Jeff Garrett: The Summer Months of the Rare Coin Business

Posted on 6/20/2024

Although business slows down in the summer, there are still some big things, such as the ANA World's Fair of Money, to look forward to.

These summer months are traditionally the slowest for the rare coin business. The few major shows going on — such as the Long Beach and Baltimore Whitman expos — are the lightest-attended shows in their per-year rotations. The June shows this year were no exception. Business was done at the shows, but many major dealers were absent because of vacations or other summer obligations.

The summer months are also traditionally slower for mass market retail operations. The recent near-collapse of premiums for silver and gold bullion products has also translated into diminished sales for most retailers. There have been no recent headline events to spur demand for bullion-related products. Some retailers are also lamenting the fact that the US Mint has not released any exciting products in the last few months. I'm sure the grading companies feel the same way about the lack of new products hitting the market. 

The above-mentioned premium drop for bullion-related products is particularly acute for generic-date vintage gold coins. The wholesale price for graded Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles has compressed to the point that MS 61 to MS 64 all sell for about their melt value. Coins in MS 65 can be purchased for just a few hundred dollars more. Values for other generic gold coins are not much better. Lower-grade US gold coins are actually finding their way to melting pots.

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The reason for the above are multifaceted and complicated. The most basic cause for the collapse can be contributed to too much supply. The number of coins that have entered the market from overseas hoards has skyrocketed in recent years. The rise in gold bullion prices to more than $2,300 has also depressed demand. The price for Double Eagles is beyond the budget of most collectors.

The depressed demand for bullion and other numismatic products is also being seen in many local coin shops. Also, the diminished buying power of the middle class has been an important factor in slower traffic seen at shows, coin conventions and websites.

Many coins that these buyers supported in the past have fallen in recent months. This includes Morgan and Peace dollars, Classic Commemorative coins and Mint State or Proof Type coins. The customer base has slipped due to economics and summer doldrums. The good news is that most of these series are flirting with historic lower prices when you factor in inflation. There has never been a better time to start a collection of many series of US coinage. 

Click images to enlarge.

The biggest story of the past few years has to do with the opposite of the above-mentioned problem. Wealthy collectors have dominated the market and numismatic events. Set registry collecting among buyers with a large budget for their hobby have pushed some coins to incredible levels. The vast majority of this activity has been focused coins that are in the top echelons of the Pop Reports. It's amazing what someone will pay for that extra half point! If I had possession of a time machine, I would start my career over by putting away every amazing Lincoln Cent, Jefferson Nickel, Roosevelt Dime, Washington Quarter and Franklin Half that ever came my way.

The demand for multi-million-dollar rarities has also eclipsed the market in general. There are now private treaty transactions as well as public auction sales of mega coins at what seem to be staggering levels. The report of a million-dollar coin selling is no longer front-page news, but a common occurrence.

Regardless of the perceived summer slowdown, the demand for coins with great eye appeal is still very strong. Eye appeal has become critically important to rare coin buyers. This indicates that a market is being dominated by knowledgeable collectors. The best protection against any market downturn is to own coins with a great look. They will always be in demand.

The next big event in numismatics will be the Summer Florida United Numismatic Convention (the FUN Show) in Orlando, Florida. The show is scheduled for July 11-13, 2024. The summer version of the FUN show is not quite the mega show that is the winter FUN show, but it still boasts a bourse of over 500 tables. The show activity will probably be brisk regardless of the summer heat and current market experiences. The FUN organization runs an extremely efficient and effective show. They spend plenty on advertising and even pay for buses to have coin clubs from around the state send their members to the show.

The next show that traditionally snaps the rare coin market out of the summer doldrums is the ANA World's Fair of Money. The August show is probably the best coin show on the planet. Dealers from around the world will be descending on Chicago, ready to do business. I will soon be making my plans for the show, and the same idea can be said for hundreds of coin dealers attending the show. This influx of fresh material is what makes the ANA World's Fair of Money special.

My company saves a lot of material for the ANA show because selling when everyone is excited generates better results. When dealers and collectors are in the summer funk, business is slow at best.

Enjoy your summer and don't worry too much about the market slowdown. I have never experienced a bad ANA show, and I'm sure this year will not be the first.

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