Jim Bisognani: Gold Bugs Swarm, Modern Rarities Rule

Posted on 9/12/2019

For many, the timing was perfect at the Long Beach Expo.

The final Long Beach Expo for 2019 is in the books. This one was certainly an interesting affair, having all the trappings for an eventful venue and record-setting auction.

The timing was perfect

Late summer-early fall has traditionally been the season for some acceleration in the numismatic community. For many hobbyists, their beloved offspring have returned to their respective classrooms in grade schools and colleges throughout the land. While missing Johnnie and Annie about foot, this break will give moms and dads a bit more time to rejoice and enjoy some personal hobby time. (And what could be better than numismatics?)

The metals, which have been entertaining us with their heroics since Memorial Day, have also revived and rejuvenated many a dormant summer collector. Gold topping $1,500 and silver racing past $18 per ounce certainly was a catalyst for ushering more attendees into the Port of Long Beach.

Gold and silver bugs swarming on bourse

Several traders regularly holding tables in Long Beach said they noticed a significant increase in floor traffic, with an uptick in those wanting to buy gold and silver. Per one major market maker from the Golden State: “Absolutely! There was more demand! One collector who always comes to visit me in Long Beach made a point to bring a few buddies along this time. Each of the three friends spent over $10,000 on gold and silver with me. $10 & $20 Libs and 90% US silver made up the orders.”

Another mainstay dealer at Long Beach said he observed more of a push toward 90% silver: “I had several customers wanting to buy $1,000 bags.” As one buyer articulated: “There is so much more potential right now with the gold/silver ratio at nearly 90 to 1. There is so much upside right now.”

Modern rarities rule

Another faction is the modern rare coin market, which has been thriving and remains a potent force. Personally, I still find it hard to fathom that a 1975 No-S Proof Roosevelt Dime just realized the same price as an 1876-CC Twenty Cent Piece—$456,000!

Although the Roosevelt dime is a modern fluke, I do capitulate that the 1975 sans S Roosevelt Proof dime is still an extreme rarity, as only two examples have surfaced in the 44 years since its release in proof sets of that year. Yet, for my money (if I had that much), I would gleefully go after the 1876-CC Twenty Cent coin. It too is a Western fluke as the entire Carson City mintage of 1876-CC Twenty Cent pieces (10,000 coins) were scheduled to be melted because there was no demand for them in commerce. Luckily for numismatics, around 20 coins escaped the melting pot.

CC riders

While on the subject of Carson City, Morgan Dollars brandishing that coveted “CC” mintmark remain a hot and very-much-in-demand property with collectors. A Morgan Dollar specialist confirmed that sentiment and reported that he had substantially more demand and sales for better-dated Carson City coins at the show: “Mostly 1880, 1881 1885 CC coins, and I sold a few NGC MS 63 1879-CC’s at the show.”

Even the “common” Carson City contingent was in demand. Per the same source: “The 1882 and 1884 coins are really moving out of stock quickly. The main reason is that there is virtually no price distinction between MS 60 and MS 63 coins. My cost is basically the same in those grades, so collectors are scooping up the better-looking MS 62 and MS 63 coins for the same money as I have priced the MS 60 and MS 61 coins!”

Rainbows see the light

The colorful and rainbow-toned coins were another in-demand item at the Long Beach Expo. While many of the US and foreign coins sold on the bourse didn’t bring earthshaking record money, dealers said they sold substantially more of the “pleasantly toned” coins from their showcases. One dealer from Wisconsin said he had one couple spend nearly $2,500 on just nicely toned NGC material.

“Most of the coins were from mint sets that I pulled out and sent to NGC for grading,” said the Badger State dealer. The otherwise common 1950s Lincoln cents and Roosevelt dimes made up the bulk of the deal. “I did well. I paid more for some of the sets that had the toning, which I broke up, but I still made money on the deal.”

Another dealer who maintains a sizable modern foreign inventory said he sold a group of nicely toned Austrian 25 and 50 Schilling Proof coins from the 1950s and 1960s. “These were some of the scarcer and more popular Proof coins. One was the 1956 Mozart 25 Schilling. It was a great Proof Cameo and had terrific eye appeal. I would classify it as a rainbow blend.” (The Mozart is the second in the modern series and is always very popular with collectors.) He went on to say, “The 1,000 mintage tends to drive up the price when nice coins come to the market. I also sold a popular but common 1964 Innsbruck 50 Schilling. It was an NGC PF 67 Cameo—very attractive obverse but not overpowering.”

A formidable fall record

Topping off the venue was the always highly-anticipated Heritage Long Beach Signature Auction, which roared in and claimed nearly $18.2 million. As soon as I found this sales data, I knew it was significant. The researcher in me had to be sure and, after scouring all the sales records back to 1993 (including those old “Bullet” sales), $18.2 million establishes a new record for this late summer-early fall edition! This is really noteworthy because, historically, this final Long Beach Signature sale has generated substantially fewer dollars than the winter and summer installments.

This sale featured highly diverse opportunities for collectors and dealers, including colonials, early federal issues, and some spectacular type. With 3,395 lots, it was a formidable array, indeed, and the average price realized per lot was $5,350.

1792 for two

I think two of my favorite lots, both historic and highly important US numismatic icons, were from 1792. The first may have been struck using General Washington’s personal silver service, and the other, which bears his image, was a proposed design for a US cent.

The 1792 half disme, a lovely NGC VG 8 housed in an older NGC holder, realized $49,200. A highly desirable first US coin issue, this heavily circulated example is marvelous! Light steel grey, she still displays the majesty of the design. It is truly amazing that a coin of this magnitude survived the untold perils of circulation from one hand to the next before finally settling in a knowing numismatist’s hands!

1792 Half Disme graded NGC VG 8. Realized: $49,200
Click images to enlarge.

The famous 1792 Washington Getz Pattern Cent, Small Eagle 15 stars struck in copper graded NGC MS 62 BN realized $117,000. The obverse features a robust portrait of President George Washington and the reverse a wonderful rendering of a variation of the presidential seal. Truly a phenomenal piece exhibiting such exacting detail!

1792 Small Eagle P.E. Cent G. Washington President Getz Pattern graded NGC MS 62 BN. Realized: $117,000
Click images to enlarge.

Until next time, happy collecting!

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