Jim Bisognani: World Coins, Registry Sets and Predicting Auction Results with Punxsutawney Phil

Posted on 2/6/2020

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, it's time for a registry set.

Well, February is here, and it is for certain that 2020 will be ripe with political mayhem. This is especially true here in New Hampshire, as we have been playing host to a nomadic horde of presidential hopefuls since last fall.  All headquartered and campaigning in earnest for the first-in-the-nation primary, their visibility has intensified since 2020 rolled in.

This past weekend, when my phone wasn’t ringing with campaigners begging for my support or survey takers, I found myself being summoned to the front door at regular intervals to meet volunteers stumping for a sundry wash list of presidential aspirants. It is a ritual that we who reside in the Granite State face every four years. I must admit that all of the attention is nice, although I know it will be fleeting because, after the primary, nary a peep will be heard.

Another (perhaps more important) February tradition also occurred this past weekend. Punxsutawney Phil, not seeing his shadow, triumphantly proclaimed an early spring, which was good news for me and virtually everyone else residing in the frozen north. Hmm… politician or Phil? Hey, why shouldn’t I believe in the slightly rotund marmot? He has at least a 50/50 chance of being correct (actually, historically 39%).

For my fellow Coindexters, February is also when the world of numismatics traditionally shuns its shadow and begins to emerge from the winter funk. FUN and NYINC are in the books, and both venues were very well-attended. Plus, host auctions revealed very strong results. The metals have continued to respond with positive momentum, pushing both gold and silver to higher levels, too. So, based on early “exit polls,” 2020 portends for a powerfully good showing.

Impressive results for world coins at US shows

While I don’t necessarily believe there is a direct correlation between Punxsutawney seeing his shadow and numismatics (more on that later), timing and having cash on hand is ultra-important in the coin collecting community.

An important example: when the NYINC show isn’t held the same weekend as FUN, the Big Apple attracts an impressively diverse and well-heeled group of numismatists. Many are world aficionados with a specific area of expertise, while scores of other attendees are hobbyists looking for something different to collect — perhaps something that is historic, topical or exotic.

Indeed, 2020 has already issued a defining statement that world coins are gaining more of the numismatic market share. They are appearing at major auctions, increasingly visible on mainstream US dealers’ websites and on display in showcases on the bourse.

Further demonstrating the strength of the world coin market, these two phenomenal NGC-graded gold coins from Great Britain powered to the top in New York recently.

A Great Britain 1839 5 Sovereign “Una and the Lion” graded NGC PF 61 Ultra Cameo roared to a record price for the grade — $300,000! The iconic and exquisite design created by William Wyon has thrilled connoisseurs of numismatics and art aficionados for nearly 200 years. This massive and beautiful gold coin is truly a classic.

Great Britain 1839 Gold 5 Sovereign graded NGC PF 61 Ultra Cameo that realized $300,000
Click images to enlarge.

Meanwhile, an England 1692 5 Guineas “Elephant & Castle” graded NGC MS 62 realized $312,000. This majestic gold coin featuring the conjoined busts of joint rulers William and Mary is a significant European rarity in all states of preservation. In Mint State, fewer than a handful are known to exist, this example being the finest NGC-graded specimen. Attesting to the strength of the world coin market, a similarly graded MS 62 example realized $170,000 less two years ago!

England 1692 Elephant & Castle 5 Guineas graded NGC MS 62 that realized $312,000
Click images to enlarge.

Pick your price point

Collectors whom I have spoken to recently, both with limited budgets and deep pockets, have similar goals — namely, completing a series with the best-graded coins they can afford. I applaud them. Completing any series is a challenge in resources and time, ferreting out suitable coins for each respective collection. This need not be the same routine for other budding collectors or veterans. If you possess unlimited resources, your target will or can be much higher, and you may perhaps wage a battle for top tier registry set bragging rights.

Spring training

Speaking of registry sets, I don’t presently have any. Yet, even at my advanced age, I am getting excited at the prospect! My fellow coworker, Kevin Stoutjesdyk, enlightened me on the joys of becoming a registry set owner… such fun! Your US and World coins are waiting to be recognized, and registry sets can be so addicting for Coindexters.

I think of it this way: You are the manager of a team playing a competitive sport. You would definitely want to suit up the best players, right? Each manager is always scouting, looking to add the best players to their respective lineups to win. Then, once that is decided, you can play general manager and determine whether you’re in the minors as far a cash flow goes or in the majors. We collectors then have the ultimate decision to make.

So, whether you’re contemplating building something domestic, perhaps a solid circulated Barber Quarter collection, or international, maybe a mint state Australian pre-decimal collection, follow this link, and you can learn all about creating a competitive or custom NGC Registry set. Get crackin’!

The Shadow Knows!

I just couldn’t let this groundhog thing rest, so I did some further research…

Interestingly, each year since 2010 in which the prodigious rodent from Pennsylvania has not seen his shadow, the NYINC auction has witnessed a solid increase in sales proceeds the following year that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow. Take a look at the chart below:

Sale Proceeds/No Shadow Sale Proceeds/Shadow Gains
2011 – $9,128,754 2012 – $10,471,863 14.71%
2013 – $13,940,370 2014 – $16,909,622 21.3%
2016 – $10,829,591 2017 – $17,969,863 65.93%

So, based on this data, in years in which a longer winter is predicted, sales proceeds have increased substantially.

*For the record, Phil did not see his shadow in 2019 and 2020, and, true to form, the results in 2020 were down by nearly 14% from the 2019 NYINC sale totals! Let’s hope that Phil sees his shadow in 2021!

Until next time, happy collecting!

Jim Bisognani is an NGC Price Guide Analyst. He has written extensively on US coin market trends and values.

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