FUN 60 - A Display of Numismatic Supremacy
Posted on 1/22/2015
The 60th Annual Winter FUN Show is in the books, and according to attendees from both sides of the aisle at the Orange County Convention Center, it was proclaimed an exciting, historic and eventful show. Collectors were buzzing about the size of the bourse, and most I conversed with said they had a great time. As one exuberant collector from Ohio said, “So many coins, it was glorious. For me, it was like Christmas when I was a kid. So much to choose from, top quality coins from all series to drool over! The hall was enormous!” According to most participating dealers in the Sunshine State, it was also an enjoyable and profitable venue. As always, numismatic professionals came to Florida with high expectations for 2015.
According to well respected Bob Green, President of Park Avenue Numismatics, “For me, it was great. I had a wonderful show.” Bob then said it really was a matter of what kind of coins you came into the show with. “I came into the show with some new purchases and had some great coins to sell.” In fact, Bob informed me that he sold most of those coins before the show officially started on Tuesday! “If you had nice coins to sell, and they were offered at fair prices, you sold them!” The action and business just rolled into the opening day bell at FUN for the Florida dealer. “The show started on Wednesday; I did a lot of wholesale on Wednesday. I did some active trading with several new collectors that I had not met over the years. That was really nice because I probably picked up a couple of great new customers.”
I certainly concur with Mr. Green’s assessment. Dealers that came to the show with high expectations and who were armed with a diverse array of quality coins at assorted price points were the ones who did very well and exceeded their expectations. Certified coins which were attractive for the grade and those elusive and desirable premium quality coins from most series, especially Bust type, were also targeted by collector and dealer alike.
One Midwest dealer said he had brought several boxes of NGC-certified classic commems. “Most of the stuff was PQ—great color and luster. These coins are available almost everywhere, but my Boones, Oregon Trails, and Texas type were definitely a notch above the rest.” This excited Midwest dealer racked up over $20,000 in sales in the first few hours the first day of the show and was actually shocked by the demand. “Most of the commems were in the $500 and under category, so I guess you’d refer to them as popularly priced, as far as collectors are concerned.”
Conversely and not surprisingly, certified coins that were in the average or mildly problematic category, even if typical for the grade or type, languished in dealers’ showcases. For those that brought this type of inventory, the show was predictably flat.
The spark in the metals arena also ignited considerable action on the FUN floor. With gold and silver spot pushing higher and exerting muscle, there seemed to be more buyers than sellers during the show’s run. A well-known metals trader eagerly informed me, “There are many indicators that we will continue to see an upswing here for a few months...but nothing is ever set in stone.”
How true this is. While many pundits and coindexters proclaim to know the direction of a particular market, no one in numismatics, as far as I know, is either clairvoyant, or has an active and accurate crystal ball. What we do have, however, is a serious and active base of ardent hobbyists who attend local shows, attend local clubs, and have a fervent desire to acquire additional knowledge and add to their numismatic holdings. True collectors collect, buy, sell, and trade at virtually all price points. However, most numismatists have limited coffers to devote to the hobby.
For many of them, with the prospect of going to a major show such as FUN, kicking off the New Year is a pilgrimage well worth the time and expense. The chance to view aisle after aisle and showcase upon showcase of spectacular coins in virtually every series is both inspiring and a great hands-on buying opportunity. Of course, most eyes were on the phenomenal Heritage Signature Auction which, at its conclusion, powered to an impressive $70.5 million. It was, indeed, a blockbuster of an event. The prices realized for individual coins were also staggering, as seven coins eclipsed the $1 million benchmark, a record for a single sale! An additional six coins also raced beyond the half million dollar plateau!
Amid all this excitement, a well known dealer quickly asserted: “First and foremost, high prices don’t indicate a strong coin market. There are only so many truly rare coins that are available. Those rarities which make the rounds, and are continuing to make the rounds on the auction circuit, make money for the auction house. Yet, the return for the consignor is minimal or even registering a loss on their investment.” I understand what the learned dealer is saying here. Many of the upper tier certified coins do recirculate a lot from auction to auction. (I can personally attest to tracking one particularly striking multi-hued, high-grade Proof Morgan dollar which appeared in and sold no fewer than five times through four different auction houses within a calendar year!) However, I guess the key here is the term investment. Personally, as a true numismatist and researcher, the term investment is certainly not what the hobby of numismatics is truly about; yet investors are undeniably a driving and sustaining force in numismatics.
The coin or coins in question here by the dealer are most often the upper echelon of certified rarities, and an ever expanding and significant majority of these coins are being bought by individuals or groups purely as an investment medium. As the dealer went on to articulate, “Having a rarity appear so often is not doing the business or the hobby any favors.” Certainly, at any major sale today, if there is a ringer or two in the lineup such as an 1804 Silver Dollar as an example, then it is virtually assured that a coin of that magnitude would easily eclipse the $1 million benchmark. So, while it is great press, it isn’t really news when the coin sells for a few million dollars.
I certainly understand this dealer’s comments and concerns. However, the magnitude and importance of the just completed Heritage Signature FUN auction is not to be underestimated. There was no watering down here! There were many superb rarities, primarily from the stupendous Donald J. Partrick collection which have not been seen in the marketplace for untold decades or centuries. Those lucky buyers had the pleasure and great fortune to actually own true numismatic history. What is exciting here at the just completed Florida show is that there were many first-timers that breached the million dollar threshold, as well as many others that catapulted to the high six-figure category! The majority of those coins were Colonial issues or Pre-Federal issues, all of them phenomenal coins and true Americana! In total, this massive sale of nearly 8,400 lots boasted a nearly 97% sell through rate. Ninety-two coins powered over six figures, and the collector and market-friendly coins in the $1K-$10K price point category accounted for nearly 60% of the lots sold.
The elite and historic roster of NGC rarities which attained the Million Dollar Club during Heritage's Platinum Night:
- 1792 Judd-4 Birch Cent NGC MS 65 RB $2,585,000
- 1792 “Eagle on Globe” Judd-12 Copper Quarter NGC MS 63 BN $2,232,500
- 1776 Newman 1-C Silver Continental Dollar NGC XF 40 $1,527,500
- 1776 “EG FECIT" Newman 3-D Silver Continental Dollar NGC MS 62 $1,527,500
- 1792 Judd-11 Copper Disme NGC MS 64 RB $1,057,500
Amazingly, $2.36 face value in pattern US coins generated $8,930,000! This is very impressive, considering the total expenditure for these coins, the last time they appeared at auction, amounted to just under $1 million.This FUN, the 60th installment, will long be remembered as a historic and groundbreaking, powerful display of numismatic supremacy. As we go to press, we are only one week away from the first Long Beach Expo of 2015. Great auction action from the Goldberg’s Pre-Long Beach sales on January 25-28, and Heritage’s Long Beach Signature sale on January 29-February 1 will be highlighted in the next report.
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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