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Legend Numismatics: Hot Topics – Smart People Can Do Dumb Things

By Laura SperberLegend Numismatics …….
Journal entries from the founder of Legend Numismatics, Laura Sperber, help you stay current with the real happenings of numismatics. A former ANA Board Member, Laura has handled close to $1 billion worth of rare coins to date and has assembled many of the greatest collections ever. Her views and opinions are as “inside” as you can get. Warning: ALL of her Hot Topics articles are pretty blunt!

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I haven’t been able to write a Hot Topics column in a while, but it’s not for a lack of subjects. Just too busy. I plan on finally having more time to comment about important subjects again (a good customer said now I am doing normal work hours). In the past 30 days I have witnessed something that is horrifying, drives me nuts, and is BAD for the collectors who have done it.

First, if you don’t know, my career passion and success has come from building collections and sets, with some sets being the very best ever. So my experience is above and beyond most dealers. I know what it takes to build a great set that WILL make you money down the road. I know how to build an even keel collection. And do know, before the chatroom weenies have a go at this, I am NOT talking about the biggest or most expensive sets. ANY set of ANY value can suffer from this problem.

Recently I witnessed two major gold collectors deviate from their original plans. Both had been building ALL PCGS/CAC sets. All of the sudden BOTH started buying real dreck because they felt stuck they could not find better pieces. BOTH have seriously hurt the entire value of their collections by doing this. You are far better off having a PCGS MS64 CAC that is pretty than owning an MS66 that is re-toned or overgraded. Of course BOTH collectors scurried around on their own and paid to much for the new additions.

In one case, the value of the entire collection actually dropped as a few of the coins they felt they had to have were bigger coins in the set.

I used to blame the Registries for this. Now I realize, it’s like a gun: people shoot the guns. The egos of collectors can get out of hand because of the competition a Registry can create. I am NOT saying you must have a 100% PCGS/CAC set. The Coronet Collection of Morgans I assembled had three no CAC coins. But, each coin was still amazing and was not messed with–it was minor grading differences of opinion. In fact, the biggest non-CAC coin in the collection was the $1 1901 PCGS MS66–which sold for OVER $500,000 USD in spirited bidding. The difference is that the 1901 was a great un-messed-with coin.

The gold coins the two collectors bought they got sucker punched on. I know one felt desperate to have a high ranking. I am in shock the other is running around wildly. All of the sudden they got blinded by whatever.

The key to building any great collection, even a smaller box of 20, is consistent quality. I tell people always buy the BEST quality for the grade and or the BEST quality YOU can afford. You do NOT need a dull MS67 non-CAC if you have a killer MS65+ PCGS CAC. Quality is far sexier then dreck. ANY top quality and eye appealing collection is what grabs the attention of buyers. Changing more than 5% of any collection to lesser quality can be devastating to its value. One of the collectors now has two real eyesores in the set that undo the flow of eye appeal – a critical component in ANY quality set. I have built many sets that are ranked second or third that have coins that rival #1 sets that are all plastic. The lower-grade quality sets WILL perform better. In a great set, even ONE BAD coin will be devastating.

You do NOT have to have the #1 ranked coin to have one of the best sets!


Yes, I still yak buy PCGS/CAC whenever you can. I try and build 100% PCGS/CAC sets. While a few people (especially old timers and chatroom dweebs) can’t stand CAC, the one thing it absolutely guarantees you: NO doctored coins. Do not be short-sighted and do NOT buy the coins because PCCS/CAC is pricier. You are buying protection. I just was told by a dealer that one of the copper docs was heard saying to another they justify selling the bad re-toned coins because “they know they are stable”. What sick, twisted minds. If you buy only PCGS/CAC, then you never have to worry about those bad coins from that greedy fool ending up in your set.

Also, be patient! WAIT for the right coin. If you need a filler because the hole is driving you nuts, take a lower-grade coin but stick to PCGS/CAC (or else you’ll be ouching when you sell it to buy the right coin). Do NOT build a set because of your ego or because you think you’re buying top coins cheap. Build it because of quality and satisfaction.

My partner Bruce Morelan and I sparred over the inclusion of the one finest-known coin for one of his sets. At the time Bruce was blinded by domination and having every #1 coin. Now he looks back and is glad he never bought that coin. The coin was marginal in quality and, more importantly, the eye appeal was poor. One bad coin in his wonder sets would stand out like a sore thumb.

I can’t tell you how many times he had been tempted to buy that coin to this day.

Last, to prevent all this, work with a dealer – a real dealer, not a salesman. Do NOT be cheap. You will learn sometimes passing on a coin is your best option. Make sure the dealer has bourse floor credentials and that they know how to grade raw coins. Any dealer worth their salt who has been in biz for more than five years and claims to be 100% retail must have some known credible collections they have built. The wannabes out there sicken me with plastic sets they build for people. They have no clue what the correct standards are because they learned by plastic, not by grading raw coins. You should know by now, unless a coin is part of a major fresh deal that simply did not make it to CAC due to timing, then stay away – far away – or have someone look at it.

Do not get weak-kneed like these two collectors did. Have great coins, enjoy your set no matter what the ranking, and be proud of what you have built. Nice coins sustain the best returns. Sadly, in this market there are not a ton of great coins to build many sets with these days. Do NOT lower your standards!

After our July Sale is over, I am going to have a major discussion about the 1994 Collection and how the coins did. EVERY coin in the sale (including the only no-bean, the 20C 1878 PCGS PR67 Cameo) is amazing. There will be record prices for the majority of coins. It’s not a hodgepodge of questionable color or overgraded coins. It is a set to learn many good lessons from!

If you have any questions or comments, please email me direct at [email protected].

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Legend Numismatics
Legend Numismatics
Since 1987, Legend Numismatics has built an unequaled reputation among collectors and investors alike by locating and procuring top-quality rare coins. Exceptional coins are always in demand - and we believe you should never settle for anything less than the highest quality coin at the best possible value.

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