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HomeUS CoinsLong Beach Sales Exhibit Strength and Market Vitality

Long Beach Sales Exhibit Strength and Market Vitality


Goldberg and Heritage Combine For Nearly $25 Million; Lunch On 20 Pesos; Memorable 1895 Morgan Pair On Orange Blossom Trail

Balance and strength are key components in sustaining the numismatic marketplace today. Rare type, key date and high-grade US gold coins are certainly doing their part generating unrelenting demand as well as combative action when and where collector and dealer want list coins appear. Fresh from an enjoyable and defining Long Beach Expo many of the numismatic enthusiasts proclaimed heightened activity and a general buzzing on the bourse floor.

Jeremy, a long-time collector from nearby Lakewood, California, made the trip to try and locate some high grade Proof gold type. “I’ve been at this for over 20 years and like most collectors, I want to view coins first hand especially if I am going to shell out $30K or more. It has to have that just right look. I know what I’m looking for and it has to meet my personal criteria. I want medium to deep mirrors and all the better if an orange peel skin looks back at me.”

The persnickety California native went on to say, “Proof gold especially US type gold can be very difficult for beginners and it’s not that easy for more advanced collectors like myself. At first glance most proof gold looks great but many of the early pieces, especially from the 1860s through 1870s have slight to moderate hairlines and lack the punch that modern gold proofs have…. For me, picking up rare date gold from 1860s through 1870s is really exciting and has been well worth it. I personally have a fondness for Liberty Half Eagles in proof. That’s what I am after, either on the floor or at auction.”

Jeremy said that he had scanned both auction companies’ sale catalogs online and was anxious to take a look at the coins in person and advised me he would get back to me if he was successful.

One coin which certainly fit the bill for this collector was featured in the Goldberg’s sale June 8-12, lot 1446: an 1869 Proof Half Eagle that I hope he had a chance to see in person. Coincidentally, it was this very coin that also led the prices realized for NGC-certified US coins at this pre-Long Beach event! The lovely and rare 1869 Liberty Half Eagle graded NGC PF 65 captured US$71,969. From an original Proof mintage of only 25 this is a robust and rare orange peel beauty! Ex-Eliasberg, this outstanding Half Eagle is tied as the finest numerically and perhaps aesthetically as the most pleasing of the available 1869 issue.

In total the fabulous Goldberg’s Pre-Long Beach Sale captured a powerful $11.5 million. A strong showing for rare date US gold, key dates and high grade type led the way. Per Goldberg’s Lead Auctioneer Jason Villarreal, the sale was upbeat and there was palpable excitement in the room. Reflecting on the brevity of volume of the sale Villarreal, the congenial and consummate auctioneer, mused, “It’s been amazing, this past auction was shorter in terms of total lots, so this was a breeze.”

Certainly not short on quality though as both US and world coins featured enjoyed competitive action and prices realized during this highly enjoyable sale.

The top NGC performer from the sale was from the Mother Country as a glorious Great Britain Triple Unite (Oxford) 1643 graded NGC AU 50 roared to $105,750. Lustrous and well struck, this historic and rare gold coin is an impressive and rare denomination. Struck for only three years towards the end of the reign of Charles I, the extraordinary 60 Shilling or three Pound coin is also the largest English hammered coinage denomination. It is an issue which is seldom encountered in any grade as it is estimated that only in the vicinity of 200 examples of this denomination exist for collectors today.

Other British and Commonwealth gold issues performed well too. There was something for every collector and budget. Up for grabs an appealing 1887 British Half Sovereign from Queen Victoria’s Jubilee year graded NGC MS 64, which pulled in $411. Then one of my favorites, the Mexico 20 Peso Gold as a stunning 1918 graded NGC MS 65 raced to $2,350. The superb rendering of the Aztec calendar stone featured on the obverse reminds me of when I first encountered the common 1959 restrike of this issue.

It was early 1972 I was 15 years old going to school while wintering with my mom and uncle in Apopka, Florida. Soon after our arrival we went to downtown Orlando, enjoyed a great lunch of red snapper at Morrison’s Cafeteria, then later that afternoon I happened upon Decker’s Coin Shop on Orange Blossom Trail. The shop was bright and clean displaying numerous well-lit showcases. It was in one of the cases near the front of the shop that housed this coin.

The 1959 Mexican 20 Peso is a restrike so it was basically considered bullion at the time and was priced at $35 in bright green ink on the white stapled holder. I was smitten with the design and the heft of this coin. We had just been studying about the Aztecs and Cortez in school; it really brought history to life. Needless to say I really wanted it but I only had $4.

Well school lunches were $1.25 per day so guess who didn’t buy lunch for over five weeks. Although perhaps slightly malnourished (I was able to pull down an orange or two from a nearby orange tree adjacent to the school’s grounds each day) I was able to carefully squirrel away that money from my lunch fund (and mom) and buy that beautiful gold coin!

At the time of my golden purchase I recall seeing a pair of 1895 Morgan Dollars in one of Mr. Decker’s showcases–an 1895-S and an 1895-O. Both were bright flashy BU coins; they were really special, catching my appreciative eyes and then some. That image is as fresh in my mind’s eye today as it was some 44 years ago. The price marked on the carefully stapled white 2×2 holders was $575 for the ’95-S and $595 for the ’95-O.

I know it is easy to say now but I remember even then I wish I somehow had the money to buy them!

Conservatively I would have to say that the 1895-S was an MS 66 PL and the 1895-O had slight PL tendencies, but was a lovely coin at least an MS 64 grade. So for $1,170 then, that pair today, according to my estimated grades in the NGC Price Guide would command $37,500 for the 1895-S and $105,000 for the 1895-O, or nearly 122 times the asking price in 1972!

As for the 1959 20 Peso (yes I still have that coin) it is worth bullion plus about 5% so it is worth around $650 or 18.5 times my lunch money. Certainly a decent return, but true numismatic coins have always outperformed the price of gold (and other precious metals ).

As for the Heritage Signature Long Beach sale, which pulled in a very solid $13.1 million, it was the eclectic offerings of Rev. Dr. James G. K. McClure that were the scene of considerable bidder excitement. Leading the way a trio of this passionate and lifelong collectors cabinet:

1794 Flowing Hair Dollar BB-1 NGC VG 10 $105,750. For the specialist this is the affordable 1794! Maintaining the integrity of design and aesthetics it’s an honest well-worn example of our countries first and historic silver dollar.

1895-O Morgan Dollar NGC MS 65() $258,500. The prestigious and rare circulation strike of 1895 is this magnificent New Orleans issue! Totally original and obviously fresh-to-market, this coin represents the highest price ever paid for an NGC-certified ’95-O.

1921-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar NGC MS 66 $188,000. What a stunner! Dazzling satiny white surfaces the coin is a marvelous representative of this coveted 1921 San Francisco issue. Tied for the finest known, even at this price it has to be considered a great buy for the new owner!

Other favorite coins from the McClure collection include the following:

1787 Massachusetts Cent Horned Eagle NGC MS 62 BN $6,463. A truly lovely example of this Bay State Cent. It is my favorite type of Colonial coinage. I have always admired the design. Certainly worthy of the solid price!

1806 Draped Bust Half Cent Large 6 Stems NGC MS 63 RB $4,935. Although this is a relatively common coin in lower grades, any mint state copper coin from this era is a rare commodity. The coloring, the strike and the overall appearance of this coin is just special.

1917 Standing Liberty Quarter Type 1 NGC MS 64() FH $823. This enormously popular first year type of the Standing Liberty Quarter is always in demand. This coin from the McClure collection is just a stunning vibrant satiny white coin embracing just a hint of bronze on the peripheries. Just a totally wonderful eye appealing coin, I wish I had bid on it! This Hermon A. McNeil-designed coin’s legacy will only be enhanced as the US Mint issues the golden tribute centennial anniversary coin of this design later this year.

With summer officially here, embrace the season, enjoy family and friends and remember there is still time to plan a vacation around the ANA World’s Fair in Anaheim!

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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.

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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