The last few years have been fertile, to say the least, for auction sales involving all-time great collections. We’ve seen the sales of the Newman collection, are seeing the current selling off of the Gene Gardner sets, and have also witnessed the not-as-splashy sales of a number of important general and specialized sets. But none of these sales affected me as much as the announcement of the upcoming sale(s) of the legendary Mac and Brent Pogue collection.
Around a week ago I read a press release stating that the Pogue collection would be sold by Stacks Bowers in a series of auctions “over the next several years.” My reaction? Unprintable in this blog (hint, starts with: Holy) but understandable, given that it is well-known within the dealer community that this is quite probably the greatest collection of American coins ever formed, and that there were no rumors floating around that it might be sold.
After pondering the Pogue Situation for a few hours, I’ve reached a few initial reactions which I’d like to share with you.
1. This Collection is Even Greater than You’ve Heard
Other than a handful of people, there are not many numismatists that are aware of the complete inventory of this collection, and I am not one of the lucky few. Over the years, I’ve been shown little date runs from the collection (I can remember looking at a phenomenal group of early quarters at Dave Akers’ table at an ANA convention 10-15 years ago that belonged to the Pogues and, at another ANA show maybe 15 years ago a group of Fat Head half eagles which were mind-blowing) and have received tidbits of information from Brent about what he has. But this is truly a once-in-a-generation collection and it is certainly the only collection that I would actually pay to see in person.
2. This Collection is More Valuable than You’ve Heard
It is nearly impossible to know the value of a collection which you haven’t seen in person and don’t even know for sure what it includes. If I had to give a good guesstimate, I’d say the collection is easily worth $150 million, and it could ultimately be worth $200 million or even more. It contains a coin which is likely to set a record for most valuable United States issue ever sold at auction (the Childs/Pogue PCGS PR68 Original 1804 Dollar) and it contains at least two other coins (the 1822 half eagle and the 1854-S half eagle) that could break the $5 million dollar barrier. There are scads of mid to high six-figure coins in the Pogue collection, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a number of other coins which will break the $1 million dollar mark when they are sold at auction.
3. This Collection Will Severely Impact the Very Highest Segment of the Coin Market
If you collect finest known or Condition Census early American gold or silver coinage, the news of this sale impacts you critically. There are going to be countless once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for collectors and you will need to start planning your strategy sooner than later. If you are planning to sell high quality coins in the near future, you have to ask yourself: will the prices I realize for my coins be impacted by Pogue? If you are planning to buy an expensive early American coin, how will prices be impacted by Pogue?
One fallout I see happening is a rush to trade-in certain coins which are nice but which are exceeded in quality by Pogue. Some collectors will trade in coins wisely, others will make poor decisions. Working with a smart, informed dealer is the best way to make your decisions the right ones.
4. The International Factor
For the most part, the impact of foreign buyers in American coin sales has been insignificant. Sure, a few foreign buyers bid in American sales but not enough to have a serious impact. This could change with the Pogue sales.
Stacks Bowers has made strong inroads selling foreign coins via auction in Hong Kong and, if I were them, I’d take the Pogue coins to exhibit in Hong Kong and at least one other location in the Far East before the dates of the sales. There is a better-than-average chance that they will interest at least one or two wealthy Chinese buyers in these great American coins, and I wouldn’t be shocked if a not insignificant amount of the dollar value for some of the sales went to foreign bidders.
Now that I think of it, I’d probably take the coins to London as well and expose them to European and dual national buyers in this important market.
5. The Draw of the New Internet
As we witnessed with the Saddle Ridge Hoard discovery and subsequent sale, the newest incarnation of the internet has forever changed the rare coin market.
When the Eliasberg and Bass sales were sold in the 1980’s and late 1990’s, there was essentially no internet. The Pogue collection is the first truly great American coin auction which will be picked up by world-wide press outlets and which will receive untold amounts of publicity on internet news outlets.
Stacks Bowers has the potential of reaching nearly every wealthy person in nearly every country with relative ease. All it takes is a few Indian men of extreme wealth, Russian oligarchs, Chinese and other far Eastern billionaires, and American hedge fund managers to bring the Pogue collection to a new pool of ultra-wealthy buyers who might not have known about rare American coins. What seemed far-fetched a few years ago seems possible today.
6. “It’s 1995-1999 All Over Again”
A smart dealer friend made this comment when looking at the current embarrassment of riches when it comes to auctions. He was referring to the point in time when we had scads of sales of great coins in the mid to late-1990’s: James Stack, Pittman, Childs, Eliasberg (silver), and Bass were all sold within a span of less than a decade. If you were in the market then, you remember how great coins were suddenly everywhere and you’d see coins like Proof 1868 three dollar gold pieces or Proof 1877 half eagles sitting, unsold, in dealers cases; coins which would sell quickly today if available.
The impact of these 1990’s sales was profound. After some temporary weakness in the market, a run of boom years began around 2001/2002 which lasted all the way up to the economic issues of 2008/2009. In part, this boom was fueled by the availability of great coins from these great old collections. After all, you can’t have a bull market in coins if there are no great coins to sell.
And this is what could happen after the Pogue coins sell. The coins which don’t get bought by collectors and which don’t get “black holed” are likely to sit in dealer’s inventories and impact dealer’s cash flow. If, say, the Pogue sales begin in 2015 and conclude by 2017, we might see an oversupply of coins in 2018, 2019 and 2020. This could, in turn, weaken the market.
But, to take another perspective, perhaps the market will be deep enough this time around (due to the amazing amount of global wealth) to absorb the Pogue’s $200+ million without skipping a beat. We shall see…
7. How Will Pogue Impact Me?
At this point you are thinking, “OK enough of the babbling, Winter, how is this sale going to impact me?”
Not every coin owned by the Pogues is a finest known six figure rarity, so it is likely that if you are a regular DWN client, there are going to be some coins in the sales that interest you, anywhere from casually to obsessively. So let’s operate under the assumption that you might want to consider expanding your coin budget in the next few years.
If you are the typical DWN client who feels comfortable spending $5,000 or $10,000 on a neat American gold coin, the Pogue sales aren’t going to have a huge impact on you. The sale of the finest known 1838-C half eagle (the Pogue collection contains a gorgeous PCGS MS63) isn’t going to impact the value of a nice AU50 example that I sold you in 2010.
I see the sale of this collection as a positive. Coins will become better known across the world thanks to the internet-driven publicity of the Pogue collection and, if it is done as well as I think Stacks Bowers will do it, the number of serious collectors of serious American coins could increase. A lot.
The greatest impact will be on the very top of the market; the 1% if you will. There will be a lot of juggling and jostling to see who has the best 1794 half dollar or the finest 1795 half eagle after the grades of the Pogue coins become better known.
Given the fact that the Pogue collection really came of age after the family bought heavily in the 1982 Eliasberg gold sale, I think the Eliasberg pedigree will become even more important than it is today. When today’s new collectors see how many great Pogue coins are from the Eliasberg sale, the legacy of the Eliasberg pedigree will grow and grow.
I am curious to hear your thoughts about the Pogue sales. Please leave your comments at the end of this blog or write me at [email protected].