Three Cent Silvers Make Big Noise - Rush To Quality Makes for Fierce Competition.
The 58th Annual FUN Convention will certainly go down as one of the most competitive and exciting numismatic venues in recent memory. While some may challenge that statement, in my opinion this Florida institution, which has traditionally been recognized as the first show of the numismatic season, was all that the hobbyist and professional could hope for. Collectors and dealers arrived in droves for this gala. Event parking was at an extreme premium with many resigned to parking at the North Concourse of the huge Orange County Convention Center even though the coin show itself was being held in the South Concourse! Parking was maxed out and the overflow was bumper–to–bumper on the grass. From the ceremonial ribbon cutting on Thursday, January 10, through the closing of the spacious hall on Saturday, January 13, the atmosphere on the bourse was highly charged. Most collectors I talked to had never seen the winter FUN Show so heavily attended. The excitement and thundering decibel level was decidedly palpable. Scores of collectors in attendance were excited to see great coins. Dealers with quality coins at competitive prices saw their inventories virtually wiped clean. The battle was then for dealers to scurry around the bourse and garner new inventory as best they could.
Several veteran dealers equated the action in Orlando to the “Golden Age” (or rage for some) if you will, harkening back to the early 1980s. At that time, quality and key date “fresh coins” that came through the door of a major or regional show were immediately purchased by a dealer, traded hands on the bourse and exchanged hands several more times seemingly in the blink of an eye. At each step along the way the coins registered a decent profit for the seller before ultimately landing in a new home. The key to this type of venture is to be first or second on that chain!
One of the multitude of busy dealers holding a table on the bourse, this one from the host Sunshine State, advised me that they just purchased a significant assortment of NGC–certified coins for their inventory. “Hey, we were just about depleted,” in reference to the key coins and better dated inventory that this well–known Florida dealer had brought to FUN. “We were real lucky with this deal that literally came through the door.” Even though this fortuitous purchase filled some gaps in the dealer’s showcase several of the better date coins and high–grade NGC slabbed material traded hands immediately. “I knew I had customers for the better stuff. A couple of quick calls and e-mails and the stuff was gone”! The desirable NGC acquisitions that were immediately turned included an 1885 Morgan Dollar NGC MS 67 DPL, a vibrant and conditionally rare beauty tied for the finest known. This popular high grade Philadelphia strike is truly a rare find within the DPL designation. The last time a coin of this caliber appeared at a public sale was nearly 4 years ago. Another great coin in this group was an 1876–S Liberty Eagle, graded NGC AU 53. This Gold Eagle is extremely elusive yet still unheralded. Amazingly, out of the original scant mintage of 5,000 coins struck in our country’s Centennial year, the San Francisco delivery is considered the “available” 1876 $10 when compared to its Philadelphia and Carson City counterparts! It is estimated that fewer than 100 pieces are known to exist in all states of preservation and a mere 54 coins in total grace the NGC Census. Only six coins grade a few points higher, with no Mint State coins registered. Accordingly, a coin of this stature is likely to make an appearance only once every five years or so. No wonder this was bought up immediately! The pièce de résistance of this deal was the famed 1866–S Type I Double Eagle. Graded NGC AU 58, this iconic and always–popular No Motto Double Eagle has also been placed in a waiting customer’s new home at well over six figures! This confirms that although it may be a tougher grind and some luck doesn’t hurt, deals can still be found on the bourse.
The show’s host auction held by Heritage was also a colossal affair. All told when the bidding paddles stopped flailing, the phenomenal Heritage FUN Signature Auction realized a solid $44,920,331 and slightly over 11,000 coins found new homes. An elite group of 48 coins registered over six figures. And, a whopping 657 coins captured over five figures. However, what is perhaps more telling and significant to note is that compared to last year’s FUN Auction there was a 30% increase for sales in the collector friendly price categories. Certified coins realizing a few hundred dollars to under $10,000 made up 92% of the lots sold in Orlando. These coins, firmly within the true collector coin price category, are becoming increasingly difficult for dealers to inventory because there’s just so much competition among collectors. While headlines may still be biased towards the million dollar marquee coins, the eye appealing and scarce every man’s coins remain a hot and targeted property. As usual, rare type and key date gold, silver and minor Federal issues were hot properties and performed very well. The rush to quality made for fierce competition as evidenced by prices realized below:
- 1869 Three Cent Silver NGC MS 67 $41,125
- 1818 Ex Eliasberg Capped Bust Half Dollar NGC PF 66 $105,750
- 1839–O Capped Bust Half Dollar NGC PF 64 $123,375
- 1839 No Drapery Liberty Seated Half Dollar NGC PF 65 $199,750
- 1855–S Liberty Seated Half Dollar NGC PF 65 $170,375
- 1849 No L Gold Dollar NGC PF 64 Cameo $305,500
- 1879 Flowing Hair $4 Stella NGC PF 67 Cameo $264,375
- 1880 Flowing Hair $4 Stella NGC PF 66 $440,625
- 1795 Small Eagle Draped Bust Half Eagle NGC MS 65 PL $330,175
- 1797 Small Eagle Draped Bust Eagle NGC MS 63 $293,750
- 1862 $20 Liberty NGC PF 64 Cameo $258,500
- 1907–D $20 Liberty NGC PF 62 $188,000
- 1851 880 Lettered Edge Humbert $50 NGC MS 63 $352,500
- 1877 J–1549 Gilt $50 (Half Union) NGC PF 64 Cameo $282,000
Coins exhibiting exemplary strike and eye appealing color palette continued to cause thunder, with some selling for enormous premiums. The famed Walter Freeman Collection of Three Cent Silvers was one such powerhouse. Prices realized for the many phenomenal NGC–certified examples, including the diminutive and exquisite three cent silver “trimes,” soared through the stratosphere when the bidding battle was over. While many of the US series continue to thrive, the three cent silvers, a series that has been somewhat overlooked, is beginning to gain more momentum and respect by numismatists. For the many record prices generated and listed below, it is important to point out that while the coins may not be numerically the finest known these exquisite coins command visual awe and respect and definitely possess the “wow” factor that is being targeted by numismatists in virtually every collectible US series. For comparison purposes, listed below are the prices realized in Orlando and the current NGC US Coin Price Guide valuation:
||NGC Price Guide Value January 13
|1854 Three Cent Silver NGC MS 65
|1855 Three Cent Silver NGC MS 65
|1856 Three Cent Silver NGC MS 65
|1857 Three Cent Silver NGC MS 65
|1863 Three Cent Silver NGC MS 65
|1866 Three Cent Silver NGC MS 66
|1867 Three Cent Silver NGC MS 65
|1868 Three Cent Silver NGC MS 64
|1872 Three Cent Silver NGC MS 65
Not to be left out, modern silver Proof issues also performed admirably including a stunning 1952 Franklin Half Dollar NGC PF 67 Ultra Cameo, the finest coin within the NGC census, climbed to $18,800. A 1962 Franklin Half Dollar NGC PF 69 Ultra Cameo, tied with 22 others for the finest known, raced to $5,875. A popular 1964 Accented Hair Kennedy Half Dollar, NGC PF 68 Ultra Cameo with a population of 10 within this designation, realized $9,998—a solid 62% over current NGC Price Guide valuation. The stunning specimen of the always–coveted 1995–W Silver Eagle, graded NGC PF 70 Ultra Cameo, realized an assertive $17,038.
2013 is leaving no time to catch your breath! Can you feel the excitement? If you thought that FUN was invigorating, underway as we go to press is a landmark sale in New York City as the Big Apple plays host to the Stack’s Bowers Americana Auction. Running January 22–24 and anchored by the phenomenal Rarities Night and famed Cardinal Collection, extreme rarities with impeccable pedigrees abound. Leading the foray is the astounding 1792 Half Disme graded NGC MS 68. This beguiling issue stands alone as the finest known example of our country’s historic first numismatic entry and has direct lineage to David Rittenhouse, the first Director of the US Mint! The strength of the rare coin market is sure to make headlines in numismatic press as well as main stream media as records are sure to fall by the wayside. Stay tuned or better yet be there!!
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.