By Jim Bisognani – Numismatic Guaranty Corporation ……..
Proof Barbers Power To Record Levels; Colorful Razor Sharp Coins Hot; Collector Coins Hot Property; Metal Markets Heat Up.
The just-concluded ANA National Money Show in Dallas, Texas, was a fine opportunity for both collectors and dealers to meet, deal, trade and assess the present state of the numismatic market. While attendance was classified as moderate in the Lone Star State, a continued spurt in the metals sector was seen by several attending dealers as the catalyst in adding a newer, excited dynamic to this early March show. I certainly concur with that notion as gold spot is trading at continued accelerated levels, those not seen in nearly a year; silver too has rebounded nicely from its end of year 2015 meandering.
As a dealer friend of mine told me years ago, any movement in the metals sector, up or down, ushers in new interest and money into that market segment. It’s the non-movement—stagnation—which causes much hesitation.
Of course the same can be said as it relates to true numismatic coins. Currently, in my opinion, the market for mid-range priced desirable US coins from many series are tremendous values. While big-ticket coins, rarities, key dates and those endowed with superior eye appeal meet with little hesitation at present levels, those that I consider true collector coins priced in the $500-$1,500 range are being gobbled up on the bourse floor and at auction.
Further corroborating this sentiment was the host ANA US Coin Signature Auction by Heritage. While claiming slightly over a robust $8 million, which equated to approximately $2,870 per coin, I find that 95% of all lots sold realized under $10,000. Furthermore, there was great news for the average collector as 36% of the lots up for bid in Texas realized under $1,000! Less than 5% of the lots were coins in the $10,000+ category. The top price realized was for an early silver dollar—a well struck, antique gold-patinated NGC MS 64 1802 Narrow Date Draped Bust dollar that claimed $58,892.
Most collectors realize that there is obviously only a finite supply of coins that are classified as true rarities. However, one veteran collector from Arizona, Jake, recently told me that he has observed that many of the so called rarities seem to appear for sale too often.
According to the Arizona native, “If I had the money to chase down a Stella, Gobrecht Dollar or Proof Liberty Double Eagle, I wouldn’t rush to buy one as they always seem to be available at major sales or in dealer cases at major shows… There is no real incentive for me to buy one. If I went to a show and I didn’t see any in dealer cases or at auction, then I might be more interested in salting one away. That’s why I have carefully collected and put away coins that I could afford from a few hundred to $5,000 over the past 35 years. I’ve primarily collected every minor US series concentrating on cents to half dollars. It has been great fun picking out a handful of special coins that I know I can afford and enjoy.”
Another collector, Skip, who specializes in proof type, was thinking about his own pride and joy—Barber Quarters—and reflected on the great run from his favorite series courtesy of the Dr. John Young collection that appeared in the just-concluded Heritage ANA Signature sale.
“I have to be considered a veteran collector. I have been going to the ANA shows since the early 1970s. In 1973 I picked up my first two Barber Quarters in proof. I remember they were both beautiful cameos with great color; the blue, gold and magenta seemed to set just right on the coin. I still have the slips the coins came in; one was $380 (1893) and the other was $320 (1895). Over the years I’ve bought many multiples and at present I think I have 78 proof Barber Quarters. All of them I would classify as Proof 65-68 quality.”
Amazingly, Skip has not had any of his coins graded! When I asked him why he told me,“I know I should buy graded coins, but I’ve just enjoyed them so much. Each is in anti-tarnish tissue paper and then in a slip. I am the only one that ever handles them so I’m not concerned about mishandling or fingerprints.” Skip did go on to say that he will submit a few of the coins for slabbing. “Yeah I know I have to do it. I’ll be submitting them to NGC as I plan on passing them on to my stepson. I know that he will appreciate them and with them slabbed I don’t have to worry about my beautiful Barbers.” I, too, have a special fondness for Barber Quarters, especially those in proof. Looking at the just concluded Heritage ANA Signature sale I am compelled to share a quartet of superbly preserved Barbers with my readers.
1892 Barber Quarter NGC PF 68 $14,100. A stunning inaugural Barber! This high grade coin has to be the most visually exciting example that could exist. Immaculate surfaces engulfed in fluid copper, gold, blue purple magenta…Wow!
1896 Barber Quarter NGC PF 68 $22,325. A stunning, virtually perfect example tied for the finest known. Blazing white frost catches your eyes, yet the impassioned peripheries of gold, violet and electric blue are so exciting! An utterly stupendous coin, this proud Barber representative is housed in an older generation NGC slab and set a record price for a non-Cameo specimen, being barely eclipsed by the 1896 PR 68 NGC Cameo from the Eric P. Newman collection that garnered $23,500 in the famed November 2013 sale.
1902 Barber Quarter NGC PF 68 $21,150. Another superb proof Barber Quarter this example is numerically tied for the finest known. The eye appeal is sensational and sets it apart from its contemporaries. This coin is a Technicolor sensation. A fluid rainbow of vibrant color engulfs the majority of the obverse and the reverse is equally tantalizing with the major aspects of the eagle brilliant white. A true prize and one which thundered over two times the previous record price paid for a similarly graded coin.
1912 Barber Quarter NGC PF 68 $19,388. According to the NGC Census within this designation only a single coin grades numerically one point higher and that NGC PF 69 Barber realized $46,000 as a part of the John C. Hugon collection at the Heritage Winter FUN sale in 2005. Aesthetically I prefer the present PF 68 coin, a uniform and vibrant color palette. With ample quantities of the rarely seen sea and mint green framing the borders, it is just exquisite and apropos as this article will be posting on St. Patty’s day!
Proof Barber Quarters, especially those with dynamic color, are rare treasures for many numismatists like my friend Skip. Likewise, I have always felt the size of the Barber Quarter plays so well with the rainbow effect! Regardless, brilliant white or rainbow a quick scan of the NGC Census reports as a series there only 228 coins designated as PF 68. The most frequently encountered, the commoner if you will, is the 1895 reporting in with 19 examples as PF 68; and the rarest is the 1913 revealing only 4 in the PF 68 category.
This is a great time to get out and carefully select and salt away coins from this series in PF 65 and better. For the budget conscious PF 64 grade is the most populous on the NGC Census reporting in with 1,318 examples. Yet even here this breaks down to approximately 55 coins from each of the 24 years for collectors to vie for. According to the NGC US Coin Price Guide, PF 64 Barber Quarters all trade within the $1,200-$1,500 retail price point, so this could be an attainable and exciting series to attempt to put together.
A word of advice; carefully select coins with great eye appeal. It will take time but it can be done and it will be fun and rewarding.
In just two weeks the always-highly anticipated first installment of the Whitman Coins and Collectibles Baltimore Expo is on tap running March 31-April 3. Hallelujah! Spring is finally here; get out and enjoy the hobby at a local, regional or major venue.
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.
Proof Barber Quarters Currently Available on eBay