Finding Great Value at Major Sales

Posted on 11/9/2017

Pedigreed rarities for a pittance: Newman IX claims $4.5 million

A bit of déjà vu for MLB: For the second year in a row, another seven-game World Series, with the visiting team taking home the trophy in November. In the sporting world, timetables for the playoffs seem to be forever extending.

When I was a kid, my first real recollection of a World Series was with my Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals battling in the 1967 fall classic. That series went seven games as well, with the visiting team (the Cardinals) taking the trophy. Except this Game 7 was played October 12 and the starting time for this deciding game was 1 p.m., as it was for all of the others in the series. Baseball played in daylight — as it was intended!

Now, to maximize revenue and audience share, all games are played in prime time under the lights… which is fine. However, I remember fondly asking my third-grade teacher, Ms. Nutting, if I could bring my transistor radio to class and listen to the games. Ah, such quaint memories.

It was also in the fall of 1967 that I would really start my lifelong fascination with coins. Fifty years ago, and there have been so many changes in the way the hobby and business has evolved. Standardized third-party grading, sight-unseen trades consummated electronically, population reports and auction data going back decades retrieved at the click of a mouse. Online-only sales and major marquee auctions broadcast live on the internet!

You see something you like, do a quick bit of research and due diligence online, and then execute your live bid! What alternate universe is this? Truly amazing!

While modern issues are always welcome, so many domestic and foreign commemorative issues are making it difficult for veterans and newcomers to decide which is the best way to build or add to a collection on a budget. While many modern installments are very attractive and innovative, few are truly what I would call investment material. Yet I will give credit as to the production quality from the US and other world mints for all of this still-inspiring, noncirculating legal tender.

A lifetime of coins at auction

It may be old school, but this is why viewing the classic US coins online of the just-concluded Newman IX sale (November 1-3) was such a thrill. Coins secured by Mr. Newman, in many instances well before the advent of transistors, television, even before the Great Depression!

True numismatic history that had been held privately for decades, now made available to serious collectors and dealers throughout the world. It is so wonderful and truly inspiring to still have an opportunity, albeit a rare one, to participate in a sale with such fresh, timeless offerings.

In my previous article I touched on a few lots which I truly admired at various price points and of historic interest. Now, for the record, the Newman IX auction realized slightly over $4.5 million. Eleven lots were bid over $100K with the iconic, rare and historic original 1861 Confederate Half Dollar leading the way, powering to a record $960,000.

Yet the lion’s share of the lots (54%) were truly available at price points of the everyday collector. Those wanting to enjoy and preserve a “bargain” (or budget-sensitive acquisition, as a collector friend of mine calls it), there were several hundred opportunities to snare a coin pedigreed to the Newman cabinet for a few hundred dollars or less! Pedigreed rarities for a pittance!

A Newman coin for $31

For the record, the most inexpensive price paid for Newman IX lot was for a 1923-S Monroe Half Dollar. Categorized as NGC UNC Details, this was an otherwise-lustrous original-looking coin that realized $31!

1923-S Monroe Half Dollar, graded NGC UNC Details.
Click images to enlarge.

According to Heritage, 18 other coins sold for under $100! Another 217 NGC-certified lots fell in the $1,000-and-under category, with colonials, large cents and classic commems making up the majority of those terrific offerings.

For those many collectors who have asked to see more affordable auction results, below are a few of the exceptional Newman coins that possess tremendous eye appeal and value, covering a cross section of US numismatics.

1724 Hibernia Half penny, graded NGC AU 53 (Ex. Col Green), realized $336. Visually as appealing as one could hope for the assigned grade. Lustrous auburn and orange red intermingled over the smooth surfaces, and the strike is very sharp. Just look at the strong detail in the harp strings! A fortuitous buy, as only a $2 expenditure secured it for Mr. Newman.

1724 Hibernia Half penny, graded NGC AU 53. (Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions)
Click images to enlarge.

1853 Large Cent N-25, graded NGC MS 63 BN, realized $288. Just a wonderful, late-date large cent! A truly classic look envelops this large copper; medium olive brown intermingled over a modest layer of mint red. The bold obverse impression is also accentuated with flaming orange, which seemingly is shadowing Ms. Liberty’s portrait, stars and periphery. Likewise, the reverse is given similar treatment. Purchased by the astute Mr. Newman for the paltry sum of 75 cents.

1853 Large Cent N-25, graded NGC MS 63 BN
Click images to enlarge.

1829 Capped Bust Half Dime Lm-4, graded NGC MS 62, realized $690. One of my favorite US coins is the Bust half dime, and this inaugural 1829 installment is simply stunning. The cameo-like appearance and diminutive stature of this short-lived series is brought to life by a bold impression endowed with a stunning palette of sea green, peach, cerulean and cobalt clinging to the obverse. The reverse is a tad brighter, which accentuates the doubling of the strike on the leaves, denomination and portions of AMERICA. Amazingly Mr. Newman paid a trivial 50 cents for her.

1829 Capped Bust Half Dime Lm-4, graded NGC MS 62
Click images to enlarge.

1936-S Bay Bridge Half-dollar, graded NGC MS 63, realized $264. One of my favorites of the later classic commemorative coins is the Art Deco-inspired San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The majestic symbol of the California Republic, the grizzly bear, dominates the obverse, and the marvelous suspension Bay Bridge occupies the reverse. While the coin is readily available in mint state, most coins I have seen are either brilliant or dull satiny white. This is what set this coin apart. The base of soft satiny luster is covered by a blanket of appealing peach, gold and tinges of powder blue and violet. Just an overall premium coin selected by Mr., Newman for $3.50.

1936-S Bay Bridge Half-dollar, graded NGC MS 63
Click images to enlarge.

Finally, another classic US commem, the 1920 Maine Half Dollar, graded NGC MS 64, realized $126.

From my neighboring Pine Tree state comes this exceptional early Classic Commemorative entry. Solid strike, bold satiny luster and a multicolored rainbow of color traversing the peripheries of obverse and reverse give this coin exemplary eye appeal! Again, commems — whether pedigreed to a great collection or not — are great values in my estimation, and coins with eye appeal such as this issue should be tucked away at these levels, whenever possible. Interestingly, of the quintet I selected, this is the most expensive outlay for Mr. Newman, as he paid $6 for this classic commem!

1920 Maine Half Dollar, graded NGC MS 64
Click images to enlarge.

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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Did you know? NGC has a searchable image gallery of coins from all six Newman Collection coin auctions, including Newman IX. View it here.

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