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Jeff Garrett: The Rare Coin Market and the Hobby Move Online

Jeff Garrett: The Rare Coin Market and the Hobby Move Online

Markets are being tested by the COVID-19 crisis; so far, the rare coin market is passing


By Jeff Garrett for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) ……
The internet has been one of the most significant driving forces for numismatics since the late 1990s. Indeed, the hobby has been forever changed by this amazing tool of the modern age. Collectors now have more information available at their fingertips than advanced hobbyists from decades ago ever could have dreamed. Doing numismatic research when making a purchase decision is now ridiculously easy.

Collectors also have access to rare coin dealer inventories around the globe. There are important rare coin auctions on a weekly basis. This is so different from years ago when coin shows, trade journals, and coin shops ruled the market for rare coins. If you lived in a remote location and disliked travel, your access to rare coins was very limited. To say the least, a lot has changed in 20 years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further driven the rare coin market to the internet in a major way.

For the last 40 years or so, my monthly routine included attending at least two coin shows somewhere around the country. Sadly, I have not left Lexington in over three months. Nearly all of the business I have been conducting has been on the internet — either direct sales or wholesale to others who sell on the web. Nevertheless, business has been amazingly brisk!

Because of quarantines, stay-at-home orders, and lost jobs, Americans have been home surfing the internet in record numbers. Many of them have either discovered or rediscovered the hobby of numismatics. A few months ago, the American Numismatic Association (ANA) conducted a membership promotion during National Coin Week. Over 3,500 new collectors signed up as members of the ANA. That is a staggering number of new members in such a short time. ANA membership now stands at over 28,000 members.

Winners and Losers in the Rare Coin Market

As with every crisis or seismic event, there will be winners and losers. Nearly every coin dealer I have spoken to in recent weeks who has a significant web business is doing very well. Some have even related to me that they are experiencing records sales. The extremely large firms with rare coins and bullion operations are seeing sales explode. Their biggest issues in recent weeks have been finding material to sell.

Losers in the COVID-19 crisis include the large number of dealers who count on coin shows for the majority of their business.

Coin shows everywhere have been canceled since mid-March. The ANA World’s Fair of Money scheduled for Pittsburgh in August has been suspended until a later date (if it can happen at all). I and many others were hopeful a few weeks ago that we might be able to start attending shows soon. The recent rise in coronavirus cases around the country now puts that in doubt.

Many major players in the hobby have discovered how important coins shows are to the supply chain. The flow of new material that normally traded during a major coin show has now been eliminated. A lot of smaller dealers would buy coins across the counter in shops and sell them at shows. The supply of new material in shops has slowed to a trickle, and there are no shows to attend. Even the dealers who produced new coins by having them graded at shows are being seriously impacted.

The good news of all of this is that coins are selling well on the internet, and the supply of new coins has been drastically reduced. For several years now, the rare coin market has been negatively impacted by an oversupply of coins. More coins were coming onto the market than new collectors were willing to buy. There has been sustained price erosion of rare coins for several years. If current market conditions continue, there is little doubt that prices for rare coins may finally move in a positive direction.

Getting to the Art of the Matter

Late in June, the art market experienced a major test when Sotheby’s conducted a marquee evening auction online and by phone. The Monday night sale fetched over $360 million, with the highlight of the sale being a Francis Bacon triptych that sold for nearly $85 million. Bidders around the world participated in the live-streamed event.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the auction house had to convince consignors to continue with the sale despite the current COVID-19 crisis. Reportedly, Sotheby’s had to give price guarantees to secure several of the major pieces that were sold Monday night. I’m sure executives at the firm are breathing much easier now based on the results.

The next benchmarks for the rare coin market will be the Heritage and Stack’s Bowers 2020 ANA sales, which have now been moved online due to the suspended convention in Pittsburgh. There are several major collections being offered for sale, and I’m sure both auction houses are hoping for the same success that Sotheby’s experienced. It is obvious that rare coin buyers are becoming more comfortable spending large sums through online bidding.

It would be interesting to ask if returns have increased given that buyers have not personally examined the coins. Digital photography has become so advanced that it may no longer be much of an issue. Some buyers still have representatives to examine coins, but given travel restrictions, that may not be possible for the time being.

There have been a few major tests of the rare coin market at auction in the last couple of months as well. Heritage conducted the June Long Beach Sale in Dallas with nearly all of the buyers participating online. The sale was successful, from what consignors have related to me. There were very few unsold lots.

As more and more collectors turn to online purchasing, the hobby finally has a chance to grow. There has been a huge increase in Google searches for rare coins, bullion and collectibles. Many businesses in America and around the world are going through difficult times. The business of numismatics is very fortunate that so many individuals are turning to their hobbies for entertainment and comfort.

I personally miss coins shows the most and truly hope to see some of you again in the near future.

Jeff Garrett bio

Numismatic auction provenances provided by:

Ron Guth, Chief Investigator
The Numismatic Detective Agency
[email protected]
Rare Coin Gallery

Jeff Garrett
Jeff Garretthttps://rarecoingallery.com/
Jeff Garrett, founder of Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries, is considered one of the nation’s top experts in U.S. coinage — and knowledge lies at the foundation of Jeff’s numismatic career. With more than 35 years of experience, he is one of the top experts in numismatics. The “experts’ expert,” Jeff has personally bought and sold nearly every U.S. coin ever issued. Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t call on Jeff Garrett for numismatic advice. This includes many of the nation’s largest coin dealers, publishers, museums, and institutions. In addition to owning and operating Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries, Jeff Garrett is a major shareholder in Sarasota Rare Coin Galleries. His combined annual sales in rare coins and precious metals — between Mid-American in Kentucky and Sarasota Rare Coin Galleries in Florida — total more than $25 million. Jeff Garrett has authored many of today’s most popular numismatic books, including Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins 1795–1933: Circulating, Proof, Commemorative, and Pattern Issues; 100 Greatest U.S. Coins; and United States Coinage: A Study By Type. He is also the price editor for The Official Redbook: A Guide Book of United States Coins. Jeff was also one of the original coin graders for the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). He is today considered one of the country’s best coin graders and was the winner of the 2005 PCGS World Series of Grading. Today, he serves as a consultant to Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), the world’s largest coin grading company. Jeff plays an important role at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Numismatic Department and serves as a consultant to the museum on funding, exhibits, conservation, and research. Thanks to the efforts of Jeff and many others, rare U.S. coins are once again on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History. Jeff has been a member of the Professional Numismatic Guild (PNG) since 1982 and has recently served as president of the organization. He has also served as the ANA President and as a member of the ANA Board of Governors.

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  1. This is great information. I have few coins that I would like to have it appraised. Not sure where to go or to contact. Ive been watching in youtube about all these rare coins. I saw some coins that were sold.

    Do you have any place in Dallas for me to go to? Or maybe this site can help me verify and appraise my coins from 1960 to current coins.



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