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Rare Coin Road Warrior-July 2012

Plus:  ‘Old Time’ Seated Liberty Dollar Collection to be offered at Baltimore

In this month’s Rare Coin Road Warrior, I will report on activity at the biggest shows over the last month.  In addition to the current show news I want to briefly touch on the HUGE disparities we are experiencing in early collector material between published ‘wholesale’ price levels and actual trading levels.  In conclusion, I want to preview the “Old Time” Seated Dollar collection to be offered at the Baltimore Coin Show.

The Rare Coin Show ‘Circuit’ has been active this late Spring and early Summer.  During May and early June we attended the Long Beach Show in CA, the NGC Invitational in Las Vegas, and the Chicago area Tinley Park, IL Show.  Business has been somewhat spotty, but scarce collector oriented coins are selling as fast as we can locate them.  Investor based material, especially Type Gold is FLAT and premiums over the ‘melt’ values are at an all time low.

The Long Beach Coin Show, although reported as active by some other newsletters, was at best marginal business wise.  Dealers we spoke to commented on both lack of activity and poor attendance by the public.  The number of dealers attending this great show has improved, but several dealers reported that their bourse fees were being increased.  Unfortunately, at least six major dealers I spoke to voiced the opinion that the Long Beach Show was certainly on their ‘drop’ list if business doesn’t improve.  Frankly, this legendary show has shown improvement, BUT the improvements are marginal in the face of table price increases.

In addition, the Long Beach Show recently sent out long term contracts inviting dealers to sign up for future shows at a small discount.  Unfortunately, next year’s Long Beach Show in June of 2013 will conflict with the Whitman Baltimore Summer Show leaving dealers in a position of booking tables at both shows while only being able to attend ONE?

Other shows in June included The NGC Las Vegas Invitational and the Cincinnati, Oh show in Sharonville.  The NGC Invitational was active and business was good, but several dealers cancelled at the last minute because of time constraints at home.  Personally we did well and enjoyed the show.  Dealers we spoke to felt the return by NGC to Vegas was a GOOD move.  Dealers like attending shows in Vegas and more dealers from the West Coast will attend.  Reports from the Cincinnati Show were mixed.  Although one larger dealer reported he did well, a couple of smaller dealers told me business there was marginal.

Dealers are always buying, but the frequency of purchases is more about price levels than quantity in this market.  Dealers will put a ‘price’ on coins, but often times they are going to be ‘back’ of the published market because that ‘published’ price IS NOT current.  Dealers buy coins to make money.  Dealers WILL stock coins if they feel they can sell them, in a reasonable amount of time at a reasonable mark up, but….they won’t stock them at a PUBLISHED ‘bid’ price when coins are trading actively at much lower levels.

I have heard (and used) the argument that nicer coins are worth bid or more, but the ‘key’ word here is NICER.  In our current market NICER means super eye appeal ‘near breakout’ quality-not just NICE for the grade.  This is truly a buyer’s market.

The SCARCE stuff is selling quickly because knowledgeable dealers know ‘what coins’ are scarce because they just don’t see them.  Unfortunately even the seasoned collector might not have a ‘handle’ on WHAT is scarce.

Take for example classic Commemorative Half Dollars.  Currently we are seeing this great series experience major lack of interest.  No one is promoting or marketing this series.  Yet, there are some great buys in the Commemorative series.  There are exceptions to every rule and the only real ‘word of advice’ I can give is to do your homework.  One of the most interesting aspects of coin pricing is the ‘VALUE’ of some of the early collector oriented series versus their published price levels.

While many traditional investor oriented coins ARE NOT worth their published prices, MANY Bust, Seated, and Barber coins are worth SUBSTANTIAL premiums over their published prices levels.

Ironically, a lot of these collector oriented series coins are WAY undervalued because both their supply and lack of demand has contributed to their poor pricing history today.  While these coins have enjoyed strong demand from collectors during this time period they were not pursued by bigger dealers because quite frankly there was never a large enough supply of them to be promoted.  Remember the ‘secret’ to a good promotion is a ready supply.

Seated coinage especially is HOT HOT HOT!  The funny thing is the pricing guides haven’t really picked up on this because ‘a coin here and a coin there’ trading is under their radar.  Yet, the reason these coins are trading for more than their ‘sheet’ price levels is because there are NOT enough of them available to trade frequently.  To buy nice and scarce Seated material I have paid as much as 3 times ‘sheet’ prices.  By the way, recently I sold a ‘three times sheet price’ coin immediately and had two inquiries later on for the same coin.

Barber coins too are VERY strong in price currently.  Once again, these fall into the small supply/large relative demand category.  There are lots of collectors pursuing a handful of coins that are not often available.  Nice AU material is especially strong with nice coins bringing over mint state ‘sheet’ price levels on many sales.  Once again I must reiterate, bargains are out there for the astute numismatist, but the ‘trophy’ coins are not available long.  Nor are these ‘trophy’ coins available at ‘sheet’ prices.

The “Old Time” Seated Dollar Collection

1846 Seated Dollar NGC62Over the last several years I have attempted to buy, stock, and trade a larger number of early collector coins including Bust, Seated, and Barber coinage.  These early U.S. series contain an endless number of great rarities as well as a substantial number of completely undervalued dates.  Not only are many of the coins in these series undervalued, but the true rarity in comparison with the price levels of more popular collector series from the twentieth century make many of these coins an absolute BARGAIN.

Collectors have known about these series for decades.  Quietly and patiently many collectors have built nice collections with quality coins.  These coins are not all SLABBED because often times a ‘slabbed’ specimen of a particular date is just not available.  Take for example the Seated Liberty Dollar series.

 Seated Liberty Dollars were produced between 1840 and 1873 with every year represented.  While the later Morgan and Peace Dollar series were produced more as a result of silver bullion mining interests than for commerce, the Seated Dollar was produced before the huge silver discoveries ‘out West’.  Seated Dollars were produced in surprisingly small quantities and did circulate while many of their Morgan and Peace Dollar cousins never left the vaults.

The factors that made Seated Dollars SO scarce included the growth and expansion of the United States itself.  During that 34 year span of time our country was growing from a mostly Eastern and Midwestern stated county to a truly coast to coast nation.   The nation itself survived a Civil War during this time period which also contributed to the scarcity of many issues.  Economic problems also were a factor in the survival of many of the Seated Dollar dates.  In fact, Seated Dollars pre-date the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.

Recently Bozarth Numismatics purchased a substantial original Seated Dollar Set built by a very astute and exacting collector during the fifties.  The set, although missing a few, is mostly complete and exhibits a surprising eye for detail and originality not often seen.  The coins in this set are graded an average AU plus in condition by NGC with over ten Mint State examples.  The set contains 40 total coins with the 1851, 1852, 1858, and 1860-O dates missing.  All the coins in the set are graded and consecutively serial numbered by NGC.

The “Old Time” Collection Set is surprisingly well matched with even originally toned and mostly original surface coins.  There are some ‘NET’ grade coins as are to be expected in an old original set, but overall the quality of the coins is fantastic.  The “Old Time” Set will be displayed with the original Wayte Raymond boards Thursday at the Baltimore Coin Show subject to prior sale.

Vic Bozarth
Vic Bozarth
Vic Bozarth is a member of the Professional Numismatics Guild (PNG), the ANA, the CSNS, FUN, and many other regional and state coin clubs and organizations. Vic has extensive experience buying and selling coins into the mid-six-figure range. Both Vic and his wife Sherri attend all major U.S. coin shows as well as most of the larger regional shows.

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