A New Regular CoinWeek Column by Mark Ferguson – MFRareCoins.com
Without their stories coins are just “pieces of metal.” At least that’s what the late Elvira Clain-Stefanelli, curator of the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution, called them many years ago while she and I were examining a tray full of some of the rarest United States coins in the collection. Similarly then…aren’t the great works of fine art just “paint on canvas?!”
After all, what makes these Ultimate Rarities great?...Besides their rarity, it’s their histories, their legends, and the lore behind the “paint” and the “metal.” Without all this, they’d just be “paint on canvas” and “pieces of metal.”
I’ve been fortunate in my 40+ year career as a professional numismatist, since I was a teenager, to have held and examined many of the Ultimate Rarities that exist in American numismatics. And I’ve been fortunate to have been involved with some of them and have gotten to know, become friends with, and do business with many of the coin dealers who have bought and sold these rare coins, as well as some of the collector/investors who have owned such Ultimate Rarities.
But let’s face it…even the owners keep these rare coins locked up in safe keeping most of the time. Sure, they have the thrill of owning these great rarities…but it’s the stories and histories of these great rare coins that really get their juices flowing…(and perhaps their coins’ long-term price appreciation!). But most of the time, the owners of these rare coins can only enjoy them vicariously, in exactly the same way as the rest of us do. So we can also have fun with the stories and legends of these Ultimate Rarities too, just as their owners do.
And, most of the time, when they come up for auction, we can go to lot viewing and hold and examine these very rare coins. Or we can view them when they are exhibited at coin conventions and coin shows, in museums, or elsewhere, when they’re made available to the public. We can also look at pictures of these coins, and appreciate them, just like their owners do when their coins are locked away.
While recently discussing the topic of major rarities with Scott Purvis, publisher of CoinWeek, he and I thought it would be fun to tell some of the behind the scenes stories about many of the top rarities in numismatics. So, we’re launching a regular column entitled, “ULTIMATE RARITIES.” Each month, and sometimes more often, a major rarity in numismatics will be covered.
You’ll read a little about their history, but because these rarities are so well known, their histories are also easy to find in books and online. Therefore, I want to bring some of the behind the scenes stories in the trading of these coins to light for entertainment and to learn about some of the trading details and other stories behind these rare coins, and perhaps currency as well.
I may be covering a coin that has recently sold, one that is currently for sale, a rarity in which I may have been a party in the transaction, a rare coin that has recently made news, or just a great coin that I think readers will find fun and interesting. I welcome your comments, information about some of the ultimate rarities that exist, and your coin deals if you’re looking to buy, sell or market an ultimate rarity. Thank you and have fun!
Mark Ferguson has been dealing in high-end rare coins and precious metals since 1969. He has graded coins professionally for PCGS and was the Market Analyst for Coin World’s Coin Values magazine between 2002 and 2009. He has written feature articles and regular columns for Coin World, Coin Values magazine, The Coin Dealer Newsletter, Numismatic News, The Numismatist, ANA Journal, Coin News – a British publication, and currently writes a weekly column for CoinWeek. He is a recognized authority in appraising rare coins and a recognized expert on the 1804 silver dollar, which is known as “The King of American Coins.” Mark can be reached at Mark Ferguson Rare Coins, LLC (www.MFRareCoins.com).