By C. Logan McKechnie for the VAM View….
VAMs have always been the stepchild of the numismatic marketplace. Morgan dollars, however, are the most collected coins in the world but, it is hard to convince the generic collector that all Morgan and Peace dollars are VAMs.
This summer has brought home a staleness in the market in which—according to most observers—only high-end exam- ples of very rare die pairings are creating an interest along with an explosion in price. Also during the summer, coins that were not believed to exist have shown up in the marketplace.
The biggest sale of the summer, apparently, was an 1878-P VAM 14.19 that sold for $38,187.50 with buyer‟s fee in an August Heritage auction. The coin is graded AU58 by PCGS. Only a VAM collector could be interested in that coin at that price.
The cost of the 14.19 set a record, replacing an 1901-P VAM 3, Shifted Eagle, in PCGS AU58 which sold for $27,025 in a November 2013 Heritage auction. That coin could have gone to a non-VAM collector as it is one of several „Red Book’ VAMs that cross over into generic collections.
Volumes have been written on Morgan Dollars and to evaluate the market as it now stands is goal of this commentary. How- ever, I do want to look at the collector base and the supply and demand curve verses the potential customers trying to obtain the coins. To do that, I will examine one coin: the 1878-P VAM 85. This coin, the first new B1 reverse to be found in 45 years, took the VAM world by a storm when discovered in 2010. Two examples sold at the time for about $3600 in MS63. Since that time, how- ever, there has been no clam- bering for the coin.
The answer may be this:
—it is not on any „list.‟
—for the general collector, there are a half dozen other—very cheap—VAM examples of the B1 reverse that can be put into a collection.
—it has no visible WOW im- pact.
—no leading VAM expert has extolled the coin.
So, it comes down to the fact that desirability is subjective and difficult to quantify even for a coin like the super rare VAM 85.
However, there is a shared quality of every coin that is obtaining a unbelievable price: it is a coin that has a perceived reputation of being more desirable than other
That perception is created by the collecting community. For instance, there is a separate group of VAM collectors that are building sets of E Re- verses, or 1879-S, Reverse of 1878, or Micro Os, or 1900- O/CCs and that group can make these coins into highly desirable coins when, in fact, there are more of them avail- able than coins within other series. As a result, while not major rarities, those coins are always at the top of the marketplace.
Marketability of coins is coupled with the perceived desirability of the coin; otherwise, there is no way a circulated 1878-P Morgan dollar that is available for the generic price of $120 could be sold for more than the price of a new car.
Prices are down but prices are out of sight for rare coins. All things change. But, the VAM market is alive…and interesting.