Baltimore Whitman Expo a Home Run

Posted by Jim Bisognani on 4/3/2014

March Madness ends in a flurry with over $25 Million in auction sales. Nobel Peace Prize captures $1.16 Million for Stack's Bowers. The Mint Designed A Coin And The Collectors Came.

March certainly roared to an exciting conclusion in the numismatic world, claiming nearly $25 million in auction proceeds during the last 10 days of the month alone! Heritage presided over an exciting sale on March 20, in San Francisco, where proceeds were all earmarked to benefit the Bentley Foundation. The diverse and significant Bentley US coin Signature auction posted an impressive 100% sell through rate while also realizing a tidy $8.9 million. Leading the NGC participants was the exciting, ultra-rare, low-mintage 1864-S Civil War era Eagle graded NGC AU 53. This coin was a rarity at the outset; based on her remarkably low original mintage of but 2,500 coins. It is estimated that around 25 to 30 coins exist in all grades today. This coin tied for the highest graded at NGC and realized an impressive $146,875, a record for this rarity in this grade. A lustrous and captivating 1870-CC Liberty Eagle graded NGC AU 55 tied for the finest known, powered to $135,125 another record price realized for this old West favorite. Another gold coin, the last of the collectible $20 Saint-Gaudens series, a dazzling NGC MS 66 1932, tied for the finest known, claimed $108,688. Another impressive performer was an 1879-CC $20 Liberty graded NGC AU 53. Always popular with collectors, this lightly toned lustrous example realized $18,800, which is a record price realized within the grade designation.

Other “Golden” NGC highlights from the Donald E. Bentley-Bentley Foundation US coins Signature Auction:

  • 1796 Stars Draped Bust Quarter Eagle NGC AU 58 $102,813
  • 1821 Capped Bust Quarter Eagle NGC MS 62 $44,063
  • 1920-S Indian Eagle NGC MS 63 $94,038
  • 1921 Saint-Gaudens $20 NGC MS 60 $99,875
  • 1927-S Saint-Gaudens $20 NGC MS 65 $105,750
  • 1931-D Saint-Gaudens $20 NGC MS 65 $96,938

At the conclusion of the Bentley sale, March 21-23 featured the Heritage US coins Signature Auction in San Francisco. Serious and competitive action witnessed an impressive 97% of the lots sell while capturing over $4.4 million. The highlight of the sale was a NGC-certified icon. The ultra-rare 1831 Small Letters Capped Bust Quarter graded NGC PF 66 took top honors claiming $135,125.

Other prominent NGC-certified properties at the Heritage Signature San Francisco sale:

  • 1916-D Mercury Dime NGC MS 62 $11,750
  • 1862 Liberty Seated Half Dollar NGC PF 67 Cameo $20,500
  • 1835 Classic Head Half Eagle NGC MS 64 $21,150
  • 1879-CC Liberty Double Eagle NGC AU 53 $17,625
  • 1834 Bechtler Pledge $5 NGC MS 63 $35,250
  • 1908-S Saint-Gaudens $20 NGC MS 63 $19,975

At the conclusion of the Golden State activity, all eyes quickly focused on the East Coast and the first Baltimore Whitman Expo of the year. Running March 27-30, the Whitman Expo was a “home run” with collectors and dealers. Adding high octane fuel to the already heated numismatic playing field was the US Mint’s public offering at the show. All the hullabaloo surrounded the exciting new 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins. Employing a unique concave “scoop” design, the coins causing all the clamor are a fabulous tribute to “America’s Pastime.” They feature a player’s fielding glove on the obverse and baseball on the reverse, both elements poised to the holder in a striking semi 3D like fashion. Collectors and dealers were seen waiting several deep in line for the opportunity to purchase the clad Half Dollar, silver Dollar and $5 gold versions of the Baseball Hall of Fame coins from the Mint’s booth on the morning of March 27.

For many local sports and numismatic aficionados waiting in line to get a “Baseball coin,” it was the natural thing to do as the home team Orioles would be playing against the defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox in their Major League home opener in but a few days, just beyond the convention center at Camden Yards on March 31. While the supply was available, the lines remained solid and many of those lucky enough to get a Baseball Commemorative immediately had the coins encapsulated and graded on site by NGC which was offering a superb label featuring NGC's exclusive Hall of Fame logo label and the special Opening Day pedigree. Each coin submitted also received a card with the National Baseball Hall of Fame 75th Anniversary logo and unique serial number. To paraphrase a line from that famous movie, “The US Mint designed a coin and the collectors came”.

Certainly the added excitement of this public release brought in additional collectors to the already very busy Whitman Expo.

I spoke to well-known dealer Bob Higgins “So, obviously with the mint’s release of the new Baseball Commemorative things were somewhat hectic with the long lines and dealers scrambling for position, as well. I have to admit until I saw the first coin, I didn't realize how great they are! We heard of several of the $5 gold PR 70s trading at $2,000,” according to Higgins.

Silver was also a hot commodity in the Old Line State. With the pullback of Silver Spot under $20, the public came to the show with cash to buy. Bob went on to say, “We were loaded 1-10-100 and even 1,000 oz silver bars, of which we sold two at the show, as well as 20,000 ozs of other silver. There were the typical buyers on the floor, looking for their want- list material and although finding some material, they seemed to be unable to fill their shopping carts. We had several want-list items that although populations of the items would indicate plenty of availability, we fell far short of our buying quota.” According to several dealers, their sales at the show were across the board but ultimately seemed to focus on rarity & high grade. I also had a chance to converse with the astute Dave Wnuck, President and owner of the numismatic firm bearing his name, based in Wallingford Connecticut. Dave’s learned assessment was certainly upbeat: “Yeah, it was a busy show for me. The Baseball coins added to the numbers of people attending, but the "classic" coin market was alive and well. Personally, I was quite pleased with the show, having picked up some nice early coinage as well as a spectacular group of toned commems. So I give this show an "A". The people at Whitman do a fantastic job for the dealers as well as getting the public in the door. Lori Hamrick and crew stop at nothing to insure the best show possible.”

The host auction by Stack’s Bowers was a veritable feast for collectors and dealers alike. An eclectic and diverse offering of numismatic Americana, medals, currency, and a wealth of choice and desirable US coins were all targeted by those in attendance. According to an excited Brian Kendrella, President of Stack’s Bowers, the sale was at a solid $11.8 million with the Internet sessions still to go on April 1. Headlining the sale was the 1936 Nobel Peace Prize Award Medal® awarded to Argentinian Carlos Saavedra Lamas. This About Uncirculated and spectacular gold tribute measuring 65 mm and weighing in at 222.4 grams of 23 karat gold is a fantastic historic and numismatic artifact. To date only 94 Nobel Peace Medals have been awarded and this was the second opportunity on record to purchase a Nobel Peace Prize medal at auction, and the first in almost 30 years. Accordingly and deservedly so, it roared to $1,116,250.00! Another impressive medal was the historic"1776" (Circa 1789) Washington Before Boston Medal. This superb silver 69 mm Betts-542, Plain Edge grading a Choice About Uncirculated one of only three known to come to market in the modern era, thundered to $282,000.

Other NGC-certified treasures at the Stack’s Bowers Baltimore sale:

  • 1781(1782) Libertas Americana Medal Silver Betts-615 NGC MS 62 $111,625
  • 1874-CC Arrows Liberty Seated Dime NGC AU 50 $28,200
  • 1797 Large Eagle Draped Bust Eagle NGC AU 55 $28,200
  • 1912 Indian Eagle NGC PF 68 $117,500
  • 1880 Liberty Double Eagle NGC PF 66 Ultra Cameo $235,000
  • 1915-S Round Panama Pacific $50 NGC MS 66 $188,000
  • 1851 Reeded Edge .800 Thous Target Rev. Augustus Humbert $50 NGC AU 50 $44,063

On another numismatic note, I also had the opportunity to discuss with Brian the fantastic and massive Great American coin hoard which was quite recently announced. Per Kendrella, “The 57th St Collection has generated significant interest. We have only begun to get the very first coins back from grading at NGC and have been thrilled with the grades from this diverse collection. We have seen many popular collector coins in collector grades, and amazingly rainbow toned and high grade Morgan Silver Dollars.”

Without a doubt collectors are highly anticipating the first offerings from this every man’s collection which is slated to appear in Stack’s Bowers “ I” Auctions, starting in late April, as well as at their June Baltimore sale.

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.

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