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Healthy Prices Realized for FUN Platinum Night Auction Coins

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, markets, and coin collecting #366

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds …..
During or just prior to major coin conventions, Heritage conducts two to four U.S. coin Platinum Night events each year, each as a part of an auction extravaganza that includes additional coins and other numismatic items. On January 5, 2017, the FUN Convention Platinum Night fared well. Additionally, an analysis of the results provides clues that markets for relatively expensive, U.S. coins are healthy, and that market levels are not declining sharply.

A primary source suggests that the Platinum Night itself brought around $25 million. Heritage reports that all the coins, rare ingots and medals in this FUN auction event totaled more than $42 million.

Both the sum for the Platinum Night alone and the overall total were substantially higher when the January FUN Show was last held in Fort Lauderdale 12 years ago. It is true, though, that an amazing set of gem-quality Barber coins and two Brasher Doubloons–along with one of the all-time greatest old type sets–were sold in the Platinum Night event of Jan. 12, 2005, which was a landmark auction.

Regarding the Platinum Night last Thursday (Jan. 5, 2017), results for a selection of coins are discussed herein. Two strong prices for famous rarities are especially newsworthy.

The Eliasberg Collection 1802 half dime is PCGS-graded as AU-53 and is CAC approved. As 1802 half dimes are harder to grade than most other issues of pre-1840 half dimes, and the grade assignments for these have changed considerably, prospective buyers tend to rely less on certified grades and weigh other factors heavily. The $329,000 price for this coin is clearly strong.

The published estimates on numismedia.com of $393,750 “retail” and $315,000 “wholesale” are too high, and probably date from a time before coin markets trended downward in the middle of 2015. These particular numismedia.com estimates were accurate in the near past.

Only on two occasions have 1802 half dimes sold in public sales for more than $329,000, in March 2008 and in June 2014. During the first half of 2008 and during the first half of 2014, respective market levels were much higher than they are now.

Private sales of 1802 half dimes for more than $329,000 have occurred, but perhaps not since coin markets began trending slightly downward in August 2015. This $329,000 result is a retail price, which is unsurprising as this is an especially famous representative of a famous rarity that many collectors wish to own.

Louis Eliasberg formed THE all-time best collection of classic U.S. coins. The Norweb family formed one of the dozen all-time best.

The Farouk-Norweb Collection 1884 trade dollar sold for $423,000, indisputably a retail-level price. As I then reported, the Baldenhofer-French 1885 was auctioned in January 2014 for $998,750, an unusually strong price. The Baldenhofer-French piece, however, is clearly the third-finest known, unless the Brand-Simons 1884 is of higher quality.

This Farouk-Norweb 1884 is number seven in the wonderfully detailed roster compiled by cataloguers at Heritage, who acknowledge “the help of numismatic researchers Wayne Burt, Scott Rubin, and Saul Teichman.” For decades, Saul has devoted countless hours to investigating the pedigrees of U.S. coins and patterns.

This Farouk-Norweb 1884 trade dollar is currently PCGS-certified as “Proof-63”. While it is unclear as to whether this piece is the seventh or the eighth finest of 10 known, the Farouk-Norweb 1884 is clearly inferior to the sixth-finest known. The Farouk-Norweb 1884 is very likely to be of higher quality than the Sprinkle and Olsen-Ewalt-Worrell 1884 trade dollars, though I cannot find my notes about those.

Although the $423,000 realization for the Farouk-Norweb 1884 was strong, this auction result was not startling. An even more newsworthy result was $94,000 for an 1882 trade dollar, which is not a rarity. More than 625 survive, far more than 10 extant 1884 trade dollars.

This 1882 trade dollar came from the same consignment as the just mentioned Farouk-Norweb 1884 trade dollar. It is PCGS-certified as ‘Proof-68 Cameo’ and has a CAC sticker. This coin is the only 1882 trade dollar, regardless of designation, that has been graded 68 by PCGS, and thus it is a so-called ‘top pop’ coin. The addition of this coin to a PCGS registry set of Proof trade dollars could contribute to a notably increased score.

The Strength of Prices

Is a $94,000 result for an 1882 trade dollar strong? In dozens of auction reviews (possibly more than 100) dating back to the early 1990s, I have consistently employed the term ‘strong’ to refer to retail prices. Others have used this same term to refer to increases in market levels. Market levels for rare (or at least scarce) classic (pre-1934) U.S. coins are not increasing.

The use of the term strong in my auction reviews does not imply that there were increases in the market levels of the coins that brought strong prices. Indeed, it is not unusual for a coin to realize a strong price at auction when its corresponding market level is remaining the same or decreasing.

If dealers are willing to pay from $15,000 to $18,500 to inventory a coin, and a collector buys that same coin at auction for $23,500, then those dealers will, in most case, still be unwilling to pay more than $18,500 for it. In such a case $23,500 is a strong price, $19,000 is a moderate price, and $15,000 would be a weak price. Of course, a hypothetical example to illustrate a point may be a little simplistic.

While no one can perfectly estimate market values of rare coins that appear at auction, people who understand coin markets, know much about coin grading, carefully view coins and devote hours to analyzing auction data can estimate market levels with a degree of accuracy. To know whether market levels are increasing, there is a need to analyze data in multiple auctions within a short period of time and to gather pertinent data from other sources, including private ones.

After 2008, the market peak occurred circa July 2015, though prices in some series peaked at various points during 2014. Generics, like common Morgan dollars and 1924 double eagles, constitute a different topic and are not relevant to a Platinum Night event.

Even if market levels remain the same, each auction has its own story. Not just in terms of the offerings, but in regard to the the nature of collector and dealer participation. Successful auctions are fascinating because there is so much competition among wholesale dealers, retail dealers, collectors, investors and professionals acting as agents for others. All major coin auctions are characterized by weak (wholesale), moderate (in a wholesale to retail gray area) and retail prices. The fact that auction prices for rare coins and condition rarities are unpredictable adds to the excitement and intrigue.

The coins mentioned here are intended to illustrate the kinds of coins in the auction and bidding phenomena. By themselves, neither auction results nor specific coins prove any points. In this case, I am breaking tradition by limiting my selections to auction lots, for which I do not know the identities of the consignors, buyers, or serious underbidders.

In most of my other auction reviews, I discussed at least a couple coins that were consigned by or avidly sought by people I know. This meant that I took into account interpretations of coins auctioned by people who owned them or seriously pursued them. I was aware of their motivations, feelings about coins, and grading skills. In this discussion, I will forego such additional inputs.

Klamath 1792 Half Disme Pattern

People interested in 1792 half disme patterns may wish to read a two-part series of articles. The first part was about origins and meanings; the second part related to the two highest certified pieces.

The GNA-Klamath 1792 was auctioned in this Platinum Night event. In May 1987, it sold in a Georgia Numismatic Association (GNA) sale.

In January 2014, Heritage auctioned this same 1792 half disme for $528,750 as part of the “Klamath Mountain Collection”. It was then PCGS-graded as MS-65 and did not have a CAC sticker. It has since been upgraded by PCGS to MS-66 and realized less–$493,500–in January 2017 than it did in January 2014 ($528,750).

It is understandable that some people believe that the current $493,500 result is a weak price, though this is not so. The $528,750 result in January 2014 was moderate, and the $493,500 result three years later is stronger. Although the current result is 6.67% less than the result in January 2014, prices for 1792 half dismes have fallen by more than that, perhaps by 20%.

Whether PCGS-graded as MS-65 or MS-66, this is the same 1792 half disme. Although I did not see it in 2014, my tentative impression is that it was not modified between 2014 and 2017.

The place of the GNA-Klamath piece in the condition ranking of 1792 half dismes is ambiguous. The PCGS-graded MS-66 1792 half disme that Stack’s-Bowers auctioned for $793,125 in August 2013 is better than this piece, in my view, and has a more illustrious pedigree, including Dr. Judd and Jimmy Hayes as past owners.

Proof 1867 Shield Nickel

The Proof 1867 ‘With Rays’ nickel has received a great deal of attention, as it is a classic rarity. It is not often remembered that the 1867 ‘No Rays’ nickel is the rarest ‘No Rays’ Shield nickel in Proof format.

The Proof 1867 ‘No Rays’ nickel in this auction is PCGS-certified as ‘Proof-66+ Deep Cameo’ and has a sticker of approval from CAC. This is an exceptionally pleasing Proof nickel. It has just been lightly dipped – in contrast to many Proof nickels that have been dipped extensively or many times. The whole coin is really cool.

Even if it were argued that plus grades and stickers are not as significant for nickels as these are for gold coins, the $16,450 auction result requires an extensive explanation. Someone who has been glancing at auction records and price guides over the past 10 years might conclude that this $16,450 result is a below-wholesale price now or is indicative of a steep decline in demand for such a “66+ Deep Cameo” 1867 ‘No Rays’ nickel. Neither conclusion is true.

Additionally, someone doing superficial research might develop an impression that a Proof 1867 ‘No Rays’ PCGS-certified ‘66+ Deep Cameo’ specimen with a CAC sticker would have sold at auction in 2012 for $38,500 to $50,000. In 2013, both Stack’s-Bowers and Heritage, in different months, auctioned a PCGS-certified Proof-66 Deep Cameo 1867 ‘No Rays’ nickel with a CAC sticker. Each time, the price realized was $35,250.

Each $35,250 result was literally for the same exact coin, which was auctioned in June and again in November 2013. Moreover, it was then the only 1867 ‘No Rays’ nickel that was PCGS-certified as ‘Proof-66 Deep Cameo’ and zero had then been certified as ‘66+ Deep Cameo.’ Now, the PCGS population report indicates three 1867 ‘No Rays’ nickels as ‘66 Deep Cameo’ and one as ‘66+ Deep Cameo’, the coin that sold last week, which is different from the piece that both Stack’s-Bowers and HA auctioned in 2013. There probably never were any PCGS-certified ‘67 Deep Cameo’ 1867 ‘No Rays’ nickels.

Grade inflation, not a decline in demand, provides the impression to some people that there is much less demand now for “Proof-66 (and 66+) Deep Cameo” 1867 ‘No Rays’ nickels. Demand has decreased, though not by much; instead, supply has increased. Usually, even if demand remains the same, an increase in supply will result in lower market levels.

In regard to ‘66 and 66+ Deep Cameo’ 1867 ‘No Rays’, some market participants were demanding the holders, with incomplete consideration for the coins inside. In my opinion, if a coin is upgraded from 65 to 66, it remains the same coin. Unless it has been modified in the interim, in which case it usually becomes a worse coin rather than one that merits an upgrade.

So, while an 1867 ‘No Rays’ nickel that is PCGS-certified as ‘66+ Deep Cameo’ would seem to have been worth $38,500 to $50,000 in the middle of 2013, this was not so, because none were then so certified. A major increase in the supply of certified ‘66 Deep Cameo’ coins and the emergence of the first 1867 ‘No Rays’ nickel to be PCGS-certified as ‘66+ Deep Cameo’ lead to a steep reduction in the market value of any one of these.

1807 Dime

A PCGS-graded MS-64 1807 dime brought $12,925, a moderate result. Although it does not have a CAC sticker and may never have one, I hypothesize that most pertinent dealers would probably grade this coin as MS-64, even if it weren’t certified. This 1807 dime clearly does not have the eye appeal of a gem-quality coin. It lacks energy or color.

This 1807 dime is considerably white and has naturally tinted gray after a past medium-dipping. Importantly, there are hardly any contact marks and hairlines.

Its technical score is far above the respective technical scores of many certified MS-63 bust dimes. An MS-63 bust dime is apt to have readily noticeable contact marks and/or hairlines. Perhaps there is no way to precisely explain why an MS-63 or an MS-65 grade would not seem appropriate for this coin.

Like this one, a few other PCGS-graded MS-64 1807 dimes have been subjected to a medium-dipping, have naturally re-toned somewhat, and have almost zero contact marks visible under five-times magnification. Also, it is believed that all surviving 1807 dimes were struck from the same pair of dies.

Heritage auctioned PCGS-graded MS-64 1807 dimes for $13,800 in 2005, $14,950 in 2006, and $14,950 again in 2007. Market levels then were higher for silver type coins than they are currently. The coin auctioned in 2006 for $14,950 is mostly white, perhaps very similar the coin that just sold. Additionally, a certified “MS-64” 1807 dime in an old NGC holder was auctioned in January 2012 for $13,800.

Gold Coins

It is noteworthy that an 1856-O $2.50 quarter eagle gold coin brought a strong price, as there has not been fervent interest in New Orleans Mint gold since coin markets slowed down in the middle of 2015. Moreover, it should be unsurprising that this particular coin brought a strong price in this auction. This is one of the top three representatives of a rare date, possibly the finest known.

This 1856-O is PCGS-graded as MS-62 and CAC-approved. It is much more original than most 1856-O quarter eagles and it has great color. The $35,250 result is a retail price. Pertinent dealers would pay from $20,000 to $30,000 to inventory this coin in the current market climate.

The 1856-S Three Dollar Gold piece in this auction brought a moderate to strong price, $19,975. This 1856-S is PCGS-graded as “MS-62+”.

A wholesale range would be from $14,000 to $18,000 or so. Pricing coins with plus grade certifications is a little more difficult.

For gold coins, there are two main routes to a 62 grade. A strictly uncirculated coin that scores low in the technical category, usually with many serious and annoying hairlines, may fairly grade 62. An attractive and technically impressive coin with the eye appeal of a higher grade, but some readily noticeable friction on the highpoints, may also grade 62 or 62+. Graders at PCGS and NGC tend to be much more liberal in terms of assigning 62 grades to coins with noticeable friction than graders at CAC.

This 1856-S Three is certainly attractive and has some noticeable friction. The relative lack of contact marks probably contributed to the plus grade.

The importance of an 1856-S Three notwithstanding, 1795 half eagles ($5 gold coins) are much more popular. As the first year of half eagles and the first year of U.S. gold coins of any denomination, 1795 half eagles are historically important. It is also very important to collectors that 1795 half eagles are the least scarce representatives of the Bust Right, ‘Small Eagle’ design type.

Although it does not have a CAC sticker, my guess is that most relevant wholesalers would probably grade it as AU-58. It has little wear and is bright. This 1795 half eagle is the kind of coin that telemarketers could easily promote with a good chance of ‘making a sale’. For additional reasons, it is a coin that could be wholesaled easily. Long-time collectors demand it, too.

Indeed, the $70,500 result is unquestionably a retail-level price. It is strong, yet market values for 1795 half eagles are not rising.

In regard to “AU-58” 1795 half eagles, numismedia.com values are fairly accurate and educational. The current Numismedia.com retail price value is “$68,440”, while the Numismedia.com wholesale price estimate is “$54,750”.

Willow Tree Shilling

A Willow Tree Shilling that is strictly uncirculated and exhibits pleasing natural toning is extremely important. As I explained in 2014, ‘NE’ type Massachusetts Silver coins were produced for a short time, starting in 1652. These were soon replaced by coins of the Willow Tree type, which were probably struck until at least 1658, possibly until 1662. All Willow Tree coins are dated 1652 for political reasons, which are discussed in my article on ‘NE’ coinage, and various other aspects are addressed in my article on Willow Tree coinage.

This NGC-graded MS-62 and CAC-approved Willow Tree Shilling does not have any notable contact marks or hairlines. Furthermore, there is no readily apparent evidence of a significant cleaning or dipping. This coin is characterized by pleasing brown-russet and green tones. It is, however, one of the most poorly made American colonial coins that I have ever seen.

It is mis-shapen and much of the design detail was never there, even a moment after it was struck. I clearly remember seeing this coin in the past. In March 2015, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned the Kendall Collection. In 2015, this coin brought $164,500, and last week, this coin went for $170,375. Earlier, this Willow Tree Shilling was auctioned in 1907 as part of the epic collection of Matthew Stickney.

Although this coin is uncirculated, a PCGS-graded “AU-55“ Willow Tree Shilling from the same Kendall Collection brought more than twice as much ($381,875) as this “MS-62” grade coin in March 2015 ($164,500). To understand the market value of a coin, and its underlying quality, it is important to think beyond the certified grades and estimates in price guides. There are a multiplicity of factors that relate to quality and value.

© 2017 Greg Reynolds

Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds has carefully examined a majority of the greatest U.S. coins and most of the finest classic U.S. type coins. He personally attended sales of the Eliasberg, Pittman, Newman, and Gardner Collections, among other landmark events. Greg has also covered major auctions of world coins, including the sale of the Millennia Collection. In addition to more than four hundred analytical columns for CoinWeek and at least 50 articles for CoinLink, Reynolds has contributed hundreds of articles to Numismatic News newspaper and related publications. Greg is also a multi-year winner of the ‘Best All-Around Portfolio’ award from the NLG, as well as awards for individual articles, a series of articles on the Eric Newman Collection, and for best column published on a web site.

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