By Laura Sperber – Legend Numismatics
CoinWeek Content Partner

It’s not do hard to believe but the recent (2/21) “secret” auction of the Littlejohn Collection brought out many collectors and dealers. Yet again, this sale proved how alive and well the marketplace is for good coins. This amazing comprehensive circ gold collection was clearly put together by a collector who had the passion-but clearly did not buy the best quality. Unfortunately, a huge percentage of his coins were cleaned and did not grade. He did not have many MS examples. Regardless, there were endless rarities-with the majority of the collection having been unknown to even the experts who live and breath this type of material. Plus, these coins had been off the market for super long time (many years).

All seeing eye Legend Market Report  The LittleJohn Gold Sale In dealer lingo, this collection was considered “secret” because it under the radar nationally. [Editors Note: The auction was conducted by Schuyler Rumsey, a San Francisco stamp company.] Unquestionably, these coins are what dealers call “fresh”. The sale was not promoted like a Heritage or Stacks would to every last living collector. In fact, not every dealer was aware of the sale. Even so, the usual sharks smelled blood in the water-and they were right. Fresh Collections like this do not appear anymore. the majority of the rarities have had no peers on the market in at least a decade! This sale is sort of comparable to the DLRC Richmond sale of 2004 that had a nearly complete set of gold (only the Littlejohn coins were raw and were purchased eons ago). We knew all this would be fertile grounds for an exciting shoot out price wise. The activity and prices did not disappoint.

INSANITY, STUPIDITY, OR GENIUS?

This is the exact scenario we have been complaining about for years with irresponsible price reporting by the CDN and other subscription rags/web sites. In this sale, you had coins like the 1865 PCGS XF45 $5. It is a Pop 3 with ONLY 21 graded by PCGS in ALL grades. It has a ridiculous CDN BID of $3,400.00. At least Collectors Universe price was more realistic, they were at $6,750.00. The coin sold for: $7,762.50 Hammer. Did the person bury themselves? Absolutely NOT! First off, we could not find a record of ANY PCGS piece selling ever in auction. The last NGC coin to sell-was back in 1998! Even though it was a record price, maybe had pricing information been better it should have brought $10,000.00 (which we think it the coin should be worth).

In this auction, coin after coin sold for what looked like record prices. Take our word on it, the prices were records, but when you step back and look at ALL the stats of the coins, prices could have or should have gone for even more. Yet many collectors were not even close in their guesstimates on price. Why? The subscription RAGS/web sites kill more growth in the coin market verses any other medium. They like to argue isn’t having a price better than NO price? How can you even have a price on a coin when NONE have sold at auction in 14 years? The people who run these rags are NOT coin dealers. They certainly do not see or understand the serious negative impact their work has on the coin market. At least now a price/the market has been established on some long lost circ gold dates thanks to this sale. Now it remains to be seen how the prices will be picked up by these venues. If other similar coins sell with in the next 1-2 years, the prices probably will be more (so long as overall market conditions remain the same) because of all the collectors who couldn’t figure the coin the first time around and now have a benchmark to use.

We saw a few remarks on chat rooms the day after the sale how people got out bid and were bewildered. Had they been supplied with better pricing information, these coins would have sold for more! More collectors (and even dealers like us) would have bought more and stretched more-especially on all the low pop rarities (like the 1865 $5). This exact “perfect storm” scenario is why we have been stressing to follow auction prices. Even though you still have great variables (like quality issues), auction prices realized are far better than apparent incompetent or incomplete price reporting.

What was more mind boggling about this sale: THESE COINS ARE ALL CIRCS! NOT GEM MS PIECES!

Look at what these all these random samples SOLD for:

Lot 286:  $2.5 1842 PCGS XF 45 $5,175.00 PCGS: 28 ALL grades. CDN BID: $2,600.00.

Lot 316:  $2.5 1849C PCGS AU55 $13,200.00 PCGS: 87 ALL grades. CDN BID: $3,850.00 (AU 50)

Lot 557:  $5 1814/3 PCGS AU58 $25,300.00 PCGS: 44 ALL grades. CDN BID: $12,500.00

Lot 584:  $5 1842O PCGS XF 40 $4,312.00 PCGS : 48 ALL grades. CDN BID: $2,700.00

Lot 949:  $10 1841O PCGS XF40 $15,525.00 PCGS: 51 ALL grades. CDN BID: $5,000.00

Lot 949:  $10 1841O PCGS XF40 $15,525.00 PCGS: 51 ALL grades. CDN BID: $5,000.00

Lot 1036:  $10 1873 PCGS XF40 $43,125.00 PCGS: 16 ALL grades. CDN BID: $7,500.00

As you can see, its easy to way under figure what a high end “fresh” coins will sell for. Faulty information makes prices realized like these look insane. Faulty or misleading pricing also holds the market back from appreciating when there is little to no supply (rags like the CDN only report if someone reports a trade to them).

In the end, we strongly believe the collectors who stepped up and bought some of these really rare coins (assuming they were properly graded) got bargains. YES BARGINS at record prices! So many coins had TOTAL pops BELOW 50 for the date. And that’s after having PCGS grading for 25+ years! We do think you had to be insane to play in this sale alone, in the end you had to pay what seemed like stupid prices, but we think anyone who did-IS A GENIUS!

Our strong suggestion, next time a sale like this happens, either find a good dealer to represent you (one who knows pricing) or read auction prices realized carefully from earlier sales. Do NOT be afraid to step up. When will you see another $10 1873 PCGS XF40 offered? Prior to this sale, the last one to appear in major auction was back in 1993!!!!

To sum up, the Littlejohn Collection did extremely well and brought record prices. However it was the perfect collection that suffered because of poor price reporting. Its not a dealer or collectors job to tell the CDN or any web site what something sold for. These wannabe information peddlers are quick to charge money but give inferior, even incompetent price guides. In the end, this poor price reporting hurts the collector and the market. We’d bet there are a few dozen collectors who would have been more aggressive if they had the proper numbers to go by. Know that if a coin has a pop of LESS than 5 and has not sold in a few years, any printed number most likely is light years away from what the real price will be! USE AUCTION results and talk to your dealer-they are your BEST price guides.

To read the entire Legend Market Report: Visit the Legend Website Here

 

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