Coin News

Volume 51, Number 4, April 2014

Spotlight on Queen Anne

Volume 51, Number 4, April 2014

Research always pays I DO realise that I have “commented” on the Royal Mint and its coins a number of times in recent months and for those of you who do not collect new issues I apologise—I will endeavour to steer clear of 21st Century coins in May. This month, however, I feel the latest news on the new issues deserves mention once again. Many of you will have seen stories recently in newspapers or on-line, or heard/seen things through other media, regarding the “rare” Kew gardens 50p piece. In late February the news was broken that “only” 210,000 of these 2009 coins were minted and as such they were the scarcest of all current coins in circulation. This inevitably led to a flurry of interest and over 1,200 lots appeared on a popular on-line auction site with prices for uncirculated examples fetching in excess of £100. So just where did this information come from? And more importantly, as it’s been in our Coin Yearbook and elsewhere for some years, why has it only surfaced now five years after the coins were minted? The answer? The Royal Mint sent out a press release! Yes, the interest and the hype surrounding this “rarity” came as a direct result of a news release from Llantrisant. Now the Mint’s information was very specific—they didn’t mention any value to the coin (apart from 50p, obviously) and never sought to indicate that they were worth anything more than face value—nor would they be in the future—they simply stated that the Kew Gardens 50p was the rarest coin out there at the moment. The media, and people’s greed, did the rest. Now it is perfectly possible that some of you have paid over the odds for one of these coins recently; you might be a new issues collector who was missing the 2009 coin and felt it was worth paying more than face value to get an example in your collection. If you have done so then that’s fine, you are a collector and want to pay to get your collection complete—I just hope you didn’t spend £100+ in the hope that it will be worth even more one day. Why am I being so cynical? Quite simply because whilst the coin is the scarcest in the UK at the moment that doesn’t actually make it “rare”—there are still 209,000 out there somewhere and with the best will in the world there aren’t 210,000 collectors of new issues who want one. Simple supply and demand indicates then that with more coins than collectors the price fetched on-line cannot be sustained in the long term, meaning that the “investment” potential of such a piece isn’t great. Hopefully serious collectors will have realised this and not spent vast sums on acquiring such a coin but what of those spurred on by media hype who have decided that these coins must be worth more in the future? Well it’s true that the absolutely mint ones may well fetch more than 50p in ten years’ time—after all, years of circulation will mean that most examples won’t be much more than VF, but by then most collectors who want one will have one—meaning those that shelled out serious money now will be disappointed—but isn’t that their own fault? It is difficult to blame the Royal Mint for the hype, they were merely reporting the facts, so does the blame lie with the media for assuming the coin is worth more than face value? Again difficult—most of the stories I read were carefully phrased and used words such as “may be” and “possibly”; not once did I see anyone exhorting the public to buy the coins with the surety they were worth hundreds. . . . Sadly I am afraid the problem does lie with the buyers—they make assumptions without looking at the facts; they have jumped on a bandwagon powered by their own erroneous beliefs and so, when they come to sell in 2024 they only have themselves to blame if they lose money. Unfortunately we see this happen all too often: people who have bought coins (or worse pseudo coins) believing they will be a good investment only to find they are nothing of the sort. But why? Simply because they didn’t bother to check out the secondary market. Anyone with a computer (or a Coin Yearbook) can see that in 1992 the Royal Mint produced just 109,000 “Presidency of the EU” 50p pieces (so far fewer than this latest rarity) and another quick bit of research will reveal that standard circulated examples of that are worth no more than face value. Logic dictates therefore that the 2009 50p simply cannot be worth a fortune in years to come. Unfortunately people don’t always do that sort of research, they think they see a way to a quick buck and jump, so aren’t they therefore entirely to blame if they get burnt? It is a dilemma—if only because that then puts them off coin collecting for life but I’m afraid I have little sympathy. Yes, one can level accusations at the Mint of over-egging this particular pudding, knowing full well that the press will make more of it than they might have initially intended. But realistically it is a good thing that people are checking their change and great that they are getting interested in coins and so for that the Mint are to be applauded. The side effect will, sadly, be that some people will lose money on this, but really it is their own fault. Maybe they should have bought a Coin Yearbook first... On a similar “rarity” note, as we go to press we learn of some interesting Britannia and Year of The Horse “mules” surfacing (I’ll say it before anyone else does—Year of theMule then . . .). We will have more details next month. In the meantime check out our Twitter feed @coinsandmedals for more on the story.

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