2013 - A Banner Year For Numismatics!

Posted on 12/26/2013

Newman Parts I & II Set the Bar - Frenzied Demand; Record Prices Chase NGC Icons. Industry Experts Discuss 2013 and Weigh In On What Lies Ahead.

Amazingly we are about to close another year. It’s hard to believe but the winter season seemed to sneak up on me this year. I really don’t know how that happened but two major snowstorms in mid-December and 20 inches of the white stuff later confirms that Old Man Winter is definitely here to stay and, as always with that old gent’s arrival, it signals the end of another year. Yet before we bid a fond farewell to 2013 let us reflect on what has been a very exciting time to be involved with numismatics.

For many of us on the front line it could be easy to become somewhat jaded what with the plethora of regional and national shows as well as Internet and live floor auctions, all vying for attention of collectors and dealers. Yet with unbridled strength and vitality this robust rare coin market has taken no prisoners. It has certainly been an extraordinary year for NGC-certified rare coins! A lot of the credit for the continued triumphs is a direct result of the enormous and frenzied demand for all top tier NGC-certified coins, especially those attributed to the Newman Collection!

Leading the powerful display in 2013 was a fantastic group of rare and eye appealing coins that eclipsed the hallowed million dollar mark. What was cause for celebration and titillation throughout the numismatic community has become a bit more commonplace in recent times yet certainly not without justified fanfare. As the demand, notoriety and true rarity of US coins becomes apparent in both numismatic and investment circles there will certainly be another string of coins gaining membership into this elite club. The iconic, rare and finest known type coins graded by NGC set the bar in 2013.

A pair of fabulous treasures from the Eric P. Newman Collection Parts I and II were both proud inductees. The finest known 1796 Draped Bust Quarter, graded NGC MS 67, realized $1,527,500 (a record price for any quarter) in mid-November. At Central States in April the captivating and exquisite Newman 1852 Humbert $10 graded NGC MS 68 roared to $1,057,500. Also at CSNS another 1796, this the finest known Draped Bust Dollar of that year graded NGC MS 65, powered to an astonishing $1,175,000; a most extraordinary type coin! On September 23 in Los Angeles, Bonham’s Tacasyl Collection of NGC-certified proof gold coins wowed the numismatic and mainstream media as a pair of Stellas took the spotlight. The fabulous and seldom encountered 1880 Coiled Hair Stella witnessed the finest known example, graded NGC PF 67 Cameo, bring home $2,574,000, while the 1879 Coiled Hair Stella companion, also an NGC PF 67 Cameo, reported in at $1,041,300.

But the rare coin market isn’t for just the elite million dollar club. A multitude of other popular and key date coins at virtually all price points achieved solid support and record prices during the year as collectors and investors battled for the numismatic treasures as they appeared at auction or on the bourse floor.

Although spot gold has given up around 25% and silver has relinquished about a third of their 2012 closing levels, the collector market certainly hasn’t softened in these respective areas, having remained steadfast with desire and demand targeting both US gold coins and US silver coins represented in virtually all series. Yet the key here for the novice or advanced collector, is as it has always been, that those coins with true numismatic value have weathered the storm of volatility associated with the metals and financial markets and have traditionally made for superb investments in their respective collections over the long term.

The energy and enthusiasm surrounding numismatics isn’t just for US coins. World coins have been making tremendous inroads into the marketplace. As the preeminent independent third-party grading service of NGC expands operations to Europe and Asia, with submission centers throughout the world, the concept, security and value of world coin certification has become highly apparent to those esteemed overseas collectors. In fact, world coins will take the spotlight as the New Year rolls in with the Newman Part III catalog featuring an eclectic and dazzling array of world coins, all graded by NGC, that will be sold by Heritage at its New York office January 14-16, 2014.

I think it is appropriate as this article takes the curtain down for the year, that I relinquish the floor to several of my learned colleagues, allowing them to reflect on 2013 and share insights on the numismatic arena for 2014. Not surprisingly, in my conversations a common thread was the immense respect for the Newman collections and that great cabinet’s part in sustaining and even driving the market to new heights.

Per the well-respected Ian Russell, President of Great Collections:

“I can’t believe the year is almost coming to an end. Despite gold and silver spot price weakness, I thought the coin market was remarkably strong. There were rumors around in September that the market was getting weaker, but that went out the window in November when the Eric Newman coins were sold and the well-attended coin show in Baltimore (which appeared to me to be the best Baltimore in years). I am expecting an equally as strong 2014. We are still getting a lot of new registered bidders...new people wanting to start collecting coins and that to me is the best barometer of the market. Not that I am big on projections, but I am now predicting Great Collections' first $1 million auction to be held early 2014, anchored by an important type set of US coins.”

The astute Ira Goldberg was kind enough to share his views with me as well:

“The coin market for US coinage was basically flat for 2013. Except for some spectacular collections like the Newman holdings, American coins were mostly holding or slightly soft for most areas. With the exception of the Newman highlights, rarities in spectacular condition that brought exceptionally strong prices, many of the coins brought normal Greysheet levels or even slightly below. As is usually the case, fresh coins to the market properly graded sold at solid levels. With the price of gold and silver drifting lower during the year, there was not much to inspire and push prices higher. I think the same will hold true for 2014. I also find interesting how low the premiums are for generic US gold. During 2013 not only have the prices drifted lower because of the price of gold but the premiums have shrunk too. If this continues for 2014, I would be surprised. In conclusion, I do not expect 2014 to be much different than 2013, new records will be set for the "trophy coins," but most issues will remain flat—I hope I am wrong.”

I asked Q. David Bowers, the preeminent expert in US coins and author of so many exceptional volumes what his thoughts were as we approach 2014:

“What to say about 2014? I look forward to an exciting, indeed dynamic year. There are many great things in our favor. As I write these words, the price of bullion gold is lower than it has been any time in the past several years. I have never been a “gold bug” but I do love gold coins. When the price of gold rises, this eliminates many numismatists from the game. Predictions were aplenty a year ago that gold would hit $5,000 an ounce. If this happened, probably hardly anyone would consider putting together a type set of double eagles (six different designs from 1850 to 1933) or collecting them by date. Now that this didn’t happen, the opportunity to collect double eagles is better than any time recently. I view this as a plus. If you like gold, consider forming a type set for starters or simply see how many different dates and mintmarks you can obtain in, say, MS 63 grade hand-picked for quality!

By any accounting the most popular traditional American series is that of Morgan Silver Dollars 1878 to 1921. I like these as well, and have always enjoyed reflecting on their history and romance. Carson City dates, of which there are 11, have attracted a lot of attention in particular. Did you know that a collection of more than half of the nearly 100 different dates and mints can be obtained in Mint State for less than $500 [each]? It is true and many of them are even less than $100. A nice way to go about this is to select a grade that you think you can afford — perhaps MS 63, and buy as many different as you can up to $500 per coin. You will then have the majority, as mentioned. Then drop down to MS 62 and see how many others you can add. Before you know it you will have nearly all.”

The affable John Brush's, Vice President of David Lawrence Galleries, assessment:

“We saw the market strengthen as the year began. Major rarities were offered more frequently than in the past, starting with the Cardinal collection in January. While the first quarter was a bit slower than what we expected, the year picked up and was in full swing by March. We were pleasantly surprised as collectors seemed to move out of bullion as the year wore on and started moving back into their rare coin collections. We were also privileged to once again purchase and sell the Daggett Specimen of the 1894-S Barber Dime this past summer. That was certainly an honor and an early sign that rare coins would once again take a prominent place in the market. As the summer ended and fall approached, the fabulous Newman collection entered the auction market as well and we saw a surge of activity during and after the sale that is unlike what we have experienced in the latter parts of past years. In our opinion, this collection further solidified the fact that rare coins are once again taking a prominent position amongst collectors.

In 2014, we hope for more of the same. We expect the trend of rare coins becoming the focus of the numismatic market to continue in 2014 and we believe that collectors will be able to see the rewards of all of the time that they have spent in focusing on their collections. While bullion will always have a place in the coin market, the true rarity and value lies in rare coins.”

Per the always congenial Mark Feld, Senior Numismatist at Heritage:

“The market continues to be and will probably remain bifurcated. In general, the truly rare and/or high quality and/or especially eye-appealing coins continue to bring very strong prices, while many other coins sell for moderate or just so-so prices. The coins in the former category represent a much smaller segment of the market than those in the later ones. I think that the price of gold and strength (or weakness) of the economy will be major factors affecting much of the rare coin market next year. Personally, I think the economy will surprise on the upside, but perhaps that is merely wishful thinking.”

Well-known Brian Hodge of LMRC conveyed:

“2013 was interesting. I think the top tier collectors, ones with enormously deep pockets, have their eyes on our industry like never before and we should continue to see record setting prices throughout 2014. Sometimes I feel a little anxiety about the distant future of the market. Is the younger generation going to carry on the tradition? Will people still care in 30-40 years? And then I see sales like that of Eric Newman's and the anxiety goes away. I think there are a lot of individuals out there, silent collectors if you will, with tremendous confidence in our industry and I think as long as there are no depressions or recessions we will continue to see incredible sums of money pouring into great coins. I think right now things are very top heavy and they'll continue to be that way. Meaning, people aren't afraid to bring out the big guns for truly exceptional quality coins. I think many dates within the $10 Liberty series are still remarkably undervalued. I think those have room for incredible appreciation. I think varieties such as Overdates, Doubled Dies, etc. are gaining incredibly in popularity and many of these are sensational buys. Some of these only a few are known of, and are crazy affordable! I'm inspired and rejuvenated. I think 2014 will be a banner year.”

I certainly believe that the demand for quality key date coins and rarities as well as those with impeccable strike and natural patina will continue to drive this market. With that said the New Year is anxiously waiting in the wings, ready to take the passing of the baton. Wow! What a dynamic start for us in January! New York (New York International Numismatic Convention) and Florida (59th Annual FUN Show) will be the focus of the bold spotlight each venue filled with amazing auctions! The numismatic barometer points to high pressure for the entire month—stay tuned! Until next time, happy collecting and Happy New Year!

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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