Big “D” Plays Host To Big Money; Collectors Weigh In

Posted on 3/3/2016

Vermont collector looking to fulfill childhood dream set; Draped Bust Large Cents a historical buy; MS 64 Double Eagles a great opportunity; British Commonwealth presents modern world rarities.

A look at the calendar confirms that March is here, and not a minute too soon in my opinion. In New England and in the numismatic community, we have at least two things to be happy about. Not only is spring near at hand but as this article posts the ANA National Money Show is underway in Dallas running March 3-5. Market activity appears to be on the upswing and certainly a major show such as this should only enhance and accentuate the positive.

Collectors that I’ve spoken to who will be in attendance at the Texas venue feel that there are good buys, numerous acquisition strategies and several series which may present some interesting possibilities. As Jake, a long time collector from Nevada, exclaimed: “Big ‘D’ is playing host to big-money.”

John and his wife Deena hailing from Vermont told me that they plan on doing a little bit of investing in US gold type coins. “We noticed that gold has been moving up steadily over the last few months and we feel this is the time to pull the trigger and pick up nice US gold type coins and put together a nice Uncirculated Indian Head type set.”

The latter has been one of John’s goals since he and his dad made the rounds at a few local coin shows when he was a teenager. “It seems like only yesterday,” he said. “I can’t believe it’s been over 30 years since dad and I saw an Indian Head gold type set at a show. I remember the coins were housed in a black Capital plastic holder; the gold lettering and the coins set against that jet black holder is an image I still remember to this day. It’s amazing how things stick with you but that day at that show with my dad I remember telling him gosh I really want to get one of those someday.” Luckily, John and his wife Deena are both interested in the hobby so that certainly will help in their coin conquest. Per Deena, “Both our kids are grown up and John and I finally decided to have a little bit of fun with the hobby as well as our investment. I know John has had his heart set on putting together a gold Type set and after that we’ll just take it from there. First on our list is to pick up a black Capital plastic holder and then make the rounds and try to pick up a nice evenly matched Uncirculated year set from 1910.” It seems like a good choice for a date set as all of the coins should be readily available. I asked if there is a significance to 1910. Indeed, it was the year that John’s grandfather immigrated to the US from Italy. After that exercise is complete the couple plans on picking up some NGC-certified MS 64 Saints and Liberty Double Eagles. Per John: “We feel that the MS 64 grade and current price point allows us to have the best opportunity for variety within our budget for both series.”

I certainly agree with this couple’s strategy as there are several date combinations and mint marks that can be purchased in the $1,400-$1,500 price range in early 2016. I am always pleased to encounter an individual whose collecting aspirations are something that can be attainable as well as enjoyable!

Another collector by the name of Jason said that he has been a collector of classic US Commemoratives for the last 20 years or more. “Yep, I’m not shy about it; I love them. I have seen them go up, I’ve seen them go down, I’ve seen market makers and telemarketers promote and over-promote. The fact remains the entire series—silver and gold—are all low mintage and most of them can be found in high-grade because they just didn’t circulate that much. Of course, some of the series did find a few coins enter circulation for a whirl but for the most part those are still primarily in XF AU. It’s only the Columbians (1892-1893 Halves) that you’ll find that have been heavily circulated as the balance of the coins that didn’t sell for a premium at the Columbian Exposition went back into general circulation. I have a few hundred of those. I usually like to keep a couple of the circulated ones as pocket change.”

Jason told me that his fascination with series now is finding the nicely toned original pieces: “those that haven’t been dipped within an inch of their skins.” A few of Jason’s favorites, of which he owns multiples, includes the Oregon Trail, Gettysburg, Antietam, Hudson and Bay Bridge. The latter is one which he particular takes joy in acquiring. “I have 23 of ‘the bear;’ I just love the Art Deco design. Most of them are MS 65 but I have three NGC MS 66 and a pair of wonderful NGC MS 67.”

A veteran collector, Casey from California said that “you can’t go wrong” buying US Large Cents that are problem free and properly graded, especially those in the Very Fine grade.

“I have been at this for over 40 years and I just pick up nice Type coins and better dates when I see them. If the price is fair, based on current levels you can’t go wrong. There are so many early copper aficionados and clubs and of course the coins have a direct lineage to our country’s forefathers. I mean coins from the late 1700s and early 1800s, those are the ones I most enjoy collecting, especially the Draped Bust variety.”

Casey is especially fond of Draped Bust cents in the VF grade as they are “highly detailed artifacts” which actually circulated in this country during the Republic’s infancy.

“More likely than not many found their way into the hands and pockets of commoner, tradesmen, patriot and elected officials, maybe even a president or two! I mean do the math, based on our country's population and the proximity of the Philadelphia Mint to the Congress and President, the chances are pretty good. Remember until 1800 Philadelphia was the capital. As you can tell, I get really excited about this. It is an aspect of this hobby which is unique and the coins still are affordable. I’m still able to pluck out nice VF coins in the $300 price range on the floor...I might be dating myself but it doesn't seem that long ago that I was paying $20 for the same coins. To me these coins will always be great values you just have to do your work and stay away from coins that have been chemically treated, scratched, have environmental damage, etc. This is a great joy of mine, it takes time but ultimately you are rewarded with a great collection of both historical and numismatic significance.”

I heartily concur with Casey not only on the historic aspect, but the fact that early copper has an intensely passionate following.

Personally, I have a fondness for Fiji pre-decimal coins and I recently picked up a few George VI Three Pence issues from a seller on eBay for my set. As I often do, I initiated a conversation through an email and put a name to the eBayer's handle—Adam Biagi a world coin expert from Monterey California. Per Adam, “I’ve been a collector basically doing this stuff my whole life ever since I found a Mercury Dime in the yard when I was four years old.” Retired from the Navy, Adam has had a presence on eBay since early 2003 but has been active on the coin dealer business circuit since November 2010. As for one of his mainstays, British Commonwealth countries is a very topsy-turvy market. “Nothing’s really for sure right now and I’m sticking to coins that are going under $300 or so for my listings for the most part.” However, an area which he believes both are underrated are British West Africa and British East Africa. Especially for the larger denominations, the One and Two Shilling pieces. Another region, in his estimation, that harbors modern rarities is the British East Caribbean Territories. “As an example, the 1959 One Cent is actually a moderate rarity in Mint State; I have only handled a coin which I would describe as a Brown UNC. About an MS 64, it sold on eBay last year for $200 as a buy it now.”

As for Adam’s upcoming schedule, “I’m taking a week off for the ANA and then Monday after the show as long as everything goes okay, I am going to try and push out some more lots.”

Yes, collectors are as diverse as their coins. Whether you are interested in US or world coins, modern or old world, be sure to get out and enjoy the hobby.

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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