Posted on 1/27/2011
I think it’s safe to say the amazing array of fresh coins at this year’s FUN auction stole the show! Most high-level professionals were astounded by the quality of the coins that crossed the auction block on Platinum night. One dealer told me he had a hard time concentrating on the show because he was so focused on developing his strategy for the sale. (Buying everything was not an option, unfortunately). Many of the coins had been off the market for decades. Some were previously unknown to the numismatic community.
The star of the night was the spectacular 1907 Rolled Edge Ten Dollar Indian, graded PR 67 by NGC. The coin was virtually unknown, having been in the possession of the heirs of Frank Leach Jr., the director of the United States Mint in 1907! Wow — this is why I love numismatics. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, something shows up that no one dreamed even existed.
I examined the 1907 Rolled Edge very closely. The surfaces were virtually flawless and its Proof status unquestionable. The sale also contained a Gem Mint State example of the 1907 Rolled Edge for side-by-side comparison. It was a wonderful opportunity for the student of Augustus Saint Gaudens coinage. The Leach estate coins also contained two 1907 Wire Edge Ten Dollar gold coins (both NGC MS 65) and a mind-blowing example of the 1907 High Relief Double Eagle (graded NGC MS 67). Presale estimates of the Proof Rolled Edge Ten Dollar were around $1,000,000. Several dealers doubted this number would be attained. When the dust settled, the coin had hammered for an astounding record of $2,185,000. Ten Dollar Indians are highly collected and this sale proves the sky can be the limit for the finest-known example in a popular series.
Dealers and collectors crave fresh material. A common complaint often heard on the bourse floor is, “There are no fresh coins at the show.” Why does being fresh to the market make a coin so desirable, you might ask. Part of the answer is purely psychological. As a dealer, if I’m offered material no other dealer has seen, my instinct is to pay more, if necessary, to obtain the coin or collection being offered. I have the security of knowing that another knowledgeable buyer has not passed on the opportunity for some unknown reason. If someone else has already declined to buy the coin, you can’t help but wonder why. On the other hand, if you are confident you are first in line, the coin immediately becomes more desirable. Sounds silly, but believe me, I have seen million-dollar deals trade hands solely because the buyer was confident he was being offered “first shot.”
When estate material that has been off the market for years is offered at unreserved auction, buyers can sometimes create a feeding frenzy. Several important elements come into play when this occurs. Often coins may be appearing on the market for the first time in decades. Astute collectors realize that some great coins only trade hands once or twice in their lifetimes. One of the greatest United States coins ever struck, the 1907 Indian Head double eagle pattern (formerly Judd-1776), last sold in 1984. The coin has not been publicly displayed since, and it may be decades more before it appears for sale. Serious collectors may be bidding a coin to astounding levels, but they probably realize this will be their only chance to acquire the coin of their dreams.
Fresh coins are also desirable because buyers are confident that the coins are untouched. This is an extremely hot topic these days, and when buyers know they are bidding for a completely original coin, prices can go through the roof. Sometimes old-time collections are offered at auction uncertified (the John Jay Pittman and the John Ford collection, for example), and buyers rely heavily on the fact that the coins are fresh and have been off the market for years. On the contrary, when a great run of fully original coins, such as the Proof gold in the Heritage FUN sale, cross the block, dealers are eager to purchase a coin that might “dip out.” This is obviously very risky, but the gamble is made much more attractive knowing the coin is FRESH.
So the next time you hear someone talk about a fresh deal, you will hopefully have a better understanding of why they are so excited!
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