Mile-High Excitement Building for ANA World’s Fair of Money

Posted on 7/20/2017

Iconic Rarities—Gem Key Date Morgans and Colonial Era Coins—Among the Most Targeted

We are less than a fortnight away from the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money, hosted by the mile-high city of Denver, Colorado. Scheduled August 1-5 in the Centennial State capital, the rare coin market remains robust, with buyers still outnumbering sellers for top-tier material.

As a prominent New York dealer relayed: “I have found that demand for Choice to Gem key date Morgan dollars is as strong as ever. I also have multiple customers requesting common date Gem or better DPL coins, as well as the common to slightly tougher CC dated coins in like grade.”

Another native New England dealer advised that they have been courting increased demand for colonial period coins of both US and Europe. “1652 Pine Tree coins, as well as those from Connecticut, New Jersey and Massachusetts, have ready buyers for problem-free mid-grade circ coins. I also have customers anxious to pick up English copper from the late 1700s and early 1800s in mint state, those which parallel our own country’s early federal issues ... and at really remarkable prices. I mean, you can still pick up farthings, half pennies and pennies in RB UNC for just a few hundred dollars or so.”

‘Still highly affordable’

Yet this positive view is not shared by the majority of the coin market, according to one well-known trader: “Most average to slightly-above-average coins from many series have been mirroring the metals market.” This Texas dealer is referring to the narrow trading range that has been the refrain of gold and silver.

“In reality, since the beginning of 2017, gold has been content to hover in the low to mid-$1,200 range, with only a few minor run-ups as world tensions witnessed the still-knee-jerk reaction to the safe haven mindset. As a result, I have not had any rush from new collectors as, in their eyes, there is no incentive. This is a shame, as the metals have always been a bridge to numismatics.”

Silver, too, has been stifled, yet according to this source: “Silver is still highly affordable though, and is very much recommended, not just for short term. I like Morgan and Peace dollars, and presently with silver trading at $16.20 (as of this writing), VG+ Morgans can be bought for under $24 in quantity for non-1921’s. While investors don’t really care, for the collector there is still a great variety of dates that can be extracted from full bags, or even $100 or less. Yet at $17 per coin, I think Peace circ dollars are the best deal.”

I concur; while melt value for the Morgan or Peace dollar is $12.50 (as of this writing) the collectable-numismatic value is still intense for the silver dollars. In many instances, at local shows or merely trading on eBay, VG quality Morgans readily claim $30 or more. Conversely, the junk 90% bags usually made up from dimes and quarters are trading at negligible premiums. On one of the electronic trading networks, I spied a well-known California dealer offering $1,000 face value 90% bags at just $142 over melt, basing it on the approximate 715 ounces of silver per bag. This averages out to be just under 20 cents over prevailing silver spot price per ounce!

While the average bag of 90% silver will not offer much of, if any, numismatic upside, I have been able to pull out a very good mixture of dates within Mercury and Roosevelt dimes, and Washington quarter series recently. This includes a nice XF 1949-S Roosy and nearly AU 1942-S Washington Quarter! I know it isn’t a major find, but it was a pleasant surprise. Certainly, most bags have been sorted, but not thoroughly.

The greatest coin show in the world

Wow! It seems it was just a blink of the eye since we were enjoying the ANA in Anaheim. Time is flying by. For those of you who haven’t planned your ANA sojourn, there is still time to enjoy the thrill of the greatest coin show in the world!

World-class exhibits, seminars, meetings and numismatic excursions wrapped around tremendous host auctions conducted by Stack's Bowers and Heritage await the numismatic newcomer, veteran or professional. Both sales are chock-full of high-grade esoteric rarities from the Colonial and Revolutionary era, along with a sizable pallet of early federal and modern issues encompassing all series. Something for everyone — coins in the hundred-dollar range to potentially well over $1 million — will be up for bid.

Probably like most collectors, I like to search out and ogle coins from online catalogs. I am especially drawn to those that exude eye appeal; they don’t have to dislodge your eyes from their sockets, but they must be attractive.

While the inherent numismatic beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder, a rule of thumb is to always be on the lookout for coins that are naturally toned. As an example, in regard to copper, it doesn’t always have to be bright orange or flaming red. There are many certified mint state copper coins designated as Brown or Red Brown that are truly gorgeous! Silver coins may be blast white or display dazzling peripheral toning.

I am also drawn to coins from all series that are rarely encountered in the marketplace. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I also like to establish a baseline price for this venture. It is great to window shop, but reality must set in. Usually, I like to ferret out something that falls in the under-$2,000 range.

While the first two of those prerequisites are often found in major sales, finding rare coins in the under-$2,000 price point isn’t an easy objective. That’s when years of experience and market savvy are the average collector’s best ally.

Two coins to consider

A great reference coin for this exercise appears in the first session of the Stack's Bowers ANA auction; here you will find a lovely 1905-O Barber quarter graded NGC MS 63.

1905-O Barber quarter
Click images to enlarge.

The coin has great eye appeal, above-average strike and, as is the case with most of the New Orleans strikings, it harbors a relatively low mintage of 1.2 million. The NGC Census only contains a mere 19 coins with a grade higher than this example. Put this in perspective: With a trio of the formidable keys to the Barber quarter series, such as the 1913-S (which registers in at 33 coins graded above MS 63), the 1896-S (revealing 25) and the 1909-O (listing 23). Thus, we have a coin that has eye appeal and is decidedly scarce and — as far as market value, in my opinion — still a great value at $1,500, according to the NGC Price Guide.

1913-S Type 2 Buffalo nickel
Imaged by Heritage Auctions (
Click images to enlarge.

Another offering, this from the Heritage ANA signature sale, is a superlative 1913-S Type 2 Buffalo nickel graded NGC MS 63. While there is no secret to the scarcity and the rarity of this key coin within the Buffalo nickel series, in my opinion, Choice (or slightly better) key date Buffalo nickels are solid values wearing the MS 63 designation.

As a bonus, those that have rainbow peripheral toning and other visual patinating pizzazz make the coin even more exciting and desirable.

Also, as there is usually a much wider and escalating price attached to Buffalos in the MS 64 to MS 65 column, I feel MS 63’s, especially those that also exhibit some natural patina, are bonuses and bargains in many instances.

While 1913-S Type 2 Buffalos in this grade appear regularly at auction, few possess the eye appeal and beauty of this coin. When this exact coin appeared three years ago as a part of the Heritage Long Beach signature sale, she realized $1,058. This time around, a price realized in that vicinity is an exceptional value.

Of course, in addition to the thousands of lots of coins and currency up for auction, there are scores of other coins to canvass on the ANA Bourse Floor! Whatever your budget or collecting specialty, there will most definitely be something for you to discover and enjoy.

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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