First Quarter of 2013 Has Been Epic

Posted by Jim Bisognani on 4/4/2013

Heritage Dallas Sale Claims $7.6 Million; Land of Lincoln Calling.

The recently concluded Heritage Signature Auction held at the company’s home base of Dallas, Texas on March 21-22 (with an Internet-only session on the 24th) realized a solid $7.6 million. Once again, top-quality material from all US series generated considerable action at this venue held in the Lone Star State. Top honors for the NGC entries were for a decidedly Prooflike 1801 Draped Bust Eagle. Graded NGC MS 64 the proud survivor of this, the largest US denomination of the era and coveted type coin, realized $88,125. A very scarce Proof striking of an 1833 Classic Head Half Cent graded NGC PF 65 BN captured $11,163. While the price generated for this prize was some 22% greater than what the exact specimen realized in August 2012, it still appears to be a bargain when compared to the coin’s record sales price of $18,400 at auction in the spring of 2007. An exemplary 1902 Barber Half Dollar NGC PF 67 Cameo framed with vibrant cobalt blue and gold and endowed with a striking cameo contrast raced to a record $22,325 for this issue. One of only six coins designated as Cameo for this date with only one piece graded a single point higher, it’s hard to imagine the coin being anymore eye appealing than this Ultra Gem.

Modern issues were also heard from in a resounding way as a popular 2000 US Silver Eagle graded NGC MS 70 catapulted to $10,575, nearly double the current NGC price guide valuation and a record price realized! According to the NGC Census there are only 199 pieces graded as MS 70 for the 2000 issue. Confirming the strength and powerful demand for modern material such as this, there are six other Silver Eagles (1999, 1996, 1993, 1991, 1990, and 1994) within the series that reveal populations fewer than the just sold millennium issue in the MS 70 category!

The roster of other notable NGC highlights from Dallas includes:

  • 1922 No D Lincoln Cent Strong Reverse NGC MS 62 BN $11,750
  • 1920-S Buffalo Nickel NGC MS 65 $11,163
  • 1796 Draped Bust Dime NGC MS 63 $30,550
  • 1835 Capped Bust Dime NGC MS 66 $12,925
  • 1847 Liberty Seated Dime NGC PF 67 Cameo $35,250
  • 1855 Arrows Liberty Seated Dime NGC PF 67 Cameo $38,188
  • 1916-D Walking Liberty Half Dollar NGC MS 67 $15,275
  • 1919-D Walking Liberty Half Dollar NGC MS 64 $20,635
  • 1878 7TF Morgan Dollar reverse of 78 NGC PF 65 Cameo $18,212
  • 1851-D Type I Gold Dollar NGC MS 63 $11,163
  • 1857 Three Dollar Gold NGC MS 65 $31,725
  • 1911-S Saint-Gaudens $20 NGC MS 66 $18,214
  • 1915-S Panama-Pacific $2.50 NGC MS 67 $14,100
  • (1837-42) 64G 22C Bechtler $2.50 NGC MS 62 $30,550

John Brush, vice president of David Lawrence Rare Coin Galleries (DLRC), informed me of an exciting new NGC acquisition which lands very neatly within the wheelhouse of those coins targeted as of late. “We just bought an 1806 Bust Quarter NGC MS 64 from the Pittman Collection from a longtime customer. It is really a gorgeous piece and we were thrilled that it was offered to us.”

Classic pieces like this with a nice provenance obviously don't show up very often, but the originality and smooth overall tones on this piece really excited the Virginia dealer. “We actually just got it reholdered with the NGC "pronged" holder with the ability to view the coin’s edges, etc. We are sure it will sell quickly.”

According to John, DLRC auctions have really shown increased attention over the last few months. Assessed Brush, “I think it's symptomatic of the coin market in general as coins are becoming popular once again and new collectors seem to be getting involved. We don't necessarily believe in "underrated" series, but some series that we think are bound to improve (not necessarily in the next year though) are Buffalo Nickels. Semi-key and tough to find, high grade Lincoln Cents simply are not available right now either. Which is curious as when they sell, they have been bringing very reasonable numbers in auctions, etc.”

Some recently closed NGC DLRC auction results include the following eye appealing, collector friendly mid-priced coins:

  • 1931-S Lincoln Cent NGC MS 65 RD $700
  • 1937-D 3 Legs Buffalo Nickel NGC MS 63 $4,350
  • 1917-S Type II Standing Liberty Quarter NGC MS 66 FH $4,700
  • 1921 Standing Liberty Quarter NGC MS 65 FH $4,550

Great Collections of Irvine California has also observed significant acceleration in the rare coin market. Per the firm’s president, Ian Russell, “2013 has been great and March has been a tremendous month for us.” Ian went on to state that on March 24 the firm’s auctions realized over $550,000! Bolstered by that activity, March witnessed the best month for sales since Great Collections was launched three years ago.

Some of the notable NGC properties that have sold in the past month include:

  • 1807 Draped Bust Quarter NGC MS 64 $29,015
  • 1901-S Barber Quarter NGC VG 8 $8,800
  • 1884 Three Dollar Gold NGC PF 65 Cameo $31,351
  • 1904 Liberty $20 NGC MS 65 $7,975
  • 1907 Wire Rim High Relief Saint Gaudens $20 NGC MS 66 $74,250
  • 1876 J-1483 Gilt Three Dollar Pattern NGC PF 61 $36,850

An industry leader from the Lone Star State concurred in regards to the vitality of the coin market advising me that rare, low population coins and problem free circulated to Mint State key dates are being sought after aggressively. “Those rare NGC-certified coins seem to be able to find a welcome home when I can inventory them. After all, it’s not like I can push a button and hit a bid and automatically summon up a horde!” According to this Texas dealer there is “powerful interest in the coin market.” “There’s quick turnover when we do locate top tier material. Collectors are still definitely in the acquisition mode and we are finding many more collectors that want want to buy from us than sell to us.”

Another well respected professional from Florida advised me that the first quarter of 2013 has been “epic” in the rare coin market.

A well-known California dealer advised me that the NGC-certified market has been extremely “reliable” for some time. The exception is the generic certified Type coins which, according to this source continue to be quite hard to sell. Even those at discounted prices don’t necessarily equate to great values.

However, this professional had a decidedly different take on what he considers Type coins. The dealer went on to say, “I even consider proof Barber coins grading up to PF 65 to be considered kind of generic.” His rationale is, unlike the regular business strikes, Proofs are not being sought out by date. Within the three Barber series there are enough coins out there, despite the relatively low mintages, to still be considered what he would call Type coins. “These are actually numismatic commodities, and for the most part they trade within a 10% range. Even generic US Mint State gold coins are just a numismatic commodity that trade within less than a 5% range. Those to me are not the rare coin market. Of the over 25 million coins that NGC has graded, I would venture to say quite confidently, that less than 5% would be categorized as really rare coins. Really rare coins are not commodities. Shake a tree and see how many problem free Flowing Hair, Bust or Liberty Seated Dollars fall out! These are rare in all grade points.”

With that said, the dealer capitulates that Barber Proof Type residing in the upper grades endowed with great color and eye appeal continue to generate ample competition and lofty prices.

One constant, numismatists of all ages take considerable pride in ownership and all enjoy the challenge of the hunt. All collectors, no matter what their financial standing, are all seeking the best coins they can locate within their budget. It is all relative, as an example, if a Type coin is wanted it doesn’t matter whether the coin desired is a Capped Bust Half Dime or Gobrecht Dollar, the supply is finite and the list and demands of collectors is seemingly always expanding. I think most would agree that there are probably more hobbyists able to afford a nice XF Capped Bust Half Dime than those seeking a Gobrecht Dollar in the same or better grade. Yet the demand and strain on the available supply seems to balance out. For each acquisition the necessity for numismatic quality is tantamount with the price for each coin and that bar has certainly been elevated up above the “normal” price guide valuations. This is especially true for coins that are well struck, harbor exemplary color and possess the overall wow factor regardless of the series. Even coins which may be a stray mark or two away, or whose color patination is not exciting are finding more buyers. One serious and longtime collector, Dave from Idaho advised me that he travels to local shows and searches out coins that are in his words, “misfits.” “I like finding, as an example, NGC-certified Liberty Nickels in dealer’s bargain boxes. Here is a series which affords great value, in my opinion, yet there are many out there that still languish in certified holders which are just plain ugly. They may be all graded right, but they are just not attractive. For me they are affordable and I am happy to pick up the coins to build my collection. I know that the value will always be there to trade up later. There are always collectors that would be thrilled to have them.”

As we roll into April, America’s other “favorite pastime” is also underway. The long awaited return of baseball has begun and while hope springs eternal in those major league cities, excitement abounds in the professional numismatic ranks. Much like the sport played on the diamond, dealers expect strong competition throughout the summer. As always, timing and location is essential and hitting the proverbial homerun is getting much more difficult on the bourse or at auction.

Significant opportunity lies ahead for dealers and collectors in the “Land of Lincoln” later this April. The big draws are: the Chicago International Coin Fair (CICF) and the Central States Numismatic Society (CSNS) Show. This year, both events are back to back, with CICF in Rosemont, IL from April 18-21 and the CSNS show in Schaumberg, IL on April 24-27.

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.

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