By Charles Morgan for CoinWeek....
The second day of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo was so busy that it took me halfway through Saturday to coalesce all of my notes and gather my thoughts. For a supposedly "small" summer show, a lot happened on the second day. Here's a rundown of the topics I think will be of most interest:
The Stacks' Bowers Currency Auction
Currency, currency, currency was the subject of Friday night’s Stack's Bowers auction. The Farmers Bank $50-$100 Branch Series Sheet that I mentioned in my first report exceeded the pre-sale estimated range of $4,000-$6,000, bringing $7,637.50. Meanwhile, the $10 Legal Tender "Poker Chip" Note of 1923 brought $12,925, which was on the low end of the pre-auction estimate.
Walking around the bourse floor Saturday morning, I was surprised by how few currency dealers attended the auction. "There wasn't anything I needed to have," said Carl Bombara, owner/operator of Carl Bombara Rare Currency out of New York. "Just stuff to put in inventory."
This isn't always the case with auctions, but it certainly wasn’t a bad thing for collectors, since they didn't have to compete with dealers for choice material.
In our Top 10 Prices Realized list, check out number 10 at the bottom. That note blew way past Stack's estimate.
Top 10 Prices Realized: Currency
- 1. Lot 386: $10 Legal Tender "Poker Chip" Note, 1923. PMG Choice Uncirculated 64 EPQ. $12,925.00 (est. $12,500-$17,500).
- 2. Lot 152: Farmers Bank $50-$100 Branch Series Sheet (Elizabeth City, North Carolina) $7,637.50 (est $4,000-$6,000).
- 3. Lot 382: $10 Legal Tender Note, 1901. PCGS Gem New 65 PPQ. $7,343.75 ($8,000-$10,000).
- 4 (tie). Lot 211: $100 Bank of Cape Fear (Wilmington, NC) Branch Bank Payable Proof, Choice Uncirculated, ND 18xx. $7,050.00 (est $4,000-$6,000).
- 4 (tie). Lot 58: $2 Brunswick Bank (Brunswick, Maine) "Santa Claus" Note, 1862. PCGS VF-20 $7,050.00 (est. $6,000-$8,000).
- 6. Lot 409: $5 Silver Certificate, 1886. PCGS EF-40. $5,581.25 (est. $4,000-$6,000).
- 7. Lot 239: $50 Bank of North America (Philadelphia, PA), ND 18xx. Unc. Archival Specimen. $4,993.75 (est. $2,500-$3,500).
- 8 (tie). Lot 463: Fractional Currency Shield, Gray Background. $4,846.88 (est. $4,000-$6,000).
- 8 (tie). Lot 186: $50 Bank of the State of North Carolina (Raleigh, NC) Branch Bank Payable Proof, ND 18xx. $4,846.88
- 10. Lot 123; $1 Treasurer of the County of Lafayette (Oxford, MS), ND 18xx. VF Remainder $4,406.25 (est $600-$800).
ICTA Concerns about Marketplace Fairness Act
Industry Council of Tangible Assets (ICTA) Executive Director Kathy McFadden was nice enough to grant me an hour and a half meeting with former Louisiana Congressman and current legislative consultant for ICTA and the Coalition for Equitable Regulation and Taxation (CERT), Jimmy Hayes.
Hayes was one of the original Congressional Blue Dog Democrats and spent 10 years in Congress. He even ran a Congressional campaign against his brother (which he won handily, by the way). The former Congressman expressed his concerns about a bill currently under consideration: the Marketplace Fairness Act.
"Whether you are for or against an internet sales tax, you need to separate that position from the poorly conceived language in the Marketplace Fairness Act," Hayes said. "The bill has bipartisan support and is being pushed for by the Governor's Association, but the language of the Senate version of the bill will bring about a host of unintended consequences."
Hayes finds the language of the Senate version of the bill (S. 743) most troubling.
"First, the bill presents a Constitutional issue, as it does away with the Commerce clause and sets up, what are essentially tariffs between the states for all goods sold online. It compels sellers to participate in audits from states and municipalities beyond their geographical boundaries. Not only does this create an onerous burden on business from a taxation standpoint, but it also makes businesses comply with a whole host of laws from jurisdictions that they have absolutely nothing to do with."
And it's not just State laws that sellers need to worry about, according to Hayes. Municipal and even tribal law will come into play.
"Former SEC Chairman (and current lobbyist for NetChoice) Christopher Cox spoke before the House Committee on the Judiciary in March and gave the best counter argument to the bill as written," said Hayes. "Cox said that the bill failed the Constitutional and common sense test."
On the prospects of this bill being enacted into law, Hayes admitted that it's a matter of party leadership. "You can't talk to 435 different Congressman and get them to vote against this. Both parties want this bill- the States want the money- they just don't want to enact it themselves because they don't want to take the fallout for raising taxes."
"But these purchases are already taxed," said Hayes, "It's called a Use Tax, and the problem is they don't want to enforce laws that are already on the books, so instead they write new ones."
On behalf of CoinWeek, I'd like to thank Congressman Hayes for stopping by and sharing with us the latest information about this important legislative matter. If you are concerned about this bill, be sure to write your Congressman.
Christopher Cox’s testimony before the House Committee on the Judiciary can be read here:
Q. David Bowers and Robert Galiette discuss $20 Double Eagles
I had a chance to take in Q. David Bowers and Robert Galiette's discussion of their recently-published book U.S. Liberty Head $20 Double Eagles: The Gilded Age of Coinage (2014, Stack’s Bowers). Galiette has put together an unprecedented, nearly-complete matched set of $20 Liberty Head gold coins, all in uncirculated condition. Bowers called Galiette a collector par excellence, and looking at the samples of his coins that Stack's Bowers had in their showcase, you can see why.
"No one has ever put together a complete set of uncirculated $20 Liberty Head double eagles," Galiette told the audience. "I came very close, but in deciding to sell my set, I've left it up to that next great collector to climb that ... mountain."
The $20 Liberty Head--especially coins from the early years of the series--are seldom seen in uncirculated grades, and rarer still are uncirculated coins with dazzling eye appeal. Galiette put his set together over the course of 20 years, never expecting to have so many. "When a great coin comes up to auction," he told me, "you raise your hand and keep it up. The next day when you wake up, you'll say, 'Wow! Look what i just did!"
A more passionate advocate for Longacre's large-format gold coin you'll never meet.
For more about Galiette and his collection, please check out our First Read™ of the book here.
Louis Golino and Mike Markowitz at the Booth
My colleague and dear friend Louis Golino stopped by the booth. Louis, as you know, covers modern coinage, mint issues, and world coins in his weekly Coin Analyst column for CoinWeek.com. While at the booth, Louis and I compared notes, discussed the emerging market for world coins and paper money and discussed some recently released books. Louis will have a First Read™ on Moy’s Gold and PLatinum Eagle book shortly. I just got my hands on Q. David Bowers’Encyclopedia of Obsolete Paper Money, Volume 2 (2014, Whitman). It's over 700 pages long and, according to Bowers, a "loss leader" for Whitman, as the production costs were tremendous.
Later, CoinWeek’s resident Ancient Coin expert Mike Markowitz dropped in for a visit. Mike's illuminating features about ancient coins have been phenomenal so far, and we're excited to see what he’s got lined up for us. "This is what I was born to do," Mike told me of his numismatic writing. "I want to popularize these topics and help people see how these coins relate to the issues of today."
His piece on Cup-Shaped Coins is a personal favorite.
Two Sides of the Same Coin
There's a lesson to be learned from the sentiments I've gathered on the bourse floor about the modern coin market. The last time I was in Baltimore, the U.S. Mint was there to distribute the first of the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins. It was electric, with dealers and their recruited associates queued up to buy the limited number of coins on hand.
By the end of the second day of the previous show, all of the gold and most of the silver dollars were sold out, with only a small percentage of either going to Whitman Expo show goers and nearly all of the coins passing straight to dealers.
Distribution delays and the buzz surrounding the coin have provided a perfect opportunity for the industry to capitalize on the sale of the coins, taking in big profits.
In our recent Quick Hits™, we mentioned that CCE Prices on gold $5 pieces were declining. In that article, we saw prices that dealers were willing to pay, for future delivery of $5 proof or uncirculated specimens, at $600-$650. At the Baltimore Show, however, that price had fallen to $500-$550. The profit bloom is off the baseball rose, apparently.
And it’s not just uncertified coins. One dealer I spoke with--Andrew Timmons, of the Harbor Coin Company of Gurnee, Illinois--told me that the market was also thinning for certified pieces, including examples with premium labels (such as signatures, or “Early Release” and “First Strike” designations).
Only time will tell if this dip in price is the result of the Mint finally delivering customer orders, or whether the industry is unwilling to hold the price on this material now that the initial hype has died down.
On the flip side, many dealers I spoke with at the show are excited about the forthcoming Kennedy half dollar program, including the gold half dollar scheduled to debut at the ANA's World's Fair of Money this August.
"It'll be pandemonium," one dealer told us. The aforementioned Mr. Timmons plans to bus in dozens of "assistants" to stand in line at the ANA to buy as many examples as the Mint will allow. Expect a repeat performance of the quick sell-out we saw in March, and if the Mint isn't able to keep up with the inevitably high volume of orders, then expect another industry-driven modern market bubble*.
The Stack's Bowers Friday Night Coin Auction
Two coins at Stack's Bowers Friday night auction brought more than $100,000.
Taking top spot was lot 2629, an 1861-S $20 double eagle with the legendary (but not altogether aesthetically pleasing) A.C. Paquet reverse. The example on offer was graded AU-58 by PCGS and is tied for the finest known (pop 3 PCGS as of this writing). It brought $188,000, which is $35,000 off of the price a similarly-graded piece brought at an April 2014 Heritage auction. In my opinion, the earlier coin had much better surfaces than the present piece.
Still, you can’t argue with such a strong showing.
Another headliner was the Eliasberg-Clapp Specimen 1906-S double eagle. There aren't enough superlatives to describe this monster. The coin exceeded all expectations and brought $111,625.00, a very strong price considering the $20 Liberty market, but a great value when you factor in scarcity. The series typically doesn't come this nice.
There were also some great bargains to be had, especially in the area of error coinage. We heard a handful of dealers on Saturday morning grousing that they missed some real buying opportunities by skipping the proceedings. "Someone took home some material I would have paid double for," said one dealer who asked that his comments remain off the record.
Top 10 Prices Realized:
- 1. 2629: 1861-S $20 Double Eagle, A.C. Paquet Reverse, PCGS AU-58. $188,000.00.
- 2. 2730: 1906-S $20 Double Eagle, Ex: Eliasberg-Clapp, PCGS MS-66 CAC. $111,625,00.
- 3. 2570: 1865 $10 Eagle Proof, NGC PR-62. $49,937.50.
- 4. 2684: 1892 $20 Double Eagle, PCGS MS-64. $44,062.50.
- 5. 2377: 1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific (Round), NGC Unc. Details - Cleaned. $39,362.50.
- 6. 2689: 1893-CC $20 Double Eagle, PCGS MS-63. $35,250.00.
- 7. 2738: 1907 $20 Double Eagle, High Relief, Flat Rim, Ex: George McLoughlin, PCGS MS-63. $31,725.00.
- 8. 2434: 1853 US Assay Office of Gold $20 K-17, .884 THOUS. PCGS AU-58. $30,550.00.
- 9. 2555: 1796 $10 Eagle, BD-1, Taraszka-6, PCGS AU Details - Cleaned. $30,550.00.
- 9. 2678: 1890-CC $20 Double Eagle, PCGS MS-62 CAC. $30,550.00.
- 9. 2736: 1907 $20 Double Eagle, High Relief, Wire Rim, NGC PR-64. $30,550.00.
Well, that all but wraps up the action at the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo Summer Edition. I'd like to thank the many CoinWeek readers that stopped by, and the dealers who shared their insights and expertise. We'll be back on the road next month at the F.U.N. show.
See you there!
*Lest anyone get the wrong idea, I might add here that I absolutely love the Baseball Hall of Fame coin program--from its innovative design to its tie-in with America’s pastime--and eagerly look forward to the 50th Anniversary Kennedy half dollar. The purpose of the tone of our recent coverage on the coin is to give you fair and accurate reporting of what is actually happening in the market.