The folks at Stephen Album Rare Coins bring a substantial base of combined knowledge to the process of cataloging their high quality, diverse consignments. I think also that their bidders tend to be very well versed in the specialized fields in which they collect or trade. It is for these two broad reasons that I really enjoy bringing our readers previews or reviews of the SARC live and online auctions.
SARC Auction 37 was held June 11-14, 2020, at their offices in Santa Rosa, Calif., with great results. Both the strength of the coin market and of the SARC business model was on display as high prices and a huge sell-through of 96.5 percent of lots sold made this a fun event for all involved. I asked Michael Barry, Chief Operating Officer (COO) at SARC for sale totals and he supplied this information, “The total price realized was 1.85 million USD (including buyer’s fees), a new record for our growing auction house. Pre-sale estimate for the auction was 1.20 million USD.”
One of the most exciting moments in SARC Auction 37 came when a Chinese silver “Pavilion” dollar sold for an astounding price of $130,900. Joseph Lang, CEO and Director of East Asian & Later Indian Numismatics relayed that, “This is more than three times higher than previous sales records for a Pavilion dollar (based on auction records available on CoinArchives Pro). The reason for the record-breaking price is that this piece was engraved for Dr. Ralph Garfield Mills (1881-1944) of Lincoln, Ill.”
I was only vaguely familiar with Dr. Ralph Garfield Mills before reading this wonderful background on him from the SARC Auction 37 lot listing:
“Dr. Mills was Professor of Pathology and Director of Research at Severance Medical College (now Severance Hospital of the Yonsei University Health System), from 1911 until 1918 in Seoul, Korea. According to the Johns Hopkins University circular “Annual Report of the Johns Hopkins University 1913-14” published in Baltimore, Md., in 1915, Dr. R. G. Mills, “an instructor in Pathology and Surgery resigned to become Professor of Pathology and Surgery in the new Peking Union Medical College in Peking, China in 1918.” He was also listed as the Vice-President of the Korea Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in Seoul in 1916. In 1923 Dr. R. G. Mills was again head of the department of pathology of the Peking Union Medical College and he wrote about the previous year in which “two of the contending war lords whose forces were clashing near Peking retired from the sanguinary scene of their conflict leaving several hundred wounded soldiers in an old temple. The Peking Union Medical College authorities commandeered all the suitable vehicles that could be found and brought the wounded men into the great city hospital.” Dr. Ralph G. Mills and his wife, Ethel, served as missionaries in Korea and China.
CFO and Director of World Coins, Paul Montz, was happy with their Auction 37 results. “We were curious to see how this auction would do, with all the changes the pandemic has forced on the industry. We were pleased to see that the market appears to be stronger than ever. This strength carried throughout the auction in all categories.”
To prove the point, here are some additional stand-out highlights directly from the sales catalog with results tacked on after the pre-sale estimates:
LOT 1066: INDIA: MUGHAL EMPIRE: Jahangir, 1605-1628, gold square heavy mohur, Lahore, AH1015 year 2, KM-184.1, BMC-293 (1015 year 1) & 294 (1016 year 3), special presentation type from the early part of Jahangir’s reign, obverse legend has full name & patronymic shah nur al-din jahangir ebn akbar padshah, and the regnal year “2”; reverse legend ruy-e zar-ra sakht nurani be-rang-e mehr o mah, ”he made the face of money to shine with hues of the sun and moon,” and the mint formula zarb lahore, NGC graded AU-55. Estimated at $14,000 - 16,000 (Realized $26,180).
LOT 1462: CHINA: CHIHLI: Kuang Hsu, 1875-1908, silver dollar, Peiyang Arsenal mint, Tientsin, year 24 (1898), Y-65.2, L&M-449, dragon eyes in relief, a superb quality example with bright white original mint luster, a superb example. PCGS graded MS-63. Estimated at $15,000 - 20,000 (Realized $26,180).
LOT 816: MEDIEVAL ISLAMIC: ASSASSINS AT ALAMUT: Muhammad III, 1221-1254, gold dinar (2.56g), MM, AH618, A-D1920, dated in the year of his accession, citing the Abbasid caliph al-Nasir li-din Allah, slightly uneven surfaces, unpublished and almost certainly unique and of great historic importance, VF-EF, RRRR. Estimated at $4,500 - 5,500 (Realized $16,660).
LOT 1757: WORLD: THAILAND: Rama IV, 1851-1868, gold stamped fuang, ND (ca. 1856), Cr-170, Krisnadaolarn & Mihailovs, p. 150, plate F07, upper left, stamped with four marks: chakra, mongkut, and phra tao (twice), grained right on the edge (derived from coins of the Indian Presidencies), EF, RRRR. Estimated at $2,000 - 3,000 (Realized $9,520).
LOT 102: ANCIENTS: SASANIAN KINGDOM: Shahpur (Sabuhr) I, 241-272, gold dinar (7.30g), Ctesiphon, G-21, diademed bust of Shapur right, wearing mural crown with korymbos // fire altar flanked by two attendants, each looking away from the fire and wearing mural crowns, two pellets right of the altar, lustrous and well struck example. ANACS graded MS-64. Estimated at $3,500 -4,000 (Realized $5,355).
SARC Auction 37 also offered selections from the H.F. Bowker Numismatic Library. Here too, prices were quite strong, particularly for some of the out of print works which have become increasingly difficult to locate. Here is one of the most outstanding highlights from the Bowker lots:
LOT 3689: NUMISMATIC LITERATURE: Schroeder, Albert, Annam Études Numismatiques, Paris, 1905, original printing, 651 pages, 111 fine phototype plates, in two volumes, one of text and one of plates, contemporary red cloth binding, original paper covers with the text volume hardbound, the standard French-language work on Vietnamese cash, silver, and gold and still the best work on gold and silver coinage, now extremely rare, RR, ex. H. F. Bowker Numismatic Library. Estimated at $300 – 500. (Realized $4,760).
Of course, I always like to dig a bit further and look for items which may have been overlooked by many, but were certainly seen by specialists. These are coins which may not have brought the stunningly high hammer prices, but which I had an eye on with high expectations. In most cases, in this sale these little trendsetters did not disappoint.
A Panama 2-1/2 centesimos of 1929, a one-year type as are many in the early coins of Panama, graded MS-66 by PCGS realized $2,200 on an estimate of $100-$150. The MS-65 value in the current Standard Catalog of World Coins is $165, but it is quite hard to locate these in grades any higher than that. An MS-66 is an oddity for the type and might be the finest known example, as NGC has not encountered any examples above MS-65 and this seems to be the first MS-66 graded by PCGS.
The China Republic coins of Year 3 (1914) with Yuan Shi Kai in military uniform also did extremely well in SARC Auction 37, with a 10 cents and 20 cents each graded by PCGS as MS-64 realizing $2,400 apiece. In the past it was the dollar denomination which garnered the most collector interest, but those crown attitudes are changing. These prices were nearly 10 times each coin’s pre-sale estimate, so people are certainly paying attention now. Even the Yuan Shi Kai Year 3 (1914) 50 cents graded PCGS MS-62 realized a whopping $6,500. Those are shocking prices to me, and apparently to the SARC folks too. It’s definitely an area to watch.
The same is true of the Republic of China Dragon and Peacock coat of arms types Year 15 (1926) 10 and 20 cents in the sale. They were each graded MS-64 by PCGS and each realized a stunning $3,750. Collector or investor interest is really high right now for the minor types.
On the less traveled path, SARC Auction 37 offered a St. Eustatius double countermarked stuiver. The original SE countermarked 2 sous of St. Eustatius are offered for sale pretty often. You might see one or two for sale in any given year, without even looking too hard, but the second issue with SE and a second countermark of P are not often seen at all. The piece in SARC Auction 37 is a KM-4, one of only two ever available types with both the original SE countermark and the P countermark which was applied later. The 2 sous host coin is from the French colony of Cayenne, which today is the main city in French Guiana on the northeast coast of South America.
Background on St. Eustatius countermarked coinage in use during the British occupation of the island was provided through the SARC Auction 37 lot listing: “It was determined that only genuine Cayenne stuivers would be used as currency on St. Eustatius, and these were countermarked “SE” for St. Eustatius by Peter dit Flamand. In 1809, there were so many counterfeits in circulation that an additional “P” stamp was applied to genuine pieces.” There are several different versions of the SE stamps known, but I think there are only two P stamps confirmed. One has a double lined upright and rests in a plain circular indent. The other type is a raised solid P in a circle of dots, all in an incuse circle.
The SE and P stuiver in SARC Auction 37 was graded VF for countermarks and AG for the host. I would have placed it higher for both, based on typical appearance for these types. Either way, the pre-auction estimate range of $250-$350 was left far behind when the lot sold for $900, which is the exact value listed in the current SCWC for a VF example.
High grade Iraq mid-20th century types continued to surface at SARC in Auction 37. The one that caught my eye was a copper fils for Faisal I dated 1933/AH1352. This coin was graded MS-65 brown by PCGS. Again the final price was just short of 10 times its pre-sale estimate at $1,300. This type was a large mintage coin, but survival at this grade level must be very thin.
Finding high-grade coins of Lebanon from the French mandate era leading up to WWII can be difficult. But they do come up; as did a silver 25 piastres dated 1936 and struck at the Paris Mint. It’s one in a series of three denominations using this beautiful design of the traditional Lebanese arms and crossed cornucopias. Graded MS-63 by PCGS, the coin sold for well above its pre-sale estimate and even went above its catalog value by over 40 percent.
The Nepal highlight of SARC Auction 37 was a copper paisa struck under Tribhuvira Vir Vikram who ruled from 1911-1950. You’ll find that in the Standard Catalog of World Coins he is listed as Tribhuvana Bir Bikram, but I will leave pronunciation and spelling arguments to more educated language experts. The coin itself is cataloged as KM-686.2 and is noted as “believed to be a pattern.” If I recall correctly, this listing originated with the owner and current consigner of the coin Wolfgang Schuster. At the time it was added to the SCWC we had little idea of its value, except that it was quite rare. The final hammer price was $650, giving us a better notion of value today.
Both high-end and mid-range world coins were well represented in SARC Auction 37 and most everything sold and sold for premium value, as CFO and Director of World Coins, Paul Montz described. Consider it a good sign for the world coin market and a terrific indication of the growth of this firm. Look for more exciting sales in SARC’s future.
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