Jim Bisognani: My 11th Annual NGC Year in Review – Part 3
Posted on 1/13/2022
The new year is here, and as we approach mid-January, the numismatic market as a whole is still a hot and robust commodity. The 67th Annual FUN Show is in the books and, according to Jeff Garrett, “As usual, the FUN show provided a bellwether prediction for the year. Coins are hot!! Those who participated were there to buy coins. Coins with great eye appeal continue to sell for premium prices. The market is driven by collectors, and demand is broad across all series, including world and ancient coins. This year should be terrific.”
Yes, we are once again charging out of the gate with some electrifying results as we already have a report of a fabulous 1796 Quarter trading hands at $2.35 million! Pre-bidding for the Heritage FUN Signature auction has been very strong as key and featured lots are courting heightened views and revealing scores of registered phone bidders anxious to do battle. Not surprisingly, I can report an amazing handful of treasures in the FUN sale are appearing poised to breach well over a million dollars! This bellwether sale is “live” January 12-16.
Nary an avid collector is unaware that our hobby’s wares, both domestic and world, have been enjoying unprecedented demand for nearly two years. As I touched on in my last report, all markets are cyclical and even this historic numismatic juggernaut will ease — at some point. For now, let’s delve into what will sustain the demand for coins and stabilize the numismatic market now and in the future. Considering the unprecedented demand, I now invite my fellow coindexters to enjoy the following narrative courtesy of numismatic notables. Here we go, for the final installment of my NGC 11th Annual Year in Review:
For the new collector getting their start, what would their best coin investment of $1,000 be in 2022?
John Brush – President of David Lawrence Rare Coins
Buy some numismatic-related books. Study the subject you’re interested in and plan your collection first. Find places where there seem to be few price changes (like Three-Cent Nickels) and start there. I’d put together a Mint State collection of Three-Cent Nickels, if possible. These things are much tougher to find than one would suspect.
Bob Green – Owner of Park Avenue Numismatics
Any key-date type coin in a circulated condition such as a 1909-S V.D.B. Lincoln Cent or a 1916-D Mercury Dime comes to mind.
Charles Morgan – Editor of CoinWeek
A $1,000 numismatic library.
James Sibley – Collector
I think the fork in the road for a new collector is whether to go "modern" or collect classic US coins. If modern, you can't beat products produced by the US Mint (and I'm definitely not a fan of the Mint's, so it pains me a little to say this), such as Proof Silver Eagles, as that is where the price points are more reasonable. If the new collector is enamored by the classic designs, whether a Longacre Indian Head Cent or a MacNeil Standing Liberty Quarter, I suggest that he or she start collecting what they like, not what they feel will produce the best return when it comes time to sell. For example, I am personally attracted to the design of the Three-Cent Nickel, a relatively unpopular coin, but abhor the silver version of that denomination.
Jim Stoutjesdyk — Vice President of Numismatics, Heritage Auctions
I would probably recommend buying three coins to create a little mini-investment portfolio. I would include a type of coin like an MS 65 Barber Dime for around $300 (two MS 65 coins sold at auction in November for $288 – super cheap!), a classic commemorative like an MS 67 Iowa Half Dollar for around $200 (you can buy these for what they were selling for 20 years ago), and a gold coin like an AU 58 Indian Quarter Dollar for around $500 (who doesn’t love gold!).
Ian Russell – President and Owner, GreatCollections Coin Auctions
I find that Seated and Barber coinage is a really great value. I love circulated semi-key dates. Classic gold and silver commemoratives.
Brian Hodge – Partner of Lee Minshull Rare Coins (LMRC)
I just placed a huge deal of ancient coins from the Kingdom of Ionia, representing the very beginning of coinage. Most of them were under $1,000 each. If you explore the foreign or ancient coin market, there are literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of opportunities to acquire magnificent coins with incredible stories for under $1,000.
Kevin Lipton – Owner of Kevin Lipton Rare Coins
I think Proof 65 and Proof 66 Three-Cent Nickels, Shield Nickels and Liberty Nickels are a great buy.
A recent transaction confirmed a 1953 Proof Franklin Half Dollar bringing $130,000. What would you recommend be included in a six-figure coin portfolio? Would you target modern, low-mintage high-grade, classic US coins or world rarities and antiquities?
I would not recommend thinking about coins as investments, but instead, look at coin collecting as an enriching and exciting hobby. If you play your cards right, you can move on no worse for the wear and maybe better off. Strictly speaking, looking at coin portfolios and thinking about six-figure coins is a great way to lose money in the long run. There are genuine rarities that you can have for $30,000 to $45,000 that seem like no-brainers to me, and $100,000 to $500,000 coins that are probably just places to park money. I'd enjoy owning neither class of coins if the piece truly didn't interest me.
I’m all about classic, high-grade (or low-grade even) rarities. Modern issues have far more downside than upside when paying high prices, and that’s simply not something that I would chase myself. I also appreciate the history and artistry of years past and modern issues are too plentiful for me to chase. That’s why I quit collecting baseball cards. When you could find multiples of each card available, it made the chase too easy.
Classic rarities, 1792 Half Disme, 1794 Flowing Hair Dollar (and grade), the Fab Five Saint-Gaudens: 1929, 1930-S, 1931, 1931-D and 1932 (my personal favorites!)
Lianna Spurrier – Creative Director of Numismatic Marketing
I believe classic US coins will remain the best investment for the foreseeable future. It’s far too easy for a top modern piece to be eclipsed by a new find, and we don’t yet know how stable the market for them will be. Classic US coins have proven over decades to be a good investment that holds value well. As primarily a world coin collector, I have to mention that world coins tend to be undervalued for their rarity when compared to US pieces. This may not make them a better investment, but you can certainly buy more impressive foreign rarities on a six-figure budget.
If a client had $100,000 to spend, I would put together a diverse portfolio of coins that have great eye appeal and are solid for the grade with as many CAC-approved coins as possible. I would include things such as Barber and Seated coins in PF 65 or higher (nice PF 67 Barber Half Dollars seem like especially good value at today’s levels); a selection of key date coins in popular series such as a Mint State 1877 and 1909-S V.D.B. Cent, 1932-S Quarter in MS 65, and a 1938-D Half Dollar in MS 67; a group of MS 65 Red Brown copper coins that are mostly red like Two-Cent pieces and Indian Cents from the 1860s and 1870s. For gold coins, I would add an MS 66 $20 Liberty, an MS 66 CAC $3 gold piece, and some Carson City gold coins in almost any problem-free grade.
I would round out the portfolio with some modern coins including some of the low-mintage burnished Platinum Eagles with a W mintmark struck from 2006 to 2008; some burnished Gold Eagles with the W mintmark; and some of the low-mintage gold First Spouse coins (one of the most unwanted and overlooked modern series right now).
If the client has multiple six figures to spend, that’s where the fun begins. I would add things like CAC-approved Proof gold coins and pre-1834 CAC-approved gold coins; rare date Seated coins in Mint State grades; an 1893-S Morgan Dollar in Mint State (if possible to locate); and a classic rarity such as a 1794 Dollar in Choice Fine or Very Fine with a strong date, a perennial favorite among collectors. And no, I absolutely wouldn’t add a 1953 Proof Franklin Half Dollar “worth” $130,000!
Ira Goldberg – Co-owner of Ira and Larry Goldberg Auctioneers
There has been a lot of new money entering the coin market this past year with an emphasis on trophy coins. This is true of all fields — from ancients to world and US — new records all the time, with an extra emphasis on the highest grades. Personally, and maybe because I am, at 77, an “old-timer,” I cannot see this trend continuing. As they say in the financial world of securities, “trees do not grow to heaven.” Lots of new money is going into crypto, money that might otherwise go into gold and silver. Our economy is now facing inflation, which by itself is not bad for coins; however, if you add in a raise of interest rates, it could become a disaster for our economy. A rise in interest rates, inflation and higher taxes seem to me to be a minus for coins in general. Personally, I am not too optimistic for 2022. With all that said, I hope I am wrong, as I have been wrong before.
First, I shake my head when I see high-grade common coins selling for such extraordinary amounts. You have got to hand it to NGC and PCGS for creating the registries which, in my opinion, are what's behind someone paying huge amounts for common coins — in those top population grades, which earn extra registry points. But to answer the question, I would spend a six-figure budget on low-mintage, high-grade classic US rarities, perhaps because that's the strategy I've followed since returning to the coin collecting world three years ago.
Diversification is your friend. We like classic US coins. For modern issues, we like low-mintage issues. Many world coins look undervalued, especially countries that are expanding their collector base at a rapid rate.
I would certainly have a mix of classic US and world rarities along with some high-grade type US issues, say MS 67 and up for lower-denominated US gold, and grades MS 65 and up for the $20s. I also think MS 68 and up Morgans are kind of a ridiculous opportunity for what they are!
Kevin Lipton – Owner of Kevin Lipton Rare Coins
I would buy classic US-type coins in high grades.
Numismatics aside, what other collectible genre entices you?
I’ve always loved sports memorabilia on a personal level, but the values on these have risen so much that I just don’t understand the marketplace for things like cards. However, I’d love to own a Babe Ruth autographed baseball one day!
NFTs are new and exciting. Who’d have thought digital properties would have so much appeal. I’m fascinated!
I’ve got that chromosome defect shared by many of my friends in the numismatic fraternity that truly makes us collecting junkies. Working at Heritage Auctions and being surrounded daily by 40-plus categories of the world’s finest collectibles is truly a dream come true. Yes, I’ll admit that late at night I’ve put on Mick Jagger’s ostentatious stage worn jacket and strutted around doing my best Jagger impersonation; sat in JFK’s rocking chair that used to grace the Oval Office; and held items in my hand that have traveled to the moon.
I was born in 1969, so I bought an original Woodstock poster that hangs on my office wall, and it reminds me of the amazing music festival that was a defining event for the counterculture generation. I bought a meteorite slice with space gems that completely captivates me, thinking about its origin and the tremendous distance it traveled to ultimately be in my hands. Just recently, I bought a cast-signed photo from Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, one of my favorite movies. When I see the signatures of Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt and the other lucky recipients of the Golden Ticket, the images of the Oompa-Loompas and Gene Wilder in his whimsical purple velvet suit, I can’t help but smile. I just love all things collectible, especially items that really evoke a lot of emotion.
I enjoy collecting interior decorative objects, comic books and literature.
I spent my summers growing up on Nantucket Island, where my paternal grandfather owned, in retirement, an antique shop. That probably accounts for my DNA having been programmed to collect 18th century and some early 19th-century furniture and accessories. My other great passion, much to the chagrin of my bank account, is American impressionist paintings (fortunately my wife and I have no more wall space in our home to hang art). As an aside, which those of you who have watched “Antiques Roadshow” lately may appreciate, those 18th and 19th-century antiques have not done so well from a financial perspective. What the heck is it with those darn Millennials? Don't they have an appreciation for Chippendale highboys?
I've always been interested in other collectibles personally, including watches, stamps, sports cards, music and movie memorabilia, autographs and so forth. At GreatCollections, we're 100% focused on coins and paper money; however, I see in the future, we might expand to one or two other categories.
Comic books have seen an incredible ride this year! We also see the sports card market reaching new heights and these are each an area we’ve been investing in heavily.
I collect high-end art nouveau. I have over 20 Tiffany lamps and have an extensive collection of ceramics and glass from this same period.
Jeff Garrett’s outlook
Fresh from his attendance at the FUN Show, Jeff Garrett shared with me his informative take on the state and direction of the coin market.
“My perspective of the market has been keenly sharpened by the work that I have been doing to complete pricing for next year’s edition of the Guide Book of United States Coins (the “Red Book”). More coins increased in price this year than for any of the previous 10 to 15 editions I have worked on. Some series, such as Morgan Silver Dollars, has increased hugely from last year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has helped spur demand for rare coins that have not been seen since at least the late 1990s. The major difference of the “COVID boom” is that most of the demand is coming from collectors and not short-term investors. A lot of people discovered or re-discovered hobbies during the COVID shutdowns. Anyone with an internet presence is seeing unprecedented demand from new collectors.
One sure sign that collectors are driving the market is the sometimes-crazy prices being paid at auction for top population coins, or coins with incredible eye appeal. Collectors will pay for the right coin to complete with their collections.
The demand is also global in scope. Our business has been selling coins around the world in greater numbers than ever before. This is especially true for ancient coinage. Price records are being broken whenever great collections cross the block.
Most dealers have been very busy in their stores and on the internet, but shows are just starting to make a comeback. Long Beach, Baltimore and the ANA recently hosted their first conventions after a nearly two-year absence. The shows were very strong, especially the ANA, which many considered their best show in decades. The Winter FUN Show was being eagerly anticipated by all.
Rare coins are also being closely considered as an investment in tangible assets. The amount of money floating around the economy and the resurgent inflation the country is experiencing has many convinced that rare coins and precious metals are a great place to invest. There have NEVER been so many billionaires buying rare coins. It has become commonplace to read headlines about individual coins selling for millions of dollars.
I predict prices for rare coins will continue to increase for a least the next year or more. This is based on the very short supply of rare coins in dealers’ inventories. Nice coins fly off the shelf and are very hard to replace. The supply and demand forces favor the rare coin market at this time. This year should be very interesting!”
Indeed, it should be. Again, thanks to all who contributed to my annual fixation.
Until next time, be safe and happy collecting!
Want to see more articles like this? Subscribe to the free NGC Weekly Market Report.
Want news like this delivered to your inbox once a month? Subscribe to the free NGC eNewsletter today!
Join NGC for free to add coins, track your collection and participate in the NGC Registry. Learn more >