There is no longer any down time between major shows or marquee auctions as websites and the various electronic trading networks have extended the dealer's workday.
Marked by decidedly cooler temperatures and swirling breezes, fall has certainly made its presence known where I live. Multi-hued leaves have been relentlessly cascading down around my home and yard causing untold baskets full of the blighters to be raked away. Yet nature’s annual sunburst of color is one to embrace and enjoy, especially for us in New England. Major League Baseball, which traditionally ushers in the rites of spring, is about to start its Fall Classic, the World Series, and at the conclusion of that cherished American pastime everyone’s focus (at least in these parts) will be on preparing for the arrival of Old Man Winter.
Although the weather pattern may be subject to global warming and associated changes, it has seemingly become a constant that the numismatic arena doesn’t favor any particular season any longer. What with substantial Internet only auctions scheduled virtually every day and a plethora of major coin dealers employing graphic-detailed, mouthwatering websites—all featuring razor-sharp images of exciting new purchases and informative blogs—there are buying opportunities around the clock.
There is really no down time in between major shows or marquee auctions any longer. For many dealers, manning their websites and the various electronic trading networks has extended their workdays as well. Emails and instant messaging of buy and sell orders are now a 24-7 constant. The numismatic machine has certainly been flexing its muscles embracing cutting edge technology, working in tandem with the expansion of the coin collecting hobby’s base.
However there was a time, which doesn’t seem like that long ago, that the fall season was when the numismatic juices really got flowing for many of us. With kids going back to school and the days getting shorter it was more conducive to partake in more pedestrian and leisurely indoor pastimes. Collecting coins was a great diversion and an educational hobby for me then, as it is now. When I was in my teens it was so exciting to find a just-delivered auction catalog waiting on the table at home. Time to finish up the chores after school so I could take a look at that baby! From cover to cover I would devour each of those pages taking in every coin which was coming up for sale. I also relished receiving my favorite dealer’s newsletters and the occasional flyer, all delivered by the Postal Service I might add. As a youngster (who am I kidding, I still do this) I would take that flyer to bed with me and often nod off to sleep with that new list in hand. There was joy in that anticipation, waiting for that next delivery of a new numismatic journal. So many exciting coins to choose from and unfortunately for me, very little capital to work with. This is when I took time to explore, research and educate myself about the history of numismatics. I remember I would scan every fresh listing anxious to locate any new deals or exciting offers hoping to find a deal or two which I could make some money on. It is great to wax nostalgic... We have all evolved with technology and things have certainly sped up the process in this industry.
Now, as is the case with most things that are consumer related, nearly everyone is looking for instant gratification. Are you an advanced numismatist or the novice collector looking for that special coin to complete a type set? We can pull up virtually any dealer’s websites and look at current inventory and even take advantage of “live” help in many cases anytime of the day.
Whether it is a quick refresher course on grading, researching an auction appearance, confirming a pedigree or checking on the Registry score, the NGC website is a must for today’s collectors. Price guides, auction results, US and World Coin Census, and amazing free apps for your computer or mobile devices are ready and waiting.
With all of the technology now at the professional’s and hobbyist’s disposal I guess some things haven’t changed that much as I still find relaxation and joy with coins and after staring at length at a high resolution image of an extraordinarily well preserved numismatic rarity on my computer screen I sometimes find myself drifting off to a brief yet peaceful slumber.
With no major sales or shows this month for many numismatists it’s an opportune time to take a quick look at the multitude of Internet-only auctions and offerings which abound. Teletrade’s weekly Sunday auction which concluded October 13 included many superb NGC certified coins. A standout was an 1842-O Liberty Quarter Eagle graded NGC MS 64. Tied for the finest known, this exemplary example roared to an impressive $44,650, which is a record price realized for this date. This popular low mintage coin from the historic New Orleans facility reported in with an original mintage of a miniscule 19,800 coins. However it is believed today that fewer than 150 specimens exist in all grades for collectors. This Quarter Eagle is obviously a true rarity and is very difficult to come by in all states of preservation and she is virtually impossible to locate in full mint state. The valuable NGC Census confirms this fact as only 14 coins have been designated Mint State. According to my research there’s only been one Mint State coin sold at auction within the last three years: an MS 61 example at the Stack’s Bowers November 2011 Baltimore sale. The highest graded coin to appear at public sale prior to the fantastic Teletrade offering was an NGC MS 63 example featured in the Heritage 2005 FUN Show auction when the Quarter Eagle captured $20,700! Certainly this finest known example was a coup for the new owner and undoubtedly awards them considerable bragging rights. The value of the Internet-only auctions of today cannot be underestimated as to their value for both the serious collector and professional dealer. As one astute dealer advised “Internet auctions bridge the gap.”
Heritage also features a weekly Sunday and Tuesday Internet coin auction along with their weekly Thursday Modern coin auction and World and Ancient coin auction. Quite amazingly, halfway through the month of October, despite the lack of marquee coins and live floor action, the Dallas, Texas, firm has already generated nearly $650,000 in sales. David Lawrence Galleries, also a mainstay in the weekly auction format, just concluded auction #773 on Sunday. A quick scan of results for the month of September reveals a tidy $630,635 in sales for the Virginia Beach dealer.
Dealers I have spoken to have been taking advantage of the Internet venues trying to solidify their inventories as the year rapidly winds to its conclusion. A well-known western dealer advised that he is anxious to secure Carson City material. “I’m in the market for better date $20 Liberty CC coins in very fine and better. In fact I can use Half Eagles and Eagles from Carson City as well. Better dates and high-grade material is what I need and what my customers are clamoring for.” Another dealer that I spoke with is also in the hunt for Carson City material. This dealer focuses on Morgan Dollars, “I can’t keep them in inventory whether it’s a common date 1882-84-CC or tough keys like the 1879, 1889 or 93 CC. I am an aggressive buyer.” A major market maker advised me that the collectors he has spoken to are still anxious to locate problem free Early Type coins. “I know that can be broad-based” advised the California dealer. “I am in the market for any and I do mean any Flowing Hair and Draped Bust silver from Half Dimes to Dollars. I’m willing to pay above published market prices for clean, problem-free material. You just can’t find this material in any substantial quantity and I have collectors that are looking for it day in day out. Some are putting the call out at higher levels and hopefully that will shake some of the material loose for me before the end of year.”
While October will afford many dealers and collectors a brief respite from the hectic auction and show circuit November’s spotlight will highlight several major shows and auctions which I will report on in my next installment.
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.