Jim Bisognani: Island Hopping with World Coins

Posted on 9/17/2020

Recent online sales verify that world coins are attracting significant interest and spirited bidding.

As I sat down at my desk this morning, I was greeted with a rather chilly 55 degrees. Early fall is certainly in the air here in New England. And let me tell you, for us older codgers, just the slightest dip in temperatures is very noticeable! My bones confirm there is a definite change of season. But what isn't growing colder is the current demand for precious metals.

A quick scan of the American Metal Market verifies that gold and silver are still quite toasty and holding strong, with gold maintaining the $1,950 plus territory, and silver edging ever closer to $30, making for a lively US coin market.

Yet, as I alluded in my last installment, quality and rare world coins are very much in demand as well, delivering spunky and even record prices during many recent online auction sessions. Akin to the US issues, eye appeal and scarcity are driving world coins to new levels.

Finding quality world coins

The following half-dozen exciting world coins were recently offered during Heritage’s Weekly World and Ancient Coin sales in September.

This very obscure Uruguay 1844/0 5 Centesimos graded NGC VF 25 BN soared to $2,040! How strong is this price? The previous Numismaster / NGC World Coin Price Guide valuation was $325 in VF and $475 in XF! While often crudely struck, the copper coin’s legendary bold, semi-smiling sunburst featured on the obverse has quite the following. It’s obvious why a grade of VF or better is a true rarity.

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Further confirmation? Only three of these coins are registered in the NGC Census, with a solitary AU 55 garnering the top spot.

Traveling the Caribbean

Here, we have the first-year issue of the Dominican Republic 1937 5 Centavos graded NGC MS 64. It realized $480, while its price guide valuation for MS 65 is only $100! According to the NGC Census, there are seven coins registered with the MS 64 grade, three registered with a higher grade and only one MS 66+, the finest graded to date.

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Keeping within the series from this Caribbean island nation is a phenomenal Dominican Republic 1961 5 Centavos graded NGC PF 65 Cameo pedigreed to the Whittier collection, claiming $1,740. This exemplary Proof issue is extremely rare, with only ten pieces known to exist. That’s a great value at this price point.

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A Cuba 1915 40 Centavos graded NGC MS 64+ achieved a record price for any grade for the issue. The Cuban silver coin of the Low Relief Star variety claimed a rather impressive $10,200! A bit of background here: this three-year type coin is always in demand. With two 1915 varieties, one with a prominent High Relief Star on the reverse, and one with a Low Relief Star on the reverse, it has always made this inaugural issue a very popular choice for collectors.

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Those looking to acquire both varieties can still find them highly affordable for the average collector. For less than $100, you could still snare the duo in XF. Yet both varieties in Mint State are becoming quite elusive. For reference, a total of only 70 coins appear as Mint State for the High Relief, with a single MS 66 claiming the top grade. Conversely, only 42 appear in Mint State for the Low Relief Star, with only one graded MS 64+, and one designated as MS 65.

Just how valuable is the MS 64+ designation? Consider this: the Cuba 1915 40 Centavos graded NGC MS 64, with only five appearing in the NGC Census, realized $3,120 in the Stack’s Bowers January 2020 NYINC sale. By the way, the pre-auction estimate provided by the cataloger was $300-$400.

Jamaica’s Victoria Penny series

Jamaica’s Victoria Penny issues are another coveted series by collectors. This Jamaica 1871 Penny graded NGC MS 65 brought in a roaring $3,360. Although only 120,000 were minted, this coin is tied for the second-highest mintage in the Victoria Penny series. According to the NGC Census, this attractively toned, fully-struck coin is the finest of its kind seen to date. For reference, a similarly toned NGC MS 63 coin from the Eric P. Newman collection realized about one-tenth of that ($364) six years ago. Oh yes, the current price guide valuation for MS 65 was a mere $165!

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Conversely, sometimes low mintages are not always the determining factor for pricing. This Jamaica 1887 Penny graded NGC MS 65 is the finest seen by NGC. Tied for the lowest mintage at 24,000 in the Victoria series, it claimed $630 versus an NGC World Coin Price Guide valuation of $425. The eye appeal of this coin is as robust as a rum-soaked Jamaican sunset!

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To all my fellow coindexters, whether still working remotely or back in the office, please be sure to delve into world coins. The variety and scope of foreign issues are very exciting. Pick a popular design, theme or country and dig into NGC World Auction Central and the NGC Census for direction. Have fun!

Until next time, be safe and happy collecting!

Jim Bisognani is an NGC Price Guide Analyst. He has written extensively on US coin market trends and values.

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