The ideal scenario for a numismatic investment is a coin that is scarce, but at the same time has widespread appeal. And that is superior for quality and has a date of importance.
This Proof 1857 Half Sovereign has the lot!
An important date. And our most important series.
Australia struck its first half sovereign in 1855, at the nation's very first mint, the Sydney Mint, the coin featuring 'the Sydney Mint design'. The design ran for two years and was amended in 1857 to show Queen Victoria wearing a sprig of banksia in her hair, strengthening the Australian flavour of our gold coinage. The Type II design, as the amended portrait is referred to, ran until 1870.
It is an acknowledged fact that collectors pursue the first year of a series over and above all other years out of an era. The first year is defining. The second is not. And the year '1857' is the very first year of a new design, a new portrait.
There are limited opportunities for acquiring a Sydney Mint Proof Half Sovereign, of any year.
Proof coins are by definition, extremely rare and their scarcity is a natural draw card. In some respect, proof coin collectors are playing it smart because the inherent rarity of proof coinage provides a level of assurance that the market will never be inundated with examples, protecting their investment.
This Proof 1857 Half Sovereign is known by perhaps three examples. And that's exceedingly rare. But the sector to which it belongs is also exceedingly rare and is a further influence on its price potential.
The Sydney Mint was consistent in striking half sovereigns as circulating currency in each year between 1857 and 1866, the coins featuring the Type II design. (Total production over the ten year period about 2.4 million coins). Proofs however were only struck in two years, 1857 and 1866. There are three known of the 1857 and two of the 1866, with both 1866 examples slightly down on quality (mishandling).
Hence the extreme importance to collectors of this Proof 1857 Half Sovereign. If a collector is looking for a quality proof coin featuring the Type II Sydney Mint design, the Proof 1857 Half Sovereign is the only choice. There is no other.
The rarity of Australia's proof sovereigns and half sovereigns is acknowledged worldwide and has instigated a strong reaction from buyers at several recent overseas auctions.
Australia has some of the rarest and most beautiful coins you could imagine, particularly in the proof gold sector. The coins, proof sovereigns and proof half sovereigns, have always been popular with local collectors, simply because of their inherent rarity.
Many of the coins were held by prominent overseas collectors and journeyed their way back to Australia in the mid 1970s and 1980s via A H Baldwin and Spink Auctions.
And they are heading back overseas for over the last two years international buyers have been steadily encroaching into our market, pushing prices and taking back some of Australia’s prized numismatic possessions.
In the latter part of 2021, overseas investors blitzed an auction in Zurich where Australian proof gold was offered paying top dollar to secure our proof gold coin rarities.
The momentum continued at Heritage Auctions in April 2022 where two pairs of Australian proof sovereigns and half sovereigns, the first dated 1855 and the second, 1856, sold for record auction prices.
Prices for Australian proof sovereign and proof half sovereigns have, as a result, rocketed overseas.
And it will have a flow-on effect into the local market.
When it comes to collecting vintage gold coins, collectors have two distinct options.
They can acquire coins that were struck for circulation: coins that were meant to be used. Or they can collect coins that were struck as presentation pieces to PROOF QUALITY.
The coin on offer is one such presentation piece, a Proof 1857 Half Sovereign struck at the Royal Mint London. (The Sydney Mint did not produce proofs until 1871.)
That proof coins were struck in the nineteenth century may surprise some readers. But it has to be said that 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 coins struck to the highest standards of quality.
Each option, circulating coinage or proof coinage, presents the buyer with a vastly different sized pool of specimens from which to choose.
General date (non-key date), average circulating gold sovereigns, are available in the thousands if not the tens of thousands. Once the collector sets parameters on quality and dates, the pool of specimens narrows and it is true that acquiring a key date gold coin that was struck for circulation, particularly one in premium quality, can be a journey in time that involves many months, if not years.
The task of acquiring gold proofs of our pre-decimal coinage is far more challenging. The pathway to proof coinage for buyers can involve many years, if not decades.
Rarity is the key word when discussing proof gold.
And 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.
And the reasons?
• Proof gold coins were NOT struck every year.
• 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.
• 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.
• Great coins tend to be held. The owner of the Madrid Collection held onto his gold proofs for more than twenty years. The Spalding family and collector Tom Hadley, of Quartermaster fame, held their proof coins for an even longer time-frame.
This Proof 1857 Half Sovereign is a golden opportunity and for just one buyer.