Jim Bisognani: It Is an Area which We Call the No Coin Show Zone

Posted on 6/25/2020

Feeling troubled by the cancellation of coin shows? Internet sales and third-party grading to the rescue!

Well, summer is finally here and although the “official” holiday season is about five months away, I couldn’t help but think that my fellow coindexters’ big holiday was effectively taken away with the ANA’s announcement that it had officially pulled the plug on the World’s Fair of Money. Yes, I couldn’t help but think of my numismatic brethren this week, missing the annual rites and the August trip to Pittsburgh, the Steel City.

Upon hearing this news, in a flash, my thoughts raced back to my youth to the scene in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer when Santa, faced with the massive blizzard on Christmas Eve, utters, “I've got some bad news, folks. Christmas is going to be cancelled.” Of course, we all know that Rudolph and his non-conforming bright beak saved the day that time!

Yet, although our present-day cancellation was expected by me, it still is a bit hard to fathom. The “why” is obvious with the coronavirus pandemic still a potentially lethal force to be reckoned with. It is no time to be clustered in an auditorium or other cavernous hall enjoying the recycled air with thousands of other folks. This is especially true as the majority of attending dealers are of the age that COVID-19 poses a much more serious threat to their well-being.

Time for seconds at the coin bar

This really couldn’t be avoided, my fellow coindexters. Aside from the health concerns, my imagination ran wild with the adjustments and safeguards that would be required. Just what would this ANA (or any other large numismatic venue) actually have looked like?

Would dealers’ tables be strategically separated from their fellow dealers by at least six feet? Then, to protect dealer and patron, would a modified “splatter shield,” reminiscent of those suspended above a salad bar, be installed strategically above their respective showcases, hovering just above the banks of lights illuminating dealers’ wares? Of course, each table would be amply stocked with hand sanitizer, wipes and infrared thermometers.

A friend of mine also mused, “With nearly everyone wearing masks, how would you be able to determine if someone were there to attempt a robbery?!” Hmm?

Back to the facts: This will be only the third time in the history of the ANA that the World’s Fair of Money has been cancelled. The first, a reality check and more than a touch of déjà vu, was in 1918 due to the Spanish Flu pandemic. The other was in 1945 during World War II. Have faith, we will get back there, my fellow coindexters. Like a lot of things that we have grown accustomed to, the new normal will take shape, and we all will eventually get comfortable with it — we will have to.

When NGC was founded 33 years ago, independent third-party grading was a revolutionary concept, one that was met with much resistance initially. Now, it is the foundation of strength and transparency that the hobby and business of numismatics undeniably needs.

While the prospect of no coin shows may be disappointing to many veterans and the much-needed newcomers to the fold, it is especially hard on the “vest pocket” and mom-and-pop dealers — those whose businesses and livelihood thrive at regional and larger venues. Luckily, that thing called the internet has blazed us through and beyond many of these obstacles. It turns out that we and the hobby were well positioned for this.

Online is where it’s at

In reality, many of the regional and even major numismatic venues were becoming a bit tiresome, expensive and less attended by numerous veteran dealers. Many have confided to me that they don’t travel much anymore period, as the majority of their business is conducted through the mail and online.

As for shows, most responded with, “Usually just to the ANA or if there is a major regional show in close proximity to me, I will attend that.” Other dealers and one West Coast megadealer told me several years ago that they don’t attend any shows and just execute bids at major auctions online. Said the megadealer, “Why do I have to go to bid in person? I know what I want and need for my inventory, and especially now being close to 70, I don’t need to rub elbows with my comrades.”

For now, the plethora of live internet-only sales are continuing to rake in the dollars. Every major dealer and company I have spoken with has confirmed that sales have been brisk, and prices realized have been solid-plus over the last quarter. The surge in and protective asset aspect of precious metals during this period has also been advantageously timed to accommodate new bullion and semi-numismatic collectors to the fold, too.

This hobby has survived many disruptions courtesy of war, virus and politics. Yet, with each instance, the numismatic world has reimagined itself. Through times of adversity, the “hobby of kings” has always performed, well, royally.

What follows is a captivating and varied trio of NGC-certified offerings that just appeared in internet-only online sales.

Click images to enlarge.

A lovely, semi-key to the Liberty Head Nickel series, a satiny NGC MS 66 1884 coin raced to $2,400 during last week’s Heritage US coin sale held June 16 and 17. This coin has superb eye appeal and is firmly in the “high end” within the NGC Census, as only seven coins appear with a higher numeric designation. A truly desirable coin.

Click images to enlarge.

And this lovely gold coin from the Republic of Italy shares the same date as the above offering. This 1884 20 Lire graded NGC MS 63 is a satiny, buttery-gold specimen of the lowest mintage of the Umberto I series — only 9,775 were minted. A key coin for the astute world or gold coin collector, it appeared in last week’s (June 18) Heritage Ancient and World Coin sale and realized $1,920.

Click images to enlarge.

Finally, this second year and virtually flawless 1951 Franklin Half Dollar graded NGC PF 69 charged to $29,250 during the recent Great Collections Sunday night sale. This coin is an absolute marvel and, within the standard Proof designation, this is also a record price realized for the date!

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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