Coin Caravan Rolls Into Central States
Posted by Jim Bisognani on 4/19/2012
Spring is in the air, a time of revitalization and renewal. Although the taxman is making his rounds this week, numismatics remains a pleasant diversion for legions of collectors and for others a serious business. Our treasured hobby is certainly bound to no season. Fueled by an insatiable desire to acquire both rare and underrated coins, the numismatic juggernaut continues to motor along. As this article posts, the coin collectors caravan is making a stop in Schaumburg, Illinois for the 73rd annual Central States Numismatic Society (CSNS) Convention on April 18–21. Anchored by a powerful seven session public auction by Heritage, there is a highly charged competitive atmosphere as both collector and dealer vie for these certified numismatic trophies. Session 3, which commences today, is the highly anticipated Platinum Night. Esoteric, rare and fantastic NGC–certified treasures are up on the block. As always, the sale boasts a dynamic array of NGC slabs, something for all discerning tastes and budget. Early Federal rarities and a superlative roster of US Gold are enough to make the ardent numismatist salivate.
A stunning selection of Proof Liberty Double Eagles are bound to spawn frenzied competition as they cross the auction block. Having been held in private collections, many of these “fresh” offerings have not been available to the voracious collector for several decades. The coveted late nineteenth century rarity 1885 Double Eagle is represented by the finest known Proof specimen. Graded NGC PF 67 Cameo it appears for only the third time at a public venue in 22 years. Interestingly, the last time this exact coin appeared, it did so as a marquee player in Bowers and Merena’s Dr. Robert Swan and Rod Sweet collections on March 13, 2004, when this Ultra Gem captured $106,375. An 1898 Double Eagle graded NGC PF 67 Ultra Cameo has been the object of fierce action. Tied for the finest known according to the NGC Census, it’s a good bet to eclipse the $218,500 a like NGC specimen received in July of 2008 as a feature performer in Stack’s Samuel Berngard/SS New York sale. Reporting in with an “averager” proof mintage of 75 it is estimated that fewer than half that number remain in all grades due to attrition. The turn of the century example dated 1900 finds a stunning NGC PF 67 Cameo representative. Tied for the finest known of this date, there were no previous public records available for a sale of this exquisite Double Eagle's caliber. As expected, viewing and pre–bidding has been non–stop as participants digest various price guides and auction archives ready to pull the trigger and raise the bidding paddle. Amazingly of the 31 years that Type 3 Double Eagles were produced, those graded PF 67 Cameo and Ultra Cameo combined have appeared at public auction fewer than a dozen times since 1980.
Additional roster of NGC highlights at CSNS Heritage Signature Sale include:
- 1793 Half Cent NGC AU 53
- 1842 Braided Hair Half Cent original NGC PF 64 RB
- 1796 Draped Bust Dime NGC MS 64
- 1842 Seated Liberty Dollar NGC PF 65
- 1852 Seated Liberty Dollar Restrike NGC PF 65
- 1893–S Morgan Dollar NGC MS 62
- 1855 Type II Gold Dollar NGC MS 66
- 1808 Capped Bust Quarter Eagle NGC MS 63
- 1841 Liberty Quarter Eagle NGC PF 55
- 1863 Liberty Quarter Eagle NGC PF 66 Ultra Cameo
- 1858–O Liberty $20 NGC AU 58
- 1885 Liberty $20 NGC PF 67 Cameo
A well respected East Coast dealer advised that Type coins remain a driving force in this dynamic market. “I just can’t fill the want lists I have for quality Type. It is a struggle to come up with just a handful of coins after walking the bourse.” Feverish demand has been observed on the bourse for just about any quality Flowing Hair and draped bust examples. Uncirculated minor type coins remain on virtually everyone’s want lists, too. Seated Liberty type heads the list as elevated bids for Choice Uncirculated and better examples amplify the strong support from dealers as the ever–increasing collector base clamors for quality 19th century type coins. Surging demand has been observed for key date gold in all series. High grade Liberty Proof Gold continues to be blistering hot too.
Several well known dealers have told me that classic commemoratives are still observing consistent support for Choice and Gem graded specimens. Although some common issues are still struggling to garner support, the demand for solidly graded, eye-appealing, originally toned coins from the classic series remained a hot ticket item.
The breakneck speed which has exemplified the rise of internet only auctions continues to captivate and draw an ever increasing appreciative core of numismatists. A solid player, David Lawrence Rare Coins (DLRC) continues to expand that market. A well respected numismatic mainstay since 1979 and a force in the internet auction revolution, DLRC President John Feigenbaum told me their internet–only auction software prototype was their historic 3 session Richmond collection held in 2004-5, which realized over $25 million. Offering multiple weekly internet only auctions since 2004, ever improving technology is a focal point in the growth of DLRC. While not regularly in the business of consignment based sales, the Virginia based firm will pass auction number 700 this summer. “Day in and day out the internet auctions have been very good for us. It is a very efficient way to offer new inventory in a democratic way. You never know what will be the most hotly contested certified coin,” advised John.
Probably one of the biggest wholesale buyers in the country, DLRC attempts to buy most of their coins from other dealers and at shows with relentless presence canvassing the bourse floor. As for the state of the current coin market John responded with “I really let people buy what they want, we don’t make calls. I always buy as many nice coins in the $200 to $5K range, collector coins, Barbers, Seated Type, Mercury Dimes, really any slightly better date, anything interesting in that price range is a real sweet spot for us. If we can buy at what we think is fair market value and there is attractive fresh product, we will buy all of it.” When I asked John how 2012 is comparing thus far to last year, he offered, “I don’t know if anything has dramatically changed in the last year. I think the market has leveled in terms of pricing. I think things were a bit more precarious a year ago but actually 2011 was a very good year for me and most of my friends in the business. I think this year is holding its own which for me so far this year is about the same which would be great.” He also relayed, “eBay is going to be a real game changer. With over 1 million active coin customers, their reach is massive. The growth of eBay is going to bode very well for the coin industry and NGC.” I also caught up with well known dealer John Hamrick. In the Georgia dealer’s opinion, the market for nice scarce and rare US coins remains very strong thus far in 2012. Per Hamrick, in recent weeks they have sold numerous NGC coins priced from mid four figures to $50,000+ primarily from their website. “At Central States this week, we are in the market to purchase up to $1,000,000 of coins to stock. The one thing I can say with certainty is that collectors and investors alike want nice coins for the grade.” It doesn’t matter if they have a CAC sticker or not–nice coins with good eye appeal sell readily when priced fairly. To give you an idea of the strength of the market today, we just sold a NGC 1907 High Relief $20 MS 64 that was fresh to a Florida dealer for over $31,000.”
On all fronts the numismatic arena is performing very well. We have a very healthy base of collectors that are in the market to buy. Until next time, happy collecting.
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.