By Charles Morgan for CoinWeek....
The Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo officially kicked off today. The show runs through Saturday, June 29, and features more than 280 dealers from the Mid-Atlantic region as well as numerous national ones. Combined, these dealers have brought millions of dollars worth of rare coins, modern coinage, bullion items and numismatic ephemera. In addition, Stack's Bowers, the Expo's official auctioneer, is holding a series of coin and currency auctions. Having looked at what's being offered, I can say that while these sales don’t feature the kind of big ticket material we've all been spoiled by in recent months, there are many great values and high-end pieces to be had nonetheless.
One vendor noticeably absent this time is the U.S. Mint. The Mint caused pandemonium in March when it released the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame coins at the show. CoinWeek saw the excitement first hand since our booth and the Mint's were immediately adjacent of one another. For the first two days of that show (the amount of time in which it took for the gold to sell out), the Mint had long lines. Many collectors and speculators waited more than two hours to get a crack at the novel cup-shaped coins.
The buzz on the show floor today is that the Mint booth will once again be the epicenter of Numismatics at the American Numismatic Association's World's Fair of Money, August 5-9 in Rosemont, Illinois. That's where the Mint will debut the gold Kennedy half dollar, which, if past is precedent, should be a golden opportunity for dealers and speculators, as the two major grading services will undoubtedly come bearing Show-specific labels to add to the excitement.
But speaking of absent vendors, the number of vendors on the bourse floor is about 25% smaller than it was when we were here in March. That being said, floor traffic has been steady to brisk this morning, and the dealers I’ve talked to are upbeat heading into the show.
John Feigenbaum on his Effort to Repeal Virginia Sales Tax on Coins and Bullion
Virginia Beach-based David Lawrence Rare Coins operates at a disadvantage, according to principal John Feigenbaum. "We're a Virginia-based company, but Virginia ranks near the bottom of the list in terms of our sales because people don't want to pay taxes on coins and bullion."
Virginia is one of an increasingly small minority of states that collect sales tax on the sale of coins and bullion. "You can buy from us and pay 6% tax, or you can buy from APMEX and pay nothing," Feigenbaum said, "It not only puts us at a competitive disadvantage, but the amount of money that Virginia collects in tax from the sale of these items is much less than it would collect if this industry was allowed to grow in the state."
Feigenbaum is currently working on a plan to lobby the state legislature to address the issue. "When's the last time a major coin show has been held in Virginia?", Feigenbaum asked. "It's because of the tax."
Saddle Ridge Update
Amazon.com rolled out its new numismatic marketplace with Kagin's offering of the "Saddle Ridge Hoard". I spoke with Don Kagin this morning about the sale.
"The sale has definitely met my expectations," Don said. "I knew there would be a huge demand for lower ticket items--people are looking at these items as artifacts. But, beyond that, we are seeing a number of these first time buyers now getting interested in numismatics. And that was our goal."
Of course, as we've reported earlier, the lower ticket items have sold well. The half eagles are sold out. One noticeable exception has been the lot of 14 finest coins from the discovery. Though currently unavailable on Amazon.com's website (we checked this afternoon), Don says that the lot hasn't sold yet.
"There's been a lot of interest in those coins," Don told me. "Several inquiries have been made as to whether we'd break up the lot. I don't know if we will, but we'll see."
Stack's Currency Auction Tonight
At 6:00 pm tonight, Stack's Bowers will kick off its series of June 2014 Baltimore auctions. Tonight's focus is U.S. Currency. The sale offers opportunities for buyers at all levels. There are actually quite a few value buys here, and some savvy auction goers will take home some nice and truly scarce pieces at good prices.
The sale features a special collection of notes from the banks of the State of Maine, as well as the Thomas A. Gray Collection of North Carolina Obsolete Currency. There will also be a handful of $1000 notes offered, for those of you who can't get enough Grover Cleveland.
The Gray Collection has many highlights, including a rare and possibly unique Farmer's Bank $50-$100 Branch Series Sheet (lot 152) that Stack estimates will bring between four to six thousand dollars, as well as a beautiful Bank of Cape Fear (Wilmington, NC) $100 TC Proof (lot 211). Stack's believes this note can be traced back to the Lucius Ruder Collection, sold at the Charles Hamilton Galleries in the 1960s.
Stack's will also offer six 1901 $10 "Bison" Notes. The headliner of this lot (382) is a particularly splendid piece graded Gem New 65 PPQ by PCGS. This legal tender note features the signatures of Speeman and White, along with terrific cherry red overprints and white paper stock. A tremendous example for the large note collector and a real showcase for the stellar engraving work found on both sides of this classic American note.
Another newsworthy note is a PMG Choice Uncirculated 64 EPQ 1923 $10 "Poker Chip". This note, one of 52 "Poker Chips" in uncirculated condition certified by PMG, features an effigy of President Andrew Jackson. The note gets its moniker "Poker Chip" thanks to the lovely circular lathe design on the reverse, inside of which is housed the numeral 10. This classic note is highly-prized by the sophisticated U.S. currency collector.
Large notes and rarities aren't the only prized collectibles available tonight. Stack's will also offer an original Fractional Currency Shield. This presentation comes framed, and probably spent many years as a distinctive ornament in a collectors' study. This popular display, produced by the U.S. Treasury many generations ago, is expected to bring between $4,000 and $6,000.
Is his absence so conspicuous? Of course we miss having David at the show, but he asked me to do this one by myself. It'll be my first solo show since I became Content Manager at CoinWeek in February. David will be back on the road soon, and we expect the whole gang (Scott, too) to get back together for Summer F.U.N. Then we'll meet up again in Rosemont for the World's Fair of Money and the Numismatic Literary Guild Awards in August.
So that wraps up my first report from the show. Today is mostly reserved for buying and selling. I'll be checking out the currency auction tonight, and will have an action-packed day tomorrow, attending a number of club meetings and lectures. After reading Q. David Bowers' and Robert Galliette's book on $20 Liberties earlier this year, I'm interested to hear what they have to say about it and Galiette's amazing collection of matched uncirculated double eagles tomorrow at 11 am in Room 301.