2014 FUN Show - A Bellwether Event

Posted by Jeff Garrett on 1/30/2014

If the FUN show is any indication, we will all be very busy in 2014!

I have to admit that leading up to the FUN (Florida United Numismatists) Show this year, many were somewhat concerned about the market. Several factors came into play that resulted in this concern. Gold bullion experienced a terrible drop in 2013, dropping over 25% for the year. Gold briefly dropped below $1,200 in December and was searching for a bottom. Although rare coins seemed to be trading independently to the bullion market, I was worried about the physiological impact of weak metals prices. Another area of concern was the upcoming Heritage auction. Heritage was offering thousands of lots, worth tens of millions of dollars. It seemed that about every major rarity in the book was going to be sold in Orlando during the FUN show! I was not the only one wondering if the market could perform well with the headwinds of lower bullion prices and a giant overhang of inventory being sold in one week.

The show began Wednesday afternoon with huge lines of dealers waiting to enter the hall. The winter FUN Show is one of the best attended conventions in the country. It’s no great surprise that dealers happily head south during the middle of the winter season. This year was particularly nice, as most of the country was gripped by an Arctic polar vortex that plunged temperatures below zero anywhere north of Georgia! The hall filled quickly, and everyone was off to the races. December is traditionally a slow month for many rare coin dealers. Most are eager to hit the ground running at the FUN Show. The usual race began among the seasoned professionals scouring the bourse floor for fresh material. FUN is one of the best shows in the country for buying, as many Florida dealers save material during the year for this show. Although many were somewhat disappointed with their purchases on the first day, by the end of the week most had found some interesting coins.

There were a few amazing coins that showed up on Wednesday. An original 1871 Proof Set, including gold that had been graded by NGC, was displayed in one dealer’s case. By the next day, the set was gone at what seemed to me as huge money. When it comes to quality and freshness, buyers are willing to stretch to purchase material. For much of Wednesday and all day Thursday, the bourse floor was buzzing with activity. Buyers were lined up at my table waiting to view coins from start to finish. Any concerns I had about the state of the rare coin market were quickly erased. No one seemed to have any worries about bullion prices.

Although the Heritage auction was full of merchandise, the perceived overhang was never an issue for those searching the bourse floor looking for rare coins. It should be remembered that many dealers and collectors do not like buying rare coins at auction. The process of examining large numbers of lots, figuring bids, and actually bidding can be very time consuming. The experience is even more unpleasant for the buyers who are only able to buy a handful of coins after spending hours trying. Many buyers also like the idea of finding a coin, getting a price, and giving the issue some thought. Buying at auction is a much faster-paced experience.

On Thursday night, Heritage presented its best offerings of the week. Platinum Night, as Heritage calls it, is a highly anticipated event. Over $50,000,000 in rare coins sold on Thursday night! The first lot in the auction was also one of the most closely watched coins to be sold during the week. The auction began with the offering of a 1787 Brasher Doubloon, NGC MS 63. This coin sold for over $400,000 in 1979 and has not been on the market since. I personally believe this is one of the greatest coins residing outside of a museum. The coin opened for $3.6 million plus the buyers charge and stalled a few minutes later, selling for $4,582,500 all in. The buyer was not a wellheeled mogul, but a couple of coin dealers who know a great deal when they see one. Most experts would not have been shocked if the coin had sold for much more. A short time later, a 1913 Liberty Nickel sold for $3,290,000, another slightly disappointing result. The lesson-to-be-learned auctions are unpredictable events.

Despite this stumble out of the gate, the remainder of the auction was highly successful. Dozens of coins brought record prices. An NGC MS 66 1927-D Double Eagle sold for nearly $2,000,000. Other than the handful of super expensive coins, quality rare coins were in high demand. Heritage also sold some incredible Large Cents, currency, and world coins during the week. In all, over $105,000,000 crossed the auction blocks that week. You would think this kind of money being spent would have had a negative impact on bourse floor sales. If that were the case, you would not know it from the action seen at nearly every table on the bourse floor. Anyone with inventory was extremely busy.

The 2014 edition of the FUN convention did not disappoint as a barometer of the market. As mentioned in the headline of this article, many consider the FUN Show as a bellwether event, giving an indication of the health of the market going into a new year. The show was extremely busy from start to finish. I was so busy, in fact, that I changed my travel plans from leaving Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. I’m glad I changed my return, as my table was busy until the very end. The success of the winter FUN Show is even more amazing, considering the fact that nearly every mid-to-large size Ancient and world coin dealer in the world was attending the New York International Show during the same week. Imagine how much larger the show might have been without this conflict? Despite early concerns about the market, the 2014 FUN has reinforced my belief that the rare coin market is alive and well. If the FUN Show is any indication, we will all be very busy in 2014!

Questions about the rare coin market? Send them to wmr@ngccoin.com.

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