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Market Report – 08/27/13

August 27th, 2013

The Chicago suburb of Rosemont served as the host for the 2013 World’s Fair of Money earlier this August.  A week-long event that is widely regarded as the premier event in numismatics once again delivered, providing a nearly unprecedented opportunity for dealers and collectors alike to bask in the glow of a tremendous bull-market.

This coin show is put on by the fine folks at the American Numismatic Association.  Over the years the ANA has received its fair share of grief from dealers as it struggled to adapt to the ever-changing world around it.  Its coin shows were full of bizarre restrictions and heavy handed administration that forced dealers to jump through unnecessary hoops and adhere to silly rules.  The ANA was slowly but surely pushing dealers, the very life blood of the industry, away.  Over the last few years the ANA has softened its stance on many of its old ways and has made attending their events easier and more laid back for dealers like us who are on the show circuit year-round.  This particular coin show was by far the simplest, dare I say pleasant ANA event I’ve attended in my 15 years on the road.

As rare coins continue to march upwards, we’re seeing it separate itself from a precious metals market that has settled into what has to be called at best, a funk.  While prices of both gold and silver are being held in check by extraneous variables designed to prop up the U.S. dollar, rare coins continue to soar.  The local coin shops, be they large or small, in big cities or small towns are all reporting a slow-down in traffic as the buzz around gold and silver has died down.  However the activity level at coin shows, both large and small continues to grow.  Collectors continue to turn out in droves, scouring bourse floors across the country for everything from circulated key-dates and better date Morgan dollars to high-end rarities and pieces that will serve as lynchpins in some of the finest known registry sets.

This show as well was full of energy throughout.  From our arrival on dealer setup Monday until we departed late Saturday afternoon there was a steady stream of traffic at our table.  Dealers were anxious to show us their wares and we had a near constant barrage of dealers trying to check out our new purchases.  Retail traffic was strong as well, from the advance collector to young numismatists just starting out, we saw it all.

Throw in two very strong auctions by the two biggest auction houses in numismatics as well as the emergence of one of the last great collections in rare U.S. coins and this show was one that will be remembered for years to come.

Market Report – 06/24/13

June 24th, 2013

The inexorable march towards summer has begun.  Temperatures are rising, the school year has ended and vacations that once seemed so far away are now at hand.  All of which would lead you to believe that the rare coin market will slow its pace for the summer.  Dealers will slow down in their quest for new inventory, the attendance at coin shows will dwindle and very little will happen between now and the ANA convention in August.  The only problem with that “truism” is that whoever developed that notion didn’t attend last week’s coin show in Baltimore put on by the fine folks at Whitman.

The activity level last week was quite high.  Dealer to dealer business on Wednesday prior to the show’s setup was brisk with a pace not unlike what you’d see at a show held in Baltimore in March or November.  Once the show setup began on Thursday morning it became evident that people were here to do business and that this show, that may have at one point been a sleepy little waypoint on the road to something larger, has fully developed into a premier numismatic event.

When you have a coin show that is traditionally thought to be a “slow” show and extraneous variables are putting extra weight down on the market and yet you still have a show that showed the strength we saw in Baltimore, you’re left to the logical conclusion that the rare coin industry is in a tremendous bull market right now.  The extraneous variables I referred to earlier would be the precious metals market and the stock market.  Last week saw gold bullion lose over seven percent of its value and the Dow Jones suffered losses of nearly five percent of its value and yet the rare coin market continued to march along, dealers unfazed by losses in those markets, eager to replenish their stock.

A common complaint I hear right now is how hard it is to buy nice, new coins.  While it is true that the amount of fresh material on the market right now isn’t what we’ve seen in the past, this only shows the strength of market itself.  Fresh coins are out there, but the competition level for them is fierce.  Gone are the days in which coin shows were about deep inventories and empty aisles, replaced today with a market where fresh material doesn’t linger in boxes, aisles are packed with dealers and collectors alike, and the buzz in the room is much more than the air-conditioner humming to beat back that rising summer heat.

Market Report – 02/14/13

February 14th, 2013

Mark Twain famously said, “the report of my death, was an exaggeration”.  It appears the same can be said for the Long Beach Coin Expo.  Only a few years ago the show was clearly struggling.  The promoters were having a difficult time selling out the show, leaving countless booths unsold and empty.  The public attendance also declined and what was once an active, energetic bourse floor turned into a slow, plodding show from which dealers couldn’t wait to escape.  Thanks to the diligent efforts of the show promoters, the Long Beach Coin Expo has shaken off a bit of the cobwebs that had descended over it and reasserted itself as the west coast’s premier numismatic convention.  The tables were all rented, the public attendance was up and the mood on the floor was positive.

A near constant theme that is on the verge of becoming a truism at the major coin shows we attend is just how difficult it is to find fresh coins and conversely how easy it is to sell fresh material.  We had one of our strongest selling shows in recent memory and everything was moving.  From high-end rarities like a 1907 High Relief in PCGS MS66 and an 1855 Arrows 50c in PCGS 65+ to key date pieces like a 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter in VF and a 1796 25c in Fine, nearly every segment of the market seems to be heating up.  And while it’s true that buying fresh coins on the bourse floor can be difficult we did manage to buy a set of proof Liberty Nickels that hadn’t seen the light of day in decades along with some high-end rarities that will be making their way to our website soon.

A renewed optimism seems to be invading the minds of both dealers and collectors alike.  As we all come to terms with the fact that the generic gold market has followed the spot price of gold and become stagnant, we can now focus on rarities and collector coins.  Already in 2013 the rare coin market has its first ten million dollar coin sold, the bourse floors of the first two major coin shows (Orlando and Long Beach) have been filled with excited collectors and we haven’t even made it to the first Baltimore show of the year, which has been the strongest venue by far over the past five years.

Market Report – 01/16/13

January 22nd, 2013

The rare coin market has exploded out of the gate in 2013 with one of the strongest FUN shows in recent memory.  All signs point to rare coins trending upward in the coming year as we move beyond what was a solid 2012.  Perhaps the uncertainty of the outcome of the Presidential election or the slightly media-induced panic over the “Fiscal Cliff” held people in check over the second half of last year, but if this past weeks’ FUN show is any indicator (and it usually is), we’re in for a terrific year in rare coins.

Think of the annual FUN show as a metaphorical Groundhog Day.  Just as Punxsutawney Phil is tasked with prognosticating the emergence of spring or the persistence of winter, the FUN show serves a terrific indicator as to how strong the rare coin market could be in the coming months.  The 2013 FUN show had an amazing flurry of activity in all tiers of the market.  A behemoth of an auction that included over 12,000 total lots was swallowed up by dealers and collectors alike.  Every segment of the bourse floor was crowded with activity, from high-end retailers selling the finest certified examples to small dealers trading circulated collector coins, this FUN show had an energy unlike any we can remember.  The aisles were crowded with visitors, the mood was positive and business was brisk.

One area of the rare coin market that seems to be doing particularly well to start the new year is high-end proof type.  We sold an amazing Barber quarter graded PF69* Cameo by NGC as well as a seated liberty dollar graded PR66 Deep Cameo by PCGS.  However that’s hardly the only segment of the rare coin market that showed life.  We sold a healthy amount of both better date gold pieces as well as some jaw-dropping proof gold pieces with deep cameo designations that help further validate our belief that we’re in for a terrific year of rare coin trading. 

We’re also very excited about the coins we were able to purchase at the show.  Some of these pieces will make their way to our website soon, including some of the finest proof $2.5 liberty coinage ever graded along with a truly outstanding set of proof three cent silvers, some of which are the finest known.

If the industry has a weak spot right now, it would have to be the generic gold market.  The prices between the levels are still very compressed and there seems to be a general sense of ennui in regards to the trading of the product.  With the spot price of gold basically flat (up only 2.2% over the last year) and the market slow to digest the quantities available, our advice for the time being would be to focus on true numismatic rarities in lieu of holding a large position in an oversaturated market.

Market Report – 09/11/12

September 11th, 2012

We’ve just returned from Long Beach, California for what was our third show of the year in sunny, Southern California.  In what’s an encouraging trend, we had our best Long Beach show in nearly five years.  We did a remarkable volume of both sales and purchases at the final show of 2012 in Long Beach.  While the public attendance was sporadic, with strong turnout on both Thursday and Saturday, Friday was on the quiet side.  On the whole, Long Beach remains one of the premier numismatic trade shows in the country.

The most exciting purchase of the show was an amazing collection of extremely high-end pattern coinage, some of which we’ll have available on our website very soon!  These coins came from a very serious, long-time collector who compiled these coins over many decades.  We also purchased an amazing Barber quarter in PF69 that is easily one of the most beautiful coins of this type we’ve ever handled.  We also purchased some high-end gold coins as well.  A gem 1911-D $2.5 and a ridiculously fresh $5 half eagle in MS67 come to mind. 

Selling coins came quite easily at this show.  Dealers were quickly gobbling up coins in all price ranges.  From circulated collector coins to a gem specimen striking of a Hibernia half pence, it was clear that dealers needed coins.   The rare coin market is definitely gaining strength as we march through 2012. 

As I write this we’re only a few days away from the Fed possibly announcing another round of quantitative easing (or QE3).   Gold has advanced cautiously upwards in the last few weeks as many speculate another printing of money by the U.S. government is imminent.  Whatever decision is announced will undoubtedly affect the spot price of gold.  A swing of 10% in either direction is certainly possible once Fed chief Ben Bernanke announces his plan.  We feel that the rare coin market has done a good job of separating itself from the swings of the gold bullion market of late and certainly has better “legs” to stand on than it has over the past several years.  We’re optimistic that regardless of where the spot price of gold lands that the rare coin industry continues to strengthen. 

Market Report – 08/13/12

August 13th, 2012

The World’s Fair of Money, the largest coin show in the world, just wrapped up its annual convention, this year held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in the heart of our nation’s former capital, Philadelphia.  It was the first year in which the ANA joined forces with the PNG (The Professional Numismatists Guild) in order to hold both a pre-show as well as the regular show in the same location.  It turned what’s already a long show into a nine day marathon.  Some dealers marched along like the Energizer bunny, never skipping a beat, while you could tell the length of this show did seem to take its toll on the overall “buzz” of the show by the time we got into the seventh and eighth day of the event.  However repeated trips to the Reading Terminal Market, conveniently located adjacent to the convention center served as a terrific pit stop.  That market is one of a kind and truly is a treasure that should be visited the next time you’re in Philadelphia. 

When shows such as these are held in large, east coast cities such as Boston, Baltimore or New York, you can typically count on a crush of public attendance.  Unfortunately for Philly, the crowds never seemed to materialize.  Whether this is due to the location or if this is simply another signal of the changing shape of coin shows is hard to say.  As technology and information improve, allowing the collector to amass and disseminate more information about the types of coins he or she wants to collect or sell, it seems to be negatively affecting the attendance at coin shows. 

While attendance at coin shows in general has been lighter this year, the overall volume of business we’re doing has actually improved.  We came out of Philly with a bevy of new purchases.  Some of the highlights include a 1907 $20 High Relief in PCGS MS65, a PCGS MS62 1892-S Morgan Dollar and the always popular 1916-D 10c in PCGS MS63 Full Bands.  We also sold one of our favorite coins, the excessively rare 1797 50c which is housed in a PCGS XF45 holder.  Other great rarities we sold include the hard to find proof issue of the 1903 Jefferson Gold Dollar.  This coin was graded Proof 65 Cameo by PCGS. 

Overall the trip to Philadelphia was a positive one.  We made it to a Phillies game, ate a cheesesteak at the legendary Tony Luke’s, ate way too much home cooked food at the Reading Terminal Market and handled some truly world class numismatic items.  Check our site soon as we’ll be adding some terrific fresh new coins very soon!

Market Report – 06/04/12

June 4th, 2012

We have just returned from a week in Long Beach, our west coast “home away from home”.  The weather was incredible with high in the 70’s, low in the 50’s and plenty of sunshine.  It reminded me once again why so many people choose to live in Southern California.  I’ve been all over the U.S., and in my opinion there is no close second in terms of amazing weather.  As always, it was a fun week.  I even took my daughter along and we paid a visit to Catalina Island on Saturday.  In my 20 years of attending Long Beach shows, I had not taken the one-hour boat ride to explore this little treasure.  It was a fantastic trip, I highly recommend it.

The new owners of the Long Beach show (Collectors Universe) are making a nice effort to reinvigorate the show.  This once proud show has taken some hits over the last few years.  The State of California has increased what are already viewed as onerous tax laws, making many dealers feel unwelcome and causing many more to skip a visit to the Golden State altogether.  The show promoters have brought sports cards dealers back into the fold, increased the number of educational and display booths and done a nice job of getting more public through the front door.  In a major shift for dealers the bourse opened to dealers for setup on Wednesday at noon, versus the 2:00 p.m. opening time that has been in effect for as long as I can remember.  Overall the feel of this show was as good as we’ve seen in at least five years.  I suppose it remains to be seen if these efforts can overcome what is felt by many dealers as a trending away from doing business in the state of California that could ultimately lead to the end of the Long Beach show altogether.  If the feel of this show is any indication, the reports of its death are greatly exaggerated.

While it is true that of the three Long Beach Expos held every year June is typically the slowest, this one bucked the trend, if ever so slightly.  In general, dealers and collectors both use June and July to enjoy some time off; which is often times true of the precious metals market as well.  While there was never the kind of energy you find in a Baltimore or at a World’s Fair of Money, this show showed some life.  Precious metals surged upwards significantly on Thursday, creating some positive energy and the aforementioned increase in public traffic led to a really positive day.  Wholesale business was strong and moving nice coins in all price ranges remained easy.  We sold everything from nice CAC certified type coins to a selection of nice proof Trade Dollars from an original set we recently purchased.  We sold a high-grade Dahlonega gold dollar, an 1886-O Morgan dollar in MS64, and an 1870-CC Quarter among many others.  In fact, it was legitimately more difficult to buy nice coins than to sell them.  There are many areas right now which present excellent value in numismatics.  I get the feeling both dealers and astute collectors realize that, and are not afraid to buy coins, even in the slow summer months.  We will be adding a few great items to our site this week, so please keep checking back!

Although I predict the month of June to be relatively quiet both on the show circuit and here in the office, it’s clear that quality material is in demand.  I fully expect the ANA Convention in Philadelphia to be the show of the year.  The stars are lining up for quite an event.

Market Report – 05/17/12

May 17th, 2012

We’ve recently returned from attending the American Numismatic Association’s National Money Show, which this year was held in Denver, Colorado.  What is traditionally thought of as one of the slower major shows we attend each year, this one certainly did very little to assuage that notion.  The ANA failed to offer an auction in conjunction with this show, nor did either of the two primary grading services (PCGS & NGC) show up to grade coins on-site.  If you’ve ever attended a major coin show, you know how having on-site grading can add to the overall feel or buzz in the room.  It allows dealers to make available a higher quantity of fresh, new coins.  The lack of an auction at the show only compounds the problem, preventing any excitement from building with the knowledge that you’ll see an important collection or an amazing coin auctioned off.  The final nail in the coffin of this show was the actual location of show inside the cavernous Colorado Convention Center.  The hall the ANA selected was a significant distance from the entrance, causing complaints from both dealers and attendees.  While I understand that the ANA has undergone quite a bit of internal strife over the past year, I honestly had higher hopes for what remains a major coin show in the very backyard of their Colorado Springs headquarters.  You got the feeling they were simply going through the motions, just mailing it in.  There is talk that the ANA is considering doing away with this show altogether, and I must say that if this is what the show has devolved into, I won’t be sorry to see it go.

Business at the show itself was steady.  Our wholesale business was strong, and the turnout by the public was pleasing.  We were able sell some rare date, deep-cameo proof gold, a nice flowing hair dollar and some choice Carson City gold.  The demand for collector coins is seemingly insatiable, as both dealers and attendees are in hot pursuit of certified pieces they can place with collectors or in their own collections.  Generic gold continues to be a soft spot in the market, as the demand is low, the supply is high and confidence in the overall direction of gold spot for the near term is more bearish than it has been in recent months.  It remains our contention that there is definite value to be had in certain areas of the generic gold market as there is an overall compression facing the levels of certain issues that is truly unprecedented.  When gold makes its next run there will be plenty of areas to cash in on, if you’ve been paying attention.

Market Report – 04/25/12

April 25th, 2012

We are back in the office following a successful Central States convention in Schaumburg, Illinois.  Wholesale activity was very strong; in fact we bought so many coins we’re still digging out!  The only negative worth mentioning was a noticeable lack of collector attendance.  It seems to be a growing trend – but the demand for truly high-end rare coins is still as strong as ever.  Technology advances have made online bidding in auctions seamless.  And, most serious collectors have dealers who represent them both in the auction and on the bourse floor so they can focus on their own careers.  It’s just become less necessary for collectors to travel as much.

Matching great coins with clients is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.  We brought home gem proof gold for a type set, some beautiful silver type for a good friend and client, and were able to acquire some amazing Barber Halves from the estate of our longtime client and friend, the late John Hugon.

In terms of both value and demand, there is a widening spread between “stuff” and legitimate high-quality coins.  Prices for dull or ‘stale’ material are lagging far behind prices for choice material; and this is evident across all price ranges, whether a coin is worth $500 or $500,000.  Serious collectors understand that they are going to have to step up in order to acquire coins that have both technical quality and eye appeal.  This can be seen in the prices realized at auction and it is also true on the bourse floor, as it is becoming exceedingly difficult to locate pieces we want to place with our clients.  It seems that many of the best coins are in strong hands for now, as collectors and investors continue to prefer hard assets over many traditional investments.   But we’re always on the lookout and have managed to add some great coins to our inventory!

The “Coin Without A Country”

February 25th, 2010

Although widely considered a part of the Seated Half Dime series, the fascinating 1860 ‘Transitional’ issue was actually a creation of United States Mint Director James Ross Snowden just before the onset of the Civil War.  Allegedly, he issued 100 pieces as ‘trade bait’ in order to lure new coins to the U.S. Mint cabinet.  To this day, the exact survival rate is unknown.  However, most pieces never entered circulation meaning they were most likely traded among coin collectors and dealers and given special care even in the earliest days of numismatics within Philadelphia and New York.  Circulated pieces are virtually unknown.  This is an interesting theme that crosses the border into certain other U.S. series as well.

This issue is most well-known for its highly unusual lack of “United States Of America” within the design.  Only a small handful of U.S. issues possess this attribute.  In this case, Snowden combined the unusual Paquet obverse design and new ‘cereal wreath’ reverse design intended for use on 1860 issues and onward.  Considering the historical significance, statistical rarity, and relative availability of high quality survivors – this issue seems to be a fantastic value.  It is a beautifully engraved Civil War-era pattern that fits into a high-end collection of Seated Half Dimes, Patterns, or general oddities!