Jim Bisognani Year in Review – NGC Weekly Market Report ……
Well, we’re only 10 days away from the night that the jolly old elf from the North will be circumnavigating the globe and spreading holiday cheer (I think that’s what he spreads). It also means that loved ones and friends only have a short time left to secure a wonderful numismatic gift for that special coindexter on their list (HINT!).
Gulp. Hey, there are only 17 little days left in 2023! That means it’s time for the 13th Annual NGC Jim Bisognani Year in Review!
Although I enjoy chatting with my fellow coindexters, collectors and dealers all year ‘round, I must admit that this annual review is the big enchilada. A lot of work goes into it. Everyone’s time is valuable, and I appreciate all of my contributors’ efforts. I realize that sometimes I can be a nudge, with my gentle prodding of my brethren for their learned responses. I appreciate their patience! Yet, it is worth it and has been great fun putting this review together for the past 13 years — wow, where has the time gone?
Now it is time to share the varying views from all those who make numismatics their treasured hobby or livelihood. So, without further hoopla, I proudly present the 13th Annual Bisognani NGC Coin Market Year in Review – Part 1.
What has been the biggest challenge for you and your business in 2023?
John Brush – President, David Lawrence Rare Coins (DLRC)
2023 was a very challenging year for us. It was a very successful one as far as business goes, but we went through a lot of changes and adjustments this year that we’re not used to doing. We replaced our CFO, we ramped up our staffing due to the amount of coins we’ve been adding to our auctions, and our office had an electrical fire in August that displaced us for a month. Thankfully, no people or coins were affected, but our office was flooded from the sprinklers and it forced us to rethink our office layout, get new walls and floorings, and all of that incredibly difficult stuff that distracts us from coins. All in all, it was an awful month, but our office space is so much nicer now and we’re excited to have a fresh new look and a better layout for our business.
Brian Hodge – Partner, Lee Minshull Rare Coins (LMRC)
With the cost of borrowing money so high, it has become more difficult to stock higher-priced items for long periods of time. This has obviously been a factor in making large purchases.
James Sibley – Collector
As a collector, my biggest challenge this year has been submitting winning bids at the Heritage, Stack’s and Great Collections auctions. The post-pandemic price increases for the US coins I collect (19th century type and early 20th century rarities, preferably in Gem grade or better) have far exceeded my expectations. The dilemma is always “reaching” to win the lot vs. overpaying so much that it will take many years to recoup what I paid.
Jeff Garrett – Founder, Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries, Inc.
Without a doubt, finding fresh material for resale. I have been super lucky that a few cool things fell into my lap last year, most notably the Kentucky Gold Hoard. Finding a sufficient supply of new coins to meet the demand of my customer base is a continuing challenge. Rare coin prices were fairly stable this year and the incentive for sellers was less than in the recent past.
Jeff Kierstead – Owner, MintProducts Auctions
With expenses up across the board, keeping enough product coming in can be a challenge. We are fortunate to see our business still growing.
Bob Green – Owner, Park Avenue Numismatics
This year, explaining premiums for precious metals has been a little more difficult because of the amount of clients making purchases for personal use or precious metals IRAs. In addition, premiums for $20 gold pieces have fluctuated a tremendous amount and we have had to educate our clients on these changes.
Kevin Lipton – Owner, Kevin Lipton Rare Coins
I would say record gold prices with premiums lowering at the same time has been a bit of a challenge.
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For the new numismatist on a limited budget, what series would be at practical entry point?
A Silver Eagle set!
I think Silver Eagles are probably one of the nicer collections that can be started with a limited budget due to low silver prices, and they began in 1986 and continue each year. There are even some special issues that can be added at higher price points, but that could be a decision left up to the collector.
Dan Goevert – Rare Coins 101
I’m assuming by a “limited” budget, you mean a very limited budget; perhaps something appropriate for a youngster. I can make a couple of recommendations right off the bat:
Jefferson Nickels: It is still possible to complete a set of Jefferson Nickels plucked from circulation. There are still nickels from the early decades of the Jeffersons flowing in and out of cash registers and change counting machines. Even war nickels are waiting to be found in coin rolls!
State Quarters: The “50 State Quarters Program” was launched in 1999 to honor each of the 50 states and ran through 2008. Over the years, this initiative has drawn many new collectors into the hobby. With patience and diligent searching, every State Quarter album slot can be filled with coins that remain in circulation. Great fun on a low budget!
I lean toward putting together some kind of type set. Maybe just 20th century, or 19th and 20th century. I love the variety of design types, the history behind them, the art and the options! Then you can figure out which series is best to focus on from there!
Indians and Lincolns Cents and Buffalo Nickels are a great place to start.
Christine Karstedt – Executive Vice President, Stack’s Bowers Galleries
Without a doubt, Morgan Dollars. The coins themselves are beautifully designed, significant in size, historically meaningful and are readily available in all grade and price ranges. The Morgan Dollar was produced in decades that saw dynamic changes in our nation, was struck at mints from coast to coast and saw its share of political intrigue. It remains the country’s most popular classic coin. A collecting budget can easily be established so that new acquisitions can be made regularly, important for maintaining the spark of interest in a new collector. It’s always fun to be adding something to the collection.
The series also has major rarities that can be acquired in much lower grades to “fill the hole,” but still give the buyer a great sense of accomplishment and pride when working toward completion. Q. David Bowers has produced a tremendous amount of information in several books on the subject. In fact, the first book he created in collaboration with Whitman Publishing was A Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars, now in its seventh edition. Having great reference material to study and enjoy adds to the pleasure of collecting and keeps interest high in between purchases.
A personal footnote: As a parent and now a grandparent, in my household the tooth fairy always brings a Silver Dollar to leave under the pillow along with other change!
Lianna Spurrier – Creative Director, Numismatic Marketing
There are plenty of easy answers — Wheat Pennies, Jefferson Nickels, etc. — but I’d like to suggest a Canadian type set. You’ll have to do some research to decide what you want to include, which will help you find some resources and get acquainted with researching numismatics. They’re easy to find on eBay if your budget is very low, but are familiar enough that you can find nicer examples on some of the larger coin-specific auction sites. In addition, a type set is always a good starting point to get a more varied taste of what’s out there. A US 20th-century type set would also be a good option, but I’m always an advocate for world coins.
For entry-level collectors, I suggest that they start with United States Mint products — Silver Eagles, Proof and/or Uncirculated sets. While the new collector probably won’t recoup their purchase price for a long time (if ever), the coins are beautiful and the cost is relatively low. If the modern issues are of no interest, there are a number of less-popular 19th-century series (think Two Cent pieces, Three Cent Nickels, and Shield Nickels) which, even in lower Proof grades, can be affordable.
I love United States Silver Eagles. They have been produced since 1986 and completing a set is within the budget of most collectors. They are large and have one full ounce of silver. You can have fun collecting them with a side bullion play.
I started with Mercury Dimes. You can collect them for reasonably cheap, and there’s always the “grail” piece like the 1916-D that keeps you hunting and aiming higher when you finally earn your stripes.
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Do you still attend all of the major coin shows on the calendar? Why or why not?
Yes, I still enjoy attending all major coin shows. One of the most pleasurable aspects of my career is getting to personally know the amazing people who have been pillars in this hobby, whether they be dealers or collectors. And getting together at coin shows was and is a tremendous part of enjoying those ongoing relationships. I also like to meet in person those who are new to the hobby so I can provide encouragement or assistance as needed. All of us have busy lives in and out of work, but we make the time to attend these events because they are fun, and we get to share our enthusiasm with those who have the same interests. Nothing can replace the camaraderie of catching up and talking coins in such a dynamic numismatic environment.
I attend any shows where I have clients. I do media for the industry but don’t sell coins myself, so my show experience is quite different from that of a dealer; I spend shows running around to film different presentations or shoot videos on the show floor. In 2023, I attended NYINC, Central States, EAC, the ANA and winter Baltimore. The ANA is the only show I expect to attend every year.
Regardless of client work, it’s such a good networking opportunity, and even if I’m not doing any work at the show, I always end up talking to a lot of people. Any others are only worth the expense if I have a client covering part of travel costs. FUN is noticeably absent from that list. It was simply too close to NYINC this year, and even if I’m not attending NYINC, it’s too soon after the holidays for me unless I have a lot of clients. My dog is already stressed out from being shuttled around during Christmas — he might just melt into a puddle of anxiety if I tried to send him to the dog sitter right after!
Yes, we attend all of the major shows. There are fewer major shows than there used to be, but we do so for several reasons:
- The relationships we have with fellow dealers and collectors
- To support the DLRC brand in various places throughout the country
- To purchase coins and other inventory items
- To further the educational mission of our hobby
As a collector, I only attend shows close to home (the Houston Money Show and the Texas Numismatic Association’s annual show). Frankly, the convenience of the major auctions has spoiled me — why spend a thousand dollars or more flying to a far-fetched show when I can buy coins from my desktop, especially if I have someone at the auction house I trust to look at the coin in-hand (thank you Mark Feld, Vicken Yegparian, and Ian Russell!)?
I attend about half the shows I did back in the 1980s and ’90s. There are a few reasons for this, but the main reason is that with the amount of business being done on the internet, it’s just not necessary.
For me, personally, I took a hiatus when my son Samuel was born in July and dedicated my time to being a father. My staff attends all major shows and I will start in 2024. I’ve missed the grind, but it has been so worth it for me personally.
I do not. I am down to FUN, Central States, and the Summer ANA. Our business is mostly generated from the office. We do coin shows to “meet and greet” our best clients.
I still attend every major show and a lot of the regional shows. As mentioned above, finding fresh material is a lot of work and attendance at these shows is vital. Being seen and considered when something new shows up is part of my business plan. Plus, I truly enjoy coins shows. I’m lucky in that my wife, Mary Lynn, enjoys going with me to most shows.
No. I can get most of what I need to do at a coin show done on my cell phone or computer. Most new dealer purchases I can find out about right before the show. Shows for me have now just become meet-and-greet opportunities or a chance to have dinner with customers and dealers.
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Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick’s gnome friends have granted you a round-trip passage back to the year of your birth. You have 24 hours and $100 to spend. What coins or other collectibles will you try to locate and bring back to the present?
1980: Man, that’s a boring year. And $100 wouldn’t buy me much silver. I’d probably try to find some early Lincoln and Jefferson Nickel rolls that I could buy cheaply and submit for grading in 2023.
I would buy as many $20 gold pieces as I could!
With the simplified grading back then (1960), I would try and cherry-pick as many superb red copper coins (probably Indian Cents) that I could.
For me, the gnomes would have to navigate their time-travelling vessel back to 1959, when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth! Like many collectors, I would seek out a highly prized coin of today that was undervalued and affordable back then. Starting with the BEST group on the Key Date List of Recommendations, I found a wonderful coin that does the trick — the 1870-CC Coronet $10 Eagle. Per the Red Book, in 1959 I could have purchased an example of this Carson City rarity in About Uncirculated for just under $100, presuming I could find one for sale in the 24-hour excursion.
Currently, Coin World estimates the retail value of the 1870-CC $10 Eagle in About Uncirculated condition to be somewhere around $250,000. If the gnomes had let me keep this coin, my $100 investment would have grown in value at an annual compounded rate of 13%. Incredible!
As many high-condition Fugios as $100 would buy.
1959. I am gonna find a contemporary artist like Andy Warhol whose painting would be worth a million bucks today!
1958: I would visit the offices of B. Max Mehl in Texas and look for ultra Gem coins that he has no idea will be worth a fortune someday.
It wasn’t a very eventful year for coins, so perhaps a couple Proof sets and some Ronald Reagan memorabilia.
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Enjoy the holiday, my friends! I’ll be back next time with part two of the 13th Annual Bisognani Year in Review.
Until next time, be safe, happy holidays and happy collecting!
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