No Fall In Sight This September-Long Beach and Philadelphia Auctions Rake in $42.5 Million

Posted on 9/22/2011

Although Labor Day traditionally marks the end of the summer...

Although Labor Day traditionally marks the end of the summer season for many within the numismatic world, the national holiday was but a brief stepping–stone to what has become an extremely laborious month on this never ending certified coin circuit. Sunday, September 4 signaled the beginning of the always well received Goldberg’s Pre–Long Beach auction which realized over a very healthy $9 million in proceeds. As always, an impressive array of classic US rarities were on the agenda. One of the notable performers, a 1798 Draped Bust Cent, 2nd Hairstyle, graded NGC MS 65 BN, claimed $35,650. A dazzling, absolutely gorgeous 1883 No Cents Liberty Nickel NGC PF 67 Ultra Cameo rallied to $5,290, a superior 1895 Barber Half Dollar in NGC PF 68 tallied $15,525 and a virtually flawless 1901 $10 Liberty NGC PF 67 Cameo captured $69,000. Mind you, this was just the warm-up to the Long Beach Expo! For many auction goers a hasty exodus was made from Beverly Hills to Long Beach as September 7 was dealer set up day. And for even the casual observer the buzz was at a heightened pitch with much business both wholesale and retail generated before the general public was slated to make their appearance Thursday morning. With gold powering solidly above the $1,850 level and silver staying well above $40, both were catalysts for bringing considerable new business into the numismatic arena.

Dealers that I spoke to were very pleased with the volume as well as the type of business that was being consummated on the bourse. As always, key dates within virtually all series were being targeted by both collector and vest pocket dealers. One well-known dealer from the northeast found several buyers anxious to locate high-end two cent pieces, honing in on the 1864 small motto as well as the always tough to find 1872 installment. Both of these coins in high end circulation are very tough to find even at listed levels, as such buyers were willing to pay substantially over current market valuation. Another dealer from southern Florida advised that a new client came to his table and bought several high–profile coins including a superb NGC MS 66 Buffalo Nickel accentuated with superb rainbow toning as well as a superb 1861 NGC proof set pedigreed to the Boca collection. This magnificent seven piece set produced during the dawn of the Civil War was highlighted by a dazzling 1861 Three Cent Trime which was awarded a NGC PF 66 grade and the majestic Liberty Seated Dollar of the same year commanded a NGC PF 65 designation. Bullion buyers were also out in force searching for bags of 90% silver as well as Silver Eagles.

The host Signature® US Coin auction by Heritage reeled in over $8.5 million yet the Heritage Signature® world and ancient coins auction trumped the US counterparts, capturing an amazing $20.4 million! Rare world issues remain extremely hot and as a result 25 lots exceeded six figures. Leading the way, a superb China–Yunnan 1910 Spring Dollar graded NGC AU 58 (pedigreed to the Dr. Norman Jacobs collection) with attractive mottled gray toning went to an excited floor bidder for $546,250. Coins from Japan, Korea and China were mainstays. However, an absolutely stunning South Africa 1892 Penny, NGC PF 65 RB, one of perhaps 20 struck, captured an astounding $195,500. Leading the US barrage of classic offerings were a pair of exquisite 1910 gold issues, a 1910 Indian Head Eagle graded NGC PF 67 that claimed $138,000 and its big brother, a 1910 $20 Saint-Gaudens graded NGC PF 67, which rolled to an impressive $161,000. With both US and World coins commanding solid prices, Long Beach was a solid barometer of the increased activity as well as the solid market that remains for classic coins.

With a brief respite, I found myself on what turned out to be an 85 hour journey from Southern California to Philadelphia for the third Whitman Philadelphia Expo. Landing in the history steeped city early Wednesday evening gave me a few hours before the early morning set up the next day. Quite amazingly, immediately after the Southern California show most noted dealers were in attendance in the historic City of Brotherly Love. As always, the Whitman shows are very well produced. Everything from dealer badges to sufficient lighting at all tables was very much appreciated. Per Whitman representative Lori Hamrick, the attendance for this Philadelphia show exceeded the previous two. I conversed with many attendees that made the trek from neighboring New York and New Jersey. Many attendees drove in from as far as North Carolina and Ohio to make a visit to the historic city. I must admit the Pennsylvania Convention Center was extraordinarily busy as an oral surgeon convention was being held simultaneously in one of the adjoining halls. As I was speaking to many of the dental attendees, whom at first I thought were coin dealers, I found myself being asked how long I had been practicing? Quickly thinking that this was a bit odd to ask a coin dealer I found myself responding that I've been a numismatist for over 30 years. Several energetically stated, "Oh you’re with the Whitman show. Several of us are planning to escape the conference and come over." I can vouch that many did venture over that afternoon.

On the bourse collectors were busy examining everything from Colonial issues, Territorial gold and exonumia along with looking for upgrades and select type coins. The traffic on Thursday was steady, punctuated with brisk business being conducted by many dealers. Friday was a bit lighter on floor circulation yet was still a very productive commercial day. In the evening many ravenous dealers looking for a tasty bit of Philadelphia food couldn't go wrong with some pasta and original square pizza at Santucci's. As I arrived at the convention center on Saturday, seemingly thousands of last day registrants for the Philadelphia Marathon were also walking, some galloping, through the massive center picking up their number packets for the race on Sunday. I wished many of the runners well as I ran that historic course about a decade earlier. Once again the show went off flawlessly, with no issues or other concerns, several of Philadelphia’s finest made sure of that. As one fine officer I met with 20 years on the force stated, "The Whitman show takes great care in seeing to the security of the dealers as well as the public."

According to Brian Kendrella, the host auction by Stacks-Bowers commanded an impressive $4.5 million. Several NGC graded coins led the bidding parade. Perhaps apropos given the show's location, many colonial coins, early federal issues and tokens featured prominently in the sales results. A superb pewter 1776 Continental Dollar, Newman 2–C, graded NGC MS 64 soared to an impressive $127,075. The rarest and quintessential US type coin, the very rare 1797 Small Eagle Half Dollar graded NGC XF 45 found a new home at $89,700. An NGC Fine Details example of the famous 1838 "Am I not a Man and a Brother" Low-54A token rarity sold for $37,950, only the fourth example known of this desirable issue. An enigmatic 1851 Augustus Humbert Gold $50 Reeded Edge K–6. 887 THOUS. Target Reverse NGC AU 53 rolled to $33,000.

Quite amazingly just halfway through the month of September two major shows and four major auctions have already generated over $42.5 million! There is definitely no fall this September!

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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