Golden Opportunities Abound in the Golden State - Long Beach Expo Underway

Posted on 5/31/2012

Bonham's, eBay and Goldberg's Jump Start The Holiday Charge.

While numismatics was never truly a seasonal business, not that long ago when the school bells stopped tolling the numismatic market also took a brief hiatus. As one long time dealer recently asserted, that was then and this is now. For many coin dealers it is now a 9 to 5 year–round grind with weekends allotted for national and regional shows. Technology has certainly assisted with both acquisition and sale. However, in order to keep inventory fresh, the dominant supply trains are marquee auctions and walking the bourse at local and national coin shows. As we go to press, dealers and collectors have been migrating to Southern California taking in the vast numismatic landscape along with the local scenery. Major auctions in Southern California are hosted by the Goldberg’s as well as Heritage's Signature Sale held in conjunction with the Long Beach Expo. Adding to the already busy month, a rare coin auction conducted by Bonham’s realizing a tidy $1.35 million got the festivities rolling in Los Angeles on May 27. Paul Song, Director Rare Coins and Banknotes, was pleased to announce a strong showing for its Memorial Day auction as fresh to the market material drew new bidders on the auction floor and online.

NGC-certified highlights from Bonham’s included:

  • 1814 Classic Head Large Cent NGC MS 63 BN $14,040
  • 1885 Indian Cent NGC MS 67 RB $6,435
  • 1941–S Walking Liberty Half NGC MS 66 $1,404
  • 1879–CC GSA Hoard Morgan Dollar NGC MS 60 $5,148
  • 1900 Liberty Quarter Eagle NGC PF 64 Cameo $7,800
  • 1911–D Indian Quarter Eagle NGC MS 64 $21,060
  • 1912 Indian Quarter Eagle NGC MS 65 $9,945
  • 1914 Indian Quarter Eagle NGC MS 64 $7,605
  • 1871 Three Dollar Princess NGC PF 63 Cameo $21,060
  • 1800 Capped Bust Half Eagle NGC MS 62 $16,380
  • 1811 Small 5 Capped Bust Half Eagle NGC AU 58 $10,350
  • 1875–S Liberty $20 NGC MS 63 $12,870
  • 1923–D Saint–Gaudens $20 NGC MS 67 $15,210

As we go to press, Goldberg’s US portion of their Pre–Long Beach sale is still underway in the City of Angels. The NGC leader of the auction is a very rare Proof Hawaiian Dollar. This finest known specimen, a superlative NGC PF 65 Cameo, captured $89,125. Other NGC standouts include:

  • 1883 Hawaiian Eighth Dollar KM–4A NGC PF 65 $33,350
  • 1883 Hawaiian Quarter Dollar NGC PF 66 Ultra Cameo $40,250
  • 1883 Hawaiian Half Dollar NGC PF 65 Cameo $39,100
  • 1883 Hawaiian Half Dollar Pattern NGC PF 67 $48,300
  • 1883 Hawaiian Dollar NGC PF 65 Cameo $89,125
  • 1814/3 Capped Bust Half Dollar MGC MS 65 $20,700
  • 1795 2 Leaves Flowing Hair Dollar NGC AU 58 $31,050
  • 1883–S Morgan Dollar NGC MS 63 DPL $9,488

While the market for top tier five and six–figure rarities remains highly charged, there is notable strength in several other equally competitive areas. Heightened demand for early Federal type is contributing to its escalation in this early and active summer season. Amplified by collector desire, dealers are targeting the already thinly populated problem–free circulated and Mint State Draped Bust copper and silver type coins. The ever popular Capped Bust Half Dollar series is also getting a boost, as Mint State through very choice specimens are also catering to elevated action. A well–known West Coast dealer said that he is pursuing high–end 19th century silver proof type. “I’m searching for Twenty Cent Pieces, Seated Halves and Seated Dollars. I just can’t find problem free PF 63 to PF 64s at present levels.” A veteran East Coast dealer chimed in that he is in the market for Proof only Trade Dollars. “I have several clients that have been quite patient, but that is wearing thin. I know that they are out there and I will be paying a premium for really nice PR 66 Cameo and better coins with original toning.”

Several buyers are searching for and placing higher bounties for top tier Proof Barber Halves. Even late date Walkers, primarily from the short set, are revealing generous attention for MS 64 and MS 65 specimens. Not surprisingly, Proof Gold Type remains a fixture on virtually everyone’s list that I spoke to. Several industry leaders believe that the recent weakness in gold prices resulted in a little more business coming in from the sidelines. “Several new customers came my way this week,” confirmed a Midwest dealer. “I had individuals looking to test the waters feeling that this is a good time to purchase gold bullion. I was also able to convince them that coins such as Saint-Gaudens $20 or Liberty $20 coins are also tremendous starting points. Somewhat amazingly a Mint State $20 Saint has only about a $40 premium above a Gold Eagle.”

Brian Hodge of LMRC advised me that rare coins are still performing very well with a lot of action targeting between $10K and $35K price points. Brian expects a bit of a slowdown rolling into the summer months as is usually the case, with tons of action starting again in August at the ANA.

Great Collections President Ian Russell advised that they recently sold a 1927–S NGC MS 64 Saint–Gaudens Double for $49,500. The Irvine, CA based firm will be offering a number of important NGC-certified US coins in their upcoming June auctions including a fabulous Mormon gold piece. “Mormon gold pieces issued between 1849 and 1860 have gained in popularity over the past 10 years,” said Russell. “A very rare 1860 $5 Mormon “Lion” coming up for bid is an exquisite NGC MS 61 example.”

Modern US issues also made news at Great Collections. One of the most valuable Silver Eagles around is the 1999 American Silver Eagle certified NGC MS 70. As a business strike in the ultimate grade, it is the condition rarity key to the series with a current NGC Census of only 78 coins in that ultimate grade. (The next closest sibling is the 1991 business strike reporting in with 115 examples rated as numismatic perfection.) Although that figure may seem a trifle high to some, the fact is many of the 1999 issue have been plagued with moderate to heavy post slabbing spotting. This made the most recent offering at Great Collections, which was void of any such detriment, a true prize for the Silver Eagle or Registry set collector. “This was the first NGC MS 70 example of this date we have handled, and I expected spirited bidding activity above the conservative $14,000 minimum bid that was set,” said Russell. This coin became a record hammer price for the issue at $22,501 on May 27 ($24,750 including the 10% Buyers fee), which eclipsed the previous record hammer price of $22,000 achieved at a Heritage Houston Signature Sale in December 2010.

Other NGC notables scheduled to appear in June at Great Collections include:

  • 1916–D Mercury Dime NGC MS 65 FB
  • 1795 3 Leaves Flowing Hair Dollar NGC XF 40
  • 1896 Morgan Dollar NGC PF 65 Cameo
  • 1908 Saint–Gaudens $20 NGC MS 68

John Feigenbaum, President of David Lawrence Rare Coins, told me that the rare coin market is still quite active and that business actually picked up quite a bit over the last few weeks. “I don’t think there are any major trends in the market at this point. I think it is pretty much business as usual which is good for us. We certainly like the market where it is,” advised John. “We have been selling more and more coins and we are quite confident in the market in the long term. Right now I like the opportunities out there.” John also advised that he just picked up a major 20th century rarity. “A 1901–S Barber Quarter NGC MS 67; it’s one really cool coin that we just bought this week from a client that stopped into our offices. It’s maybe the fourth or fifth time that I’ve handled this coin within the last 20 years.” The last time that DLRC handled the coin, which is tied for the finest specimen according to the NGC Census, was in early 2008. A joint venture online auction hosted by DLRC along with five other numismatic firms (Heritage, US Coins, SG Rare Coins, Tangible Investments and Lonestar Numismatics) was conducted on eBay May 20–27. Titled the “Golden Opportunity” sale with the tagline, “Over 600 Gold Coins-Over $4 Million in Value,” it was the scene of considerable action confirming that site’s emerging numismatic muscle. Several of the NGC notables and prices realized include the following:

  • 1915–S Panama–Pacific Octagonal $50 NGC MS 64 $92,850
  • 1907 Saint–Gaudens $20 NGC MS 66 $5,700
  • 1907 High Relief, Flat Rim Saint–Gaudens $20 NGC MS 65 $37,100
  • 1898–S Liberty $20 NGC MS 65 $8,200
  • 1801 Draped Bust Eagle NGC MS 62 $31,212
  • 1860 Liberty $10 NGC MS 60 (SS Central Republic) $8,525
  • 1854 Type II Gold Dollar $6,900
  • 1908 Indian Quarter Eagle $8,650

Wow, all of this action before the Long Beach Expo is officially underway! Indeed it’s a very mature business today. Most of the “problems” the numismatic industry faces are the ability to keep things interesting to new collectors and supply compelling quality coins. Whether it is a new release from the US Mint or a newly discovered variety, every dealer wants to satisfy their customers. The thrill of competing for and compiling a top tier Registry Set also helps keep collectors focused and keen on their specialized fields. Seemingly no matter where the collector turns they can always find fresh and exciting opportunities. It’s obviously not humdrum.

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.

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