Coins were first minted around 600 BC by the Lydians, who were part of the Greek Empire in modern-day Turkey. The Greeks and later the Romans, Celts and other tribes and empires minted coins in copper, silver and gold. They proved to be an invaluable enabler of trade and a store of wealth right up to the present day.
In Ireland, the first coins were minted by the Viking King Sitric in Dublin in 996 AD. These were silver pennies and they were used to trade with other Viking towns. These early Irish silver pennies have been found in the Isle of Man, throughout Britain and as far away as St Petersburg
Up to the twentieth century the value of silver and gold coins was closely tied to the underlying value of the silver and gold they were minted from. However, there was often a small percentage of the value of the coins that went to the government or other issuers of the coins.
Coin collectors (called numismatists) have studied and collected coins from Roman times and it is still a very popular hobby worldwide. Whilst there are wealthy numismatists that collect gold coins, there are many non-collectors who have other reasons for buying them.
The price of
gold has climbed from around $1,200 per troy ounce (31.1 grams) in 2019 to
nearly $2,000 in late 2020. This has attracted individuals who see gold as an
alternative to leaving their savings in a bank or putting their money into
property or shares.
Gold can be purchased in many forms, but gold coins issued by governments have many advantages over gold bars or bonds:
- They have a guaranteed weight and purity and are immediately
recognised worldwide. This allows their gold value to be quickly calculated in
terms of US dollars and any local currency. They are also very portable, easy
to handle, to trade and to hide! They are often works of art in their own right
and iconic designs would include the American $20 Double Eagle 1 troy ounce
(31.1 gram) gold coin designed by the Irish born Saint-Gaudens. The English
full and half Gold Sovereigns have featured St George slaying the dragon by the
Italian coin engraver Pistrucci, for over 200 years.
- The full gold sovereign circulated in Ireland up to 1914,
with a face value of £1 or 20 shillings. They are 22 carats and contain nearly
a quarter of a troy ounce of pure gold (and the half sovereign half of that).
- Apart from forming part of the gold reserves of central banks
and as a store of personal wealth, they make ideal presents, wedding gifts and
as valuable keepsakes for special occasions such as the birth of a child.
At O’Reilly’s forthcoming monthly auction commencing on Wednesday 23rd September we have 20 lots of American gold coins made up of the $20 Double Eagle, $10 Eagle and $5 Half Eagle. We also have a further 20 lots including plenty of gold sovereigns, half sovereigns and the no-nonsense South African Krugerrand coins with 1 troy ounce of gold. They are all attractively priced, so this is now your chance!