As the world faces an unprecedented economic and public health crisis brought on by the coronavirus COVID-19, the numismatic markets have demonstrated incredible resiliency.
Indeed, coins and banknotes represent one of the rare pockets of stability, safety and even strength during this period of fear and uncertainty.
Significant volatility of the stock market is often a harbinger of increased investment in collectibles, and that has proven to be the case yet again since the coronavirus became a pandemic.
During the week of March 16 — the most recent peak of stock market volatility — Stack’s Bowers Galleries sold well over $45 million in coins, currency and bullion-related items, with many collectibles trading at record prices.
These sales included the renowned D. Brent Pogue US currency collection, in which 224 notes certified by Paper Money Guaranty® (PMG®) realized more than $9 million. Remarkably, 27 PMG-certified notes in the collection surpassed $100,000 each, led by an 1863 $100 “Spread Eagle” Legal Tender note graded PMG 65 Gem Uncirculated EPQ that sold for $432,000 USD.
In the same week, Stack’s Bowers sold a 1913 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle graded PF 66 by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation® (NGC®) for an impressive $162,000.
In a testament to the industry’s perseverance and versatility, the Stack’s Bowers sale was moved from Baltimore to the firm’s headquarters in California less than a week before it was scheduled to be held. The strong results show that the markets for US coins and banknotes have significant depth and demand, even at the highest prices.
On March 20, German auction house Fritz Rudolf Künker GmbH & Co. sold two NGC-certified Austrian coins for many multiples of their starting prices. A 1629 5 Ducat graded NGC MS 61 soared above its starting price of 8,000€ to realize 38,000€ (about $41,000 USD), and a 1636 Ducat graded NGC MS 66 far exceeded its starting price of 4,000€ to realize 22,000€ (about $24,000 USD).
Less than a week later, another NGC-certified European coin achieved an extraordinary result. In a March 25 sale presented by Baldwin’s of St. James’s, a 1945 Great Britain Silver King George VI Threepence graded NGC MS 63 realized £62,000 (nearly $74,000 USD) — more than double its presale estimate.
Both the Künker and Baldwin’s sales were conducted entirely online due to local restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The strong prices paid for NGC-certified coins and PMG-certified notes in recent sales have given consignors the confidence to offer a number of valuable collectibles for sale despite the uncertainty facing other markets.
Coming up, the Heritage Central States Auction (moved to Dallas, Texas) features many important US and world coins, with several NGC-certified coins expected to realize more than $200,000. Among these is an 1858 Liberty Eagle graded NGC PF 64 Ultra Cameo, the finest example known and the only one in private hands.
Industry experts agree that the numismatic markets continue to show remarkable strength despite the times. Ian Russell, President of GreatCollections, said that he has not seen any decline in interest, and John Brush, President of David Lawrence Rare Coins, said that he has noticed a marked increase in people buying through the firm’s website.
Jeff Garrett, renowned coin dealer and former president of the American Numismatic Association (ANA), recently commented that in times of uncertainty, many investors seek tangible assets. He also noted that gold has performed strongly in the last several months, and many predict further flights of capital to this safe haven, as well as other precious metals. Usually, some percentage of these buyers become interested in numismatics, he concluded.
With many shows cancelled and auctions moved to the internet, the certification services offered by NGC and PMG have become even more essential. Dealers cannot survive if they cannot sell their inventory, and third-party certification makes it possible for coins and banknotes to be bought and sold online, even sight-unseen, from the safety and comfort of one’s home.
All of NGC and PMG’s global offices remain open but with enhanced cleaning procedures and strict safety precautions. By staying open, the companies are providing liquidity and confidence to the global collectibles markets at a time when those qualities are more important than ever.
Our global customers depend on our expert third-party certification services. Protecting the collector community and our employees while serving the hobby that we all love is our goal, and we will never stop our pursuit of achieving that goal every single day.
— Mark Salzberg, NGC and PMG Chairman
Not surprisingly, third-party authentication, grading and encapsulation must be done inside of a secure environment with advanced equipment. At NGC and PMG headquarters in Sarasota, Florida, USA, employees whose jobs allow them to work from home have been equipped to do so, and the space made available has enabled other workers to spread out to safe distances. Frequent cleaning and other safety protocols provide additional protection.
In China, where NGC and PMG have a large presence, the companies’ comprehensive response to COVID-19 allowed their Shanghai and Hong Kong offices to remain fully operational for the last six weeks. Those offices continue to be open and submission levels are now nearly as high, if not higher, as before the pandemic.
This pandemic affects us all, and our thoughts are with our friends and clients throughout the global numismatic community. Every day the news is overwhelmingly negative, but the activity we are seeing in numismatics is one of the few bright spots. We are heartened that, even in these tumultuous times, the passion for numismatics remains strong.
— Steven Eichenbaum, CEO of NGC and PMG
For collectors and dealers navigating the collectibles markets online, NGCcoin.com and PMGnotes.com offer a wealth of free resources, including price guides, population reports, registry set programs, coin melt values and much more.