Jim Bisognani: Long Beach Sale Tops $8.4 Million

Posted on 6/13/2019

Trouble for chiefs only temporary; a young collector all in on Gobrecht.

Another highly popular event on the numismatic circuit, the Long Beach Expo and host Heritage's Long Beach Expo US Coins Signature Auction, is in the books. The convention center was the scene of considerable activity, with steady floor traffic on the bourse throughout the show.

“Business was being conducted at a fairly good clip,” one well-known Golden State dealer said.

More business for us

Several dealers at the show mentioned, however, that it was apparent on the bourse that some East Coast regulars didn’t make the trip. They blamed the close timing of the Long Beach show and the just-concluded Whitman Baltimore, which was just a fortnight before.

“They probably didn’t want to make the long trip on the heels of Whitman,” one said. “Hey, it just meant more business for us.”

The host Heritage's Long Beach Expo US Coins Signature Auction, although lacking any big-name collections, managed to roll to a commendable $8.4 million, just under $3,300 per lot.

A young Gobrecht fan

Jill and her son Bobby from Encino, California, told me this was their first Long Beach show.

“My 13-year-old son is into the collecting stage right now,” Jill said. “Everything he has an interest in, he studies online. For the last year it has been coins that have been occupying his spare time.”

I asked if she or his dad collected coins and was told no.

“He just loved looking back at the old designs on the pennies, dimes and quarters at first. Then we bought him a Red Book and he got more serious,” Jill said, adding that her son’s favorites are Seated Liberty Dimes and Half Dimes.

“I really like Christian Gobrecht,” Bobby said. “He designed all the US silver coins with seated Liberty on the obverse, and they are really neat to look at first-hand at the show!”

The young man said he had the money to buy at least one example of each half dime through half dollar in VG–Fine range. Later will come varieties and, hopefully, a low-end, circulated Seated Dollar. I wished Bobby good hunting and asked him if he knew that Gobrecht also designed the Quarter, Half and Gold Eagles of the period as well.

“Really?” he said.

“When you get a job!” his mother quickly countered.

This 1917-S Buffalo Nickel graded NGC MS 67 just realized $20,400.
Click images to enlarge.

Dive of chiefs' market only temporary

A 1917-S Buffalo Nickel graded NGC MS 67 just realized $20,400, which is a bargain, in my opinion. A bargain at $20,400 — really, you might ask? Please track this Buffalo with me.

The beautiful and top pop 1917-S Buffalo nickel is a stunning coin. Standing proudly on the census report as the sole MS 67 designee and a popular early key date, this is everything a Buffalo nickel enthusiast could want. Endowed with an exceptionally strong strike and accentuated by glowing iridescence of icy blue, rose, lavender and a beguiling light gold, this coin has a classic “look.”

Tracking the buffalo

The first public auction appearance of this coin coincided with the very top of the coin market nearly 11 years ago. It’s no fault of the coin that its first offering came just a little over a month before the subprime mortgage lending bubble burst, nearly taking down the US and world economies and putting us on the brink of another Great Depression. Buyers interested in this and other esteemed Buffalos from the fabulous University Drive Collection were oblivious to the imminent perils and their bids raced to phenomenal heights, with this finest-known 1917-S ultimately capturing an incredible $138,000 on Aug. 3, 2008.

The proud chief next appeared as a part of the Brenda John Collection in the Heritage Long Beach sale of June 2010. This was perhaps not the most fortuitous time for this coin (and many others) to come to market, as the US and the world economies still were struggling to gain traction and the rare coin market — which had given up easily 25 to 40% after the fall of 2008 — continued to retreat. In this instance, the finest-known 1917-S claimed $40,250, a decline of slightly over 70% from 2008.

Another six years passed before this 1917-S next became available to the public at the CSNS April 2016 sale, where it realized $30,550.

Then the 1917-S, now being identified as being from The Black Diamond Collection, resurfaced at the Winter FUN 2019 show and claimed $21,600. A mere five months later, at the just-concluded Long Beach Heritage signature sale, this tremendous bison brought $20,400.

This is why it appears safe to conclude that this is the bottom of the market for this tremendous coin and, at this level, it is most certainly a prime buy for the next owner.

This Buffalo Nickel, a 1914-S graded NGC MS 67★, could realize around 35% more than at its last outing if it were to be offered today.
Click images to enlarge.

Another popular second-year semi-key Buffalo Nickel, a 1914-S graded NGC MS 67★, was in the University Drive Collection 2008 sale when it thundered to an astounding record of $46,000. Four years later, the same 1914-S, then named for the Teton Ranch Collection, made an appearance in the 2012 Winter FUN sale, bringing a paltry $13,800.

As was the case with the 1917-S, this was a 70% decline. So this coin was another example of a tremendously attractive semi-key Buffalo Nickel worthy of inclusion in the finest collections that took a licking in its first post-2008 appearance. Yet if it were to return to the market today, I would be surprised if it didn’t realize around 35% more than at its last outing. This is based in part on the prices generated for coins a half grade to one full grading point lower.

This Kennedy Half Dollar, a multicolored ultra-gem graded NGC MS 67★, realized $15,600.
Click images to enlarge.

Modern mania maintains muscle

Another upstart Kennedy Half Dollar has claimed new heights. A multicolored ultra-gem 1969-D, one of only five graded NGC MS 67★ (and none higher), reached the stratosphere, claiming $15,600! This tops the NGC Price Guide by over 310% and shattered the previous record set by a competitor’s 67+ by nearly 225%!

A Christian Gobrecht 1837 No Stars Large Date Seated Liberty Dime.
Click images to enlarge.

A Gobrecht to go

Keeping in mind the young man from Encino and his fondness for Christian Gobrecht, one of my favorites just happens to be one of the first US coins designed by Gobrecht to actually enter circulation. Here is his 1837 No Stars Large Date Seated Liberty Dime. The cameo-like rendering of Ms. Liberty by Gobrecht is striking in its lovely simplicity. This impressive coin, graded NGC PF 66, just realized $45,600.

Based on Mint records, 30 proofs were struck nearly 182 years ago to the day (June 30, 1837). According to the NGC Census, this is one of two coins graded NGC PF 66, with only a single coin achieving NGC PF 67. The last time this coin appeared was at the 2017 Winter FUN, where it brought $39,550. The two and half years off the market resulted in a nearly 15% price increase.

Remember, collectors: Keep an eye out in your pocket change for coins from the Great American Coin Hunt, as well as each installment of the 2019-W Quarters!

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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