Coin industry leaders share their recommendations for collectors on any budget
By Jim Bisognani for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) ……
Wow! Another year come and gone. As this article posts, 2018 is on its last legs, busy packing its bags, ready to travel into history. I think 2019 is coming up my driveway now. No wait: that’s just a flock of turkeys waiting to be fed.
Now, as I sit in my New Hampshire office the Friday before Christmas, it is a rainy and truly unseasonable 55 degrees; the limited snow cover is melting and being washed away. It is certainly not “Dickensesque”.
Go for the Gold
I note that with the continued uneasiness in the stock market and the US Government shutdown, considerable capital is flocking to the yellow metal. Gold is now visiting levels last seen in early July 2018. Whether this translates into a spark to the overall malaise in the coin arena remains to be seen. Certainly, this positive traction with gold won’t hurt the activity level at the 2019 FUN Show, which is less than three weeks away!
For the gold enthusiast, there has never been a better time to look at collecting Mint State Half Eagles, Eagles and Double Eagles. Many coins in each series are available at only a little premium over melt. Look at this value: one well-known major dealer is offering NGC MS61 $20 Liberties at $1,280 per coin. As of this writing, that places the melt value of the Double Eagle at $1,215.37; that’s not even 5.5% above melt and on par with the price of a bullion US 1 oz. Gold Eagle!
For the new Coindexters, this is truly an opportune time to get involved with general collecting, as many US series, especially coins residing in VF/XF grade range, have rolled back to decade lows.
As 2018 waits to pass the baton to 2019, I will defer to my professional numismatic comrades for insights into the coin arena. Yes, my Eighth Annual Market Review, Part 2 is here for you.
Best values, “sleepers” and advice for new collectors just getting started
Ira Goldberg – Co-Owner, Goldberg Coins & Collectibles:
“Advice for new collectors getting started is to go to coin shows and look at the displays and exhibits. Read auction catalogs as they are chock full of information.”
Charles Morgan – Editor, CoinWeek:
“The best value that you will ever find in coins are books about coins and mental flexibility. Do not be afraid to sell your collection – over and over again – and buy books that take you on new adventures. I started in the hobby as someone who wanted to have one of everything I could get my hands on. Then that turned to two or three. And that turned into sets. And then that turned into specific high-end sets… and now it has turned into information and eccentric out-of-the-way collecting areas. I did ok on some purchases, great on others, but the best thing I ever bought… is my library.”
Recommendations for coins, sets (US and world) on a budget of $100 or less per month
John Brush – President, David Lawrence Rare Coins:
“This is the mainstream of the hobby. Putting together classic sets from the early 1900s are fantastic ideas.”
“Recommendations for coins for collectors on a budget of $100 or less per month … don’t buy what the mints are offering. They are usually over-priced and for the few “winners” produced, one will go broke buying all that the US Mint offers. Here is what the US Mint can do: Mint coins for the military. A different design and issue for each branch of the military with every person in the military getting some as part of their pay (face value) with commissioned officers receiving more as part of their pay. The natural laws of supply and demand will take hold with a supported secondary market created by all those that will want to collect these. We would be promoting patriotism, our soldiers get to sell them for more than face value and the collectors will determine their true value.”
Q. David Bowers – Numismatist, Author and Co-Founder, Stack’s Bowers:
“In some fields such as Obsolete Bank Notes 1782-1866 and Civil War Tokens 1861-1865 you can form a world-class collection with many items costing less than $100 each. On the other hand, few people can afford the more than $100,000 it costs to buy a high-grade 1893-S Morgan Dollar.”
Bob Green – Owner, Park Avenue Numismatics:
“Morgan Dollars. We love Morgan Dollars and always will.”
“Take your $100 a month and put it aside. Think about quarterly $300 coins. Or twice a year $600 coins. Or a nice $1,200 coin once a year. You are much better off making a list of coins you want and budgeting for them. $100 a month keeps things coming in, but it’s mostly stuff that won’t excite you in the long run.”
The greatest options for those on an unlimited budget?
Mark Feld – Senior Numismatist and Consignment Director, Heritage Auctions:
“Generally, I advise against “investing” in coins. Even if you are very well informed, based upon buy/sell spreads and other factors, the odds are against your success. That said, I understand that many collectors end up spending significant sums of money on their collections and can’t/shouldn’t ignore the financial implications.
“If you are going to “invest”, I’d suggest diversification – not putting too much of your money into one coin or one coin type. I’d also recommend staying away from especially esoteric and/or illiquid and/or currently “hot” items.
“Eye appeal is hard to ignore, but technical quality shouldn’t be over-looked/compromised. If you participate in auctions, whether over the Internet or in person, set your price/bidding limits in advance and stick to them. Auction fever hits many bidders, and almost always to their detriment.
“However, if you are going to stretch to buy a coin, do it for a coin [that] is truly special and/or virtually irreplaceable, not on an ordinary one. There are far more of the latter than of the former, and there will almost always be other opportunities.”
Ian Russell – President, Owner, Great Collections:
“Buy the best and stretch on rarities that don’t appear on the market very often. We’ve seen huge prices on coins that rarely appear on the market. Obviously 1907 High Relief Saint-Gaudens are valuable, but they regularly trade – so there isn’t the same urgency as the finest 1924-S dime that last appeared on the market eight years ago. We recently achieved a new world record price on this coin – beating the previous world record by three times! Four serious collectors wanted the coin – and knowing they rarely appear on the market, got into a spirited bidding war.”
“Proof Gold, Key Dates and Ultra-high-grade coins. CAC is a plus!”
“The general market is very dynamic. Prices for federal coins on average are 20% or so lower than they were at the very height of the market in August 2013. For buyers, this is positive. Today $750 in some series will buy what cost $1,000 or more back then. The best time to buy is in a down market. Pick a specialty. This does not have to be expensive. In the course of writing a book for Whitman on modern dollar coins a few years ago I assembled a full set of Eisenhower, Susan B. Anthony, and Sacagawea dollars in MS-65 or better grade. Most of those after the Eisenhower series come in high grades as issued. Since then I have added the Native American, Presidential (thumbs down on the design), and will add others as they are issued. A complete collection of Mint State and Proof dollars 1971 to date costs far less than $1,000. Oops! I forgot to mention the 2000-P “Cheerios” dollar with the prototype tail feathers—you can avoid this or else pay into [the] low four figure[s] for one. I have also collected the Statehood and America the Beautiful quarters and under magnification have studied the designs of each”.
“I think that anyone that wants to invest in a collection should put together a set of proof type coins. These are still ignored in the market and there are some really tough dates in some of these series!”
Dave Wnuck – Owner, Dave Wnuck Numismatics LLC:
“A baby step would be Mint state 62 and MS-63 $3 gold pieces. These are crazy cheap, and if you can avoid the 1878 common date you are poised to potentially realize some gains here. Plus – $3 gold pieces are just plain cool to own!
“A toddler step in front of $3 gold would be to buy gem proof, white or lightly toned Morgan Dollars and Trade Dollars. Very reasonable, very popular, and very large type coins.
“Also when I go to coin shows these days I am very encouraged to see the large crop of fresh faced, younger dealers. These are savvy, smart young people who love what they do and are already very good at it. This bodes well for the future of this wonderful hobby.”
Brian Hodge – Partner, Minshull Trading:
“Find what you like the most, and leap. Get educated and remember that part of the education is in making a mistake or two along the way. If you stay committed, coins can provide a lifetime of thrills. It is also crucial to find a dealer you trust that also thinks outside the box like you probably did to get to where you’re at today. An extremely knowledgeable dealer who knows their craft in and out can teach you to navigate the many tributaries of this great hobby that can lead you to incredible finds. Be a contrarian if your passion doesn’t necessarily follow the current trend. The greatest collectors of all time were all contrarians.”
“For those on an unlimited budget: Buy the high-end coins of Early America, Italy, France and Spanish America. They have not been promoted like the coins of China, Britain, Russia and Germany.”
“Climb Mount Everest. Find things that haven’t been done in this hobby and do them. And do them out loud. The hobby has always been well-served by great collectors who take their hobby public. Be that next name on the list of the greats. And really, truly, love your coins!”
Of course I always encourage your mild or bold prognostication for 2019!
“As for 2019, I think things will pretty much be the same. I see no reason for coin prices to drop nor raise much in value unless the prices of gold and silver get out of the doldrums.”
“With the market as it is it may be another few years before we see prices rise. When prices are low, collectors don’t sell as easily, especially if they bought at higher levels. Eventually the supply side will be low enough to raise prices if there is buyer support from new collectors entering the market.”
“I wouldn’t describe the market as being in the doldrums, but it is a bit soft in most areas. It has been this way for a few years or so at this point. With the stock market climbing to new heights year after year, one could hardly blame folks for leaving the majority of their “non-allocated” money in such a lucrative area. However very recently the stock market has taken a major dip. We shall see whether or not this is the catalyst to get us out of our funk.”
“2019 will be a year like no other. Let’s make the most of it!”
You said it best, my friend! Happy 2019 to all my Coindexters!
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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.