By Jim Bisognani for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation – with Permission
As this article posts, the Houston Money Show is underway…
As this article posts, the majority of nationally known dealers and ardent hobbyists will be canvassing the bourse of the 55th Money Show of the Southwest in Houston, Texas. The scene of what is ostensibly the last major numismatic show of 2011 is the spacious George R. Brown Convention Center. This prestigious Lone Star State venue always seems to be the scene of heightened wheeling and dealing. Most dealers are anxious to shore up their depleted inventories with fresh certified coins and other deals that may come their way as the year rapidly winds down. Amazingly, in a few weeks 2012 will usher in the market-telling FUN show, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves!
For most of the numismatic community there was just enough time to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday after wrapping up the Whitman Expo in Baltimore. The Whitman staff once again produced a top notch, worry-free event for the over 1,200 dealers present as well as the public that showed up in significant numbers from up and down the Eastern seaboard. I was informed that attendance was significantly larger than last season with Sunday nearly double that of last year. Allowed in at 10 a.m. on Thursday morning the “early birds” (who each paid $75 for the privilege) were also seen in greater numbers. I can certainly vouch for the fact that there was electricity in the air as brisk business was being conducted on both sides of the aisles on opening day.
The ongoing saga of the 25th Anniversary Silver Eagle sets was at a fever pitch as several major dealers were seen buying sealed boxes of five sets hand over fist. I observed many a hand cart stacked five feet high or taller being navigated to the rear of the hall where the USPS and FedEx booths were shipping off the convoy of Silver Eagle sets to their respective home offices. One ecstatic seller that I met up with advised me that they couldn’t believe it. Beth, hailing from New Hampshire, said she sent her package of five mint sealed 25th anniversary sets through the USPS Express service to be sold at the show when she arrived. “I couldn’t risk taking the package on the flight down for fear that the TSA would have to open the carton to inspect the contents! I wasn’t about to lose around $500 or more because the box was opened for an inspection.” It was most certainly worth the $101.23 to ship the parcel as this woman was able to get $4,250 from a dealer! “I couldn’t believe it,” advised the New Hampshire native, “I just bought them on Oct 27, my credit card was charged on 11/8 and now 10 days later I nearly tripled my money.” The Silver Eagle mania persisted through the show’s conclusion. On Sunday one young collector was seen hustling around the bourse with a single sealed box asking for $800 to any of the few dealers still on the floor. I lost sight of him as I was packing up and then caught a glimpse of the young man scurrying by without the carton so I assume the fellow got his price.
As could be expected this time of year, weather conditions were all over the place but really didn’t hinder the attendance. Although Thursday and Friday were cool and overcast, Saturday was mild and sunny and Sunday was downright warm as a sea of purple and black clad Baltimore Ravens fans made a visit to the Expo before heading off to the game for the 1:15 p.m. kick off.
From my vantage point, with precious metals generally in a modest downturn during the show, (especially the yellow metal dropping over $50) the predominantly “gold dealers” in attendance were having a slower time of it as not too many sellers were found at these lower levels. This, coupled with the fact that one of the leading precious metal market makers was not in attendance, contributed to a lack of heightened trading activity of gold bullion and similar material. Also, it was obvious that many dealers that inventoried the more generic MS 62 to MS 64 $20 Saints and Libs were attempting to hold back on inventory. Not anxious to sell at a loss, this stymied some of their usual sales.
For the majority, the show was generally upbeat and sales were actually quite brisk. This was especially true for Bust type material and half dimes through half dollars. Any clean problem-free type material in VF to MS was being gobbled up on the bourse. With an obvious visual increase in the number of manned booths, there seemed to be a broader assortment of coins to choose from on the spacious bourse. There certainly was no deficiency of buyers ready to do what it took to secure a quality type coin or key date.
The prestigious and diverse host auction by Stack’s Bowers realized an impressive $15.6 million. Per Brian Kendrella, “We were quite pleased with the results, the US portion of the sale realized $13.2 million while the World portion of the sale generated an additional $2.4 million.” The diverse and eclectic sale was a veritable feast for dealers and collectors. Several of the sales top NGC performers are listed below:
1781 Copper Libertas Americana Medal NGC MS 62 BN $16,100
1831 Classic Head Half Cent NGC PF 45 $40,250
1856 Upright 5 Large Cent, Obverse Die Cap/Reverse Brockage NGC MS 63 BN $43,125
1806/5 Draped Bust Quarter NGC MS 64 $60,375
1799 Draped Bust Dollar NGC MS 63 $37,275
1857 Three Dollar Princess NGC MS 66 $40,250
1876 Three Dollar Princess NGC PF 65 Cameo $72,450
1879 Flowing Hair Four Dollar “Stella” NGC PF 64 Cameo $146,625
1795 Draped Bust Small Eagle Half Eagle NGC MS 61 $74,750
1804 Crosslet 4 Draped Bust Eagle NGC MS 60 $66,125
1844-O Liberty Head Eagle NGC MS 63 $63,250
1910-D Indian Head Eagle NGC MS 67 $28,750
1862 Liberty Head $20 NGC AU 58 $23,000
1854 Short Arrows Kellogg & Co Gold $20 NGC MS 62 $28,750
As has been the case in the past,“wow” factor brought average prices while the coins that had the bells and whistles and were considered fresh to the market brought significantly more than market prices. As a major West Coast dealer advised, if the coins had the “right look” it was difficult to buy them. Reports on the bourse also confirm this sentiment as a well known East Coast dealer verified that he had sold his entire superb fresh rainbow-toned proof NGC coin inventory to an enthusiastic hobbyist first thing Thursday morning. “I am not talking about a slight premium here. I sold nearly $100K of NGC PF 66 to PF 67 coins, predominantly Liberty Seated and Barber type at well over market price.” Now the task for this dealer and others is to try and replace some of this numismatic eye candy.
Jim Bisognani has written extensively on US coin market trends and values and was the market analyst and writer for a major pricing guide for many years. He currently resides in Southern California and frequently attends major coin shows and auctions.