Long Beach Expo: Time To Congregate And Cogitate In Golden State

Posted on 9/17/2015

Presidential Chronicle Sets Provide Excitement; "It All Depends On Liquidity And Viability In This Market"; Numismatic Hawks Preying on Bargains

As I write this report, summer weather is still prevalent here in New England. Yet with the NFL season getting underway, fall is definitely just around the corner. With that said, I can’t believe that prior to Labor Day I observed a TV commercial promoting layaways for the Christmas holiday! It wasn’t that long ago that retailers would at least have the courtesy to wait until after All Hallow's Eve had passed before unveiling their new merchandise for the season. Perhaps I am dating myself, but for me the big holiday retail blitz shouldn’t start until after Thanksgiving. Yet through the evolution of Internet and rapid-fire media, the retailers for durable goods as well as numismatic fare are there for average collectors and “Coindexters” everywhere and at a moment’s notice.

This cyber presence makes it very difficult to actually take a break from the hobby (not that any of us are complaining). We are besieged by various dealers’ e-mail blasts, newsletters and price lists touting the select first time offerings from recent shows. I love it!

The rare coin market is definitely front and center all the time. As I’ve mentioned before, there is really no down time in numismatics any longer. Average coins, rare coins and collector coins are all available 24 hours a day. Whatever floats your proverbial coin flotilla. To spice things up major auctions appear on average a few times per month; couple that with Internet-only venues and on any given day literally thousands of coins are available. The key for the average collectors (and dealers too) is to keep focused on the essentials for your prospective want lists. Conversely, in virtually every sale there are pseudo-collectors—bargain hunters scanning for good deals on coins that are priced a little below market. Although it’s becoming a bit more difficult, you can still ferret out some good values and find sleepers in these mass venues.

I know years ago when I worked at the Coin Dealer Newsletter it was an enjoyable task to review auction records and find out which certified coins “fell through the cracks” to be updated on the Bluesheet (the Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter). While many coins might sell for just a few percent below the prevailing sight unseen bid, there were always a handful of certified coins which sold for 20% or more below that supported threshold. Of course, sometimes this only amounted to $10 or $20 left on the table, certainly not enough to get rich on. Yet, on occasion, sundry certified coins were selling for perhaps $1,000 or more under bid! If you were fortunate enough to catch a few of those it could make your week or maybe even month. Remember, today there is definitely more competition than there ever has been for quality numismatic items. Nonetheless, with the plethora of certified coins being offered up, those of you numismatic hawks that have performed due diligence with pertinent pricing guides, will net some great (albeit overlooked) certified numismatic treasures. A bit of advice—keep an active eye out for certified coins, especially in the $250 and under price point. A host of classic US Commemorative Half Dollars, Morgan Dollars, and the slightly better MS 65/MS 66 Full Bands Mercury Dimes as well as some type coins are sometimes overlooked.

While many collectors will chase down classic US coins for their collections, there are many numismatists today that have a great passion for modern issues. Coins certainly don’t have to be old to make a stir in the marketplace or command collector’s attention. The US Mint has done some wonderful marketing and delivered some great products in recent years. The US Silver Eagle program is bar none one of the most popular in numismatics. Certainly when they first appeared I don’t think anyone could have imagined the extreme popularity, excitement and staying power this lovely series would generate—it’s really contagious. Amazingly, the 30th Anniversary for the Silver Eagle will be coming up in a little over a year. Time is really flying by. It seems like only yesterday collectors and dealers were camped out by their computers waiting for the 25th Anniversary Silver Eagle sets to become available.

I recently spoke to one well established collector of modern numismatic fare who loves the 2015 Presidential Coin & Chronicle sets. “The US Mint certainly has a winner here” advised Toby, hailing from my native Granite State of New Hampshire. Per Toby, “I was fast enough to get the Truman when they were made available on the US Mint’s website but the Eisenhower sold out before I had a chance to get one, so I had to shell out $145 on eBay for one!”

Per the New Hampshire native, he and the Mrs. will be online for the much anticipated Kennedy Chronicle set scheduled to go live September 16. “Molly and I will be on our laptops and tablets at noontime. We both really want the Kennedy set but even with the set limit raised from 17,000 to 50,000 I have heard from a few collectors that one dealer already has ‘locked up’ nearly 3,000 sets with pre-sale buy offers of nearly double the issue price of $57.95!”

As this article posts one day after the Kennedy sets went live, I hope that Toby and Molly were each able to secure one for their collections.

At press time, the fall edition of the Long Beach Expo is underway, the last of 2015. Most dealers that I’ve spoken to are looking forward to the show as this is the first major venue since the ANA where most notables will all be under one roof congregating, cogitating and displaying their inventories. For many dealers this will be a defining show in regards to what needs to be inventoried as the end of year rapidly approaches. “It all depends on liquidity and viability in this market. If I had the coin or coins since early summer or longer I really need to think about trading or selling off that portion of my inventory. As the dealer further stated, “The coins in my showcase are my livelihood. They all look nice, but like any asset if it is just sitting there I need to think about repositioning into something that’s more actively sought after.”

I fully understand what the dealer is saying and it’s the cold hard facts of business today in the numismatic industry. The average collector does not concern themselves about what is or what isn’t popular at any given moment as most have their sights set on a specific series and are looking to either build or trade up toward completion. They’re not concerned with stocking up on what is hot and currently being promoted by telemarketers then disposing of what isn’t in vogue at that particular juncture. For average collectors that’s not what the hobby is about. They are not taken in by the obsequious campaigning and promoting or the self-serving agenda of any particular dealer.

Long Beach will also afford both dealer and collector an opportunity to bid on some prime numismatic properties during the host Heritage Long Beach Signature Sale. As we go to press, pre-bidding has been available on an exciting assemblage of Colonial, early Federal, key dates and a host of 20th Century top-tier issues. A tremendous opportunity to acquire some eye-popping NGC-certified coins!

A few of the NGC standouts, in my estimation include the following:

1920-S Buffalo Nickel NGC MS 65

Just about all early mint marked Buffalo Nickels in Mint State are very difficult to come by. The 1920-S is undoubtedly one of the keys to the series in anything approaching full Gem classification as just about all known examples are notorious for their weak strikes. This coin, while technically a full Gem MS 65, also inherited traits of the issue which are obvious. However, this is decidedly offset by the incredible rainbow patination which engulfs both sides of this exquisite coin!

1838 Capped Bust Quarter NGC MS 67

Minted during the transitional year when the Capped Bust series gave way to the Seated Liberty design motif that would grace much of our coinage until 1891. This example is not only the single finest known, it is also one of the most incredible rainbow accentuated wonders visually!

1939-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar NGC MS 68

A truly spectacular coin, standing alone as the finest known specimen. The coin has exquisite eye appeal and just a touch of delightful and original peripheral toning. A semi-key date from this popular series is a great San Francisco Mint delivery, the last from the still peaceful post-depression era.

For me, as I am also an avid film buff, this issue was produced at the San Francisco Branch Mint in the Golden State at the time Hollywood film productions on the silver screen were at their zenith. A mere decade before small television sets would begin to invade the landscape, 1939 was an absolute cinematic tour de force for my parents and many others of that generation. Ah, to break away and spend $0.50 (yes that shiny Walking Liberty Half Dollar in your pocket) on a ticket and refreshments and enjoy the first showings of the likes of Gone With The Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stagecoach, Beau Geste, Gunga Din, and Goodbye Mr. Chips!

1920-S $10 Indian NGC MS 62

Certainly one of the rarest of the popular Indian Head series, this Mint State coin reveals attractive original lustrous yellow gold surfaces, albeit slightly weakly struck towards the center elements. From its original paltry mintage of 126,500 coins it’s estimated that fewer than a few dozen reside in full Mint State category, not surprisingly the last time a coin of this grade appeared at auction was over five years ago.

If you’re in the Golden State, I hope to catch up with you on the bourse!

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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