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Heritage Golden State Coin Auctions Generate $22.5 Million; Cash is King at Long Beach

By Jim BisognaniNGC Market Report ……….

Better & Rare Date Gold Still A Crowd Favorite At LB; Classic Gold Commems Get A Boost.

Jim Bisognani

The final installment of the Long Beach Expo for 2014 was a worthy expedition for those who made the trek to the Southern California venue. Several veteran collectors informed me that they were able to pick up some “good buys” on the floor. “I’m glad that I had some cash with me,” exclaimed one California collector, “Cash is king right now.” The excited numismatist, hailing from San Diego, was pleased to show me some of his bounty, which included several NGC Proof Barber quarters and half dollars graded PF 65 and PF 66. “These coins are so cheap right now, in my estimation, at least. I was able to cherry pick several dealers’ stock early and pull out some truly nice examples at 15 to 20% below some recent auction results.”

Other attendees seemed to be on the prowl for deals in the semi-numismatic area, as both gold and silver spot prices were reporting in at lower levels. This excited many potential buyers, yet it also met a bit of resistance from sellers. Although many dealers deferred commentary during the show, several well-known dealers shared their thoughts about the market and expressed mild disappointment as to the overall enthusiasm and modest cash flow on the bourse floor. According to a well-respected east coast dealer, “The Long Beach show was pretty slow for me on the sell side. A lot of my “regulars” didn’t make it to the show this time, for whatever reason. So, I did my best to make up for it on the buying side. I was able to buy a number of nice collector coins, and I will be able to offer them quite reasonably on my website. So, overall, I’m very glad I went.”

debt_cash_cartCertainly the tens of millions of dollars worth of coins auctioned off at the ANA auctions a little over a month ago had something to do with this. Yet many collectors also addressed the “gold fever,” the malady that afflicted those caught up in all the excitement for the gold Kennedy half dollar during ANA week which also depleted much of the cash reserves of both dealer and collector. Several veteran collectors, some of whom described themselves as “modern mavens,” were glad they didn’t get wrapped up in the media hysterics that seemed to incite some of the more gullible and “first time” numismatic audience with the inaugural releases of the gold Kennedy. One veteran shared, “Hey, the coins released and slabbed that first day in Chicago by both grading services couldn’t be bought at all on the floor in Chicago. I did try to pick up one for my collection; I’m glad that I didn’t. Dealers were holding the supply, and coins which sold for over $5k are now bringing less than half of that just a month later. I guess someone even paid $100K for the first coin sold at the ANA. To me, that is ridiculous. I have six figures which I can put into coins, but if I were going after a gold coin, I would much rather go after a real modern “classic” commemorative, like the $50 Pan-Pac in high grade.” I agree with the savvy collector from Arizona. You really can’t go wrong with either variety of the Pan-Pac $50. This coin is an established rarity, and the classical design is phenomenal.

I remember I was flipping through the pages of my first Red Book some 45 summers ago, when I had my first encounter with the Pan-Pac $50 with the majestic owl and Minerva that adorn this great and gargantuan coin. Both Pan-Pacs have been favorites of mine since childhood. (Incidentally, if anyone wants to donate one, I would gladly give it a loving home!) Historically, the $50 Pan-Pacs have also been great performers as investments, as well. In fact, a superb 1915-S $50 Pan-Pac Octagonal version, graded NGC MS 64, went to an excited floor bidder, realizing a powerful $102,813 as a part of the host Heritage Long Beach Signature US Coin Auction. This dazzling honey gold example also establishes a record price for an NGC coin within this grade designation!

Speaking of auctions, picking up where the Goldberg’s Labor Day weekend sale left off earlier during Long Beach week, Heritage presented superb opportunities for dealer and collector, alike. All factions certainly seemed motivated, partaking in their World Coin Signature Auction which realized an impressive $9.1 million, and the firm’s Long Beach US Coins Signature Auction tallied a solid $13.4 million. When the gavel fell silent, all told nearly 10,000 coins met the hammer during this late summer event. Combined, the Heritage Signature sales reflected a solid sell through rate of nearly 95% for the world coins and approached 98% of the US entries. Not shabby at all, considering the amount of funds disbursed on auction bills over the last 30 days or so. Of course, realistic reserves or no reserves in both of these sales contributed greatly to the overall success achieved in the Golden State.

The top drawer in the auction, as well as the most historic lot in the sale, was the 1792 J-1 Silver Center Cent graded NGC MS 61 BN. This is the first authorized coin type struck at the Philadelphia Mint facility, and it also carries with it a prestigious and long lineage (Bushnell-Parmalee-Green-Norweb.) It led all prices realized by quite the margin; when bidding ended, the long-admired numismatic icon captured $705,000. This was a great showing, but it was also perhaps a bit of a bargain for the new owner, considering that when this exciting coin last appeared as a feature lot at the 2013 CSNS Signature sale, she claimed $822,500.

Reporting in next on the NGC highlight reel is a captivating 1907 High Relief $20 Saint-Gaudens. This exquisite wire rim designee was so boldly impressed and projected, with such an awe inspiring appearance, that even the virtually unheard of NGC PF 68 grade seemed understated! From the Captain North and Bass collections, she roared to an impressive $282,000. Another very strong and perhaps surprising to some performance was by the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition Gold Dollar. This, the scarcer of the two Lewis and Clark issues, has as always been a key to the “short set” of the classic gold commemorative series. With that said, a superb example graded as NGC MS 67, realized a powerful $54,344. According to the NGC Census, this scintillating and totally original coin is tied numerically with four others within this designation, yet it is hard to imagine another more superlative in appearance than this. Also, it is very important to note that this Ultra Gem commanded a 45% increase in price since the last time this exact coin appeared at public auction a little over three years ago as a part of the CSNS Platinum Night. At that time, the coin realized $37,375.

Other NGC highlights from the Heritage Long Beach sale:

  • 1833 Capped Bust Half Dollar NGC MS 67 $38,188
  • 1872-CC Liberty Seated Dollar NGC MS 61 $27,613
  • 1880 Trade Dollar NGC PF 68 Ultra Cameo $42,594
  • 1882 Morgan Dollar NGC PF 68 (Ex: Jack Lee) $38,188
  • 1895 Morgan Dollar NGC PF 64 Cameo $48,469.18
  • 1863 Three Dollar Gold Princess NGC PF 67 Cameo $88,125.19
  • 1908 Indian Head $5 NGC PF 67 $54,344
  • 1898 Liberty $10 NGC PF 66 Ultra Cameo $58,750
  • 1899 Liberty $10 NGC PF 67 Ultra Cameo $76,375
  • 1854-S Liberty $20 NGC MS 62 $44,063
  • 1857-S Spiked Shield, SS Central America Liberty $20 NGC MS 67 $82,250
  • 1851 880 Thous Lettered Edge Humbert $50 NGC MS 61 $129,250

Wow! A quick look at the calendar confirms this is the last report for the summer, as my next installment will be in October. Where did the summer go? Well, as the season turns a bit nippy, let us all rejoice in numismatics, which is bound by no particular season.

Until next time, happy collecting!


Jim Bisognani
Jim Bisognani
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 resides in Southern California and frequently attends major coin shows and auctions.

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