Whitman Baltimore Underway

Posted on 3/30/2017

Stack's Bowers March auction extravaganza; Partially split bands deserve a premium; Coins and taxidermy: Just what the doctor ordered

The end of March is not going out like a lamb in the numismatic world as there is a sustained flurry of excitement for all of us coindexters to revel in. As we go to press, the first of the always-highly anticipated and influential east coast venues is underway as both dealers and collectors are gathering in mass for the first Whitman Collectibles Expo of 2017 in Baltimore, MD. As the bourse is bustling with business, the Stack's Bowers host auction extravaganza featuring six live sessions is an exciting topic and major draw. The March Madness auction gala will culminate with the powerful Pogue Collection, Part V. This premier event, which is going live in the Old Line State on March 31 in conjunction with Sotheby’s, is sure to redefine the numismatic landscape.

As I peruse the upcoming Stack's Bowers auction catalog there is a bounty of wonderful collector coins and true rarities and everything in between including a solid contingent of Colonials and medals. Yet as I flipped through the catalog a rather modest offering caught my attention and imagination.

The coin that I am fixated on is an otherwise common Mercury dime dated 1945. It is lot #1237 in the 2nd session. Graded NGC MS 66, the coin is a flashy ultra gem and, according to the NGC US Coin Price Guide worth $35.

1945 Mercury Dime
Click images to enlarge.

Yet this reverse of the last year of issue of the Mercury dime Philadelphia deliveries exhibits nearly full split bands around the fasces and, as such, is sort of in no man’s land. A 1945 Dime graded MS 66 FB is listed at $19,500 in the NGC US Coin Price Guide! The question is, just how much of a premium should this coin with nearly full bands achieve at auction? As there is no designation for partially split bands, what is this coin actually worth? Many have obviously entered the “lottery” and submitted a 1945 Mercury Dime in the hope of receiving a coveted FB designation as there have been 8,101 submissions for the 1945, including 3,798 examples that graded MS 66! Perhaps not surprisingly, both these figures represent the largest populations by total and grade for the entire Mercury dime series!

The NGC Census reports only 26 examples of the 1945 Mercury Dime with the FB designation, which is the second lowest FB population after the 1942/1 at 13 with FB. I scanned recent sales of the 1945 in MS 66 and, while many of the coins have exhibited wonderful luster or multicolored hues, the bands have all been flatter than the proverbial pancake. Prices realized have averaged around the NGC US Coin Price Guide valuation of $35. I found only one MS 66 that, in my opinion, exhibited full split bands, and it brought nearly $1,300 a few years ago. So what will or should this coin bring at the sale is anyone’s guess.

Overall, the coin market psyche is upbeat. Self-described fringe collectors and those totally new to the hobby that I have recently spoken to are also carefully watching stock and world markets and are preparing to enter into the numismatic sector.

I asked a major numismatic market-maker about his thoughts on the present market: ”The lines are more defined than the first of the year, that is for sure. A lot of my savvy clients and accumulators are being directed to rare certified coins in the $500-$2,000 price point. They are hot products. I am talking about coins from all series are being targeted. The keys and semi-keys are all fair game as long as they are pleasing original pieces. Top grade semi-numismatic coins and bullion related are also coveted as there is such a minimal spread over spot.”

A well-known bullion trader from NY concurred and relayed to me: “Gold and silver are poised for a significant upward movement. Most of the dynamic is political in nature as the perceived weakness and lack of coherent direction in the US, the Trump administration, is causing European angst and resulting in a quick transition to the “safe haven mentality” so gold and silver eagles are being gobbled up.”

My advice to the average collector is to stay on course and buy what you can afford and seek out the best quality that you can. You never know where some superior coins will show up this spring. I personally found some great raw type coins at this pseudo pawn shop in my home town.

As you can see, they advertised that they sold coins and taxidermy, which seemed like a wonderfully enticing combo. Just what the doctor ordered!

Until next time, happy collecting!

Jim Bisognani is an NGC Price Guide Analyst having previously served for many years as an analyst and writer for another major price guide. He has written extensively on US coin market trends and values.

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