The market is definitely at a divide - gold is still king.
The seventh annual Summer FUN convention is in the books and this was a surprisingly well attended early summer classic. Most participants expressed delight in a resilient rare coin market and had a great show. Per FUN’s organizers this event had the best attendance of any of the Summer FUN installments to date. Needless to say public registration was quite heavy which translated into much better than average floor traffic during the duration of the show. The summer gala held at the spacious Orange County Convention Center, in a tropical and balmy Orlando, Florida, also featured a record amount of dealer-manned tables as well.
One numismatic enthusiast hailing from nearby Georgia advised, “FUN was great; much more action than I thought and I had a chance to pick up a couple of nicely toned, original-skinned Capped Bust Halves. It took some hunting but I found a pair of nice NGC MS 63 coins that were buried in a dealer’s showcase who was just setting up. I think I caught him a little bit off guard and was able to strike up a deal right away. So, overall, I would say that the show was quite a success for me.”
Another collector I chatted with was keen on acquiring some more generic and better date Double Eagles. “I still think gold is awfully cheap at this level,” assessed the collector from Texas. “It just seems too low given the overall state of the economy.” Some collectors did advise me that they ventured into the convention center to avoid the stormy conditions that prevailed in the Orlando area during the show. One collector and his family from St. Augustine said that they accidentally happened upon the show and decided to make an outing of it. “It was totally unexpected and certainly not on our calendar of to do things, but being a collector I was able to pick up a couple of high-grade NGC Peace Dollars that I needed for my collection.”
Regardless of how they came to participate, most collectors I spoke to expressed delight at being on the busy bourse and having a chance at filling some key slots in their coin collections. Adding to the action, at least three area coin clubs bussed in members which made a considerable difference in the activity level, especially on Friday.
One West Coast dealer not in the Sunshine State for the show told me, “I didn’t go to FUN, but I still bid heavily in the Heritage auction and was offered a number of deals. Overall dealer feedback pointed to a heightened activity level for a Summer FUN. Based on reports that I’ve seen, I should’ve gone.”
Typically dealers with key date coins at the popular $500-$5K price points did great business. Most dealers that I conversed with haven’t experienced any really slow areas in the coin market. The prevailing sentiment is if you have fresh material and it is offered at realistic prices, it moves. The quandary, of course, is replenishing inventory. Conversely those not inventorying eye appealing, rare, or better than average coins were not happy campers.
A very busy New Jersey dealer said, “The market is definitely at a divide. The top-tier rarities are responsible for exceptionally strong business while average coins from pretty much all series that technically don’t meet the grade are quite sluggish.”
Brian Hodge of LMRC concurred with that market assessment and reported to me that business is still exceptionally strong for top echelon numismatics. I was advised of several significant NGC rarities that they had just purchased and placed with collectors. Per Hodge, “Last week I was able to purchase AND sell all in the same week.”
Just take a look at the exciting quartet of rarities that were placed into strong hands. It seems that Gold is still king with collectors:
1870-CC Liberty $20 NGC AU 50. This first year rarity from the prestigious and exciting Carson City Mint is one of the rarest and perhaps the most coveted of Double Eagles. While only a mere 3,789 were coined, it’s estimated that fewer than 40 coins are known to exist in all grades. According to the NGC Census, just 4 coins grade higher than this prize with the best being an AU 58 example. Until this coin exchanged hands the last public record of a coin of this caliber selling at public venue was at the 2006 ANA in Denver.
1799 Draped Bust Half Eagle NGC MS 65 Ex: Eliasberg/Earle/Clapp. Per Hodge, “This coin has had only 4 owners since the 1880s!! The Finest Known.”
1865 Liberty Eagle NGC PR 64 Cameo. Per Brian, “To my knowledge one has never even appeared in auction. One of the rarest Proof $10s money can buy.”
I certainly concur with that statement. According to the NGC Census, of the miniscule 25 proof coins struck for collectors during the last year of the Civil War, within all designations only one Eagle grades a single point higher. There appear to be no public auction records for a Cameo designation! (In fact only a single lessor coin, a PF 63, seems to have ever appeared at auction and that was nearly 14 years ago!) This obviously was a coup for the Eagle specialist; certainly an extraordinary coin.
1883-O $10 NGC AU 55. Obviously the rarest O Mint Eagle. Seldom ever seen in AU! Here’s another extreme rarity in the Liberty Eagle series. A romantic New Orleans Branch Mint delivery with an original mintage of 800 coins. Today it’s estimated that as few as 40 Eagles from the original issue exist in all grades. According to the NGC Census a mere handful grade a few points higher with only one mint state coin registered, that being an MS 61.
“So needless to say, I would say the market for super exotic, high-end rarities is extremely strong. The rest of the market is a little slower, but that is very typical for summer. I expect the ANA in Chicago will ignite a super-heated market that will carry us through the rest of the year quite nicely,” assessed a very pumped up Hodge.
While private sales such as this certainly keep the rare coin market stoked, the well-attended and eclectic offerings served up at the host Heritage Orlando Signature Auction made the southern sojourn a valuable trip for dealers to bolster inventories and to facilitate purchases for want lists. Per an enthusiastic Mark Feld of Heritage, “Although there weren’t any huge value headline coins, overall, the Orlando Signature sale was quite strong. We had 4,255 bidders and all but 56 of the lots sold. That equates to a sell through rate of 97+% of the value and 98+% of the total lots. It’s difficult to be other than pleased with that.”
Reeling in nearly $10 million, NGC-certified coins led the way. Capturing $117,500 the top performer was the 1921 $20 Saint-Gaudens graded NGC MS 61. With perhaps as few as 150 coins known to exist in all grades this appealing mint state coin is always in demand. Another highlight was the 1850-O $20 Liberty. Graded NGC MS 60 this popular first year issue and inaugural New Orleans Double Eagle captured a solid $64,625.
Other notable NGC properties:
- 1793 Flowing Hair Half Cent NGC AU 50 $25,850
- 1870-CC Seated Liberty Dollar NGC AU 58 $18,800
- 1889-CC Morgan Dollar NGC MS 62 $32,900
- 1898 Morgan Dollar NGC PF 67 Ultra Cameo $23,504
- 1802 Draped Bust Quarter Eagle NGC AU 58 $30,550
- 1914 Indian Half Eagle NGC PF 66 $41,125
- 1999 Silver Eagle NGC MS 70 $18,800
- 1860 $10 Clark Gruber & Company NGC AU 55 $29,375
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.