Busy And Buzzing In Baltimore

Posted on 11/14/2013

Early November Auction Action Pulls In over $25 Million; Modern Rarities Establish New Records! All Eyes on Newman II - Bright White Morgan And Peace Dollars Are Blazing Hot

November is off to a rousing start for us in the coin collecting world. Jump-starting the month was a Heritage Signature auction in New York City. Running November 1-3, this surprisingly powerful sale featuring four live floor sessions captured nearly $11.4 million and boasted a 96% sell through rate! All told almost 3,900 lots were sold to enthusiastic live floor and Internet bidders.

Leading the action in the Big Apple was the “King” of the Morgan Dollars as a near Gem NGC MS 64 1893-S rallied to $235,000. Highly prized and avidly collected, this lightly frosted coin featured milky white centers accented by a touch of golden brown peripheral toning. For the advanced numismatist the MS 64 affords the collector a very desirable grade for the money. According to the NGC census only 27 coins have been graded as Mint State. The lion share of 10 reside as MS 64 and only three have graded higher: two MS 65 and a single MS 66.

Another Silver Dollar claimed second position in a very convincing manner. A superlative 1799 7x6 Stars Draped Bust Dollar graded NGC MS 65 soared to $211,500! Boasting a strong pedigree with lineage to Newcomer, Green and Heifetz this coin is definitely one of the most attractive circulation strike Draped Bust Dollars in existence. Blazing cartwheel luster radiates as tantalizing hues of blue, lavender and golden apricot adorn the surfaces of this true gem.

Modern variants of the venerable silver cartwheel also shone brightly in New York as several set new records. A popular 1999 Silver Eagle graded NGC MS 70, one of only 91 graded as such by NGC, raced to a powerful $28,200. A record for this issue easily eclipsing the previous benchmark of $25,300 for the date and grade attained nearly three years ago at Heritage’s Houston Signature sale.

Another Silver Eagle, from the 2000 Millennium Set, one of only 19 graded as a perfect NGC MS 70 soared to $29,735. Easily another record for this popularly collected series. Even more telling in this series, is the dramatic price differential in value of a mere grading point. Less than a month ago during the Texas firm’s Thursday Modern Internet only auction, a bright white NGC MS 69 Silver Eagle, also from the Millennium Set, on the cusp of grading perfection realized $55!

For Registry collectors or for those desiring and demanding the finest coins, this speaks untold volumes of the respect, trust and ultimate market value when that numeric determination is assigned by NGC the leader in third-party grading.

Other highlights from the Heritage Signature Sale in New York:

  • 1942 Mercury Dime NGC PF 69 $15,275 (Finest Known)
  • 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter NGC MS 66 FH $34,075
  • 1934 Maryland Tercentenary Commemorative Half Dollar NGC PF 62 $64,625
  • 1892-S Morgan Dollar NGC MS 61 $38,188
  • 1994 Silver Eagle NGC MS 70 $11,163 (Finest Known and record price realized)
  • 1875 Type III Gold Dollar NGC PF 66 Ultra Cameo $55,813 (Finest Known)
  • 1854-D Three Dollar Gold Princess NGC AU 58 $47,000
  • 1861-S Paquet Reverse Liberty $20 NGC AU 58 $176,250
  • 1908 Motto Saint-Gaudens $20 NGC PF 66 $70,500

The numismatic trail then led to Baltimore for the Whitman Expo and host auction conducted by Stack’s Bowers. By all accounts the November 7-10 show was a well-attended and active venue for the public and the professionals manning the tables.

According to Ian Russell, President of Great Collections, “The Baltimore show was extremely busy for us. We were displaying some highlights from our current Sunday auction, which is poised to be our best ever in terms of dollars sold. Current bids are already over $550,000!” Several of the NGC highlights included:

  • 1803 Large 3 Draped Bust Silver Dollar NGC VF 25 $2,750
  • 1902 Liberty Quarter Eagle NGC PF 67 $29,700
  • 1810 Large Date Large 5 Capped Bust Half Eagle NGC AU 53 $6,832
  • 1907 $20 Saint-Gaudens High Relief NGC MS 61 $15,675

Per Russell, world coins continue to attract significant interest in their auctions. “Last week, we auctioned a 1982 Chinese Gold Panda 1 oz. graded NGC MS 69. This coin realized $7,755 (with 52 bids received). We are currently auctioning two rare Russian coins, the highlight a 1753 Gold Ducat, graded NGC XF 45. This coin is being sold unreserved, with bidding to end on Sunday, November 17.”

Well-known dealer Larry Shapiro also enjoyed a good show. Per Shapiro, “Bright white semi-key and key date Morgan and Peace Dollars are blazing hot.” Larry went on to relay that to date, 2013 has been his best year ever in the business.

Well liked dealer Charlie Hertan, a mainstay on the show circuit stated, “Baltimore caps a very strong year for "sexy" certified type and collector coins. The year-long trend continued with generics in the doldrums and tougher coins trading very actively. Buyers are very price sensitive and discounting is necessary to move a large volume of material.”

Although attendance was well above average, several industry notables didn’t venture from their home offices but for good reason! Well-known Steve Contursi advised me, “I did not make it to Baltimore. Just too far to travel when we are so busy at the office. Besides, with today’s technology, I can be in the auction room just sitting at my desk.” The Irvine California dealer advised me, “I did both the Heritage and Bowers auctions. For the premium nights, I was live on computer. I got that feeling that some of the players are sitting on the sidelines anticipating a strong Newman sale next week. As a result, besides small pockets of strong bids, there were more expensive coins that did fall through the cracks…at least in my opinion. These were the coins I was prepared to buy and did. Without going into specifics, there were definitely value deals to be had.”

I also caught up with the always busy Brian Kendrella, President of Stack's Bowers at the shows conclusion. According to Kendrella the bourse in Baltimore was very active and the show very well attended. As for the host auction, “Thus far, the sale is over $13.5 million. There are still over 3,500 lots in our Internet session which closes Tuesday at 3 p.m. The 3,500 includes US and world coins and currency.” The highlight of the auction was the Early American Coin session in conjunction with C4. “We presented over 300 lots to a standing room only auction room, highlighted by the David M. Sundman Collection of Massachusetts Silver Coins. Lots 4001 to 4018 sold for $1.36 million,” relayed an excited Kendrella.

A diverse group of NGC coins served as highlights of the sale. Many were Finest Known and several achieved new records. Leading the sortie, a well matched pair of 1915-S $50 Pan Pacs. The always desirable Octagonal version graded NGC MS 65 captured $118,675 while an NGC MS 65 Round variant funded to $135,125. Just shy of the six-figure benchmark, an exemplary 1914 $10 Indian graded NGC PF 67 captured $96,938. Other highlights included:

  • 1919-S Buffalo Nickel NGC MS 66 $23,500 (Finest Known)
  • 1897-O Barber Quarter NGC MS 67 $23,500 (Finest Known and record price realized)
  • 1904 Barber Quarter NGC PF 69 $31,725 (Finest Known)
  • 1917-S Obverse Mintmark Walking Liberty Half Dollar NGC MS 66 $25,850 (Finest Known)
  • 1921-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar NGC MS 65 $57,281
  • 1798 Heraldic Eagle Draped Bust Silver Dollar B-15a, BB-112BB Die State III. Pointed 9, Wide Date NGC MS 61 $18,212
  • 1872 Seated Liberty Dollar NGC MS 65 $58,750
  • 1903 Louisiana Purchase Expo McKinley Gold Dollar NGC MS 68 $12,925 (Finest Known)
  • 1925 Norse American Gold Medal NGC Matte PF 66 $38,188
  • 1879-O $20 Liberty NGC AU 55 $64,625
  • 1851 .887 Reeded Edge Humbert $50, Target Reverse NGC AU 50 $44,650

As this article posts, it is only one day away from the “live bidding” at the vaunted Newman II collection held by Heritage in New York. I agree with my learned friend Mark Feld’s astute assessment: “I have no personal estimate for Newman. But I predict that a number of the special coins will bring prices that, even considering how amazing, beautiful and unique they are, still shock the numismatic world.” I, too, feel very strongly that history will be made. For those of you that can attend in New York City enjoy!

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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