Baltimore Buzzing: Stack’s Bowers Auction Confirms Broad-Based Market Strength
by Jim Bisognani for NGC ……
Coveted NGC Black Slab Sets Record; Southern Gold a Comfort for Collectors
According to the calendar, spring is finally here and the long awaited meteorological change of season is indeed worth celebrating. Although winter’s grasp is still a tenacious one in many areas, setting the clocks ahead earlier this year does give Mother Nature additional time to radiate some rays and help melt the remaining snow cap. As the populace emerges from its long winter’s night it also permits us to conduct personal business and enjoy more leisurely pursuits in the extended light of day. As a collector fresh from his visit to the just concluded Baltimore Whitman Expo exclaimed: “This show is the signal of spring and I love to get out and meet with the major dealers and retailers and do some wheeling and dealing. The seafood isn’t bad either. I brought my wife and 12 year old son. We all love it! The staff puts on such a collector friendly show.”
I concur that David Crenshaw, Mary Counts and entire Whitman crew, as always put on a stellar affair. This edition was certainly an exciting, well attended event, many reporting that it was the best Baltimore show in recent memory. Seemingly as soon as the doors to the bourse opened to the public a never ending swarm of collectors ascended. There was an almost immediate buzz heard echoing as the throng was seen traipsing up and down the aisles of the convention center.
Well known Certified Assets Management’s CEO Bob Higgins advised me that he thought Baltimore was great, too. “The show has been very active and lots of public turnout. Perhaps there was not the number of “High Rollers” that we may see at the ANA, but the quantity of attendees and the volume of knowledgeable collectors have been at a record pace” asserted Higgins. Bob also relayed to me that gold bullion coins were a big seller as the bourse opened to the public and that they actually sold out of what they had brought to the show – a little of over 250 ozs. According to Higgins “The feeling by many is that with recent pullback in gold it is still perceived as a buying window before the yellow metal moves higher.” According to this source, silver was also very active in the “Old Line State” as there was especially strong demand for Silver Eagles and 1 oz. Round/Bars as there seems to be a shortage of them in the physical market.
According to numerous dealers in attendance in Baltimore, collector coins, those in the $500-$2,500 range, are still courting tremendous demand but supplies are falling short as a lot of serious numismatists are getting down to filling the “tougher holes,” needing the keys to the specific series they collect and are having a tough time locating them.
Those collectors I spoke to on the bourse corroborated this. Many of those whom I canvassed were thrilled to find a needed coin such as a nice circ key or semi-key Lincoln Cent such as the 1909-S , 09-S VDB, 1911-S, 1914-D or 1924-D all of which were displayed to me. Morgan Dollar acquisitions made up a great portion of the collectors new bounty with a strong number of the “CC” mint marked coins.
The never ending demand for Lincoln Cents and Morgan Dollars still impresses me, especially since the collectors I spoke with were from all age groups; teenagers through octogenarians. Other hobbyists, whom had more discretionary resources, were not shy about showing me some wondrous eye appealing coins which many numismatists, myself included, could only dream about owning. All, however, shared a common refrain – it is tougher to find quality coins regardless of the price point.
Per Stack’s Bowers President Chris Napolitano: “It appears the market is extremely healthy in almost all areas. There is constant demand for virtually all issues, especially low mintage, low population material. Colonials, currency, and all gold and silver exceeded our pre-sale estimates. Quite frankly, the only area of “indifference” are patterns. Speaking with dealers on the floor, EVERYONE I spoke with had a great show.” Show activity regarding the grading services is usually a good indication of market activity. The firm’s Chairman Emeritus, numismatic icon Dave Bowers concurred with the prevailing assessment. In his valued opine, “The show was well attended, busy continually and dynamic!”
As we go to press, according to Stack’s Bowers Director of Operations of US Collectibles, Brian Kendrella, the Baltimore sale had generated $10.5 million in proceeds thus far, with over 3,000 internet sale lots closed on Tuesday the 19th. The diverse and historic US Currency portion of the sale captured a substantial $2 million of that total. Leading the NGC salvo was the enigmatic 1907 Periods, Wire Rim Indian Head Eagle. Although this issue is technically a pattern, the striking rendering of Augustus Saint-Gaudens design is sought out among mainstream collectors along with other “ popular patterns” such as the 1856 Flying Eagle cent and the $4 Stella to site a few examples. With a mere original output of only 500 coins a high percentage luckily survived; yet only a handful rate the overall quality and eye appeal of this superb and regal gold coin graded NGC MS 66 which rallied to $111,625. Once again coins which possessed the wow factor caused commotion on the auction floor. One such example, an exquisitely toned yet common 1897 Barber Quarter witnessed an NGC MS 66 example catapult to $16,450, which is nearly 6 times the NGC US Coin Price Guide valuation!
Other noteworthy NGC-certified coins capturing the highlight reel include:
- 1862 Indian Cent NGC PF 67 Cameo $6,169
- 1969-D Lincoln Cent NGC MS 67 RD $881
- 1920-S Buffalo Nickel NGC MS 65 $11,162
- 1873 Liberty Seated Dime arrows NGC PF 67 Cameo $10,693
- 1899 Barber Dime NGC PF 67 Cameo $4,700
- 1897 Barber Quarter NGC MS 66 $16,450
- 1795 2 Leaves Flowing Hair Half Dollar NGC AU 58 $16,685
- 1860-O Liberty Seated Half Dollar NGC MS 66 $13,512
- 1879-CC Morgan Dollar NGC MS 65 $21,209
- 1884-CC GSA Morgan Dollar NGC MS 67 $12,925
- 1887-S Morgan Dollar NGC MS 66 $6,169
- 1889-CC Morgan Dollar NGC MS 62 $38,540
- 1895 Morgan Dollar NGC PF 65 Cameo $61,688
- 1882 Trade Dollar NGC PF 68 Cameo $30,550
- 1900 Lafayette Silver Dollar NGC MS 66 $12,925
- 1903 Louisiana Purchase/McKinley Dollar NGC PF 67 Cameo $27,025
- 1852-C Type I Gold Dollar NGC MS 64 $13,219
- 1843-O Liberty Quarter Eagle NGC MS 65 $25,850
- 1855-C Liberty Quarter Eagle NGC AU 58 $11,162
- 1861-D Liberty Half Eagle NGC Unc Details $25,850
- 1865 $20 Liberty NGC MS 63 $17,625
- 1904 $20 Liberty NGC MS 66 $12,337
As the welcome spring warm-up continues, the US stock markets are blazing into record territory, each move garnering enormous media attention. Yet as one avid collector told me “if it is already in the news and on the front pages, it usually signals that it’s too late. I like to think while everyone is going gaga over stocks it keeps them away from the coins I want to buy.” Certainly, timing can be crucial and right now this collector would like to think that nobody is looking at the rare coin market.
While the coin business can and has been cyclical (and more often than not in most years this would mark the beginning of the slowing down period) this market is unlike any other within recent memory. Rare coins, eye appealing coins, registry quality coins and key dated coins, all have unbridled demand as well as escalating prices. As a well known dealer from Texas advised me “You would be very hard-pressed to find an individual series where key dates and high grade NGC-certified coins within that series are not being targeted.” Liberty Seated, Bust, Flowing Hair you name it, problem-free circulated grades of all silver denominations just can’t be found, as evidenced by the increased buyer presence on the various electronic trading networks.” Another West Coast dealer confirmed that he sets up at the regional shows even at flea markets hoping to pick up some additional buying opportunities and get the proverbial leg up on the competition.
A well-known market maker informed me “Presently, enormous demand is and has been targeting rare date US gold coins. $20 Saint-Gaudens still command much respect and desirability and as a series many pundits still believe key dates as well as semi-keys are undervalued.” For the type collector it certainly appears to be an opportune time to try to ferret out the eye appealing properly graded NGC-certified coins in this ever popular series; especially those considered common date in MS 65/MS 66. Key dates are enjoying robust demand as we find electronic trading networks flush with buy offers for those coins in the $10K to $100K+ category. In fact, multiple buyers appear for Saints in these price ranges verifying there are more buyers than the supply readily available which has led to the ever escalating prices we’ve seen of late in an attempt to pry some of the NGC certified Double Eagles from collector’s and investors still reluctant hands.
However, it’s not only the popular and beautiful $20 Saint-Gaudens which has its followers.
Southern mint gold coins are in great demand not only by numismatists who collect by date, mintmark and series, but by type collectors, many of whom like to assemble type collections by branch mint. Coins from the esteemed Dahlonega, Georgia branch mint attract an ardent core of enthusiasts and specialists. One serious US type collector who is presently working on the Georgia mint Gold type set advised me that he has just bought an NGC AU 50 1855-D Type II Gold Dollar and a NGC XF 45 1839-D Quarter Eagle, which leaves him one coin shy of completing his type collection of Dahlonega mint type coins. The enthusiastic collector from Connecticut informed me, “I already bought the Type III Gold Dollar (1857-D), Liberty Quarter (1849-D) and Half Eagle (1853-D) a couple of years ago. All three are in extremely fine condition.”
In 2012 he picked up a raw 1838-D Classic Head $5 and an 1853-D Type I Gold Dollar which was NGC-certified AU 53. “It had been my goal to acquire a couple of coins each year. “Next year I hope to have the resources to finish off my Dahlonega type with the tough 1854-D Three Dollar Princess. I really want to get a nice AU coin.” The next venture for the New England collector is to put together a type set of Gold Coins from the Charlotte Mint. “It should be easier,” joked the New Englander, “as there’ll be only five coins to complete the set – no three dollar gold worry about.”
Seein’ A Bit O’ Green… On Saint Patrick’s Day a lucky bidder came away with a wonderful NGC treasure. Up for bid on Great Collections website was a 1935-S San Diego Commemorative graded NGC MS 65. Housed in the historic inaugural “Black Slab,” it realized an astounding $4,400 as bidding closed on 3/17! The otherwise attractive yet mundane coin had an NGC US Coin Price Guide Value of $175!!! Demand for these “Black Slabs” in the market place is enormous. They were introduced around the time of the ANA in Atlanta in 1987 and were only produced for a few months, I believe September through November. A list of the known survivors varies but at present the roster consists of less than 30 and each time one appears a frenzy ensues. None of the known “Black Slabs” house any known rarities and this sale on St. Patrick’s Day appears to be a record price paid!
Another superb opportunity to secure some exciting NGC-certified coins will come courtesy of Heritage Auction’s “Dallas Signature Auction.” Consisting of over 3,100 lots, the exceptional sale commences as we go to press on 3/21 at 6 pm Central time. In total there are four sessions for dealers and collectors to explore, the last being an internet only venue on March 24th.
Some of the prime NGC offerings in “The Big D” include:
- 1922 No D Strong Reverse Lincoln Cent NGC MS 62 BN
- 1877 Shield Nickel NGC PF 67 Cameo
- 1796 Draped Bust Dime NGC MS 63
- 1831 Capped Bust Dime NGC PF 65 Cameo
- 1846 Liberty Seated Dime NGC PF 65
- 1847 Liberty Seated Dime NGC PF 66 Cameo
- 1983 No S Roosevelt Dime NGC PF 70 Ultra Cameo
- 1893 Barber Quarter NGC PF 69
- 1917-S Reverse Mintmark Walking Liberty Half NGC MS 67
- 1851-D Type I Gold Dollar NGC MS 63
- 1857 Three Dollar Princess NGC MS 65
- 1808 Capped Bust Half Eagle NGC MS 63
- 1801 Draped Bust Eagle NGC MS 64
- 1907 Wire Rim Saint-Gaudens $20 NGC MS 66
Until next time, happy collecting!
Jim Bisognani has written extensively on US coin market trends and values and was the market analyst and writer for a major pricing guide for many years. He currently resides in Southern California and frequently attends major coin shows and auctions.