Investment in ancient coins surged after the pandemic – here’s why

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An unlikely effect of the pandemic is an increase in the market for ancient coins, says Rory Sachs

To mark the Platinum Jubilee, the royal mint has designed a brand new 50 pence coin, adorned on one side with the instantly recognizable royal numeral ‘ER’ and a stylized ’70’ to mark the anniversary. A maximum mintage of 5,000,070 of them could go into circulation to celebrate the milestone, making everyday artifacts interesting but unlikely to have much appeal for serious collectors.

However, the same cannot be said for all Royal Mint Platinum Jubilee projects. As part of a wider collection of precious metals to honor the occasion, a handful of gold coins have been returned to solid gold – two of which weigh 5kg each and have a theoretical value of £5,000. At the time of writing, one is still available at an RRP of £385,200.

Clare Maclennan, director of commemorative coins at the Royal Mint, says enthusiasm for gold coins has come from collectors scattered across Asia, the United States and Australia. “They collect because they are passionate numismatists,” she says. “There has been such buzz and excitement around the collection.”

According to Richard Beale, managing director of Roma Numismatics, rare gold issues can provide a hedge against market volatility and inflation, but tend to be favored by royal collectors.

“You don’t usually see them coming back at auction,” he says. “They don’t command the kind of premium…that older coins minted specifically for circulation do.” Olivier Stocker, a former JP Morgan banker who runs auction house Spink & Son, echoes that sentiment. But he admits they could be of interest to collectors “in a few hundred years”.

Beale says the collectibles market has surged since the pandemic began. An unwanted £1,600 coin in 2019 sold for over £10,000 in March 2020. “People who did particularly well in cryptocurrencies or in the stock market, they had extra disposable income “, he said, which brought them to the auction. The foreclosure, inevitably, also stoked the curiosity of investors facing “a certain amount of boredom”.

Another quirk of coin collecting in the UK stems from the Treasure Act 1996. Most coins found through formalized archaeological efforts will never make it to market, but when hobbyists come across unique artefacts, Beale says that the law encourages responsible trawling. A detective recently visited him with a small leather box containing five Roman gold coins. The most expensive was eventually sold for £50,000 at auction.

Inasmuch as alternative investment, rare coins can boast impressive performance, “beating the FTSE100 in terms of returns”, according to Beale. “By buying rare coins and other physical assets, you know, you always have something real, something tangible.” Of a 13th century gold penny sold by Spink for £648,000 in January, Stocker says: ‘We know about 80,000 were minted by King Henry III, but they were all remelted to make gold. other parts. Thus, only a handful have survived of the 80,000 originally minted in 1257. This is why they are rare.

But for HNWs curious about collecting, Stocker suggests it remains a passion first and foremost. “Enjoy your coins – don’t do it just for investments,” he says. When a customer comes to the auction house, a few meters from the British Museum, he says: “I’ll send you ten books. And I want you to make up your mind, and then we’ll talk. Beale agrees. Proper research will “dramatically help their decision-making…so buy the books,” he says. “And find a reliable source.”

Image: Spick & Sons

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