Led by the $6.8 million Norman Jacobs Collection, featuring an absolutely stellar 1909 set of Korean gold coins that realized a total $1,391,500, Heritage Auctions’ Sept. 8-9 Signature® World and Ancient Coins Auction at the Long Beach Coin, Stamps & Collectibles Expo realized more than $20.5 million, a record total for a single auction since the category’s inception at Heritage 11 years ago.
More than 3,580 bidders vied for the 2,835 lots in the auction, translating into an astounding 98% sell-through rate by total lot value. All prices quoted include 15% Buyer’s Premium. The auction represented the largest multi-consignor world coin auction ever presented in the United States, and saw super high grade coins — especially those with a grade of MS-65 and above — bringing premiums never before seen in the market, akin to those that are usually associated with high grade U.S. coins.
"This auction was just tremendous for all of us here at Heritage," said Cristiano Bierrenbach, Executive VP of International Numismatics at Heritage. "Putting together a $20+ million world and ancient coin auction is a privilege very few firms have ever experienced, and I can assure you we had a lot of fun assembling it."
"Just when we thought the world coin market can’t get any better, this auction came along and happily proved us wrong," added Bierrenbach. "Our prices realized were 40% higher than our most optimistic projections."
As stated above, the Norman Jacobs Collection was the main draw of the auction, with a host of incredible rarities that collectors were clearly eager to acquire.
The $1,391,500 total for the 1909 set of Korean Gold set the stage as the legendary Yung Hi gold 20 Won Year 3 (1909), KM1144, J&V AD3, MS64 NGC led the way, realizing $632,500 — the top lot in the entire auction.
It was followed by the amazing Yung Hi gold 5 Won Year 3 (1909), KM1142, J&V AD8, Dragon in circle/Value in wreath, MS64 NGC, which brought $460,000 and the Yung Hi gold 10 Won Year 3 (1909), KM-A1130, J&V AD6, Dragon in circle/Value in wreath, MS64 NGC, the only example of the 1909 Korean gold 10 Won in private hands, which finished the day at $299,000.
"Of the Top 50 most valuable world coin lots we’ve ever sold, fully 22 of them now come from this auction," said Bierrenbach, "and the Jacobs Collection beat our total high estimates for all of its coins combined by nearly $2 million."
The Jacobs examples continued, throughout the collection, to bring consistently superb prices, as evidenced by the possibly unique Meiji silver Pattern Trade Dollar Year 7 (1874) KM-Pn24, J&V R1a, Proof 65 NGC, which brought an astounding $299,000 final price realized, against a pre-auction estimate of $100,000+.
The Meiji silver 5 Sen Year 25 (1892), struck for exhibit at the Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1892, type of KM-Y22, JNDA-unlisted, J&V, MS62 NGC, which provided some of the auction’s brightest fireworks with a price realized of $276,000 against a pre-auction estimate of just $15,000+. The same $276,000 price realized was matched by a beautiful Meiji gold Pattern 10 Yen Year 3 (1870), KM-Pn19, J&V Ma1, MS64 NGC.
Further Jacobs examples include a Japan 1880 Meiji 13 Proof 10 Yen (Realized: $253,000), a Japan 1875 1 Yen, which soared to a final Price of $207,000 against a pre-auction estimate of $20,000, a Japan 1874 Pattern Trade Dollar, which quadrupled its $50,000+ pre-acution estimate to realized $207,000, a Korea 1902 1 Chon that came in at more than seven times its pre-auction estimate to realized $149,500, a 1909 Korea copper-nickel 5 Chon, another runaway hit that beat a $15,000+ pre-auction estimate to end the auction at $138,000 and a 1902 Korea copper 20 Won 1902, that thrilled collectors to the tune of $115,000.
"While sitting in the auction room during our sessions I couldn’t help but smile," said Warren Tucker, Vice President of World Coins at Heritage. "The live bidding was fantastic. With each auction our Internet bidding platform becomes more important. We started the auction with more than 16,000 bids on the book already and then were getting 5, 10, 20 and 30 more live bids on top of that. In almost 50 years in this business I’ve never really seen anything quite like it."
While the Norman Jacobs Collection garnered much of the pre-auction interest, there were many more high profile lots in the sale that performed incredibly well, setting records and continuing to generate major interest in the ever-growing category of World and Ancient coins.
When it came to Ancient coins, there was none that shined brighter, or generated more publicity — as seen in The Wall Street Journal on Saturday, Aug. 27 — than the immortal "Ides of March" Denarius, struck by Marcus Junius Brutus in 42 B.C. to celebrate the assassination of Julius Caesar, which was the object of an incredible amount of collector curiosity, and which came in at the high end of its pre-auction estimate, at $546,250, the highest price yet realized for a Roman silver coin.
"There was speculation in some quarters that this beautiful and famous coin was not going to reach the level it did," said David Michaels, Director of Ancient Coins at Heritage. "The final price realized not only confirmed the expectations of Heritage’s experts, but also proved any pre-auction speculation to the contrary as false. We’re all very happy with this result."
A Marc Antony and Octavian aureus proved another quite popular ancient coin with collectors as spirited bidding drove its final price realized to $80,500.
Other important Asian numismatic highlights from the World Coins session included the legendary Chinese Yunnan Spring Dollar, just one of two known, which checked in at $546,250, while a Japan Pattern Yen from 1870 went for $322,000, more than four times its pre-auction estimate of $75,000.
A 1994 Chinese platinum set, an exceedingly rare quintet, drew much attention amidst spirited bidding as it finished the day at $149,500 against a pre-auction estimate of $35,000.
Further highlights include an 1892 South African Proof Penny, a glowing lavender-red proof drew almost five times its pre-auction estimate of $40,000+ to bring $195,000, while a world record for the issue was set when an 1839 Great Britain proof Una and the Lion 5 pound tripled its pre-auction estimate when an erudite collector took it home for $92,000. An 1834 William IV Proof Crown, a major Victorian rarity in superb grade, provided another top British highlight when it doubled estimates to finish the day at $69,000.
Rounding out the top highlights of the auction are an 1892 South Africa Proof 2.5 Schillings, which proved impressive on the auction block at a final price of $69,000 and a highly appealing 1813 Mexico 8 Escudos of Guadalajara, which ended the auction with the impressive total of $54,625.
"The enthusiasm generated by this auction, not to mention the great prices realized, has shown us all that the market for international numismatics is continuing to expand," said Bierrenbach. "To that end, I can’t wait to see what our NYINC auction in January will bring!"
About Heritage Auctions
Heritage Auctions, headed by Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin and Greg Rohan, is the world’s third largest auction house, with annual sales more than $600 million, and 500,000+ online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com.