FUN Coin Show Auction & Market Observations by Doug Winter
The FUN show is clearly one of the two major market indicators. Symbolically, it is the beginning of a New Coin Year but it is, most of all, a huge economic event with hundreds of millions of dollars changing hands. For me, a good FUN show is a clear indicator that the first quarter—if not half—of the coin year will be strong.
This was one of the strangest FUN shows I can recall. I was constantly busy and there were people at my table from the beginning of dealer set-up on Wednesday until I was packing up to go home on Friday afternoon. It was one of the easiest selling shows I can ever recall having, and my wholesale numbers were well above average. But it was also a hugely difficult show at which to buy. If, like me, you were a dealer who buys choice, cool, rare coins there were slim pickings at best. I was able to buy a number of great coins (some of which are now posted on my website; others never made it back from Orlando) but I knew as early as Thursday morning that I was going to fall well short of my numeric goals in terms of coins bought.
Clearly, one of the facts of life about major coin shows (FUN and ANA in particular) is that the huge auctions that surround them have a profound and significant impact. I talked to numerous well-heeled collectors who roamed the floor but stated that they were “waiting until after the auction” to make purchasing decisions. Considering that the major segment of the auction was Thursday night, this left a short window of opportunity for them to buy coins.
Heritage should be credited for producing one of the all-time great FUN auctions, and although I don’t know exactly what their final numbers were, I am assuming the FUN sale set an all-time record, given that Platinum Night alone did north of $50 million dollars.
Some observations from the auction are in order:
- Rarity is clearly in vogue right now and even off-quality examples of truly rare issues are commanding huge premiums. As an example, an NGC EF45 1864-S brought just a shade under $100,000. And other seldom-seen eagles such as the 1863, 1873, and 1876 brought what I thought were enormous prices based on their actual quality.
- There were a number of really exceptional coins in the auction and they brought exceptional prices, as they should have. My two personal favorites were David Akers’ personal 1826 half eagle graded MS66 by PCGS which brought $763,750 (a price which I thought was strong but not at all outrageous), and the Eliasberg Proof 1889 double eagle, graded PR65 by PCGS but in an old green holder and looking more like a PR67 Deep Cameo by today’s standards, which sold for an extremely strong $352,500.
- Speaking of exceptional, the market for Liberty Head double eagles continues to rage on. The FUN sale had a deep offering with coins ranging from off-quality and very choice for the grade and issue. But it almost didn’t matter what the coin looked like as prices were strong across the board. Type One O mints? Very strong. CC’s? Very strong, although the nice PCGS AU50 1870-CC at $329,000 seemed like a much better value than the really unappealing PCGS EF45 at $282,000. Civil War dates? Crazy strong including a record-for-the-grade prices on the 1861-S in PCGS MS62, the 1863 in PCGS AU58, and the PCGS MS62 1864. I was taken aback by prices for the Big Five late date Type Three issues. An 1881 in PCGS AU58 sold for $111,625, an 1882 in NGC AU58 realized $94,000 and perhaps most incredibly, a tooled no grade 1886—the ultimate “what a shame” coin—brought a staggering $129,250. No grades in general did very well in this sale, by the way, but that’s another story.
- The best values in the 19th century series are clearly in the Liberty Head half eagle series. Prices on double eagles have made this series the playground of the 1%, and the eagle series has gone from neglected to flavor of the year (smart buys still can be made in this series but proceed with caution!). Even though there were some price records set in the FUN sale for finally-recognized date rarities such as the 1863 and 1865, there are still many dates in the $2,500-15,000 range which seem very fairly priced relative to their rarity. Given the great prices that schlocky rare date coins brought in the auction, I’d like to think that DWN-quality examples are even better values.
A few other non-auction observations, based on looking at dealer’s inventories: nice quality early gold is still in very short supply, Dahlonega gold is literally nowhere to be seen (I’m embarrassed to admit this but I came home with exactly two new D mint coins…two! From the FUN show!!! How is this possible?!?), CAC premiums are really noticeable – especially from sellers who don’t typically handle nice coins, and if I had listened to myself and bought Civil War gold coins when I predicted they’d be the Next Big Thing I’d have made myself a tidy little profit.