20th Century Silver Issues Rally To Record levels At Stack's Bowers Sale

Posted on 3/19/2015

Quality is still king this spring; Highland Walkers runaway at the ANA; Baltimore beckons numismatic nation; Next: world gold coins a bargain.

Can it be true? As this article posts we are one day away from spring! Always a season to rejoice in, this time around it is especially well received as many of us have endured a winter season for the record books. I can actually report that it was a balmy 55° at my home in New Hampshire last week! Snow is still waist high in many places; however, with days getting longer and the sun beaming brighter and higher let the melting begin in earnest. Springtime is a great season for the renewal of a lot of things and as previously frozen collectors emerge from their winter shelters it is time to gear up for a great numismatic season.

The recently concluded ANA National Money Show in Portland, Oregon, was a fine opportunity for collectors everywhere, especially those based in the Pacific Northwest, to take in a top-notch show and enjoy the action on the bourse floor and rub elbows with fellow collectors and peruse the attending dealer’s well stocked showcases. For others wanting to compete for tremendous coins on the live stage there was the exciting Stack's Bowers auction to attend. Scrumptious numismatic properties pedigreed to the Highland Collection were standouts. According to Brian Kendrella, president of Stack's Bowers Galleries, when the final lot was tallied the diverse Portland ANA Sale brought in a little over $3.1 million. While this figure might be considered average when compared to recent major numismatic sales, the quality here and the prices realized for premium coins was definitely significant.

Many of the Stack's Bowers Portland ANA sale's NGC highlights include record setting performances listed below, particularly targeting key and semi-key 20th century silver issues:

  • 1877-CC Liberty Seated Dime NGC MS 68 $22,325—A record price paid for this coin.
  • 1889 Liberty Seated Quarter NGC MS 67 $8,225—Although two quarters grade higher by a single point according to the NGC US Coin Census it is hard to imagine that either could better the low mintage and popular 1889 just sold at the National Money Show sale. It is a true Technicolor beauty, housed in an older holder and pedigreed to the Highland collection. Deservedly so, this appears to be another record price paid for an example in this grade.
  • 1932-D Washington Quarter NGC MS 64 $13,513—The key to the Washington quarter series, this fabulous MS 64 specimen establishes a record for a coin within this grade designation! Over 2½ times the March NGC US Coin Price Guide valuation!
  • 1807 Draped Bust Half Dollar NGC MS 65 $129,250—Pedigreed to the Highland Collection, this is a well struck coin displaying total originality, which is so difficult to come by. This dynamic representative also garnered a record price in this grade while significantly cruising past the March NGC Price Guide's valuation of $78,500!
  • 1916-D Walking Liberty Half Dollar NGC MS 66—This inaugural Denver striking of Ms. Walking Liberty thundered to $27,025—another record price for the grade!
  • 1920 Walking Liberty Half Dollar NGC MS 65 $7,050—A record price for an MS 65 example.

A pair of phenomenal MS 67 Depression era 1933-S Walking Liberty Half Dollars each generated record prices for the date and grade. Both coins are fabulous Walkers pedigreed to the Highland Collection. One captured $22,325 while the other took home $32,900. According to the NGC US Coin Census, none are graded finer than the examples offered in the sale and each easily thundered over the March NGC US Coin Price Guide valuation of $16,000 for MS 67 specimens.

  • 1944 Walking Liberty Half Dollar NGC MS 67 $12,925—A record price registered for this splendid World War II issued coin in this grade.
  • 1948-D Franklin Half Dollar NGC MS 66 FBL $6,463—another record price, this first-year Franklin Half from the Denver facility sold for nearly 3 times the March NGC US Coin Price Guide valuation.
  • 1920 Maine Centennial NGC MS 67 $18,800—Another dazzling, fully struck, captivatingly toned coin from the Highland Collection that readily catapulted to a record price for this commemorative coin of the Pine Tree State.

Once again quality commands attention as well as record prices. Quality is still king this spring. As we approach the first quarter of 2015, I discussed the overall vibe of the market with several learned dealers.

Well respected Mark Feld of Heritage voiced to me, “It seems to me as if the overall market has picked up slightly from the end of last year and the beginning of this year. However, buyers seem increasingly selective and while especially high quality and/or rare coins tend to bring strong money, most of the also-rans are met with apathy. I don’t see anything on the horizon which would change that trend. I think it will be relatively quiet, at least until Central States, at which time we might get a clearer picture.”

I also spoke with Ian Russell, president of Great Collections, to get his take on the Portland ANA and what was currently in high demand as we round out the month of March. “I have to say the show was average, but it was to be expected since there was no on-site grading (in today's market, without on-site grading, I can't see a major show being vibrant or well-attended). All eyes are on the Baltimore Whitman show at the end of the month, which should continue the 5+ year tradition of being one of the best shows of the year."

Some of the hottest areas of the market according to Russell: “Toned Morgan Dollars, Proof Franklins, Carson City gold, and Mint State modern Gold Eagles.”

As for Great Collections itself, “Auction wise, we are still continuing growing our bidder base. In upcoming auctions, we have an amazing Type 2 Double Eagle collection, mostly graded by NGC and all are being sold unreserved. We also have some world highlights from Chile and Great Britain, not to mention a very rare counterstamped Grenada gold piece from an old time collection (recently graded for the first time by NGC). Despite some amazing coins coming up in auction, we are always looking for more consignments...we have auctions every week to produce!”

The always amicable John Brush, VP of David Lawrence Galleries, described his sense of the present market. “I would generally say it's been a slow first quarter this year, but with the Baltimore show looming for late March, we're expecting things to pick up quickly. The weather throughout the country really slowed down the activity within the wholesale coin market as many had to cancel their show visits, but we've experienced a great time for buying and have been able to acquire much in the way of new inventory lately.”

One well-known West Coast dealer’s assessment was that business has been coming in waves and has been very spotty. He went on to state, “I see some renewed interest at the new levels that coins are trading at, but they still have to be the right coins to get someone involved enough to fork over their hard earned cash.”

Personally I feel that the recent downturn in the metals markets is a great incentive for all collectors especially those just entering the hobby. Silver is down around 15% since mid-January and gold is also trending down, giving up about $150 during the same time period. As always, any action up or down in the metals arena stirs significant interest. As one collector from Massachusetts eloquently put it, “For the average collector like me it’s a great opportunity to search local dealers bargain bins and collect more common date Morgan dollars and junk silver. We all know the price (silver) will be going up and this is something that we can buy in quantity.”

I concur with the Bay State resident’s statement and the same is true for those that are in the market for US gold coins. I’ve seen offers to sell NGC-certified MS 61 and 62 $20 Saint-Gaudens as little as $1,250 per coin and $20 Libs for $10-$15 below that price.

World gold coins are also a superb opportunity for the collector. Why you may ask? Well in my humble opinion many of the popular series not only present historic low mintage gold coins from the issuing country, there are also a great number of unsung bargains in world gold coins as many still trade at very small premiums over melt value! There is tremendous upside here. Please take a look at the NGC World Gold Coin Value Guide to get an idea of some of the commonly collected world gold issues market values and trends for type coins.

While for many a hobby is merely a pastime, for numismatists it can be a driving force. My friends, enjoy the new season ahead. Many great auctions and national and regional shows are on the horizon. The always exciting first installment of Whitman Baltimore Expo gets underway next week running March 26-29. The exciting host March Baltimore auction by Stack's Bowers features over 6,500 lots of coins, currency and numismatic Americana for collectors of all budgets and interests to wage bidding battle for and bring home to their respective collections.

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 frequently attends major coin shows and auctions.

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