Summer Is Sizzling With Auction Activity

Posted on 7/23/2015

July Sales Make Big Splash Claiming Nearly $20 Million; Numismatics Is A Family Affair With Michigan Mom

July has certainly been a very busy month on the numismatic circuit. Three weeks into the glorious summer month and the numismatic community has already held court for two major shows. First up, the "Sunshine State" was targeted for the ninth annual Summer FUN convention. Then just as the numismatic brethren were rounding out the second week of the month in Florida, the numismatic migration made a beeline up the Eastern seaboard to participate in the just concluded Whitman Expo in the "Old Line State". Major auction sales hosted by Heritage in Florida realized a tidy $8.3 million and as we go to press, the Stack's Bowers Baltimore edition is still in progress and approaching $10 million. It is truly amazing that major auctions of this size and scope are still readily bringing in these colossal dollar amounts. It is obvious at this point in time buyers are certainly there and of course sellers are not shy about putting up the numismatic hardware. What used to be the slower time on the coin calendar is nothing like that today.

A quick scan of the NGC highlights from the Heritage FUN sale include the following rarely encountered and collector favorites.

1916 Buffalo Nickel Doubled Die Obverse NGC AU 58 $49,350

The granddaddy of the series is the famed 1916 Double Die Obverse. This coin is an exemplary example. Just a tad away from full Mint State, yet the coins visual attributes put this buffalo in another class. Subtle powder blue and lavender toning accentuates this proud rarity. With fewer than perhaps 20 known Mint State examples, this coin, which is just a touch away from Mint State, was a superb candidate and brought a solid price. Doubled dies of this caliber appear very infrequently. For reference the last time a coin in this grade crossed the auction block was over four and a half years ago at the winter installment of the FUN Show where a like graded coin realized $37,375.

1879-CC Liberty $20 NGC AU 55 $28,200

A tough and popular Carson City delivery in the Double Eagle series. Allusive and rare in all states of preservation, this is especially true in Mint State where presently only nine examples appear on the NGC US Coin Census. Auction records indicate an example of this caliber appears less than once a year at public sale. That is why this dazzling semi-prooflike appears to be quite the coup, while it racked up a record price in this grade.

1892-S Morgan Dollar NGC AU 58 $12,925

An extremely important Morgan Dollar for collectors is the 1892-S. While relatively affordable and available in lower grades, she is a very rare commodity in grades approaching Mint State. A quick scan of the NGC US Coin Census confirms this as fewer than 50 appear as Mint State. That is why in my opinion, this attractive and problem-free Morgan Dollar is a solid buy compared to MS 60 coins bringing four times or more the price of this near Mint State offering.

1995-W $1 Silver Eagle NGC PF 70 Ultra Cameo $16,450

The “King” or, more appropriately, the “Queen,” of the series in Proof is the 1995 West Point edition. Here is a stunning representative of this modern rarity; spectacular, deeply reflective surfaces endow this perfectly graded coin. Although this coin comes up regularly at auction in PF 70 UC, those that are totally void of any post slabbing spotting court powerful action by the fervent silver eagle devotees.

Now on to the Stack's Bowers Baltimore auction, which is still underway as we go to press. The auction has already raked in $9.8 million according to the well-known Stack's Bowers president Brian Kendrella. With the Internet only sessions still to appear for cyber bidding, the always congenial and super busy executive VP, Chris Karstedt, informed me that two private collections appearing in the Baltimore sale had crossed the auction block and both created quite the stir! As for the show itself, I caught up with well-known Chris Napolitano for his assessment. Says Chris, “I won’t speak for the auction side, but the market was more active than I expected for a July Baltimore show. Really fresh and special coins are bringing very strong prices currently, although type coins in general are a little weak. Generic gold has been stronger the last couple of weeks despite the drop in spot gold.”

Several of the NGC stand outs at the Stack's Bowers Baltimore sale include early copper powerhouses and double dies.

1835 Small 8, Head of 34 Coronet Large Cent NGC MS 65 RB $24,675

A captivatingly beautiful and rare example of this N-11 variety. Amazingly, nearly full red clings to the nearly 2 century old copper. A true prize for the advance collector as this coin last appeared for sale nearly a decade ago.

1839 Booby Head Coronet Large Cent NGC MS 66 RB $21,150

This popular Large Cent N-14 variety has always and continues to have many admirers. Just the name, “booby head” raises attention levels for new collectors as well as some veterans in the hobby. This majestic large copper coin is just about as pretty as she gets. Although tied as the second finest known, this piece roared to a record price for this coin within this grade designation!

1955 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Cent NGC MS 64 RD $14,100

The granddaddy of the doubled dies is the famous 1955 Lincoln Cent. This coin exhibits flashy red color over satiny smooth surfaces–truly a dynamic example of this rare variety, especially in this state of preservation. Personally, I had the good fortune of finding one of these in a hunt through piles of copper coins my mom had saved as tips. It was in late July, my two brothers, me and mom were all on our staircase searching through all those pennies she had saved back in the summer of 1966!

1867 Doubled Die Obverse Two Cent Piece NGC MS 64 RB $14,100

In my opinion, this coin is a truly underrated variety within the Two Cent Piece series. This coin is pedigreed from the Highland Collection and has exquisite doubling that is especially dominant on the “G” of God. For a coin within this grade designation, it has truly impeccable surfaces and is certainly worthy of the record price it attained at the sale.

With July winding down and the ANA World’s Fair of Money in sight, all collectors and dealers are making final preparations for the gala. Numismatics is truly a wonderful hobby especially if it can be shared by family members. Four years ago I had the good fortune of meeting a woman at the Central States Numismatic Society Convention. She was acting as a “coin runner” for various dealers and had told me that her 11 year old son Adrian had a numismatic exhibit at the show. Well mom, Diana Jellinek, and her two sons Adrian and Cy have been advancing their numismatic presence and winning awards as well. Just recently, Adrian had won for best of show at Michigan State Numismatic Society for his dime exhibit, which garnered him an ANA scholarship. A great achievement at age 14! Diana also recently won a scholarship for her best of show at Central States Numismatic Society along with her contributions to the field of numismatics and promoting numismatics to both her sons. There is definitely a bond here as well as a competitive link.

Adrian took the exhibiting class at the just completed 2015 ANA Summer Seminar. There were four intensive days in a classroom setting geared towards development, writing and advanced display techniques. A superb opportunity for the teenager to further hone his skills, this Colorado junket will certainly bring dividends to his future exhibits. Adrian is now working on an article about how to build an exhibit and about the course he just completed!

Diana took advanced coin carving, where she learned about the history and the dynamics behind this fascinating numismatic specialty. The Michigan resident loves hobo Nickels and was able to carve three Buffalo Nickels at the ANA seminar. One was a boxer holding up a glove in a defensive stance, the other was Darth Vader and the last one was a falcon.

When I asked her what gets her excited about numismatics and exhibits Diana said “I get really charged up...Finding a topical theme that you’re interested in and then delving into the research and then you have more to share with other collectors who are into numismatics.”

I asked how long she has been interested in our beloved hobby and she responded by saying, “Ever since I was allowed to hold coins or stamps, which was probably around two years old or something. I’ve been around coins really all my life. My family would travel around the world and bring home coins for me to see.”

It obviously has been a lifelong inspiration. The Michigan mom also, rather sheepishly but proudly, mentioned that she was recently elected the first female Vice President of the Birmingham Bloomfield Coin Club. "How did that happen," she laughed! Hey, I hope the club membership quadruples Diana!

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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