Numismatic Market Review by Jim Bisognani – NGC Weekly Market Report ……
Well, my fellow coindexters, as this article posts, the fastidious elves calling the North Pole their home are taking a well-deserved break before they begin planning for Christmas 2023. A further glance at the calendar confirms that just a few days into 2023.
What does all this mean? Well, for this forum and in my neck of the woods, it’s time for my 12th annual NGC Year in Review.
While I enjoy conversing with fellow collectors and dealers year-round, I must admit polling and canvassing my siblings-in-coin for this exercise is great fun. I enjoy sharing the varying views of those who make numismatics their treasured hobby and their livelihood. So, without further nonsense, I proudly present my 12th NGC Market Review — Part 1.
What segment(s) of the coin market has outperformed your expectations this year?
John Brush – President of David Lawrence Rare Coins
The expensive ‘hero’ coins have brought about brand-new levels for super rare and high-end coins. The prices that these rarities have been bringing over the past year have been astronomical and have set new record pricing overall.
Morgan Dollars were also pushed up rather dramatically this year. Especially the $200-$2,000 price range pieces. They’ve dropped down a bit as the promotions seem to have slowed down now, but these definitely had some jumps in values.
Vicken Yegparian – Vice President of Numismatics, Stack’s Bowers Galleries
The high end of the market continues to be on fire, surprising at every turn. Gold, generally, and specifically early gold and dated gold, seems not to have lost its luster despite inflation and fears of a recession in the economy. This is supported by our ongoing, record-setting sales from the Fairmont Collection of U.S. gold coins, record-setting sales of truly rare and attractive top pop Charlotte and Dahlonega Mint gold, and the expectation-busting sale of the Harvey Jacobson Collection of 1795-1804 Eagles.
It has also been reflected in our sales of individual coins. And it’s not just that coins are bringing 10% or 20% above expectations, but they sometimes bring multiples of our expectations or of auction prices from just a few years ago. Our March 2023 Baltimore auction has already attracted some amazing consignments of fresh collections of U.S. silver and base metal coins, some off the market for over a century. It will be interesting to see how this kind of material fares in 2023.
Jeff Garrett – Founder of Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries, Inc.
Without a doubt, the highest end of the market continues to be the shining spot for numismatics. The demand for top pop coins for registry sets is as strong as ever. Million-dollar-plus coins have become commonplace at auction. The demand for trophy coins amazes me whenever great collections cross the auction block.”
Bob Green – Owner of Park Avenue Numismatics
The rare coin market (not generic) has been strong. At auction, on the bourse floor, and in general, prices remain strong and competition for better dates has been fierce.
Ian Russell – President and Owner, GreatCollections Coin Auctions
We expected a strong year based on how 2021 ended up — and 2022 met our expectations. We’re finding more new collectors — and expecting our 2023 to start off very strong. In January, we’re auctioning the very important Stewart Blay collection of Lincoln Cents — the all-time #1 set ever formed.
Brian Hodge – Partner of Lee Minshull Rare Coins (LMRC)
Hindsight is 20/20, but I had the foresight to see what is now occurring in today’s marketplace. Rising inflation and a bloated stock market can only mean one thing for tangible assets, and that’s increased demand. The market in general has still exceeded my expectations, however, with a lot of ‘mystery’ money coming into our industry from all over the globe. A lot of this is brand-new collectors who never bought a coin before!
Kevin Lipton – Owner of Kevin Lipton Rare Coins
The high premiums on bullion gold and silver coins, and the strength of rarities at auction.
James Sibley – Collector
As a collector of classic U.S. type coins in higher Mint State or (preferably) Proof grades, I end up finding most of my coins at the three major auction houses — Heritage, Stack’s Bowers, and GreatCollections. I’ve found 2022 to be the most competitive year bidding-wise since I returned to numismatics four years ago upon retirement. Despite ‘padding’ my bids to allow for the price inflation that has taken place since the arrival of COVID, I have been the underbidder more often than not. Even the supposedly slow series (for example, Three-Cent Nickels and Seated Liberty silver) have been challenging to acquire. This means that I’ve purchased fewer coins this year than in any of the three prior years.
Bradley Goldsmith – Founder of South Austin Coin Exchange/360 Coin Group
I would say every aspect of the market has outperformed my expectations, from modern graded coins to vintage, as well as just basic raw bullion.
Ira Goldberg – Co-owner of Ira and Larry Goldberg Auctioneers
Truthfully, I believe all areas of numismatics with the ‘trophy coins’ and related rarities continue to lead.
US, World, or ancient coins — what is the best advice/series for the new collector on a limited budget ($100 per month) to target?
A $100 budget is strictly ‘play’ money. Buy what interests you and learn, learn, learn. Your tastes will grow as your budget expands from there. Personally, I think there are sectors of the ancient and world coin markets still so severely underrated you can get some amazing pieces for $100! What’s better than owning a 2,000-year-old coin from the time of Jesus, for instance? There’s no better conversation starter for so little ‘coin.’
Continue to buy what you like and the best quality that you can afford.
I don’t think it’s a matter of US, world or ancients — the new collector should gravitate toward what turns them on. There are paths to putting a collection together no matter what your passion, perhaps skipping the keys and semi-keys for the moment and being willing to embrace the lower circulated grades in order to stay within budget.
But the optimal choice for a new collector on a limited budget may be to start out by buying moderns from the United States Mint (I’m gritting my teeth as I write this, as I ‘fired’ the Mint soon after I started collecting again, simply because I refused to tolerate their infamously poor service).
Perhaps I’ve said this before, but look at circulated Barber material — there are awesome coins in the $50 to $150 range. These don’t turn up on the market very often – and they just seem like great value when compared to Morgan Dollars, Walkers, etc. We’re also seeing an increase in demand for lower-valued foreign coins and paper money.
Buy what you like if on a fixed budget. It’s a hobby and should be enjoyed as such no matter what the budget.
Lianna Spurrier – Creative Director of Numismatic Marketing
I’m sure you’ll get a lot of advice from others based on market trends, but my advice is simply: collect what you like. At this price point, focusing on a high return on investment probably isn’t your biggest priority, so take your time to see what options are out there in your budget and what sparks your interest. Maybe you decide a Canadian type set would be fun to put together – great! Or you could decide to get one nice ancient each month, or the best raw US type set you can manage.
Raw, graded, ancient, classic, modern, US, or world – there are thousands of different options out there well within your budget and everyone will be drawn to something different. Don’t limit yourself to what the internet suggests; browse around, pick what you like, and go from there! Collecting should be fun, especially when you’re focused on truly collecting instead of investing.
I love ancient coins for their history, accessibility and price. I think they are a great value for collectors on a limited budget.
$100 month probably won’t get you a lot, but I think as a collector starting off, you can either go the silver bullion route to become a stacker or you can go the vintage route and start collecting pennies and go from there.
I would collect a complete set of Mint State 69 American Silver Eagles.
The great thing about numismatics is that you can collect in any category at any budget. The barriers to entry are very low. If you’re into history and variety, probably collecting ancient and world coins will be for you. If your personality tends to prefer focus, then picking a country, era or series and buying relevant items in that category will be the way to go.
We fortunately still see ‘junk boxes’ at shows, so there is a lot of fun to be had getting your hands dirty pawing through them for things that catch the budget-minded collector’s eye.
I think the classic US silver commemorative coins would be a great option. They are the most underpriced coins as of now.
How will the NGC Green Label, the new NGC 10-point Grading Scale and the new CAC grading service affect the market share? Positive or negative?
We believe that innovation is a great thing in our business, so any well-thought-out project that brings better choices to our clients is a good thing. The most market share will go to the companies which are best able to keep the quality of their grading consistent and accurate, and in turn keep the prices of their holdered coins high.
The new 10-point grading is an effort to expand the hobby among collectors in other fields who are familiar with a 10-point grading scale. If embraced, it should grow the hobby. Competition is always good and will make all of the grading services try harder to keep your business.
I think there will be a learning curve for collectors to know the difference between values for these new initiatives and even the new grading service of CAC.
I think it will all be positive. It’s all healthy competition, and I believe the people who are behind these companies are very knowledgeable and have a lot of market support.
Not sure as of now. We are always open to new and fresh thoughts but as ‘Old Time Dealers,’ we are at a wait and see.
I feel that change can be generally a positive thing for any situation—time will tell whether or not that proves to be true.
The grading services will be the benefactor of the new scales/tiers of services to the market. New buyers entering the market will be OK with the changes while seasoned collectors will tend to take a while to accept these changes.
I think immensely positively. This is an extraordinary way to target new collectors who have traditionally acquired other products like comic books or baseball cards to get into the coin-collecting hobby with a minimal learning curve. The 10-point scale is universal.
Good ol’ Saint Nick has granted you a round-trip passage back in time. You have 24 hours and $50 dollars to spend. What year and location do you travel to? What items will you try to locate and bring back to the present?
It’s 1793 and I walk into the Philadelphia door of the Mint with $50 worth of silver candle sticks to exchange for 5,000 Half Cents and Cents.
I’m standing at James Longacre’s desk and asking him for both 1849 Double Eagles that were struck and I’ll tip him the other $10.
I would have to say the 1790s and early 1800s — and focus on Quarter and lower coins in high grade. You read about the small hoards discovered 50 years ago in England and just think: Wow. Imagine if you were touring the East Coast of the young United States in the 1790s and could source coins directly at the Mint!
I would definitely travel back in time to the French Revolution and hope that $50 will buy one of the original gold Libertas Americana medals before they hit the melting pot! What a great jolt to numismatics that would be! It would be like legalizing another 1933 $20!
I’d just want to attend the Farouk sale and buy something… doesn’t matter what I end up with, but I think the experience would make for some great stories!
Philadelphia 1795 – I would buy a pristine mint set and then hang out with the founding fathers. Sign me up.
1793 would work! I would buy 200 Half Cents and 400 assorted pennies, Chain, Strawberry Leaf, Liberty Cap. However, my true fantasy is going to the Carson City Mint in 1870 and buying a complete set of coins they struck Quarter to–$20! I would try to convince them to strike me one Dime as well!
The year 1793, with 50 bucks I’d go to Philadelphia, wait in line and get as many Half Cents and Cents I could get at the Mint!
1915 – I would go to San Francisco, I’d enjoy a nice day at the Pan-Pac Expo and try to take home 1915-S Pan-Pac $50 Octagonal or Round coins as souvenirs.
Your mild or bold prognostication for 2023?
The grading services will continue to be busier than ever!
We’re expecting a very busy year — and look forward to seeing everyone at FUN.
The 2023 Morgan and Peace Dollar program will generate renewed interest in the hobby.
The market will be mild and I don’t think the world is going to collapse anytime soon.
JUST WANNA KEEP IT GOING!!
We are heading for recession, be careful and diversify assets. Don’t take substantial risks if you’re approaching retirement years.
Up or down? Or sideways? Depends on so many external factors, the least of which is where inflation is headed (is it really tamed?), if Putin invades more countries or nukes Ukraine, and if the Iranians lob a few missiles into Tel Aviv (having just returned from Israel a few days ago, I have a renewed appreciation for the word ‘tension’).
Another extraordinary year. I think a lot more money will flow into our marketplace next year, and it will be felt by all from the top-tier companies to the mom-and-pop brick-and-mortars. There is always a period of recalibration. Not every single day is going to be gangbusters, but the bottom line at the end of the year will be seen by all.
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I want to thank all those who have graciously contributed to this 12th edition. As this is my last column for 2022, I want to wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas, happy holidays and happy 2023! Be sure to stay tuned for Part 2 of the Year-end Market Review in 2023!
Until next time, be safe, happy holidays, and happy collecting.
Jim Bisognani is an NGC Price Guide Analyst having previously served for many years as an analyst and writer for another major price guide. He has written extensively on US coin market trends and values.