World Coin Market Gaining Momentum!

Posted on 2/2/2017

US, world or ancients, is it time to investigate a new series?

It has been real cold in the Granite State. Luckily, for the first time in a couple of years we haven’t been hit with a huge “named” winter storm to wrap up January in New England. What we do have is an exciting and aggressive start to numismatics in 2017. The first month is in the books and the 62nd Winter FUN revealed resiliency as well as strengthening in the rare coin market. The bourse was well attended and there were scores of active and aggressive buyers. The world coin market is also making considerable inroads here at home; it is much more than a collecting alternative niche, it is emerging as a force to reckon with.

As reflected by this year's New York International Numismatic Convention, when the show isn’t held on the same weekend as FUN it attracts an impressive and diverse audience of numismatists. Many are world aficionados having a specific area of expertise while scores of other attendees are hobbyists looking for something different to collect that is historic, topical or exotic.

While I am a true student of US numismatics, I have always had a great affinity for many world issues. Actually it is an affliction! Primarily it’s because of the diversity—all the different denominations and series to choose from! Many are similar in size to our most heralded domestic coins. However, scores are overlooked and undervalued. Some that are true rarities easily stand on their own, yet in my opinion many are still under the radar. The ancient coin market is also developing into much more than a passing fancy. Coins of the ancient world are appearing in mainstream channels much more often. Many (myself included) credit this collecting resurgence to the depth of research, scope and innovation that NGC has put into their ancients grading program! Attractive NGC holders and informative descriptions are most impressive for these historic relics. I have noticed more and more online dealer inventories are offering a handful or more of NGC-certified antiquities alongside US material.

While nearly $70 million has rolled into Heritage's coffers through live and online sales in January, none individually exceeded the million dollar plateau, the first time that has happened at a Heritage Winter FUN sale since 2009.

Interestingly, the FUN Signature sale realized $42 million on 8,095 lots sold, or about $8.5 million above the 2016 Winter FUN edition. This compares to prices realized of $15.7 million on 2,183 lots sold in Heritage Auctions' NYINC sale. The average price per lot in the FUN sale was $5,200 versus $7,200 per lot at NYINC. The average price realized for the world coins was over 38% higher than the average price realized for the US coins!

For those looking to diversify or start a specialized world coin series I direct you to the NGC World Coin Price Guide. Here you will find pricing for circulated, Mint State and Proof world coins from approximately 1600 to date! It is an extraordinarily valuable tool on the NGC website and free. Many of the more popularly traded issues also have auction results that you can view in the NGC World Auction Central—just look for the icon in the price grid.

Where to start? I started nearly 50 years ago with British Commonwealth issues. My first outing was with my next-door neighbor to the north, Canada, as their coins were often found in my change. Then Great Britain, Australia and South Africa soon caught my eye. I then discovered British India! Back in the early 1970s you could pick up full red Victorian copper ¼ Annas for a few dollars! Victoria and Edward VII Mint State silver rupees were between $3 and $5 each.

I recall my first pair of rupees: an 1893-B Victoria and a 1907-C Edward VII, both fully choice original coins. I still have each in an archival flip housed in a red 2x2 storage box. The prices on the blue pastel coin flips that each was in originally was $3.50 for the Victoria and $4 for the Edward. I should probably get them both graded. A quick check of the NGC World Census reveals 65 graded for the Edward with the highest graded being MS 65 and 91 graded of the Victoria with three tied at MS 65. Both of these coins could be numerically higher, we shall see! I have collected and put together many superb coins from this diverse and rich collecting area over the years!

I am so glad that I started on my British India expedition many decades ago because it can be very costly to acquire nice material, graded or raw, today. With the relatively recent boom in this market, India’s native population is also very excited and vying for material from their native land to secure for their own collections. Copper, silver, gold, restrikes and many true rarities reside in this behemoth for collectors. As I mentioned before, early British copper from the late 1700 to early 1800 is still highly affordable and highly collectible.

I personally like Australia. Who could resist the kangaroo on the halfpenny or the penny?! Proofs of these examples from the mid-1950s to early 1960s are highly sought after and quite scare with mintages barely reaching 1,000 pieces. Another that I personally enjoy is pre-decimal Fiji. Coins struck between 1934 to 1967 are an exciting modern alternative for collectors. The halfpenny and penny are holed and, except for the 1942 and 1943 issued during WW II, they were a copper-nickel composition. The threepence are brass 12-sided lookalikes to the Great Britain coin of the same era. The obverse bears the effigy of either George VI or Queen Elizabeth II. The reverse is an iconic native grass-thatched hut. This coin is just so neat! VIP proofs stuck on a very limited basis for dignitaries exist for most of the coins and all are quite rare. Usually only 10 to 20 were struck. I was fortunate enough to pick up a lovely NGC PF 63 1961 Threepence that is just a marvelously toned and exciting example. The sixpence is another favorite as the reverse features a sea turtle! Mintages were below 40,000 for several issues. Take a look at the NGC World Coin Price Guide; many of these pieces seem quite affordable and may surprise and inspire you to start a collection. When I wax nostalgic, I remind all my collecting friends that whether they collect US or world coins, collect something that they enjoy. Take part in the history, research and the hunt at local shows or online. Remember to take care of your collection and it will reward you with a lifetime of enjoyment and a great investment, too.

Until next time, happy collecting!

Jim Bisognani is an NGC Price Guide Analyst having previously served for many years as an analyst and writer for another major price guide. He has written extensively on US coin market trends and values.

Stay Informed

Want news like this delivered to your inbox once a month? Subscribe to the free NGC eNewsletter today!


You've been subscribed to the NGC eNewsletter.

Unable to subscribe to our eNewsletter. Please try again later.

Articles List

Add Coin

Join NGC for free to add coins, track your collection and participate in the NGC Registry. Learn more >

Join NGC

Already a member? Sign In
Add to NGC Coin Registry Example
The NGC Registry is not endorsed by or associated with PCGS or CAC. PCGS is a registered trademark of Collectors Universe, Inc. CAC is a trademark of Certified Acceptance Corporation.