Jim Bisognani: No Live Shows, No Live Floor Auctions… No Problem!

Posted on 4/30/2020

Reconnecting with an old friend and results from the CSNS Signature sale demonstrate the unique strength of the hobby.

Well, another week in the new numismatic culture. However, no live shows, no live floor auctions…no problem! If possible, there is a more palpable excitement and strength in this beloved hobby and industry than before. I am doing well, too, having already practiced the work at home directive for over a decade. Actually, nothing has really changed for me other than I get to share my day with the Mrs. and cats now. But in the true spirit of the stay-at-home culture, I did reconnect with a dear old friend.

Bob, a native New Englander who is now a longtime resident of the Lone Star State living in West Texas, gave me a call. After we reminisced and caught up on where the last decade and more had gone, my friend advised me that he had retired from his lifelong professional duties as a pharmacist and could now really become reacquainted with numismatics. Bob and I go back well over 30 years, and I know it will not be hard to fathom that I was touting coin collecting back then.

My friend, who had a mild interest in the hobby from his youth, followed my passionate lead. So, I gleefully began to select some coins for his collection. We of course talked about them, and Bob advised me that he still has every coin that I chose for him. I was glad to hear that.

We then touched on and conversed about several notable coins from back then and present day. As my friend’s acquisitions from me were made in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, several were uncertified, yet still quite memorable. One of the raw coins was one of his absolute favorites: a Type I 1917-P Standing Liberty Quarter.

An example of a 1917-P Standing Liberty Quarter.
Click images to enlarge.

As I raced back in my memory bank, I recalled it was a very choice and lustrous original-skinned coin, most probably an MS 64 + / 65 coin with a Full Head. Bob said that he now likes to call this quarter the original “wardrobe malfunction.” Then memory lane traveled on to a pair of NGC-certified coins, both 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cents: one was graded NGC MS 65 RD and the other NGC MS 64 RB.

A 1909-S V.D.B. Lincoln Cent graded NGC MS 67 RD in an upcoming GreatCollections sale.
Click images to enlarge.

Let your fingers do the walking

Bob told me that because he was self-quarantined at home, he was busy scouring the internet for coin-related articles and guides. Starved numismatically for something new, my friend then relayed that he had just ordered one of those bulk packages of mixed world coins. He said, “It was a couple of pounds and really fun to sort and look through.” I then figured I would bring my buddy up to speed on the NGC website.

I forwarded links to our NGC Price Guides (US and World), Auction Central, Coin Explorer, etc. I also had to direct him to the NGC Weekly Market Report, so he could get caught up on yours truly’s biweekly drivel. I suggested a few well-known coin dealers’ websites to peruse, too.

Then, just before we said our goodbyes, Bob was summoned to the door for a delivery. The package was a 1959 US Proof Set he had just ordered from Amazon! Still in the original manila envelope, I could tell he was a bit giddy as he opened and examined his new acquisition. We then discussed that this was the inaugural installment of the new Lincoln Cent reverse, which saw the Lincoln Memorial replace the longtime standard wheat ears. Good luck and stay in touch, my friend!

A 1959 Proof Lincoln Cent with the new Lincoln Memorial reverse.
Click images to enlarge.

Virtual CSNS

While the 2020 installment of the CSNS convention never was, the host CSNS Auction is in the books. As there are bound to be questions and comparisons regarding the strength and vitality of the numismatic market in the COVID-19 environment, I will be supplying some very eye-opening data. First off, the Heritage CSNS Signature sale (US coins) captured a solid $20.2 million, which is about on par for the previous handful of CSNS auction sale results. Now for the nitty-gritty…

The 2020 CSNS Signature sale, which was held April 25-28 at the Heritage home office in Dallas, featured 2,945 lots. This figure accounted for 1,008 fewer lots for collectors and dealers to compete for than in the 2019 CSNS; however, the average dollar amount realized per lot increased by a factor of over 40% this year from the 2019 sale!

An incredible 19 lots thundered into the low- to mid-six figure range, with the highest price paid — $480,000 — capturing a true American numismatic rarity. The coin, an exquisite and ultra-rare Proof 1858 Liberty Eagle, is graded NGC PF 64 Ultra Cameo. She is one of four bona fide Proof examples known, and this, the famed Trompeter pedigreed coin, is the only one available to the public. The other three are sequestered away in the Smithsonian Institution, the American Numismatic Society and the Connecticut State Library. Such a coup for the new owner, as this was the first public offering of the coin since 1984!

The 1858 Eagle graded NGC PF 64 Ultra Cameo that realized: $480,000.
Click images to enlarge.

So, just how strong is the demand for top-end rarities — those which exceeded $100,000? Well, the top 19 coins this year at CSNS realized over $3.6 million, which was 18% of that sale’s proceeds. Compare that to the 2019 CSNS where the top 14 coins brought just over $2 million, which represented 10.5% of the total sales. Further, the average price generated in the top tier was nearly 32% higher in 2020!

Strength in Numbers

Listed below is the average price per lot realized for the past five CSNS Signature sales:

CSNS Auction Sale Year Average Price per Lot
2016 $4,062
2017 $5,024
2018 $4,254
2019 $4,902
2020 $6,871

Thus, in a tidy response to the question of the strength of the rare coin market, as you can see, the average price per lot for the 2020 sale boasts an impressive advantage of 40.2% increase over 2019, and combined (since the 2016 CSNS sale) the 2020 virtual CSNS version has the distinction of reporting in with a stout 50.68% per lot increase!

So, while you are hunkered down, my fellow coindexters, be sure to keep an eye open for online offerings courtesy of your favorite dealer and one of my favorites, eBay! And if you haven’t already, try reconnecting with an old friend!

Until next time be safe, and 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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