By Jim Bisognani for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation….
Heritage’s PNG Invitational Signature Auction ran February 26th through March 1st where nearly 2,800 lots captured slightly over $6.5 million.
Well March is finally upon us and the promise of spring is so near I can taste it. Having more than a touch of cabin fever, it cannot arrive soon enough. I have been up on my roof more frequently this season than that bearded old gentleman from the North Pole ever has although my mission is not delivering gifts but jettisoning snow off and clearing ice dams. Frigid temperatures and less than agreeable travel has afforded me more time in to reflect on why I am wintering in New England and the sheer joy and excitement that numismatics has to offer. I’m sure all the “Coindexters” out there can agree that getting reacquainted with a favorite coin or coins, especially those that may have been sequestered away in a safe deposit box or other secret area in your own home for some time is a pleasurable reminiscence.
Coins are very personal to us collectors. The thrill and pride of ownership that the historic and well-traveled metal discs supply each of us is what perpetuates this great hobby. Whether the impetus for our numismatic journey was through a parent or family member gifting us baby boomers with a silver dollar at Christmas or today’s Twitter and selfie crowd with a silver eagle, the numismatic arena is quite robust and powerful. Numismatics is a vital and tangible link to our recorded history. Yet it is not only the “hobby of kings” but also a hobby which is also very affordable for the masses. Coin collectors appear from every walk of life – young or old, students, professionals, laborers, doctors, scientists – everyone loves coins.
The world of numismatics is literally at your doorstep. Yet just like running we all have to get our start joining the coin caravan by taking a few steps. Advice to new collectors, education is priority number one; get the Guide Book of United States Coins (the “Red Book”) to become acquainted with an overview of the hobby. Of course a great deal of invaluable information can be had by going to NGC’s website for a wealth of historic data, price guides and free articles on grading. A truly bountiful resource. When it becomes time to have a coin professionally graded, NGC stands proud as the official grading service of the ANA and PNG. They are also the most respected third-party grading service worldwide, now with well over 30 million coins graded.
This is a great time to extol the virtues of coin collecting to the new generation. Let’s all shake off the winter cobwebs and get the word out this spring to aspiring numismatists that coin collecting is the greatest hobby in the world! Take a young collector under your wing and go to a local show.
Remember, along with constant contact with iPhones and iPads, the youngsters of today are all tied to daily interaction with coins as a part of commerce. Whether the coins they possess are part of an allowance, for school lunch or for a vending machine purchase, they surround the younger generation every day. However, the thought of collecting them and not spending them may be a bit of a challenge at first.
Numismatics is a rewarding hobby both educationally and financially. In my over five decades of involvement in the hobby, I cannot recall a single individual who had taken the time to educate themselves and solicit the sage advice from a veteran dealer or two along the way that didn’t come away with a sense of pride and great accomplishment with their numismatic acquisitions along with a tidy financial reward with their respective collections.
Holding and enjoying your collection is a wondrous thing. I personally have coins that I bought nearly 50 years ago and they have literally been with me all of my life. Of course there are several mistakes to remind me of my indoctrination, a multitude of notes and many great finds along that journey.
My first acquisitions were made through the mail via Coin World ads in the late 1960’s. Most of these purchases were semikey date Lincoln cents which I could afford for a dollar or two. I had a special fondness for the S Mint coins and I remember how proud and excited I was when I was able to acquire a 1911-S in nearly extremely fine. I had spent five dollars for that coin — a princely sum! My first visit to a coin show was in April of 1969 and my big purchase that day was my first silver foreign coin, a 1963 South African 50 cent piece. I remember being taken in with that proud Springbok in stride on the reverse of that silver dollar sized piece. I paid $4 for that coin and I enjoyed that piece immensely. Through the years, I began collecting the British South African 5 Shilling pieces bearing the same design element on the reverse and featuring George VI and Elizabeth II busts on the obverse. I pulled out that 1963 piece as I was reminiscing and writing this. Wow! Bold, satiny luster and not a distracting mark anywhere, perhaps a specimen striking. It’s nice to know my eye was good at a young age! Certainly not a rare coin but it certainly has a prominent place in my cabinet. We numismatists are a fastidious lot, carefully selecting by series, by type, by grade and of course by pocketbook the coins that will reside next in our respective collections.
A chance great opportunity to start or add to a collection was by participating in Heritage’s PNG Invitational Signature Auction which just concluded. Running February 26th through March 1st, nearly 2,800 lots captured slightly over $6.5 million. The sale featured many top quality rarities as well as many true collector coins, something really for everyone and every budget. The top price paid for an NGC-certified coin was for the coveted 1796 Draped Bust Quarter. This example was a solid NGC XF 40 B-1 example exhibiting exquisite rainbow patination which enveloped peripheral elements on both the obverse and reverse. The popular one year type coin realized $44,650, which according to auction records, is nearly 9% more than the exact same piece generated at a Heritage Signature sale in February 2014.
Another impressive showing was for a common coin in an otherwise uncommon state of preservation. A scintillating 1880-S Morgan Dollar graded NGC MS 68 cruised to a powerful $12,925, a record price paid for an NGC coin in that grade. Although it’s hard to imagine a coin more striking than this, according to the NGC Census, two coins have achieved a 68 status with five awarded MS 69. To put this in perspective, the previous high price realized at public auction for an NGC MS 68 specimen was back in July of 2006 at a Heritage sale where a splendid peer claimed $5,750.
The March NGC US Coin Price Guide places a $5,800 valuation for MS 68 while the 68 category is reflecting a $10,000 price tag. For Capped Bust half dollar fans there were over 200 desirable and affordable, high grade collector coins, the majority residing in the AU grade pedigreed to the Skidaway Island Collection. Most of the offerings exhibited the flash and original toning that make these proud workhorses of 19th century commerce so popular.
Several of the NGC highlights include:
- 1823 Capped Bust Half Dollar O-113 NGC Fine Details $15,275
- 1834 Large Date Large Letters Capped Bust Half Dollar NGC MS 66 $11,817
- 1878-CC Trade Dollar NGC MS 61 $12,338
- 1882-CC Liberty Half Eagle NGC MS 62 $18,800
- 1862 $20 Liberty NGC AU 53 $18,800
As this article posts, the ANA National Money Show is underway in Portland Oregon. Running March 5-7th in the glorious Pacific Northwest, for collectors this is a great opportunity to see some of the best coins in attending dealers’ inventories as well as participating in the host powerhouse auction by Stack’s Bowers on March 6th & 10th. I hope to see you on the bourse and as I mentioned, if you plan to attend, please try to bring a friend or someone who is not yet acquainted with numismatics. Let them see, learn and feel firsthand the excitement, history and beauty this great hobby offers.
Until next time, happy collecting!
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 frequently attends major coin shows and auctions.