By Jim Bisognani for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation….
Presidential Coin & Chronicles Sets Drawing New Collectors Into The Fold; Quality And Rarity Remain King; Long Beach Heritage Sales Reel In $17 Million
From most reports, the final edition of the Long Beach Expo for 2015 was a busy and productive venue for dealers and collectors alike. Several prominent dealers I spoke with confirmed it was actually a better show for them than the summer installment.
Attending the SoCal venue was an exuberant first timer hailing from Utah, who exclaimed: “I enjoyed just being here. Clear beautiful weather greeted me, the hall was fabulous and it was fair sailing for me on the bourse floor—so many magnificent coins.
I had a chance to see the highlights of the upcoming Pogue Collection—wow!” There did seem to be a bit more spirited action emanating from the collecting public and there was an audible bit of that telling buzz on the convention floor. There was also a more concentrated effort by collectors, many on the prowl intent on picking up some key pieces and nice type material to bring home. As has been the case for several years, premium coins of most series carrying the $5K and under price tag were being heavily targeted.
There was also heightened demand for Bust Quarters and Half Dollars and locating problem-free early US copper was quite the challenge. One serious numismatist, Jerry, who made the trek to the Golden State from his native Arkansas, showed me a pair of NGC MS 63 Capped Bust Halves he just purchased: an 1827 and an 1828. “Both coins are relatively common and I have several in lesser grades, but these two are almost identical in strike, luster and the toning is very similar displaying golden brown, light blue and a smidge of sea green in the periphery. I had to buy both—they belong together.”
One young collector, Tony, from nearby Torrance, California, was at the show with his dad. The young lad showed me his proud acquisition. Ten different Mercury Dimes, which he hand-selected from a 90% junk silver pile. “I picked out the nicest ones, I got mostly XF coins and the 1942-D is nearly Uncirculated.” Certainly all in all it was a nice purchase for $15; the youngster definitely has a good eye! Tony’s dad said that he was glad that his 12-year-old son was doing something constructive with his money and not blowing it on video games or music downloads.
Another popular collectible at the show are the 2015 Presidential Coin and Chronicles sets. With the Truman and Eisenhower installments already making a stir in the market, the Kennedy Presidential Coin and Chronicles set was a hot topic. With the Kennedy scheduled to go “live” during set up day at Long Beach on September 16, many collectors and dealers on the bourse took a break in the afternoon to try and secure their sets online. Coincidentally, Toby and Molly, whom I mentioned in my previous report, were both successful each getting their sets at high noon on the 16th. Congratulations guys! These chronicle sets are definitely bringing in a new wave of collectors to our hobby.
I also caught up with well-liked Golden State native Larry Shapiro from nearby Palos Verdes, who considers Long Beach his home show. Per Larry, “We had a great show as always in Long Beach…lots of customers from years back come to the show and see us.” Per Shapiro, he started early Tuesday with auction lot viewing and wholesale buying and selling. On Wednesday, the official “set up” day, LSRC (Larry Shapiro Rare Coins) bought and sold a good number of coins wholesale and in the process filled 7 cases full of coins for their bourse corner table! “Thursday was a great retail day. We welcomed quite a few collectors on Thursday and it was our best retail day of the show. We sold a lot of better date Morgan and Peace Dollars. We even sold Proof sets ranging from $2 to over $10,000.” The dealer went on to say that he observed increased demand for US gold type and some better gold coins.
Really only a handful of dealers that I conversed with said that they just had an “okay” show. A few cited that any market apathy was primarily a result of being predisposed by the powerful auction scepter which is the Pogue Collection.
Speaking of auctions, the host Heritage Long Beach Signature Sales offered up a scintillating array of numismatic favorites, icons and some rarely encountered US and world coins and medals for collector and dealer to savor. The Heritage World Coins Signature Sale captured $5.3 million, while the US Signature Auction claimed a solid $11.6 million. Interestingly and quite telling in the current market, of the 3,814 lots in the US Signature event, 63% of the lots sold were in the popular $1K-$10K price point and 33% of the lots realized prices in the collector-friendly $101-$1K category. Amazingly, these two categories amount to 96% of the sales’ total proceeds.
While high ticket items continue to command attention and garner headlines, the majority of certified coins changing hands in this marketplace remain strategically embedded within these groups.
Several NGC standouts at the Heritage Long Beach signature sale included the following:
(1781) Medal Libertas Americana Copper Medal NGC MS 62 — $15,275
A truly classic medal of any era, this is one which should be sought out and included in most serious US coin collectors cabinets in my opinion. The Libertas Americana medal was struck at the request of our great statesman and inventor extraordinaire, Benjamin Franklin, to commemorate and chronicle the still “fresh” American victories at the Battles of Saratoga and Yorktown. Even the date July 4, 1776 is boldly engraved near the base of the obverse. It’s estimated that perhaps fewer than 150 of the copper variant of this historic medal remain in any condition for numismatists and history aficionados to obtain. If collectors need a little bit of a nudge and incentive, the Libertas Americana has the honor of being ranked number one in the 100 Greatest American Medals and Tokens volume by Katherine Jaeger and Q. David Bowers.
1838 Capped Bust Quarter NGC MS 67 — $82,250
A truly incredible piece, spectacularly preserved and toned, this stands alone as the finest known example, certainly worthy of this record price.
1939-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar NGC MS 68 — $12,925
This coin is the finest known example of this popular San Francisco delivery. The last of the 1930s accordingly soared to a record price—as reference for you Registry aficionados, this is two times the highest price paid for a MS 67 specimen. In my previous report, I waxed a bit nostalgic about 1939 as being the greatest year for Hollywood and the silver screen. Thank the numismatic gods that this coin wasn’t used for admission and refreshments at a movie palace to enjoy one of those great films!
1799 7×6 Stars B-12, BB-160 Draped Bust Dollar NGC MS 65 — $152,750
This is a truly exemplary coin. A superb Gem representative of this late die stage silver dollar which had been off the market for nearly 40 years!
1879-CC Morgan Dollar NGC MS 65 — $21,150
A simply gorgeous, flashy white, problem-free key date Morgan from the famed Carson City Mint!
1875 Liberty Half Eagle NGC PF 64 Cameo — $141,000
What a prize! To acquire an 1875 Proof US gold coin of any denomination is a fabulous coup for any collector. To me and countless others, the Half Eagle of this special year holds a place of high honor. A truly rare and coveted date as only 200 business strikes were issued by Philadelphia and only 20 Proof coins were struck for collectors the year before our country’s Centennial. It’s estimated that there are perhaps half of the original Proof mintage extant. This specimen numerically and aesthetically is one of the finest known examples for collectors to wage battle for. A true rarity in the marketplace with only three Proof coins having been made available to the public in over two decades. A superb coin for both collector or investor to hold.
1920-S $10 Indian NGC MS 62 — $70,500
This coin is a classic rarity within the popular Indian Head series. True to her rarity status, a coin within this grade designation has only appeared a handful of times over the last decade and this lovely coin achieved a record price within this grade designation!
As I peer out my office window, the leaves are falling more liberally and temperatures are also getting quite nippy. I can’t believe it is October already. Luckily there is a lot of stimulating action in the numismatic world to keep all collectors warm as 2015 winds down!
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 currently frequently attends major coin shows and auctions.