By Jim Bisognani – Numismatic Guaranty Corporation ……
Reports from dealers and attendees fresh from the just-concluded 77th edition of the CSNS convention in Schaumburg, Illinois, offered up a divided consensus as to market strength and or direction.
A vest pocket dealer from the neighboring Hoosier State of Indiana proclaimed that he is a “bourse floor combatant”: “I have to be. I don’t set up at a table so in essence I am on an equal footing with most of the collectors entering the hall. My one advantage is that I have already reviewed the dealer floor plan for this show and know exactly where to make a beeline to first.”
After more than 15 years the Indiana dealer still loves the interaction with both collector and dealer. “I like roaming the floor. If I had a table I would get a bit bored. I like to get out and make my own action. I don’t want to miss anything if I can help it.”
Well-known dealer and numismatic authority Dave Wnuck shared the following, “First the good: Activity from both collectors and dealers was steady, possibly helped by the psychological boost that coin buyers always get from rising gold and silver prices. Nothing crazy, but lots of business was being done at the current levels. For me personally, business was average except for two six-figure and three mid-five figure rarities I purchased with specific customers in mind. Finding those coins made the show for me.”
Now for the less-than-good. According to Dave, “This show is simply too long. The business that was done here could easily, comfortably be accomplished in 2 days, including a 3-4 hour dealer set up.”
Ian Russell, President of Great Collections also chimed in with his sentiments and desire for a new CSNS venue. “Central States was a little slow mainly because it started a day earlier than the other shows. So we did a similar amount of business, but an extra day to do it. I definitely preferred the older Central States model of moving from city to city in the Midwest like St. Louis, Milwaukee, Indianapolis and so forth.”
According to Russell, his firm’s mainstay—Internet auctions—have been solid. “Our auctions have been very strong. The market has been helped by precious metal prices increasing, but I also feel there were a lot of people on the sidelines last year that are now starting to buy rare/classic coins.”
A well-known East Coast dealer said he was pleased with the bellwether Midwest show. I was told that after the dealer made the rounds and viewed Heritage auction lots, he was met with a steady stream of avid CSNS veteran collectors which equated to some good sales. Many were targeting more expensive coins in the upper four-figure range primarily MS 64 19th century type coins, mostly Liberty seated Dollars and Proof coins. Collectors were clamoring for Cameos grading PF 64 and up.
Conversely, one well-known Florida dealer advised me that he didn’t attend Central States. Instead he decided to consign some better coins to a dealer friend who was in attendance. Unfortunately this action resulted in only one sale for the Sunshine State dealer. “I knew I should have gone.”
The recent escalation in the metals sector was also a hot topic of discussion for many collectors on the bourse. At these current levels it seems there are more interested buyers than sellers reported a major market maker. This is especially true with silver-bullion-related items. According to this market pundit, “I don’t believe I will see many collectors wanting to sell to me at these levels. The next major point that I would anticipate any sell off is if silver can stay on course and rollover the $20 plateau.”
Another hot topic was the just-released 2016 Gold Mercury Dime Centennial issue that all but sold out within the first few hours on April 21. I was lucky enough to get my order in for four at high noon on the Mint’s website and received the order on April 28. I have been so busy that I haven’t had time to tear open the box and examine the coins firsthand!
For most dealers these 2016 Golden Mercury Dime tribute coins have been amazing sellers. Issued at $205 per coin I have observed NGC MS 70 coins designated “First Day of Issue” selling for as much as $600! Sealed and unopened coins are still routinely bringing in the $275-$300 price range.
According to well-known California dealer Ian Russell, “The gold Mercury dimes have been a good seller and the grading percentages were high (the percentage of coins that grade 70).” While this dealer has been enthusiastic about the coin and sales generated, a well-known numismatist and dealer had a different take on the golden revival. “After taking my first look at the 2016 gold Mercury “dime”, I was completely underwhelmed. The coin is so lacking in detail (compared to the original Mercury dime) that it was a parody of itself. I hope the Mint learns from its mistake here and the ensuing 100th anniversary coins will have detail closer to the original designs that they are supposed to be copying.”
Undoubtedly something for the purists within our vast collecting community to think about. I certainly hope that the upcoming Standing Liberty quarter and Walking Liberty half dollar tributes are faithfully executed representatives of their respective original series.
As for the host Heritage CSNS Signature Auction, over 5,600 lots powered to over $22.7 million. According to Mark Feld, Heritage Senior Numismatist, “Although there were instances of weakness and strength, overall, the auction results were what we expected. I spoke with a colleague who was at the show and our lot viewing and his impression was that there was increased participation on the part of collectors. I look upon that as a favorable development and it might bode well for the future of the market.”
All told, 18 different coins brought six figures, with two different varieties of 1792 Dismes bringing top honors. Feld went on to add, “There appeared to be considerable interest in Colonials, rarities and, as always, coins of exceptional quality and/or eye-appeal. The market looks to have stabilized from the overall softening we witnessed during much of last year. And with most of the recent uncommonly high value collections that came to market having been dispersed, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see some noticeable strengthening in prices.”
The market may be rebounding as a blend of new or “fresh” material manages to come to market along with some not so fresh auction staples.
For the record the previous three Heritage CSNS auctions realized on average $44.8 million and each featured nearly triple the amount of coins that claimed over $100K.
Math in numismatics is certainly reflective in many of the prices realized. The lack of fresh material to auction and supplies of truly rare collector coins has been drying up rapidly. This is why so many of the certified coins in the mid-four figure range and under have been targeted quite heavily by both avid collector and dealer.
Those which I refer to as “frequent fliers” do tend to suffer a bit. Although in most instances I believe the prices realized today are solid values reflective of the current market disposition.
As an example, the 1841 Seated Liberty Quarter graded NGC PF 66 that just realized $105,802. A superb and rare coin, only four Proofs are known to exist and this NGC PF 66 from the collections of Pittman and Gardner is the finest known example by a conservative 5 points on the Sheldon scale! When this tremendous Seated Liberty rarity emerged on the market in 1997 and roared to $77,000, it hadn’t been seen for sale since the Eisenhower Administration.
It next made an appearance a little over a decade later as a featured coin in the 2008 FUN Sale, racing to $345,000 in January 2008. It has subsequently been to auction five times in the last eight years or, on average, every 1.6 years which resulted in the following results:
- $299,000 January 2009 FUN
- $207,000 August 2009 ANA
- $235,000 April 2013 CSNS
- $141,000 June 2014 Gardner Collection
- $105,802 April 2016 CSNS
For the record, the $345,000 realized in 2008 was at the so-called peak of the recent coin market. In the fall of 2008, you will recall, world markets and our own economy were on the brink of financial disaster. So in reality the $345,000 may have been inflated.
Yet with subsequent appearances, twice within the next calendar year, this coin adjusted to prevailing market conditions. The first correction in January 2009 was about 14%. Its reappearance in August of 2009 at the ANA reflected a 30.5% decline from its earlier level.
The 1841 remained off the market for nearly 4 years and guess what? The coin sold at the 2013 CSNS for $235,000–a 14% increase! The following year, when the coin was featured in the Gardner Collection (June 2014), I felt that the price realized of $141,000 was a great value. Now that the coin just sold for less than a third of it’s all time high is just a phenomenal coup in my estimation. Again, for collectors or investors the key to long-term health and return (and enjoyment) is to hold your coins for a minimum of five years or more.
Up next all numismatic eyes will be on Pogue IV and the upcoming Long Beach, Expo. Dare I say summer is almost here?
Until next time, happy collecting!
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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