Government Wins Langbord Case - Gold Cracks $1,600 - Early Type Coins Advance

Posted on 7/28/2011

It's been an eventful couple of weeks for numismatics.

Well it has certainly been an eventful couple of weeks! Numismatics made front-page news in mainstream media as the Langbord trial and the fate of the ten fabled 1933 Double Eagles, which has been theorized about for nearly a decade, has finally been resolved. The cache of 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles procured by Israel “Izzy” Switt of Philadelphia sometime during the Great Depression era, were found to have not been obtained by “legal” means and judgment by the jury of two men and eight women found for the government on July 20. The 10 numismatic icons are now once again the property of the United States (as they technically had always been) and have been mustered back to the hallowed vaults of Fort Knox, Kentucky for safekeeping.

For some reason, I immediately had images of these rarities getting lost in the shuffle and somehow exiled to some forgotten location within the depository a la that closing scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, when the prize Ark of the Covenant is apparently shuttled off to oblivion. Of course the 1933s are much too valuable as a propaganda tool and exhibit to be melted, as some thought would be their disposition. To help quell fears after the trial, Tom Jurkowsky, Director of the US Mint’s office of public affairs, said “a decision on where the coins will be stored or displayed has not been made. When that decision is made, the United States Mint will make an appropriate announcement.” So it is highly probable that they will eventually be on a “Numismatic Roadshow” tour and appear at major numismatic events throughout the country.

Speaking of gold, we have observed the spot price of the glorious yellow metal race over the $1,600 mark and it is still showing amazing strength holding that new benchmark for several intense trading days. Silver has been rambunctious and rebounding nicely has broken over the $40 level once again. These two events carry a lot of weight into the numismatic arena. Each time a major story crosses over to mass media outlets it draws in more and more individuals all anxious to become acquainted in precious metals and rare coins. Even those who have just a passing interest in coins hear this news and call a local dealer or check to see when the next coin show will be in their area. There is no magic formula. Our hobby has become a very potent industry that is growing stronger and has rebounded nicely since those scary days in September 2008. The numismatic industry has a lot to be proud of. Major auction houses and dealers banded together and really protected our hobby. Of course the great business, which all of this has generated, is the livelihood for so many.

It is just a few short weeks before the 120th ANA World’s Fair of Money which will be held in the Chicago area at the spacious Donald E. Stephens Convention Center from August 16 to 20. The public and vest pocket dealers can expect more than 1,200 of the world's best coin dealers, great educational forums, family activities and, of course, the ANA's signature feature: The Museum Showcase with exhibits from the Smithsonian Institution, the Edward C. Rochette Money Museum and private collections. Mints from around the world will also be in attendance for the big dance.

With a slight lull on the agenda there are no other major events to preoccupy the professional numismatist. Many dealers are trying to get a head start and prepare for the ANA gala as they scrutinize the fantastic Stack’s-Bowers Signature sale which contains nearly 9,000 lots up for bid! The ANA is still an exciting time for me and thousands of others. I can remember the first ANA I attended was in Boston in August 1973. It was the 82nd Anniversary convention. (It appears I beat my colleague Mr. Garrett by one year!) I was on the bourse for as long as it was open, buying and selling. All the while my father, who had driven me to the show, was patiently waiting for me. I went in with $50 in cash and maybe a couple hundred dollars worth of coins and currency. I worked very hard during that show and was able to make a little over $850 in a couple of days of heated trading. That was great money for me and I remember using a good portion of my cash to help purchase a large screen 25 inch color television for my mom and dad. I was in awe as I traveled up and down the aisles of the bourse seeing some of the elite coins and personalities that I’d only read or heard about in the various trade papers and magazines. At 16 I suppose I was a kid to all of the dealers but, I was still treated with respect. I can still vividly recall Aubrey Bebee asking me “what have you got there young fella”? as I approached his table. I remembered I was thrilled to be talking to him and the fact that he bought a rather shabby $5 Educational note from me, for $150 more than I expected, was very exciting. It was perhaps more of a social gathering back in the 70s. The market was more predictable then and it was still a few years before the market and metals took off at the end of that decade.

The advent of third-party grading has been a boon to the industry. The standardized acceptance and sight unseen trading has brought in a lot of activity from the sidelines. Those looking for a secure, exciting and liquid alternative to paper based assets are still appearing with want lists in hand. With that said NGC certified coins are still scrutinized and carefully assessed for strengths and weaknesses in their individual slabs. Yet it is good training to go off auto pilot and fly solo, finding exciting “raw” fresh deals using your eyes, experience and gut to effectively grade coins. This is where you stand alone on your mettle buying and then trading or selling to another dealer or fellow collector and hopefully making a nice profit.

Perhaps it’s not a surprise, but according to the NGC US Coin Price Guide in the last year US type coins from the early to mid-19th century, from half cents to $10 Gold pieces, have shown increasing demand and in most instances double digit gains. The increasingly popular two cent piece has also seen increased demand. Common coins in high-end circulated grades have been elevated in the last year. A key (although sometimes still not fully appreciated) 1872 installment, has seen double digit advances targeting MS 65 and MS 66 RB specimens. The latter commanding nearly a 22% increase in the last year! During the last month, the always popular and diminutive three-cent Type 3 pieces are nearly all seeing significant elevation in the MS 63 column. Massive meltings along with the fragile nature of these coins seems to be reflected as collectors vie for the dwindling population that remains. Liberty Seated Half Dimes have always been a popular venue for collectors. Demand has been heightened as those coins in mid to high end circulated grades are virtually all recipients of considerable gains.

Within the last 30 days double digit escalation is tracking many of the later installments in the AU 50 grade. One of the more popular collected series, the classic US silver commemoratives, are seeing some subtle rollbacks with those in MS 65 seeing numerous minor minus signs. To many industry pundits classic US silver commemoratives in MS 65 and better were already good values and now the opportunity presents itself for a little bit of bargain hunting.

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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