Jim Bisognani: My 12th Annual Year in Review – Part 2

Posted on 1/5/2023

As 2023 begins, Jim shares more from his interviews with numismatic experts about the developments of the past year.

How has 2023 been treating my fellow coindexters so far? Too early, you say? Well, don’t worry; when we are finally getting comfortable with writing 2023 in emails and on checks, we will be right back here with my 13th Annual NGC Year in Review!

Seriously, as this article posts, the 68th Annual FUN show (January 5-8) is underway in Orlando, Florida. A summary will be included in my next report.

But first, my 12th Annual NGC Year In Review – Part 2 is ready to share with you. A few teasers: most of my contributors see the value in price guides, but their relevancy is being challenged. Many are voicing that APRs (Auction Prices Realized) are a more timely public account of market trends. Conversely, when it comes to the non-transparency of “private sales,” perhaps we may have to add a new price guide column for “Cool Coins.”

As I composed this list, certified MS 62 $20 Liberty Head Double Eagles and Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles are quoted at $1,900 each, which equates to a shade under 11% over melt value. MS 63 and MS 64 Saints are quoted at 13% and 16%, respectively, over melt! These are by far the best value in US pre-1933 gold. The question is, are certified Double Eagles or certified bullion US Gold Eagles better for the investor/collector?

Jeff Garrett – Founder of Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries, Inc.

I would buy as many different common date $20 Libs and Saints as possible. Once you do that, you will be hooked and start buying the semi keys. It’s a great way to become a rare coin collector. Definitely not the certified bullion.

Ian Russell – President and Owner, GreatCollections Coin Auctions

I much prefer the pre-1933 Saints and $20 Libs when they are priced very similarly to modern Gold Eagles. A certified gold coin from 100-plus years ago - it's a no-brainer.

Ira Goldberg – Co-owner of Ira and Larry Goldberg Auctioneers

Personally, I agree that the best value in numismatics are MS 63 and MS-64 Saint-Gaudens; hands down at current levels. For others with little interest in history, buy the Gold Eagles as issued by the U.S. Mint.

1924 Saint Gauden's Double Eagle from the NGC Coin Explorer.
Click images to enlarge.

Brian Hodge – Partner of Lee Minshull Rare Coins (LMRC)

Certified Double Eagles, without question. The premiums historically have had a lot better opportunity at going far beyond the “spot” price, whereas gold eagles are permanently pinned in some way to the spot price.

Vicken Yegparian – Vice President of Numismatics Stack’s Bowers Galleries

We love all manner of bullion products, but as they say, “they ain’t makin’ any more Liberty or Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles!” So, we find great value in buying common-date pre-1933 US gold for just a marginal amount over melt value. And there’s a great chance in the future that the premiums could rise with growing demand or a reduction in supply.

Bradley Goldsmith – Founder of South Austin Coin Exchange / 360 Coin Group

I like certified US Gold Eagles. 10-plus years ago, pre-33 gold dominated the market. Now, I think collectors and investors have been pushing and demanding US-certified Gold Eagles. I think they are more relatable to buyers today and many more companies have focused on 1986 to date.

Bob Green – Owner of Park Avenue Numismatics

Certified Double Eagles are our choice if it’s either-or.

John Brush – President of David Lawrence Rare Coins

Uncertified bullion would be my first choice, followed by Double Eagles.

Are price guide valuations (wholesale and retail) still a valuable resource for collectors and dealers?

Brian Hodge

Not nearly as much as they used to be. Now APRs (auction prices realized) are a far more solid indicator. But for coins that trade frequently at the lower end of the spectrum, price guides can still be a valuable tool. For coins that trade less frequently, I would say they can harm sales significantly more than they help. I have to tell customers all the time that I would happily pay them full retail price guide for some of their coins!

Vicken Yegparian

Price guides have always been meant to be just that: guides. As long as collectors and dealers are using them to inform their buying decisions, rather than taking them at face value, they are very useful. These days, there is such easy access to auction data on the Internet and to dealers both online and in person at shows, that collectors can lean on the expertise of the auction houses and their favorite dealers to help inform their buying decision.

Jeff Garrett

Price guides are useful and will be just that: guides. Many collectors and dealers now rely more on auctions records for apples-to-apples price comparisons. I still use price guides every day!

Kevin Lipton


Bradley Goldsmith

I think price guide valuations are absolutely a valuable resource for collectors and dealers alike. However, people have to understand that price guides are exactly that: "guides.”

James Sibley

Absolutely. Otherwise, it's a "stick your finger in the air" [to determine which way the wind is blowing] sort of thing. I think John Feigenbaum and his crew have done a good job monitoring and reporting prices, but I find auction results at Heritage, Stack's and GreatCollections to be the most telling of where the market is for a particular coin and grade. Our industry has got to be proud of the transparency it offers the collector.

Bob Green

As a Red Book price editor and a dealer who relies on data, it’s important to pay attention to all price guides as they have a huge impact on the hobbyist. As always, APRs for similar coins are the most relevant, in my opinion.

John Brush

Absolutely. However, price guide manipulation and inaccurate prices are huge issues. There are a lot of choices out there to consider when utilizing price guides, but using only a single one can lead you down a dark and dangerous road if you’re not knowledgeable about what you’re collecting.

Ian Russell

We do not find most price guides to be useful at all - they are very misleading (high and low, depending on the coin). We prefer to use auction results – GreatCollections’ archive now has over 1.1 million (yes, million) records of certified coins we have auctioned and it's growing by 3,000-4,000 every week! It's what people are actually paying for coins, so it's the best guide in my opinion.

Ira Goldberg

Yes, absolutely.

Various price guides are not privy to much of the data trail involving coins being “privately sold” to clients. How are you dealers coming up with “fair” market pricing when you buy from fellow dealers and retail to consumers? Also, what type of buyback guarantees (if any) are you offering?

Vicken Yegparian

This is a very appropriate question in the current market. I think so many great coins end up going to auction because a collector or dealer doesn’t know what a fair price is, and instead relies on the open market of an auction to decide that. When doing private transactions, we all need to use whatever data is available but also work with the collective experience of our staff in making sure we’re making prudent buying decisions and fair selling decisions. We want to ensure that our clients are getting good coins at good value, as we want repeat customers, not one-time only ones.

James Sibley

It appears to me that the "private" transactions are concentrated among the top tier rarities, the 6-and 7-figure coins. Most collectors don't fly in this stratosphere, so the impact of private deals doesn't impact the overwhelming majority of prices. Not a problem for the average Joes and Janes out there.

Brian Hodge

I have always followed market trends and largely ignored the price guides. Where price guides are unhelpful is when we receive a call from a customer who thinks a particular price guide might be the “gospel” and then we look like scam artists of some kind, when in reality there are a number of dealers who will pay far more for the right material than any price guide can dictate. We pay up for cool coins, and as market-makers, we have long offered a strong two-way market in coins we deal in.

Jeff Garrett

No dealer can predict the future demand or price of rare coins. Anyone offering a guaranteed buyback should be looked at cautiously. As mentioned above, auction prices for actual coins are very indicative of true value for many rare coins. Some common issues trade more like commodities and are easy to track – such as common date Morgan Dollars in mint state.

Bradley Goldsmith

I follow the major auctions and watch what coins are selling, and [that] gives a good baseline in my opinion.

Bob Green

APRs are the best way to assess real market values. We look at the APR and remove the auction fees to determine real value in the market. “What can I get if I have to sell it to the market,” is a good questions to ask yourself. Par -20% is a safe approach to limit the expectations of reaping the same price as you paid a short time ago. In some cases,10-20% depending on the company/dealer assisting you with you acquisitions.

John Brush

We utilize all of the public pricing data possible and base our buying and selling prices upon that data there and the current market trends. I would argue that one of our strong suits at DLRC is knowing the collector marketplace and knowing the values of coins. That’s the value of numismatic expertise overall, as we have a deep team that has been trading in coins for over 100 years combined.

As a collector, if you’re dealing with someone who has a track record of ethics and honesty, you know you’re in good hands. Developing that relationship with someone who is looking out for the collector’s best interests is of tantamount importance. We are always happy to buy back any coin that we sell to a collector. We also can offer the collector an opportunity to auction the coin if that method would best serve the seller.

Ian Russell

The advantage with dealing with GreatCollections is that we're a full-service auction house; it's not a matter of working out whether a coin that used to be worth $2,000 is worth $2,500, $3000 or $3,500. The thousands of bidders each week in our auctions will determine that.

Ira Goldberg

We sell mostly at auction and the market decides what is fair between buyers and sellers. We guarantee everything and rely on the two major 3rd party grading companies to confirm this.

The NGCX 10-point coin grading scale for modern (1982-date) issues is meant to place the numismatic grading platform on equal footing with other popular mainstream fare, such as sports and collector cards, comics, video games, etc. What is your opinion on this revolutionary enterprise?

James Sibley

I feel that NGC is stretching its entrepreneurial wings by taking such a bold move—congratulations to them for sticking their collective necks out. Perhaps it will draw some of the sports card and comic book collectors into numismatics; who knows (although I personally feel that many alphabet-generation collectors look at coin collecting as "their father's Oldsmobile").

Brian Hodge

“It’s brilliant. I don’t expect it to kick the Sheldon 70-point scale off a cliff – but the market has needed an edge for a long time to get new collectors into the marketplace with a short learning curve. The 10-point scale is universal.”

Lianna Spurrier

It has been an eventful year for the grading industry! I daresay the NGCX announcement was one of the more surprising curveballs this year, and how it impacts the market will be interesting, to say the least.

As a way to help introduce newcomers who are used to other collectibles, it makes sense. We are the odd man out with grading scales and this puts us on an even playing field. However, if the ultimate goal is to replace the 70-point scale? I don’t see that happening. I also don’t expect many existing collectors will embrace the new scale, meaning any NGCX coins that enter the general market are likely to be resubmitted.

Since most NGCX coins are (last I heard) likely to be sold by mass marketers, this could end up putting their customers in an even worse position when wanting to sell. We already have people who have been taken advantage of by telemarketers, and if those same coins now have to be regraded before being sold, it’s only going to be worse for the original purchaser. Only time will tell how the market responds. I don’t expect it will be beneficial to the hobby in the long term, but I’d love to be wrong!

Ian Russell

There are a very limited number of coin dealers and marketing companies who can submit coins for NGCX, so I don't think it could really take off until every collector can submit if they want to. Imagine if only 10 companies could submit their sports cards for grading – the market would not be what it is today if that was the policy.

Ira Goldberg

I haven't yet formed an opinion.

Jeff Garrett

It will be an experiment in marketing. The true test will be the results after the large marketing companies have a chance to analyze sales. The market for could be huge and is worth the gamble in my opinion.

Kevin Lipton

Great marketing idea!

Vicken Yegparian

We at Stack’s Bowers are for any innovation that democratizes collecting and makes it fun at the same time. But we are also sensitive to the value proposition of different classes of coins. It’s most important that pricing and grading is fair and consistent.

Bradley Goldsmith

I really like the 10-point scale. I've had lots of positive feedback from retailers and collectors alike. I think this scale will be able to bring in a new group of buyers like Gens Y and Z.

Bob Green

I will wait and see; for now it does not impact our business model.

John Brush

I’ve never spoken to a collector that has a problem understanding the 70-point grading scale. I believe that this new program could cause a blowback from uneducated collectors that are purchasing coins that don’t have a track record of selling. I also look at the program as an interesting way to try to gain new collectors, which I’m always in support of, but I don’t see the reason to change something that isn’t broken for an opportunity offered to a select few dealers.

It's always great to compare notes on the thoughts of my treasured expert friends. Stay tuned for my 12th Annual NGC Year in Review – Part 3, the final installment, next time.

In closing, I also wanted to say hi to any new collectors out there – who perhaps were given a coin or two during the holidays – to help them on their respective numismatic journeys.

This is truly a hobby for anyone to enjoy, at any time and at any age. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money either; a few coins from a European country or an obsolete US coin can offer plenty of motivation.

Hey, my Beth went through the great effort to locate a handful of various world coins from my birth year as Christmas gifts. Surprisingly, and quite excitedly, I didn’t own any of them until now! I have them on my desk and have been gazing at them each day since Christmas!

I’m coming up my 66th year in 10 days and I still get excited when new coins come my way. Thank you, sweetheart!

Until next time, be safe and happy collecting!

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