Jim Bisognani: Coin Collecting Goes Major League

Posted on 10/24/2019

All the bases covered 24 hours a day.

Wow, if you are a sports fan (and I think most Coindexters are), we are fast approaching one of the most highly anticipated days of any year. With luck, and assuming there isn’t a four-game sweep in the World Series, professional athletes representing all major league sports take to their respective playing fields and arenas on Sunday, October 27. That’s right—MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA schedules overlap, and for sports fans, there is really nothing like it…pigskin, hoops and pucks, oh my! 

My fellow Coindexters, we too have a magical interlude—and we have it every day.

Welcome to numismatic nirvana!

Even as an otherwise delightful pre-teen, I was obsessed with coins (and my Boston Red Sox). Their history, beauty, design, commemoration… All I wanted was more information about these metal discs. I know that is hard to believe. But unfortunately, other than my trusty bedside companion 1966 Red Book, I only had a few dealers’ fixed-price lists and the sundry and infrequent newsletters from various industry scribes to enhance my knowledge and satisfy my coin curiosity.

However, armed with my freshly tuned abacus, I would calculate my finances and strategize my next numismatic venture. It was a slow and deliberate process, for the outside world was a dark and less frequently traveled place, numismatically.  

I used to dream that someday there would be a coin shop on every corner. Perhaps some sort of franchise like the one with the golden arches. Yet, even in my fondest pipe dreams, I don’t believe I would have conjured a numismatic dimension where, from the comfort of my own home, office or even during a commute, I would be able to view and bid on multiple “major league” coin sales. But with the advent of third-party grading, mega-mega pixel imagery and a blazing internet, we now have numismatic nirvana every day!

Coin collecting’s deep bench

Since the turn of the new millennium, it seems those major marquee auctions held on average a few times each month were just an appetizer. To augment the highly popular big league “live” floor sales, we have a large stable of internet-only players coming in off the bench. Two established stars—GreatCollections and David Lawrence Rare Coins—now cater to our Sunday evenings with a bounty of US and world offerings each week via their popular internet-only sales.

A very desirable first year 1921 High Relief Peace Dollar graded NGC MS 65+ captured $1,913 during a recent GreatCollections Sunday night sale, and a fabulous 1881 Seated Liberty Quarter graded NGC PF 63 Cameo is up for bid at David Lawrence’s sale #1088, which concludes October 27. This coin is a real eye-catcher.

1921 High Relief Peace Dollar graded NGC MS 65+
Click images to enlarge.

1881 Seated Liberty Quarter graded NGC PF 63 Cameo
Click images to enlarge.

Heritage Auctions then bats cleanup and offers US coins on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and world and ancient coins on Thursdays. Hey, there’s no reason to sleep—any gaps in time are more than adequately filled by major coin dealers and thousands of private sellers offering their wares on eBay—the 24/7 coin store. Certified coins, raw coins and complete collections are a mere click away.

Consulting the playbook

Personally, I find that with so many rapid-fire choices vying for my attention, the NGC Price Guides for US coins and world coins and the Auction Central resource are a must to have open on my laptop, tablet, phone, etc. They are truly a necessity, and they’re free! Making a split-second decision to buy or not is much easier when I am armed with this data trove.

Just last week, I transitioned my attention from a rather nice, blazing-red, raw Proof Australian 1959-P Penny to an NGC PF 68 Cameo 1957 Franklin Half Dollar. Each was counting down with closing bids in under a minute, so I was under pressure to make a decision. But with the free guides and auction data to easily navigate through, I was able to make a swift and informed “choice” and bid on both coins.

Reviewing Heritage’s “live” floor sessions for their Dallas US Coin Signature Auction (held October 17-24), it has raked in nearly $6.5 million as we go to press. The top four performers all wore NGC holders. This formidable quartet included:

  • A 1776 Pewter EG FECIT Continental Dollar graded NGC MS 65 realized $180,000.
  • A 1915-S Panama-Pacific $50 Round graded NGC MS 64 realized $96,000.
  • A 1915-S Panama-Pacific Octagonal graded NGC MS 63 realized $81,000.
  • An 1810 $5 Capped Bust LG Date LG 5 graded NGC MS 65 realized $69,000.
This enigmatic Continental Dollar from 1776 claimed $180,000.
Click images to enlarge.

A pair of “modern” coins hit home runs

A wildly popular rarity first discovered during my youth—gee, I wish I could have found one or two back then—is the 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Cent. This rather tawny example with modest orange-brown overtones, graded NGC MS 63 BN, catapulted to $37,200. At present, according to the NGC Census, just 16 coins have been graded, only half of which have been graded Mint State!

1969-S Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Cent graded NGC MS 63 BN
Click images to enlarge.

Then there was this semi-key 1926-D Buffalo Nickel graded NGC MS 67. Always a popular coin and hard to find with anything resembling a full strike, it scored a home run, touchdown, hat trick and three-pointer. Here we have a coin numerically rivaling for the finest known, imparting a solid strike and displaying wonderful rainbow toning on the obverse and reverse. This beauty certainly covered all the bases and brought home $38,400.

1926-D Buffalo Nickel graded NGC MS 67
Click images to enlarge.

Playing to win in the sport of coin collecting

Whether on the winning side of a bidding war waged during a live floor session, or dueling with an unknown cyber opponent as the counter is approaching zero, collectors must do their due diligence and research before entering the numismatic arena. With each acquisition, we are carefully honing our skillset and becoming more prepared for the next opportunity. Front row at a major sale or scrolling through eBay at 2am, big league excitement awaits 24 hours a day.

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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