News & Views


Australia's Proof Sovereigns and Half Sovereigns are the ultimate combination of quality and rarity.


As professional rare coin dealers we can wait years to be in a position of offering a single proof gold coin. We therefore view the availability of a gold pre-decimal proof coin (OF ANY YEAR) as an opportunity. If the buyer happens to be offered one   of exceptional rarity then the opportunity is even more profound.

Australia's Proof Sovereigns and Half Sovereigns

What is a proof coin?

The Royal Australian Mint is today issuing coins for circulation. And issuing proof coins especially for collectors. And they have been since 1966.

The striking of proof coins in Australia is not a modern day phenomenon. Nor a product of the decimal era. The nation’s mints were striking proofs of our pre-decimal coinage in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the intention was then, as it is today, to create limited mintage collector coins struck to the highest quality standards.

But with two very glaring differences. The mintages and the regularity of the issues. The mintages more than a century ago were minuscule. And their striking was sporadic.

The rarity of pre-decimal proof coins in today’s market is the very reason why they are the choice of investors. 

The gold proof coin market … a brief overview of the sectors that make up the market

The Australian Sovereign series ran from 1855 to 1931 and during this time eight different portraits were used, five of Queen Victoria, one of Edward VII and two of George V. Two different reverse designs appeared during the Young Head design era (1871 – 1887), the St George & Dragon design and the Shield design. There are thus nine different design combinations (or design types) in the Sovereign series. Each design type is viewed as a sector of the gold coin market.

  1. Queen Victoria Sydney Mint Type 1 (1855 – 1856)
  2. Queen Victoria Sydney Mint Type 2 (1857 – 1870)
  3. Queen Victoria Young Head Shield (1871 – 1887)
  4. Queen Victoria Young Head St George (1871 – 1887)
  5. Queen Victoria Jubilee (1887 – 1893)
  6. Queen Victoria Veiled Head (1893 – 1901)
  7. King Edward VII (1902 – 1910)
  8. King George V Large Head (1911 – 1928)
  9. King George V Small Head (1929 – 1931)

The Australian Half Sovereign series ran from 1855 to 1918 and during this time seven different portraits were used, five of Queen Victoria, one of Edward VII and two of George V. There are thus seven different design combinations (or design types) in the Half Sovereign series.

  1. Queen Victoria Sydney Mint Type 1 (1855 – 1856)
  2. Queen Victoria Sydney Mint Type 2 (1857 – 1870)
  3. Queen Victoria Young Head Shield (1871 – 1887)
  4. Queen Victoria Jubilee (1887 – 1893)
  5. Queen Victoria Veiled Head (1893 – 1901)
  6. King Edward VII (1902 – 1910)
  7. King George V Large Head (1911 – 1918)

Mintages and relative availability of proof gold

 

You quickly realise once you start to examine the rarity of coins that make up the Australian gold proof coin market, sovereigns and half sovereigns, and analyse the various sectors to which they belong, that you really are splitting hairs.

It is a statement of fact that proof gold, irrespective of the sector, is extremely rare and buying opportunities will always be thin on the ground.

The facts are these:

  1. Some sectors have a longer time span than others, so as a consequence have the potential of producing more proofs.
  2. The Sydney Mint was the nation’s first mint and began striking sovereigns and half sovereigns in 1855. It was the sole operating mint up until 1872 when the Melbourne Mint came on board. The Perth Mint also joined the fray in 1899. Some sectors had only one mint operating therefore, others had two or three with each mint potentially contributing to the total numbers struck.
  3. As a qualification on points 1 and 2 above, it has to be said that gold proofs coins were NOT struck every year. The Sydney Mint only struck proofs in the first year only of the Veiled Head design, 1893.  The Melbourne Mint struck proofs in each of the nine years, 1893 - 1901.
  4. And of those dates that were struck as proofs, only one, or perhaps two up to a maximum of three made their way out into the collector market. For example, only one of the 1871 Sydney Mint Proof Sovereign is known. Three of the 1899 Melbourne Sovereign are known.
  5. Natural attrition has taken its toll on coins out of the original mintages with some of them filtering their way into circulation or being mishandled and thus having their quality marred. So suddenly one, two or three proofs becomes even less.

For today’s buyers, the opportunities for purchase of proof gold is obviously limited by the minuscule numbers struck. And the irregularity of the issues. But there is another consideration. Great coins tend to be held.

The owner of the Madrid Collection held onto his proof gold sovereigns and half sovereigns for at least twenty years before they were liquidated. Many of the coins featured in this catalogue have been held as part of the Spalding Collection for a similar length of time.

So not only are the mintages of these coins minuscule, the tendency is for buyers to hold onto them.

So which sector is the rarest? And should I wait for a particular coin to come along. And decline an offer of the more readily available coin?

First up let’s consider the use of the term “readily available”. While some design types appear to be more “readily available”, there is no implication that they are popping up every year. As professional rare coin dealers we can wait years to be in a position of offering a single proof gold coin.

The key word when discussing proof gold is RARITY.

Now while we acknowledge that some sectors of the proof gold market are rarer than others, we also point out that the rarity ultimately determines the sector’s price structure. The rarer the sector, the greater the financial outlay. 

A Sydney Mint proof gold coin can therefore be a $175,000-$250,000 item. A Veiled Head $85,000 - $110,000. There is a big difference. Not necessarily in their potential. But the capital outlay required of the buyer.

Because both coins, the Sydney Mint Proof and the Veiled Head Proof (subject to the price paid) will enjoy capital growth.

In our view the availability of a gold proof coin (OF ANY YEAR) is an opportunity. If you happen to be offered one of exceptional rarity then the opportunity is even more profound.

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