"Greysheet" Trades Hands

Posted on 9/10/2015

The storied numismatic price guide was recently sold to new owners.

For my entire career, the Coin Dealer Newsletter (commonly called "The Greysheet") has been one of the foundation pricing guides for professional numismatists. The basic format of the Greysheet has seen little change from it first edition in 1963. It is set up in charts with pricing for coins in various grades. When the Greysheet was started in the 1960s by the Downing family, its primary purpose was to report on the pricing for the “red hot” uncirculated roll and Proof Set market. Rare coins were almost an afterthought in the early editions. Most coins were listed in just a few grades. Pricing was established by reviewing the activity on the teletype system that most rare coin shops had in operation. These clunky machines would spit out reams of paper continuously. Coin dealers in the United States had what could be compared to a modern day chat room for numismatic transactions. This system still exists today and is now called the Certified Coin Exchange. The reams of paper have now been replaced by computer monitors.

A few weeks ago, this storied numismatic brand was sold to a group that includes Jim Halperin, Steve Ivy, Mark Salzberg, Steve Eichenbaum, and John Feigenbaum. As a reflection of the magnitude of this transaction, John will be retiring from a lucrative rare coin business to operate the Coin Dealer Newsletter (CDN) full time. The responsibility of his new undertaking is, in my opinion, staggering. At least two generations of coin dealers and serious collectors have relied on the information in the Greysheet to transact billions of dollars in business. Even today, when buying or selling a coin it is very common to hear the words “what does it bid?” in reference to the bid prices listed in Greysheet. The prices in the Greysheet are relied on by thousands of coin dealers and collectors.

One of the biggest concerns will be that the pricing remains independent from the influence of the new owners. John Feigenbaum has stated in his press release that he has the full understanding of his partners that CDN will be run without any pricing or reporting influence. He further states that they will be passive investors in the endeavor. I have personally known all parties in this transaction and without hesitation can state that John’s statements are well founded. All of these gentlemen are consummate professionals and completely understand that for CDN to be successful, editorial independence will be crucial. NGC publishes an unaffiliated, retail price guide that is run completely separate from the CDN family of wholesale publications.

I believe that John’s biggest challenge will be adapting the Greysheet and its sister publications to ever changing market conditions. I have stated many times in my articles how coins of the same grade can sometimes sell for very different prices. Relating these price variances and other variables such as CAC, Plus grading and auction records will be a tall task. The so-called “bid” price has become a benchmark for average, and it will be interesting to see how the Greysheet can report accurately priced coins outside of the norm. In recent years, auction records have become one of the most used tools by sophisticated numismatic professionals. This will be another change John will need to address.

The sale of CDN is not the first important numismatic publication to have been sold in recent years. Several years ago the Anderson brothers acquired the most storied brand in numismatic publications when they purchased Whitman Publishing and its crown jewel, the Guide Book to United States Coins (the "Red Book"). The Andersons have done a fabulous job with this brand and the Guide Book of United States Coins gets better every year.

After purchasing the Red Book, the Andersons were very slow to change the basic product that had sold millions over the years. Rather than make radical changes, they choose to slowly improve the product and explore other ways to expand the Red Book brand. This included a series of books by Dave Bowers and expanded versions of the basic book including the Professional Red Book and the recently published Deluxe Red Book. All have been very successful while maintaining the basic product.

It will be exciting to see how John leverages the incredible CDN brand. John is very familiar with modern technology and the tools that can be used to disseminate increased pricing information to a larger audience. Years ago, CDN was for coin dealers only. My guess is that a large percentage of subscribers are now serious collectors. Information is very important to anyone buying rare coins, and any improvement will be well received.

If executed properly, the sale of CDN should be a boost to the hobby. The Anderson brothers took over a sleepy, but successful publication and greatly expanded its reach and influence. The same possibility exists for CDN to become an even greater tool for all serious numismatists. As John stated in his press release “CDN feels like a start-up company all of a sudden, and it’s a very exciting time for me and my staff”. This is the sort of energy that will greatly enhance our hobby. I look forward to seeing how the next few years will unfold.

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

Jeff Garrett bio

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