by Louis Golino for CoinWeek…..
Steve Estes of Portland, Oregon has been a professional numismatist and coin dealer since 1963. He works with his wife Debbi. Mr. Estes is an expert on many classic U.S. coin series, especially Morgan and Peace dollars. He has developed a 1-10 scale for assessing a coin’s eye appeal, which he discussed with me last year .
Mr. Estes is what I would call an old-time dealer who takes great care to select coins which are solid for the grade and which are more likely to hold their value and appreciate than the material that a lot of other dealers sell. He conducts business through his web site (www.steveestes.com).
Earlier this year he shared an amazing story with me about a very rare steel cent that a customer of his brought to his attention .
Mr. Estes recently launched a coin blog, where he will be sharing some of his many interesting stories and experiences from a half century of dealing in U.S. coins.
I think that Coin Week readers will enjoy learning more about his new online venture as well as his insights about U.S. coins and the coin market, so I recently interviewed Mr. Estes on these topics. His responses should provide plenty of food for thought for astute collectors.
1.) As someone who has enjoyed your analyses of classic U.S. coin series and recommendations for coins worth acquiring, I was pleased to see that you decided to launch a blog called “Rare Coin Notes from Steve Estes” . Can you tell Coin Week readers what drove you to create your blog and describe the topics you will be covering?
Customers and others have encouraged me to share experiences over 50 years in the coin business, so I decided to compile some of those memories. Some stories include famous numismatic names, like Amon Carter and Mrs. Norweb. Other stories include amazing coins, such as a pouch of $50 gold slugs or a half roll of 1893-S Morgan Dollars. Other stories provide a snapshot of a different coin market than exists today.
2.) A lot of market analysts and numismatists sense that the market for American collector coins is in a state of transition. With the economy improving, even if the benefits are not felt by everyone, it seems like collectors of more average means are once again out there buying more than selling. What is your brief assessment of the current state of the collectible coin market?
I agree the coin market is in a period of transition, for many reasons. The economy plays a role, but so does a diminishing supply of quality collector coins of all series and grades. Collectors are definitely buying more than selling right now, but I don’t sense any heated coin market in the near future. Rather, I expect just a steady demand for good coins.
3.) Which coin series do you think currently offer the best long-term potential for price appreciation?
For long term potential, I currently like Mercury Dimes in VG to MS-64 and Silver Dollars in any issue, date or grade.
4.) I have always liked classic commemoratives and after discovering how many coins from this series can currently be acquired for a reasonable amount even in fairly high grades, I decided to start building a complete graded type set last year. How do you feel about the market for classic commemorative coins issued between 1892 and 1954?
The market for classic commemoratives is dull and likely to remain so for the near future. So, if you’re interested in that area, it’s a good time to collect.
5.) I find it interesting how many NGC and PCGS-graded classic commemoratives are currently available with green CAC stickers from the better auction houses and dealers at little premium over non-CAC coins. What is your view of the CAC seal of approval? Do you think it adds value to mid-range collector coins, or do you feel it mainly helps for higher-end coins?
As an originator of the eye appeal concept for value, I find CAC confusing. I’ve seen a fair number of coins with CAC stickers I simply wouldn’t touch. CAC may be of special benefit on [pre-1933] U.S. gold where so many coins have been cleaned or plainly overgraded.
6.) I know that you tend to specialize and focus more on classic than modern coins. What is your view on modern U.S. coins? Are they worth collecting in your view?
There is nothing wrong with modern coin collecting, as long as you don’t overspend solely because a coin acquired an ultra high grade by a grading service. Will someone care enough in 20 years to pay extra for a Silver Eagle in an MS-70 slab? Or will the item be valued as silver?
The state quarter program created a great deal of interest in coins and collecting, providing lots of fun with minimal expense.
7.) Modern world coins have been gaining in popularity in recent years, but still seem to lack the liquidity of U.S. coins unless one sells to one of the larger dealers that specializes in modern coins. What do you think about modern world coins and the market for them?
The modern world coin market is very tricky. Success requires correctly guessing which country’s coinage will be collectible. Also, there are coins made for collectors only, not for circulation, and this doesn’t sit well with me. These items are akin to medals or tokens, for which collectors pay a strong price. One wonders what this market will look like in 20 years. Will anyone care about these not-for-circulation items?
8.) Do you see metal prices resuming their upward momentum later this year? Do you think higher metal prices have any impact on prices for non-bullion collector coins?
Yes, I see the metals moving up from about September forward. There is a definite correlation between metals prices and collector sentiment.
9.) You have been in business for almost a half century and must have seen it all at one time or another. What is the most important or valuable coin you bought or sold during your career?
Perhaps the most important coin I bought and sold during my career was a 1796 No Pole Half Cent in VF. This story will one day appear in the blog.
Coin Week appreciates Mr. Estes’ participation in this interview.
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. His column for CoinWeek, “The Coin Analyst,” covers U.S. and world coins and precious metals. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA, PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.