Great Buying Opportunities For Collector Coins

Posted on 2/18/2016

Heritage Long Beach Sale Reels In $8.3 Million; My 5th Anniversary With Weekly Market Report.

Here we are in the midst of winter 2016, another doozy too weather-wise. At least the venerable Ground Hog, Punxsutawney Phil is predicting an early spring. I’m not sure if there’s any correlation between the well-known rodent's prognostication as it pertains to the coin market. However, as far as I can tell speaking to multiple professional numismatic sources, Phil probably has as good a chance of predicting where the rare coin market is heading. There are so many variables in the mix: world events, massive swing in world financial markets, and our presidential election. Rare and popular collector coins are feeling a bit of a pinch, but that can be a good thing. Generally speaking quality coins of all series are selling promptly and at good levels. Conversely and not surprisingly, coins in all categories that lack eye appeal are languishing in dealer’s inventory. The auction scene is still robust yet the number of sales and lack of fresh material to the market is showing up in prices realized.

Well-known John Brush, president of David Lawrence Rare Coins, concurs about the auction activity. According to John, “As far as the current market goes, we’re in the midst of an incredibly busy time with major auctions. There have been no less than 3 sales in the last 2 weeks with one more to go next week (Legend). Unfortunately when something like this occurs, it creates a bit of hesitation in the coin market as dealers end up getting cash-crunched.”

Luckily this hasn’t really occurred yet. According to Brush he has actually seen a gradual improvement in the coin market overall. “We’ve seen the larger shows like the Winter FUN really pick up in the amount of wholesale business, which hasn’t been the case for the last year or so. It seems that everyone is a bit more motivated to buy and sell coins. We hope that this trend continues with the ANA and Baltimore shows around the corner.”

John feels that truly fresh rarities of great quality are hot in the present market. Conversely, unattractive Proof coins are amongst slower moving items.

The Virginia-based dealer also sang the praises of the new NGC US Coin Price Guide, “I was surprised to see the NGC US Coin Price Guide portal that was announced today. It looks like an excellent tool for dealers and collectors. Information in the right hands can be a great thing.”

Another East Coast dealer advised that they recently attended the Pogue sale by Stack’s Bowers this past week and was overwhelmed with most of the quality. “The cataloging was the best I’ve seen in many years and the coins were phenomenal. While some of the results were mixed, I still see that this collection is bringing more attention to the hobby and I think that it’s a great thing.”

Thus far 2016 has been solid for Ian Russell president of Great Collections. According to Russell his firm has had a very strong start to the year. “With gold increasing almost 20% over the past two months, it's brought out a lot of new buyers (and sellers) of not just bullion-related items, also numismatic coins. Some of the highlight sales include old holder Type coins. We offered a collection of them recently and prices were through the roof. We have a nice group of old holder NGC Proof sets (1901 and 1904 for example) being sold on February 21. The 1901 Barber Half Dollar NGC PF 68 is one of the most amazing coins we've ever handled.”

Mark Feld, well-liked senior numismatist for Heritage Auctions, describes the current overall market to be softer than it was up until the beginning to middle part of 2015. According to Feld, “That applies to common, run of the mill material and even the best of the best. The latter has been evidenced in the re-offering of some wonderful coins that previously sold in the 2012-2014 time period. Likely culprits for the more subdued rare coin market include the recent, rather frightening stock market activity, fears of a global recession and a flood of high value coins having entered the marketplace during the past year or two. Where we will go from here is anyone’s guess, but there is no doubt that collectors are presently being afforded some much appreciated buying opportunities.”

I wholeheartedly concur with Mark’s assessment that there are indeed numerous buying opportunities for many collector coins especially those in the under $1,000 price point.

Now, a quick look at the just-concluded Heritage Long Beach Signature Auction, February 4-7, that captured $8.3 million. In total, 2,415 lots met the hammer. A bit of everything for collectors and dealers: Colonials, a solid and appealing group of early Federal, key dates and phenomenal high-grade popular type coins.

The following is a group of my favorite NGC standouts at the just concluded Heritage Long Beach Signature Auction:

1856 Flying Eagle Cent NGC PF 65 $42,300. A perennial collector favorite this coin, the Snow 3 variety is just about as good as it gets. A truly attractive coin. Certainly worth the 15% advance above the current NGC US Coin Price Guide quotation!

1941 Mercury Dime NGC PF 69 $11,163. Wow, a totally vivacious and stunning example! Superbly toned and preserved; a joy to behold. One of only two graded as such on the cusp of numeric perfection.

1892-O Barber Half Dollar NGC MS 68 $39,950. A truly phenomenal first year Barber half dollar from the New Orleans facility. Superb creamy, satiny toning envelops this inaugural Barber half dollar. For the record this coin appeared as part of the Eugene Gardner collection in June 2014 when the coin captured $64,625. This coin subsequently appeared as part of the Heritage ANA Signature auction last August and realized $47,000. To me this coin is an absolute bargain at this level. That’s not to say that it was overpriced when it appeared as part of the Gardner collection a few years ago. Any coin even a phenomenal rarity or top grade coin needs to “season” a bit and remain off the market. This particular coin has now appeared for sale in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Prior to the coins sale in 2014 it was purchased at a sale in 2005 and had been off the market for nearly a decade before it appeared as a part of Mr. Gardner’s collection A word of advice to the present owner: keep the coin off the market and enjoy it for a few years!

1795 Two Leaves, Flowing Hair $1, B-2, BB-20, NGC MS 63 $76,375.

1796 Draped Bust 10 Cent JR-4, NGC MS 65 $70,500.

1911 Indian $10 NGC MS 68 $70,500. A scintillating, finest known!

1857 Liberty Seated $1 NGC MS 66 NGC $62,000.

1870-S Liberty $20 NGC MS 65 $56,400. A superbly preserved double eagle from the San Francisco facility. This is the single finest known example according to the NGC US Coin Census. Prohibitively scarce in Mint State, demand for key date double eagles remains red-hot. This coin last appeared as a part of a Stack's Bowers Rarities sale in May 2015 were she received $49,938.

A quick look at the calendar reminds me that it was exactly five years ago that I began to write this column; my first article was a recap of the Long Beach Expo and related sales. Where has the time gone? I have certainly enjoyed it and I hope you have too!

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 currently frequently attends major coin shows and auctions.

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