Things continue to be rosy at the top end of the rare coin market.
Looking at the results of the recent Florida United Numismatists convention auctions reveals that collectors are paying strong premiums for coins that are part of great collections or are new to the market, while being selective on less fresh coins.
One of the highlights of the Heritage FUN auctions was a set of 24 circulation-strike Indian Head gold $5 half eagles consigned by Dallas collector Jim O'Neal, who sold his set of Indian Head $10 eagles at the 2009 FUN show.
While many of the coins were purchased in the last five years, many from auction, collectors seemed to be confident that the coins offered were "best in class," and as such, unlikely to reappear soon.
While bidding in the room during the Jan. 6 Platinum Night floor session was often calm – it seemed that many of the bids were placed online prior to the start of the auction resulting in realistic starting bids – the prices achieved were strong.
O'Neal's Indian Head half eagle collection featured many of the finest-known examples and had an average grade of Mint State 65.32, and according to the catalogers, 14 of the 24 coins in the collection are from issues with 30 or fewer pieces known in MS-65 and finer grade.
His top coin in the set, a 1909-O Indian Head half eagle graded MS-66 – likely the finest known – realized $690,000. It last sold at auction in 1998 for $374,000 and in 1989 sold for $71,500.
A 1911-D Indian Head half eagle graded MS-65+ by Professional Coin Grading Service with a Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker realized $299,000 – a substantial increase from its last auction outing in 2004 where it realized $166,750.
Several coins – including O'Neal's 1908-S half eagle in MS-68 and his 1909-S coin in MS-66, which realized $126,500 and $103,500 &ndsh; did not meet their reserve the last time they were put up to auction and were likely scooped up by O'Neal post-auction. Finding bidders was not a problem this time.
Everyone covets coins that are fresh to market, and few are any fresher than the Frank A. Leach example of the 1907 Saint-Gaudens, High Relief, Flat Rim $20 double eagle. Housed in an Numismatic Guaranty Corp. MS-67+ holder, the legendary beauty sold for a hearty $172,500.
For comparison, two NGC MS-67 wire rim examples sold at auction in 2010 for $97,750 and $138,000 respectively.
A Leach 1907 Indian Head $10 eagle graded MS-65+ by NGC realized $86,250 while another with the same provenance sold for $74,750. At last year's FUN auction, two MS-65 examples sold for $48,875 and $63,250, the latter being graded by PCGS and having a CAC sticker.
Some expensive coins without the attachment of a great collection or a fresh to market provenance didn't fare as well. An 1854-O Coronet double eagle graded AU-55 by PCGS sold for $460,000, representing a substantial loss from its last trip across the auction block in 2008 where it realized $603,750.