Ian Goldbart of Sovereign Rarities
Ian Goldbart, managing director of new firm Sovereign Rarities. He began collecting coins in 1976 when he spent £40 of his 13th birthday money on a 1795 guinea – a coin he resold the following week for £120.

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Five senior specialists who formed the core of Baldwin’s coin department are leaving to join the venture called Sovereign Rarities.

Trading from the third floor of 32 St George Street (above Shapero Rare Books), Sovereign are promising “access to the broadest selection of top quality coins struck over the past 2500 years”.

Online auctions – and perhaps occasional ‘bricks and mortar’ auctions – are planned as part of “phase two development”, but Goldbart says the emphasis will be on coin dealing in London from their retail premises and website.

“Our primary raison d’être is retail.” He added: “The coin market has been fantastic for a good 20 years and for us it will be a case of less is more. In numbers, we might be offering fewer coins but will focus on high-grade material in the higher-value range.”

In recent months, Goldbart has been trading in anticipation of the new venture but predicts inventory will increase with the arrival of a full team of specialists covering a number of numismatic fields.

London Debuts

The firm plan to attend a series of coin shows in the US and Germany to promote the brand and will take double stands at both the forthcoming London Coin Fair (September 3) and Coinex (September 30- October 1).

Most of the five ex-Baldwin’s staff have worked with Goldbart for close to a decade – well before the firm was sold as part of Noble Investments to Stanley Gibbons Group in 2013 (see timeline, below).

The new team includes Graham Byfield, specialist in Byzantine, Islamic and Indian coins and commemorative medals, and Julie Lecoindre (European coinage), who joined Sovereign in August.

Three other specialists are scheduled to join this week, on September 1.

They are: Steven Hill, an authority on English, Scottish and Irish milled and hammered coins; his brother Paul Hill, previously responsible for the stock of ancient Greek and Roman coins at Baldwin’s and the spectacular sale of the $25m Prospero collection in 2014; and Caroline Holmes, a numismatic book specialist who will also be responsible for administering internet sales.

The Hill brothers first worked with Goldbart in 2005 when they left Spink to become associate directors of Noble. 

The creation of Sovereign Rarities mirrors the emergence of Forum Auctions. Forum, with primarily ex-Bloomsbury staff, was launched in May by Stephan Ludwig, who like Goldbart, left Stanley Gibbons in November 2015.

New Appointments

Baldwin’s are now in the process of hiring new specialists.

A spokesperson told ATG: “We have made two appointments, and we are continuing to explore a number of avenues. We expect to be able to give further information on this in the near future.

“We are looking forward to our upcoming sales in September where we have some fantastic items to offer our customers.’’

Ian Goldbart: a timeline

2003: Collector and stockbroker Ian Goldbart establishes numismatic investment company and dealership Noble Investments.

2005: Specialists Steven and Paul Hill leave Spink to join Noble as associate directors.

Noble buy family-owned AH Baldwin in a £4.5m deal.

2008: Noble acquire Apex Philatelics for up to £1.25m.

2012 Noble acquire The Fine Art Auction Group, owners of Dreweatts and Bloomsbury Auctions, for £5.5m.

2013: The Stanley Gibbons Group complete their £42m acquisition of Noble Investments.

2014: Stanley Gibbons acquire London dealership Mallett through TFAAG for £8.6m.

2015: Stanley Gibbons group wins a ‘deal of the year’ award for Noble acquisition. Goldbart and Stephan Ludwig, former owner and CEO of Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions, leave the Gibbons group.

2016: 

  • February - Troubled dealership Mallett put lease of their London and New York premises up for sale.
  • March - Auditors for Stanley Gibbons resign believing the firm’s philatelic investment portfolios expose it to excessive risk.
  • April - Goldbart establishes Sovereign Rarities.
  • May - Stephan Ludwig establishes books and works on paper specialists Forum Auctions with ex-Bloomsbury Auctions staff.
  • September - Specialist numismatic staff join Sovereign Rarities from Baldwin’s.