Rare Coin Market Shows Unprecedented Strength and Scope.
Goldberg's, Bonham's and Heritage's Sales Take Spotlight; Key Date, Low Pop and High Grade Coins Will Be Targeted in Long Beach.
After a brief respite for the numismatic faithful to enjoy the Memorial Day Holiday it was back to the always exciting and competitive numismatic grind. As a sensational month of May winds down, the West Coast is now the scene of the action as all of the major players have already booked passage to the Golden State. Most dealers are there to take part in the always heralded Long Beach Expo on June 6-8. However, before that event much business has already strategically taken place. Whether the action is dealer-to-dealer on the various electronic trading networks or from those entrepreneurs that have set up temporary digs in their respective hotel rooms to conduct business, all factions are anxious to generate a stronger cash position this time of year.
Over dinner, or at a variety of other meeting places in Southern California, hot topics and chatter are still focused on the unrelenting strength in the numismatic world not only for the multitude of million dollar icons that have already sold this year, but also the unwavering demand for coins in the five and six-figure range. As one well respected dealer stated to me, “I never thought that the market would be so full of life and strong given the economy, yet major collectors and clients are still pouring in huge amounts of cash for rare certified coins. It is truly amazing.”
According to John Feigenbaum, President of DLRC, “The market's been really good for us lately. Our weekly internet auctions have been doing very well. Most of the dealers I've spoken with are enthusiastic about the rare coin market despite the drop in bullion spot prices. In fact, nobody seems too worried about that. I think we're more comfortable with the reduced risk of lower spot.”
The noted Virginia dealer also shared with me several important NGC slabs that he sold recently. This group includes a lovely 1797 LM-2, 16 Stars, Draped Bust Half Dime NGC MS 62 that realized $19,250 in one of the firm’s popular weekly internet only auctions in mid-May. A surprisingly fresh and vibrant example such as this Early Federal issue is precisely the type of coin that is rapidly disappearing from the highly competitive numismatic marketplace. Furthermore, the NGC Census reveals only six Mint State examples of this variety extant. This historic coin also represents the perfect blend of low population, eye appeal, moderate price — all of which are being targeted by knowledgeable numismatists and dealers everywhere.
Other private treaty sales at DLRC this month include a phenomenal 1919-S Standing Liberty Quarter graded NGC MS 65 Full Head. Endowed with blazing white luster and well delineated strike, it will be hard to improve on at the assigned grade level.
Another unheralded prize was an 1801 Draped Bust Half Dollar graded NGC AU 53. This fully original coin is especially tough to come by in higher circulated grades and only three have been awarded Mint State status according to the NGC Census. Another prize, a 1907 $20 Saint-Gaudens High Relief Wire Rim graded NGC PF 64, again a beautiful, popular and highly saleable coin in this grade point, has found a long term home.
I also caught up with Ian Russell, President of Great Collections. The always informative dealer concurred that despite gold weakening, the coin market has remained strong. So strong in fact Russell asserted that the Irvine, CA firm just had their best week ever since launching Great Collections.
“We sold a number of high end NGC-graded gold coins this week, including an 1889 Three-Dollar Piece, graded NGC Proof 65 Ultra Cameo — only the second coin graded by NGC with the Ultra Cameo designation. Although New Orleans was a slow show, which we expected, it had nothing to do with the coin market. New Orleans is not known for coin shows. We expect Long Beach to be vibrant and well-attended. We recently hired Nina Ann Phan to expand our coin show presence. We also have a number of very interesting consignments coming up—a nice selection of NGC Double Eagles from New Orleans, being sold unreserved on Sunday, June 9, and another consignment of Carson City Gold on June 9 and June 16,” advised Ian.
It certainly doesn’t hurt the industry to receive so much publicity from mainstream media sources either. With the help of that powerful platform, it has effectively ushered in a new and highly receptive audience of excited hobbyists, all anxious to participate in numismatics at local, regional and major shows and auctions.
This is why I feel that this year’s Pre-Long Beach private treaty sales and auctions are certain to be lively and spirited venues. A virtual perfect numismatic storm is centering on Southern California.
First up on the active California adventure is the Goldberg’s always highly anticipated Pre-Long Beach sale of US coins and currency slated to commence on June 2 at the firm’s Los Angeles office. According to Larry Goldberg the sale promises to be “a dynamic event featuring Colonials, Early Federal type, gold and patterns; something for all collectors and dealers with representatives from all series and price points.”
Larry was proud to inform me of several of the sale’s prominent and key NGC properties in the US sessions. I certainly agree with Larry’s assessment and the following trio merit special attention in my opinion. This rare and elite group includes a Gem Uncirculated example of the rare and popular 1839-O Classic Head Quarter Eagle. Although according to the NGC US Census a handful of this enigmatic Quarter Eagle exist in MS 64, this exemplary example graded NGC MS 65 proudly ranks as the finest known! Possessing a bold strike and original satiny gold surfaces, this phenomenal coin was unknown in numismatic circles until recently. This is precisely the type of coin that collectors are craving and dealers are battling for - a rare date, inaugural (branch mint) New Orleans strike as well as a superb Classic Head Quarter Eagle type coin. This coin is certainly going to cause quite the commotion on the auction floor.
The next fantastic gold coin in the session is the 1869 Liberty Half Eagle. Graded NGC PF 65 Cameo this ex Eliasberg Collection orange-peel gold beauty proudly stands as the finest known of the 25 coins that were originally struck. This historic coin’s last appearance was also in California as a part of the Long Beach Heritage Signature Sale in September 2012 when it captured $58,750.
Another finest known is the enigmatic 1921 Zerbe Proof Morgan Dollar. This impressive, flashy white NGC PF 67 example is an eye appealing wonder rivaling the production quality of the 1878-1904 Morgan proofs. A coup for the Morgan Dollar collector!
Other notable NGC offerings at the Goldberg’s Pre-Long Beach sale include:
- 1867 Rays Shield Nickel NGC PF 66 Cameo
- 1853 Arrows & Rays Liberty Seated Quarter NGC PF 65 Cameo
- 1839 No Drapery Liberty Seated Half Dollar NGC MS 67 (the finest known)
- 1840 Liberty Seated Dollar NGC PF 63
- 1906 Liberty Quarter Eagle NGC MS 68 (the finest known)
- 1908 Indian Quarter Eagle NGC PF 66
- 1910 Indian Quarter Eagle NGC PF 66
- 1803 Draped Bust Eagle NGC MS 63
- 1908 Motto Indian Eagle NGC PF 66
- 1851-O Liberty $20 NGC AU 58
- 1857-S Liberty $20 NGC MS 64
- 1858-O Liberty $20 NGC AU 58
- 1908 $20 Motto Saint-Gaudens NGC PF 66
- 1909 $20 Saint-Gaudens NGC PF 67
- 1913 $20 Saint-Gaudens NGC PF 68 (the finest known)
On June 4 and 5 world coins will be the focal point at the Goldberg’s sale, which includes the “Coins of the Bible” Collection and phenomenal world gold crowns and minors. Ira Goldberg pointed out a pair of favorite antiquities in the upcoming world coin sale including a coin from the Nelson Bunker Hunt Collection that last appeared at public auction in June 1990. “It is Lot #3408, probably the finest Tetradrachm of Agathokles from Syracuse I’ve ever handled. I also feel a real sleeper is a coin of Athens Pre-Marathon (Lot #3438). The earliest style Athens Silver Tetradrachm, it is just a spectacular quality original coin.” The enthusiastic Ira Goldberg also wanted to point out, “The British section is one of the best British collections that we’ve handled since the famed Turner Collection. There’s some fabulous opportunities here.”
NGC-certified prizes in the world sale include the following roster:
- China (1916) Dollar NGC MS 64
- Great Britain 1601 Elizabeth I Crown NGC EF 45
- Great Britain 1656 Pattern Broad NGC PF 62
- Great Britain 1658 Tanners Copy Cromwell Crown NGC PF 64
- Great Britain 1825 George IV Crown NGC PF 64
- Hong Kong 1867 Victoria Dollar NGC MS 63
- Brazil 1726M 20,000 Reis NGC MS 62
- Columbia 1763NR JV 8 Escudos NGC MS 61
- Mexico 1733MO F 8 Escudos NGC AU 55
- Peru 1758LM JM 8 Escudos NGC AU 53
Another major draw for numismatists will be Bonham’s auction slated for June 3. The “Coins & Medals” sale features the Champagne Lanson Bonnet Vineyard Collection consisting of the horde of nearly 500 Double Eagles found by a construction worker in the rafters while rehabbing an old grape pressing building at champagne producer Alexandre Bonnet in the eastern French village of Les Riceys. This rather historic find with representatives from all five types of Liberty and $20 Saint-Gaudens was reported to the public on Valentine’s Day 2012. The owner of the property said half of the treasure would go to the delighted worker who made the find and is planning on buying or building a home for his family with the proceeds from the sale; the other half will go to the business in accordance with French Law.
Paul Song, Director of the Rare Coins and Banknotes Department at Bonham’s proclaimed, “Bonhams is extremely pleased to be working with The Lanson-BCC Group on this auction. We are excited to bring this new, uniquely discovered treasure to auction.”
Other key properties hitting the auction block in downtown LA on June 3 include the following NGC standouts.
- 1801 Draped Bust Dime NGC AU 53
- 1849-O Liberty Seated Quarter NGC AU 50
- 1873-S Arrows Liberty Seated Half Dollar NGC MS 64
- 1799/8 13 Stars Draped Bust Dollar NGC AU 58
- 1911-D Indian Quarter Eagle NGC MS 61
- 1914 Indian Quarter Eagle NGC MS 64
- 1798/7 Stars 9x4 Draped Bust Eagle NGC MS 61
- (1837-42) 128 G, 22C Bechtler $5 NGC MS 62
- Russia 1881CNB HO 3 Roubles NGC MS 62
Then all eyes will be focused on the Port of Long Beach for the exciting Long Beach Expo June 6-8 at the spacious Long Beach Convention Center. The host Long Beach Signature Sale by Heritage featuring five live floor sessions will be running June 5-7. Nearly 5,800 lots of key dates from virtually all series and all budget ranges will certainly spawn spirited bidding from collectors and dealers alike and will attempt to quench the numismatic thirst as the summer season fast approaches:
- 1867 Three Cent Silver NGC PF 66 Cameo
- 1886 Liberty Nickel NGC MS 65
- 1915 Buffalo Nickel NGC PF 67
- 1800 Draped Bust Dime NGC MS 60
- 1884 Liberty Seated Dime NGC MS 68
- 1921 Mercury Dime NGC MS 67 FB
- 1795 2 Leaves Flowing Hair Half Dollar NGC AU 55
- 1836 Reeded Edge Capped Bust Half Dollar NGC PF 64
- 1917-D Reverse Mintmark Walking Liberty Half Dollar NGC MS 65
- 1895-O Morgan Dollar NFC PF 66 Cameo
- 1971-S Type 1 Doubled Die Obverse Eisenhower Dollar NGC PF 68 Ultra Cameo
- 1859 $3 Princess NGC MS 66
- 1876 $3 Princess NGC PF 65 Cameo
- 1879 Flowing Hair Stella $4 NGC PF 66 Ultra Cameo
- 1899 Liberty Eagle NGC PF 67 Ultra Cameo
- 1865-S Liberty $20 NGC MS 64
- 1904 Liberty $20 NGC PF 67 Cameo
Luckily, early June will afford both collector and dealer opportunities to secure want list coins and replenish inventories for the summer season.
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.