FUN Far From Over

Posted on 7/14/2011

Heritage Signature Sale Claims $11.3 Million

FUN may be officially over yet for many dealers attending the 5th annual summer installment of the Florida staple on the circuit this show was a pleasant surprise. It was a shock for many, such as myself, to leave a cool dry climate only to be greeted with tropical, sauna-like conditions in Orlando. It took a bit of getting used to as my glasses immediately fogged up each time I ventured out from an AC controlled environment. This was not the case, however, during set-up day as the convention center for some reason barely had the AC on as dealers busily prepped showcases and then began to sell their wares. As the afternoon progressed everything went rather smoothly and an audible buzz could be heard from solid business transactions. Many professionals commented on the high volume of wholesale and retail action.

On Thursday, the first day the show was open to the public, thunder could be heard both in the aisles of the bourse and outside the humongous Orange County Convention Center, as torrential downpours mixed with copious lightning strikes and robust thunder hindered some attendees from gaining entrance to the bourse. In fact, in between breaks in the downpours many ardent collectors made a beeline from cover towards the convention center’s main doors. It seemed that with each successive break in the weather another fifty or so would brave Mother Nature and gain access to the convention floor. On the bourse, each time another wave of umbrella-toting collectors entered dealers would make the observation “the rain must’ve let up a few minutes”.

Regardless of the steamy, showery conditions, the three days attendance was solid and was substantially higher than previous year’s totals. It all went off without a hitch as over 3,000 collectors were recorded to have browsed the bourse. The FUN committee did a great job, as there were no incidents and everyone seemed to be having, well, a fun time. Even the food that was available for purchase at the show was tasty. Several hobbyists I spoke to were just happy to be inside with something enjoyable to do as the weather conditions outside literally rained out plans for typical tourist activities (i.e. Disney World and Universal). Many more were glad just to enjoy the AC as they trolled the aisles. On Saturday several scout troops were making the rounds for merit badges as well as to gather numismatic knowledge. I must admit that virtually every dealer that I spoke to seemed to have a smile on his or her faces and commented on the fact that overall business was brisk.

Several bullion market-makers I conversed with said they were having “bang up business,” both buying as well as selling to the public. Solid escalation in spot silver and gold prices during the show certainly added fuel to the metal mania. Some collectors obviously felt that metals may be peaking and decided to sell and others believe that there is still substantial room left in this market and wanted to buy. Regardless, as one dealer stated, “no one can pick without absolute certainty where the market peak or bottom will be. Yet this is great; when a market is moving like this one business is solid on both streets. I firmly believe in dollar cost-averaging whether on the buy or sell; that way you will never get caught.”

With the premiums over spot low-to-virtually nonexistent for generic $20 Liberty gold pieces, in many instances raw Uncirculated as well as certified MS 62 coins were trading at less of a premium than the US bullion gold Eagles. “I have never seen it like this,” commented one dealer. You can’t go wrong buying generic $20 Liberty’s right now.

Rare coins—those in the $5K-$25K range—were trading at retail prices with little effort. Dealers holding tables as well as those canvassing the floor who possessed this desirable inventory were grinning like a Cheshire Cat. (Okay, so I got caught up in Disney.) A different refrain was heard from dealers with marginal slabbed material and low-end generics; no one was buying and those that were being sold were blown out at fire sale prices on Saturday to generate cash for new inventory and to prep for the fast-approaching ANA. A Modesto, California dealer who specializes in Double Eagles said they had a great show: business was steady for the three days and Saturday brought in even more action. ”I sold quite a few NGC slabs,” advised the owner, “and bought several great coins for inventory.”

The show was a pleasant surprise for most. One of a multitude of native Floridian dealers who held tables on the FUN bourse was always extremely busy, either wrapping up deals or offering some fresh lots of mid-priced keys and semikey coins. One such fresh find caused a bit of frenzy. Apparently a client had sent via FedEx a box of mixed Morgan and Peace dollars to be liquidated at the FUN Show, several hundred coins in all. However what was assumed to be just a generic offering was not. While sorting through the common material (1879-S, 1880-S, 1881-S, etc.), numerous CC installments, several 1895 mintmarked Morgans, and 1893 branch mint strikings (including the key 1893-S) were found. News about this hoard spread around the bourse like wildfire and a swarm of dealers were seen by the National Coin Broker table all wanting an opportunity to buy this fresh raw lot. Owner Ross Baldwin advised: “it was a surprise to me as well as to my client; he really didn’t know what he had!”

The host Heritage 2011 July summer FUN Signature US Coin auction held July 7-10 captured $11.3 million. Perhaps a mild surprise to some within the industry: only one coin of the nearly 6,000 lots meeting the hammer eclipsed the six-figure threshold—that being a prize NGC-graded 1797 16 Star Draped Bust, Small Eagle Five in AU 53, which realized a solid $132,250. Just six specimens have been graded higher by NGC. Perhaps not a surprise, the last time an AU 53 specimen appeared at auction was in a Bowers & Merena sale some 16 years ago, where it realized $35,200. Once again, when truly rare coins come to market they are aggressively targeted and are then sequestered into increasingly secure hands.

Yet perhaps more telling for the present market, dealers still have customers for certified coins that are priced in the low-to-mid five figure category. Of the 153 coins to sell in this tier in Orlando, over 60% were in NGC holders. Throughout the auction was the same refrain: solidly graded key coins, exceptionally attractive type coins, and conditional rarities generated superb results.

The following is a list of NGC FUN highlights:

  • 1884 Three Cent Nickel NGC MS 67 $20,700
  • 1926-S Buffalo Nickel NGC MS 64 $17,250
  • 1876 Liberty Seated Dime NGC PF 68 $11,500
  • 1796 Draped Bust Quarter NGC VF 20 $29,900
  • 1838 Capped Bust Quarter NGC PF 64 $48,875
  • 1892 Barber Quarter NGC PF 68 Ultra Cameo $11,628
  • 1873 Open 3, No Arrows Liberty Seated Half Dollar NGC AU 58 $40,250
  • 1904-S Barber Half Dollar NGC MS 62 $13,800
  • 1886-O Morgan Dollar NGC MS 64 PL $11,620
  • 1885 Morgan Dollar NGC PF 67 Cameo $13,800
  • 1870 Seated Liberty Dollar NGC PF 67 Ultra Cameo $48,875
  • 1881 Gold Dollar NGC MS 68 $12,650
  • 1888 Gold Dollar NGC PF 67 Cameo $23,000
  • 1914-D Indian Quarter Eagle NGC MS 65 $27,600
  • 1797 16 Stars Draped Bust, Small Eagle Half Eagle NGC AU 53 $132,250
  • 1806 Knobbed 6 Draped Bust Half Eagle NGC MS 64 $43,125
  • 1871-CC Liberty Head Half Eagle NGC MS 61 $54,625
  • 1873 Liberty Half Eagle NGC PF 65 Cameo $51,750
  • 1892 Liberty Half Eagle NGC PF 67 Ultra Cameo $63,250
  • 1913 Indian Half Eagle NGC PF 67 $51,750
  • 1908 Motto Indian $10 NGC MS 68 $54,625
  • 1908 Motto Indian $10 NGC PF 67 $69,000
  • 1839 Type of 1838, Large Letters Liberty $20 NGC MS 60 $23,000
  • 1860-O Liberty $20 NGC AU 50 $41,688
  • 1861-O Liberty $20 NGC AU 58 $74,750
  • 1886 Liberty $20 NGC AU 50 $66,125
  • 1915-S Octagonal Panama-Pacific $50 NGC MS 63 $74,750
  • 1915-S Round Panama-Pacific $50 NGC MS 63 $74,750

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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