Jim Bisognani: Summer FUN Yields Mighty Results

Posted on 7/22/2021

Auctions featuring ancient and vintage coins show the market is booming.

Although the overall health of inhabitants of our planet is somewhat suspect, the numismatic market is by leaps and bounds as healthy as ever. Through the darkest periods of the worldwide pandemic, coins have enjoyed a rather robust renaissance. Initially, I was perplexed that there was an unrelenting dash to coins. Now, I just accept it as fact.

Through my “off time,” I am still foremost a coindexter, and I have spent the last few months searching through sundry dealer websites and various online sales, mostly spot-checking inventories. I can easily proclaim that nearly nothing is slipping through the proverbial cracks. It seems all eyes are waiting for opportunities to pounce on regular dealer online auctions and those held by various sellers or dealers on eBay, too.

A wise purchase?

About a year ago, I was personally able to scoop up sundry small deals of silver coins at their ASW (actual silver weight) and the like. Same was true with common, mid-grade circulated Morgan Dollars. Now, that seems like ancient history.

Which reminds me: Even ancient coins have found more of an excited and knowledgeable paying audience for high-grade “common” offerings of the ancient world. I mean the ever-popular coins, such as ones like the “owl” tetradrachm from Athens graded NGC Ancients MS, are gaining attraction.

These “owl” tetradrachms are, if you will, the “Morgan Dollars” of the ancient world. Their popularity was perhaps enhanced in modern times by the arrival of tens of thousands of examples. The hoards, most probably located in Turkey, made their way to the marketplace towards the end of 2018. What a coup for those wanting an affordable relic circa 450 BC to 300 BC.

There are several versions of the famed wise Athenian “owl.” Considering that a near-Mint State example can still be had for around $1,000, they seem so very reasonable, especially when compared to perhaps chasing a modern US Mint State or a Proof 70 coin! At present, there are about 200 of this type of coin up for bid in Heritage Auctions sales now or within the next few weeks. Many are superb Mint State coins such as the beauty seen below.

Attica, Athens circa 440-404 BC Silver Tetradrachm graded NGC Ancients MS, 5/5 Strike and 4/5 Surface
Click images to enlarge.

Yes, my fellow coindexters, at present it appears that anything oozing numismatic significance has a paying audience, and the box office can’t supply enough seats for this crowd.

As a youth, I always referred to coin collecting as the greatest show (OK, hobby) on earth. I can recall one dismal February when I was home from school with the flu and asked my dad if he would place a few bids on my behalf on a local dealer’s “bid board” sale. You old timers, I am sure, remember those venerable bid boards from that bygone, mask-less era, a precursor to the plethora of online sales.

Nothing perked up this influenza-laden 12-year-old more than winning a few VG+ Barber Halves or a handful of semi-key mintmarked “teen” Lincolns. Those sales wrapped up around 6 p.m. on Tuesday nights. Now, when I am under the weather, I can just troll eBay with my iPad in hand as I nod off to dreamland! I don’t have to wait for a visit to a coin shop.

1909-O Barber Half Dollar from NGC Coin Explorer
Click images to enlarge.

Missing the Sunday night countdown

Speaking of eBay, it was the end of April and I observed that one of my dealer friends (who has been on that platform for nearly 20 years) had halted his weekly listings. Concerned? Yes.

Every Sunday night, his “signature” 9 listings were tracked religiously by me and scores of others. A mixture of world and US offerings always met the eBay “hammer” between 8 and 8:30 at night. Well, at least for now, my friend Doug from Kentucky had to pause this ritual.

Unfortunately, due to a nagging health issue that he is trying to get resolved, Doug is unable to continue the process that I and hundreds more had enjoyed and had taken for granted. Although after the weekly listings ceased, I think even Doug was surprised by the response and outpouring of concern from his loyal legion of diehard followers.

Doug assures me he is fine, but instead of coindextering at home, he is spending time watching news and spending time with his wife, daughter and son-in-law. As Doug puts it, “The day doesn’t pass too slowly.”

Here is hoping that my hearty friend for over a decade will soon be on the mend, at least enough to captivate us on Sunday nights! Besides, anyone whose brief eBay bio is “I am a retired teacher selling some of my coins in anticipation of my heirs backing the proverbial pickup to the front door after I buy the farm. Also, wife is rather stingy with my allowance” needs to be revered! Get well soon, my friend!

Summer FUN results

Back to July 2021, the Heritage Summer FUN Signature Auction, on July 13-15, claimed $6.14 million — although that figure may leave some of the more jaded numismatic data mavens thinking that is not a great deal when considering that Heritage Signature Auctions of late seem to be a lock at reeling in the double-digit millions in proceeds. However, let’s put this latest sale into context. With only 664 lots up for grabs, this averages out to a rather robust $9,200 per lot!

A quick check reveals the last Summer FUN Signature sale that was held pre-pandemic — during virtually the same time in 2019 — featured nearly three times the number of lots (1,894) and realized 5.5% less in total proceeds ($5,805,592)! Thus, the average price per lot realized was a mere $3,065. So, my friends, this 2021 Summer FUN sale equates to a mighty 200% increase in the price per lot realized compared to 2019 Summer FUN!

Yes, demand for certified rare and high-grade coins remains as blistering hot as most of the western US. A quick retrospect on the handful of coins I selected in my last article shows that, not surprisingly, all claimed bold prices and some record highs!

The total realized for these five coins was $27,060 at the 2021 Summer FUN Signature sale. Through my research, this quintet in like grade and appearance could have been purchased at public venues for $18,820 between one and three years ago! On average, these five coins have generated a 44% increase in the blink of an eye.

Prices realized:

1877 Indian Cent graded NGC MS 63 RB
Realized $7,800
Click images to enlarge.

1926-S Buffalo Nickel graded NGC MS 61
Realized $7,500
Click images to enlarge.

1859 Seated Liberty Half Dollar graded NGC MS 65
Realized $5,040
Click images to enlarge.

1911-D Indian Head Quarter Eagle graded NGC AU 58
Realized $4,080
Click images to enlarge.

1877 Indian Cent graded NGC XF 45 BN
Realized $2,640
Click images to enlarge.

So, my friends, please do your due diligence when it comes to any coin purchase. This is especially true now. For when the market is hot, many dealers tend to elevate prices as if they are all on the expressway! So be sure to check auction results, census reports and current trends to better ascertain what the real prices are.

Until next time, be safe and happy collecting!

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