM gold $10, $308,636.
PCGS PR-65+ CAM gold $5, $159,764
PCGS PR-65 gold $2.50, $111,956
PCGS PR-65 gold $1, $27,232
PCGS PR-64 silver $1, $11,800
PCGS PR-64 half dollar, $4,720
PCGS PR-64 quarter dollar, $3,994
PCGS PR-64 dime, $2,904
PCGS PR-64 half dime, $2,542
PCGS PR-63 3 cents, $871
PCGS PR-65 cent, $3,994
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."