The carwash find that led to t

The carwash find that led to the world greatest collection of SA coins – now to be auctioned at Dix Noonan Webb

The world’s greatest collection of South African coins is to be auctioned and is expected to fetch R35 million to R40 million (£1.9 million to £2.2 million). This comes just 11 years after the collection began, in the unlikely surroundings of a car wash in the Transvaal.

The carwash find that led to t

Robert Bakewell, who lives just outside Johannesburg, had taken his car to be washed when he spotted a small coin between the paving bricks. He knew nothing about coins but, intrigued, he picked it up.

So began an all-consuming passion which led Bakewell to acquire some of the rarest coins in South African history. Now the entire collection is to be auctioned at Dix Noonan Webb, the international coins and medals specialists, in London on 22 September 2014.

“My passion for coins will never die,” says Bakewell, who runs a steel company supplying the construction industry. “My goal was to produce a catalogue of the finest known coins and once I had achieved that to put my collection up for sale. Now I will concentrate on upgrading my two sons’ collections.”

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“It is a tremendous honour to be entrusted by Robert Bakewell with the sale of his collection,” says Christopher Webb, head of the coins department at Dix Noonan Webb. “In little more than a decade he has assembled a collection of South African coins which has won many awards both in his home country and internationally. His determination to create a collection which is not only complete but also of the highest possible grades has been remarkable.”

Worth a mint – the South African Halfcrown, one of six coins in the 1926 proof set the greatest of the many rarities in the Bakewell Collection is the legendary 1926 proof set consisting of six coins – a Halfcrown, a Shilling, a Sixpence, a Threepence, a Penny and a Farthing. Only four sets were struck, two of which are in museums and the whereabouts of the third is unknown. This set is probably the only one that will ever come onto the market and the condition of all six coins is the finest known. The 1926 set is expected to fetch R5.5 million to R7.4 million (£300,000 to £400,000).

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Other extremely rare proof sets in the Dix Noonan Webb auction will include one of only five struck in 1933, this one being in the finest condition recorded, which is estimated at R2.8 million to R3.7 million (£150,000 to £200,000) and a 1931 set with its original card case of issue expected to fetch R1.5 million to R1.8 million (£80,000 to £100,000) The coin which Bakewell found in the car wash was a common, albeit out of circulation, half cent. Fascinated, he went to his local bank and asked a friend, who was a teller there, if she had any old coins. The bank allowed him to buy a bag of coins at face value and after that it was a natural step to seek out a coin shop. There dealer Peter Bowles advised him to buy “one good coin rather than ten scrap coins”.

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Helped and advised by Bowles and later by some of South Africa’s most expert collectors such as Terry Coucourakis, the Bakewell Collection took shape. “I decided that I would own the finest known set of South African coins in the world,” says Bakewell. He acquired coins from local dealers and collectors but also from major international auction houses, hunting ceaselessly for the best examples. Bakewell began to send his coins to be graded by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation in the United States, the leading judges of the quality of coins, and he has become a multiple winner of the NGCs “Finest Known” awards.

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Dix Noonan Webb Ltd is one of the world’s leading specialist auctioneers and valuers of coins, tokens, medals, militaria and paper money of all types. Established in 1990, the company boasts over 250 years’ combined experience in this field and stages regular auctions throughout the year.

For further information please contact:

Will Bennett: 07770 694254 / or Dix Noonan Webb: 020 7016 1700 /