Long Beach a powerful showing. Collector gold strong in Southern California.
As the NHL post-season expands into early summer, not only have the LA Kings made a powerful showing in what will probably lead to their second Stanley Cup championship in the last two years, the Long Beach Expo has also been the scene of a rather impressive revitalization. This recently concluded show featured a strong show of support by the public—the collecting public, that is. This amounted to a very busy bourse and the hypnotic yet very telling buzz was ever present. Some collectors told me that they had a great time and were anxious to buy coins here, and most attending dealers I caught up with said they had a great show. Of course, coins are always king in Long Beach, and both collector and dealer had ample opportunity to wage battle for numismatic trophies, as both factions participated at several major auctions. The first public sale greeting the Golden State crowd was Bonhams' Coins and Medals sale, running on June 2 at their Sunset Blvd office. A nice mixture of modest to high-end collector coins was available to prospective buyers. According to Paul Song, the firm's Coins and Medals Director, the total sales were approximately $1.18 million. The sale's top draw accounting for nearly a quarter of that total was a NGC slab. A 1907 High Relief Saint-Gaudens $20, this example graded NGC PF 67, captured an astounding $222,300. There is most certainly a fine distinction between what is considered business strike and proof in the high relief format, and this razor-sharp piece that sold at Bonhams set a record price for a coin at this grade designation. Next on the agenda was the pre-Long Beach sale by the Goldbergs. What was the scene of some furious and heated action, the venerable Los Angeles firm’s auction, running June 1-4, realized upwards of $14 million. A happy Goldberg auction manager, Jason Villarreal, proclaimed the sale was a great one.
According to Jason, “The Roman Denarii portion of the sale was absolutely tremendous. All participants who were in the crowded auction room were quite enthusiastic. Collectors and dealers flew in from all over the world to be in attendance at the sale. There was really, really strong bidding for this event.”
Indeed the highlight of the Goldberg sale was from the Denarii collection: the Brutus Silver Denarius. As per the expert cataloging, I concur that the ultra-important reverse is simply breathtaking! Certainly ranking among the finest known examples, this superb Extremely Fine antiquity included an NGC Photo Certificate as follows: Choice AU; Strike: 5/5, Surface: 3/5, Fine Style. This historic and dazzling coin powered to an impressive $517,000!
According to the perceptive Villarreal, “What I noticed is that a lot of the material from this sale was made up from a really diverse group of consignments, giving collectors some great variety to choose from. I think that certain areas, US type coins, especially the high-grade stuff, choice coins, supreme quality, really performed quite strongly, and there was a lot of live bidding. We had a lot of exquisitely toned material, and I noticed that the attractively toned material was bringing a significant premium over those in like grade which were not as appealingly preserved. I think overall, that the sale was indicative that the market is going in the right direction. As a whole I don’t think that you can pinpoint any area as being weak, per se. I think the auction as a whole, across-the-board, showed considerable strength within the market. For the majority of numismatic material, it looks to be in very good shape for the balance of the year.”
I also asked Jason his take on the recent pull back in the metals market. “My feeling is that the numismatic market has not been adversely affected to the extent of which the bullion market has declined. A lot of people are really excited about numismatics, and with lower bullion prices the public is anxious to buy, and that energy is a driving force which should carry on at the Long Beach venue.”
Listed below are several NGC US and world coin standouts from the Goldberg’s Pre-Long Beach sale:
- 1856 Large Cent NGC PF 67 BN $24,675
- 1955 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Cent NGC MS 65 RD $28,850
- 1864 Three Cent Silver NGC MS 68 PL $21,738
- 1920-S Buffalo Nickel NGC MS 66 $43,475
- 1797 16 Stars Draped Bust Half Dime NGC MS 65 $76,375
- 1797 16 Stars Draped Bust Half Dime NGC MS 65 $76,375
- 1872-CC Liberty Seated Dime NGC AU 55 $21,738
- 1818 Capped Bust Quarter NGC MS 66 $41,125
- 1831 Small Letters Capped Bust Quarter NGC MS 66 $49,350
- 1921-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar NGC MS 64 $39,950
- 1885 Morgan Dollar NGC PF 68 Cameo $38,775
- 1858-C Liberty Half Eagle NGC MS 64 $43,475
- 1893 Liberty Half Eagle NGC PF 68 Ultra Cameo $111,625
- 1926 Albania 20 Francs NGC MS 63 $14,100
- 1774-R Brazil 6400 Reis Brasher & Burger Counterstamp NGC EF 45 $58,750
- 1691 Great Britain William & Mary Crown NGC MS 61 $12,338
- 1838 Great Britain Victoria Sovereign NGC MS 63 $6,756
- (1605) Italian States Savoy 2 Doppie NGC AU 58 $29,375
- (1638-75) Italian States Savoy 8 Scudi NGC AU 55 $41,125
- 1725-MA Russia Five Kopeks NGC AU 53 BN $2,938
- 1741 Russia Ivan III Ruble NGC EF 45 $17,625
- 1749 Russia Elizabeth Ruble NGC MS 63 $12,925
- 1886 Russia Alexander III 50 Kopecks NGC MS 63 $11,456
I again met up with Villarreal on the bourse floor, as he had just completed making a delivery run of the lots which had been won at the sale to various successful dealers who were in attendance at the Long Beach expo. “My hundred-hour work week is finally over,” announced the always-congenial Jason.
As for the Expo itself, dealers I spoke to concurred that this, the usually slower of the three Long Beach shows, was better than average. "I could feel it almost as soon as I stepped on the floor on Thursday," advised a long time Long Beach patron. Others readily concurred there was a palpable buzz in the air, even before the show opened to the public.
According to Bob Green, President of Park Avenue Numismatics, “We came prepared to do business, having just purchased a set of DPL Morgan Dollars in MS 65. They sold immediately on the first day, dealer to dealer. Fresh coins were scarce, but we managed to do a few good deals, as always. Our buyers found some truly scarce coins for our want-list orders as well, but we paid good money for good coins! Our NGC highlight purchase of the show was a beautiful 1852 $50 Humbert Slug NGC XF 45
which we will bring home and offer on our website. All-in-all the show was a success for us.”
I also spoke to Ian Russell owner of Great Collections: “The show was extremely busy. We were flat out from Thursday morning until Saturday afternoon. One popular coin we had on display was the black NGC holder 1881-S Morgan Dollar graded NGC MS 64. It will be selling unreserved this Sunday (June 15). These are rarely seen on the market these days. I am expecting spirited bidding on this coin.”
What a great gift for the coin collecting dad on Father’s Day! As we go to press, the seldom seen NGC black slab has already garnered a bid of $1,050. Per Ian, “We also have a scarce Chinese issue coming up, a 1995 5 oz. Unicorn, graded NGC PF 69 UC with the original box and certificate. Only 99 coins were minted, and it is being sold unreserved in our auction on Sunday, June 29.”
To wrap things up there was also an exciting Heritage Signature sale. Per noted Heritage numismatist, Mark Feld, “As usual, with few exceptions, the really great quality and/or especially rare material seems to be garnering very strong prices, while the average and/or common material is quiet.”
Total proceeds from this Southern California Heritage Auctions Signature sale amounted to $16.3 million. An aggressive core of online and live-floor bidders made for an exciting sale, with many of the sales standouts being captured by live floor participants. Boasting a solid sell through rate of nearly 97%, the top prize in the sale, a coveted New Orleans treasure, 1854-O $20 Liberty graded NGC AU 55. This lightly circulated rarity went to a new home at a solid $381,875.
Several other NGC highlights from the Heritage Long Beach Signature sale:
- 1845 Liberty Half Eagle NGC PF 64 Cameo $158,625
- 1895 Morgan Dollar NGC PF 66 Cameo $82,250
- 1870 Three Dollar Princess NGC MS 65 PL $67,563 (finest known and record price)
- 1909-O Indian Half Eagle NGC MS 61 $47,000
- 1915 Indian Half Eagle NGC PF 66 $47,000
- 1907 No Periods $10 Indian NGC MS 67 $44,063
Competition is certainly heating up on the bourse floor as well as at auction. Show regular, Larry Shapiro, summed it up when he said, “A crazy, busy show for me.” Without a doubt this Long Beach Expo will be one that will be long remembered on all fronts.
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.