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A Coin Collecting Christmas: Numismatic Holiday Ideas

Morgan Dollar - Christmas Gift Guide

Yes, budget-conscious Coindexters, there is a Santa Claus

By Jim Bisognani for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) ……
I truly hope that all of my fellow Coindexters had an enjoyable Thanksgiving Day with family and friends. This great American holiday, at least when I was a youngster, was but a tasty prelude that ushered us to the doorstep of the exciting Christmas holiday season.

I fondly recall radio stations immediately began infusing regular Top 40 broadcasts with a helping of holiday music. Little by little, as we inched closer to Santa’s big day, more holiday tunes would be heard and enjoyed over the airwaves. Same thing with television: Christmas traditions like the Grinch, Charlie Brown and Rudolph would arrive for us school-age tykes to enjoy in early primetime hours, popping up around the end of the first week of December. Ah! This was all in the distant past during my youth.

Now cable channels start broadcasting holiday specials at the end of October and air them 24 hours a day, and many FM radio stations serve up an all-holiday music program right after Turkey Day or before. And as I type away on this cold and snowy Monday morning in New Hampshire, the network broadcast of my favorite, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, will be airing tomorrow night.

And don’t get me started with merchants. Black Friday isn’t good enough; we now have Black Friday week, then Cyber Monday, Virtual Tuesday, Whiplash Wednesday, Tumultuous Thursday and Frenetic Friday.

I understand that brick-and-mortar retailers and internet businesses want a share of the enormous holiday pie. But, it is as Linus opined in A Charlie Brown Christmas: “Christmas is not only getting too commercial, it’s getting too dangerous.” Wow, those words were first uttered over the CBS airwaves 53 years ago. Ah! The apparent innocence of my youth is on display here.

Thankful for Technology

Times have certainly changed, courtesy of technological advances and other factors. And I do, albeit somewhat begrudgingly, applaud their application in most circles.

Our great numismatic hobby has also evolved impressively since my youth. Third-party grading is probably the best gift we in the coin world have ever gotten. Think of the ease in which a fellow Coindexter may now secure that MS 65 1880-CC Morgan Dollar or a vibrant MS 66 RD 1909 VDB Lincoln Cent. Today’s collectors have it so easy!

I mean when I was a youngster, back in the days of the abacus, the only way you could buy coins was through a local dealer who might not always have what you want, attend a show if one was in your area or wait for a “monthly newsletter” to arrive from your favorite dealer. For many of us coin enthusiasts residing in “winter zones”, traveling this time of year was not in the cards for youngsters as mom or dad weren’t too thrilled about taking a jaunt to a show or a local dealer in possible blizzard conditions.

This left mail order, and that was always a minor gamble for me, even with $5 or $10 coins, as you could only base the purchase on verbal description. And since grades were subjective, the results and quality could and did vary greatly from dealer to dealer. There wasn’t a standardized grading platform; there was always the concern about buying properly graded coins.

Flash forward: Today, even the non-collector armed with a numismatic wish list can perform due diligence and search online to locate that specific certified coin in a snap. For a friend, spouse, or perhaps as a “different gift” for that hard-to-buy-for name on the holiday “Yankee Swap” shopping list.

Shopping Made Easy

A quick tour of the internet is now like visiting the bourse of a major show. It is so easy to locate practically any of the requested coins on various dealers’ websites. In most instances, you will be treated to eye-popping, mega-megapixel images of virtually all coins in their respective inventory online!

I, for one, am thrilled with the opportunity to visit a host of dealers and auction sites and make notes on what significant lots are coming up and what has sold. I can even scout out new offerings in dealers’ inventories – all from my desk. Wow!

Earlier this fall, a few acquaintances who were self-described “closet collectors” asked me if it was all right to just buy coins online. Initially, I thought they were concerned about authenticity, etc., and I said: Of course it is all right.

But no, they were wondering if it made them less of a collector because they were not going to shows and auctions. I told them certainly not! The business and the hobby have such a wide and varied presence on the internet that anyone – collector or dealer – can hunt-and-peck away online and find information on a coin or series, locate a dealer or auction, and buy or sell certified coins.

Bargain-Hunting in December

Now, while there is “No Santa Claus in Numismatics”, many dealers do tend to offer up some discounts this time of year. Many dealers are anxious to sell off portions of their inventories to be in a better cash position for the big shows and sales like FUN 2019, which is just around the corner – a mere six weeks away! So keep an eye out. Below is a handful of exciting offerings I have spotted today on the various trading networks. Something for most budgets, I believe.

The most beautiful and popular silver bullion coin in the world – the US Silver Eagle – is probably the best and most inexpensive way to introduce numismatics to the non-collector on your shopping list.

Morgan Dollars are treasured by collectors worldwide, and I located a grouping of pre-1921 white NGC MS 64 coins listed at $58 each. Various dates are offered by this dealer. A great stocking stuffer! A large near Gem Uncirculated silver cartwheel from the late 1800s. A wonderful and relatively economical starter for the budding collector, too!

I also spotted a 1938-D Buffalo Nickel, graded NGC MS 67. Everyone loves this coin, or they do once they’ve been introduced to it. Thirteen are being offered by an East Coast dealer at $115. This classic and truly iconic American coin is in the NGC Price Guide at $225!

A tougher semi-key Peace Dollar, the 1927-D NGC MS 63, is available for $320. This is a wonderful value as the NGC Price Guide lists it at $440!

Finally, everyone’s favorite (well, at least mine): an Indian Head $5 Gold. A prominent dealer is offering 1908, 1909, 1911, 1912 and 1913 NGC MS 63 coins at $745 each. Whether this falls in line with the budget for a gift, or just to salt away one or more of these wildly popular coins, these are great values and have been readily realizing upwards of $1,000 and more at auction. Each of the above dates is listed in the NGC Price Guide for over $1,200, with the 1909 valued at $1,325!

Well, with these values, there does seem to be a bit of intervention by that old gent from the North Pole at work here. Hey, I knew he would come through all along! Yes, Coindexters, there is a Santa Claus! Good luck, and enjoy the hunt.

Until next time, happy collecting!

* * *

Jim Bisognani is an NGC Price Guide Analyst having previously served for many years as an analyst and writer for another major price guide. He has written extensively on US coin market trends and values.

Jim Bisognani
Jim Bisognani
Jim Bisognani has written extensively on US coin market trends and values and was the market analyst and writer for a major pricing guide for many years. He currently resides in Southern California and frequently attends major coin shows and auctions.

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