By Jim Bisognani for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation….
Heritage Auction Powers Over $46 Million; The Queen Of Gold – 1880 Coiled Hair Stella Reels in $1.8 Million; Lighter Attendance at CSNS Has Dealers Lobbying For New Venue; Collector Craves Classic Commems.
Spring is definitely in the air! A series of delightful days with the temperature topping 60° or more has effectively soothed the bone chilling memories of that harsh and record-setting winter season.
A walk in my backyard did confirm a few stubborn and isolated brown and white crusts of snow persist, but not for long!
Everything is finally coming back to life in the neighborhood. People are leisurely walking about donning sweaters not parkas, trees are showing off their buds and the warbling’s of the robins and chickadees so melodic, has been effectively squelched by the strains of the lawnmowers engines roar.
Of course the coin brethren are ready to enjoy the rites of their numismatic spring. A hardy throng of avid coin aficionados took the cue by taking in the 76th Annual CSNS Convention. This mainstay Illinois venue has been a must on the annual show circuit for both serious collectors and world renowned national and international dealers. Running April 22-25 in Schaumburg, Illinois, most attendees and dealers reported a good show, albeit a relatively lightly attended one, which was not punctuated by that hypnotic buzz on the bourse floor. For dealers, the sparser floor traffic equated to some creative scrambling to generate business. Yet for the collectors, it was a grand opportunity; not only to fill some slots in their own collections but to explore and take advantage of other areas in the numismatic market.
Ryan, an attendee hailing from the Bluegrass State of Kentucky, is a passionate Morgan Dollar specialist and has been collecting the silver cartwheels for the past 35 years. Ryan advised me that at current levels generic and slightly better dated Morgan Dollars in the MS 63 and MS 64 category are good values. According to Ryan, he was able to pick up over two dozen NGC-certified Morgans. “I came to buy and I did and I stayed within my preshow budget as well.” A few better date Carson City coins as well as some New Orleans Mint coins were also snagged immediately by this collector. “The value is definitely here” (for MS 63–MS 64 Morgans). According to the Kentucky collector, “Many of the better dated coins, like the 1880-O skyrocket to over 20 to 25 times what a MS 64 coin is trending at! They are out there, but just plain out of reach for the average collector in MS 65. I was fortunate enough to pick up four very nice NGC MS 63 coins and was able to buy a very nice sharply struck MS 64. I paid a premium for it but it was a heck of a lot cheaper than the alternative!” Ryan went on to state that he has passion for Carson City Morgans. “I think everyone loves them. I might be a sucker at times but I just can’t pass up CC Dollars. I gravitate to the slightly better dates like the 1880 and 1881 but can’t say no to eye appealing 1882-1884 CC’s either.”
Another attendee, Joe, a self-described numismatic student and collector, advised that he feels the metals markets, specifically gold and silver, are ripe for a significant bounce up. “I feel prices have been stagnant too long, but right now silver especially seems a great buy. Everyone trades 90% bags and generic circ Morgan and Peace Dollars but there is very little numismatic future for this stuff.” Joe relayed he still feels a somewhat overlooked, yet popular series, one which affords an interesting opportunity are the early US Silver Commems (1892-1954) contingent. Joe was adamant in his discussion that the coins are just too good to remain a doormat much longer. It is very true. All of the coins in the series have low mintages yet as a series, Classic Silver Commems have been depressed for a long time. “I have watched the market and they have spurts then sputter, usually due to over promotion by telemarketers. Yet presently so many of the classics—the Oregon Trail, Texas, and Arkansas types are available for under $175 in MS 65. For me I just search for the most eye appealing examples in the under $400 range.” I concur with the gentleman’s assessment; the variety, scope, attractive designs and with the majority traditionally harboring mintages of under 10,000 or less, it bodes well for a resurgence.
Dealers of course chimed in with their take on the 76th CSNS.
Ian Russell president of Great Collections gave me his take on the goings-on in the land of Lincoln. “For our company, the show started off slow – but in the end it picked up – late Friday and all day Saturday was very busy – and we secured some very nice consignments, including world gold coins, US varieties, high end US type coins and more.”
Russell went on to state “We also displayed our highlights for last Sunday’s auction at Great Collections, which helped total sales exceed $550,000 for the day. We’re still selling off the Neal Davis collection of US coins, with a number of key date NGC-certified coins.”
Ian also subtlety lobbied for a new CSNS location. “I do miss Central States moving around to the popular coin cities of Minneapolis, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and so forth— hopefully one day it returns to this format.”
The always informative John Brush vice president of David Lawrence Rare Coins shared the following “Unfortunately the retail traffic at the Central States Show has fallen quite dramatically with its static location in Schaumburg. I believe that the Chicago area has been so played out recently with shows, that it’s time to expand the reach to attract collectors from other parts of the region that can make a trip somewhat more locally. Fortunately for us, the Internet has really leveled the playing field for many collectors, allowing them to skip coin shows that are inconvenient, but not all coin dealers have really come to terms with this.
In John’s opinion this edition of the CSNS show was really a great example of this. “The auction posted some really strong results, mostly by dealers on the expensive gold pieces, as the collection was truly fresh. Unfortunately this muted quite a bit of the buzz on the bourse floor, with the lagging attendance not helping at all.”
Dave Wnuck concurred, “The traffic from collectors was somewhat light this year as was the dealer-to-dealer trading activity. This year’s Heritage Auction once again had a huge number of lots in it, including some great fresh coins.” Wnuck also felt that auction prices were a bit off of last year’s levels overall.
Well-known Bob Green, president of Park Avenue Numismatics, advised that the CSNS convention was above average for them this year. Per Green, “We were able to buy some great coins on the bourse floor.” This helped the Florida dealer as his retail sales were a bit less than they had anticipated due to slow retail traffic at the show. “So we bought our way to quite a profitable show.”
As for his participation in the host mega Signature Auction by Heritage, “We had some expectations about the auction, however, some of the finer coins garnered substantially higher bids than we had anticipated and we ended up as under-bidders on some of the dated gold we needed for our clients collections. All in all, it bodes well for the market, but we have to keep adjusting ourselves to higher price points. Our sights are on a few coins from the upcoming D Brent Pogue Collection so I’m not too upset about losing a few lots.”
Speaking of the Heritage Central States Signature Auction, at the sales conclusion over 5,800 lots realized an impressive $46.2 million. Spectacular Early Federal issues, dazzling Proof gold rarities, key dates as well as great type coins for collectors of all budgets made this a great event.
Interestingly, by dollar total last year’s Heritage CSNS sale realized slightly higher revenue reporting in at $46.8 million. However last year’s sale featured nearly 8,500 lots! So based on a dollar average this year’s CSNS sale captured over $7,900 per lot compared to $5,500 the previous year. This equates to a significant 44% increase in total value per lot sold. At face value this bodes quite well for consignors and confirms the prevailing strength of the numismatic market. Another key indicator is that in last year’s signature sale 60 lots exceeded $100K, this year’s 72 coins eclipsed the $100K benchmark. Leading the way into the million dollar club this year was the scintillating NGC PF 67 1880 Coiled Hair Stella.
Mark Feld senior numismatist at Heritage had this to say about that exquisite coin and the auction, “The star of the sale was the NGC PF 67 1880 Coiled Hair $4 (Stella) at $1,821,250. The coin was pristine and splendid looking and it brought a price commensurate with those qualities.”
Overall, our CSNS sale results were very solid, with a sell through rate of approximately 98% in terms of both the number of lots, as well as the percentage of value. And it certainly appears as if the high grade and/or highly appealing rarities fared extremely well in the sale.
Another powerhouse and something of a surprise for Feld: “The R.8 O-109 NGC VF 25 1794 Flowing Hair Half Dollar brought a staggering $705,000. Who says coins have to be of the highest grade in order to bring big money?!”
Mark went on to say that there was enthusiastic bidding and activity from collectors and dealers alike in this wonderful sale event.
While the demand continues to be ferocious for high end rarities there also appears to have been several high priced gold “bargains” in the sale.
The finest known and rarest Gold Dollar: The 1849-C Open Wreath graded NGC MS 63 PL realized $493,500 which is nearly 30% less than when she last sold at public auction nearly 11 years ago. Certainly a special and exciting coin, one which appears to have been a great value.
The spectacular 1844 Liberty Quarter Eagle graded NGC PF 66 Cameo the finest of two known specimens pedigreed to the Pittman Collection realized $211,500. When this stunning gold coin last appeared in part one of the John J. Pittman Collection in October of 1997 she realized $440,000.
Another Gold rarity, 1843-D Liberty Half Eagle graded NGC SP 65 the Garrett-Bass claimed $282,000. This $5 gold is unique as a specimen and is also the finest known. While this Dahlonega issue is considered as a relatively common “D”, Dahlonega delivery in circ through AU of this stupendous coin is a unique prize for the new owner.
A trio of eye appealing Peace Dollars also rose to the occasion generating powerful results.
1927 Peace Dollar NGC MS 66 $25,850
1928 Peace Dollar NGC MS 65 $14,100
1934 Peace Dollar NGC MS 66 $37,600
The 1934 Peace Dollar was a truly spectacular original toned coin that thundered to nearly three times over the April NGC price guide valuation! Mark Feld also sighted this example as one which bears mention, “That exquisitely toned example brought an amazing price. The combination of quality and color/eye-appeal was, no doubt, responsible.”
With major sales of the Gardner and Pogue properties scheduled for next month, May should be very, very interesting.
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.