Going the Distance in Long Beach

Posted on 2/7/2019

Wind, rain and rarities galore in Southern California.

For dealers and attendees at the first Long Beach Expo for 2019, the action, floor traffic and buzz were highly visible and audible on the bourse.

"It was a great show for me,” according to a mainstay West Coast table-holding dealer. Another proclaimed: “Metals were moving up and that seemed to spawn more activity.”

The show and atmosphere were definitely upbeat. From dealer set-up on Wednesday, through the show hours on Friday, most proclaimed a lively and rewarding experience.

Unfortunately, and uncharacteristic of So Cal, very heavy rain and strong winds whipped through Friday evening and Saturday. The flash flood warnings and the imploring of public officials to limit unnecessary road travel curtailed the bourse traffic significantly, to end an otherwise exciting show Saturday. This extreme weather during a Long Beach Expo was like Déjà vu: it was precisely 26 years ago, while I was attending the Long Beach show in February 1993, Mother Nature was in an ill mood.

An unexpected marathon

Having just traveled out from the snow and cold of New Hampshire, I recalled that I thought it would be fun to train and run on the beach prior to heading to the Long Beach Expo each morning. So I diligently put in my morning runs Wednesday through Friday morning. Then, as I was wrapping things up on Saturday at the Expo, I noticed flyers circulating on the bourse that said that access to the show Sunday would be limited due to the running of the Long Beach Marathon on Sunday, February 7 (exactly 26 years ago today).

I recall as I was leaving the hall, I noticed a couple of runners jogging by and asked if they happened to know anything about the marathon, and if it was too late to enter. One fellow replied: “No, it’s not too late. Just show up at the Sheraton around 6 a.m. You can sign up then.”

Although I was totally unprepared for this, and hadn’t planned on it at all, that’s all I needed to hear. I skedaddled back to my Downtown Long Beach Travelodge room, ate pancakes and grazed on lots of cereal. I set my alarm for 4 a.m., excitedly exited my hotel, and ran to the Sheraton. There wasn’t much of a line at 5 a.m. I grabbed one of the entry forms and filled it out, noting a $35 fee for first-time marathoners. I paid the money to the volunteer and got my bib number.

1993 Long Beach Marathon Bronze Medal
Click images to enlarge.

The race had every kind of physical and climatic challenge. It was about 40 degrees at the start of the race. Then, around mile 10, it began to rain steadily. Then, winds picked up and at about the 20-mile mark, it was hailing; stones were about the size of a quarter! Then, the sun came out. Mother Nature threw everything at us.

I remember that I made a point to sprint at the finish line. It was there I was given the traditional runner's T-shirt, and something which I wasn’t expecting: a bronze medal attached to a royal purple lanyard that was placed around my neck. On the obverse, it simply read: “Long Beach 1993” and the reverse read: “First Marathon.”

Wow, that was quite the thrill. Proudly, that was the first of 18 marathons that I have completed, but it is the 1993 medal denoting my first marathon which is very special to me. I thank my readers for allowing me to digress.

The perfect princess

Now flash back to 2019 and the Heritage Long Beach Signature Auction, which pulled in a solid $11 million.

The power numbers were as follows: Of the nearly 3,500 lots up for grabs in the Golden State, seven lots exceeded $100,000 and 137 lots exceeded five figures.

1864 Type III Princess Gold $1, graded NGC MS 69. Price realized: $72,000.
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Although not the top NGC performer in dollars realized, for me, it was the near-perfect Gold Dollar (previously owned by David Ackers), that is my favorite in this sale. The phenomenal 1864 Type III Princess Gold $1, graded NGC MS 69, which claimed $72,000, stands alone as probably the most eye-appealing and rare date of the combined eight Gold Dollars that have achieved MS 69 status on the NGC Census. While the majority of the 1864 coins appear in Mint State, it is this lone MS 69 coin that is such a joy and miraculous survivor of the small Civil War era delivery. For me, this is the “perfect” coin. When she last appeared in the 2014 Winter FUN, she had claimed $58,750.

Great collector opportunities

Yet a marvelous and encouraging figure for the average collector reveals that nearly 38% of those lots sold in the Long Beach Heritage sale fell into the “under $1,000” category. This is a solid percentage of the sale, so I decided to check and see just what exactly could be bought. What kind of key or high-grade collector coins were available and could have been gleaned? Below is a delightful sextuplet to contemplate.

1944-D Mercury Dime, graded NGC MS 68 FB. Price realized: $660.
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This 1944-D Mercury Dime, graded NGC MS 68 FB, realized $660. What a scrumptious, satiny-white, flashy coin. The surfaces are so near perfection! The coin is exquisite as a high-grade type coin or for a top registry coin for the short set of Mercs.

1909 Barber Quarter, graded NGC MS 65. Price realized: $576.
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Up next is this 1909 Barber Quarter, graded NGC MS 65. Price realized: $576. A somewhat-undervalued Philadelphia Barber Quarter in my estimation, especially in full gem MS 65 and better. A quick look at the NGC Census confirms that only 11 coins grade numerically higher than this vibrant and attractive 1909. A wonderful coin for the type collector.

1914-D Barber Quarter, graded NGC MS 66. Price realized: $960.
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There was another Barber Quarter, this one from the “Speechless” collection. A 1914-D Barber Quarter, graded NGC MS 66 realized $960. This coin is indeed a stunner! Virtually fully struck, and a blazer with just a touch of amber and gold visiting the rims. A lower-mintage semi-key, which stands proud as only two coins top this ultra-gem in the NGC Census!

1921 Standing Liberty Quarter, graded NGC XF 40. Price realized: $576.
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Another quarter caught my eye. This 1921 Standing Liberty Quarter, graded NGC XF 40, realized $576. This coin is from the popular and short-lived Standing Liberty design. This wonderfully original high-grade, key-date circulated example will blend nicely in any hobbyist’s collection of Standing Liberties! Ah! 1921 was, and is, a great year for collector coins in virtually every US series!

1954 Franklin Half Dollar, graded NGC MS 66+ FBL. Price realized: $840.
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Ok, this is one incredible-looking Franklin! This 1954 Franklin Half Dollar, graded NGC MS 66+ FBL, realized $840. None are graded higher, according to the NGC Census, with FBL. This was a great coup for the collector at this price point! Just a stunner.

1921 Peace Dollar High Relief, graded NGC MS 64. Price realized: $577
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Last, but not least, is a very attractive inaugural Peace Dollar. This 1921 Peace Dollar High Relief, graded NGC MS 64, realized $577. Again, 1921 is a special year in numismatic circles! This first-year high relief example is quite eye appealing; the creamy satiny surfaces are endowed with a slight copper-amber hue.

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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