Posted by Jim Bisognani – NGC Market Report….
Rare US coins were in great demand, while many rare coins which are not fresh to the market were selling at reduced prices from their last appearances.
May 2015 has certainly been a busy and exciting month in numismatics. As I write this edition I’m waiting for the Eugene H. Gardner Collection Part III Signature Sale by Heritage to commence in New York. I have two computers up and running and will be watching anxiously as the live bidding gets underway. Certainly the market for rare and high grade NGC-certified coins has not diminished thus far in 2015. Perhaps not a surprise given that with approximately an hour and a half before live bidding gets underway the coin registering the most active bidders is the famous 1838-O Capped Bust Half Dollar. This coin graded NGC PF 64 pedigreed to the Eliasberg Collection is certainly a scintillating and rare coin, one which arguably is the finest known of the less than 10 known examples of this branch mint specimen striking. It will be interesting and enlightening to see what this coin brings in today’s market, especially when one considers she last appeared at public sale as a part of the 2014 Heritage Winter FUN Auction.
Other NGC coins registering the most pre-sale bidding activity includes an 1839 Gobrecht Silver Dollar (name omitted) NGC PF 64, an 1857 Liberty Seated Dollar graded NGC MS 66, a spectacularly toned 1880 Trade Dollar graded NGC PF 66 Cameo, a lustrous and extremely well struck and finest known 1863-S Liberty Seated Dime graded NGC MS 66, and rounding out the group is a virtually pristine, delicately rainbow toned, 1938 Walking Liberty Half graded NGC PF 68.
As I’m sitting at my desk staring at the two monitors waiting for the sale to begin, I take pause and think; it is truly amazing where technology has taken us.
We have already witnessed first-hand over the last decade or so how the coin market and the business of numismatics has changed, gearing up for the millennial collector and beyond. Digital technology is front and center at large coin firms. Who would have thought an IT person would be a mainstay in a coin company! My how things have evolved. Well my contribution was suggesting to a dealer friend that he video his inventory, highlights to be sent to prospective clients on a VHS tape no less, and this was back in 1986. Prior to affordable home computers I had envisioned a video library. Quickly scanning the coins before the camera, holding them then tilting and turning the coin allowing the prospective client to get a better idea of what the coin actually looked like, something that a mere photograph would not reveal.
While it was mandatory for us baby boomers to get out and mingle with the numismatic masses, today’s “millennial vintage” collector can work on an iPhone, tablet or laptop.
Yet the necessity of making an appearance at coin shows and national conventions in many eyes has changed already.
As Brian Hodge of Lee Minshull Rare Coins relayed to me recently, “The dynamic at coin shows is completely changing. The Internet has changed the way dealers do business to the point I believe coin shows are almost because of a creature habit.”
What the astute Hodge means is that dealers merely show up out of habit and for fear of possibly losing that “one deal” that might come around on the bourse.
“The Summer ANA is still a necessary show, as is Central States and FUN, but all others are becoming a bit too much to throw into the mix. Other dealers would have a different perception of this, of course, as much of their money is made on the road.”
Of course with so much Internet auction activity and so many coin dealers online, the electronic or virtual coin dealer has come of age.
With all the electronic gadgetry seemingly changing the way we look at and interpret the universe overnight it leads to another consideration. Unfortunately with the advent of new and disposable technology and the more minimalist attitude, many of us baby boomers are in a quandary as what to do with the family treasures and heirlooms because millennials (the heirs apparent) don’t really want the otherwise larger durable goods such as antiques, eclectic midcentury designed and inspired furniture or larger homes filled with similar stuff that had been accumulated during the boomer’s lifetime. Such a vast collection of record albums, cassettes and reel-to-reel tapes is something that (I can personally attest to this) can take up several rooms. Now a massive audio library, comparable to one at a major radio station, can be downloaded and housed on a very small portable device. While antiques, paintings and large accumulations of other collectibles will never go completely out of style, they are certainly not what the millennial has his or her eyes on emulating. Today a minimal nature, a more Spartan existence if you will, is craved by this generation.
Coins to the rescue! The portability and liquidity of coins, especially third-party-graded coins such as those by NGC are relatively safe it seems. To me coins have always been portable practical pieces of US history. While many are and can be classified as antiques they don’t get the same respect in many circles. Yet a mere handful of US coins can span our Colonial Period, the Revolution, the War of 1812, the western movement, Civil War, you get the picture. These glimpses to our past are here for us to enjoy—all series and denominations and in all grades of preservation.
When we collect a coin or series it is exciting to remember that we are indeed holding history. Generations before us, bought bread, a home, a few acres of land, perhaps provisions for a Conestoga wagon train preparing for passage on the Oregon Trail. Yes, both commoners and high society all handled coins which reside in our collections.
While it is certainly not practical to house and display a Conestoga wagon for that trip down memory lane, by purchasing an Oregon Trail Memorial Commemorative Half Dollar (1926-39) it would make noted pioneer and Oregon Trail advocate Ezra Meeker quite proud!
This past week I had a chance to talk to Nancy and Larry, a pair of baby boomers who spent a good number of years in New England but now hail from Taylors, South Carolina.
While Nancy and Larry both embrace modern technology, which was evident by their use of the high-tech gadgetry in their possession, they both have a fondness for history. Larry, a high-tech trainer and electronics aficionado, also has a great fondness for coins and collected Lincoln Cents. He relayed to me that in his youth the 1909-S VDB was the undisputed king of coins to him. Nancy, an avid genealogist, also appreciates tracing the early coinage of our country which coincides with her genealogy work. For this couple, the fine balance between technology and numismatics is readily apparent.
While I was waiting for the Gardner sale to begin I found myself discussing numismatics with the repair technician who was in my home fixing our central air system. Jason, a fine young man who served a tour in Iraq, certainly falls into the millennial category. Jason confirmed that he still has a fondness for collecting Lincoln Cents and we discussed the three blue Whitman folders that he has and still hopes to complete. So at least for the moment, coins or numismatic coins, are safe in the millennial eyes.
Luckily for our generation and generations to come, coins will be cared for and protected so that they can be enjoyed by future generations. As my friend Doug Schuessler (a longtime eBay coin dealer) stated so eloquently in one of his recent listings:
“Up for bid are 3 Proof coins from Great Britain dated 1937— Farthing, Half Penny, and Penny. These coins show no sign of circulation, but they have toned over the years. These coins were minted two years before my birth and have held up much better than their owner. I’m sure they’ll still be around long after I am only a memory.”
How true my friend… I was one of the under bidders.
Now back to the sale! Once again spectacularly toned rare US coins are courting great demand, while many rare coins which are not fresh to the market were selling at reduced prices from their last appearances. In total, the Gardner Collection III claimed a solid $13.8 million. According to Mark Feld, Senior Numismatist at Heritage:
“The sale was a no reserve event and all 604 lots sold resulting in 100% sell through rate. Average price per lot sold was in excess of $23,000 and 18 lots claimed in excess of $23,000 and 18 lots claimed in excess of $100K. Overall (in my humble opinion) market demand is still targeting quality high-grade coins albeit at more realistic levels. However, many of the higher echelon coins, most pedigreed, to Eliasberg, Green, and The Newman II sale sold for as much as 30% below prices realized the last time they appeared. There is definitely strength in the market but even rare coins with impeccable pedigrees really can’t be considered fresh having only been off the market for such a short time.”
Certainly for the most part the coins in question have to be thought of as generating realistic levels at this point in time. This is not to say that these coins were not good and sometimes great bargains for lucky purchasers previously. If they’re going to private collections, my advice to those fortunate individuals this time around is to enjoy them and let them sit for a while.
Well-known dealer Dave Wnuck opined, “Quite honestly the market is weaker for superb coins and rarities. There has been a huge amount of these great coins coming out at auctions over the last year, and the market price levels will adjust so we can all absorb these coins.”
The following fresh NGC rarities from the Gardner III sale were some of my favorites all realizing strong prices:
- 1796 Draped Bust Dime NGC MS 66 PL $129,250 is an exquisite example of the popular first year issue. Captivating toning, breathtaking presentation and pedigreed, it established a record price for a coin in this grade designation.
- 1863-S Liberty Seated Dime NGC MS 66 $30,550
- 1802 Draped Bust Half Dollar NGC MS 60 $44,650
- 1873-CC Liberty Seated Dollar NGC MS 61 $105,750. This rare delivery from the Carson City Mint facility pedigreed to Eliasberg is one of my favorite coins. Endowed with satiny luster and very well struck for the assigned grade.
The five prestigious coins listed below, in my opinion previously brought super strong prices due to their fresh status, great pedigrees and even mild auction hysteria. This time around value received was more commensurate with where the market is, which are still at significant levels. The five coins as a group brought approximately 25% less ($1,938,750 vs $1,462,875) than they did less than two years ago at major sales.
I certainly concur with Mark Feld’s assessment in reference to the Gardner III… “If they hadn’t sold in Newman and we just heard the prices they brought this time I think most people would say wow! Those are amazing prices. Yet on a relative basis of what they brought before it doesn’t sound that good.”
- 1838-O Capped Bust Half-Dollar NGC PF 64 $646,250. This graded iconic coin pedigreed to Eliasberg appeared most recently in the 2014 Heritage Winter FUN sale where she realized $763,750.
- 1841 Liberty Seated Dime NGC PF 67 $205,625. This is the finest of two known examples and last appeared as a part of the Eric P. Newman Collection on 11/16/13 when the coin realized $305,500.
- 1828 25/50 Capped Bust Quarter NGC MS 68 $282,000. A stunning coin with outstanding eye appeal and pedigreed to the Eric P. Newman Collection II on 11/16/13 when she captured $352,500.
- 1840-O No Drapery Liberty Seated Quarter NGC MS 67 $199,750. A simply outstanding coin and the finest known realized $329,000 at the Newman sale in November 2013.
- 1861 Liberty Seated Quarter NGC PF 68 Cameo $129,250. This is the finest known 1861 Proof issue that realized $188,000 as part of the Newman sale in 2013.
Still only at the midpoint of the merry month of May, there’s still a lot of excitement on the horizon!
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.