2014 World's Fair of Money - A Crowd Pleaser

Posted by Jim Bisognani on 8/21/2014

Gold Kennedy creates modern mayhem; ANA auctions capture over $75 million; 1804 Dollar roars to $1,880,000

ANA week is always full of surprises; mine started off with a bit of excitement at the airport. As I was going through security, prior to boarding my flight for Chicago, the TSA saw fit to take a closer view of one of my carry-on bags. I, of course, obliged but asked for a private screening. I was then ushered to a partitioned cubicle adjacent to the scanner. I was then asked to open my bag and remove its contents. I did so obediently and proceeded to take out a group of Whitman bookshelf albums filled with various series of US coins. Once the TSA agent saw what I was carrying, and I told him where I was heading, the conversation immediately broke in to an impromptu coin gabfest. The TSA agent reminisced about how he had collected Lincoln cents, Mercury dimes, etc. when he was a kid. At this point, the agent made a quick call on his walkie-talkie and asked another agent to come over. Agent number two promptly made an appearance and upon seeing the folders on the table, chimed in with, “Oh, my gosh, this is great stuff! I collect Washington quarters and Mercury dimes.” I then briefly imparted my own philosophy in regard to certain series and what to look for and try to collect. I then began to reconfigure my contents back into the bag and was on my way with the well-wishes of the TSA.

In the early evening on August 5, I arrived in Chicago and immediately went to my hotel, which was directly across the street from the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. I settled in at about 8 pm, chatted with my two roommates, and then went to bed early to prepare for my first full day of the World’s Fair of Money on August 6. When I woke up around 5 am, though I was still a tad bit disoriented with my new surroundings, I was able to successfully navigate my way to the rec room in our hotel and began my workout at around 5:15 am. However, just prior to starting my treadmill session, I looked out at the panoramic view of the city which was still dark but punctuated with streetlights and building lighting. Then my eyes quickly focused and shifted to the front façade of the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center some 10 floors below me, and noticed a police cruiser with flashing blue lights and a small group of spectators. I really didn’t think anything more of it at that point, as I thought perhaps it may have been an accident and a small crowd of those involved had gathered around; so, I continued my work out. Then about a half-hour later, I noticed that there were even more people clustered around, and there were now a couple of cruisers. It then dawned on me that this crowd wasn’t there because of an accident, nor were they dealers waiting to get into the convention center to set up for the show. This now large throng was waiting to secure Gold Kennedy half dollars!

As I made my way into the convention center around 9:30 am, there was still an active and vocal crowd gathered outside, hoping to get a golden ticket for the Kennedy Half Dollar. Unfortunately, the dreams of those in line were dashed when an ANA representative announced there were no more coins that would be sold today, but they were welcome to try later this week. At that moment, perhaps subliminally influenced by some in the crowd’s appearance and antics, all I could think of was the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and her gang wanted to have an audience with the wizard, and they were told “go away and come back tomorrow.”

Upon entering the large cavernous bourse, I heard a slight buzz from the crowd, but I was even more impressed with the fast-paced action of some well-dressed dealers and collectors zig-zagging up and down the maze of aisles in a fluid and slightly animated manner; it reminded me of a well-organized ant farm. Of course, the main topic on the ANA World’s Fair of Money bourse was, without a doubt, the Gold Kennedy half dollars. I spent most of my day catching up with dealers and friends, and I also met some first time ANA attendees.

As I made my way from the convention hall at around 6:30 pm, a diverse crowd was already forming for the Gold Kennedy going on sale the next day. I would estimate approximately 150 were already set for the all-night vigil. Some had folding chairs, a few had sleeping bags, and others brought sustenance in the form of food and beverage. I also took a spot in line and began conversing with some of the crowd. All the publicity surrounding the 50th anniversary Gold Kennedy half dollar certainly had quite the effect. Although it quickly became apparent to me that over two thirds of those that I spoke with had no interest in numismatics and were just there for a paycheck, the collectors I did converse with were usually teamed with another partner, each hoping to secure one coin and perhaps sell the other for a tantalizing profit. Regardless of motivation, most everyone was having a good time. It reminded me of when I camped out for World Series tickets many years ago in Boston.

Of course, rare and collector coins were being bought and sold on the bourse. The two major auctions by host Stack's Bowers and Heritage claimed quite the attentive and aggressive audience of buyers, too, as several coins captured over $1 million. Leading the NGC parade was the exciting King of American coins, the 1804 Dollar, as the famed Class III Garrett-Sommer example graded NGC PF 55 roared to $1,880,000. It was the marquee attraction for Stack's Bowers Rarities Night. An enthusiastic Dave Bowers relayed to me, “This is one of my favorite coins. It sold for four times the price that it last sold for when we had it. The consignors are delighted, so it worked out very well.”

It seems like ancient history to some, but I remember that previous sale Dave alluded to so very well. Mr. Bowers had catalogued the famed 1804 Dollar as a part of the Garrett Collection sales back in 1980 when it brought $400,000, which was a record price for the coin. I remember I was at those sales; I brought a cassette recorder to record the audio portion when the lots were sold! I knew it was history in the making! All told, the Stack's Bowers auction realized slightly over $28.7 million. According to the firm's always congenial Executive Vice President Chris Karstedt, the series of auction events at the ANA were memorable for both the content of the sale and also for the quality of the offerings. Next on the exciting roster was a 1795 Flowing Hair Dollar from The Lord St. Oswald Sale held in London in 1964. This graded NGC Specimen 64 drew a lot of fanfare and sold for an impressive $822,500.

Other NGC highlights from the Stack's Bowers ANA sale:

  • (1832) "Aged Head" Andrew Jackson Hard Times Token NGC MS 63 BN $38,188
  • 1793 Wreath Reverse Vines and Bars Edge Flowing Hair Cent NGC F 15 $25,850
  • 1808 Classic Head Cent NGC MS 66 BN $22,325
  • 1870 Two Cent Piece NGC PF 67 RD $17,038
  • 1794 Flowing Hair Half Dime NGC Specimen 65 $129,250
  • 1796 Draped Bust Quarter NGC AU 58 $52,875
  • 1794 Flowing Hair Half Dollar NGC AU 55 $64,625
  • 1878 Trade Dollar NGC PF 66 Ultra Cameo $31,725
  • 1895-O Morgan Dollar NGC MS 61 $16,450
  • 1925-S Peace Dollar NGC MS 65 $29,375
  • (2000)-P Sacagawea Dollar muled with a statehood quarter NGC MS 67 $117,500
  • 1808 Capped Bust Quarter Eagle NGC AU 55 $82,250
  • 1867 Three Dollar Princess NGC PF 66 Cameo $52,875
  • 1795 Small Eagle Draped Bust Half Eagle NGC AU 58 $52,875
  • 1797 Small Eagle Capped Bust Right Eagle NGC AU 58 $164,500
  • 1879-S Liberty Quarter Eagle NGC MS 64 $10,575
  • 1884-CC Liberty Double Eagle NGC MS 60 $14,687
  • 1932 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle NGC MS 66 $99,875

The Heritage ANA Signature auction powered to a solid $36.1 million, backed up by an impressive $10.5 million for the World and Ancient coins auction. Not surprisingly, US gold was a hit, as the top NGC prices realized were for a decidedly exciting group of Civil War era Double Eagles.

NGC highlights from the Heritage ANA Signature Sale:

  • 1864 L on Ribbon Indian Cent NGC PF 65 Cameo RD $141,000
  • 1795 Flowing Hair Half Dime NGC MS 67 PL $152,750
  • 1796 Draped Bust Quarter NGC MS 63 $105,750
  • 1818/5 Capped Bust Quarter NGC MS 67$182,125
  • 1910 Barber Quarter NGC PF 69 Cameo $38,188
  • 1879-CC Morgan Dollar NGC MS 65 GSA holder $49,938
  • 1805/4 Draped Bust Half Dollar NGC MS 65 $152,945
  • 1795 Two Leaves Flowing Hair Dollar, silver plug NGC MS 61 $129,250
  • 1853 $20 Liberty NGC MS 65 $152,750
  • 1861-S $20 Liberty Paquet NGC XF 45 $64,625
  • 1860 $20 Liberty NGC PF 66 Cameo $367,188
  • 1863 $20 Liberty NGC PF 66 Cameo $381,875
  • 1866-S No Motto $20 Liberty NGC MS 62 $246,750
  • 1930-S $20 Saint-Gaudens NGC MS 63 $164,500
  • 1851 .887 Lettered Edge Reverse 50 Humbert $50 NGC MS 61 $152,750
  • 1851 .887 Reeded Edge Humbert $50 NGC MS 63 $176,250

Dealers and collectors were enjoying exhibits, coins and the comradery on the bourse at the Convention Center. Everyone seemed to be up-tempo as the show continued.

Ross Baldwin, president of National Coin Broker, shared his assessment of the 2014 World’s Fair of Money, “The show’s been going great. I did a lot of pre-1933 buying. Not much in the way of bullion sales as it's been pretty flat. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of urgency for that right now; but, hopefully, that cycle will turn soon.” Baldwin also showed me a trio of his key show acquisitions which included an 1839 Liberty Seated Dime graded NGC MS 66. This coin was blazing white and exhibited a stronger than usual strike, an exemplary coin. An 1858 Three Cent Silver graded NGC MS 66, a superbly struck iridescently toned ultra gem. This was topped off by a lustrous and totally problem-free 1909-O $5 Indian graded NGC AU 50. Incidentally, it sold almost immediately after I viewed it.

According to the well-liked and astute Dave Wnuck, “For me, the show started off really slow – terribly, in fact. Tuesday was nearly a bust, except for buying a few good coins. From Wednesday onward though, it was excellent for me. I sold a lot of coins, and even more importantly, I was able to purchase a few really superb items to offer on my website soon. So, overall, it was great, although it certainly did not start out that way.”

I also spoke to a young man by the name of Jim from the neighboring Hoosier State of Indiana. I was advised by this Indianapolis resident and avid collector, that he was looking to acquire his first US gold piece at the show and had his eyes on securing an Indian Quarter Eagle graded by NGC. He was on a quest to locate a nice mint state coin, but of course one within his budget. I met up with Jim later that day, he advised me after searching around he wasn’t successful in locating the gold coin but he did want to show off his proud new acquisition, an exquisitely toned 1862/1 Three Cent Silver piece graded NGC MS 61; certainly a premium quality coin for the assigned grade!

On Friday afternoon, I had a conversation with one of the youngest numismatists that I came across at the show. Nine-year-old Michael, hailing from Arlington Heights, Illinois, was making the rounds on the bourse with his mom, Cortez. Michael said that he’s been collecting coins since he was seven. He really likes silver and gold coins, and he said that the first coin that he ever bought was a Peace Dollar. The young man certainly has a passion for coins and advised me that he has several NGC certified coins-silver Eagles, Pandas, and the like. When I asked Michael what he was looking for at the show, I was told, 2010-S Lincoln Proof. When I asked why that coin in particular, Michael responded back with, “Because it’s investing! I’m investing!”

As always the ANA World’s Fair of Money is a great experience for young and old. For me, it is a great venue to meet new collectors and become reacquainted with old friends. I enjoyed it immensely. Speaking of friends, I want to send out a special thanks to Doug and Dennis, not only for sharing their ANA experience, but also for putting up with me as their roommate during the show, as I do tend to ramble on and on. It was fun though!

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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