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A World of Coins

Never mind the Bitcoin craze. Gold and silver coins starring Russian czars, Chinese leaders and Roman emperors are igniting bidding wars as numismatic buffs compete with investors and wealthy collectors from emerging economies for the tiny relics.

Heritage Auctions set a record this week for a Brazilian coin sold at auction when a gold 1822 piece depicting the country’s first Emperor, Pedro I, fetched $499,375 in New York, said Cristiano Bierrenbach, the Dallas-based company’s head of world coins. Six of the 10 bidders were from Brazil. A 1711 Mexican Felipe V gold royal cob 8 escudos brought $293,750.

The sales were part of the 42nd annual New York International Numismatic Convention, the largest international gathering of dealers and auctioneers in the field of ancient and world coins. The event, running through Jan. 13 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, showcases an increasingly global market for the collectibles. In addition to a series of auctions, it includes 120 dealers hawking coins dating back to ancient Greece.

“Collecting coins used to be more of a hobby,” said Kevin Foley, the convention’s bourse chairman. “Now it’s an investment area, with people paying millions for coins.”

The most expensive Russian coin at auction fetched $4.4 million at Sincona AG in 2012.... Read More
The most expensive coin at auction, a 1794 Flowing Hair silver U.S. dollar, fetched $10 million at Stack’s Bowers Galleries last January in New York. In 2012, an anonymous collector paid $4.4 million for a 1740 Russian coin at Zurich-based Sincona AG, the auction house said.

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