Are six-figure coins a bargain?
By Jim Bisognani – NGC Weekly Market Report …..
May already! I don’t know about you, but in New Hampshire I am still waiting for spring to arrive. Hey, just ask some of the people attending the just-concluded Central States Numismatic Society 80th Anniversary Convention in Schaumburg, Illinois, held April 24-27.
Many dealers and collectors had to alter transportation plans as their getaway flights were canceled due to a “major snow event” that hit the greater Chicago area on the 27th. Mother Nature’s climatic confusion didn’t affect an otherwise better-than-average show, as a solid throng of hearty numismatists converged on the convention center for some deals (and shelter) traipsing the bourse, some in snow boots, during that last day of the show.
Opportunities in Gold
Several avid collectors at this Midwest mainstay on the numismatic circuit commented that the yellow metal’s downturn over the last few months seemed to bring out more bargain-hunting gold bugs. Generally, their targets were for the more bullion-related offerings. Of course, with the minuscule premiums asked for above the intrinsic value of the $20 Saints and Libs, their purchase was a “no brainer”.
Joel, hailing from Kentucky, said he was in the market for about five ounces of gold coin. The Blue Grass State collector had already decided to put all his money in $20 Saints:
“This dealer from out West had a nice group of AU/Unc pieces at $1,270 per coin! I searched the lot and picked out a nice 1924, 1928, 1914-D and two really nice 1911-Ds … I actually had a dealer friend of mine submit one of the 11-Ds to NGC it was that nice!”
A Modern Lament
More than one dealer was heard remarking (or lamenting) about how modern US high-grade, low-population coins are skyrocketing recently. Yet many veteran collectors and dealers can find it hard to wrap their mutual noggins around the fact that a 1964 Kennedy half dollar could bring over six figures. As one exclaimed, “I mean, at the end of the day, it’s a cool Kennedy half but still … a Kennedy half.”
I, for one, am with this school of thought and, while I can and do appreciate the scarcity of the modern market, I can’t help envisioning all of the truly rare and historic coins that could be had for around the same six-figure price.
Of course, a majority of those Coindexters at CSNS also allotted time to view their targeted lots featured in the host Heritage Signature US Coin Auction. The total proceeds of this always highly anticipated sale registered an impressive $19.4 million.
Yet, according to a Heritage spokesman, the sale total overall was around three to five percent below expectations.
After surveying prices realized, I readily concur. Two other important points: This was the first time since 2010 that the CSNS Signature US Coin Sale failed to top $20 million and those bidding in the auction were down 10% from last year. This only confirms that no matter how voluminous the sale, a lack of fresh material eventually catches up with the sales proceeds.
My astute co-worker Kevin Stoutjesdyk opined, “I also think it was an off auction on Heritage’s end and also a market that in my opinion is contracting. From what I have seen, the price spread between the Gem coins is getting smaller across the board and 67s are going for 66 money and 66s for 65.”
One astute dealer from Florida also noted that several six-figure coins at this auction dropped back 20 to 25% since their last appearances. “The problem with the high-ticket coins is that people are darn greedy and impatient, in my opinion.”
What this well-known Sunshine State trader is referring to is collectors’ unwillingness to hold their coins for the long term.
“At least five years or more is what I instruct and counsel all of my clients,” the dealer said.
This is true, especially at CSNS, where the six-figure coins that lost a hefty percentage of their previous sales price had only been off the market for a few years, or even less. That said, I personally believe that, in general, those prices just realized are quite good values for the purchaser. If you have the funds available, this is an opportune time to squirrel away some eye-appealing, high-grade, gem-and-better coins.
A Tale of Two Halves
1805/4 Draped Bust Half Dollar NGC MS 65 — $105,000:
Aesthetically and numerically, this is the finest-known example of this rare and popular early federal issue variety. The original surfaces and overall presentation are miraculous and exciting. Pedigreed to Col. Green, Oliver Jung and Eric P. Newman, she captured $152,945 in August 2014. Less than four years later, the majestic lady appeared in the June 2018 Long Beach signature sale, realizing $111,000. Now, less than a year later — $105,000.
As with any coin — rarity or common type — you will always have a market. Yet when a coin of this caliber appears on the market twice in less than a year, well, you are bound to have some resistance. Notwithstanding, in my opinion this is truly a great value at this price point for the present owner-collector. If this is an “investment”, in order to show a reasonable return they should be willing to hold the coin for five but closer to 10 years! Some advice to the new owner: Take time to actually enjoy the coin!
1934-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar graded NGC MS 67★ — $42,000
This popular Depression-era San Francisco semi-key delivery becomes increasingly difficult to locate in full gem and better. In the lofty MS 67 designation, only six appear with this example and one other sharing the ★ moniker with none higher. OK, now that you have the mundane statistics, my fellow Coindexters may drool in unison over the splendid eye appeal of this marvelous Walker. Any minor shortcomings in strike are easily absolved by the intense symphony of gold, lavender and cobalt blue occupying the perimeters, which give way to luminous champagne gold and satin white centers.
The fact that both obverse and reverse share these dazzling attributes is just tremendous! The price realized for this fresh-to-market Walker surpassed the previous record held for this coin by nearly 38%!
Now for those of you who can’t dream of ever owning a coin like this iconic Draped Bust half dollar or a phenomenal Walker, my associate Kevin spied this dynamic and affordable duo!
1876 Seated Liberty Dime NGC MS 67 — $1,320:
An always popular date — the Centennial of our Declaration of Independence!
“This example of a Seated Dime is absolutely stunning,” Kevin said, “with bullseye toning covering the obverse in shades of blue and red leaving the center of Liberty and her shield a frosty white. The reverse is blast-white with tons of luster, a blue rim, and orange denticles. If I had that kind of money lying around, I would have bought this coin in a heartbeat.”
I agree and can see why Kevin coveted this Liberty dime, a most attractive coin that coincidently last appeared in the 2015 Winter FUN sale, bringing $1,880. According to the NGC Census, only eight coins report in this grade, with a single example designated as 67+
1885 Liberty Nickel graded NGC PF 66 Cameo — $1,080
Wow, a dynamic Proof Cameo specimen of this wildly popular year Liberty nickel. Although in this instance the Mint State delivery is much rarer than the proof counterpart, the 1885-dated proof has quite the draw and demand for those collectors not able to afford nearly $10K for a similarly graded MS 66 example!
Per Kevin, “The Proof Liberty Head nickel market is low right now, with coins selling at pre-2011 boom prices. It appears as if that bubble has completely deflated. This Cameo realized $1,080, with some in the last year bringing almost three times that amount, making it an absolute bargain, in my opinion.”
I certainly concur with that assessment. I am sorry I missed that deal! Frankly, there are many good values in the numismatic marketplace today. Proof type is certainly near the top of the list. You may also include Classic Commems and, of course, mint-state 20th-century gold type, too!
Until next time — happy collecting!
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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.