Baltimore a Class Act: Stack's Bowers Sale Claims Nearly $17 Milllion

Posted on 11/29/2012

Lone Star State Beckons; True Collector Coins Face Heated Demand

The final installment of the Whitman brand shows for 2012 was a solid team effort and class act. The Baltimore contingent headed by David Crenshaw and Lori Hamrick did a yeoman–like job preparing for this event. In the wake of super storm Sandy and only a week removed from the Presidential election, Baltimore Expo dealers as well as collectors weren’t sure what type of reception would greet them on the bourse. Yet to the credit of the show organizers as well as an ardent collector base, by nearly all accounts attendees found the atmosphere quite energized inside the Baltimore Convention Center.

The host auction held by Stack’s Bowers was a marathon of sorts. With nine sessions in total, the sale started on November 14 and actually concluded with the Internet only sessions on November 20! All told an appetizing, seemingly endless smorgasbord of Colonial issues, early Federal numismatic treasures, domestic and foreign paper and even Stone Money from Yap met that hammer. Per Brian Kendrella, Director of Operations of US Collectibles, the total sale captured $16.8 million breaking down as follows: $13.1 million for US coins, $1.3 million for US currency and $2.4 million for world coins and currency. The Stack’s Bowers crew certainly put in long hours to facilitate all the action in the viewing room as collectors and dealers took turns to scan the potential certified bounty. The auction sessions also lived up to the marathon moniker as many bidders “pulled what seemed to be all–nighters” as near standing room only crowds hung in for the duration. This sale certainly had an agenda and was very active, with high prices hammered for high quality low pop coins and collector grade coins.

Per Q. David Bowers, “The sale went very well. At the convention I spent nearly all my time on the bourse floor. Chris Karstedt was at the auction sale non–stop!” Greg Cohen, Numismatist and Consignment Director, concurred, “We were very pleased with the results. Overall, coins in all categories sold very well, with record prices noted in some areas, particularly in our major offering of Colonial coins anchored by the Jack Royse and Ted Craige Collections in our session held in conjunction with the C–4 organization. Our sale had a nice selection of NGC–graded coins in all sessions, across all series, from medals and tokens to US type coins, gold, and world coins, as well as all price points.”

Once again demand for quality coins, especially those that are fresh to the market, is strong. Prices for coins that were housed in old collections prior to sale in Baltimore showed results commensurate with that strong demand. Scores of exquisitely preserved and wonderfully toned NGC representatives certainly made a statement about the strength of the numismatic arena as the calendar winds down on 2012. The following roster reveals many of the superb NGC offerings:

  • 1872 Two Cent Piece NGC MS 64 RD $14,375
  • 1851-O Three Cent Silver NGC MS 67 $8,625
  • 1861 Three Cent Silver NGC MS 67 $8,050
  • 1916 Doubled Die Obverse Buffalo Nickel NGC AU 55 $23,630
  • 1916-D Mercury Dime NGC MS 66 FB $45,238
  • 1804 Draped Bust Quarter NGC F 15 $10,575
  • 1825/4/2 Capped Bust Quarter NGC AU 58 $12,925
  • 1880-S Morgan Dollar NGC MS 69 $22,325
  • 1808 Capped Bust Quarter Eagle NGC MS 61 $129,250
  • 1856-D Liberty Quarter Eagle NGC MS 61 $70,500
  • 1809/8 Capped Bust Half Eagle NGC MS 65 $81,075
  • 1926 Sesquicentennial Half Dollar NGC MS 66 $12,338

Whitman was also a very good retail sale venue for Stack’s Bowers. Per Cohen, “We did a decent amount of buying at the show. Several fresh consignments of desirable coins have been taken for our January event, and the anticipation around the January Americana sale is palpable. As you know, coming up in our January 2013 Americana sale is the famed Cardinal Collection, which will feature the fabulous NGC MS 68 1792 Half Disme. The entire Cardinal Collection was on display at our bourse table, as well as highlights from future selections of the Ted Craige Collection of Colonial coins, and other consignments for our Rarities Night session in January. Traffic by the table to view these wonderful rarities was heavy, and there was usually a crowd of collectors and dealers looking at these highlights.” Greg also assured me that other superb NGC coins will be featured in the upcoming sale, with highlights to be announced in the coming weeks.

Many bourse dealers proclaimed solid retail trade while others relayed an even balance of transactions on both sides of the floor. Once again price was not an object for coins that met collectors' stringent criteria. As a well known East Coast dealer stated, “If the coin has the right look it will sell. I am talking about key dates, semi-key and type coins. If the coin is all there, it will sell immediately.” This dealer confirmed that he sold several five figure NGC–certified coins during the first day of the show.

Enzio Romano, the well liked dealer from New York caught up with me and relayed that sales were strong for the right coins. Not surprising, the coins that sold from this dealer’s inventory all had “excellent eye appeal and luster.” An incredible coin that was picked up for inventory was an absolutely stunning 1872 Two Cent Piece, a NGC PF 65 RD example. “The coin is just unbelievable — it will knock your socks off,” advised Romano.

Lance Tchor, owner of Worldwide Numismatics, advised Baltimore was busy with lots of collectors, but quality coins for sale were few and far between. This dealer was only able to spend 20% of what he wanted to at the convention and he communicated that although it was very active in the “Old Line State,” it seems like the coin market has hit a little break as the month of December is traditionally quiet for numismatics.

It is also important to address that true collector coins are facing heated demand. Key dates from nearly all 20th century series are disappearing from inventory as scores of collectors and vest–pocket dealers capture them for collections and inventory. Whether a 1909–S VDB in Fine or a VG to VF 1916–D Mercury Dime, several authorities advised that coins in the $500 to $1,500 range are being targeted. Clean, problem–free circulated material, especially Lincolns, Mercs and Walkers, are bringing premiums and are not returning to the market with any regularity.

Numismatists as well as most every other professional in the business are still finding it increasingly difficult to replenish quality inventory once it is sold. Mediocre coins, common representative type examples with the average look, certified or not, are languishing in inventory. Whether it is called Black Friday or Cyber Monday in the regular consumer circles, most coin dealers are raising their sale banners in earnest, anxious to make sales and gain cash reserves heading into what portends to be a battle royal for quality in 2013. As in any venue, good buys can be procured with a little homework. As a well known Texas dealer said to me “Hey, it’s not only type coins or common Morgan Dollars which are irregularly toned that are up for sale, but quality coins which are expendable are up for astute collectors.” One such dispensable series this dealer was referring to is the Classic Silver Commemoratives contingent. While still courting enormous demand from collectors, most of these coins are still readily attainable making this dealer happy to make a sale now because he knows that he can still secure inventory when needed later.

Certainly there may be some trepidation by the so–called “industrial investors” but those in the know in numismatic circles feel as though prices for top tier and seldom seen NGC–certified rarities may seem like bargains come the first the year. One reason for this feeling is that after the Baltimore show the only other major event is the usually well attended Money Show of the Southwest, held in the hospitable confines of Houston, Texas, November 29 through December 2. This year, however, the event will feature the Heritage Signature auction running concurrent with the show at the George R. Brown Convention Center. In total over 6,000 lots will be offered up, including the following lineup of prominent NGC certified examples:

  • 1781 Libertas Americana Medal Bronzed Copper NGC MS 60 BN
  • 1873 Doubled Liberty Indian Cent NGC AU 53
  • 1909-S Indian Cent NGC MS 66 RD
  • 1864 Small Motto Two Cent Piece NGC MS 64 RD
  • 1872 Two Cent Piece MS 64 BN
  • 1923-S Buffalo Nickel NGC MS 66
  • 1842-O Small Date Liberty Seated Quarter NGC AU 53
  • 1896-S Barber Quarter NGC MS 66
  • 1995-W Silver Eagle NGC PF 70 Ultra Cameo
  • 1911-D Indian Quarter Eagle NGC MS 65
  • 1834 Crosslet 4 Classic Head Half Eagle NGC MS 62
  • 1844-S Liberty Half Eagle NGC MS 63
  • 1810 Small Date Capped Bust Half Eagle NGC MS 64
  • 1865-S $20 Liberty NGC MS 63
  • 1925-S $20 Saint-Gaudens NGC MS 64
  • 1861 Scott Restrike Confederate States Half Dollar NGC MS 64

As the busy month of November closes out hopefully both dealers and collectors allotted time to spend with their families during the holidays!

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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