This article gives a round-up of the year 2011 in terms of Indian Coin collection and how the market moved in the Mumbai City. Typically most of the large dealers are same in every city and hence the trend at other cities should also be on similar lines.

The beginning of the year 2011 was still dominated by the British India coins, proof sets were going at a throw away price compared to the year end. Overall there was still low activity on the Indian coins, the British India other coins still vogue.

The Indian circulation commemoratives were still gaining foot hold. There seemed to be a steady business with quite a few [around 10 issued in 2 years] coins still gaining currency as there were still not available in the market. The Definitive coins for the first time evoking quite a bit of interest as there were quite a few design changes in the recent years from the controversial cross design to the mudra.

For a split point of view, around 60% of the stalls were for British & Older coins, 20% for Indian Commemoratives, and 10% for the Indian currencies.

By mid year, the market had moved equally towards the Indian Circulation commemoratives, the number of collectors for these coins kept increasing. Added to the fact that even after quite a bit of wait, the collector’s could’nt lay their hands on these coins in routine circulation. They were left with no option but to buy these. So there was quite a brisk business of these coins as well as the definitive coins, with older designs going out and not available. The prices of the Indian Commemoratives and Definitive coins were at peak, and had more than tripled the value. However proof sets were again nowhere to be seen around. It just didn’t look like they were a hot property. The Indian currencies seem to be holding its ground. These were still doing same amount of steady business with moderate rise in prices.

The British & Older coins were still dominant and had around 40% stall, the Indian Coins grew up to 40%, the Indian currencies holding up 10% of the stalls.

However towards the end of year, the entire market moved away from the British India. In the last exhibition there was virtual absence of the British India or other coins. These were totally replaced by the Proof & UNC Sets and Indian Currencies. That the mint hiked the prices of the sets by more than double in less than 2 years [partly due to cost of silver going up, partly to make additional revenue] whatever be the case, it just saw the price of proof sets shoot-up. Now the moment something gives you more than 100% sure returns, there was a hoard of activity that pushed up the prices of certain sets by more than 400 – 500% to the price of issue. It was easy for the collector to digest this as if you compared to the price of mint, these looked like a steal. For example the mint issue of Re-Booking of Tagore [last booking for the year 2011], the price of the Proof set [Rs 150 silver, Rs 5 cupronickel] was at Rs 4120. So logically everyone was ready to pay a small premium of Rs 1000 to Rs 2000 on sets of 2009 that were actually sold by mint for Rs 2000 [for example the Alphanso Rs 100 silver and Rs 5 cupronickel]. The mint even en-cashed this by doing re-strikes and re-bookings in the year 2010 and 2011. All this added to a huge demand as they everyone saw the appreciation of nearly 200% in less than 2 years. This sudden spike in demand put a huge premium on some of the relatively older sets of 2004 to 2008; these began selling for around Rs 7000 to Rs 9000. From a returns point of view these sets were sold by mint for around Rs 1000 to Rs 1500. A magnificent return of nearly 700 to 1000%. This is what stories are made up of, driving investors in hoards resulting in shooting the price of sets of 1997 to 2003 through the sky. They began costing more than 15,000 to 20,000. Adding fuel was lot of collectors of the period 1970 to 1990 growing old and seeing this as a right opportunity to en-cash. This meant that now collectors could dream of completing the set of proof sets. Markets went crazy.

The Star notes created another flurry towards the year end with quite a few dealers have these and in general the collectors who had completed the Indian coin set moved / progressed / graduated towards the currencies. The prices of the currencies suddenly shot up by double. The prices of Indian commemoratives fell in most new coins and select older coins as well.

The British & Other coins saw a drastic drop to around 10% of the stalls, the Proof Sets grew to nearly 30%, the Indian Coins dropped to 10%, and the Indian Currencies grew up to 30%.

As to how the market will head in 2012 is anybody’s guess. This should be a pointer to how fast the collectibles markets change and if one is into it for investment, one needs to tread more carefully than the stock market. My reading of the market movement is a mix of Dealers creating hype over a certain category, arrtacting investors / collectors, selling high in that category. Once having sold the goods for high prices, move to a different category, create a new hype, sell high, and again move to something else. Ofcourse they cannot do this in isolation, but help is always round the corner be it mint increasing the prices of proof sets, or releasing many issues or the star series or any such crib they get.

As we are on the topic of Hype, 2 examples stand out very clearly to me.

The first one is the Rs 1/-, 1964 Bhoothalingam. All the year 2010 I was interested in getting this note, whenever I enquired, the price quoted by all dealers was around Rs 30,000/-. The best part of it was most dealers said they didn’t have it and said they would offer me Rs 25,000/- for the note if I had one. The more interesting part is I could barely see this displayed with any dealers. However by the end of 2011, almost every dealer had this note. The price was around Rs 15,000 to Rs 20000/- depending on the condition. The note is routinely sold on ebay.

The second one is the 25 Paise Forestry coin, supposed to be very rare, going upwards of Rs 500/- for an UNC. Here again there were some dealers who had this coin, however they were nowhere near to mint grade and were heavily used ones that were sold for anywhere between Rs 150 to Rs 200. However towards the end of 2011, I saw quite a few dealers had this coin that to in UNC going for Rs 250. What knocked my senses out was that quite a few dealers had bowl / box full of these coins. Easily more than 2000 coins in the exhibition put on display. Now how on earth something that is supposed to be rare and the most expensive circulation commemorative coin [in terms of absolute returns] be visible in such quantities and that to in UNC grade is something beyond me.

These 2 examples sets the tone to me that there is hype by the dealers to up the price on some of the rare items.

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