A rare find

By Rhonda Dredge

Gold coins have sold out at Max Stern & Co as the price of gold gets close to a record high of $2637 an ounce.

People have been delving into their stashes and reassessing their collections during the lockdown.

Some have had lucky breaks.

“If you’ve got a gold coin, now is the time to sell it,” director Sam Seigel said.

The shop, in the old NAB headquarters at 271 Collins St, has stayed open during the pandemic and witnessed some of the desperation.

Last month there was an armed robbery of gold bullion from a store nearby but Sam is philosophical. 

“People think of gold as a safe haven,” he said

Passing trade for the coin and stamp business has dropped to nil. “We get one or two customers a day.” 

But the business has kept on its 12 staff and they are busy with eBay and website orders, even though international mail order is stuck in transit. 

Max Stern has been operating in the CBD since 1956, first in the Port Phillip Arcade and now at Collins St. Sam is the son-in-law of founder Max Stern who passed away two years ago.

The store is a happy place, brightly lit, inviting and reminiscent of innocent childhood days spent collecting stamps from far-off places in a world that was less precarious.

Hidden within an album can be a special stamp. “Usually stamp albums have been handed down. Mostly customers have very little knowledge,” Sam said.

One album was brought in last month with a stamp collected in 1980 because of its cultural interest, but worth $2500 some 40 years later because of its rarity.

The find was the first issue of a Chinese Lunar New Year stamp. The rest of the album was only worth $100 but the red stamp seems to glow in the middle of the page.

You could call it a lucky stamp, released in the Year of the Monkey and worth only eight cents. “It had a low print run,” Max said. “It is very popular. It can sell 30 or 40 times.” 

Sam loves talking about collections. Ten dollar notes from the original 1966 mint are now worth $100 and mint quality pennies are worthy a pretty penny. 

Any penny is worth a dollar but if in perfect condition from 1911 or 1912 can be worth $500. 

For those just beginning, the Royal Australian Mint is still releasing products, including a $2 coin on May 18 which was a collector’s item, selling for $15 and dedicated to the tooth fairy •

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