Rare Coins Remain Safe Haven; Baltimore Next Port of Call

Posted on 6/14/2012

Heritage Long Beach Auction claims $12.6 Million. 2012 American Eagle San Francisco Two–Coin Silver Proof Sets take flight.

The so–called Long Beach curse, a reference to the faltering metal prices that typically greet convention goers at the Southern California venue, was certainly not experienced at the recent show as the yellow metal hit the afterburners with a $67 spike to kick off the month of June. However, that which is good for business on one side always means concerns on another. In this instance a poor job report and higher unemployment was the negative catalyst as the US stock market sank by approximately 1.6% to start the month, quickly erasing all of the gains amassed for 2012. As global markets continued to slump, the rise in the yellow metal to over $1,600 since the first week of May was the cause of intensified action on both sides of the aisle.

While numerous dealers and hobbyists agree that the June show is usually the weaker of the Long Beach editions, it turned out to be quite good for many attendees. The flurry in the metals arena only served to bolster an already active numismatic climate. A major industry player informed me, “I had numerous clients who were not sure which direction to go, make appointments to come in on that Friday and buy gold bullion and semi–numismatic US gold coins. For some it was fear, others just wanted to preserve capital feeling that precious metals are still considerably undervalued. I had a great show.” For many collectors it was simply wanting to buy something before the prices escalated beyond their budget. Rare and conditionally rare coins remain a safe haven for many astute numismatists. “The mood and prevailing atmosphere was as intense as I have observed in some time at this point in the year,” relayed a Midwest wholesaler. “It was decidedly busy for me, commencing with the two hour earlier set up that began at noon compared to the previous 2 pm set up on Wednesday.” Another well–known Southern California dealer advised, “We had a solid show across a broad spectrum of prices and coins. Having a bit of home court advantage helps us no doubt; it's always great to meet so many of our clients and talk coins.”

Heritage’s Signature auction (May 30–June 3) was a very dynamic affair realizing $12.6 Million. The top NGC performer was a rare 1887 Liberty $10 graded NGC PF 65 Cameo (only two coins grade a single point higher with this designation), which captured $120,750. Gem quality gold coins and key dates from most series performed admirably well. Although there was not that much in the way of six–figure coins that sold at the host auction, several six–figure rarities were being sold on the bourse floor. Rarities continue to sell in all grades. A pair of 1895 Proof Morgan Dollars were being sold at the Heritage Signature Sale (an 1895 NGC PF 63 Cameo and an NGC PF 66 Cameo), which realized $51,750 and $71,875 respectively. One well–known West Coast firm confirmed that they sold the “king of the Morgans”, an 1895 NGC PF 68 Ultra Cameo—one of only five that has achieved that lofty grade according to the NGC Census—to a new customer on the Long Beach bourse for over six figures. “The new client is extremely happy with his new acquisition. Our problem is just replenishing higher end inventory; it is just not available at this time.” I was also informed that a pair of Classic Gold Commemoratives fetched over $100k each as a 1915–S Pan Pac $50 Round and Octagonal each graded NGC MS 65 found new homes. Based on that information it’s not surprising that Classic Gold Commems remain flush with buyers, particularly in the higher Mint State columns. At the host auction a superb and very rare 1867 Liberty Seated Dollar graded NGC MS 65—tied for the finest known—captured $57,500. This appears to be a record price for this coin at public auction. Also worth noting, the key date 1926–D Saint–Gaudens $20 graded NGC VF 35, the lowest numerically graded NGC specimen, realized $10,925. This is more than double the current NGC price guide valuation! Modern issues also performed quite well. A 1995–W Silver Eagle graded NGC PF 70 Ultra Cameo commanded a near–record price of $13,800. A 1962 Franklin Half graded NGC MS 66 FBL, the finest and only example known in that grade according to the NGC Census, realized $10,350.

Several other NGC notables at the Heritage Signature Sale included:

  • 1781 Bronzed Copper Libertas Americana Medal NGC MS 61 BN $14,950
  • 1920–S Buffalo Nickel NGC MS 65 $14,950
  • 1915 Buffalo Nickel NGC PF 68 $12,650
  • 1938–D/S Buffalo Nickel NGC MS 68 $13,225
  • 1794 Flowing Hair Half Dime NGC MS 63 $25,200
  • 1837 No Stars Liberty Seated Dime NGC PF 67 $43,125
  • 1874–CC Arrows Liberty Seated Dime NGC F 12 $12,650
  • 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter NGC AU 55 $10,350
  • 1814 Capped Bust Half Dollar NGC MS 68 $43,125
  • 1870–CC Liberty Seated Half Dollar NGC AU 58 $54,625
  • 1795 3 Leaves Flowing Hair Dollar NGC AU 50 $14,950
  • 1893 Morgan Dollar NGC PF 68 Cameo $54,625
  • 1849 Open Wreath, No L Gold Dollar NGC MS 67 $20,700
  • 1806/5 7x6 Stars Draped Bust Quarter Eagle NGC AU 58 $40,250
  • 1875 Liberty Quarter Eagle NGC AU 58 $18,400
  • 1854–D Three Dollar Princess NGC AU 58 $54,625
  • 1909–O Indian Half Eagle NGC AU 58 $18,400
  • 1797 Large Eagle Draped Bust Eagle NGC MS 61 $86,250
  • 1926–D Saint–Gaudens $20 NGC VF 35 $10,925
  • (1831–34) 20C, 150G, Beaded C. Bechtler $5 NGC AU 55 $43,125
  • 1879 J–1636 Gilt Four Dollar Flowing Hair Stella NGC PF 60 $40,250

Between now and the end of June coin dealers and hobbyists will have some time to analyze market trends and try to get a foot up on the formidable competition in the marketplace. As is always the case between major shows, a veritable smorgasbord of Internet only activity appears. One such auction house, Great Collections, has been a welcome and valuable edition in the weekly internet auction trade. As mentioned in my last installment, several important NGC properties were up for bid this month. One fabulous coin, a rare pioneer gold piece, an 1860 Five Dollar Mormon “Lion” graded NGC MS 61, realized $64,075 on June 3. Ian Russell, President of Great Collections, told me late Sunday night, “Crazy busy here. We sold a new record—$535,000—last week. The Lion was the highlight. With gold moving up a week ago Friday, I've noticed increased participation in our auctions. It also helped that we had some of the best coins on offer since we launched. We're on track for a record month of sales.”

For the modern aficionados, another exciting addition is in the wings. For only four weeks, from June 7–July 5, 2012, the United States Mint will be offering a special new two–coin set to collectors. Priced at $149.95, the 2012 American Eagle San Francisco Two–Coin Silver Proof Set will feature the standard Proof Silver Eagle along with the highly prized Reverse Proof coin. Recalling the 25th Anniversary Silver Eagle mania and brief window of opportunity which surrounded the late October 2011 release, the US Mint has come up with the much appreciated extended ordering period and no predetermined mintage. Based on the first day’s report from the US Mint’s website an astounding 85,341 sets were ordered, which means that the maximum mintage of the 25th set has nearly been eclipsed in one day! Based on the extreme public adulation there will not be a shortage of sets for the collector this time around.

The next major venue will be the Whitman Baltimore Expo on June 28–July 1. The host Stack’s Bowers five session auction running June 27–29 is a veritable treasure trove for all numismatists. Phenomenal rarity and conditional standouts bolster an impressive NGC roster which includes an 1879 Flowing Hair Stella, the finest certified example of this date and type. This NGC PF 68 Ultra Cameo will cause head turns and bidding paddles to wave. Another blazing and utterly dynamic Proof gold coin awaits the connoisseur. A virtual perfect 1899 Half Eagle graded NGC PF 69 Ultra Cameo, the finest known specimen and one of only two coins of this type to achieve that grade, readies for inclusion in the finest registry set or advanced collection. Both of these stunning rare coins will highlight Session 5 on June 29. For the Walking Liberty Half enthusiasts there are nearly 800 superb later date (1936–47) Mint State and Proof Walkers appearing!

Some of the superb NGC properties on tap at the Stack’s Bowers Baltimore sale include the following:

  • 1885 Liberty Nickel NGC MS 67
  • 1926–S Buffalo Nickel NGC MS 66
  • 1883 Liberty Seated Quarter NGC PF 68 Ultra Cameo
  • 1937 Walking Liberty Half Dollar NGC PF 68
  • 1799 Draped Bust Dollar NGC MS 64
  • 1827 Capped Bust Quarter Eagle NGC MS 65
  • 1908 $10 Indian motto NGC MS 68
  • 1854 Three Dollar Princess NGC PF 65 Cameo
  • 1879 Four Dollar Flowing Hair Stella NGC PF 68 Ultra Cameo
  • 1899 Liberty $5 NGC PF 69 Ultra Cameo

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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