Gold coins at online-only Spink auction sell for up to £65,000

Collectors and investors appear to have flocked to gold coins as a safe haven buy amid stock market turbulence caused by coronavirus, with some at a behind closed doors auction this week selling for triple their estimate.

More than 500 lots of coins dating from the Iron Age all the way through to 2008 went under the hammer at auction house Spink, selling from anything from £30 to £65,000.

While the auction house told This is Money its estimates did tend to be more conservative to encourage bidding, many of the highest-selling lots dramatically exceeded their estimates in the online-only auction of more than 500 bidders.

This five guinea from 1713 featuring Queen Anne contains around £1,500 of gold. It sold at auction for £26,000, three times its estimated value

Hollywood royalty: Olivia Colman as Queen Anne in the 2018 film The Favourite. She won an Oscar for her performance

Hollywood royalty: Olivia Colman as Queen Anne in the 2018 film The Favourite. She won an Oscar for her performance

A five-guinea coin from 1713 displaying Queen Anne, played by an Oscar-winning Olivia Colman in the 2018 film The Favourite, sold for £26,000; three times its upper estimate of £12,000. This five-guinea contains around £1,500 worth of gold, Spink said.

It suggests investors are once again looking to the commodity, which reached an all-time sterling high of £1,388.55 per oz on the day of the auction. 

It is often seen as a safe port which goes up in value when other assets like stocks fall.

Meanwhile a £5 coin from 1826 displaying George IV sold for a whopping £55,000, £35,000 more than its upper estimate of £20,000. 

The highest-selling lot was a triple-unite from the reign of Charles I in 1643, which sold for £65,000.

One investor appeared to really take the long-term view when it came to the current crisis, successfully bidding £7,500 for a Dobunni tribe Celtic coin dated between 25 and 5 BC, an Iron Age coin predating even the Roman invasion of Britain.

This 1643 triple-unite featuring Charles I was the top item at the online-only auction from Spink. It sold for £65,000, way above its £50,000 upper estimated price

This 1643 triple-unite featuring Charles I was the top item at the online-only auction from Spink. It sold for £65,000, way above its £50,000 upper estimated price

Though this did not quite match its £8,000 upper estimate, a coin displaying a monarch accustomed to a time of crisis did outperform its estimate.

A 1937 £5 coin featuring the stammering George VI, also known as Bertie, who reigned during World War II and was memorably played by Colin Firth in the film The King’s Speech, sold for £4,000. It was estimated to go for £3,500.

The £5 coin was estimated to go for between £2,500 and £3,500, but sold for £4,000

Colin Firth as George VI in The King's Speech. The King was also known as 'Bertie'

A £5 coin from 1937 displaying George VI which sold for £4,000. The stammering wartime monarch was played by Colin Firth in the film The King’s Speech

But not all the coins which outperformed their estimates did so by selling for enormous sums. 

An undated 20p from 2008 sold for £140, more than three times the upper estimate of £40.

Gregory Edmund, a specialist at Spink, told This is Money: ‘Each coin will have their own unique charm to a collector well beyond their respective intrinsic value. 

‘It is very noticeable that a shift has taken place, fuelled mostly by internet developments but also the design of the physical home.

‘Where once the learned Victorian “gentleman scholar” would invariably adopt the strategy of completeness – i.e. collecting every type of a coin ever produced by a country – as documented by the auction catalogues of the period, today’s collector almost invariably specialises down to a type of coin such as five guineas or crowns.’

This Celtic coin belonging to the Dobunni tribe, which ruled what is now Bristol, sold for £7,500

This undated 20p sold for £140, three-and-a-half times its £40 upper estimate

Then and now: The 510 lots auctioned off at Spink on Tuesday ranged from an Iron Age coin dating back as far as 25 BC, to an undated 20p from 2008

Investors flock to gold amid market turbulence 

While the recent boom in the strength of the dollar means that gold is not at an all-time high in that currency, it is at an all-time sterling high of £1,388.55 per oz.

This up from £786.02 per oz in March 2015, though the gold price did actually initially fall along with other asset classes, most notably on March 16 to £1,185.40.

 We are experiencing unprecedented demand for gold during these extremely difficult times as our customers are choosing to allocate more of their portfolio to safe haven assets.

 Andrew Dickey, The Royal Mint

However it is now riding high, and investors can’t get enough. 

The Royal Mint at the start of March experienced its busiest ever week, it said, with sales of bullion up an enormous 307 per cent year-on-year.

One investor even bought 1,520 gold Britannia coins, its largest ever single transaction. 

Andrew Dickey, the director of the Mint’s precious metals division, said: ‘At The Royal Mint, we’re experiencing unprecedented levels of interest in our precious metals products, with more people than ever before turning to gold as a safe haven asset during this disconcerting period.’

‘We are experiencing unprecedented demand for gold during these extremely difficult times as our customers are choosing to allocate more of their portfolio to safe haven assets.

‘Whilst we are not in a position to predict the future performance of gold, we know that the precious metal has stood the test of time and managed to hold its own during previous periods of market turmoil.’

Spink’s Gregory Edmund added: ‘Since the wider closure of general shops and businesses, and news that three Swiss gold refineries have ceased operations due to the coronavirus pandemic, gold has rebounded back massively to sit at an all-time sterling high price.

‘I think this internationally beneficial exchange rate is also a key factor in the results we saw yesterday, particularly among the higher ticket items which effectively overnight became that bit more affordable.

‘The market for coins has been growing ever since the 2008 crash with a whole new generation of collectors entering the market, usually from Asia and America – as a consequence there is such residual confidence in the market that it remains entirely at odds with the wider economic outlook.’

‘Collectors are bored’ 

Pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops have all been hit by the coronavirus outbreak, and 344-year-old auction houses are no exception.

But just as the growth of online shopping and online gambling has changed our relationship with their physical counterparts, the same is true with online auctions.

An 1826 £5 coin featuring the face and coat of arms of George IV. It sold for £55,000, £35,000 more than its £20,000 upper estimate

An 1826 £5 coin featuring the face and coat of arms of George IV. It sold for £55,000, £35,000 more than its £20,000 upper estimate 

‘Five years ago when I started’, Edmund said, ‘collectors were tentative to bid £500 pounds over the internet, now £50,000 is a normal event for them.

‘There was also a very simple practical reason why the sale did so well. Collectors are bored. 

Spink dates back as far as The Great Plague of London in 1666, diarised by Samuel Pepys

Spink dates back as far as The Great Plague of London in 1666, diarised by Samuel Pepys

‘They are trapped at home, unable to get any mental stimulus other than depressing news stories from around the world, so they flocked to our online-only and industry-leading sale platform and merrily bid away because it gave them something to do.

‘Their trust in modern technology and contentedness to spend tens of thousands of pounds at a time is also another sign of our changing consumer spending habits.’

And while the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has drawn comparisons with the 2008 financial crisis and even the Great Depression of 1929, a history dating back more than three centuries led the auction house to draw even older parallels.

‘Given our roots being traced back to the goldsmith’s apprentice John Spink in 1666 and the last Great Plague in London’, Edmund said, ‘it’s rather apt we could excel and lead the way in the current crisis and ultimately provide some much needed mental stimulus, to not only the British public who we helped confine to their homes, but also our wider global clientele who are going through similar if not worse humanitarian crises on their own doorsteps.’

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