By Jim Bisognani for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation….
20th century type targeted by collectors; Indian Cents and Buffalo Nickels on the move; Wholesale trading brisk
I really don’t know if some unknown nefarious force is tinkering with Mother Nature’s time machine—I can’t believe that as we go to press, we are ready to enjoy Labor Day weekend. I mean where did the summer go? Perhaps it’s because of the brutal winter season we all endured last year that it is still frosty fresh in our minds. Although too short, we are thankful for the summer season, especially those of us in New England. Of course autumn is just around the corner. A few falling leaves of various shades of red and amber have already made their appearance on my back deck. With the school bells ringing and classes back in session a bit earlier this year (courtesy of so many unexpected snow days), this earlier academic jumpstart may afford a bit more time for the moms and dads out there to get reacquainted and enjoy the numismatic hobby.
On the heels of a very exciting ANA, the coin market appears to be quite strong. Major auction house dealers I’ve spoken to seem to have gathered a record number of consignments which the firm’s respective staffs are cataloging and preparing for future sales. As has been expected by many numismatic pundits, the wholesale market continues on an upswing as the fall season is upon us. I think all can agree that trading volume for collector coins at the right levels has been brisk.
I guess it’s a good sign when dealer-to-dealer transactions are being conducted with great vigor and intensity.
Well-known California dealer Larry Shapiro advised me that they have sold a lot of great coins in the past several months. Yet per Shapiro, collector coins, real collector coins are being targeted and at all price points. This dealer has noted a bit of resurgence in series such as Indian Head Cents, Buffalo Nickels, Mercury Dimes and Walkers as well as the ever popular mainstays, Morgan and Peace Dollars and Saint-Gaudens $20 gold pieces. “Collectors are looking for deals and there seems to be more collectors willing to take the time to put together want lists for coins to fill holes in their collections,” says Shapiro.
Currently with the never-ending smorgasbord of live and Internet-only auctions, there are bound to be some good deals lurking about for those who have done their homework. So keep an active eye on the many auction venues as well as other alternatives such as eBay. Of course the not so nice coins in virtually every series make the rounds as well. Some of these either go very cheaply compared to market levels, or don’t meet reserves. At present, there is no shortage of average certified coins in the marketplace.
Conversely, the key pieces, rare dates and truly spectacular type coins have been rallying to unheard of levels, primarily for those certified wonders which have not been seen in the marketplace for a decade or more. Generally speaking though, auction prices for quality coins have maintained solid footing when compared to overall market trends over the last few years. I am amazed at the quantity of material that has been sold and continues to be sold, all of which has been readily absorbed into the marketplace while maintaining a semblance of order and price continuity.
Accordingly, most dealers and collectors I’ve talked to have been rather happy with their recent auction purchases. Major dealers, serious collectors and “Coindexters” everywhere will have an opportunity to participate in three major sales this September. Starting off are the pre-Long Beach sales by the Goldberg’s from September 13-16, followed up by the host Long Beach Expo Heritage Signature sales September 17-22, and topped off by the second installment of the Pogue Collection in NYC on September 30.
Certainly as the metals markets flounder—not really seeming to establish any momentum and gain much traction—it’s really a boon in my opinion for the average collectors to get started in either US gold type coins or the ever popular Morgan or Peace dollar series. A quick data check confirms that silver is trading 65% lower and gold 40% lower than it was a mere four early autumns ago in 2011 when the sky seemed to be the limit. Of course those collectors anxious to preserve wealth as well as establish a good collecting base would have been much wiser to purchase true collector coins, those which have numismatic value. As with any portfolio, a numismatic one should be diversified.
As I stated earlier, 20th century US type coins are in great demand and dealers are attempting to locate pools of such coins as many of the baby boomers’ traditional favorites are commanding much more attention. One such series is the Buffalo Nickel. Although sharply struck key dates have traditionally commanded premium prices, much of the series has remained somewhat stagnant at least according to auction appearances and market trends in recent years. Yet a quick look at the current NGC US Coin Price Guide will confirm a plethora of upward escalation is bucking that trend.
A few pieces for new hobbyists to consider adding to their fold include the popular first-year installment of the Buffalo Nickel, the Type I 1913 coins. This issue has always been a favorite of mine. The classic James Earle Fraser design is so well executed and fully struck. Lustrous silver/gray NGC MS 65 Gems can still be had in the $175 range, which by the way, represents a 12% increase in a little over a year. Another acquisition would be the last year of issue, the 1938-D. This is the type representative of the Type II Buffalo coin. Here, a like MS 65 NGC Gem is posting a $60 price tag, reflecting a solid 26% advance since late spring of 2014. While the acceleration may be viewed as “minor”, the series as a whole has been making noise and collectors for key dates and high grade Buffalos are definitely taking notice.
Another favorite, the Indian Head Cent series, is also surging as a cascade of green arrows dominate in the NGC US Coin Price Guide. All grade columns are flush with advances for key and type coins. For reference, a common type coin to the tribe, the 1906 Indian, finds that NGC MS 65 graded coins reflect a 16% increase for MS 65 RD, a 41% advance for MS 65 RB and a whopping 75% jump for NGC MS 65 BN in the last year.
These two series are perennial favorites of many collectors. Both series present challenges to complete, yet there are many affordable coins residing within both. Take some time to get acquainted or revisit them. As always, contenders for your personal cabinet should exhibit a strong strike, bold luster, have a pleasing overall appearance and display natural patina (SLAP). Let’s start something exciting this September!
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 frequently attends major coin shows and auctions.