By Louis Golino for CoinWeek ………
Multiple Versions of Wedge-Tailed Eagle
Probably the most widely discussed modern world coin at the moment is the Perth Mint’s 2014 wedge-tailed silver and gold eagles that I covered recently and which my colleagues, Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, also discussed in a chat with the coin’s designer , celebrated coin and medal artist, John Mercanti, whose handiwork includes the American silver eagle.
As I mentioned before, interest in this coin seems to be driven primarily by the superb design that shows the eagle landing on a branch with intricate detail on the bird’s feathers as well the fact that it was designed by John Mercanti; and widespread interest in American silver eagles and coins that depict eagles in general. The Australian silver eagle is such a natural counterpart to the iconic American silver eagle, especially since both feature Mercanti designs, so it is not surprising collectors are snapping them up and love them.
The coins sold out very quickly from Perth and other dealers authorized to sell the high relief silver and gold coins, and prices quickly rose to the $150-200 or higher level, with graded examples fetching even more.
Now there is another factor driving interest in the coins, which is confusion about the relief of the silver coins currently being shipped to buyers, which leads to the fact that it turns out multiple versions of the coin in different weights and formats are and will be produced. Perth and GovMint clearly realized that had a winner with this Mercanti design, and rather than issue a larger number of one type of wedge tailed eagle, they did what collectors prefer, which is keep the mintage low and make other versions of the coin.
When Perth announced the release of these world coins they billed them as high relief silver and gold proof coins and excluded American buyers from purchasing the coins from Perth. Instead they directed them to GovMint (www.govmint.com) to buy the coins. Prior to Perth’s release date, GovMint was selling high-grade slabbed versions for substantial premiums, and it also sells a single silver proof version that is not a high relief coin. The high relief silver coins have a 10,000 worldwide mintage and a diameter of 32.6 millimeters, while the regular proofs have a 5,000 mintage and a 40.6 millimeter diameter.
A lot of collectors have been confused about the coin’s relief, and now that the coins are reaching their hands, they can clearly see the difference. With a lower mintage and the same stunning design, the regular proof could turn out to be a sleeper.
I have both one ounce coins in hand, and while I think both are terrific examples of superior numismatic art, I prefer the large canvas of the regular proof coin. The overwhelmingly positive reaction of collectors to both proof coins is interesting, as few coins elicit such a strongly positive impression.
Prices for both proofs have settled in at the $200 level and seem likely to remain there. The only sources for the high relief at this point are Australian and other sellers on e-Bay, while GovMint is still taking orders for the regular poof, though it is backordered. Some collectors are concerned that the 5,000 mintage level may be exceeded for the regular proof, but that has not been publicized or confirmed. One reason for the concern is many people have reported receiving coins with a certificate number close to 5,000, but the coins are not necessarily sold in numerical sequence. And a certificate that says, for example, 5,000 of 5,000 does not necessarily mean it was the last coin struck.
I contacted Perth Mint for this story, and their media officer, Makeila Ellis, kindly provided me with some information regarding the various versions of the wedge-tailed eagle.
First, she explained that a five-ounce high relief silver proof with a 5,000 mintage will be issued. GovMint will have those coins starting in February, and then Perth will begin selling the five-ounce coin in June for distribution to Australia and the rest of the world. That means that American customers who want the coins will need to order them from GovMint, which may only be graded examples as that is often their practice, or to wait until June and try an Australian dealer or another overseas dealer.
From the comments of collectors on several blogs, I know interest in the five-ounce coins is very higher, and I anticipate another quick sell-out.
Ms. Ellis also explained that a one-ounce bullion version will be issued later this year, and U.S. buyers will also be directed to GovMint for those coins. Other details like mintage level have not yet been finalized for the bullion coins.
Regarding the decision to issue two types of one-ounce proof coin, she said: “They are both different forms of a proof coin. Some like the high relief, and some the regular 1oz 40.5mm. It was determined that both would be released. We also do this with our Australian lunar proof coins each year.”
Latvia 2014 euro sets
Another world coin release currently the subject of a lot of interest is the proof and mint sets issued by Latvia for 2014, which are the first euro-denominated sets from that country. When a country joins the Eurozone and issues its first euro coinage, collector sets of those coins are typically hot items.
Latvia issued only 5,000 proof sets and 30,000 uncirculated sets, which is less than the numbers of sets many other new eurozone countries issued. According to Ola Borgejordet, owner and founder of Royal Scandinavian Mint (www.rsmint.com), which specializes in modern world issues, the Latvian Central Bank limited purchases of these euro sets even for wholesalers. As an authorized U.S. distributor of Latvian coins, his company was able to order directly from the Latvian Mint, but the actual sets to be delivered in the coming days are fewer than the number initially ordered due to high demand. The Latvian authorities also asked that coin sellers limit their allocation of the proof sets to one per customer to discourage speculation.
But demand is strong for these euro sets, particularly for the proof sets, and pre-orders have taken the sets from an initial price of $60-80 to as much as $200 on e-Bay. But once the sets are actually delivered, which begins at the end of January, prices are likely to soften.
Beyond the lure of first euro sets, the Latvian coins have an additional factor that makes them popular with collectors, which is the use of the popular classic folk girl design that first appeared on Latvian silver coins issued in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, which were reprised in 2012 for the Latvian folk girl silver commemorative. Mr. Borgejordet also noted that the Latvian Mint has been successful at increasing interest in their coins because of the popularity of the designs.
The proof sets are housed in a wooden box and each coin is encapsulated, while the BU sets come in an attractive folder.
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, a number of different coin web sites in addition to being a contributor to “American Hard Assets magazine”. His column for CoinWeek, “The Coin Analyst,” covers U.S. and world coins and precious metals. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA, PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.