By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for Coinweek …….
The marketing of certified modern coins has developed and evolved in recent years, to the point that any distinguishing characteristic that might separate a coin from the rest of its issue can be used to promote the issue on the collecting public.
This susceptibility of collectors to such marketing is why for years all of the grading services have offered First Strike and Early Release certified coins, despite the fact that the U.S. Mint offers this piece of consumer advice on their website:
The United States Mint has not designated any coins or products as “first strikes” or “first releases,” nor do we track the order in which we mint coins during their production. The United States Mint strives to produce coins of consistently high quality throughout the course of production. Our strict quality controls assure that coins of this caliber are produced from each die set throughout its useful life. Our manufacturing facilities use a die set as long as the quality of resulting coins meets United States Mint standards and then replace the dies, continually changing sets throughout the production process. This means that coins may be minted from new die sets at any point and at multiple times while production of a coin is ongoing, not just the first day or at the beginning of production.
In recent years, the services have tried, with varying degrees of success, to generate buzz for Mint releases by coordinating label programs that are even more limited in nature.
On such label program is the “show release” label program.
Coins bearing this label are early release coins that were sold by the United States Mint at particular coin shows and given the “show release” designation by the major third-party coin grading firms, which accept on-site submissions of the coins, usually at a premium.
The coin show release designation got its start in earnest with the release of the 2013-W $50 Gold Buffalo Reverse Proof coin at that year’s Chicago American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money show. The collectible went on sale August 7 with an issue price of $1,640. While the coins were available online from the United States Mint website for the same price, hundreds of dealers and speculators willingly stood in line for hours to purchase the approximately 2,000 pieces made available by the Mint at the ANA show. These tenacious individuals had the opportunity to get their coins encapsulated by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) or Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) with a special Chicago ANA label.
The Chicago ANA labels helped those specific pieces command immediate premiums over reverse proof Gold Buffalos that weren’t bought at the show. In the early weeks after the convention, Proof-70 Chicago ANA $50 Gold Buffalo coins were trading on eBay for as much as $2,750 each. Today, PCGS and NGC Proof-70 $50 Gold Buffalo coins with the ANA Chicago designation sell for between $2,300 and $2,800, representing pieces that have so far held their long-term value the best among the various show release coins offered to date.
The concept was used again when NGC offered Opening Day labels for Baseball Hall of Fame coins bought only at the Whitman Expo coin show in Baltimore, Maryland, in March 2014.
In the aftermath of the coin’s launch, these show label certified coins were a big hit in the marketplace, selling for multiple times over the regular issue price.
It was a big success for dealers and collectors who waited in line in Baltimore and took advantage of the program.
As the summer months of 2014 dragged on, a second planned promotion of “show label” coins was underway.
The U.S. Mint was preparing for a show release of the 1964-2014 Kennedy half dollar 3/4-ounce 24-karat gold Proof and dealers across the country, having seen the success of the Baltimore “show label” baseball coins, began to plan their approach to buying and submitting the gold Kennedy coins at the summer ANA.
The resulting effort was overwhelming.
Offered in allotments of just 500 pieces each day for only the first three of the five days of the American Numismatic Association’s (ANA) World’s Fair of Money show during August, the 2014 Kennedy gold coins lured thousands of buyers from all over the country. Some were there to buy coins for themselves, while majority where there as part of a highly orchestrated effort on the part of some of the industry’s biggest dealers.
People lined up in a serpentine row around the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont to be among the first to own the coin, with many of these individuals having been paid anywhere from $50 to more than $500 to stand in line and purchase the coin from the Mint’s sales counter as proxies for coin dealers who wanted to buy in quantity.
The U.S. Mint was forced suspended sales at the ANA show out of a general sense of fear that the crowds might grow unruly. In Denver, a lack of mint organization led to a rush of people trying to buy coins (in order to sell them at immediate profits to coin promoters). The crowd at the ANA mirror these theatrics, but many at the show were concerned that things could spiral out of control.
In general, however, the folks waiting in line were more excited about the prospect of getting paid to buy the coin for coin dealers, than there were with the possibility of owning this gold novelty issue.
The original issue price for one 2014-W gold Kennedy half dollar was $1,240 – a tiny fraction of what it would sell for within hours. One piece, graded by PCGS, earned the coveted First Coin Sold label and allegedly traded hands for $100,000.
In all, 1,500 of the 2014 Kennedy gold half dollar coins were released at the ANA. Amazingly, as CoinWeek reported after the show, more than 2,200 coins wound up in PCGS First Strike Chicago – August 2014 or NGC First Day – Chicago – ANA slabs.
And certainly a significant number of these pieces wound up in PCGS First Strike Chicago – August 2014 holders or NGC First Day – Chicago ANA slabs.
In the weeks after these PCGS and NGC 2014 Kennedy ANA show gold coins hit the market, prices soared to as much as $5,000 per coin.
Today, the ANA release Kennedy gold coins sell for between $1,500 and $2,000, with few exceptions.
One eBay seller is offering Proof-70 2014 First Day Chicago ANA Kennedy gold coins for $1,650 – of eight originally available, seven sold. Another seller is offering the same for $2,999.99 with a best offer purchase option; the coin has nearly 2,000 views and 13 watchers but it remains on the market (for now).
Similar results are found with the PCGS First Strike ANA show 2014 Kennedy gold coins; one eBay vendor has sold all but one of his 14 Kennedy gold coins. List price? $1,697, with a best offer option.
70-point perfection seems to be king with these coins. A 2014-W NGC Proof-69 Kennedy gold coin in a First Day ANA show slab is left untouched for a buy-it-now price of $1,149. And no one has yet to bid on a Proof-68 ANA gold Kennedy (opening price: $1,115). Both of these examples are being offered for less than the U.S. Mint’s original issue price, sans original government packaging.
All around, today’s prices are 50 percent or less than the amount some collectors paid in 2014 when the JFK gold coin was grabbing headlines in the numismatic community and beyond.
Opening Day Baseball Hall of Fame coins have also struck out over time.
Late in the spring and into the summer of 2014, Opening Day Baseball Hall of Fame coins were selling for multiples of their original Mint issue prices. For example, the $5 gold coin originally offered for $424.75 was trading hands for nearly $3,000–provided it was in an Opening Day holder. Today, a two-coin set of Opening Day $5 gold coins, one uncirculated and one proof, can be bought for $2,799.00.
Some Opening Day Baseball Hall of Fame silver dollars fetched more than $600 apiece in 2014; now they trade in the $300 to $400 range.
Opening Day half dollars, which also sold for well into the hundreds, can be bought for as little as $75 to $100 today.
While 2014 has gone down in modern coin annals as the Year of the Show Release Coin, that market segment continued to expand in 2015. Individuals who bought 2015-W proof American Silver Eagles at the Florida United Numismatists (FUN) Show in Orlando in January of that year could have those coins encapsulated by NGC or PCGS with special FUN Show Release designation labels. As of the time of publication, Proof-69 specimens sell for $60 to $80, while Proof-70 FUN Show specimens reach into the $90 range.
A few weeks later at the Long Beach Expo in California, 2015 U.S. Marshals Service 225th Anniversary commemorative coins bought at the three-day event qualified for PCGS’s Long Beach First Strike labels. The $50 slabbing fee provided a handsome return on investment. The $5 gold coin, which sold for $412.60 in proof, now sells for more than $1,000 in Proof-70. Meanwhile, an eBay seller who listed two 2015-S PCGS Long Beach U.S. Marshal silver dollars at $799 (with best offer option) sold one and has six watchers keeping tabs on the second piece. The U.S. Marshals half dollar with Long Beach designation has a current going price of around $300 to $350.
Ultimately, the market that is developing around show release slabs appears heavily reliant on early speculation, with losses following as interest in the releases fades into memory. Perhaps collectors should ask themselves before laying out hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on coin show releases is whether or not the payoff is worth it.
Certainly, there are bragging rights to be had in holding a 2014 ANA Show Kennedy gold half dollar – and show release coins make fantastic conversation pieces. But are they coins that 10, 20, or 50 years from now will carry a premium simply because they were bought at this coin show or that? How will pedigree be proven if the show release coin is cracked out of its holder? Will it then become an “ordinary” coin, worth a tiny fraction of its former amount?
Only time will tell.
Yet, just two years out, it hasn’t been very kind.