Jim Bisognani: Starting the Summer Hot

Posted on 6/24/2021

There's strong demand right now for coins with prestige and posture.

Well, summer 2021 has arrived — and it certainly feels a lot more like summer when compared to last year. Time marches on, and now much of humanity — especially those vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus — has emerged from their homes with caution while hoping to engage in normalized activities.

It is refreshing and yet so different (isn’t it?) as many businesses have rescinded the “wear a mask” mandate. What was normal, say, two years ago will still take some period of readjustment. Habits and change do take time. Although it is still a very different experience, we are edging ever closer to what used to be. As a family member relayed to me when she, her husband and daughter went into a restaurant sans masks, she felt “naughty.”

Numismatics enjoys a resurgence

Many coin dealers a year ago were wondering what would come of their businesses, their very existence. Millions of people had been laid off, and considering that the coin show circuit was nonexistent, would they and their numismatic livelihood fall, too? I, of course, wondered — given the gravity of the pandemic — where coin collecting would fall in the priorities of the average collector here and abroad?

The collectibles market has been remarkable. This renaissance has been enjoyed on many different collectible platforms. Right here at home base for everything numismatic, it has been an eye-opener. Being an ardent observer of markets, the pursuit by coindexters appears limitless. There is such a wide swath of collecting affected, there is no real way to calculate where this market will go. Of course UP is an easy observation, yet how high? Where is the ceiling?

Not only US but world issues (which have more than come into their own the last few years) are in the crosshairs: a true target of such frenzied demand for quality and rarity. I have viewed auction results for many decades, yet the current demand is so overpowering. Pricing for many coins that yours truly would have taken a swing at are escalating well beyond what I would care to shell out!

Great Britain 1839 "Una and the Lion" 5 Sovereign graded NGC PF 64 Ultra Cameo. Realized: € 600,000, or about $727,000.
Click images to enlarge.

In most instances, however, I feel these prices were very much commensurate with world issues’ true rarity, not only six-figure coins such as the ultra-popular Great Britain 1839 “Una and the Lion” (such as the fabulous NGC PF 64 Ultra Cameo example that just realized nearly $727,000 at the MDC sale) but also for more modest issues like Mint State British Trade Dollars. Perhaps it took the pandemic to put such popular world rarities on even footing.

Interestingly, I found a complete 15-piece 1839 Proof Set in an original case (including a “superb” Una and the Lion) that sold for just $53,000 at a Spink sale a mere 14 years ago!

Great Britain 1839 Victoria Proof Set

More million-dollar coins

Of course, demand for US coins has been hotter than the wings of a cicada basking in the sun at the equator at high noon. Just this week, I spied a pair of coins offered on one of the electronic trading networks, each one listed for over a million dollars. I mean, million-dollar coins listed for sale on dealers’ websites!

It used to be a monumental event only at auction venues that a coin breached the million-dollar mark. Yet soon, various well-heeled dealers will be enjoying private treaty sales for these mega-rarities. While good for their business, many transactions certainly won’t be as transparent as prices realized at public auction.

Speaking of auctions, the just-concluded Heritage Long Beach signature sale is in the books, capturing just shy of $12 million. Per a well-known West Coast dealer: “Coins with stature and that were top pop and had eye appeal were jumping. I call it prestige and posture. I mean, the 1795 Two Leaves Dollar from the Pogue sale just six years ago brought very good money then, and it just more than doubled that price in this sale!”

Another veteran West Coast dealer concurred: “Coins which capture the imagination are being vetted and buyers are finding it is very easy to loosen the purse strings. Really since the first of the year, many of my established clients are giving me the green light when it comes to key dates and other acquisitions even at these much higher levels.”

Another serious collector from the Lone Star State advised me: “I feel the (coin) market can only go higher. I fear that continued inflation will rear its head very soon and prices will escalate even more. I believe this is indeed a good time to buy. Especially high quality coins, key dates and such, the supply of this stuff is so limited and the demand for it is so very aggressive. I don’t feel that there will be much resistance even if a bevy of collectors decide to sell off their collections either, because there is such a limited amount of quality rare coins and the demand is such at this point anything appearing in the marketplace would be considered a ‘fresh’ deal. Even if the coins up for consideration have been off the market for less than 5 years!”

1901-S Barber Quarters graded NGC VF 35 and NGC AU 55.
Click images to enlarge.

A market snapshot seen in two quarters

Take this wholesome, key date 1901-S Barber Quarter graded NGC VF 35 housed in an old slab, which roared in with a very strong $25,200 at the Heritage Long Beach signature sale. This is noteworthy as this is a record price realized for the grade.

Armed with this information, I believe that this attractive NGC AU 55 that realized a “modest” $22,200 just last year at the 2020 Winter FUN is a great example of where the US market is for key/rare dates. To put things in perspective, this sale for the AU 55 was conducted just before the ravages of the pandemic put most of the world on lockdown.

I performed a bit of research and found this very coin is presently up for sale on an electronic trading network at $34,999 retail. Now given that the VF 35 (a coin a full 20 grading points below this coin) just realized 13.5% above this superior coin, then this attractive AU 55 would be something close to a bargain at this price point in this environment.

Who knows? Maybe the dealer will have some wiggle room and would be willing to bargain further!

So please enjoy the summer season. Maybe even take in a visit to a local coin shop or even a show!

Until next time, be safe and happy collecting!

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