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Numismatics’ Worldly Flavor—Big Apple Holds Court To NYINC

NYINC Heritage sales approach $18 Million; Pastor sells coins to dig for more!

By Jim Bisognani for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation ……
The international flavor of our hobby has always been one of the most exciting and yet often overlooked areas in numismatics; at least for most of the coindexters in the USA. For the most part we are so involved with our country’s intricate numismatic market that we haven’t taken time to expand our collecting horizons. So it is rather apropos that after the powerful and diverse American numismatic FUN Convention, the New York International Numismatic Convention (NYINC) and related world coin auctions took center stage at the historic Waldorf Astoria Hotel in the Big Apple.

While officially running January 6-15, public bourse activities were held January 12-15. Great sales of Ancients and modern wonders are still in progress as we go to press! Auctions of world material offered up by Baldwin’s, M&M Numismatics, Dmitry Markov, Ira and Larry Goldberg, Heritage Auctions and Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio made for a diverse and exciting opportunity for world coin aficionados!

Heritage’s NYINC Live Signature auction, showcasing nearly 2,200 lots, was first in the record books (January 8-9) roaring to an impressive $15.6 million. A dozen lots in this outstanding sale eclipsed six figures. It is apparent that passion for the yellow metal is intense in the world arenas as all but one of these top performers was gold!

Heading the NGC highlight reel:

The exquisite and ultra-rare Japan Meiji 13 (1880) gold and minor proofs were definitely the headliners. Individually, the Japan Meiji 13 (1880) 20 Yen NGC PF 64 Cameo, the finest certified example of this extraordinary rarity, thundered to a record $305,500.

Rounding out the prestigious 1880 Japanese proof set:

  • Japan Meiji 13 (1880) 10 Yen, NGC PF 64 Cameo: $270,250
  • Japan Meiji 13 (1880) 5 Yen, NGC PF 65 Cameo: $117,500
  • Japan Meiji 13 (1880) 2 Yen, NGC PF 66 Cameo: $170,375
  • Japan Meiji 13 (1880) 10 Sen, NGC PF 63: $117,500

European gold of the early to mid-18th century was also in great demand as floor bidders battled for the following treasure:

  • Austria-Salzburg 1709 Archbishop Franz Anton von Harrach Gold 25 Ducat, NGC MS 61: $223,250
  • Russia 1755-CNB Elizabeth Gold Novodel Proof Pattern 5 Roubles, NGC PF 64 Cameo: $211,500
  • Great Britain 1700 William III 5 Guineas, NGC MS 63: $211,500
  • Great Britain 1893, Victoria 5 Pounds, PF 67 Ultra Cameo: $152,750 — an extraordinary Veiled Head representative. Devastatingly gorgeous, vibrant and exciting a true late Victorian era treasure!

As we go to press, I am viewing the live online (January 17-18) Heritage World Coin Signature Internet Auction of nearly 3,600 lots including substantial NGC-certified antiquities and those of the more modern era. As I write this, there are approximately 500 lots remaining and the proceeds are just over an impressive $2 million. Prizes for numismatists were available to collectors of all budgets and collecting interests from $50 to several thousand. This is what makes this area of collecting so great. Truly scarce and rare coins are still relatively affordable in many instances.

As I’ve mentioned before, personally I enjoy collecting all kinds of coins. Now some 50 years later I still have a special fondness for world issues. Spectacular mid-18th and early 19th century full red British Commonwealth copper is still highly affordable and such a joy to scout out for. Whether it is a bourse floor at a public venue, live or online auction there is just so much opportunity to learn and acquire. eBay is a behemoth of a site and hundreds of thousands of world coins, both raw and certified, are up for your perusal each and every day. I have made many a fine numismatic acquaintance over the years through this platform. One seller I bought some British India and Great Britain copper from about six years ago mentioned in his listings that he was selling coins to get cash together to subsidize an archaeological dig! This caught my eye and piqued my interest! So I emailed the seller.

I found out that the man behind the eBay handle samhan_53024 is Paul Bulgerin, a pastor from Grafton, Wisconsin. After several years of buying from him I recently had a chance to talk to him about the hobby. Paul’s dad was his primary numismatic motivation: “My father was a coin collector; he was a pastor too.”

According to Bulgerin his dad didn’t have much extra cash raising eight kids, but he did manage to pull some interesting coins from circulation.

“If someone put silver coins in the coffee money pot, he would buy it out. I remember as a kid he used to get Numismatic News.”

Paul fondly relayed his first visit to a coin shop with his dad.

“My first trip to a coin store was back in 1970. We lived in Minneapolis. I was 13 and he took me one winter’s day to a little local coin shop. I bought my first coin that day; it was an 1878-S Morgan Dollar.”

Yes, the pastor still has that 1878-S Morgan and told me that it will never be sold. He has it in his Will to be passed on to his eldest daughter! Interestingly, I still have the first coin that I bought at a coin show. While not a Morgan silver dollar, it is about the same size. A 1963 South African 50 Cent silver coin that I bought in 1970 when I too, was 13 years old!

My Wisconsin friend acquired a few coins through high school but had to put the hobby on hold while he attended college and seminary as he didn’t have any extra funds for numismatics. However, when Paul became a pastor in 1984, he thought “Hey I am earning some money; I can buy some coins so I started getting involved with the hobby and have ever since.”

My colleague describes himself as a type coin collector. Through the rest of the 1980s he spent time developing relationships with dealers and acquired varied US and world coins for his collection. The following decade’s numismatic experience included Ancient Roman coins.

“I was an ancient history major in college and I branched out to Roman coins in the late 1990s and have been an avid collector since.”

Paul’s passion for Roman coins and ancient history would influence his next great adventure.

“In 2010 I had a sabbatical and I always wanted to do an archaeological dig. I subscribed to Biblical Archaeological Review and they had a story in 2004 about the Roman Fort of Vindolanda in northern England. I read the story and I said that sounds so neat and they take volunteer excavators! So when my sabbatical started approaching in 2010 I applied to be a volunteer at Vindolanda for two weeks and was accepted.”

While some financial assistance came from his church about 70% of the finances for this historical junket were funded by the pastor’s coin collection! That is how and why he got on eBay in the first place, to list and sell coins to pay for the trip!

“So in July 2010 I took my family on sabbatical leave. It was wonderful. I actually found four Roman coins while I was digging! To be at that ancient fort and dig those coins out with my own hands was such a thrill.”

His advice for the new collector?

“I would say don’t get into it for the money; get into it for the beauty, the art and the history; find something that touches you. For me it has never been about money. The most I have ever spent on a coin was $700. Most of the coins I buy are between $20-$30, but I sure love the coins that I have. So it doesn’t have to be anything that is expensive. I have been an NGC Collectors Society member for four years and enjoy sending in some of my coins to get graded. The coins I have sent in are worth the investment. It’s also fun to wait and see what grades come back!”

Numismatics is such a wonderful diversion. Personal relationships, those beyond the coins themselves, make this hobby so exciting and enduring. As my Wisconsin friend so eloquently put it, find coins that touch you, enjoy the beauty, the art and the history!

Until next time, 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.

NGC Morgan Dollars Currently Available on eBay


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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