By Jim Bisognani for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation….

Host Auctions Claim Nearly $50 Million; Dealers And Collectors Singing The Praises Of The Show; Rare Gold King At Auction—It’s Like A Beauty Pageant For Coins!

Another memorable ANA World’s Fair of Money show is history. This Midwest affair, the last of the ANA’s summer installments to grace the land of Lincoln for at least a few years, was punctuated by an audible melodic buzz emanating from the convention floor. From the opening bell and ribbon cutting ceremony, the “great hall” was the scene of spirited action. As one dealer aptly reported “buzz on the floor means business is booming and bucks in my till.”

The central location and great weather certainly helped the attendance. It was truly a great event on both sides of the aisles as dealer and collector gleefully boarded the numismatic juggernaut which continues to take passengers on this amazing journey.

I spotted one animated father and son duo from nearby Arlington Heights having much fun on the huge bourse floor. “Buying and selling and trading, that’s what it’s all about. I’ve been busy with my son on the convention floor all day. My 15-year-old started out with about a hundred bucks and a handful of coins which he brought in and he’s turned that to about $300 in the last four hours. I’m pretty proud of him. If he can keep this pace up maybe he can buy dad a newer car,” advised the delighted dad.

wfm2Other collectors that I’d spoken to were equally excited to be at the summer institution. “It’s undoubtedly the most important numismatic event of the year” relayed one long time collector making the trek from Indiana. “I’ve been to the show before, the last one was the ANA in Milwaukee back in 2007, and the market has definitely changed since then. Things were almost at the peak of the market at that point. It was hard for me to know what direction to go and what to buy then.” The collector went on to say that he currently feels the quest for quality is key.

“All the coins are scrutinized so much; they have to have the bells and whistles. Rarity, great looks, pedigree, it’s like a beauty pageant for coins!”

A few collectors also harkened back to last year when the release of the gold Kennedy Half Dollar was a cause for commotion, delirium and condemnation…well you all remember. Anyways, this time around much of the talk from the average collectors I chatted with was centered on the excitement surrounding the US Mint’s release of the 2015 Presidential Coin and Chronicles Set. “They’re really nice products and put together well. I got in on the Truman issue at the end of June when they went on sale, but I missed out on the Eisenhower. They were all sold out so fast,” said Toby, a self-proclaimed modern issue collector from Virginia.

Dealer Ross Baldwin, owner of National Coin Broker in Florida, relayed to me that the show was a great one for him. According to Baldwin, he sold a key $20 Saint-Gaudens coin to a collector on the first day of the show. “It was a beautiful NGC MS 64 1927-S. I just picked the coin up in a collection, this particular piece had been off the market for at least 20 years,” advised the Florida dealer.

The coin was certainly a lovely example. Bold, satiny luster, which is typical for this issue, engulfed this rare double eagle, yet the eye appeal was undeniable. Certainly a premium piece for the grade and will most certainly be a highlight for the new owner’s collection. Baldwin also went on to state that he has been doing an enormous business in Silver Eagles and is quite bullish on the white metal’s current price point and feels marked acceleration is coming not too far down the road.

Other dealers not surprisingly were singing the praises of the show too.

Well-known and respected Dave Wnuck, owner of Dave Wnuck Numismatics, LLC, relayed to me his bold assessment of the show. “This ANA was by far the busiest in my 25+ years of setting up at the ANA. Not in terms of total sales dollars (as I did no huge deals) but in terms of the sheer number of transactions. I saw many new faces, and was quite surprised at the number of young people among my new customers. These folks were quite knowledgeable and they knew what they wanted. Lots of them had done their homework on the Internet. The knowledge they gained there made them more confident and smarter buyers.”

According to Brian Hodge of LMRC, “Our show was fantastic. From the moment we got there to the moment we left, we were busy with a lot of activity. Seemed like most dealers were invigorated and ready to buy and sell. We made several large sales at the show and bought millions in new inventory.”

Hodge went on to advise that he felt the shows auction results were mixed though. “I felt that many of the Trompeter coins fell short of my expectations and it seemed like most of them sold to dealers. I don’t feel like there was a strong collector presence in any of the sales, as I won many lots well short of what I expected to pay. I was the under bidder on many more lots that I shouldn’t have been the under bidder on and should have lost out on by a mile.”

“Other coins just made no sense at all. I won one lot for under $10,000 that I fully expected to pay over $40,000 for. So, I don’t know what’s going on, if the sales are just too overwhelming, but some people are simply forgetting to bid or can’t bid on everything they want because it’s just so much information at one time. Another coin we paid $56,000 for that we had a bid in to pay $82,000 for. A coin we last sold for $92,500 just a year ago.”

It’s a little hard as a dealer to buy a coin for that cheap and then sell it for what it’s really worth with such a public display of information. The market is definitely not falling, but dealers are certainly overwhelmed by how many coins are in each sale and cash flow becomes an issue with buying every lot they want to buy.

All in all, the California dealer concurred it was a fantastic show. “We were pleased with our sales and we are invigorated by the opportunities in the months ahead.”

Florida dealer and show mainstay, Bob Green, owner of Park Avenue Numismatics opined, “This year’s ANA World’s Fair of Money was a show, within a show, within a show. The venue was so large and spread out that it seemed we were always walking somewhere to do a deal with someone!”

According to this well-known Sunshine State dealer, the show started off with brisk wholesale transactions which quickly segued to an active retail show.

“It was impossible to work the entire show, even in a week. Our focus was to sell off a large six-figure collection that had recently been purchased and by the end of the week every single coin had been sold. With two auctions running concurrently, time management was vital.”

Bob did manage to purchase a few coins out of the auction, but unfortunately not enough for the time spent reviewing the sales. “Bidding was extremely competitive and dealers looking to add inventory seemed to be outbid by collectors on the most appealing lots. All in all, this was the best ANA in recent years and the market feels more robust than ever.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see much higher price levels on rare date material in the coming year. Serious collectors should buy the key dates now, before the next bull market rally!”

As I was writing this and polling my learned associates, the Heritage ANA Signature Auction had come to its conclusion. Five live floor sessions and an Internet only stanza reeled in nearly $35 million. Perhaps not surprisingly, US gold coins were standouts. For reference, of the 21 NGC-certified lots which eclipsed $100,000, 20 of those were gold coins. The lone exception was an ultra-rare offering of a popular classic US commemorative half-dollar series in Proof! Perhaps unique, the 1937-P, D and S Boone Half Dollar set graded NGC PF 63 Matte, claimed a powerful $223,250. A pair of rare New Orleans Mint Liberty Double Eagles took top honors each claiming $340,750. Leading off was the rarely seen 1854-O $20 Liberty graded NGC AU 55. This ex: Duquesne specimen exhibited a better than average strike and displayed deep yellow gold fields. Truly a superb coin for the collector or investor at what could be considered a bargain price when compared to recent sales claiming nearly 30% more at auction. This coin followed up with an appearance by the 1856-O $20 Liberty also graded NGC AU 55. This lovely and rare coin, also Ex: Duquesne, had been off the market for a generation or two, having made her last public appearance at the ANA in 1971! Another fabulous Double Eagle for the specialist!

According to the well-known Heritage senior numismatist Mark Feld, the show was very good and the auction results were in line with the firm’s expectations. One of Feld’s favorites from the sale was as he put it, “One of the most attractive uncirculated Draped Bust Dollars I have seen,” referring to the 1799 7×6 Stars Draped Bust Dollar graded NGC MS 64 that realized $82,250. I heartily concur with Mark’s assessment. This B-14 example is the embodiment of class and beauty, tremendous eye appeal, nicely struck and boasting that colorful antique patina which cannot be replicated.

The Stack’s Bowers auction is still in progress as we go to press and according to the very busy Stack’s Bowers president Brian Kendrella, they are at $13.2 million and counting before the Internet sessions commence. A few of the NGC highlights include another New Orleans Mint Double Eagle! Leading the way for the NGC contingent was the 1853-O $20 Liberty graded NGC SP 61, which claimed $352,500. An exquisite and certainly unique coin, it deservedly realized a record price.

A few other NGC highlights include the following superlative issues.

  • 1831 Capped Bust Half Dime NGC PF 67 $61,688
  • 1910 Barber Quarter NGC PF 69 Ultra Cameo $52,875—what a jaw dropping type coin as a dealer friend put it when seeing this nearly perfect Ultra-Gem. Just a spectacular coin which defeated all odds of time by being the finest known specimen as well as perhaps the finest known example of a proof Barber Quarter. It is well worthy of this astounding record price.
  • 1807 Draped Bust Half Dollar NGC MS 66 $64,625

I was also thrilled to get a few words from the firm’s legendary numismatist Dave Bowers about the show and sale. “Marvelous show for me—nonstop activity meeting and greeting, giving multiple programs, and more. Met many old friends and made new ones. As to buying and selling, I rather imagine that dealer results varied. All the specialists (tokens, medals, obsolete paper, etc.) I spoke to had a great show, and I think the annual meetings of the various societies had RECORD attendance!”

Dave was proud to report to me that at the Numismatic Literary Guild, Stack’s Bowers Galleries won the Triple Crown and more—completely swept the field for publications—nothing like it in Numismatic Literary Guild history!

Of course there are a lot of shows on the numismatic circuit but none compares to the ANA World’s Fair of Money. It is truly a dream week for numismatists of all ages. I can’t wait for 2016 in Anaheim California!

Until next time, happy collecting!

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 frequently attends major coin shows and auctions.

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