By Jim Bisognani – Numismatic Guaranty Corporation ……
CSNS bound collectors hot on the trail for Liberty Seated Type and Walkers; Metals continue surge.
This is a busy and, dare I say, very taxing time of the year. On one hand, we have the long-reaching hand of the IRS commanding our somewhat reluctant yet undivided attention. On the other, we have our collective numismatic corpuscles percolating at the prospect of such a busy calendar. As we go to press, the coin caravan has been loaded and making passage to the land of Lincoln. First stop: the CICF (Chicago International Coin Fair) Convention, April 14-17, and Heritage’s World & Ancient Coins Signature Auction in Rosemont, IL.
At the conclusion of this great venue most of our numismatic tribe stays put in the greater Chicago suburbs. Many dealers have temporary digs in hotels and some even take rooms at the convention centers to schmooze buy, sell and trade with clientele and fellow dealers. Each one is anxious to get a leg up on the other for one of the crown jewels on the numismatic calendar—the bellwether 77th Annual Central States Numismatic Society Convention, April 27-30, in Schaumberg, IL. As a longtime numismatic acquaintance refers to it “Chicago-the springtime Mecca of the coin community”.
Whether a refund from Uncle Sam is burning a hole in your pocket or a fringe collector is looking to augment their IRA with gold or silver eagles, this is a fabulous venue. Always well attended with a huge and diverse bourse, this is a must on the numismatic circuit. According to Tony, a long-time collector and champion for his specialty half cents, “I love this place. I take Friday off from work and spend all day at the show going up and down all the aisles. I splurge a bit, but it is my collection. I love it!”
JJ, a self-described Walking Liberty half dollar “nut,” told me that he is also very bullish on metals right now. According to this Tennessee resident, “This is a good time to scour the coin shows for both US and foreign junk silver. I feel it (silver) is in for a run up very soon. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple dollars up tick.” The Volunteer State collector attributes this to election-year uncertainty as well as his own charts that he has been keeping for several years. “Yeah, I love to plot this stuff. When I go to shows, it is my personal goal to pick up silver foreign coins including British Canadian Commonwealth countries and European stuff. I have a field day in the so-called junk boxes.”
I asked JJ how much he can purchase at an average or larger coin show and make a profit. “You’d be surprised. A lot of dealers just want to get rid of what they do not have a market for. I only calculate the melt value before I make the rounds and what I can turn it for. For the most part I am an accumulator at these levels. On a good day I can pick up 150 ounces of decent foreign coins. Often I get some good retail stuff that I can put on eBay and triple my return! Right now I am looking to buy several BU Walking Liberty short sets (1941-47). I feel these are priced well. They gyrate a bit with telemarketers and promoters, but I feel and see that supplies for decent material are drying up.”
Jason, a US type coin collector also on his way to Illinois, and who also happens to be a native Tennessean, told me that he is anxious to finish up a 19th century silver type set and is looking for an MS 63 Liberty Seated Dollar. “I will probably be looking for an 1859 or 1860-O, as my type coin. They are plentiful and I get a mintmark from one of my favorite mints too. My collecting tastes require me to find a nice original white coin. I know it might be tough but I don’t want something in my collection that has been overly dipped. One with natural satiny white sheen will fit the bill.”
I agree with the man from the Volunteer State that either would make a great type coin. A quick check of the NGC Census confirms the 59-O reports in with 38 as MS 63 and the 60-O reveals a solid population of 55 residing in that column. Another option would be the 1871 as there are 37 examples according to the latest NGC Census in that grade.
According to NGC US Auction Central (collecting data back to 1993), combined the New Orleans 1859 and 1860 and the Philadelphia 1871 issues have appeared a total of 118 times at public venue in MS 63 grade. Not surprisingly, the 1860-O has had the most frequency registering 60 appearances. The last opportunity to obtain a coin that met the Jason’s prerequisites was the ANA Signature Sale by Heritage last August. This particular 1860-O Liberty Seated Dollar certainly fit the bill- satiny white surfaces and semi-proof like realized $4,113.
A quick perusal of this Central States Show auction finds an 1863 coin graded NGC MS 63 with the proper look Jason is looking for. It certainly is a much better date, Civil War era coin. Per the man from Tennessee he will dig a little deeper in his coffer and will be placing a bid on it. “If the coin looks great, I am willing to stretch a little bit more on my budget to fill that gap in my type set.”
The host CSNS signature auction by Heritage features nearly 5,700 lots—fabulous Colonials, Early Federal rarities, key dates and territorial gold. It certainly looks to be a well balanced auction and some “bargains” may be available for some of the frequent flyers.
A handful of my NGC-certified favorites in the sale include the following:
- 1652 Noe 1-A Willow Tree Shilling NGC XF 45 The legendary Willow Tree Shilling, to me and I’m sure countless other collectors, is the Holy Grail of our country’s Early Colonial offerings. This coin is rare, decidedly original and captivating! In this instance, at least to me, it’s not what the coin will bring at auction—I am sure it will do fine—but more about the frequency of her appearances. Just last year this fabulous Willow Tree Shilling (as was the Pine Tree Shilling below) was a significant part of the Partrick Collection at the 2015 Winter FUN realizing $188,000. Prior to that this Colonial icon appeared at public auction only five times since the turn of the 20th century; with the average time off the market between sales equaling approximately 22 years.
- 1652 Reversed “N” Noe 4.5 Pine Tree Shilling NGC MS 65 This is the finest known example, just truly amazing! Coin collector, historian or otherwise, I can’t fathom how anyone would not be enamored with this mesmerizing Colonial issue. A pristine Pine Tree Shilling just doesn’t get better. Growing up in New England it was always a personal aspiration to own an example. Maybe it’s not too late. This coin appeared as part of the famed Partrick collection at FUN Jan 2015 realizing $49,350.
- 1864 Copper-Nickel Indian Cent NGC PF 64 Cameo This last year of the copper nickel Indian Head cent is not perfect but it does have tremendous eye appeal. A very well balanced Copper-Nickel Indian Cent infrequently found sporting the Cameo designation with flashy red and amber adhering to the central devices offers decidedly bold contrast over the mirrored fields. A great Civil War era coin as well!
- 1937-D Three-Legged Buffalo Nickel NGC MS 67 A great and iconic coin from the beloved Buffalo Nickel series. The overzealous die polishing by a Denver Mint employee supplied us with this captivating incongruity. This coin is at the pinnacle of the grading scale, tied for the finest known with another coin as MS 67 and is the only coin given the * (Star) designation by NGC. In my opinion, the radiant color, superb strike and overall eye appeal gives this coin bragging rights as the finest in existence. Buffalo aficionados take note the last time a coin of this caliber appeared for public sale was nearly 7 years ago!
- 1936 Oregon Trail Half Dollar NGC MS 68 A truly American design makes the Oregon Trail one of my all-time favorite US coins. Like the preceding lot, both share the same designer James Earle Fraser. In the case of the Oregon Trail the designers wife, the highly accomplished Laura Gardin Fraser, collaborated with her husband in the production of this long running commemorative series. Although it had a rather scant mintage of 10,006 pieces, this issue has to be considered just a little bit above average as far as the classic US commemorative series production goes. However, this spectacular coin shares the spotlight with only six others as MS 68 * (Star) according to the NGC Census with only a single coin achieving MS 68 status. This well struck nearly perfect example also possesses wonderful obverse toning. With the chief standing proudly over the central states, creamy icy blue and amber seem to blanket the Eastern seaboard while gold, orange and amber envelops the promise of the Pacific Northwest. Worthy of a premium bid, good luck to whoever takes this one home.
- 1944-D Jefferson Nickel NGC MS 68 6 Full Steps Certainly not a rare coin by conventional standards, here is a war nickel tied for the finest known. For the record (and Registry set aficionados) within this designation a single other MS 68 with the six full steps has been given the star moniker by NGC, yet it would be a challenge and then some to surpass this Jefferson. Satiny surfaces engulfed with gold peripheries and icy steel lavender centers, this coin is absolutely stunning. Under extreme magnification Felix Schlag’s design appears pure perfection!
Enjoy the spring season my friends, if you can’t make it to CSNS get out to a local or regional show. Bring a friend or spouse. The coin bug’s bite can be contagious! I hope to see you on the bourse.
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.