The rites of spring for the numismatic brethren–another CSNS convention is in the books–“absolutely no sign of weakness.”
Dealers and serious hobbyists arrived in greater Chicago several days before the start of the 73rd Annual Central States Convention to ferret out fresh deals and preview the thousands of auction lots scheduled to meet the hammer in the “Land Of Lincoln.” Depending on which side of the table you were on and what you had for sale dictated the volume and scope of the transactions. PNG Day always seems to be a hit–or–miss proposition. One well known New England dealer said retail sales were quite good and that they also made some excellent purchases from fellow dealers. A Midwest firm told me that his sales were “very strong” and that there was serious interest in some six figure coins in his showcase. Considering that the show is in April and taxes had just come due, business and attendance was considerable.
The host Heritage Signature Sale captured slightly over $25 million. Anchored by a formidable Platinum Night, a dozen NGC slabs boasted over six figures. Leading the pack was perhaps the finest known Proof 1885 $20 Liberty. The dynamic NGC PF 67 Cameo realized $241,500. Not surprising in this robust market for key date and superb proof gold type, of the dozen NGC coins realizing over $100,000 all but one was a gold coin. Definitively making even a stronger case for the ultra–high demand for superb collector/investor US gold type is the fact that 10 of those gold coins were all proof strikings.
Desirable minor issues also performed admirably at the Heritage sale. A trio of exquisite NGC Silver Three Cent Proofs were the recipients of passionate bidding. A superbly toned 1868 Graded NGC PF 67 Cameo, the finest numerically in the NGC Census, rode home on a powerful winning bid of $18,400. An equally appealing and virtually like graded 1869 NGC PF 67 Cameo captured a solid $13,800. The next–to–last silver “Trime” of 1872 presented those in attendance with a beguilingly toned Premium Gem, graded NGC PF 66. Although 10 coins graded numerically higher, according to the NGC Census, this superb example found a new and appreciative owner at $10,350, over four times the current NGC US Coin Price Guide valuation! High grade eye appealing Classic Silver Commems also made a statement of strength. Perhaps it was appropriate that the inaugural installment, the 1892 Columbian Exposition Half Dollar, would cause quite a stir. Now 120 years old, a concentrically rainbow toned NGC MS 65 example, captured $3,738. Not only is this eight times the current NGC US Coin Price Guide value for the grade it also appears to be a record price for any MS 65 graded 1892 Colombian Half! A 1936 Cincinnati graded NGC MS 66 also captured a like $3,738 compared to a $1,020 valuation by the current NGC US Coin Price Guide.
Other NGC stand outs at Heritage’s CSNS Signature Sale include:
- 1804 Draped Bust Half Cent NGC MS 62 BN $10,350
- 1807 Draped Bust Half Cent NGC MS 63 BN $10,925
- 1842 Original Braided Hair Half Cent NGC PF 64 RB $27,600
- 1834 Capped Bust Quarter NGC MS 66 $26,450
- 1921–S Walking Liberty Half NGC MS 64 $34,500
- 1893–S Morgan Dollar NGC MS 62 $115,000
- 1831 Capped Bust Quarter Eagle NGC PF 64 Cameo $117,875
- 1841 Liberty Quarter Eagle NGC PF 55 $149,500
- 1863 Liberty Quarter Eagle NGC PF 66 Ultra Cameo $195,500
- 1895 Liberty $20 NGC PF 65 Ultra Cameo $94,875
- 1897 Liberty $20 NGC PF 65 Ultra Cameo $93,150
- 1897 Liberty $20 NGC PF 67 Cameo $161,000
- 1897 Liberty $20 NGC PF 66 Ultra Cameo $109,250
- 1898 Liberty $20 NGC PF 67 Ultra Cameo $195,500
- 1899 Liberty $20 NGC PF 67 Ultra Cameo $207,000
- 1900 Liberty $20 NGC PF 67 Cameo $195,500
- 1906 Liberty $20 NGC PF 66 Cameo $103,500
- 1915–S Panama–Pacific Octagonal $50 NGC MS 65 $109,050
Based on these auction results it is not surprising that dealers who normally make a market in better date and Proof gold prospered at Central States. Two dealers confided that they each spent in excess of $1 million purchasing new inventory. One of these market makers, John Hamrick, advised me that he saw “absolutely no sign of weakness.” John also stated he was quite pleased with the show and that between floor action acquisitions and auction lots he bought a ton of neat coins. The well–known Georgia dealer also confirmed that he sold a trio of NGC slabs all in the high–end five–figure category including an 1861–D $5 Liberty NGC AU 58, the ever popular 1889–CC Morgan graded NGC MS 64 and an appealing 1915–S Pan–Pac Octagonal $50 in NGC MS 62.
While supply and demand always dictates which series or type is the recipient of elevated offers, collectors are still the bread and butter to this industry. Several conversations I had with the numismatic faithful on the bourse were diverse and quite telling. One enthusiastic collector from St. Louis said that his tactic at shows is not to focus on buying a given coin type, but to buy coins that command his attention as he passes a dealer’s table. “Hey, I have been at this for years. When I see a coin that makes me stop for a second look, it means that I haven’t seen a coin of that quality before. I just have to make sure that I don’t drool or become too obvious to the dealer.” Another serious numismatist advised that she was a collector of Native Americans depicted on US coins. “I have been at this for over 15 years,” advised the New Hampshire resident. “I specialize in only Indian Head Nickels in Mint State and Proof as well as the Quarter and Half Eagle Indian Head series in Mint State. To me these are not only exquisite works of art, but they have been a superb investment for me. A well–known dealer mentor always told me to take care of your collection and it will take care of you. I am always upgrading my sets and I only need the 1909–O Half Eagle and 1916 Doubled Die Nickel to complete my three sets!”
World coins also remain a huge draw. The Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio Auction recently concluded in Hong Kong realized over $10.5 Million. Heritage’s Ancient and World sale (still underway in Chicago as we go to press) has already cleared $7.5 million. Leading the charge stateside were a pair of rare Brazilian gold pieces certified by NGC, each claiming $138,000. One, the last issue of Colonial Brazil before independence, an 1822 6400 Reis, Joao VI (as King) graded NGC AU 58 and an NGC VF Details coronation piece of Pedro I bearing the same denomination and year. The latter, from the Eliasberg collection and one of just 64 pieces struck for dignitaries, is estimated be one of less than a dozen extant in all states of preservation.
World coin aficionados should be sure to take advantage of the newest price guide on NGC’s site: Chinese Modern Price Guide. Here the collector of Chinese silver, gold, platinum, palladium, bi-metallic and medallic Panda issues from 1974 to date can readily ascertain current market values—all at no charge!
With very little down time to visit their respective home bases, the road show continues. Dealers and collectors are making final preparations and setting their sights a mile high as Denver, Colorado is the scene for the first of the 2012 ANA branded shows. Held in the state capital for the first time since the 2006 ANA Summer show, the ANA National Money Show will run May 10-12.
Although there are currently 35 “Gold to Go ATMs” throughout the world, the unveiling of the second permanent location in North America is the first time that a prominent numismatic firm is the operator. Opened to the public on April 26th, Stack’s Bowers has partnered with the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City, NJ for the innovative venues latest location. For a nominal fee over the prevailing spot metal market the collector/investor can purchase select gold or silver bars and coins 24/7. Brian Kendrella, director of operations for Stack’s Bowers Galleries informed me “We will be mixing up the product in the machine often. Right now we have gold bars (5 gram, 10 gram, 1 ounce), gold coins (1/4 oz. Maple Leaf, 1 oz. American Gold Eagle) and silver coins (1 oz. silver rounds and US Silver Eagle). Prices are competitive with online sites.” The opulent looking machine, covered in 24K gold leaf, will dispense precious metals already gift boxed. I’m sure it won’t be long until you can purchase select NGC-certified collectible coins such as Morgan and Peace Dollars, maybe even some semi–key dates utilizing the same format! Who knows, sight unseen offers could also be utilized, bar codes scanned, and prompt payment dispensed! Can the automated virtual dealer be far behind?
Until next time, happy collecting.
Jim Bisognani has written extensively on US coin market trends and values and was the market analyst and writer for a major pricing guide for many years. He currently resides in Southern California and frequently attends major coin shows and auctions.