NGC world-class gold rarities roar; US copper icons keep pace
By Jim Bisognani – NGC Contributor ……..
Another ANA World’s Fair of Money is in the books. The Rocky Mountain location for this annual venue has brought favorable reviews as Denver afforded easy and relatively quick access for many of the attendees. Most enjoyed the diverse scenic and historic surroundings in the Mile High City, too.
Taking the present state of the numismatic market into consideration, coupled with a relatively stationary precious metals market, this great summer edition more than held its own. Plenty of wholesale trading was acknowledged, coupled with an active bourse, satisfying most dealers. Collectors in attendance proclaimed that they had a great time as well, as many spent rather liberally to enhance their respective collections (which is one of the most important gauges of any show’s success).
Conversely, there has been some consternation as to the viability of the ANA show — and other major shows, for that matter. Concerns vary, yet primary distress calls have been heard, grousing about the lack of fresh deals and key coins available.
To that point: While some well-established dealers lament the lack of new or fresh material to the market, this is not the fault of the ANA, FUN, CSNS, Long Beach or Whitman. It is because key dates and rarities are just that: rare! If they were plentiful, prices wouldn’t escalate, and the prerequisite excitement and advancing levels and collector interest would not be retained.
Other dealers were primarily pointing to a more modest flow of floor traffic as the major bane. Yet the popularity of this show (or any venue) can’t be judged merely by the level of floor traffic. It can, at times, be a rather daunting visual, but not the only determining factor, to be sure.
Denver 2017 vs. Denver 2006
Now, if I personally were to compare Denver ANA 2017 to the last time the ANA World’s Fair of Money was hosted by the city — August 15-19, 2006 — there is considerable difference.
It was an entirely different animal back then, too. The market was booming on all cylinders, and prices realized at pre-ANA auctions were very strong across the board. Remember those pre-sales? There was ANR’s Old West & Franklinton Collection reeling in a formidable $15.8 million, followed by Superior’s Elite Sale claiming $7.1 million. Wrapping up the pre-ANA mania, Heritage’s Denver & Platinum Night raked in nearly $29.6 million! Pre-sales by themselves pulled in $53 million! Bowers & Merena’s host ANA sale garnered $17.7 million!
All told, the Denver auction action pulled in a rather amazing $70 million, with at least 55 lots punching over the $100K benchmark.
The bourse was buzzing for all kinds of collector coins. We were also about a year-and-a-half away from the apex of that market. Yet technology and the business of numismatics have changed, evolving significantly in the last decade.
Yes, it is true that the numbers for floor traffic overall have diminished over the past decade or two — a comparative deficiency, to be sure. Much business is or can be handled online through the Internet. That goes for auctions and “traditional” businesses, as virtually any dealer in cyberland has their own website touting their numismatic wares.
A Familiar Refrain
Yet the laments were similar in 2006 as they are now, more than a decade later.
For reference, the brief commentary that appears below I received back in 2006 regarding the Denver World’s Fair of Money as I reported it for the Greysheet/Coin Dealer Newsletter.
Commentary for the 2006 ANA pre–show:
Dealers found that anything with eye appeal or material that represents a good value was really strong and disappeared rapidly. Overall, the market is really strong for better quality examples and weak for generic. One dealer summed it up by saying the show was ‘lightly attended.’ However, it’s another story when it comes to rare dates and better unspotted examples with flash. These coins continue to face serious demand and interest. The Carson City Mint issues, for example, are very strong in all denominations.
As for the main event, the 2006 Denver World’s Fair of Money:
Most dealers at the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money concluded that the market in Denver was mixed. Several dealers were complaining about the lack of public attendance while others expressed that the market was a bit soft, especially concerning generics… ‘It is all about eye appeal because if you have premium quality for the grade it sells; otherwise it goes begging.’ Generally, there was still quite a bit of wholesale business taking place on the Denver bourse and some of these coins were changing hands at very strong prices.
And so it goes — a bit of Déjà vu in Denver.
Attendees Reflect on 2017 Show
Coin shows of the ANA World’s Fair of Money caliber are certainly not dinosaurs. Most collectors and ardent Coindexters, given the opportunity, would give their VDBs for the chance to get out, meet, greet, schmooze and rub elbows with the numismatic notables who are unique to this great show. There is so much to take in, and to just be a part of the experience is palpable. Where else, at a single venue, can you attend seminars held by experts in the field pertaining to your favorite series, view the world-class exhibits, see and hold the rarities, then get google-eyed over the true icons gracing the numismatic museum on display?
This, my fine numismatic friends, can’t be done via the Internet! Anyone can see a movie or watch a music video, but if you take in a Broadway production or concert live and in person, it is an entirely different and rewarding experience.
Charlie C from Massachusetts summed it up the best:
“This (the ANA) was on my early bucket list for the past 20 years, and it was well worth the wait. I have been a collector-modest buyer since I was a teenager; now I’m 42 and I’ll say it: It was a blast! Just to get out and see all those slabbed coins in one place, all the great coins and all the excitement on the floor.
“I spent what I had reserved for the show and cherry-picked everything from nicely toned NGC Texas and Oregon Trail ‘commems’. I picked up a nice raw, glossy brown AU 1877 Indian — that baby nearly completes my set. I will probably get it slabbed, though. I added a few CC-mintmarked dimes, quarters and halves, all circ stuff, VF-ish for variety. I have been a collector over half of my life. This was such a rush, so much to take in — yeah, I am a collector for life.”
Now, opinions will vary as to this or any other shows’ success; much like the grading of a coin, it is subjective.
For dealers, if your stock consists of popularly priced coins, properly graded, certified material, you will do well at virtually any show.
If you’re a dealer whose major trade is in four-, five- or six-figure coins, it is definitely a more selective, discerning and voracious clientele, and your results may vary depending on the venue and location and ease of access to the show.
For the average collector, if you do your homework and develop a keen eye, you’ll find some good values on the ANA floor, and that’s true at any show.
One astute vest pocket dealer from Indiana summed up the divide:
“I had a very good show. I would rate it a B+. I didn’t hold a table, but I did share time at a good dealer friend’s and we split costs… We worked hard and made it a great show. I can’t believe several major dealers reported having a poor or slow show, yet somehow managed to generate millions of dollars in business!”
Highlights from the Auctions
The two 2017 host ANA Denver auction sales combined for nearly $41 million. The Stack’s Bowers sale realized just over $19 million, and featured 12 lots exceeding $100K. The leading NGC performer was the fabulous 1792 Copper Cent without silver center.
This J‑2 graded NGC 15 BN displays robust character and definition for the grade. This is absolute Americana; with less than 10 examples known, this fabulous rarity and numismatic icon claimed $235,000 … a bit of a homecoming, as this charismatic copper appeared back in the ANR Old West and Franklinton Pre-ANA Sale in Denver 2006, at that time capturing $253K near the top of the market, so the price realized in 2017 is a good market indicator.
The Heritage ANA Signature Auction topped $21.8 million, and featured 19 lots exceeding $100K. Heading the highlight reel is a copper coin, too. No, not Colonial or an early large cent but a 20th-century copper… one which shouldn’t have been made at all: the famous 1943 Bronze Lincoln Cent.
The top-tier 1943 Copper recently graded as NGC MS 62 BN is tied numerically as the finest known. Spirited bidding ensued, and as the hammer fell, $282K was the winning bid. It is really quite amazing and a powerful testament to the popularity of the Lincoln cent series and this prodigious World War II copper anomaly that it took top honors in the Heritage Signature sale.
However, the Heritage ANA World Coins and Ancient Coins Signature auction, which claimed over $7.1 million, takes center stage. This diverse and dynamic world sale featured six coins wearing NGC slabs that easily eclipsed six figures. A pair of phenomenal world Proof gold coins soundly outpaced NGC US bragging results in the Mile High City sales. From Japan, the Meiji Year 3 (1870) Gold 20 Yen, graded NGC PF 66 Cameo, a truly gorgeous and astoundingly preserved world rarity, thundered to $470K, followed up by an impressive 1826 Great Britain George IV 5 Pounds, graded NGC PF 64 Ultra Cameo, powering to $305,500.
So, unless the collector has been under the proverbial rock, it’s time we all take note of why the world market and world coins have made considerable thunder. Just like our proud US icons, world-class rarities are historic, beautiful and fascinating!
The appetite for world rarities has accelerated in the last decade. World coins from many series are gaining immense popularity, with more than a foothold here in the US. The future bodes quite well, in my estimation, for this component, as it does for the US market.
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.