US & World Rare Coin Market Remains Extremely Competitive
Posted on 9/20/2012
For the first time since a rather stormy reception in February 2010, it was actually raining during set up at the Long Beach Expo. Although it was unusually wet for Southern California, it did not deter the mission at hand. On opening day, there was considerable action from the start as many dealers took time before the opening bell to canvass their contemporaries’ showcases and conduct business. Activity on the floor accelerated as a rather ravenous numismatic public came through the convention doors in significant numbers. Adding to the bustle on the bourse, there appeared to be an increase in vest pocket dealers in attendance. The tempo was decidedly upbeat during most of the show’s duration. Many of the attending dealers concurred that it was a lively and profitable event. Adding to the buzz was the extreme strength in precious metals leading up to and during the show.
According to well respected dealer Enzio Romano, Long Beach continues to be one of his favorite venues and he had a very good show. For the New York professional a great percentage of his sales were dealer–to–dealer transactions during set up. “Strong prices were paid out for top quality coins. Personally, I was targeting Heritage’s Signature Auction. There was a very nice selection of Seated Halves and original skinned AU and better Capped Bust Halves. Unfortunately, I was not successful in winning any lots,” which is an indication of the sustained and broad–based strength of the present market according to Romano.
Brian Hodge of Lee Minshull Rare Coins (LMRC) advised me that low population rare coins are still very hot. “We’ve had many several hundred thousand dollar sale days recently in really rare NGC–certified coins. I don’t have a lot of time lately; I have been very swamped!” A few of the top tier NGC slabs that recently found new homes through LMRC include a superb 1803/2 Draped Bust Half Eagle graded NGC MS 65. Only a single coin has been graded MS 66 according to the NGC Census. Another gold coin, a fabulous and rarely encountered 1860 Liberty Half Eagle graded NGC PR 64 Cameo, traded hands. Out of the paltry original mintage of 62 coins it is estimated by several authorities that fewer than a dozen coins exist today. Yet only 6 coins appear to have been certified by major grading services. Five of the coins appear on the NGC US Census! Certainly a coup for the new owner! Rounding out the formidable trio was an 1836 Gobrecht Silver Dollar J–60 graded NGC PR 64.
Auction action in Southern California certainly presented an opportunity to supply new inventory for dealers and satisfy customers’ and collectors’ cravings. Heritage’s Signature Auctions in Long Beach realized a substantial $18.7 million. Leading the auction highlight reel was the finest known 1897 Liberty Double Eagle. This scarcer Proof issue graded NGC PF 67 Cameo captured $147,500. A further testament to the strength of this market, 125 of the coins in the auction raked in mid–to–high five figures. An aesthetically pleasing 1793 Wreath Cent Vine & Bars S–8 variety, graded NGC MS 63 BN and tied for the third finest known, thundered home to an excited floor bidder at $64,625. Exceptionally preserved, it is also the famous Crosby–Levick plate coin whose photograph appeared in the American Journal of Numismatics in April 1869. Another superbly preserved coin, the popular 1853 Liberty Seated Arrows and Rays Quarter, graded NGC PF 65 Cameo, raced to an impressive $94,000. Very popular as a one year standard delivery type coin, the Proof striking is extraordinarily rare with only 5 coins reported on the NGC Census. This sharply impressed, delicately toned gem is the second finest known and will assuredly be a highlight of the new owner’s collection. The exquisite and quite possibly unique 1854 Liberty Eagle graded NGC PF 55 Cameo charged to an impressive $88,125 during heated floor action. This exciting coin was a recent discovery piece having been submitted to NGC early in 2012 by an authorized dealer based in Europe! An elusive and rare 1803 Large 3, Small Stars O–101 Draped Bust Half Dollar graded NGC MS 62 propelled to an impressive $35,250. Only a handful of examples qualify as Mint State and this is the second finest known. A true conditional rarity, coins of this caliber have come up for sale at public venues only a few times over the past several decades.
Other NGC notables include:
- 1794 No Fraction Bar Large Cent NGC XF 45 $23,500
- 1916–D Mercury Dime NGC MS 65 FB $30,550
- 1795 3 Leaves Flowing Hair Dollar NGC AU 55 $41,125
- 1895 Morgan Dollar NGC PF 61 $44,063
- 1869 Liberty Half Eagle NGC PF 65 Cameo $58,750
World coins also performed extremely well in the Heritage Signature Auction. Leading the pack was a major Brazilian gold rarity: an 1820(B) Joao VI Gold 4000 Reis. This incredible South American issue is perhaps the only known example outside of the Banco Espirito Santo Museum. Graded NGC MS 62, it went to an enthusiastic floor bidder at $129,250. Several other rare Brazilian gold coins were also crowd favorites, each realizing in the low to mid–five figure range. An exquisite and extremely rare Cuba 1915 Republic Gold 20 Pesos graded NGC PF 65 Cameo raced to an impressive $99,875. Although the exact mintage is unknown, Proof strikings of this coin are believed to be less than 100 pieces with few unimpaired survivors. According to the NGC World Coin Census there are only eight Proof examples and only one coin grades a single point higher than this auctioned specimen. The formidable and perhaps unique Danish West Indies 1904 Christian IX Proof 10 Daler 50 Francs NGC PF 64 captured $70,500. India continues to be a hotbed of collector activity. A spectacular and original 1911–C Proof set of George V including the Silver 2 Anna (NGC PF 63), ¼ Rupee (NGC PF 64), ½ Rupee (NGC PF 64) and Rupee (NGC PF 63) from the Ted Reams Collection, roared to an astounding $47,000! A George V 1919–C 2 Anna NGC PF 64, 4 Anna NGC PF 64 and 8 Anna NGC PF 63 also pedigreed to the Ted Reams Collection was sold as a single lot, powering to $10,575!
Other NGC graded World coin standouts were:
- Burma 1852 Mindon 5 Mu (½ Rupee) NGC PF 67 Cameo $12,925
- Cuba 1915 Gold 10 Pesos NGC PF 64 Ultra Cameo $25,850
- Ecuador 1845 MV Quito 8 Escudos NGC AU 50 $44,063
- Greece 1851 Othon Drachma NGC MS 65 $14,688
At the conclusion of an exciting Long Beach Expo the US and World rare coin market remains extremely competitive and selective. Top quality US type coins remain blistering hot according to a well known Midwest market maker. “We’re not just talking about MS 65 and better coins here,” advised the dealer. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to acquire nice circulated Liberty Seated Dollars and Bust type material in all denominations. For many of my customers pleasing VF to XF representatives are at a price point that they can afford. I know I can’t replace them at current levels. This stuff just can’t be located in quantity any longer.”
Dealers are certainly doing their part to satisfy hobbyists in all budget ranges. John Feigenbaum, President of David Lawrence Rare Coins (DLRC), relayed to me that the firm has sold many Registry–quality NGC coins to his clients in the last month. The following grouping of private treaty and online auction sales verifies that, with due diligence, exceptional NGC–certified coins in the low five–figure range are still obtainable in the current market:
1873–S Arrows Liberty Seated Quarter NGC MS 65. This the finest known of only 48 pieces in all grades appearing on the NGC Census. Truly rare, a coin of this caliber has appeared at public auction only twice in the last 17 years! Certainly a great acquisition for the new owner.
1878–CC Trade Dollar NGC MS 62. Another key date, coveted by collectors, very elusive in Mint State. In fact there are only 80 coins in all grades on the NGC Census! True Mint State coins have appeared at auction at a rate of less than 1 per year over the last two decades!
Also, an exquisite 1865 $20 Liberty NGC MS 63 captured $20,100 at the DLRC online auction held on September 10th.
Ian Russell, President of Great Collections informed me, “Sales are continuing to grow at Great Collections. Even moderns are strong. A recent set of NGC Proof 70 UC Silver Eagles sold extremely well with three sales over $15,000 for the 1995-W $1 Silver Eagle in recent months. An impressive error collection sold for three times our pre-sale estimates. We have some pretty amazing coins coming up. Over 7,300 listings are live, up 30% from earlier in the year. With gold, silver and platinum metal prices increasing, we have a similar increase in the amount of bids and the prices realized on modern bullion issues, but also earlier gold coins.”
Everything old is new again. At least that’s the case with the highly popular inaugural NGC submission holders which debuted back in 1987. The striking jet black core utilized on those first NGC slabs is making a comeback! In celebration of NGC’s 25th Anniversary, these new retro holders and 25th Anniversary label will only be made available for submissions of Silver Eagles, Sacagawea Dollars and Presidential Dollars. The limited engagement is available on submissions received October 1 through December 31. A quick glance at the calendar indicates it isn’t too early to get one of these limited editions as a holiday gift for that special numismatist!
Luckily most of the dealer brethren will have a month before the ANA National Money Show in Dallas Texas from October 18–20. It should be an exciting one. The significant and ardent collector base in Texas coupled with what is traditionally a more active time in the coin market and the surging precious metals market bodes for an electric atmosphere.
Yes, unfortunately for the younger generation the summer respite has ended. It’s back to school and the academic grind. Similarly, as dealers keep a watchful eye on market trends, auction results and availability, their education is never static. For the many newcomers as well as veteran hobbyists it is also a fortuitous time to consider a course in Numismatics 101. There is so much to learn, yet it is so easy to get started. Luckily with the assistance of the Internet and a superb site such as NGC, a plethora of archival and current information is readily available for the professional as well as for the neophyte hobbyist. NGC offers price guides, a coin grading guide, census reports as well as upcoming auction information for your favorite and desirable coins. With NGC Coin Details, a Smart App for your iPhone or Android device, you can scan the barcode of any NGC coin and verify certification as well as view virtually all of the aforementioned data right at your fingertips. How exciting is that? Even though I’ve been a part of the high–tech industry for many years, it still amazes me that there is so much relevant information that is currently available instantaneously. What used to take days, even months of research can be viewed in a mere click.
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.