Jim Bisognani: Mother Nature Can't Put this Market on Ice

Posted on 2/18/2021

Auction activity — both iconic and ironic — demonstrates a red-hot market (despite the freezing temperatures).

That prognosticating, oversized rodent from Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil, sure got it right — six more weeks of winter! As I type away this morning, we (residents of New Hampshire) have been hit with massive snowfall overnight. Even more devastating, a thick layer of ice covers everything.

As temperatures slowly rise above freezing, trees and limbs, badly bowed with the weight of ice, are snapping, cracking and popping. It is quite the eerie, powerful and disconcerting sound. As I stepped out on my front porch, I witnessed multiple branches falling, and ice releasing itself from its temporary home. With lights flickering and electric service being momentarily interrupted, it is a battle to get through this report.

Yet, we are not alone.

Chill impacting coins

An email I received from Heritage's trading department, around midday Wednesday, reads in part: "We have had below zero temperatures and snow over the last two days. This weather is highly unusual for Dallas (Texas) and has resulted in several power failures at the office, as well as rolling blackouts at our homes. Due to these factors, we have not had regular hours since early Monday afternoon. We do not know how this will affect operations for the next few days. However, as of Wednesday morning, our building is still without power. For now, I am at the office using an area that has emergency power. However, things are far from normal."

Subzero temps were recorded overnight in the Big D — Heritage headquarters! I suppose if anything is going to cool down this market, it would be Mother Nature. Yet, while winter weather paralyzes other areas of the country, with intense cold and massive snowfall, I believe the opposite — that we will give rise to a whole new generation of collectors. No, not little coindexters being born nine months from today. I am referring to the remote workers, especially that homebound horde of numismatic nomads, anxious to spend the extra time afforded to them courtesy of Mother Nature. So, after shoveling or snow blowing, it is time to scope out dealer websites and upcoming online auctions.

A pair of Paramount prima donnas

The dynamics of this coin market are healthy and multifaceted. While several iconic coins have recently appeared on the market and sold for millions of dollars, there are numerous rare and iconic numismatic selections.

Consider this pair of exquisite US gold icons represented in the Paramount Collection. Originally scheduled to meet the hammer this week, the auction has been given a "weather event" reprieve until February 24.

This ultra-rare $4 Stella (the 1880 Coiled Head version) graded NGC PF 67 Cameo, tied for the finest of nine known examples and pedigreed to Eliasberg, is presently being tracked by over 100 people. Bidding (including buyer’s premium) has already punched this coin over $1.4 million. Hey, at this price point — gulp! — it is still a bargain.

1880 Coiled Hair Stella graded NGC PF 67 Cameo and pedigreed to the Paramount Collection
Click images to enlarge.

Then, this fantastic 1907 Extremely High Relief $20, graded NGC PF 68 and pedigreed to Norweb, boasts 22 registered bidders as well as about 150 more tracking the lot. As we go to press, bidding stands at a robust $1.8 million (with buyer’s premium)!

1907 Extremely High Relief, Lettered Edge $20 graded NGC PF 68 and pedigreed to the Paramount Collection
Click images to enlarge.

A modern mover and shaker

Then, there are the ironic results. Within the same sale, this 2020 World War II Privy Mark $50 Gold Eagle graded NGC PF 70 Ultra Cameo is one of 1,945 such coins struck to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Allied victory in World War II. This coin, along with a similar Privy Mark Silver Eagle, was released to the public courtesy of the US Mint's website on November 5 and sold out within minutes at the issue price of $2,600. This particular example has been bid up to $10,800 with buyer's premium. Although not a true rarity, it perhaps is a contemporary rock star.

Heated business in Houston

Although all the major numismatic venues thus far in 2021 have been canceled, the lone exception was the Houston Money Show held four weeks ago. Quick, a show of hands: How many attended? Just what kind of show was it? Luckily, one of my fellow coindexters was in attendance and (the sleuth that he is) shared his keen observations with me. James (don't call him Jim) supplied the following narrative:

"There were over 100 dealers with tables and, although the attendance appeared to be slightly lighter than in the two prior years, what was most noticeable was the volume of dealers trading with other dealers."

My knowledgeable informer detailed that one dealer in particular, located in Houston, seemed to be buying virtually all they could get their hands on:

"It was another attending dealer from the Money Show who told me that he was leaving the show with a check in his pocket for $122,000 from this particular dealer, and another dealer (whose attention I was trying to get at his table) was adding up the cost for some 50 NGC-certified coins that had been selected by the very same Houston-based dealer."

Wow! I know that they like to do things big in Texas — talk about increased demand. My fellow coindexter then segued into his experience with the online auction market. "Based upon my many bids at recent Heritage and Stack’s Bowers auctions, and the lack of success thereof you mean," James quipped, "I did manage to snag one lot at HA's FUN auction, but it was out of a dozen or so I hoped to win."

James assesses that the market is RED HOT! "For sure, just throw out your Greysheet, or use it for the better-quality scarce and rarer US coins — ideally, for the solid-for-their-grade mid-Mint State (or higher) certified coins with great eye appeal. My suggestion is to best use the Greysheet as the starting point for dealer-to-dealer negotiations."

Will this powerful sellers' market continue? Let's see what happens in six to nine months when shows are running again, and COVID-19 has been knocked back through vaccinations and successful "stay safe practices." For the present, have fun perusing the multitude of online sales from eBay, David Lawrence, Great Collections, Stack’s Bowers or Heritage. Good luck and keep warm.

Until next time, be safe and happy collecting!

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