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jwither

Prioritizing your collection

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jwither

What I have in mind with this topic is to provide my perspective on how I have approached my acquisitions both now and prior. And since this is something that I would expect many others have also considered, get anyone else's opinion on what they did. From my perspective, here is what I will address.

 

Establish goals for your collection

 

As with any other aspect of life, if anyone is ever going to accomplish anything, I think this is a neccessity. Since I resumed collecting in 1998, I have changed this a few times and always by expanding it. I have not revisited this in many years but I know I need to contract it at this time.

 

Formally or informally, I have included (along with a few others) SA Union, SA ZAR, Spanish colonial pillars, Spanish colonial "lion and castle" quarter real, Bolivian Republic decimals and Spanish Cross silver. Of these, the only one I made any real progress with was SA Union, though I never intended to achive the same level of completion will all the others. Prior to selling most of my better SA coins, I was in position to complete a full set of KGVI circulation strikes with most of the better dates in MS and the rest (such as the 1944 1/) in better AU.

 

Today, I have no intent of ever trying to complete Union (or ZAR) in MS at least because I know it is not feasible. This is a combination of both the resources I will likely apply to coins generally but also to this series specifically. Back in 1998, I identified all of the issues that cost $500 or less in the Krause manual (which was almost all of them outside of the KGV proofs) but today the coins are both too expensive and more importantly, do not represent the same relative values they did in the past.

 

What I intend to do now is to prioritize Bolivian Republic decimals and Spanish colonial pillars first while pursuing a "type set" for the rest. To this, I will also add any other coins in these series that I can buy at favorable prices, even If I end up with multiple coins of the same issue. An example of that would be the 1950 NGC MS-64 RD 1D which I just bought for $99. This coin used to sell for a lot more and I do not mind owning it in multiple at a cheap price.

 

Evaluating current and potential future prices

 

If you ask the "typical informed" collector in the US, what I believe you are likely to hear is that it is better to pursue the more expensive "key" dates first and the more common cheaper coins later. In general, this would have been the better approach with US coins and to a certain extent SA, but I'm not convinced it will be for the immediate future.

 

I can tell you that when I started buying coins in volume around 2002, that I did not always follow this practice when I should have. Sometimes it would be that just I bought what was available at the moment (since I was mostly buying on eBay) but other times, i was just not disciplined enough to buy what I "should have". Specific coins that I remember were a 1771 Peru 4R (ungraded XF-AU), a 1927 Union MS 2/6 (also ungraded) and a 1933 Union PCGS MS-65 RD 1D.

 

At this time since I believe that prices are going to decline for most coins for the forseeable future, I would not advice buying the "key" dates first necessarily. For SA, I would only buy the "key" dates for the most part in better grade AU because that is where the value is today.

 

Availability

 

The third consideration is whether the coins are actually available. This is much less of a factor for SA coins generally and Union specifically today, but it was a big problem for me from 2002 to 2005 or so. I knew the coins were cheap but I just could not buy as many of them as I wanted to because they were not available, though I did not know of BoB.

 

Today, this is still somewhat true of SA coins but at least you can probably find most of them several times (or more) in any given year versus almost never previously. For the other series I collect, it is still true for many and in some instances, most of the coins.

 

So sometimes when a particular coin becomes available, you will need to decide whether to 'stretch" for it or possibly not have another chance to buy it or at least buy it for a long time. In my series, the next Stacks sale has both a 1733 Mexico MX 1/2R (NGC XF-40) and a 1733 Mexico MX 1R (NGC AU-58). The first coin has four listed varieties as a R4 or R5 (1-3 or 4-10 reportedly known) and the second is a R3 (11-25) and R4. I own the second but only as a NGC VG-8. I have never seen the other in any grade.

 

Another coin I recently encountered was the Bolivia 1893 Boliviano (raw AU) which went unsold in an auction last year with an opening bid of 3500 CHF. This is an impossibly difficult coin to find to my knowledge (approximately equal to the 1931 Union circulation silver) since I have never seen or even heard of another one. In theory, either I or another collector of this series could contact the auction house and see if the coin is still available and I might just consider doing that becauase it is a coin I really want. But to acquire a coin like this one, I might have to pay more or a lot more than I think the coin is actually worth, as the (meaningless) Krause guide lists it at $2500 in XF. The same applies to other coins I would like to buy that I have never seen for sale. ALL coins are available - at some price - if you can find who owns them and are willing to pay enough. In my case, I would probably try to locate them through an auction firm like Calico.

Edited by jwither

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Pierre_Henri

A long post to respond too - it takes me a while to get my facts straight - but in the mean time - why collecting Bolivia ? In Afrikaans we would call that the "gatkant" of the world - the last country on any wish list ?

 

Pierre

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jwither

You are correct, it is a long post but I consider it necessary much of the time to provide the correct context and an adequate explanation. But I admit that sometimes I lose the reader in doing so.

 

As to why collect Bolivia, the first comment I can make is that from the standpoint of those who do not live in South Africa, the same question could be asked of me by others why I collect South Africa coins. Yes, I know that South Africa is more important economically and more widely collected numismatically but for those of you who do not know this, to most collectors of coins, it is an obscure field.

 

To most it is so obscure that if I had never lived there (which I did from July 1972 to November 1974), not only would I likely never have done so, it would never have even occured to me. In actuality, all of the series I collect are obscure either because most of them "minors" (as opposed to crowns or gold) or because they are not recent. South Africa is just less obscure because ZAR and Union is the focus of most collectors in your country.

 

I collect Bolivia because I also lived there in the past and I still visit twice a year since my father's family is from there. Of those who have any interest in Bolivian coinage, most collect the "treasure coinage"; the Spanish colonial "cobs" and "big money" collectors are particularly interested in the "royals" (which are presentation strikes) plus "exotic" specimens such as the heart pendant shaped coins. Some others such as myself also collect the pillars but these were only issued for four years (1767 to 1770) and they are far less collected than those from Mexico.

 

The decimals I collect because I like them a lot more than the predecessor fractional coinage and I particularly like the crown sized Boliviano which i first encountered back in 1975 when I last lived in Bolivia and started collecting.

 

Upon resuming collecting in 1998, I included this in my collecting scope. And as with South African coins, I soon found out that they are much more difficult to find than I originally expected. Most of them are avaiiable even in better grades (up to low MS) but only occasionally. Some coins like the 1893 Boliviano are almost impossible to find. Partly it is because the coins are cheaper, but there are probably more Bolivia decimal coins that are really hard to find today than there are for either Union or ZAR. The challenge interests me for both South Africa and Bolivia because I am not really interested in owning coins that anyone can buy on demand.

Edited by jwither

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Pierre_Henri
You are correct, it is a long post but I consider it necessary much of the time to provide the correct context and an adequate explanation. But I admit that sometimes I lose the reader in doing so.

 

As to why collect Bolivia, the first comment I can make is that from the standpoint of those who do not live in South Africa, the same question could be asked of me by others why I collect South Africa coins. Yes, I know that South Africa is more important economically and more widely collected numismatically but for those of you who do not know this, to most collectors of coins, it is an obscure field.

 

To most it is so obscure that if I had never lived there (which I did from July 1972 to November 1974), not only would I likely never have done so, it would never have even occured to me. In actuality, all of the series I collect are obscure either because most of them "minors" (as opposed to crowns or gold) or because they are not recent. South Africa is just less obscure because ZAR and Union is the focus of most collectors in your country.

 

I collect Bolivia because I also lived there in the past and I still visit twice a year since my father's family is from there. Of those who have any interest in Bolivian coinage, most collect the "treasure coinage"; the Spanish colonial "cobs" and "big money" collectors are particularly interested in the "royals" (which are presentation strikes) plus "exotic" specimens such as the heart pendant shaped coins. Some others such as myself also collect the pillars but these were only issued for four years (1767 to 1770) and they are far less collected than those from Mexico.

 

The decimals I collect because I like them a lot more than the predecessor fractional coinage and I particularly like the crown sized Boliviano which i first encountered back in 1975 when I last lived in Bolivia and started collecting.

 

Upon resuming collecting in 1998, I included this in my collecting scope. And as with South African coins, I soon found out that they are much more difficult to find than I originally expected. Most of them are avaiiable even in better grades (up to low MS) but only occasionally. Some coins like the 1893 Boliviano are almost impossible to find. Partly it is because the coins are cheaper, but there are probably more Bolivia decimal coins that are really hard to find today than there are for either Union or ZAR. The challenge interests me for both South Africa and Bolivia because I am not really interested in owning coins that anyone can buy on demand.

 

I have done the same as you did but obviously in the field(s) that I collect. I am an avid Union collector but in graded form, I only collect the Shilling, Two Shilling and Half Crown series from 1923 to 1952.

In raw form (ungraded) I collect the whole copper series from 1923 to 1960 and the 3d and 6d from 1937 to 1952.

I have the complete Elizabeth II series (1953 – 1960) in raw UNC condition up to the Half Crown. I do not collect Crowns.

I have never been an avid ZAR collector but understand very well that that is where much of the money lays regarding SA coins. I keep the best of my graded examples as an add-on to my retirement policy but am not that interested on the ROI for the next ten years.

Regarding international coins, I have started a wonderful type collection of SILVER coins that circulated on all the continents from ancient times to the mid 1960s when silver coins stop circulating.

I have very few South American silver coins in my collection and none of Bolivia. As I only buy locally it seems that there were not much trade between SA and South America through the years. During my buy-ins I see & buy many silver coins from all over being in rank of availability: Colonial Africa, UK, Europe, Australia, other Commonwealth countries, USA and THEN South America.

I also collect one example of each shipwreck coin in silver that I can find – obviously mostly from Southern Africa. The certificates of authenticity being almost harder to find than the coins themselves!

I also collect the Great Britain range of silver 3d, 6d, and 1/- from the George III dates up to 1910 (Edward VII) as a past time – never buying them directly but more sifting through my buy-ins and putting those I do not have away. The reason being that they all circulated in SA – I do not expect to make a profit on them ever, but it’s just great filling those gaps as the years (mine and the coins’) progresses.

I think you are more focused than I am regarding the investment side of collecting coins, but as you know, there are no rights and wrongs in this hobby – as long as we enjoy what we are doing.

In SA, currently, our biggest problem is not procuring coins, but actually protecting your coins from being stolen. But that is another story.

Thank you for all your posts on this forum.

Pierre

Edited by Pierre_Henri

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jwither

I understand why you collect SA but is there any particular reason you chose the approach you did or buy the coins you do? I'm not sure if most do but here is why I buy what I collect:.

 

For South Africa (Union and ZAR) and Bolivia (decimals), it is because I lived there at one time per my last post.

 

For the pillars (all mints), it has always been a coin I liked and when I was much younger before the internet changed collecting, I had always wanted to own an 8R. I finally bought one in 1991 at a coin show (a 1761 Mexico in nice VF) but now I actually focus on the minors. The only 8R I own is a corroded but mint state Bolivia 1769. Horrible "investment" coin but I bought it on eBay and decided to keep it because I did not know I could find a better one at the time.

 

For the Spanish Cross silver, I stumbled across this design on eBay when I bought the first one in 2003. I thought $200 was real cheap for an MS-64 (PCGS 1721 Seville one real) so I bought it. I also happened to live in Spain right before I moved to South Africa but that is the only connection I have to that country.

 

For the Spanish colonial "lion & castle" quarter real, I first encountered these issues in 1975 when I was in Bolivia and visited a "plateria" (silver shop) with my aunt. Do not remember the date or mint but when I saw my 1821 Peru NGC AU-58 on eBay, I bought it and added this series to my list.

 

The 1790 Austrian Netherlands Insurrection issues I first encountered in the 1988 Bowers & Merena sale of the Bebee collection. They had a 3 florin which has the Hapsburg lion also appearing on the reverse of the quarter real. I mistakenly associated it with the design on the quarter real (for some unknown reason) but came to like it anyway. I now have six of the eight coins in MS-63 to MS-65, except the 3 florin and the gold 14 florin.

 

There are also a few other coins I own aside from these series, but I have only bought anything else on very rare occassions. One example is the Mexico "Cap & Ray". I am particualrly interested in the 4R in higher grades because this is a very scarce coin in any better grade. I have seen a few more in the last few years but before the Stack's sale last year, maybe one per year.

 

As to why so many series, it is because when I first started buying a lot of coins, if I had only focused on one (such as South Africa), I hardly would have ever bought anything since few better coins were available for sale.

Edited by jwither

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jwither

On the "investment" aspects, it is definitely true that I pay close attention to the financial side of any purchase but as I mentioned many times in the past here, I DID NOT set out to turn my collection into a "profit center". It was only first, when i started spending more money on coins and second, when the value of my SA coins increased a lot and I noticed what was happening to the price structure of these coins that I THEN viewed my collection as an "investment" at all. Until about 2002 or slightly after, I mostly bought ungraded coins, mostly on eBay and the rest at the ANA conventions I attended. I ended up selling many of them to raise funds to buy coins in the June, 2006 Heritage auction. Sold about 100 and used that money to buy nine.

 

The other (non-SA) coins I collect, most are worth more than I paid for them but most have appreciated less or much less than many of the Union and ZAR coins I previously bought. If I had primarily been interested in the financial aspects, I would have thrown all of my money into my SA collection because I almost certainly would have made a bigger or much bigger profit.

 

The primary regret I have in not buying some of the coins I did not buy is NOT that I missed making a "killing", but that I will (1) if I am wrong on the price trends, have to pay a lot more for these coins in the future if I ever buy them (2) may never own some of these coins since I have no intention of paying some of the ridiculous prices they currently have and (3) I could have sold some of these coins for a "windfall" to buy coins that are MUCH BETTER that I also want to own a lot more. The primary examples of the latter are SA "conditional" rarities or near it which are vastly overpriced versus the infinitely better scarcer coins from the other series I collect.

 

If I have my way, the prices of all coins will crash in the future. Sure, I sold most of my better SA coins already which has more than paid for the coins I still own. And yes, if prices crashed, it would vastly improve the value proposition of future purchases so that I could make more money later. But the primary reason I want this to happen is so that I can buy more coins for the same budget as I could before. I want to complete my series which I will never be able to do at current prices. When I look at many prices back in the early part of the last decade, I then remember how cheap many of the coins I want to buy used to be.

 

Even the Bolivian decimals which are easily the least popular of my series among collectors, I cannot buy them nearly as cheaply as I did before. In the past, I have bought nice mint state (ungraded) specimens on eBay for prices like $10 or slighttly more. Now when I see them, the ask prices are many multiples of that. I suspect that there must be more buyers now than before, though still very few relatively.

Edited by jwither

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Pierre_Henri
I understand why you collect SA but is there any particular reason you chose the approach you did or buy the coins you do?

 

The reason I do not collect Union Tickies and Sixpences (the smaller silver issues) is in a small part due to comments you made on this forum regarding the "larger" issues being more in demand, attractive and collectable (that is way I collect the 1/-, 2/- and 2/6-) but the real reason is my eye sight that is not good after being a non-professional boxer in my sporting days and loosing 90% eye sight in my left eye.

 

The reason I am building up a world silver type collection is simply that I love silver coins and looking at them and enjoying the different issues since way back when.

 

Shipwreck coins come with their tragic history and tales of pirate treasure that even non-collectors (and especially their children) can/should appreciate.

The GB series of 3d, 6d and 1/- that I collect (George III to Edward VII) is just a past time and filling those gaps as I do my buy-ins.

I also did that with the Great Britain coppers but my time is limited for sorting and cataloguing and I sold that recently on BoB.

 

The graded ZAR coins in my own collection are just put-aways for the day I retire and I will sell them to the next generation of collectors.

 

Interestingly enough, I still have a written record I did as a 9 year old in 1969 of the coins in my collection - written in blue pen in a little Croxley book - the first coin being an 1889 Jubilee Shilling of Queen Victoria. I also started a coin magazine the next year as a 10 year old, selling them to fellow school children who thought then that coin collecting was cool. No copies survives as far as I know but one might pop out in years to come and I will be the top bidder!

 

Sometimes I feel that the new generation of collectors (e.g. the collectors of numismatic Mandeliana) are missing the true collectors call, but of late I realize that I am wrong and that adding a Mandela coin to your collection is just as "lekker" as adding a Paul Kruger coin to that blank space in your coin album. Just as long as you are doing it for fun and not for profit.

 

The "profits" I made on coins through the years I regard as bonuses - the enjoyment I had collecting them is not measureable in monitory terms.

 

Pierre

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Cold Sea
The reason I am building up a world silver type collection is simply that I love silver coins and looking at them and enjoying the different issues since way back when.

 

To me the coppers have the better eye appeal again, and as jwither pointed out, sometimes it’s difficult to be disciplined enough to collect what you should.

 

I found the following interesting which formed part of a paper by JT Becklake.

 

Union silver coins were 800 parts silver to 200 parts copper. The Imperial coins on the other hand were 925 parts silver until 1920, when it was reduced to 50 percent silver.

 

During the minting process, gold would be annealed in enclosed tubes to prevent oxidation, whereas the silver blanks were annealed in open trays, which would cause them to oxidise. The question is why did the mint allow the silver blanks to oxidise? The answer is that by allowing the silver to oxidise, and then taking off the copper oxide on the surface (the blanks were cleaned in diluted sulphuric acid baths), a blanched and pure silver surface was formed.

 

The oxidation of the silver was an innocent deception practised on the public to cover up the 20 percent copper underneath, and produce a good looking piece. The London mint allowed the 50 percent blanks to oxidise much more deeply than Pretoria.

 

Hopefully this will add to your "lekker" the next time you enjoy your collection.

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Pierre_Henri
To me the coppers have the better eye appeal again, and as jwither pointed out, sometimes it’s difficult to be disciplined enough to collect what you should.

 

I found the following interesting which formed part of a paper by JT Becklake.

 

Union silver coins were 800 parts silver to 200 parts copper. The Imperial coins on the other hand were 925 parts silver until 1920, when it was reduced to 50 percent silver.

 

During the minting process, gold would be annealed in enclosed tubes to prevent oxidation, whereas the silver blanks were annealed in open trays, which would cause them to oxidise. The question is why did the mint allow the silver blanks to oxidise? The answer is that by allowing the silver to oxidise, and then taking off the copper oxide on the surface (the blanks were cleaned in diluted sulphuric acid baths), a blanched and pure silver surface was formed.

 

The oxidation of the silver was an innocent deception practised on the public to cover up the 20 percent copper underneath, and produce a good looking piece. The London mint allowed the 50 percent blanks to oxidise much more deeply than Pretoria.

 

Hopefully this will add to your "lekker" the next time you enjoy your collection.

 

Deceiving anyone would not be lekker neither nice. But I think I am missing your point?

 

Pierre

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Cold Sea
Deceiving anyone would not be lekker neither nice. But I think I am missing your point?

 

Pierre

 

Hi Pierre, I think you are. This method was a way of making the coins stand more wear before the coppery tint of the interior was exposed. It was practised by the mints and mentioned in a paper presented by JT Becklake and published in The Journal of the South African Institution of Engineers. I quote" The oxidation of the silver was a mild and innocent deception practised on the public". I meant no malice and thought it might be interesting to the Union and Imperial silver collectors, as it forms part of the history of and around this series. Seems I was mistaken.

Edited by Cold Sea

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jwither

Pierre,

 

Do you happen to own any Byzantine coins in your collection? Off and on, I have looked for both the silver and bronze and have found very few of them. The gold Solidus I consider very common ( as a type coin) and really have no interest in it.

 

I do not own any ancient coins at all, but if I were to add something from before "modern" times (circa 1500 AD to ancient collectors), I would add one or a few of these. They must be far scarcer than most Greek or Roman coins and even many others from the same era (such as Parthian). I see these all the time but essentially never the Byzantine in any better condition, especially for the bronze.

 

Another area which interests me is anything related to the Crusades or the successor coinage of the Knights Hospitalers at Rhodes. Several years ago I saw a few really sharp coins from Tripoli in a Ponterio auction that I considered buying but did not.

 

On your comments on coin sizes, I also prefer the larger Union (and ZAR) coins but not so for the pillars. The Union coinage in particular is "odd" in the sense that the larger denominations are usually scarcer than the smaller ones. Probably it is because of the smeltings but this is definitely not the norm for most coinage.

 

With the pillars, the crown sized 8R were both minted in (much) larger quantities and apparently also far more were preserved. Maybe the latter is just a function of the mintage but I'm not sure. Usually, larger denominations are issued in smaller quantities because it's the way commerce works but in this instance, pillar 8R were primarily used in international trade which is also why they are found all over the world.

 

The pillar minors are vastly scarcer for the most part than the 8R but most collectors prefer the bigger coins which is why they almost always sell for more or a lot more. I prefer the minors because of their scarcity.

Edited by jwither

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jwither
The "profits" I made on coins through the years I regard as bonuses - the enjoyment I had collecting them is not measureable in monitory terms.

 

Pierre

 

As I mentioned here and previously, I did not set out to make money in coins. Today when I buy a coin, how I view it depends on the what I am looking to buy..

 

First, like anyone else, I want to get what I pay for. So if I buy an ungraded coin for "full price" and it is a "problem" coin that only will or later receives a "details" designation, I am not happy about it. But I will buy and do not mind acquiring "details" coins IF I know I am buying one in advance and I still want and like it. An example of this were the 1755 and 1759 Peru pillar 2R which I bought from a Spanish auction earlier this year. I paid about $400 to $500 and I am "buried" in them. They are "AU details" or maybe XF since NGC "net grades" many of these coins. I wanted them since they are very scarce but not at the price I paid for them.

 

Second, there are some coins that I buy that I will mind if they lose value and others where I will not. For example, if I buy that 1733 Mexico MX pillar NGC XF-40 1/2 real and it loses value later, I will not care. On the other hand, if I were to buy many Union (or ZAR) MS coins which are not really that scarce and they lose value, I will mind because I could have bought something much better for the same money. I will mind A LOT. That is why I do not buy Union (or ZAR) "conditional" rarities or grades near it at current or recent prices since I think they poor and in some instances, even awful values.

 

To give an example, a 1942 NGC MS-65 RB penny sold recently on eBAY for about $300. A 1943 NGC MS-65 BN sold for about $450. By way of comparison, Stacks has a 1711 Spain NGC MS-64 2 reales (forget the mint) which is likely to sell for at most $600 and probably less. There is flat out no comparison between these coins (or a multitude of others from either SA or other countries such as the United States) which is why I do not buy them. I just bought an ungraded 1942 1D which I estimate will receive an MS-64 BN with an outside shot at an MS-65. I paid all of $19 for it and with the grading fee and postage both ways, maybe I will have $45 in it. Regardless of what grade it actually receives, it does not look that different from these other two and I think I can find most of the other KGVI dates ungraded for about this price because neither of these coins are really scarce. The same applies to many others like them.

 

Third, there are some coins I specifically bought in the past only for resale, so once again if they lost value, i would also mind. These were all SA because I seldom find others that I can "flip" for a profit. But the only reason this will happen is either because 1) They fail to receive the grade I think they will. 2) I over estimated what I can sell them for.

Edited by jwither

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Pierre_Henri
Pierre,

 

Do you happen to own any Byzantine coins in your collection? Off and on, I have looked for both the silver and bronze and have found very few of them. The gold Solidus I consider very common (as a type coin) and really have no interest in it.

.

 

You are a very prolific poster and as much as I enjoy your posts - I relish them - I cannot keep up with commenting.

 

The Byzantine era of coins are a dull and unappreciated series with an extreamly low following.

 

I have seen, bought and sold almost all of the types BUT the SILVER issues are few and far between. The bronzes are common and most gold issues are fairly easy to procure. Obviously there are extremely rare issues but they are only for the finger-few on one's left hand, I always thought that the Byzantine (late Roman Eastern Europe - Constantinople) caters more for those interested in religious crusade-type of numismatics of which there are almost zero collectors in SA. Hoards are common and sell with difficulty. You have to paint a great story about Christianity to sell them.

The other reason might be that they are just plain ugly coins for the most part - the late dark ages and early middle ages did not do that much for new numismatic entries / collectors. The Roman series offers much more in my view and even the spelling (lettering) on them are much easier to understand. But even Romam silver denari (post Republic) seldom sells for more than R400 on BoB. SA's not the place to buy and sell ancients it seems.

 

I did not touch on 90% of your post but have to sleep sometime. Seems like you never rests.

 

Pierre

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jwither

You are correct, the artistry on Byzantine is not attractive for the most part. But I was not aware that bronze were that common, though I doubt most of them really are since it covers a period of about 1000 years and many different mints. I have seen a few decent ones that look attractive but most are both low grade and they look corroded.

 

Silver, I have seen almost none. There is one particular issue (and I do not remember which one it is) that I have seen several times in a grade I would describe as AU. Seen it on auctions listed on Sixbid since many of the European auctions listed there specialize in ancients. One last year or maybe 2010 in a particularly good auction sold for about $1000 which seems cheap based upon its apparent scarcity.

 

As for posting frequency, there are many people who post a lot more on the NGC Message Boards than I do here. I would unfortunately describe this coin forum as a "dead zone". The two prior posts I wrote above took me about 10-15 minutes. This one maybe two or three. You are one of the few here who exchange your thoughts on topics like these and I appreciate that you do.

Edited by jwither

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Algreco

An Overview of South Africa Union Coinage Part 1

 

Hi Ernesto

 

I was browsing the NGC Message boards and came across one of your amazing write-ups on Union Coinage. If you don't mind, I am posting it here, where it "belongs" :biggrin:

 

This post is being written at the request of a forum colleague and covers British South Africa and South Africa Union coinage. Though I think of both as part of colonial South Africa, I intend to provide a subsequent overview of ZAR in a subsequent post. My interest in both originates from having lived in Johannesburg from 1972 to 1974.

 

South Africa was the first series I pursued when I resumed collecting in 1998. I did so by buying a Krause manual and judgmentally selecting it based upon my interest and the catalog prices at the time which led me to believe that I had a reasonable possibility of buying the majority of the issues in higher grades. (This of course, turned out to be completely wrong but that is a minor detail I will conveniently overlook for the moment.)

 

The Union of South Africa was formed on May 31, 1910 from the two British colonies (Cape Province and Natal) and two independent states of Dutch descent, the Zuid Afrika Republic (ZAR) and the Orange Free State (OFS). The South Africa Union series originated in 1923 with the opening of the South African Mint and continued until 1960 when the Republic of South Africa (RSA) was formed in 1961. The monetary system was based upon the British system of the time and consisted of 10 denominations: a bronze farthing (1/4D), half penny (1/D), and Penny (1D); silver three pence (3D or tickey), six pence (6D), shilling (1/), two shillings or florin (2/), 2 ½ shillings or half crown (2/6), and crown (5/); and finally a gold ½ sovereign (1/2 pound) and sovereign/pound. Not all denominations were issued annually as I will explain later.

 

These coins were issued in both business strike and proof. Additionally, there were also numerous patterns or more properly, patterns and trial pieces. (There were also a handful of coins issued in the 19th century attributed to Griquatown and in the Cape Province which are also classified as “patterns”.)

 

Since then, I have come to appreciate how difficult these coins are to find and how under rated the series is from both a collectability and financial standpoint. Most collectors would never know this by looking at the catalog prices, mainly the Krause manual which had not changed when I last checked in the 2006 issue, from the prices realized on the infrequent occasions when any better coins do come up for sale or from the mintages.

 

I would provide historical background on the series, but I have little reference material available to me as I have never seen a real reference book and do not even know if one exists. Aside from Krause, the sources I have include the 2008 Hern Handbook of South African Coins & Patterns (a South Africa price guide similar to the US “Red Book”), A History of Currency in South Africa (written in 1956 but including essentially nothing on Union Coinage) and Nomisma, a journal describing die varieties and providing estimates of attrition and rarity using public records. Probably the most decent summary is included on the website of the South African Coin Company which I will summarize here. The reasons for the relative rarity and scarcity of these issues can be attributed to:

 

The original mintages were low for a large number of issues, both in relative and in some instances absolute terms.

 

There were apparently few local collectors of South African coinage to preserve coins during most of this period.

 

The coins were demonetized in 1961 following the conversion to decimalization. Many were melted as a result.

 

The increase in the price of silver, first in the 1960’s and then in the 1979/1980 silver boom, led to additional melting.

 

Of the few collectors from this period, most of them apparently did an extremely poor job of preserving and storing their coins. This accounts for the difficulty in finding problem free coins in higher grades or sometimes in any decent collectible grade, even for the supposedly more common issues.

 

The Apartheid regime probably reduced the potential demand from non-local sources. There is no direct evidence of this to my knowledge but most of the non-local collectors even today seem to be from Britain and the former colonies plus the United States. It certainly had a negative impact on the “investor” market to the extent that there is one, as has been illustrated by the performance of ZAR coinage in the last 10 years.

 

As I have written before in my prior posts, there is a difference between rarity/scarcity and availability. Until recently as prices rose, availability increased somewhat (but not much) and the census populations (mainly NGC though PCGS has graded many premium scarce and rare issues) have also increased.

 

Unlike with most world issues, the census populations are larger than normal but my experience attributes this to a market preference by South African collectors for certified coins. This is not true of most non-US coins. So though there are more graded coins from South Africa than just about all other markets, this is not an indication of the relative scarcity of these coins based upon my informal observations. As an example, the South Africa populations are usually or fat least frequently higher than the UK, but almost all of those coins are definitely more common.

 

For simplicity, I am going to segment this series into four categories with a subsection for each one: patterns, King George V (KGV), King George VI (KGVI) and Queen Elizabeth II (QEII).

 

Patterns: The vast majority of patterns are the KGV issues, with maybe slightly more than half struck from 1931-1934. But the reported mintages for all of them are 10 or less and I have only seen any of them come up for sale once. The scarcest are unique proofs of the 1928 sovereign, 1925 3D (second type) and 1925 6D.

 

The undated Griquatown issues attributed to 1815-1816 are also very scarce though I have seen several of them for sale recently. (There is a dispute as to whether these coins were really issued for circulation or even at that time.) The most common by far is the 1890 Queen Victoria Penny. There are several varieties of this coin and it comes up for sale several times a year. The Hern number of up to 100 for the most common varieties is probably reasonably accurate based upon the sale frequency. The 1889 Cape of Good Hope pennies are not particularly scarce either; only relatively so.

 

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Algreco

Part 2

 

King George V: This series was struck between 1923 and 1936 as both business strikes and proofs. There are no crowns for this issue. Here is my estimate of the relative scarcity of these coins:

 

Unobtainable: 1933, 1934 and 1936 business strike farthings, the silver business strikes of 1931. Of these eight coins, the 1931 6D and 1/ have reported mintages of about 4800 and 6000 respectively but I have only seen a couple of each and they were badly worn. The NGC and PCGS census list one each of the 6D in MS-65 and a handful collectively of the 1931 3D and 1931 2/6 in fine or lower. I have never seen the other four in any grade. This makes more sense for the farthings because the mintages were less than 50, but the 1931 2/ mintage is 383. This experience is actually relatively common for South Africa coinage as even many low mintage dates have apparently low survivability rates and mostly or typically in low grade.

 

In addition to the above coins, there was also a 1928 proof farthing with a mintage of four reportedly issued with some of the 1930 proof sets. An NGC PR-62 BN was offered on eBay about five years ago for $10,000.

 

Other scarce and very scarce coins deserving mention: The next scarcest issues I would rate would be the 1923 and 1924 sovereigns and the 1926, 1930, 1932 and 1933 proof sets. The 1923 sovereign has a mintage of 64 while the proof sets have mintages of 12-20. I have seen a handful of the 1923 and 1924 coins and one 1933 proof set which sold for $25,200 last year. Of the others, I have seen partial sets of the 1930 and 1932 twice and a 1926 red farthing once.

 

After the above, other very scarce issues include the rest of the proof sets (except for the 1923), 1930 farthing, 1925 3D wreath reverse; 1926, 1927, 1928 and 1930 1/; 1925-1928 2/; 1925-1929 and 1933-1935 2/6. Of these coins, the 1930 farthing, 1927 1/ and 1925 2/6 very occasionally come up for sale in decent grade. The others, essentially never. Unlike the above coins, these are somewhat more obtainable as problem coins or in a state of preservation which most collectors would find unacceptable, but even then not that often.

 

Moderately scarce: Honorable mentions include: 1925, 1926, 1928 and 1933 1/2D; 1928, 1932 and 1933 1D; 1935 6D; 1923, 1929, and 1930 2/; 1923 2/6. These coins are slightly more available than the prior category but still almost never available in high grade, problem free or not. They are somewhat more available in average to better circulated grades.

 

“Common” issues: The most common coins in the KGV series include: 1923, 1924, 1928, 1931 and 1932 1/4D, 1923, 1924, 1935 and 1936 1/2D; 1923, 1935, 1936 1D; 1932 silver (all); 1933 6D; and the gold coinage excluding the 1923 and 1924 sovereigns. These coins are more regularly available in high grade (including certified) though I doubt more often in most instances than approximately a dozen times per year and many less. For example, the 1923 1D has an NGC population of just over 100 and I see it more than most, but still not that much. Except for the most common, I personally see these coins come up for sale a handful of times per year.

 

Other observations: These coins in higher grade are well struck. There are a handful of cameos known to me but none of the bronze. All red bronze for this series are either very scarce or rare. Though Hern specifically states that a handful of 1923 red specimens were struck, my understanding is that the general practice was to darken the coins at the mint. I have seen a few of the 1/D at auction and the NGC census lists a few more, but not many. All are business strikes except for that one 1926 farthing.

 

 

King George VI: This series was struck between 1937 and 1952 as both business strikes and proof issues.

 

Essentially unobtainable: The 1939 proof set with a reported mintage of 30. I have seen one set for sale in the 2006 Spinks auction of the Remick collection. It was not a particularly well preserved set. This set is particularly hard to find probably because there are no business strikes of the 6D and 1/.

 

Other scarce and very scarce coins deserving mention: The 1938 proof set with a mintage of 44 (I have the 2/6 in NGC PR-64), 1944-1948 1/; 1938 and 1946-1950 2/; 1946-1950 2/6; and the 1952 business strike ½ and one pound gold. Except for the proof set, all of the others are business strikes.

 

Some of these business strikes issues are deceptively scarce and grossly under rated. The 1944 1/ has a reported mintage of just under 50,000 yet I own the only specimen (AU-58) in the NGC and PCGS census. (The census numbers for KGVI are generally much lower than for KGV and ZAR. I would attribute this partially to the low market prices but not totally.)

 

The 1949 2/ has a mintage approximately 100 times the 1949 2/6 (about 200,000 to 1,891) yet I would rate them approximately equally scarce. On these two gold coins, I have no idea why they were issued because South Africa left the gold standard along with the UK in 1932. But regardless of the reason, my suspicion is that most of the approximately 5,000 coins minted for each denomination have been melted. I happen to own a gem BU ½ pound but almost never see them for sale.

 

Of the above coins, these are occasionally but still seldom seen in any grade. And of those that are seen, more often than not, they are higher grade specimens. This is somewhat consistent with what I understand for low mintage (that is, those that are ACTUALLY low mintage) US coins but the difference here is that my limited observations lead me to believe that few were saved from circulation.

 

In addition to the above coins, the 1937, 1943-1946 and 1950 proof sets are scarce or somewhat scarce. The 1950 is far more available with a mintage of 500. The others have mintages of 104 to 150.

 

Common issues: The most common coins in this series are the farthings post 1940; crowns (1947-1952) and 1951 plus 1952 proof sets. The proof sets are moderately easy to find with mintages of 2000 and 12000. The others I believe to be the most common coins both in absolute terms and in high grade. But even so, better mint state specimens are still hard to find. Of the ones I did not list, many are still not that “common”; they are just not as scarce as the others I described prior to this section. I still almost never see them in high grade, especially problem free.

 

Other observations: These coins are not particularly well struck. The hair detail in the KGVI portrait is usually not full detailed. Most uncirculated specimens also typically lack original luster and have granular surfaces. Red bronze are not as scarce as KGV, but I have still encountered few business strikes in collecting this series. (I have never seen any bronze proofs dated prior to 1947.) Cameos are most common for the crowns and gold and almost never for the bronze. There are two listed in the combined NGC and PCGS census, including one 1950 1/2D PR-64 RD UCAM.

 

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Algreco

Part 3

 

Queen Elizabeth II: This series was struck from 1953 until 1960 in both business strikes and proof.

 

There are no “rare’ issues in this series by my standards but it would be misleading to think that these coins are easy to find in premium quality because most of them are not. Finding uncirculated specimens is generally not a problem, but almost all of them suffer from either a weak strike or poor striking quality. I cannot recall a single specimen which has anywhere near a mark free portrait. Possibly coins graded MS-65 or higher do, but the best coin I own is an MS-64.

 

Of these issues, some of the 1950’s gold had the lowest mintages. But the scarcest coins are the 1959 and 1960 business strikes. I’ve never handled one of these but these may actually be rejected proofs. The Hern catalog lists both of them as PL. But in any event, the quality of the strike on these coins is terrible.

 

As with the KGVI, the crowns were issued in proof, PL and business strikes. The business strikes are by far the scarcest though my assumption is that most collectors consider them interchangeable because this seems to be the case with at least some other dates and denominations from the entire Union series.

 

The 1959 crown has the lowest mintage and is considered the “key” date, but in my opinion is actually common and probably among the most common. The combined mintage for all three combinations is 6,139 but the low mintage was widely known at the time and since it was specifically requested by collectors, a substantial proportion of them must have been saved and many in high grade. I do not see as many as I used to but it would have been among the last candidate for the melting pot.

 

Outside of the gold (mildly scarce), the proof sets are generally not hard to find, though less so for the 1958 and 1959 since the mintages are only 900 and 985. Cameos are still scarce for all issues other than the crown and there are none in the census for the bronze. I happen to have a 1957 NGC PR-67 RD 1/D that I consider UCAM on the obverse, but it must have failed the designation due to the reverse.

 

Summary

 

Proportionately, South Africa Union coinage contains a significant number of rarities and very scarce issues. The typical collector will find completing most anything is this series a very difficult challenge. Though I have had opportunities to do so if I had chosen to acquire the coins, I do not have a complete set of anything even after almost 11 years. That is no complete proof set or business strike run, whether for a single year or for denominations for any of the monarchs. This is true despite the fact that my collection is presumably better than most, consisting of close to 200 slabbed coins including a decent number of the scarcer issues I have profiled, but none of the rarest.

 

Edited by Algreco

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Algreco

Part 4

 

There have also been a few times where I have had the opportunity to complete something but not many and sometimes even then, only in low absolute grades or by acquiring uncirculated specimens that were not appealing. Compared to most other series, South Africa Union I would consider to be much scarcer and a much greater challenge to acquire and complete.

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jwither

Hi Nick,

 

Thanks for the compliments on the above, though I think most here are familiar with everything I included in it. I do not remember when I wrote it (I believe in 2008 or so) and there are a few edits that i would make now.

 

The first is that some of the coins are either slightly scarcer or more common than I thought at the time. So I would move some of the specific coins I mentioned from one category to another. An example of that would be the 1924 Sovereign whose census has increased a lot proportionately.

 

The second is that I do not believe that the 1933 and 1934 farthings exist as circulation strikes and I also consider the 1936 suspect, even though NGC has two listed in the census. Heritage has the better one (MS-64 RB) up for sale in January and I will be curious to see how much it sells for. If it sells for a lot more than the other did before (adjusting for the difference in quality and market conditions of course), this would be an indication that the market either does or might disagree with this opinion of mine. The number of bidders will also matter a lot in this determination. Multiple bidders closer to the hammer price will be a lot more persuasive than only two.

 

The third is that the financial prospects have changed a lot for many of the coins because many of them are a lot more expensive today. I say this to reconcile this post to the comments I have recently made here. So the opinion I hold now is the one I have posted here versus the one in this essay.

 

The fourth is to reconcile the comments I included in this essay on the scarcity versus those I have made in my prior posts on BoB. The NGC Message Boards are a US centric audience. In this context, almost all Union coins are scarce and none are really common. If you take the Union 1950 proof set, the mintage of 500 is a miniscule fraction of that for the 1950 US proof set which is about 42,000. Yet the latter five coin set does not sell for that much less than the Union set in comporable grade. An individual coin like the 2/6, it sells for about the same or maybe even less than the half dollar. So in this sense, the 1950 Union set is both "rare" and an absolute bargain.

 

However, in the context of coins generally, many of the Union (or ZAR) coins are not that scarce. As I have said before, they are or appear to be scarcer or much scarcer than most 20th century issues (especially from countries with established collecting) and many 19th and even late 18th century European coinage. In this context yes, but not otherwise. So a coin in the QEII series or many (most in my opinion) KGVI issues can have in the vicinity of 200 (or more) MS as I believe they do which can simultaneously make them relatively common yet not that easy to find at the same time. As always, context, perspective and common sense must be applied.

Edited by jwither

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Pierre_Henri

The 1949 2/ has a mintage approximately 100 times the 1949 2/6 (about 200,000 to 1,891) yet I would rate them approximately equally scarce. On these two gold coins, I have no idea why they were issued because South Africa left the gold standard along with the UK in 1932. But regardless of the reason, my suspicion is that most of the approximately 5,000 coins minted for each denomination have been melted. I happen to own a gem BU ½ pound but almost never see them for sale.

 

Hi Ernesto

 

Is there something missing in this paragraph? It seems after the first sentence it jumps to the second without making a connection between the 1949 silver 2/- and 2/6- and some gold coins that are mentioned?

 

Pierre

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jwither
Hi Ernesto

 

Is there something missing in this paragraph? It seems after the first sentence it jumps to the second without making a connection between the 1949 silver 2/- and 2/6- and some gold coins that are mentioned?

 

Pierre

 

I believe not. As you know, my posts here are frequently long already and this one on the NGC Message Boards was very long. So I was just trying to fit in as much information as I could on different dates to explain how scarce they are or are not.

 

In addition to this essay on Union, I also wrote others for ZAR and Spanish colonial pillars.

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jwither
You are a very prolific poster and as much as I enjoy your posts - I relish them - I cannot keep up with commenting.

 

The Byzantine era of coins are a dull and unappreciated series with an extreamly low following.

 

I have seen, bought and sold almost all of the types BUT the SILVER issues are few and far between. The bronzes are common and most gold issues are fairly easy to procure. Obviously there are extremely rare issues but they are only for the finger-few on one's left hand, I always thought that the Byzantine (late Roman Eastern Europe - Constantinople) caters more for those interested in religious crusade-type of numismatics of which there are almost zero collectors in SA. Hoards are common and sell with difficulty. You have to paint a great story about Christianity to sell them.

The other reason might be that they are just plain ugly coins for the most part - the late dark ages and early middle ages did not do that much for new numismatic entries / collectors. The Roman series offers much more in my view and even the spelling (lettering) on them are much easier to understand. But even Romam silver denari (post Republic) seldom sells for more than R400 on BoB. SA's not the place to buy and sell ancients it seems.

 

I did not touch on 90% of your post but have to sleep sometime. Seems like you never rests.

 

Pierre

 

Pierre,

 

Here is the silver issue I mentioned before. This one is up for sale in the January 2013 auction.

 

Basil I the Macedonian (867-886). AR miliaresion (25mm, 2.93 gm, | LotID #1020 | Heritage Auctions

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Pierre_Henri
Pierre,

 

Here is the silver issue I mentioned before. This one is up for sale in the January 2013 auction.

 

Basil I the Macedonian (867-886). AR miliaresion (25mm, 2.93 gm, | LotID #1020 | Heritage Auctions

 

If truth be told, that is not the world's most beautiful "designed" coin, but for some reason, I cannot stop looking at it - it is just superb.

 

How does one explain that to a non coin collector?

 

Whatever, I am not sure if Basil I was a great grandfather of Basil II, but I checked my own selling records and see that I have sold a coin that was struck in the name of a relative of the Basils last year (I actually sold the same coin twice as the winning bidder ask me to

resell the coin)

 

Here is the description according to my MSword records - the coin sold for R420.00

 

 

***** ****** King of Kings: Byzantine Folllis, John Const, VIII 969-1028 A.D.

 

Joint rule with Basil II (his brother), 10 January 976 - 15 December 1025 A.D.

John Constantine only lived three years longer than his brother Basil. During the short duration of his reign, he was happy to leave the business of the empire to others.

He arranged the marriage of his daughter Zoe, and upon his death, Zoe's husband took the throne as Romanus III.

 

Obverse facing bust of ******, wearing nimbus cruciger with two pellets in each limb of cross, pallium and colobium, holding gospels with both hands.

 

Reverse + IhSuS / XRISTuS / bASILEu / bASILE (***** ****** King of Kings),ornamentation above and below legend.

 

The ****** stars comes up because this forum does not allow the name of J e s u s C hr i s t to be spelled out.

 

Regards

 

Pierre

 

 

 

 

 

 

. .

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jwither

Pierre,

 

I do not know anything about this coin but I think the design is not that bad.and I consider it far superior to any of the portrait coingae I have seen which I think have awful designs. This includes all of the gold and most (but not all) of the bronze.

 

The reason I am interested in this coin is because I think it is pretty scarce (though maybe not rare) and presumably much harder to find in a condition close to this specimen. Though Ancient Greek and Roman are much more popular (as I think they should be) for the reasons you gave, many of them are not that hard to find even in better grades. Since I do not collect them and do not even know how many different issues exist, I cannot say how common or scarce any particular coin is or is not. I only know that when I look at auctions that I see many high grade examples of both frequently but essentialy never for a coin like this one.

 

Even if anyone looks outside of Byzantine coins elsewhere in the same era (within a few centuries on either side of this coin), I do not think that they will find many (if any) silver or bronze that are both high grade and look "nice". I have seen some better grade coins (such as from England) but the designs are really "crude" and I do not find them atractive at all. In this context, I think this coin is pretty exceptional.

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Pierre_Henri
Pierre,

 

I do not know anything about this coin but I think the design is not that bad.and I consider it far superior to any of the portrait coingae I have seen which I think have awful designs. This includes all of the gold and most (but not all) of the bronze.

 

The reason I am interested in this coin is because I think it is pretty scarce (though maybe not rare) and presumably much harder to find in a condition close to this specimen. Though Ancient Greek and Roman are much more popular (as I think they should be) for the reasons you gave, many of them are not that hard to find even in better grades. Since I do not collect them and do not even know how many different issues exist, I cannot say how common or scarce any particular coin is or is not. I only know that when I look at auctions that I see many high grade examples of both frequently but essentialy never for a coin like this one.

 

Even if anyone looks outside of Byzantine coins elsewhere in the same era (within a few centuries on either side of this coin), I do not think that they will find many (if any) silver or bronze that are both high grade and look "nice". I have seen some better grade coins (such as from England) but the designs are really "crude" and I do not find them atractive at all. In this context, I think this coin is pretty exceptional.

 

Yes it certainly is, as beautiful as they come.

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