"Collector Coins" are in voracious demand; "NGC coins are better than videogames"; ANA Money Show and Heritage Signature Auction round out the month.
It has certainly been a winter of discontent for a great portion of the country weather-wise. Yet for we numismatists the demand and strength in the coin arena remains a glorious and powerful one. Currently, and as it has been the case for most of the last several years, rare and elite certified coins are making headlines and causing dealers and veteran collectors to shake their collective heads in wonderment, and we are also witnessing a new and more diverse band of collectors entering the marketplace.
As the collector base continues to expand, all of these factions are continually scrounging for the so-called “fresh material.” Since the supply of rare and collector coins is finite, it is becoming increasingly difficult and quite the challenge to come away with significant bounty at shows or at auction. As a dealer friend of mine told me, “Any sale is a good thing and getting acquainted with a new long-term customer is great, and that is what is happening. Yet, it is getting hard to satisfy everyone.”
For others taking the plunge, it is purely a financial venture; the lure, the excitement of the hunt, and the historical significance are not really important for this group, as they are just looking to diversify their assets. Without a doubt, for many of the newer generation that is used to buying items and conducting business over the Internet, numismatics is, at least initially, merely a curiosity, as coins really don’t mean that much to the average individual today. Coins are just not handled nearly as much in daily commerce as they used to be when I was a youngster. The exposure is certainly not there.
Recently, at a local coin show, I met up with Alan, a young collector from Massachusetts in his late teens. We had a chat about coins. I told Alan that as a youth, I would enjoy getting some silver coins out of circulation now and again, and after earning my weekly allowance, I would stash away the silver coins and hunt for better dates for my fledgling collection. Alan then opened up my eyes when he informed me that for his allowance, his parents had given him a debit card, and they would recharge it weekly or monthly.
The young man then went on to tell me that until recently, he didn’t realize that there was a half dollar coin. “I really wasn’t at all aware of coins other than the few that I would occasionally have in my pocket. For me, they were more of an inconvenience than anything.” Yet, for this young history buff, his eyes really opened up when he viewed all of the historical coins and denominations on display on the bourse. The copper, silver, and gold coins from the various branch mints really excited the young man and their significance in US commerce became very apparent: “I love the designs on the Walking Liberty Half Dollar, Buffalo Nickel, and Indian Head Five Dollar gold piece. It’s really wild to see a brand-new looking coin that is over 80 years old. I really like the slab that NGC uses; it really makes coins look like a work of art. This is much better than playing video games.” What can I say? I can certainly agree with this young collector.
Although the rare and ultra-rare coin market is truly at a different level and stature from most of the collector coin market, the intensity and media focus of that top echelon is sparking more interest in coins residing in other US series. There are a multitude of key dates in popularly collected series that are not valued anywhere near the six figure club, which the majority of hobbyists will only read about and be able to view either at major coin shows or in a museum. I, personally, have observed demand escalate for what I consider to be true collector coins. As an example, I believe many 19th century type coins are still vastly undervalued. Not a day goes by when there aren’t literally hundreds of buy requests for key date coins and type coins on the various electronic networks. Coins in the $250-$1,000 price point remain a very popular commodity and are in quite high demand. A well-respected dealer from New York advised me that he is running numerous ads for bust dimes, quarters and halves. “My customers really have a love affair with these coins,” the Empire state dealer relayed to me. “Here are classic coins in XF to AU which are readily affordable, yet they are certainly not available in quantity, at least those that are problem free. I am lucky to get a handful of nice bust coins each week. To me, at current price points, they are not freely coming onto the market. This is especially true for nice certified coins. My customers not only want the bust type coins, they want NGC-certified coins.”
For many new collectors having just become acquainted with numismatics, they have embarked on a path which offers much joy and excitement. For some, the mentoring by a dealer, attending shows, or gathering information on the fabulous and collector-friendly NGC website, have educated them on what to look for in a coin. Yet, it seems that the majority also want the extra security that a coin certified by NGC offers. It used to be that certification was thought of for only the more expensive coins, yet that is not the case any longer. More than one dealer has chimed in that they are receiving increased demand for certified coins at virtually all price points. With certification, demand increases. Liquidity is not a concern any longer.
As we approach the middle of the still frigid month, the Empire State was again the scene for a pair of important sales. Starting off the month, the Heritage Signature sale held February 3-5 realized a solid $11.5 million. The voracious appetite of the coin market was highly evident as the sale realized an incredible sell-through rate of over 98%! Leading the NGC highlight reel was the impressive San Francisco branch mint’s proof striking of the fabulous 1855-S Liberty Seated Half Dollar. One of perhaps just three known proof specimens, this highly coveted example realized $158,625. Another prize for the gold enthusiasts was the 1920-S $10 Indian graded NGC MS 60. A lovely coin with overall appeal that belies its assigned grade, it thundered to an impressive and record price of $70,500. With slightly over two dozen coins graded as Mint State by NGC, this coin has always been a prize for the advanced Indian Head Eagle collector.
Other important and diverse NGC properties at Heritage's Signature sale included:
- 1793 Flowing Hair Half Cent NGC AU 55 $38,188
- 1864 L on Ribbon Indian Cent NGC PF 64 RB $41,125
- 1942 Lincoln Cent NGC PF 67 RD Cameo $17,625 (Finest Known and Record Price!)
- 1830 Capped Bust Half Dime NGC PF 66 $47,000
- 1846 Liberty Seated Half Dime NGC PF 67 $44,063
- 1796 Draped Bust Quarter NGC XF 40 $41,125
- 1854-D Indian $3 NGC AU 58 $49,938
- 1929 Indian Half Eagle NGC AU 58 $30,550
- 1870-CC Liberty $10 NGC XF 45 $49,938
- 1897 Liberty $20 NGC PF 64 Ultra Cameo $49,938
- 1907 High Relief Saint-Gaudens $20 NGC MS 66 $64,625
Also in the Big Apple was Stack’s Bowers Americana sale. Always a great numismatic tradition, this installment featured a multitude of US and Colonial coins, patterns, and an eclectic array of important tokens and medals. In total, an impressive $6.6 million was realized for the February 5-6 sale in frosty New York. NGC highlights from the Americana Sale include:
- 1793 Liberty Cap Half Cent NGC AU 53 BN $32,900
- 1794 Flowing Hair Half Dime NGC SP 64 $64,625
- 1999 Silver Eagle NGC MS 70 $23,500
- 1859 Liberty Eagle NGC MS 62 $22,325
- 1861-O Liberty Double Eagle NGC AU 50 $47,000
- 1818 Pattern Cent by Jacob Perkins Judd C-1818-1 NGC AU 58 BN $30,550
Rounding out the month will be the always highly anticipated first ANA Money Show of the year. This time the host city will be the always-hospitable Atlanta, Georgia. The show will run February 27-March 1 so please mark that on your calendar. The host Signature auction by Heritage features four live floor sessions which includes the following rare NGC prime time properties:
- 1776 Newman-1 Pewter Continental Dollar NGC MS 61
- 1836 Capped Bust Half Dime NGC PF 66
- 1844 Liberty Seated Half Dime NGC PF 67
- 1845 Liberty Quarter Eagle NGC PF 67 Ultra Cameo
- 1826 Capped Bust Half Eagle NGC MS 65
- 1883-O Liberty $10 NGC AU 55
- 1920-S Indian $10 NGC MS 65
- 1860 Mormon Five Dollar NGC MS 61
Until next time, keep warm and 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.