Coin industry leaders share their thoughts on what’s working and what isn’t
By Jim Bisognani for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) ……
Well, I don’t know why it should come as a surprise to me, but 2018 is winding down quite rapidly. I know that time isn’t accelerating, but perhaps the aging process is.
It has been another eventful and exciting year in the world of numismatics. Personally, I never tire of pulling up live and online auctions and deciphering sales data and viewing coins online or in person. While I have been a coindexter since I was a tyke, the thrill of acquiring that new coin (regardless of market value) is always exciting.
I have touched on this many times, but the advent of NGC and third-party grading has stabilized the US and the world coin market for today and for generations to come. The security and peace of mind that each encapsulated treasure brings to the collector are priceless.
Hey, here is a great suggestion for a last-minute holiday gift for the coindexter on your list. Buy them the gift of an NGC Collector Society Membership. While any coindexter can enjoy full online access to our marvelous collector resources, do take a take a look at the options at NGCcoin.com/join. There’s something for every budget from $25 to $299.
I think the $149 Premium Membership is a great value as, along with a host of special access and discounts, you will receive a $150 grading credit! What a thrill for the new year to have those non-certified treasures professionally graded! I know that whenever I get a group together for certification, it is always fun to jot down your estimated grade and see what the pros say!
Anyway, with 2019 impatiently waiting in the wings, it is time for me to once again enlist my fellow professional coin brethren for insight and words of wisdom to my questions about the coin realm. Yes, it’s time for my Eighth Annual Market Review!
What has changed with your business this year (surprises, disappointments, etc.)?
Ian Russell – President, Owner, Great Collections:
“Our auctions continue to grow, in number of coins and also in the diversity of what we’re offering. I was disappointed that the price of gold seemed to stay pretty flat for the year. And I don’t think anyone predicted palladium going on such a run (almost overtaking the price of gold recently). We’ve been very pleased with the number of new collectors bidding in our auctions, and our outlook for 2019 is strong. We already have some anchor consignments scheduled for early 2019, including a very-high-grade set of Carson City Morgan Dollars graded by NGC.”
Bob Green – Owner, Park Avenue Numismatics:
“We’ve had to reduce margins to compete with other online dealers, and auctions prices realized have been lower than previous years when we sell at auction, which has disappointed our clients. My biggest personal disappointment has been lack of attendance from the public at coin shows.”
Charles Morgan – Editor, CoinWeek:
“The coin industry is currently in the midst of a transition. There are moving pieces across the spectrum, and market realities are forcing market makers to evaluate their positions. Some are focused on buying inventory (the right coins are still doing OK). Others are focused on selling inventory (current pricing levels make this an area one must tread carefully). And still others are evaluating where the business will be in the next few years. One thing is true: change is coming. Many established dealers in our industry are reaching the age of retirement. When they go, their capital goes with them. This, I think more than anything, will be the story about the next phase of the numismatic marketplace. We’ve seen great collections come to market. Next up we will see great professional numismatists take their final bows. To be successful in 2019, 2020 and beyond… our industry must focus on technology, marketing, and bold new ideas.”
Brian Hodge – Partner, Minshull Trading:
“The biggest change for Minshull Trading this year was our relocation to a new, state-of-the-art 25,000-square-foot facility that will better serve our growth and goals for the future. As for the coin market, the biggest surprise for us was the sudden surge of interest from some very affluent collectors early in the year. It’s been a lot of fun locating some of the NGC-graded rarities we’ve been able to find this year to fulfill that level of interest.”
John Brush – President, David Lawrence Rare Coins:
“We offered a pair of major auctions this year from the duplicates of Dell Loy Hansen. Those sales were two of the major highlights of our year. We also had the opportunity to purchase two major rarities, the 1804 $1 and the 1854-S $5, which were really exciting experiences.”
Ira Goldberg – Co-Owner, Goldberg Coins & Collectibles:
“Disappointments would be the lack of interest in coin shows. This is probably due in part to a stale US coin market. The mid-year ANA had about as much excitement as a funeral home. Pleasant surprise was the renewed interest in the additional treasure that was brought up mid-year with the second recovered treasure aboard the SS Central America wreck.”
Suggestions on how to encourage and attract new collectors to the hobby
“New collectors will come to the hobby if the hobby presents itself to these potential new collectors as a viable and interesting side street of what they might already be interested in. I think this industry got so wrapped up in the investment coin angle that it forgot to keep up with the culture. This shift in perspective and focus on our part is, in reality, our lifeline to sustained viability in the collectibles market.”
“I think NGC’s association with former Mint Director Edmund C. Moy has been crucial in attracting many new collectors to the hobby. The Ultra High Relief was created under his tenure, after all, and became one of the most successful US Mint modern products ever made. When innovators lead the pack and are supported by a retail network who can reach the end-user, collectors will stay invigorated. And as those collectors expand their resources, they often dive deeper into rarer classic US coins, and ancients as well.”
Steve Roach – Editor-at-Large, Coin World:
“I attended the US Mint and Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s 2018 Numismatic Forum hosted at the BEP in Washington, DC, on October 17, and was encouraged by the efforts being taken to make collecting appealing to young people. New packaging options, especially for modestly priced sets, help make coins appealing as gifts and provide a reasonable entry point. The 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program is exciting to new collectors, and hopefully will generate non-collector interest, just like the 2014 commemorative coins for The National Baseball Hall of Fame. As the US Mint pointed out, the overall collectibles marketplace is nearly $200 billion and the overall gift marketplace is around $135 billion, so there is plenty of room for coins to fall into the mix. The US Mint’s strengths are in its brand of high-quality products that incorporate history, and kids inherently enjoy collecting items. Fun, interactive and innovative packaging options can help kids discover numismatics and the U.S. Mint seems to be proactively exploring new options to spur interest in a new generation of collectors.”
“This is an extremely important topic, which all current collectors and dealers should spend time to focus on. At GreatCollections, we go overboard to encourage new collectors. We offer very low-valued certified coins in our auctions – we don’t make any money doing so, but we do it to try to encourage new collectors. I know there has been focus to try and build coin shows and get new collectors to shows, but I don’t see that working long-term. I see the internet as the key for developing new collectors.”
“Many younger collectors get involved as they see it as a way to make money – if they are willing to learn more than others (education is still king). And I think that it is an angle that is often ignored. I also think that there needs to be a larger focus on the historic nature of items that are actually obtainable. We focus on many obscure-ish items in research and exhibits for collectors, but something more mainstream would certainly get more attention as people are attracted to putting together “sets” and collections.”
“Create competition among collectors. For example, the coin registry set competition has done wonders for expensive high-end coins. Let’s have competition that is not based solely on the value of coins. Create similar competition among collectors and dealers by having different divisions for Professionals (dealers), Collectors and age brackets for younger collectors. Some of the topics in which medals or awards can be given are: Evaluation competition; Grading various coins; Coin identification, etc. The first place winners get their name and photo in the coin papers.”
Best values, “sleepers” and advice for new collectors just getting started
“Circulated Seated and Barber coinage, graded by NGC. There are coins that are 100+ years old that have fairly low populations available for $40-$80! These coins exhibit history, and it’s fascinating to learn what happened in the year that a coin was minted. Take an 1882 Seated Dime – minted in the year that Thomas Edison opened the first commercial electrical plant, lighting one square mile in New York City. You can buy an 1882 Seated Dime, if you can find one graded, for $20-$40 in circulated grades. I also like that these series are a challenge to put together. Some of the dates, even though they are fairly low value, aren’t freely available to buy today, if you wanted to buy the whole lot. It will take time and that is what I love about collecting.”
“Buy the book before the coin. That will never change. Best values are gold coins tied to the spot price like generic $20 Saint-Gaudens and Liberties as well as lower denomination common date generic gold. With gold prices lower than in previous years, this offers upside potential for those buyers looking toward appreciation. Imagine gold coins selling for two to four% over spot from the 1800s!”
“I think that the best values in the market right now are the items that aren’t the finest known, but perhaps a grade less. The finest-known items have left the market, along with their high and record prices. The ones that are available are getting ignored. More collector-level items are also dropping in price due to the massive dumps going on in the large auctions. There are simply so many auctions right now that collectors and dealers cannot keep up with them and the lesser items are falling through the cracks. I think that the long-term values on these can certainly improve over time, as long as the quality is there.”
Dave Wnuck – Owner/Operator, Dave Wnuck Numismatics LLC:
“There are certain areas of the market that are just crazy cheap right now. The most obvious are some generic gold type coins. For example, you can buy desirable and not-easy-to-locate $10 Indians and $10 Liberty gold coins in MS-63 for not too much over melt. This is a conservative way to have fun in the market and possibly capture some upside if the market strengthens. Even better, you have some downside protection if the price of gold softens, as these can sell for a significant premium to melt in times of low gold prices.”
Dave Bowers – Numismatist, Author and Co-Founder, Stack’s Bowers:
“Go slowly. For starters, read the Guide Book of United States Coins from cover to cover, the narrative part. Then go back and re-read the front matter. Consider your budget and, for the first year, spend just a part of it, no more than 10% or 20%. Remember that on the internet, you can spend all you have in an hour. If you plan to spend $10,000 in the first year, buy several dozen coins, tokens, medals or banknotes, not just one or two expensive pieces. Buy slowly, as items are easier to buy than to sell. For starters, in the first year, spend 20% of you budget on numismatic books. Join the American Numismatic Association. Subscribe to and read several periodicals. Read the eSylum, free on the internet. Do this and you will still be collecting 10 years from now. A fine collection in any of these series, if carefully formed with knowledge and held for the long term, has always yielded a profit. I know of no exceptions! This is true and is remarkable. Success is at your doorstep!”
To be continued …
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.
I was surprised to see none of the dealers interviewed for this article mentioned ancient coins. The ancient coin market is one of the fastest growing segments of numismatics & unlike the U.S. coin market has not experienced the dramatic fall in values. Every ancient coin on the market is a potential history lesson for new collectors & quality ancient coins can be had for as little as $15. With more exposure students would be drawn to the history, art work, & potential investment growth of ancient coins. CoinWeek needs to interview experts & specialists of ancient coins to get a better picture of the current coin market.