The Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Program continues to perform well in the secondary market. Will this trend continue?
By Louis Golino for CoinWeek
Modern commemorative coins from the U.S. Mint frequently drop in price after initial interest in the coins fades. When early prices for 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame coins sold and graded at the Baltimore Whitman Expo and pre-orders for raw coins started off at such lofty levels, many people argued that they too would soon trend lower.
But a little over a month after the release of the coins on March 27, prices remain firm for coins with the Baltimore labels and have moved higher for most raw and graded coins as well. For example, a set of the six different baseball coins graded MS/PF 70 with PCGS “First Pitch Baltimore” labels sold at Great Collections on April 27 for $9,075, which is similar to what complete sets were bringing a month ago on eBay. And a proof $5 gold with the same label sold on e-Bay on May 2 for $4,595, which is the same level the coins were at a month ago.
The silver dollar in original government packaging was bringing around $90-100 over the past couple weeks on eBay, but in the past week prices have moved up to the $120-130 level in many cases. An unopened box went for $140 on May 2. And the $5 gold coins are doing even better with the proof example that started off a month ago at about $600-700 for pre-sales has more recently moved from $850 for in stock coins just a few days ago to $1,000 and more. When the gold coins are available from dealers, they sell out very quickly. It is also interesting that dealers do not have as extensive stocks of the coins as they normally would for a recent modern issue.
The supply crunch is a result of the way orders for the coins have been handled by the Mint. Those who got orders in the first hour or so onMarch 27 have received most of their coins, but many orders are waiting to be shipped based on what I read in the numismatic blogosphere and hear from collectors.
When I called about my own pending orders, including some placed on the first day, I was told that the Mint is having computer problems with the system that generates order shipment dates and that the coins have been minted and are shipping. But it is strange that none of my orders, except one placed during the first half hour the coins were available online, has been sent, or is marked as “in stock and reserved,” which is what precedes shipment. This has been an ongoing issue with the Mint’s order fulfillment process, which is supposed to be replaced later this year with a better system.
Another factor it that the cut-off dates for first strike and early release at PCGS and NGC are May 6 and May 8 respectively. It appears far fewer coins have been received in time for the cut-off with this release than is usually the case, which may add value to the coins that have the FS/ER labels.
In the meantime, the shipping delays and undiminished interest in the coins are providing support for an unusually strong market for these coins. The relative lack of coins in hand has created the opportunity for those with coins ready to ship to capitalize on the situation. The big question is what will happen when more coins are available. To address this and the broader issue of the market potential for the baseball coins, I contacted a couple of the leading dealers in the country who specialize in modern coins.
John Maben, a former NGC coin grader, owner of John Maben Rare Coins, which includes Modern Coin Mart, a market-maker in modern coins, and co-author with Eric Jordan of Top 50 Most Popular Modern Coins (Krause, 2012) provided the following insights on the BHOF coins: “I grossly underestimated how popular these coins would be. The curved or dish concept isn’t new… Perth has done it several times. However, being the first U.S coin to utilize this production method and with a baseball theme, ended up being a homerun with collectors.”
Mr. Maben also said: “I expect prices to be volatile for a few months before they settle down but suspect they will still end up well above issue prices. NGC and PCGS coins seem fairly priced at current levels based on current demand. In my opinion, the Baltimore coins carry more downside pricing risk because of the bigger premiums, but again, the market will determine if they deserve those premiums. For my money, personally, I would not be too concerned about getting coins that were released first and designated as a show release if it meant paying more than a modest premium over non show releases.”
An example of the volatility Mr. Maben discussed was two sales on the same day at Great Collections, a leading auction company that does a lot of business in modern U.S. coins, of the $5 gold graded PCGS MS70 first strike. One went for $1,126, and the other for $1,386.
Ian Russell, president of Great Collections, expressed views that in many ways mirrored what Mr. Maben said: “I originally thought the mintage numbers were very high and this would restrict the upside. Clearly I underestimated the demand for the series and frankly, I’ve never seen such demand for a new issue. Over the past week, the prices have literally been increasing 5% *a day*.”
Mr. Russell added that” “The coins look fantastic, especially the $1 proof. People are buying them that don’t collect coins. I anticipate demand from overseas for this series. We’ve started to auction different clients coins at GreatCollections (many we helped grade for the owners) and the prices have been much higher than I would have expected. Perhaps when the Mint ships more coins, there will be some pricing pressure (less of an issue with gold, since the mintages are low in comparison; more of an issue with silver since there will be a lot shipped in the next month).”
Finally, the baseball coins provide a very clear example of why mintage alone does not determine the market value of modern coins. Consider the contrast between the BHOF coins and the other 2014 commemorative issue, the Civil Rights Act 50th anniversary coins, which have been selling very poorly because most collectors do not like the design.
Those coins will have much smaller final mintages than the BHOF coins. Just the gold examples of the baseball coins have sold about the same number of proof civil rights silver dollar coins and the uncirculated civil rights coin is trailing even more with only 20,000 sold in the past four months. The difference between these programs is that demand is so much higher for the BHOF coins because of the strong appeal of the design and subject matter coupled with the novelty of the coin’s shape, the very effective launch of the coins by the Mint, and promotion by the BHOF.
Time will tell if prices continue to hold up as they have. I suspect there will be some leveling off of prices once more coins are in the market, but I also continue to believe these be long-term winners and highly sought for years to come.
Copyright © CoinWeek – May 2014
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. His insightful retrospective on the American Silver Eagle was the cover feature of the February 2014 issue of The Numismatist. His column for CoinWeek, “The Coin Analyst,” covers U.S. and world coins and precious metals. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA, PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.