High Grade Coins Hard to Come By in the Big Easy; Finest Known NGC 1796 Quarter Changes Hands.
As I made my journey from Boston to New Orleans to attend the ANA Spring National Money Show the excitement and fervor which surrounds the numismatic world was as palpable as the oppressive dew points that greeted me in the Bayou state’s host city airport. As I boarded the crowded shuttle which was taking me to my hotel, I spotted several bleary eyed coin dealers amongst the passengers. On the ride in I made acquaintance with modern US coin specialist, Jason Fishman. We discussed his “Frosted Freedom” discovery coin, the moniker given to the 2007-W Platinum $100 Proof that displays a die-polishing error which left the incuse word “FREEDOM” frosted instead of possessing the highly reflective surface. Jason advised me that he was always on the lookout for new varieties and was anxious to get on the bourse. “I thought I had just found another variety but it was just a strikethrough,” relayed Fishman.
Opening day for the public on Thursday featured a light-to-moderate crowd yet the passion and excitement of those traipsing up and down the bourse was considerable. Without question, many collectors attending the Spring National Money Show in New Orleans had great expectations as well as high hopes that the majority of their want list coins would be there on the ANA bourse and if not, they were prepared to do battle on the auction floor of the exciting Stack’s Bowers host sale. Others attending wanted to take in the great ANA museum displays, which included two 1913 Liberty Nickels and an 1804 Dollar.
I had the pleasure of meeting a New Orleans native by the name of Kenny. His passion in the hobby is to acquire the finest graded type coins that he can afford. He told me that he was excited to be at the show and enjoy all of the exhibits and numismatic icons. As Kenny put it, “It is a chance for me to see things that I would normally only see in magazines. I really want to thank the ANA for putting a world-class show literally in my backyard.”
Another gentleman by the name of Garry, who made the trek from Texas, shared with me his thoughts on the metals market and his true passion for coin collecting. “I got started at an early age helping my family roll coins from our business and I was able to see firsthand many Indian Head Pennies, Liberty Nickels, etc. I would pull the obsolete ones from all the coins I had to roll on a weekly basis and I got started with the hobby that way.” Although Garry was anxious to pick up some 2013 1/10 ounce Gold Eagles as a pure investment, this collector has a passion for vibrantly and originally toned US as well as foreign coins. “I don’t mind raising the ante if I see a coin that just gives me goosebumps." One such coin the collector was excited to show me was his purchase of a 1925 Stone Mountain Commemorative. Although relatively easy to come by and not at all rare, this coin was endowed with blazing white luster and incredibly well-defined strike. "I just saw the coin and it spoke to me and I had to buy it,” advised a proud Garry.
Another convention goer hailing from the host city of New Orleans had showed me a group of coins she had brought in to have appraised. One coin she was keen on showing me was a 1913 Liberty Nickel! I unfortunately had to tell the woman that the coin she had was not the “Real McCoy” but an altered date coin.
While beautiful weather was observed on opening day, Friday morning greeted convention goers with a loud crackling of thunder and a rather intense lightning display. Strong winds and rain over the Mississippi perhaps curtailed public floor traffic but most dealers I conferred with said they were still having better than average retail trade and wholesale action was strong.
Well known dealer Bob Green, owner of Park Avenue Numismatics, advised me that although he had what he would consider an average show he was still able to clear well over half a million in transactions the first two days. Bob was excited to secure a classic yet still somewhat unheralded host city New Orleans gold coin at the show. The coin, an 1860-O $20 Liberty NGC AU 58, had great eye appeal with above-average strike and is tied for the highest graded according to the NGC Census. Per Bob, the coin last appeared in the 2003 FUN Show and has been off the market since that time. “I was very glad to acquire it and it immediately went to a client who is amassing a $20 Liberty set.” Green also asserted that Liberty Seated and Barber proof type coins as well as classic US Commems seem to be very much undervalued in this market.
Brian Hodge of LMRC advised me that the rare coin market is as strong as ever and high-end material is still extraordinarily hard to come by. Hodge believes that Three Dollar Gold as a series is very cheap at present levels. He also feels that 1909-O $5 Indians in MS 60 to MS 62 range are very inexpensive.
Certified Assets Management's President Bob Higgins assessed, “The show’s been really, really good; it’s actually surprising. We have probably had a better show than most but it’s also because we have some of the bigger coins. We actually confirmed a sale for a 1796 Draped Bust Quarter graded NGC MS 66 for mid-six figures. Actually I bought it just two weeks ago at CSNS from a dealer who had it for nearly 10 years.” Bob confirmed that sometimes it can be a bit scary holding a high ticket item like that, but the quick turnaround and resale verifies the ongoing strength and dynamics of the rare coin market. Per this well known market maker, “It still comes down to the fact if you have good coins the business is out there at high demand. However, if you have the same old generic inventory people will take a quick look and bypass you.”
Ross Baldwin, President of National Coin Broker, advised me that he had a lively show and was able to pick up several important NGC slabs including a phenomenal 1908 Motto $20 Saint-Gaudens graded NGC PF 67. “The coin is an absolute beauty and I already have a home for it, although I could’ve sold it several times here at the show,” advised an animated Baldwin.
The prestigious host auction by Stack's Bowers was certainly a scene of competitive action and per Director of Operations Brian Kendrella the live floor sessions realized a solid $6.6 million. Auctions at major venues such as the ANA continue to draw enthusiastic, near-standing room only attendance. Per Kendrella, “There were a lot more people, active bidders, than we thought given the floor traffic on the bourse. All of the auction sessions were very well attended and active.” I also met up with an excited Chris Napolitano, President of Stack's Bowers, to get his take from the sale. “I was very pleased to see the strength in the market continue, especially at the high end. We were fortunate to feature several very fresh to the market collections, and the prices for these particular coins were extremely strong.” As for the show itself Chris assessed, “I think most dealers had an average show, mostly a result of attending Central States two weeks earlier. They can’t “reload” quickly enough with fresh material, and this makes for a slower trading show. Overall, the market’s report card is a sold B+/A- from my perspective.”
Top NGC highlights from New Orleans include the following roster of high-grade, key dated and eclectic material:
- 1652 Large Planchet Noe-4 Massachusetts Pine Tree Shilling NGC AU 55 $15,275
- 1872 Two Cent Piece NGC AU 55 $1,763
- 1868 Three Cent Silver NGC PF 65 Ultra Cameo $5,581
- 1881 Hawaiian Five Cents NGC Unc Details $13,513
- 1913 Type I Buffalo Nickel NGC MS 68 $4,994
- 1892 Barber Dime NGC PF 67 Cameo $3,966
- 1898 Barber Half Dollar NGC PF 68 Cameo $10,575
- 1839 J-105 Gobrecht Silver Dollar NGC PF 65 $99,875
- 1859 Liberty Seated Dollar NGC PF 66 $14,218
- 1860 Liberty Seated Dollar NGC MS 64 $7,050
- 1922 Peace Dollar NGC MS 65 $3,055
- 1856-D Liberty Quarter Eagle NGC AU 55 $32,900
- 1807 Capped Bust Left Half Eagle NGC MS 65 $76,375
- 1838-C Classic Half Eagle NGC AU 50 $9,400
- 1858 Liberty Half Eagle NGC MS 66 $52,875
- 1909-O Indian Half Eagle NGC MS 62 $56,400
- 1909-S Indian Eagle NGC MS 62 $5,288
- 1911 $20 Saint-Gaudens NGC MS 66 $19,446
- 1911-D $20 Saint-Gaudens NGC MS 67 $14,100
Wow! Most dealers will just have a few days to update inventory, address want lists, make market assessments and enjoy the Memorial Day holiday. Then the West Coast is the destination for the upcoming pre-Long Beach sale hosted by the Goldberg’s and the always well attended and exciting Long Beach Expo scheduled for June 6 - 8.
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.