For world coin collectors, the place to be on Aug. 3 was Heritage Auctions' Platinum Night sale. It provided a spectacular opening to this year’s American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money held at Denver. When the dust settled at evening’s end, the 441 lots of world and ancient coins had realized a total of $7,107,399, or over $16,000 apiece.
Top lot by a country mile was a historic Meiji (Mutsuhito) gold proof 20 yen, Year 3 (1870), KM-Y13. This great rarity is the largest gold coin struck during this reign. Graded Proof-66 Cameo by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, it flew heavenwards to fetch $470,000, or over three times its somewhat conservative upper estimate of $150,000.
Other examples of the 1870 proofs were for sale. The 10 yen, KM-Y12, made $94,000 also in Proof-66 Cameo NGC.
Then it was the turn of historic British gold to take center stage. As had been anticipated pre-sale this category was led by a splendid proof gold George IV £5, KM-702, S-3797. At the 2015 ANA Heritage sale a similar coin graded Proof-64 Cameo hammered for $75,000. The present example came in Proof-64 Ultra Cameo NGC and the estimate of $60,000-$80,000 seemed not unreasonable. However, clearly the market for large British historic gold has improved a little in the past two years. The coin sold for $305,500.
A little way back in the field was a William III gold 5 guineas of 1701, KM508, S-3456. This is the variety with a finely worked 2nd laureate bust, a DECIMO TERTIO edge, and plain scepters. It was in an exceptionally choice state of preservation. With its MS-64 NGC grade it easily made $188,000 on its $50,000-$60,000 estimate.
And still inside six figure prices was a spectacular gold 5 guineas of George II, dated 1729 and with the EIC monogram below the bust indicating it to be made from East India Company gold, KM-571.2, S-3664. Its price of $105,750 was commensurate with both its MS-62 NGC grade and its catalog description that reads: “few examples of this scarce, singular issue have matched or surpassed the technical quality and visual appeal of this offering.”
The supremacy of English gold was challenged by a delightful, 19 mm, 10.77 g Lydian gold stater dating from the reign of Croesus, c. 561-546 B.C.E. There have been a number of such coins sold in recent years. In this case it was grade that determined price. In NGC MS Star 5/5–5/5 it had no difficulty fetching a healthy $129,250.
Top of the silver stakes was a William IV proof crown, KM-715, S-3833. The 1834 date is unlisted in SCWC with just 10 examples known. This no doubt contributed to the price of $94,000 as, presumably, did its grade of Proof-62 PCGS.
Victorian proof sets continue to demand a total reworking of catalog prices. An 1893 10-piece gold and silver set, threepence to £2 (KM-PS13, S-PS7) and NGC-graded from Proof-63 to Proof-66, had no difficulties in being bid to $91,062.50 on a $50,000-$80,000 estimate.
There was a remarkable collection of 55 superb gold Roman aurei. Twenty-five of these sold for five-figure amounts.
Highest price of this group was paid for a 20 mm, 7.12 g, aureus of Hadrian struck at Rome 134-138 C.E. This is an extremely rare and unrecorded piece from Hadrian’s Travel Series. The reverse shows Nilus reclining with his left arm resting on a sphinx and accompanied by a hippopotamus and crocodile. Graded NGC Choice AU Star 5/5-5/5 it made an easy $67,562.50.
Full details of lots sold and prices realized are available online at www.ha.com.
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