Jim Bisognani: Spring Ahead, Coindexters!

Posted on 3/5/2020

Barbers undervalued? Saints ascend... perhaps a numismatic spring cleaning is in order.

March is here, and with clocks set to “spring ahead” this weekend, real spring is less than a month away — a truly exciting prospect for all of us in New England. The sun is bright, and it’s a balmy 55 degrees as I sit down to my desk this morning, reinforcing the delightful notion of an early transition of the seasons. I am hopeful that Punxsutawney Phil got it right this year!

As for the numismatic market, several series have a “spring” in their step.

Bernard from Nebraska is a well-established collector who has been carefully curating his collection for nearly 30 years. “I have been concentrating on completing all of my 20th century sets in at least MS 64 or better,” he explained. Bernard went on to advise that all of the coin series he is currently targeting are silver. And the reason?

“I did collect copper and still have full sets of Indians and Lincolns in Mint State, but many of my full red coins have ‘mellowed’ over the years and the appearance of many of them is more red-brown than the original red. Properly storing the copper can help, but those coins that were still raw witnessed a more accelerated degradation.

“That is why I have, at least for the moment, veered away from high-grade ‘red’ copper. There is nothing wrong with it, mind you. It is just my personal prerogative because most of the coins I would target would be full red. I have instead concentrated on my Barbers, Mercs and Walkers. I am only lacking the 1894-S Proof Barber Dime, but that is one void I will not fill!”

An 1894-S Proof Barber Dime goes for over a million dollars in NGC PF 63 and higher.
Click images to enlarge.

Barber bargains

The Midwest gent also relayed that he believes Barbers (Dimes, Quarters and Halves) have been and continue to be under the radar in this market. Barber Halves are especially underrated in MS 64 and better, according to Bernard:

“I think the series overall is undervalued. In fact, I have been looking at some of the later dated ones in the teens in high-end Mint State. Just do some research — you can get some really great coins, where maybe only three to five pieces are finer, for around $3,000 to $4,000, and they would be with in the top five of the finest known!”

Based on this information, I reviewed the NGC Price Guide and NGC Census and found several examples to corroborate Bernard’s assertions.

Consider the following quartet of Barber Half Dollars. (For reference, I just discovered one of those listed below — a flashy 1915-D graded NGC MS 66 on Collectors Corner for $3,000 retail!)

NGC Price Guide NGC Census Finest Known / NGC Price Guide
1914-S graded NGC MS 65 – $3,000 Only four grade higher NGC MS 66 – $8,750
1915 graded NGC MS 64 – $4,000 Only six grade higher NGC MS 66 – $10,000
1915-D graded NGC MS 66 – $3,950 Only three grade higher NGC MS 67 – $12,500
1915-S graded NGC MS 66 – $4,250 Only three grade higher NGC MS 67 – $12,500

This sample is amazing news and great reference for collectors not only looking to build a complete set of Barber Halves but also for those looking to acquire a highly desirable type coin, as well as for the registry set crowd on a quest for points. Also, it is worth noting for those collectors on a budget, to acquire the finest known of any of these above referenced Barber Halves, on average, it would necessitate an additional outlay of nearly 200% for only one grading point higher.

Based on this enlightenment, I decided to take a gander at the Barber Quarter series and noted several similar scenarios. Please take a look for yourselves in the NGC Price Guide and then click over to the NGC Census for some potential “hidden” values.

Golden deals

With gold spot prices rising back over the $1,600 mark, several collectors to whom I have spoken this week are also putting any disposable funds into gold coins and the bullion related. For Carrie from Michigan, it was just a matter of dollar-cost averaging.  “It was time for me to buy my four ounces of Gold Eagles.”

The 2020-W Gold Eagle goes on sale March 19 at noon.
Click images to enlarge.

Yet for another, it was more reactionary:

“It is a very fragile situation,” noted Dave, hailing from my neighboring state of Massachusetts. Per Dave, “The stock market took a huge hit recently and has been gyrating up and down with the world’s concerns about the coronavirus. Well, it has everyone spooked, and just today the Fed lowered the interest by a half-point. The rates haven’t been this low since 2008!”

Dave has been a coin collector for years, so he felt comfortable making an additional gold coin purchase at this time.

“I just discovered a great deal, and I have been buying $20 Saints. One dealer was offering them in NGC MS 64 for only 5% over melt on Monday! I mean how can you go wrong? It was an absolute bargain! Factored out to about $70 over melt value, these are great buys indeed. I mean, these are on par with Gold Eagles. Granted the Eagles are one full ounce, but still, would you rather pay $25 over melt for a Gold Eagle or $50 more for an NGC MS 64 Saint?”

Well, here's the answer to that: I would much rather have the 100-year-old numismatic icon. Of course, buying gold coins for an investment or just to add to one’s holdings shouldn’t be a kneejerk reaction based on fear of the financial markets. Yet when a bargain arises like the NGC MS 64 $20 Saints, by all means, take advantage of it!

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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