Jim Bisognani: Virtual Venues are the Real Deal

Posted on 4/29/2021

Also, what do a Franklin Half Dollar and a 1913 Liberty Nickel have in common?

It wasn’t long ago when a coin bringing $100K would be rewarded with a standing ovation at a major auction venue. Now, I am hearing some grumblings from a few virtual auction-goers that individual million-dollar-or-more coin sales are becoming a bit commonplace. Nah, that can’t be true!

It is exciting to me each time one our hobby’s treasured icons on the collectibles front achieves this milestone. So why should the end of April be any different?

The demand for the rare and iconic continues unabated, such as the Heritage virtual CSNS Signature US coins sale. In total, 2,538 lots realized nearly $42.2 million! That equates to nearly $16,625 per lot! This marvelous sale also delivered another trio breaching that $1 million benchmark!

1792 Judd-13 Pattern Quarter graded NGC AU 58 Realized: $1.26 million
Click images to enlarge.

Leading the way was the historic white metal version of the Judd-13 1792 Pattern Quarter Dollar graded NGC AU 58 claiming $1,260,000. One of four known, this appealing and well-executed and well-designed pattern was offered for sale from the New-York Historical Society. Amazingly, it had never made an appearance at the auction podium until April 25! A landmark acquisition for the fortunate bidder.

The reality: Virtual venues are breaking records

The results — not only on a per-lot basis — for the 2021 CSNS sale are truly phenomenal. Being a data maven, I was compelled to review the previous Heritage CSNS US Signature installment or two (OK, three) for comparison.

A quick check to see how last year’s 2020 virtual CSNS US coins sale stacked up to the 2021 venue revealed that the total proceeds of $20.2 million was 52.13% less. There was an increase of a modest 15.88% in the number of lots, numbering 2,941 in 2020, reducing the average to just over $6,870 per lot! That, my coindexters, means the 2021 sale hit the afterburners, delivering a 142% increase per lot above last year’s sale!

Further data based on the last “regular” (non-COVID-19-protocolled) virtual CSNS sale — which was held live in 2019 in greater Chicago and realized a similar result of 2020 — reported under $19.4 million in total. Yet, the 3,953 lots in 2019 represents an amount 34.41% higher than from the 2020 installment. This surge in lots was responsible for a 28.68% decline in per lot proceeds, dropping the average to $4,900.

This motivated the data-driven coindexter in me to review the 2018 CSNS sale. (For this exercise, that’s it — I promise). While the total proceeds in the auction were 7.22% higher, reporting in at $20.8 million, the sale also featured a 24.13% higher number of lots: 4,907. The bottom line, the 2018 sale averaged $4,235 per lot, or 13.57% lower than the 2019 sale.

To put this in perspective, the last pair of “live” on-location CSNS sales yielded an average price per lot of $4,567. The last pair of “virtual” CSNS auctions, sales averaged a little under $11,750 per lot!

Based on these last two virtual CSNS sale numbers, Heritage, the consigners and the coin market as whole must be quite thrilled! Although fewer coins have been available, the demand and prices for quality and rarity is undeniable.

Yes, the rare coin market is robust and gaining traction in other series and grades. Collector coins, even those in the $100-and-under price point, are also in high demand. Prices realized on eBay for both raw and certified coins across most every US and popular world series are moving up.

Other widely collected series, such as Franklin Half Dollars, are witnessing a staggering demand for popular varieties within that series. This is especially true when the ultimate coin appears for sale.

1961 Doubled Die Reverse Franklin Half Dollar graded NGC PF 67 Ultra Cameo
Click images to enlarge.

This fantastic 1961 Franklin Half Dollar DDR graded NGC PF 67 Ultra Cameo powered through 96 bids in route to a record $46,125 through Great Collections’ April 25 sale on Sunday night. The doubling on the entire reverse legend of “E Pluribus Unum” is quite obvious and spectacular! While a regular-issue 1961 Franklin Half graded PF 67 Ultra Cameo is readily available for several hundred dollars, the DDR always provides for an exciting opportunity when one appears on the market. This being the only Ultra Cameo on any census truly makes this a modern landmark coin!

Now, flash back 54 years and see what $46,000 would buy.

After digesting this information, my vast memory bank quickly raced back to my youth to that glorious summer of 1967.

I attended my first Red Sox game at Fenway Park late that summer — our team won the American League pennant on the last game of the year. They were dubbed the “Impossible Dream Team” as the Red Sox went from cellar dwellers — last place in 1966 — to winning the pennant in 1967! Although we ultimately lost the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games, this was the biggest story in New England that summer.

Then, a quick transition to my other passion…

Canada introduced the wildly popular Confederation centennial anniversary currency. These coins were all the rage for us younger coindexters. The denominations, from 1 cent through a dollar, depicted native wildlife — the dollar featuring the famed Canada Goose! It was August, that the legendary Omaha, Nebraska dealer Aubrey Bebee paid the then-record price for any coin — $46,000 (which was just realized for the 1961 Franklin DDR graded NGC PF 67 Ultra Cameo) for a 1913 Liberty Nickel at the Paramount ANA sale (The McDermott specimen). The coin, some 20 years later, was donated by the Bebees to the ANA museum. However, if that coin (graded NGC PF 55) were on the market today, I am sure it would fetch $2 million or more.

1913 Liberty Nickel graded NGC PF 55 and Bebee's $46,000 check

In 54 years, that would equate to about a 4,250% increase in value. Now I doubt that 54 years in the future, 2075, the 1961 DDR Franklin would claim $2 million. But using the same formula, a 1913 Liberty Nickel would then be trading at around $85 million, so who knows.

Until next time, be safe and happy collecting!

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