Jim Bisognani Coin Market Year in Review – NGC Weekly Market Report ……
As 2023 comes to an end, Jim poses some questions to numismatic experts about the future of the numismatic hobby.
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Well, my friends, another exciting year in numismatics has come to a close. Although each ensuing year goes by faster and faster for me, there is at least one constant. Since the beginning of the 2020s, the numismatic market has been a hobby and a business on a mission. To take liberty with a line from a great CBS TV show of yesteryear, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it” has been a directive that dealers and collectors have embraced. Will this madcap adventure continue in 2024?
Many TV advertisements are implying that a bevy of their mass-produced products may be limited or no longer available due to supply chain shortages. The same supply chain issue is a major dilemma in the numismatic marketplace. It is truly a challenge for coindexters and dealers attempting to find a suitable and retail-able supply of quality coins at reasonable prices.
Are there any great values left to be had? Will dealers’ loving relationship with coins remain intact — is it still “a wonderful life” for them?
I again enlisted my fellow numismatic brethren to shed light on the hobby and the year ahead. So without further ado, I proudly present my 13th annual NGC Market Report Year in Review – Part 2.
What segments of the coin market have outperformed your expectations this year?
Bob Green – Owner, Park Avenue Numismatics
Better date gold continues to outperform my expectations, and I believe will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.
James Sibley – Collector
Prices of coins from a popular series — for example, the 1921 and 1921-D Walking Liberty halves — which are in higher grades (Near Gem and Gem) have literally gone through the roof. Some have easily doubled, and many are 50% higher than pre-pandemic levels. It makes one pause — at least, it makes this collector pause — before submitting a bid at an auction or buying from a dealer. After all, we ALL will be disposing of our collections someday, and we ALL would like to believe that we’ll at least break even.
John Brush – President, David Lawrence Rare Coins (DLRC)
I haven’t had a lot of “surprises” this year in the marketplace. There’s an occasional coin that gets chased to higher levels than I thought it was worth, as there can be multiple collectors pursuing a piece, but overall I wouldn’t say that there have been a lot of outperforming expectations. There has been a steady growth in the market, and that fact tells me that we are in an overall healthy market. Thankfully, we’re not chasing the price of tulips, as we’ve seen in the sports card market this year.
Kevin Lipton – Owner, Kevin Lipton Rare Coins
Modern coins still dominate sales.
Jeff Garrett – Founder, Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries, Inc.
The coin market is now driven by true coin collectors who really care about quality. They will pay dearly for nice coins for the grade and seemingly insane prices for gorgeous coins. Top Pop coins also continue to amaze me when they cross the auction block. As mentioned above, the registry competition among collectors is a very important part of the rare coin market.
Dan Goevert – Rare Coins 101
According to the Collectors Rare Coin Index, key date gold coins accounted for nearly 80% of the 18.1% rise in the Index score for 2022 (despite only 41 of the 100 Index coins being gold coins). A similar story unfolded in 2021.
For 2023, I was expecting an overdue resurgence in non-gold rarities. Instead, gold maintained its dominance, accounting for nearly two-thirds of the 7.4% Index gain over the last 12 months. Although their momentum slowed in 2023, rare gold coins remain the undisputed champion in fueling market activity.
Note: The Collectors Rare Coin Index charts the average price change percentages monthly for 100 rare and popular United States coins, to estimate the overall direction and strength of the rare coin market. The Index charts activity from January 1990 to the current month.
Brian Hodge – Partner, Lee Minshull Rare Coins (LMRC)
Ultra high-end rarities and the world coin market, for sure. With all the turmoil of war and the uncertainty with the economy and interest rates, I am impressed with how well these two areas have performed.
Is it just a business, or is the love and joy of dealing and looking at individual coins still exciting and inspiring to you day-to-day?
I started my company in 1988, and I have not worked a day in my life. I am a collector first and foremost, and I love what I do. If it was just for the money, I would’ve left the market long ago. But the relationship I’ve forged with clients and dealers makes the work enjoyable.
Lianna Spurrier – Creative Director, Numismatic Marketing
While I don’t actually handle coins since I’m working on the media end of things, it’s a love for the community and hobby as a whole that makes it worthwhile. I care about coins and want to see collecting prosper into the coming years, and I hope that my work helps make it feel more welcoming and accessible for younger collectors.
On the rare occasion that I do get to actually handle coins for work, it’s always exciting — how many 26-year-olds can say they’ve actually held something worth about $8 million? Not to mention the opportunity to attend so many shows that I would never see if I weren’t working in the industry. Coin shows are such a unique experience, and I always come back from them with a renewed excitement about my job. It’s wonderful to be around so many people who are excited about the same things, and I hope that environment never changes.
Christine Karstedt – Executive Vice President, Stack’s Bowers Galleries
It’s never been “just a business” to me, as I have “grown up” in the hobby working side by side with Dave Bowers, Harvey Stack, Larry Stack and with so many others for whom this was not just a business, but a way to share numismatics with friends and clients, all while making a living doing what they really loved. Our team is filled with people who feel the same way and who love working with the coin community. I would say our inspiration comes with the mutual enjoyment that we experience helping every collector, whether buying or selling, to achieve success and meet their numismatic goals.
The best part of my job is looking at coins. I do not enjoy managing a business or the pieces of responsibility that entails. The thrill of finding a coin for a collector or in viewing a truly spectacular coin is what gets me excited about what I do. I’m truly blessed to be able to work with the D.L. Hansen Collection, as I get to see an absolute embarrassment of numismatic riches on a regular basis.
For the coin lover, I’m in a wonderful place. And, it’s funny. I can get just as excited about a 1945 Lincoln Cent or War Nickel set as I can about something four to five times its value. The variety of coins I get to deal with on a regular basis is what really keeps me interested!
I love coins and I love making money! I am still inspired every day I walk into the office.
I truly LOVE rare coins! I love that I still learn something new all the time, after almost 50 years of buying and selling coins. The endless nature of numismatics is what keeps my love for the hobby growing. Ken Bressett just published an article about the importance of hobbies in staying and feeling young. He just turned 95 and is as sharp as ever. I hope to follow in his footsteps for longevity in numismatics.
Jeff Kierstead – Owner, MintProducts Auctions
It’s a combination of both. Even after 45 years, the thrill of the hunt still makes it fun.
Absolutely the love of the game, no question. You can’t be good at what you do if you don’t love what you do, and I like to think I’m never working a day in my life.
Gold Spot has recently broken into new territory, now nearing $2,100 per ounce. What U.S. or world gold coin type or other series has been most overlooked and is perhaps still undervalued?
Over many years, I’ve mentioned to you and your readers my love for gold coins, and that hasn’t changed. However, U.S. coins are underrated and scarce, as well as Pattern coins and U.S. commemoratives. These are all ready to move as the market progresses and heats up.
I see a lot of scarce/low-mintage U.S. gold coins that bring little or no premium. A 1914 Saint-Gaudens comes to mind. Those wholesale for the same as a 1924 in circulated grades and command only a small premium in lower Mint State grades, though as a whole they are about 200 times rarer by population.
I think Proof Buffalos, Mercury dimes, and Walkers are cheap.
I’d focus on a world gold type set or study up on my ancient Roman gold issues. While neither is tied strongly to the price of gold, those are the pieces that I think have a bright future ahead of them financially.
Gold breaking new records makes me worry about the U.S. economy and the ultimate consequences of massive federal deficits. Two trillion dollar annual budget shortfalls will cause deep trouble at some point. There have been several really large hoards of five, 10, and 20 dollar gold cons that have entered the market in recent years. Most of the hoards contained very few of the low denominations. Look for bargains in common date Gold Dollars and Quarter Eagles.
I think $20 Libs and Saints, for sure. The premiums are just silly low in ratio to where gold is at.
In general, are the various coin “celebrities” hosting coin shows on cable networks a positive or negative for the hobby?
This isn’t going to be a popular answer among my colleagues, but that’s okay. I think that they are one of the worst things to happen to our hobby.
I have to admit, I enjoy the historic portions of the presentations when I’m forced to view the shows with my father-in-law (we actually enjoy that time together and learn something about coins), but when pricing comes up, I find it offensive. Yes, I understand that television advertising is incredibly expensive. I run a large auction and outright sale business of rare coins, and I understand the issue of overhead. However, it gives the hobby a black eye when items are promoted so vigorously (and expensively).
Often, I have to sit at the table with a collector who has bought such items from television or from the aggressive salesmen and explain to them what their coins are worth. It’s not a pretty sight. And while it’s no fault of mine that they were taken advantage of, it’s not the way to grow the hobby.
In some way, shape, or form, I view it as my company’s responsibility to help our customers build their collections. It can be a large investment when someone focuses on putting together something that’s special — and when they deal with folks that are not concerned with the long-term health of the customer and the hobby, it personally offends me and I know that it hurts the hobby.
My father always taught me that doing the right thing and helping others is what we’re all supposed to do. And taking care of the relationships we develop in coin collecting is vital. Those relationships are what will help us grow this hobby over the years.
The TV marketers of coins are fantastic for the rare coin biz. It exposes millions of new people to the joy of coin collecting that would otherwise not even know about them. I myself know several people who have spent seven to eight figures on coins who were first exposed through television sales! Like any serious buyer of collectibles, they generally become more sophisticated as they progress.
I’m a perfect example of that, being a major and serious buyer of Tiffany lamps myself. I am friendly with most major Tiffany dealers, but rarely buy anything from their New York galleries.
I watched them from time to time as a kid, but luckily never bought anything from them. I was just there for the presentations, and they probably had a slightly positive impact on me. However, most people watching them aren’t 13 years old with $10 in their pocket, and that’s when they become dangerous. I’ve heard way too many stories of collectors purchasing through TV programs who later try to sell what they think is a five- or six-figure collection, only to find that it’s worth significantly less.
When I was in college, I told a professor that I was hoping to find a job in numismatics, and the only thing he thought of — what he thought comprised the entire industry — were those TV telemarketers. That’s not what we want the public to think. Overall, I definitely believe they are a detriment to the hobby and don’t represent us.
The fact that some of the collectors you have spoken to find the shows interesting proves the point that they are great for attracting new collectors. We live in the internet age, and comparison shopping has never been easier. If you want to do the work, you can save money on anything offered on TV, including coins. There is entertainment value to what they do as well.
It’s a two-edged sword: On the one hand, such TV promotions attract new collectors. But on the other hand, they may soon become disenchanted with numismatics when they realize they’ve grossly overpaid for common coins.
Celebrities do not increase the value of a coin. It’s entertainment value at best.
Those businesses create some buzz and bring people into the hobby, but their customers pay dearly. Overall, I think publicity is better than no publicity.
Pricing aside, I think the coin market has needed some glitz and glamour for a long time. The watch industry has used celebrities for decades. If a few celebrities ignite more interest into the hobby, no matter the product, I’m all for it.
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What are your mild or wild prognostics for the coin market in 2024?
In my opinion, the rare coin market will face some strong headwinds in 2024. Higher interest rates are already softening demand, as demonstrated by the recent collapse of bullion premiums. The higher interest rates imposed by the Federal Reserve to fight inflation will filter into the coin business. A recession is also still on the table for next year. My plan is to focus on quality and avoid segments of the market based on price.
My boldest prediction is that 2024 could be the year silver bullion prices break out. Silver has lagged behind gold significantly in the last few years. A few scary financial headlines could do the trick!
With precious metals at an all-time high, I believe numismatics will follow in 2024, and beyond will be bullish.
I think the coin market will stay about the same through most of the year. When it’s election time, though, things might change fast.
The last three years have seen a huge run-up in the price of rarities and near-rarities, particularly in higher grades. How long does any “boom” last? The wild cards have been inflation (the rush to hard assets in the face of a depreciating dollar), partially offset by higher yields on low-risk investments (it’s hard to ignore the “opportunity cost” of tying one’s money up in coins versus the assured-return of CD loans and investment-grade bonds). My best guess is that prices will be stable-to-slightly-higher for the rarities and soft for common coins and near-rarities in circulated grades.
Some major numismatic outfit or grading service will change hands to an investor. A major rarity (over $4 million) that sold in the last three years will hit the auction block. Someone will try to develop another pricing algorithm that doesn’t quite hit the mark…
All depends on who is the new president, in my opinion.
I think 2024 will continue to surprise us. There will be further conflict and uncertainty in the world, but I think collector confidence will rise even more and significant droves of cash will park itself in our markets.
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Once again, I thank my professional colleagues for their time and insight. My fellow coindexters, I am wishing you all a pleasant and prosperous 2024. Yours truly will be back in a week or so with the final installment of my 13th annual NGC Market Report Year in Review!
Until next time, be safe, happy collecting and happy new year!
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