Time To Buy Or Time To Wait?

Posted on 4/23/2015

Recent sales present an incredible buying opportunity for collectors as many of the coins being sold have been off the market for a generation.

This afternoon I spent several hours reviewing auction lots for the Heritage Auctions Platinum Night scheduled for Thursday night. The sale contains 600+ lots, with an average value upwards of $25,000 or more. There are several coins that will surely bring seven figures. The sale also has an interesting diversity, with rarities ranging from great copper coins to unbelievable gold coins. There are at least 10 Four Dollar “Stella’s” up for auction, including what many consider being the finest known 1880 Coiled Hair example. The coin is an incredible NGC PF 67 with beautiful golden toning and nearly perfect surfaces. It is the ultimate example of this intriguing denomination. Nearly every professional and lots of serious collectors are anxious to see how this coin and all the others fare when crossing the auction block this week.

The rare coin market has been relatively soft in recent weeks and many are concerned with the large number of great coins being offered. This includes everything from the Newman, Partrick, Kendall, Gardner, Pogue and this week’s Central States auction. A few great coins have succumbed to the stress of so much material being offered at once. A couple of years ago, Choice New England Shillings sold for around $350,000. These great coins rarely showed up for sale until recently. The just offered Partrick and Kendall sales featured 6 to 8 examples within a few months. Nice examples sold for under $200,000. This is probably an extreme, as these are thinly traded rarities, and never in the history of numismatics have so many been offered in such a short time.

The preponderance of material being offered now begs the question—is it time to buy? As strange as this large number of mega sales all at once seems, it is not without precedence. In the late 1990s several incredible collections were offered to market in a short period. These include the Bass, Trompeter, Eliasberg, and Childs collections to name a few. The rare coin market was awash in great coins. During this time, one of my clients decided to assemble a complete set of Proof gold dollars 1854-1889. This task includes dozens of super rare coins, many with mintages under 50 coins. It would be nearly impossible to assemble this set without so many great collections being offered at once. My client built an incredible set and it is still the #1 NGC Registry set!

In my opinion, shrewd collectors should see these recent sales in the same light as my previous client did 20 years ago—an incredible buying opportunity. Many of the coins that are being sold have been off the market for a “generation”. Once many of these coins sell, it will probably be decades before they are offered again. Prices will also be favorable as there are probably more coins being sold at once than is healthy under normal circumstances. There will be some headline grabbers, but there is a good chance that some really great coins will be available at the best prices in years.

My advice is to carefully examine as many of these great sales as possible. You may not end up buying much, but the numismatic experience will be invaluable. This advice goes to both dealers and collectors. There is no better way to learn about coins than to see them in person. It is also quite interesting to attend the sales to see who is buying and what individual coins are bringing. This is especially important in today’s quality conscious environment. Many rare coins of the same grade will sell for substantially different prices. It’s a good idea to understand why.

The above scenarios discuss high end rare coins, but there are also plenty of less expensive coins being offered in many of these recent sales. Much of this material has not been adversely affected by price pressure the way the mega rarities have. The biggest challenge is to find the right coin at the right price. Building sets of rare coins is still the most basic instinct for most collectors. Anyone who has attempted just about any collection understands that the thrill is in the chase. For now, the chase has never been easier, and my advice–take advantage of it while you can!

Questions about the rare coin market? Send them to wmr@ngccoin.com.

Jeff Garrett bio

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