Welcome to 2017! From all of us here at Stack's Bowers Galleries we wish you a Happy New Year. To ring in the New Year we have an additional preview from the New York International Numismatic Convention Auction that will begin in just one week. Venezuela is the source for this week's headline coin, an extraordinary and seldom seen piece commemorating the nationalization of the oil industry.
Venezuela, a founding member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), has the largest oil reserves in the world. A majority of the deposits are in three areas in Venezuela: around and beneath Lake Maracaibo, in the Gulf of Venezuela and in the Orinoco River basin. The first half of the 20th century saw intense U.S. involvement in the oil industry, though this waned in the decades leading up to the establishment of OPEC and the nationalization of the oil industry. Put to a vote in 1973 and formally enacted in 1976, the PDVSA (Petroleos de Venezuela) took full control through a number of holding companies.
In 1975 the Venezuelan mint produced this 500 Bolivares in anticipation of the full nationalization slated to take place on January 1, 1976. With a mintage of just 100 pieces this coin is in demand whenever it turns up for auction. The obverse design features a stoic portrait of Simon Bolivar, hero of Venezuela's war for independence from Spain, in a brilliant inset at the right side facing left. The date and Spanish phrase: "Ano de la Nacionalization del Petroleo" appears at left with "Simon Bolivar" just below the bust. The reverse design features two oil derricks in a brilliant inset, with the right field providing more information. The text on the reverse indicates the country, denomination, date and the size and purity of the gold piece: "Republica de Venezuela," "500 Bolivares" and along the bottom: "18 Gram. 1975 Ley 900." The dies were lightly brushed in production to allow for the beautiful contrast of the matte surfaces and inset designs against the brilliant inset background. The grading services seemingly cannot decide whether this piece should be designated as Mint State or Proof but when both are taken as a whole this piece is tied with one other as the second finest certified with only one piece a point finer. This stellar coin (noted as one of if not the key piece in the modern Venezuelan series) is difficult to obtain and sure to attract spirited bidders.
While we are no longer accepting consignments for our New York International Auction, we are accepting consignments of world and ancient coins and world paper money for our May 2017 Collector's Choice Online Auction and August 2017 ANA Auction as well as Chinese and other Asian coins and currency for our April 2017 Hong Kong Showcase Auction. Time is running short, so if you are interested in consigning your coins and paper currency (whether a whole collection or a single rarity) be sure to contact one of our consignment directors.