NumisMedia Market Report: Timing Is Vital in Market Cycles

Posted on 5/6/2010

The FMV for many coins is not on the rise but dealers are reporting that sales have increased substantially over the past couple of months.

Since April 2007 the Gold Commemorative market has been soft. However, it seems to be showing some life over the past few weeks. Not that prices are rising, but coins are selling at a higher pace than they had been over the past three to four years. The following chart shows a comparison of FMV in April 2007 to today’s levels for MS 65 and MS 66. We chose these grades because they are the most collectible and available. Bear in mind that all these coins have very limited original mintages and the populations for specific grades are not very high. We have also listed the total populations for each grade of the combined NGC and PCGS, courtesy of the certification services.

MS 65 — Gold Commemoratives April 2007 FMV May 2010 FMV Latest Pops
1903 LA Pur / Jeff $1 $3,580 $2,080 1,117
1903 LA Pur / McKin$1 $3,650 $1,980 896
1904 L & C Expo $1 $13,160 $7,930 452
1905 L & C Expo $1 $19,240 $14,630 359
1915-S Pan Pac $1 $2,770 $1,690 1,889
1915-S Pan / Pac $2 1/2 $8,510 $7,290 1,026
1915-S Pan / Pac $50 Rd $150,000 $143,750 56
1915-S Pan / Pac $50 Oct $146,880 $148,130 58
1916 McKinley $1 $2,570 $1,430 1,362
1917 McKinley $1 $4,190 $2,310 816
1922 Grant $1 $4,730 $3,060 669
1922 Grant w/ Star $1 $4,830 $3,090 798
1926 Sesqui $2 1/2 $4,860 $2,890 2,698
MS 66 — Gold Commemoratives April 2007 FMV May 2010 FMV Latest Pops
1903 LA Pur / Jeff $1 $4,730 $2,670 856
1903 LA Pur / McKin$1 $4,590 $2,310 744
1904 L & C Expo $1 $18,900 $12,080 239
1905 L & C Expo $1 $35,440 $24,980 121
1915-S Pan / Pac $1 $5,030 $2,730 1,238
1915-S Pan / Pac $2 1/2 $10,790 $7,700 890
1915-S Pan / Pac $50 Rd $218,750 $206,250 18
1915-S Pan / Pac $50 Oct $250,000 $228,130 7
1916 McKinley $1 $4,190 $2,470 912
1917 McKinley $1 $5,970 $4,100 517
1922 Grant $1 $5,740 $3,640 628
1922 Grant w/ Star $1 $5,270 $3,410 869
1926 Sesqui $2 1/2 $22,950 $12,680 210

As you can see, every issue is lower with the exception of the MS 65 1915-S Pan / Pac $50 Octagonal; in fact, most coins are down nearly 50% since April 2007. If these coins are not bargains at the current FMV prices, then they certainly are very close to the bottom of a cycle. Judging by the prices in 2007, there may be a lot of upside for this series in the not-too-distant future.

Silver Commemoratives are another series that have shown more life as of late. Again, the FMV for most issues is not on the rise but dealers are reporting that sales have increased substantially over the past couple of months. Collectors are beginning to search for bargains and there are a lot of them. They have been out of favor for so long some dealers are willing to negotiate their previous asking prices. However, if you are looking for top-of-the-line coins in grade, dealers are not as likely to let these go cheap. One reason is that many high-end coins are being sent back into the certification services for the Plus Designation. In the past, we have seen many cases of NGC coins with the star designation command strong premiums over the listed FMV. It should be just a matter of time before these newly graded, premium-quality coins enter the market in enough numbers that we can report some price differences between regular grades and the + grades.

Ten percent of all US coins are commonly traded on a regular day-to-day basis. These are the coins with the highest populations by grade. They are also the easiest coins to evaluate because they have a very narrow trading range. For example, the 1881-S Morgan Dollar in MS 65 will retail for $125 to $165, depending on whether the coin is at the low end of the grade or the high end. The current FMV is $158. If you look at the NGC and PCGS population reports, you can see which coins fall into this category. The pop for the 1881-S in MS 65 is 43,598 in NGC and 44,410 in PCGS. Coins that have thousands certified by grade will typically trade for the smallest buy / sell spread. However, the other 90% of coins trade much differently. There can be spreads as much as 50% to 100% because of the difficulty in locating a specific date and grade. Availability and eye appeal can add an extra premium.

With Early Copper Cents, there is a great degree of difficulty in determining value because they can be labeled Brown, Red and Brown, or Red. The difference between a Brown and Red coin in a high grade can be immense. For example, an 1853 Large Cent in MS 66 Brown has an FMV of $1,380; there are 77 certified by NGC and only 12 by PCGS. In MS 66 R&B, the FMV is $1,910 with a pop of 36 by NGC and 6 by PCGS. The Red coin in MS 66 has an FMV of $7,030 with 12 certified by NGC and 13 by PCGS. To compound the pricing dilemma, there are various degrees of color between Brown and Red that can cause prices to fluctuate either higher or lower. If a Red coin has any hint of Brown on it, the price may be discounted substantially. Moreover, if a Red & Brown coin has more Red than Brown, it can have a positive effect on value.

Let us add another factor to this Copper Cent color scenario. The 1926-S Lincoln Cent is quite rare in high grades. In MS 65 Red the FMV is $97,500 and there is but one coin certified by NGC and one by PCGS. However, most of the Mint State coins certified are not fully struck and if they do have a strong strike, they will most likely be Brown in color. The Brown MS 65 has an FMV of $1,840 with only six NGC coins and four PCGS. The MS 65 Red & Brown is $5,310 FMV with 26 certified by NGC and 12 by PCGS. The 1923-S and 24-S have the same weakness issues in the strike for Mint State coins. In MS 65 Brown the 1923-S has an FMV of $790 against the MS 65 Red, which is $17,750. The 1924-S is $980 in MS 65 Brown and $20,150 in MS 65 Red. With such a large difference in FMV, you will find numerous coins that trade somewhere in between our reported prices because of the shade of color. Very few coins will fall perfectly into the Brown, Red & Brown, or Red columns because of this color factor.

The point is that coins have to stand on their own merits. Other than the 10% most common issues, the rest of the coin market is governed by the look of each and every coin. It either will be above or below the standards of the individual buyer, who must like the coin just a little bit more than the seller does for there to be a transaction. What it all comes down to is eye appeal. This is the issue that NGC and PCGS have addressed in their determination to add the Plus Designation to coins that are just a breath away from the next higher grade; or, it has a superior look to the majority of the other coins within the same grade. Dealers have long tried to refine grading to the nth degree. These advances are what improves our industry and helps buyers and sellers become more proficient at trading coins.

This article is a guest article written by:

The thoughts and opinions in the piece are those of their author and are not necessarily the thoughts of the Certified Collectibles Group.

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