By Laura Sperber – Legend Numismatics ……
A NOTE FROM LAURA SPERBER
Do know this is one of the toughest reports for me to write. George Huang, the co-founder of Legend and my business partner for 31 years had a very serious heart attack last Friday. George always did everything within his power to stay healthy–this came as a huge shock to everyone. The doctors said that he got to the hospital in the nick of time.
But I’m pleased to say that George is now home from the hospital. It was an extremely difficult week. His recovery is far from over, but he’s certainly on the mend. Legend and George thank every one for the outpouring of prayers, words, and kindness.
If you have any questions or wish to relay something to him, please email me at email@example.com.
P.S. – To clarify my semi-retirement: I am deathly afraid of flying. Last year I flew 220,000 miles. I want to do only half that or less. I will still be in the office four days a week (not six). I will still accept representation in ALL major auctions, and I will be at all major shows. Things like Las Vegas, I will cut down on attending. I might attend one less Legend Auction. Even with George out for some time,, I do not plan on any significant changes for myself or Legend Numismatics (he’s actually been semi-retired since 2014). We will be announcing a major hire for the auction company soon.
THE BALTIMORE SHOW
As always Mary Counts and team worked really hard to make Baltimore a good, friendly show to attend. This show’s attendance was moderate–however, due to the auctions many world-class buyers were roaming the floor.
Our show overall turned out a hundred times better then we expected. March was really good for us and but we weren’t sure if action would carry over to the show. Did it ever!
Starting with our regular “super secret buyer”, our sales were strong. In fact we pretty much sold every one something. Selling was easy as most dealers similar to us were likewise starved for coins. By the time the show opened, we had sold well into six figures. Even our “super secret” stealth seller had a record show–and before the doors opened, too! It is VERY important to note that, on the wholesale side, we virtually got the FULL prices that our CAC coins were listed for on our web site. With so little on the floor, dealers need to restock and have something to sell to make money. Sales to collectors were super strong (as the norm) for a Baltimore Show.
A VOLCANO HITS THE COIN MARKET
From our previous Market Report:
We are confident next week we will be typing our Market Report with sheer exhaustion, happiness from all we bought, and we will be crowing how strong the sales were with all the record prices realized. If we end up on the losing end, the market will be insanely strong–that’s how strong our bids are!
WE TOLD YOU SO!!!!
Without a doubt, the upper end of the coin market rose 10-20% at the end of March. Three things propelled the rise: TWO MAJOR FRESH auctions (Blue Moon and Pogue), incredible consumer confidence (in the coin market), and a serious LACK of TRUE quality coins.
The Pogue and Blue Moon Collections sparked intense interest–even luring long sleeping collectors out of their sheds. Plus, we have witnessed a silent spike in the amount and size of a new breed of collector coming into the market in the past few months. We know you will see almost NO Pogue coins for resale. Blue Moon you won’t see many either. It is clear the demand for great coins far outstrips the supply. Remember, since the Pogue sale was supposed to happen last September, three trillion dollars have been made in the stock market and people feel good and wealthy again. It only takes a fraction of a fraction of a percent to make the coin market rock–and that is what is unfolding right before our eyes.
There is a HUGE downside, however. We are talking about HIGH-END, HIGH-QUALITY coins ONLY – not average, nice coins. Sadly, we have witnessed the gap between CAC and NON-CAC coins grow even further for the most part. Look at ANY auction–the prices realized are firm proof of that. To realize a strong price, the coin MUST be 100% all there. 98% doesn’t cut it for the new breed of collector who lives for quality and eye appeal.
On the average-to-dreck side, things have changed a little. A ton of these coins have FINALLY gone away. The Utah Billionaire who now wants to be Eliasberg, Jr. is really just filling holes. He probably has now spent over $75 million since he came into the market last July. At first he was buying bigger million dollars coins. Then he started buying up collections. Today he is the sensation of the internet for dozens of dealers who have sold him coins to fill his holes. Even if he has only spent $30 million removing the so/so stuff, that is an awful lot of coins now gone AND it clearly has freed up dealers cash flows. The only reason he will not get hurt is because he is doing this for fun (nice, huh?) and the coins are going into an educational foundation and will not be sold in our lifetimes. Sit on any coin forever and chances are you will not get crunched.
Do note, though, the split between real GEM coins and stuff as we have said has grown even larger.
The current level of confidence in the upper end of the market for sure is stronger than in 2008! In our opinion, the coin market today is full of pent-up demand and was just waiting to break out when the time was right. This past month, the time proved more than right.
We can NOT stress enough how important it is to work with a good dealer. You WILL avoid losses and problems down the road.
THE POGUE SALE
We are a bit saddened that one of the all-time greatest collections is now dispersed. To participate and represent great collectors was both a thrill and an honor. At the Pogue Sale alone, Legend Numismatics–on behalf of itself and customers–spent in excess of $5 million dollars hammer! No, Bob Simpson was not our biggest buyer (he WAS a serious buyer though). Overall, Legend bought at least 25% of the entire five session Pogue Collection!
No one believed us when we kept saying this is a different market than the last Pogue sale. So many things have changed. Plus, with it being the last Pogue sale knowing no more incredible coins like these will be sold probably made a few prices rise.
We thought we had crazy bids, but the one coin we were totally floored on, the 1C 1852 PCGS MS66RD CAC, brought a staggering $94,000.00. We had estimated this wonder of nature at $50-$75,000.00. We did not think anyone would be as crazy as us. We were shocked when there were at least three of us bidding at $50,000.00 (including one of the sharpest dealers in the biz). At $50,000.00 the buyer jumped in and started bidding! You must understand, this coin is the FINEST EVER KNOWN Braided Hair Large Cent. When Naftzger owned it he graded it MS70 Red. PCGS should have graded it at least an MS67RD. Does not matter what the holder says, there is NO other coin like it. Is the owner buried? Maybe by 10% today if they had to resell it–we’re still here to buy it, though (this coin has haunted us since Nafzger). In the end this freak of nature brought “market”. Our customer for it, who was exhausted, had told us “you go buy it – you decide what to pay”. We did not want to do that; fortunately, we had him back on the phone. If not then we might have paid $100,000.00 for it! A growling congratulations to the new owner.
This sale went beyond insane. We did not think Pogue would ever make a profit on his Missouri Cabinet coins. HELL YEAH HE DID! We have a coin from that sale that we still can’t sell. It makes a HUGE difference when you offer a huge collection vs. one or two coins.
In the end, the bargain of the show turned out to be the famous 1804 dollar. Yes, it really did sell! It bought $3,290,000.00. Our partner Bruce Morelan summed it up best: The new trend is specialized set building (thanks, Registry!). The 1804 is an orphan coin in that regard. It doesn’t belong in a bust dollar set… and even the other Proof dates don’t truly belong with it.
EVERY coin that was TRUE quality in this sale (no, not all were) did bring BEYOND INSANE MOON MONEY! Save for the 1804 we did not see anything else slip through the cracks.
Also: The Blue Moon Collection did exactly what we thought it do: CRAZY! Legend spent almost $1,000,000 there. Of course we were losers on the big coin–the 1794 which sold for $910,625.00 (we under bid it at $881,250.00). We’re proud to say we kept the 1888 PR set intact! We did buy two of the Gobrechts. While there were a few coins that did bring weak numbers, it was because they were dark and had problems (these old-time collections are famous for being hit or miss on quality). Here too EVERYTHING that was TRUE quality brought staggering money.
Removing the two 1794 dollars we had purchased in past major auctions, Legend spent OVER $6,000,000 hammer between these two sales–which was more then any other sale (by $1 million). In fact, Stack’s Bowers informed us that we bought 30% of of the night’s worth of sales. We have never represented more aggressive collectors than between these two sales. We all wondered if the Gardner and Newman Collections could ever be rebuilt… Well. the new breed of super-collector seem hell bent on building even better sets (yes, that IS possible). The Pogue Sale completed a beyond insane Type set that will rival any and is worth $30-$40 million easy – for a collector who is not even American! We have fought against this collector for a few years over the very best coins on the market. Our sincere congratulations to his completion (and a BIG grin from us now that we can buy more of the great stuff that hopefully will come around).
POST BALTIMORE SHOW
Legend Numismatics did all-time record business of $10-$12,000,000 starting March 27 and ending April 7. We spent about $9,000,000.00 buying and representing people in BOTH the Blue Moon and Pogue sales. Activity in the office earlier this month was off the charts and we are still counting it all up! We could have sold five 1869 $1 PCGS PR64 Cameo CAC (one collector even offered us MORE then the listed price)!
For us to do this kind of business, the market has to be strong. What more proof do you need?
Of course the biggest deal we did was the purchase of the 1804 dollar, which had sold for $3,290,000 at the Pogue V Sale. No we were NOT the buyers out of the sale. Our long-time good friends Kevin Lipton and John Albanese were the buyers. We did an after-auction purchase.
The Dexter specimen 1804 Class I Draped Bust dollar in the Pogue Family Collection, graded PCGS Secure PR65. Photo courtesy PCGS
THE $1 1804 POGUE/DEXTER DOLLAR
Many years ago (in the early 1990s), Legend outright bought the Amon Carter Class III PCGS AU58 1804 $1. Our cost at the time was $750,000.00. We sold it to Phil Flannagan for whom we had built a major Bust Dollar Collection (sold off in 1999). It had always been a dream of ours to handle a Class I. Over the years we came close but obviously it never happened. When we heard the Pogues were selling their incredible collection we knew we had a shot.
The PR68 Pogue piece obviously was never meant to be. We had two seriously interested parties in it. The sad part on that coin: it had turned. YES and the 1804 looked like something was done to it. It certainly was not the same crisp coin we all remember from The Childs Collection. Then we thought okay, it’s still the finest, maybe as a price buy?
Fast forward to the Carriage House at the Garrett estate (where you can see incredible marble slabs of T. Harrison’s favorite horses buried in the floor around the stables), and virtually no one really believes that this 1804 would be for sale. We had told our partner the coin would end up a bad deal and not to even waste his time. All along our good friend John Albanese was telling us we were so wrong, the coin is easily worth $4-5 million (we won a sushi dinner on that bet).
Going into the sale, our partner had placed a low-ball $2,000,000 bid. He also knew that we might be representing some one who was seriously thinking about cutting the bid on increment from where it opened (at $2.6 million). When the coin opened it was eerily quiet. Just before they closed it a cut internet bid appeared. No one really believed the bids. So it was bumped up one increment. Then the coin hammered at $2,700,000.00 and a real bidder number was called out. Since it was an absentee bid, here, too, everyone was asking did it really sell? We had several text inquiries asking if it was us. A few hours later it was confirmed who the buyers were (Kevin was on a plane and did not find out until he landed). Kudos for Kevin Lipton for placing the book bid.
We were bone tired the next day and did not have the chance to really think about the 1804. It was a daily call from John Albanese Sunday AM to shoot the breeze that changed everything. He was shocked that a few serious buyers had already reached out to him. We were startled and did NOT expect that. It is one of the few times we really misjudged a value. Thinking about it for a few minutes, we called our partner Bruce Morelan. It took him all of 10 minutes to decide to make a play at it. The negotiations were simple and really fast. This time, we knew we had to pass or play. Within minutes we had an agreement and Legend Numismatics had negotiated the purchase.
Further proving that we did the right thing, we were offered a $100,000.00 profit later Sunday afternoon! Of course we declined. This coin belongs in Bruce Morelan’s Bust Dollar Collection and it is his dream coin.
It was beyond crazy the entire chain of events. It is felt by most parties involved that, had this 1804 (Dexter) been auctioned first and everyone saw it was a clean and clear sale, that it would have been closer to $5,000,000.00. We were told Pogue had been offered that for the coin a few times.
THE HIGHLIGHT OF A 40-YEAR CAREER
We had given up hope on ever buying a Class I 1804 after the first fiasco. Now that we have, we can state that Laura Sperber and Legend Numismatics have handled EVERY major classic rarity save for the $20 1933 and the J-1776, both of which we can sell in our sleep to several people. We’ve handled TWO 1913 5C, three 1927-D Saints, TWO 1885 Trade Dollars, TWO ’94-S 10C, the $1 1866 NO Motto, the Amazonian Set, and so many more great classic rarities in our time. With the purchase of this 1804, our numismatic bucket list is pretty much complete. Plus, we really believe even in this day of mega-value collections, unless Simpson or one other collector we know ever sells, there will NEVER be another collection offered anywhere similar to Pogue. We believe that between Legend and a private collector, we purchased 40-50% of the ENTIRE value of the Pogue sale!
With all that in mind, and after a remarkable 40-year-long career, Laura Sperber is pulling back some. Yes, she is really semi-retiring. Of course no one here believes it. What she intends to do is not do as many shows and not try to be a big coin dealership that is everything to everyone. Like our Legend Rare Coin Auctions subsidiary, Legend Numismatics will become a boutique in every sense of the word. Laura will still be handling all of her regular customers and will be at most (but not all) major shows. She will attend only a few Legend Auctions (of course she will still represent people in the big sales). After 40 years of going non-stop, it’s time to slow it down!
All this has happened for Laura from the inspiration when she was a wide-eyed 16-year-old who attended the 1976 NYC ANA Show and was allowed to hold the 1913 5C. Hard work and big dreams can come true!
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Legend Rare Coin Auctions (LRCA), based in Lincroft, NJ, is a boutique-style rare coin auction firm.
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