Jim Bisognani: A Heartfelt Retrospective

Posted on 10/15/2020

On the occasion of his 250th Weekly Market Report, Jim looks back at the years gone by and some coins that colored them.

My fellow coindexters, I am happy to announce a personal milestone. A combination of grit, joy of subject matter and modest talent has culminated with this, my 250th NGC Weekly Market Report — always a challenge but also a highly enjoyable endeavor. Ferreting out information from dealers and collectors, researching thousands of coins and sharing my own market insights has been a Thursday tradition for nearly 10 years! I want to thank NGC and my readership for their support in enabling my lifelong coin habit!

Every other week as I sit down to my keyboard, I very often recall words of encouragement and praise that I received many years ago. My old boss at CDN, Shane Downing, told me that he would marvel as my This Week’s Market Report articles for the Greysheet took shape, and he likened each to a “work of art.” That praise was first doled out by Shane 16 years ago. Wow, time has moved by quite rapidly.

As I had a few days off this week, I did what most people do on their vacations and reviewed a bit of my body of work. (Doesn’t everyone do that on their time off?) Read on for a heartfelt retrospective and some favorite coins.

“Q” and A

One of the best parts of my work is that I get to communicate with notables in the numismatic industry quite often. Many of these folks are my numismatic heroes, too. Turning back the clock to my teens, one gent whom I always aspired to meet, as I enjoyed reading his books, articles and columns, was Q. David Bowers.

Back in the late 1970s, I caught my first glimpse of Dave at one of the first ANA shows I attended. (Hey, remember when there were coins shows?) I quickly recognized Mr. Bowers from photos in Coin World ads. I quietly muttered under my breath, “That’s Dave,” as he made a stop at a dealer’s table in front of me. There was Dave taking time viewing some coins, and both fellows were chatting up a storm. I was excited just to take it all in.

Later on that afternoon, I happened across Dave’s path again on the bourse as he shook hands with an older gent in the same aisle that I was navigating and enjoyed “eavesdropping” on their not-so-private conversation. I wasn’t in the financial position to buy anything from Dave back then, but I did make eye contact with him and said, “Hi, Dave,” as I walked past him. I mean, who doesn’t know Dave Bowers by sight?

With a reported Philadelphia delivery of only 21,000 business strikes, the 1880 Three Cent Nickel has one of the lowest mintages of the last decade of production. This issue was produced to facilitate the purchase postage stamps, which were pegged at 3¢ each.
Click images to enlarge.

Now, turn the hands of time forward several decades, and I am proud to say that Dave recognizes me! I can ask him for his learned feedback on a particular venue or auction result or to participate as a contributor in my annual coin market review, etc. In fact, of my contacts, Dave has always been one of the fastest to get back to me when I have question or would like his input for an article. Being the data maven that I am, the only time that Dave was a tad tardy was for a column that was to mark a minor milestone, coming up on six years ago next month.

As it happens, it was for my 100th NGC Weekly Market Report, which posted just before the Thanksgiving holiday in 2014. Dave did get back to me in early December and apologized, along with offering this consolation: “I am playing catchup with my email. I may have missed the deadline for your current column, but perhaps you will have another column, seeing that you have now written 100 of them.”

I realize that for those outside of the relatively tightknit numismatic sphere this may not mean much, but for a hobby luminary like Dave to now recognize me is a thrill. This isn’t meant to slight other contemporaries. To me, Dave simply embodies what the hobby is about: being able to convey the joy of the hunt, the history, the behind the scenes…

The 1915 Canadian Quarter has always been a favorite of mine. The coin is very rare in high grades and harbors the lowest reported mintage (242,382) of the George V series!
Click images to enlarge.

(Minor) fame, fortune and Fiji

A friend and dealer Craig G., hailing from Minnesota, informed me a few years ago: “Hey Jim, you are a minor numismatic celebrity.” I didn’t quite know how to take that (if it was good or bad), but as Craig elaborated, he advised that when I mentioned him and included his input in a few articles, he was able to use a metric that he had come up with to measure how many searches/hits came back to him and his website as a direct result of my article. 

Still, I enjoy hearing from readers such as James S. from Spring, Texas, who just dropped a note to NGC Customer Service: “I wanted to e-mail Jim a note thanking him for his Thursday market report articles, which I find very interesting.” 

This 10-year journey had its beginnings with Scott Schechter, who even then had a plan to make use of my peculiar talents. Now here I am, an individual who is able to research and write on a daily basis about a subject that I enjoy ever so much. I indeed have a dream job!

The 1945 Fiji Florin is a true modern scarcity! After not minting coins for many commonwealth countries during World War II, the Royal Mint resumed doing so in 1945. With a mintage of only 100,000, most of this 1945 delivery witnessed strong circulation and very few Mint State coins remain for collectors.
Click images to enlarge.

As the month of October reaches its midway point, we are still living in a world very different than just a year ago. Yet, our great hobby has persevered and is as robust as ever. Although the pandemic has stifled the major coin show circuit for now, a plethora of online auctions are being conducted at a record clip. The metals market finds gold and silver holding firm at or near their recent highs, which has been a not-so-subtle catalyst ushering more hobbyists into the fold. 

Quality NGC-certified US and world coins are highly-sought-after commodities, and buyers aren’t just targeting five- and six-figure coins. Coins in the $500 to $1,000 range, the ones within every collector’s budget, are moving higher as well. Observing raw and certified sales on eBay, the prices realized reflect strong demand for what I would consider “common” world coins in above-average condition.

For my fellow numismatists looking for something new to collect, my advice is to make use of the expansive NGC website. Research the US and World Price Guides and pay close attention to Auction Central. Pick a series that is affordable for you and your coin budget now. It doesn’t have to be mainstream. In fact, off-the-radar coins and series are often fortuitous opportunities.

So, whether it is US Three Cent Nickels or George V Canadian Quarters or the low mintage Fiji Pre-Decimal series (my favorite), enjoy and please let me know if you have any questions!

Until next time, be safe and happy collecting!

(I mean, who doesn’t know Dave Bowers?)

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

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