Coin Board Market Analysis
By David W. Lange - COIN BOARD NEWS
2013 was the quietest year for coin board offerings since my book was published in 2007. There was the usual assortment of so-so boards found on eBay, but many of these contained coins, so it was hard to determine the value bidders placed on the boards alone. When significant boards did appear, as in a couple of Earl & Koehler boards, the competition was sufficient to raise prices for this brand in all grades. The overall trend is a repeat of past years in which it has become increasingly obvious that common boards only become more common, and values for any but the finest examples languish. Conversely, boards that were known to be rare from the outset have become impossible to locate. I know that when I get the tough ones they will go immediately to a want list customer and never appear on my lists. This has pushed prices up commensurately, and there’s no going back.
In retrospect, my opportunity to buy the Karl Manthei Collection of boards in 2006, a hoard assembled over some 30 years, gave me a false impression of just how rare the most elusive brands and titles really are. I fully expected that I’d find additional Gramercy and Earl & Koehler boards with some regularity, but this has not been the case. The proof of such rarity is found in the fact that I’ve had just five Gramercy boards for sale during the past six years and only two Earl & Koehler boards. The latter’s Buffalo Nickel board remains unique in my own collection, so far as I know. It’s challenging to grow the board collecting hobby when values for the common boards languish, while those for rarities go untested.
The only appearances of this brand during 2013 appear to have been single examples each of the Lincoln Cent, Liberty Head Nickel, Liberty Head Dime and Mercury Dime boards. The first two are the most often seen titles for this rare publisher, while the Liberty Head Dime board is slightly scarcer and the Mercury board quite rare. Until this past year I was able to find several of each annually, but the supply has really dried up recently. The condition of this brand for any title is seldom higher than F, so it is inevitable that actual sales prices had to rise for anything finer. The key to this series, aside from varieties, remains the extremely rare Buffalo Nickel board, the known population of which remains at two pieces to the best of my knowledge. The Mercury Dime board is nearly as elusive. Values for this brand have risen for the toughest titles and varieties, these figures coming from a combination of actual sales and extrapolation for the rarer titles. Where no known sales have occurred at a particular grade, only a dash (—) will be found.
Whitman Publishing Company
This remains the most often found brand of coin board in all venues, and the Second Edition titles are those most often seen. As most of you know, SE Whitman boards are butt ugly except when found in full VF and better condition. Despite their abundance, however, the examples seen by me are almost always a mess. Faded printing and worn flocking are the rule, and such boards are almost impossible for me to sell at any price. In contrast, First Edition boards have emerged as important rarities for all titles except Indian and Lincoln Cents. The higher denominations were found by me with some regularity for the first couple of years after my book’s debut, but they’ve all but vanished since then. Naturally, prices have been raised for these in response to their rarity. Whitman X Edition boards remain common, and they’re a tough sell below VF. The Y Edition is scarce and rarely seen nice, but I’m holding off on raising prices this year. The real surprise is how scarce Third Edition boards have become in recent years. These formerly were common for most titles, and when found typically are in better condition than for other editions, but the actual number of purchases I’ve made in the past year is quite small. Prices for most are holding, but only because of a lack of actual sales. The Fourth Edition boards with matte face paper are plentiful but almost never found grading full VF or better. The glossies, however, are extremely rare, and I almost never have them in stock.
Colonial Coin & Stamp Company
There were sporadic offerings of single boards, usually as part of mixed lots, but few of these were important enough to justify raising prices. Colonial boards for Early Nickels and the two-piece set for Liberty Head Quarters have long been considered relatively common, due to the hoard I purchased in 2008, but this is almost entirely dispersed now. I’ve held back a couple of each title for the sake of new customers, but only the nickel board now surfaces on eBay. Those seen recently have all been well used and usually have several openings punctured. I’ve seen just a few Lincoln Cent and Buffalo Nickel boards over the past year, and most of these were a mess. All other titles for this brand remain rare, especially in nice condition. Prices are up for the Standing Liberty and Washington Quarter boards.
Lincoln Printing Company
When will collectors stop holding out for NM examples of this vastly underappreciated brand? People, they just don’t come nicer than F or so. Lincoln boards were cheaply made, and they haven’t held up well over the years. I purchased just two or three over the past year, and anything better than F would almost certainly be an upgrade to my own collection. This number is way down from past years, and the time to fill those gaps in your collection is now. This brand is rapidly becoming extinct in the marketplace.
J. Oberwise & Company
This line is undergoing constant renewal, as additional varieties turn up with some regularity. It’s notable, however, that just two new, minor varieties surfaced during the last quarter of 2013, this being the smallest number that I can remember since my first newsletter in 2008. Like the Lincoln brand, Oberwise boards are homely and unloved. Aside from those for the higher denominations, halves and dollars, which never surface anymore, the only requests I get on a regular basis are for the early printings that have richly marbled paper. I did acquire a nice one of these recently, and it went straight into my own collection. That’s how rare they are. Oberwise boards are occasionally found grading as high as VF, but these are usually upgrades for my own collection, so don’t expect to see many in my lists.
Earl & Koehler
Buy any example you see in any grade! I know it takes a leap of faith to purchase a beat up or stained coin board, but this brand is so rare that you may never have another chance. As described in the general comments above, only the Lincoln Cent boards are occasionally seen for sale. All others are extreme rarities, and it was only through my purchase of the Manthei hoard that I was able add them to my own collection. In a very rare occurrence there were two eBay listings for doggy E & K Lincoln Cent boards during the past year, and each one brought nearly $100. Was it because of the pennies they held (no keys)? It’s hard to say, because the boards were awful. These, however, are the only eBay listings known to me since my book was published. As they were duplicates for me, I was knocked out early in the bidding.
Gramercy Stamp Company
After several years in which I was able to score at least one nice Gramercy per year, I saw not a single one during 2013. This is a very small line of boards to complete, but the elusive Penny Hobby Coin Collectin’ Outfit (in which they were originally issued) remains an undiscovered treasure waiting to be found. Thus far I’ve obtained only the four varieties of boards and the booklet that was formerly included with the boxed set.