By Jim Bisognani – Numismatic Guaranty Corporation …..
Anaheim Auctions Stake Claim To Over $46 Million
Another ANA World’s Fair of Money is history; this one a significant milestone as the ANA is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. This edition held in the Golden State, the first time since Los Angeles hosted the gala in 2009. Young or old once you step on the bourse floor it is truly Numismatic Nirvana, especially for first-timers. Most of the collecting public I spoke to thought that Anaheim was one of the more pleasant locales for the ANA in years. Whereas dealers generally attend every major show because it’s their livelihood, financial considerations must be carefully calculated by the average collector and potential convention goer. Family-friendly venues, ones that you can bring your entire family to, can only help introduce the younger generation to our proud and exciting hobby. Logistics aside, it’s the greatest coin show on Earth!
A lot has changed since my first ANA, Boston 1973. Markets have become more refined. Regimented pricing data is immediately accessible. Coin imagery for those who can’t attend major shows or auctions but want to participate is extraordinarily lifelike on your PC or iPhone. The most significant evolution is the advent of independent third-party grading. The hobby, the business, has become much more secure since NGC certification became a reality nearly 30 years ago. NGC, the official grading service of the ANA, has encapsulated and graded over 24 million US coins alone. Truly astounding! In less than a generation third-party-graded material is bought and traded throughout the world and with great vigor at the just-concluded ANA in Anaheim.
Now as we approach the fall season I wanted to get a market overview and ANA impressions by those dealers on the frontlines.
A California dealer hailing from the South Bay had a very prosperous outing. According to Brian Hodge of LMRC:
“The show was a great success for us. Dealer sentiment is often mixed in the present market, but we would note that the “make-or-break” status of all coin shows right now is up to a dealer’s efforts. Coins no longer simply appear over the table wrapped up in a pretty red bow. The best coins are hard to find and dealer relationships are of mammoth importance in obtaining first-shot at them.”
In Hodges’ estimation the sales seemed steady to strong, and dealer inventories seemed light overall, understandably so. Accordingly he bought anything that represented a good value, and really targeted more esoteric market sectors such as patterns:
“Coins with big auction records are increasingly difficult to sell, so we’ve made a large transition to buying most of our coins from dealers and clients than through the auction environment. We are excited about the opportunity within the marketplace; we’re just hoping it can translate to a new generation of buyer.”
Native to the Golden State, Ian Russell and his GreatCollections home base in Irvine was but a short drive, even by Southern California standards to the Convention.
Per Ian, “We were very busy showing upcoming auction highlights and accepting consignments.”
While enjoying a good show Russell observed that foot-traffic appeared to be down a bit compared to previous ANAs. As for the location, Ian thought Anaheim would be a great location for a regular show, but as a one-off (like with any city), it’s difficult to gain momentum.
“Those who brought their families enjoyed Disneyland, the perfect weather, good food, etc.”
According to well-known Dealer Dave Wnuck, “The show was decent, but far from the blockbuster that some past ANAs have been for me. Activity was moderate. There was demand and I sold several five figure coins as well as lower priced coins.” As for Dave’s take on the auction scene, “The fresh collections in both the Stack’s Bowers sale and the Heritage sale did extremely well, while ordinary and optimistically graded coins in both sales continued to languish.”
Wnuck also touched on the recent surging metals sector, “Gold and silver bullion prices are very strong right now, but that has yet to make much of an impact on the collector coin market but it should very soon.”
The always amicable John Brush, President of David Lawrence Rare Coins, mildly bucked the trend of many east coast naysayers. “We actually had a fantastic ANA and I’ve been somewhat surprised with the feedback I’ve heard from others. The buying opportunities at the show were plentiful, but we also thought that the traffic was quite active at the show and they were willing buyers.”
Brush also had another perhaps more reflective observation about the venue:
“One thing to mention is that wholesale transactions were a bit lagging at this show. It was the first time that we attended a major show and felt that retail traffic was more active than the other dealers. I tend to think that it’s a result of the layouts and length of the ANA shows as this is a trend, but it’s one that we’re okay with overall.”
As for the low point of the show, “Definitely the length of the PNG Pre-Show, but the first day of it was fantastic for us… it was just too long overall. Nine days of coin show is exhausting and by the end, we were rather dragging through the aisles.”
I guess that there can be just too much of a good thing! Yet as far as I am concerned it is truly an extended numismatic holiday!
A fixture at the ANA shows, our hobbies illustrious and legendary icon Dave Bowers offered up his Anaheim assessment:
“This year’s convention was very enjoyable for me! While the Stack’s Bowers staff was busy with lot viewing and conducting auction sessions, I was mainly occupied with people. Our bourse table was opposite the entrance to the show. There was hardly a moment that I and others were not busy meeting and greeting people after they came in. The atmosphere was upbeat. Lots of nice comments about Stack’s Bowers and not a single negative. Remarkable!”
“Beyond that, Whitman Publishing had An Hour with Ken and Dave on Thursday with a reprise on Friday. The Thursday or first event was super crowded, with dozens of people on hand! I kept busy signing books and chatting about various things. It is worth noting that Whitman book sales are on an uptick this year—great for the entire hobby. Hundreds of thousands of copies of A Guide Book of United States Coins are sold each year. The 1,500+ page deluxe Guide Book, nicknamed Mega Red, has sold into five figures, surprising and delighting everyone.”
Dave also gave two Money Talks programs, one with Susan Trask on tokens (which drew the largest attendance, by far, of the couple dozen or so such programs, according to Susan McMillan, who orchestrated them) and the other on the 1891 to 2016 history of the American Numismatic Association.
As is usually the case at the ANA, or any show he attends, Dave is always trapped in the most affectionate way by his admirers. While busy greeting collectors and attending seminars it left him with little time to wander and explore the Anaheim bourse for his own enjoyment:
“I usually spend time going around to see what I can find in the way of items of interest. This year I had no time to do this, which I regret. On the other hand, it was great to have a show that was, for me, so busy and so dynamic. Our auction team was even busier and the results were good. I placed a bid on Lot 3001 and won it at $18,000–Louis E. Eliasberg’s specimen of the 1652 Pine Tree Shilling, variety Noe-1. He once told me that of all of the coins in his collection this was his very favorite. Now that I have it, it will be a great memento of my experience with the only person who has ever formed a complete collection of United States coins; a fine friend in addition.”
1652 Pine Tree Shilling Lg Planchet Noe-1 Pellets at Trunk NGC MS 62 $21,150 (with Buyer’s premium*)
Just a tremendous example of one of the most popular of our Colonial issues. I am sure Eliasberg would be proud. What better custodian to care for one of your favorite coins than to have it residing in Dave Bower’s collection!
Another eye appealing mid-priced rarity from the Stack’s Bowers ANA sale, which is at $20 million and counting as we go to press:
1870 Liberty Seated Dollar NGC PF 64 $18,800
Housed in an older style NGC holder this dynamic specimen boasts scintillating white centers with just the right touch of gold and russet peripheries. A striking cameo finish makes a bold visual statement although missing in the description on the older holder. From a rather high proof mintage for the period, of 1,000 approximately 20% of that output (204) in all grade designations reside in the NGC Census. According to the NGC Price Guide even if designated as Proof 64 Cameo the price realized is nearly two-and-a-half times the current valuation. A truly superb type coin.
The Heritage ANA US Signature auction catapulted to $27 million. Well-known Mark Feld, Senior Heritage Numismatist, took time away from his busy schedule to share his observations:
“Overall, I would describe the market and the auction as mixed. Pretty much the way things have been the past year or two. There always seems to be some standout coins that fetch moon money, while other ho-hum examples, not surprisingly, bring so-so prices. There was a marvelous old-time collection primarily of bust quarters and half dollars in our August ANA sale and overall, the coins brought very strong prices, as were well deserved!”
Mark then selected a few highlight coins from the just concluded ANA sale with his assessment and commentary.
“A couple of them had sold previously in our January 2015 FUN sale. As a result, I think they can serve as at least isolated indicators of the current market relative to prices from last January 2015.”
Price realized of $517,000 vs. $564,000 January 2015 FUN sale—roughly an 8% drop in price.
A wonderful, incredibly fresh coin, which had been tucked away for decades and only recently certified. Price realized $346,625
An incredibly rare Specimen example due to its remarkable appearance and attributes at $176,250
Another special coin from last year’s FUN sale, this one at $117,500, brought several thousand dollars more than it did previously (Heritage 1/2015 Lot 5524 Realized $111,625).
In my humble opinion Mark selected a great American quartet of coins. A superlative Colonial issue one which makes me drool each time I view the phenomenal Oak Tree Shilling. The 1792 Birch Cent, an example of our earliest Federal coinage. Then perhaps the most beautiful and rare gold coin Saint-Gaudens 1907 RR $10 Indian topped off by an ultra-rare Mile High City 1907-D $20 Liberty Specimen striking minted in the last year of the iconic double eagle’s design.
Another American beauty also bearing a superlative design which caught my eye was the 1918/7-S Standing Liberty Quarter NGC MS 67, which captured $105,750. Not only is this wildly popular coin the rarest standing liberty quarter it is also one of the most easy to recognize over-dates on US coinage. This is why it is somewhat of a mystery that the variety “wasn’t spotted” by collectors for nearly 20 years after its entry into circulation. Accordingly few still survive in Mint State, especially anything approaching this ultra-Gem. This coin tied for the finest known and the finest to ever appear at auction; what a prize!
This reminds me, in just three short weeks (September 8) the US Mint will release the highly anticipated Standing Liberty 2016 Commemorative Gold Quarter. Be ready for this one my friends!
Until next time, happy collecting!
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Jim Bisognani is an NGC Price Guide Analyst having previously served for many years as an analyst and writer for another major price guide. He has written extensively on US coin market trends and values.
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