By Laura Sperber - Legend Numismatics
CoinWeek Content Partner .......
Ever jump into a pool head first to find there was no water? We just did by attending the Long Beach Show. No question it is time for the promoters to wake up and realize the market has changed and the show is a shell of what it used to be.
To start, we arrived Saturday afternoon so we could ot view the Goldberg sale. After 5 minutes, we realized the fresh gold collection wasn't for us (Legend does not buy and sell $2.5 1897 PCGS AU58, etc) and there was little in the sale for us we liked. The frustration was immediate. After the 55D $2.5 PCGS MS63 sold for a record $75,000.00 hammer to a dealer who was willing to pay far more, we left to go hang out in Long Beach and find what ever dealers we could. Nothing happened the rest of Monday.
"Lobby leaching" started out VERY slow. Fortunately we had an appointment Tuesday afternoon. We did our usual strong start and sold far more than we bought. Same with the next dealer and so on. Buying was near impossible. Dealers were hanging by the Hyatt doors to make sure their "secret" customers go right to them and were not poached.
Our coins arrived later Tuesday. Before the show had even opened, we sold well into six figures. When the show opened, our activity died off. We sold a few more coins and bought NOTHING on the floor. It wasn't for lack of trying. If we wanted to buy $2.5 1927 PCGS/NGC MS63 coins that looked like dreck, we could have loaded up. Table after table had coins to yawn about-nothing that excited us at all. More surprising, we could only buy 2 coins for our massive Want Lists. We do not remember seeing even ONE MS65 65/CAC Bust 50C or any PCGS/CAC better Indian gold for sale at all. Even upcoming action highlights held few coins for us. Our total buying was $80,000.00 at best (most of it was one coin). We felt liek we jumped into a pool with no water-head first!
Collector traffic was extremely light overall. We heard of only one or two sales to retail that were not generic or bullion related. Collectors for the most part did not seem like coin buyers as many we saw were there for bullion (we saw a few selling bags of silver). Many dealers from the East Coast have given up on the show and did not attend. One major dealer even said to us: "I felt like I was running for office. All iI did was meet, greet, and shake hands. I did not do any business with collectors".
The Heritage auction was insane. It had a few really nice coins. We paid a record price of $21,850.00 for the 3CS 1859 PCGS /CAC MS67. We did not expect the coin to sell for that, but in hindsight we should have expected it (its a PCGS pop 3 coin and pop 1 CAC). What surprised us the most about that price-there were 3 people still in at $15,000.00! The nearly complete high grade Standing Quarter collection also sold for huge money. Prices for fresh, CAC, and or unmolested coins (no dreck) sold super strong. There is no question what so ever that PCGS/CAC coins are by far bringing the strongest prices. If a coin is not CAC'd, ask if it has been there. Its plain common sense that a dealer would want their coin maxed out value wise.
In summary, there needs to be 2, not 3 Long Beach shows per year. Losing Santa Clara has no effect on the Long Beach. What the promoters of Long Beach and Baltimore do not realize is their tables sell to dealers because dealers are afraid to miss a show. We saw at least 3 isles at the Long Beach Show with 2-3 empty tables. You could have walked in and bought a table in great location (like one dealer we heard about did). Something has to be done to make the show healthier. A good friend of ours who has had a table for 30 years told us he is done. Had there been more people there to actually buy, he would not quit. We're on the fence too. Why make a trip out West for 5 days and come home frustrated?
For us, we'd have been better off NOT attending and staying home. After we landedback in NJ, and got into the car at the airport, we confirmed we bought and sold a high six figure coin. The coin or the buyer were NOT at the show. For us, the market back inour office is as strong as ever. January was a record breaking month!
WHERE ARE ALL THE COINS?
We're really worried this might be our worst Feb EVER. Why? NO COINS! Writing a small Want List on this site last week only brought us one coin and several people offering us marginal coins at way too much money.
On the bourse floor, dealers now buy and sell like it were an auction (coins are traded referencing up to date auction prices realized). Which in sometimes makes buying coins hard.
We believe the coin market was never as large as we all thought. Thus, after a few straight years of growth with so many new collectors coming in, now the market has far more demand then supply (in multiples). Look at the size of the FUN Auction and how many of the coins from the sale are now OFF the market. How many really great coins have you seen sell and then show up back for sale within 2-3 years? Not many at all. That big black hole of coin ownership we have previously mentioned has only grown larger.
A major collector told us he is focusing on buying top rarities in top condition because he feels the coin market-while clearly the most liquid, has lagged behind other markets in terms of overall values. To him, buying a pop 2-3 coin in the highest grade for LESS then $50,000.00 is bargin-no matter what kind of coin it is. He did mention in both cars and the art world, it not uncommon for at all for an item to be six figures. We have a feeling based on buying patterns we have seen recently, others feel the same way.
Its obvious rare coins have gone into VERY strong hands. Unless someone gets frustrated that they can not finish a collection, want to retire, or have a personal issue, only then do they sell really great coins. We also forgot to mention, there are at least 2-3 major coin funds quietly lurking (not the ones people are trying to start today to no avail) that have millions in great coins they do not have any plans to sell. In fact, we believe they are still buying and making that black hole even deeper and darker!
A BOLD PREDICTION
Any collector who bought a truely "great" coin from this years FUN Sale will be able to sell it for a significant profit in a year. Remember, rare coins are a long term propostion. Coins like the 1C 1793 Chain PCGS MS65BN CAC, 25C 1796 PCGS MS64 CAC, $5 1828 PCGS MS64 CAC are irreplaceable in this market. Sure the buyers paid strong, but they simply set the market.
We expect demand for the great top notch rarities to continue to grow. High end widgets will do well too. Dreck however remains unwanted and probably will continue to drop in value.
OMG! What is going on here? We witnessed a major market maker offer to sell someone PCGS MS64 (non cac) Saints for $1,900.00 while gold was $1,736.00. WOW!
Its obvious the demand for gold is coming from China and hedge funds. Collectors have slowed buying generics to the point that the lowest graded pieces are being sold for just about melt! Higher grades (like 65-66) have only minor spreads.
If you still believe in gold, BUY GENERICS NOW (especially CAC stickered ones for the quality). The spreads have NEVER EVER been lower. NON CAC MS 66 Saints are WHOLESALE BID at $2,700.00 (only 55% OVER spot) while CAC MS66 Saints are WHOLESALE BID at $3,500.00 (about double spot). Should the generic market grow and spreads expand, these current numbers will be gifts down the road.
Rare gold is also a buy-if you can find the right coins. The demand for BETTER GEM $5+$10 Indians is insane!