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Morton & Eden’s London Sale of Medals, Decorations and World Orders Nets £880,578

Auctioneer James Morton said he was extremely pleased with the results of Morton & Eden’s London sale of British War Medals and Decorations Russian and World Orders and Medals, on Tuesday November 30, 2010.

He said: “Once again there was strong interest in high quality Russian Orders, Medals and Decorations, highlighted by the £180,000 achieved against an estimate of £30,000-40,000 for the cover lot, a privately-made Russian First Class Order of St Anne.

“There were solid prices for British material, but rather less interest in gallantry medals and it was disappointing that the Iraq Military Cross awarded to Private Ryan Copping failed to find a buyer. However, we hope it will be sold privately soon.

“Another highlight was the dispersal of a small collection of Chinese Orders of the Double Dragon Type 2, which while not of the greatest rarity, were keenly contested by bidders in the room, by commission bidders and on the Internet and five telephones. Amid great excitement, the collection realised a total of more than £72,000, to the delight of the U.S. collector who had spent a lifetime acquiring and studying them.”

Also of note was the £2,620 obtained for a Military General Service Medal (1793-1814) awarded to a Maltese recipient and the £5,760 (hammer) paid for another, awarded to a Prussian man, born in Coblenz, who enlisted in the UK and served with the 5 Battalion 60th Foot.

Photo Caption: Russia, Order of St Alexander Nevsky circa 1837-39

SALE TOTAL: £880,578 SOLD BY VALUE: 68%

Lot 213
*Russia, Order of St Anne, First Class, a privately-made sash badge in gold, diamonds and enamels, by ?? (or ??), St Petersburg, dated 1856, marked on suspension ring; of ‘bulbous’ form with central painted enamel portrait of the Saint surrounded by sixteen diamonds, spandrels and riband carrier also set with diamonds and angles of reverse embellished with scroll engraving, height 59.5mm (including suspension ring), width 53.8mm, carrier 38mm, very slight enamel loss at top edge of cross on reverse, of excellent quality, good extremely fine
Estimate: £30,000-40,000 SOLD FOR £180,000 Purchased by European private collector

Lot 274
*Armenia, a rare Pair of Awards attributed to Nikolai Pyotrevich Nazaryan, comprising:

i) Order of the Red Banner of Labour of Armenia, type 1, in silver and enamels, maker’s mark CC, 88 zolotniki fine, impressed no. 83 on reverse and also with original separate backplate similarly marked and numbered (but 84 zolotniki fine), well-worn overall, screwplate lacking and with losses to enamel, generally fine;

ii) Star of Armenia, badge in silver and enamels, the central medallion (originally rivetted or wired) damaged and crudely re-fixed with solder, hammer-and-sickle missing and small diameter screwpost with worn threads, fair (2)

Offered with original named Order Book for the Order of the Red Banner of Labour, dated 17th February 1940, giving the date of award no. 83 as 1st January 1939, with a photograph of the recipient in later life, well-worn; and a Former Red Partisan’s Identity Booklet, 1930’s, this with a replacement period photograph with blind-embossed N.K.V.D. stamp, also heavily worn
Estimate: £60,000-80,000 SOLD FOR £84,900 Purchased by US dealer bidding for a client (more…)

1861 $10 Demand Note, only known, to headline Heritage FUN Auction in Tampa

First Heritage Currency auction of 2011, Jan. 6-8, at Tampa FUN Convention

Heritage Auctions, the official auctioneer of the Florida United Numismatists (FUN) Show, will present a substantial number of rare and exceptional notes as part of its Signature® Currency Auction. The auction will consist of three floor sessions, held Jan. 6-8, 2011 in Tampa, FL and one online-only session that will take place Jan. 10, 2011 in Dallas, TX.

Among the scarce items is a newly discovered Fr. 10a $10 1861 Demand Note, the only known example. The recently released 19th edition of Paper Money of the United States listed examples of that Friedberg number as “unknown.” Clerks signed the notes on behalf of the Treasurer of the United States and the secretary of the Treasury and included the handwritten notation “for the.” The process proved to be too cumbersome and the plates were changed to include that wording. All of the handwritten “for the” examples are rare today, with a St. Louis example unknown until now.

A number of exceptional Large Size Legal Tender notes are being offered, including a Fr. 127 $20 1869 Legal Tender graded by PCGS as Gem New 65PPQ. That note is among a large number of outstanding notes being offered as part of The Menlo Park Collection. A Fr. 1072a $100 1914 Red Seal Federal Reserve Note graded PCGS Gem New 65PPQ is also being auctioned as part of the collection.

Also among the Legal Tender offerings is a Fr. 158 $50 1880 Legal Tender graded by PCGS Choice About New 55. A rare note, it is one of only nine examples known. The $50 is new to the census and is being offered publicly for the first time.

Several exceedingly rare replacement notes will be presented, including a Fr. 303* $10 1908 Silver Certificate, one of only three replacement notes known for the type, graded Very Good 10 Net by PMG. The note is new to the census and is being offered to the collecting community for the first time. (more…)

Unique 1943 Bronze Cents Set To Be Displayed at the FUN Show

The first-ever public display of the one-of-a-kind set of 1943 bronze Lincoln cents from the Denver, Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints will be hosted by Professional Coin Grading Service and Legend Numismatics, Inc. during the first three days of the Florida United Numismatists convention in Tampa, Florida, January 6, 7 and 8, 2011.

The unprecedented exhibit marks the first time the complete set has been included in the PCGS Set RegistrySM. It also marks the fulfillment of a boyhood dream of the collector who owns the coins, Texas business executive Bob R. Simpson, Co-Chairman of the Texas Rangers baseball club.

“A total of nine off-metal World War II-era Lincoln cents from Mr. Simpson’s collection will be displayed at the PCGS booth (#102) at the FUN convention,” said Don Willis, President of PCGS, a division of Collectors Universe, Inc. (NASDAQ:). “There’s the unique set of three 1943 bronze-planchet cents, a set of three 1944 cents on zinc-coated steel planchets, and three wartime Lincoln cents erroneously struck on silver planchets apparently intended for the production of dimes.”

Simpson wanted to own a 1943 bronze cent error since he was a teenager, and now owns the only-known 1943-D bronze cent as well as other wrong-planchet, wartime cents. All will be exhibited at FUN.

Zinc-coated steel was used for producing cents in 1943 to conserve copper for other uses during World War II, but a small number of coins were mistakenly struck on bronze planchets left over from 1942. In 1944 the Mint resumed use of copper for cent production using recycled ammunition shell cases; however, a small number were mistakenly struck on zinc-coated steel planchets intended for use only on 1943-dated cents.

“Mr. Simpson is the first collector to ever assemble a complete P-D-S set of bronze-planchet 1943 Lincoln cents,” said Laura Sperber, President of Legend Numismatics. “When he recently saw all three coins together for the first time, he said, ‘This is incredible!’ Now, he’s graciously agreed to publicly display them.”

Sperber said that when he was a youngster, Simpson thought he’d actually found a 1943 copper cent in circulation. “But it was not authentic. He still has that in his desk drawer.”

The unique 1943-D bronze cent was purchased by Simpson in September for a record $1.7 million through Legend Numismatics after four years of negotiations with the coin’s anonymous former owner who donated all the proceeds to charity. It is the highest price ever paid for a United States cent.

“It was always special to buy each coin for this set, and until I had all the coins together I just did not realize how important and unreal this project really was! I’m as excited as any collector can be to see this amazing display,” Sperber said.

“Not only is Mr. Simpson’s Set of Off-Metal Cents the All-Time-Finest, it’s the absolute finest possible given the scarcity of the coins,” said BJ Searls, PCGS Set Registry Manager. “Photos of Mr. Simpson’s 1943 bronze and 1944 steel cents can be viewed online in the PCGS Set Registry for ‘Lincoln Cents Off-Metal Strikes, Circulation Strikes (1943-1944)’. The one-of-a-kind complete set has a weighted grade point average of 62.89.” (more…)

The Fab Five Type Three $20 Liberty Head Double Eagles

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

There are five ultra-low mintage Type Three Liberty Head double eagles that were produced for circulation during the 1880’s and 1890’s. These five issues have not necessarily received the attention that the so-called Fab Five late date St. Gaudens double eagles (the 1929, 1930-S, 1931, 1931-D and 1932) have but they are now popular with collectors and have risen dramatically in value over the last decade.

The 1881, 1882, 1885, 1886 and 1891 double eagles have a combined mintage of just 5,911. There are a number of possible reasons as to why these issues were made in such limited quantities. The first is that the Philadelphia mint was primarily interested in making silver dollars in these years and a majority of their efforts went towards these coins. I don’t find this plausible as mintage figures for other gold denominations during these years were high; as an example the mint made nearly four million eagles in 1881 alone.

The second was that there was limited demand. This is certainly possible but it does not explain why mintage figures for double eagles during these years at the San Francisco mint tended to exceed one million per annum. Another reason is that the United States economy was slow or worse during most of these years.

In looking at these dates in terms of overall rarity (the total number known) and high grade rarity (rarity in AU50 and higher grades), I rank the Fab Five as follows:

I. Overall Rarity
1. 1882
2. 1881
3. 1886
4. 1891
5. 1885

II. High Grade Rarity

1. 1881
2. 1882
3. 1886
4. 1891
5. 1885

Let’s take a look at each of these dates and discuss their overall and high grade rarity, Condition Census levels, the numbers graded by PCGS and NGC and record prices realized at auction.

I. 1881 Double Eagle

A total of 2,199 were struck of which an estimated three to four dozen exist today. There are none that I know of that grade lower than EF and around seven to ten are known in this grade range. The majority of the examples known are in the AU grades with around twenty-six to thirty-four accounted for.

I am aware of two in Uncirculated and they are as follows:

1. PCGS MS61. Heritage 4/09: 2762 ($120,750), ex Heritage 10/08: 3091 ($138,000), Heritage 1/07: 3203 ($138,000).

2. PCGS MS61. Heritage 6/04: 6363 ($57,500), probably ex Heritage 1997 ANA: 7843 ($29,325; where graded MS60 by PCGS).

The record auction price for this date is $138,000 which was set twice by the coin listed first in the Condition Census above. PCGS, as of December 2010, has graded 24 examples in all grades with just two in Uncirculated (both MS61). NGC has graded 19 in all grades with three in Uncirculated (an MS60 and two in MS61). I believe that the populations for AU coins are inflated by resubmissions. The 1881 is the rarest of the Fab Five is higher grades. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The PCGS SecurePlus Program, Part 2: Reform

News and Analysis on scarce coins, coin markets, and the collecting community #29

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I explain the PCGS SecurePlus program in part 1. Here in part 2, Don Willis, the president of the PCGS, responds to the explanation that I put forth in part 1, and I argue, with assistance from expert dealers, that the PCGS SecurePlus™ program should be reformed, not by reformulating the program, but by preventing dealers from submitting rare coins through the old “standard” process. The positions of John Albanese, Ira Goldberg and Mark Feld are featured.

I devoted last Wednesday’s column to an explanation because I have found that many collectors and dealers do not really understand the PCGS SecurePlus™ program. For details of the PCGS SecurePlus™ program, and a discussion of its importance, please read part 1.

IV. Don Willis Responds

Don Willis has been the president of the PCGS since Oct. 2008. I knew him before then, when he was a coin dealer. Earlier, he had a very successful career in the field of information technology, including the founding of a large software company. I have found Don to be honest, willing to address controversial issues, and very concerned about the well being of collectors.

Willis graciously responds to the points put forth in last week’s column and to questions I asked. Fortunately, Don found my explanation last week as to how grading procedures under the SecurePlus program differ from standard PCGS procedures to be “correct.”

“Today, in its early stages,” Willis says, “SecurePlus is being driven by the collector community.” My (this writer’s) impression is that many collectors do not know or do not understand the benefits of the SecurePlus program. Moreover, not all collectors are familiar with the problems of grade-inflation and coin doctoring. Besides, the dealers who submit many coins to the PCGS are typically wholesalers, not dealers who sell directly to collectors. It would be illogical for the SecurePlus program to be steered by collector demands and collector feedback.

Willis continues, “We have seen many finest known and top quality sets submitted for SecurePlus grading.” I (this writer) find that this is certainly true. Several sets in the Simpson collection come to mind. “Most of these sets remain with their original owners and off the market,” Willis states. “One exception would be Dr. Steven Duckor’s set of Barber Half Dollars which were submitted through SecurePlus and later sold at auction for record breaking prices.”

Dr. Duckor is a strong supporter of the SecurePlus program. Please see his remarks in my June 2nd column. (As always, clickable links are in blue.) Further, I wrote two articles on Dr. Duckor’s halves (part 1, part 2). Also, I mention more of his halves in my column of Aug. 4th.

As Willis says, Duckor’s halves sold for extremely strong prices at auction and many auction records were then set. It is not clear, though, to what extent PCGS Secure holders (as opposed to regular PCGS holders) played a role in the prices realized. Dr. Duckor is one of the leading living collectors, and he is certainly one of the most sophisticated collectors of all time. For a Barber Half Dollar, or an early 20th century gold coin, a Duckor pedigree often adds considerable value.

The SecurePlus program should not only be for the benefit of those advanced, knowledgeable collectors who understand the program. “SecurePlus is only six months old,” Willis replies. “Currently all coins valued over $100,000 must go through SecurePlus. This will change in the future as the market dictates.” Willis figures that “the pace of SecurePlus submissions and the expansion of SecurePlus services will be determined by collector demand just as original PCGS submissions were back in 1986.” (more…)

William Pannier Collection of Historic, Rare California Bank Notes Offered By Goldbergs

More than 100 Orange County California bank notes from the collection of the late William (“Willie”) Pannier will be among the highlights of the pre-Long Beach Expo auction to be conducted by Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins and Collectibles in Beverly Hills, California, January 31 – February 2, 2011.

“These historic, Southern California large and small-size notes have been off the market for decades in his collection. There are several unique and serial number one examples,” said Larry Goldberg, partner with his cousin, Ira, in the auction firm.


Photo Caption: The First National Bank of Santa Ana, 1902 $10 Red Seal, PCGS Currency VG10, unique, the only known Red Seal from Orange County California, is one of the highlights of the William Pannier Collection to be offered in an auction by Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, January 31 – February 2, 2011. Photo credit: Lyle Engelson for Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles

Pannier, who died in August at the age of 66, was the long-time owner of Fullerton Coin & Stamp Company, the oldest coin and stamp store in Orange County California. Well-known collector and real estate developer Dwight Manley worked at the shop on weekends as a teenager, and considers Pannier a beloved numismatic mentor.

Pannier began collecting silver certificate notes in the late 1960s and then became interested in Orange County currency, according to his brother David.
“We were second generation Orange County residents. Orange County was in our roots. Some of the notes were displayed at the store, but he kept the more pricey things at home. He always tried to upgrade the notes or get a lower serial number for his collection,” David Pannier recalled.

Highlights of the Orange County California bank notes in the Goldberg’s auction include:

  • The First National Bank of Fullerton, 1882 $10 Value Back, graded PCGS Currency VF30, the finest of only three known Value Backs from the entire county;
  • The Farmers & Merchants National Bank of Santa Ana, 1902 $20 Date Back, PCGS Currency VF20PPQ, one of only four known from the bank; (more…)

Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Book Auction to be Held in NYC in January

On January 8, 2011, numismatic booksellers Kolbe & Fanning will conduct a public auction sale at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City in conjunction with the New York International Numismatic Convention.

The sale features 500 lots of rare and desirable works of numismatic interest, including highlights from the superb Alan Luedeking Latin American numismatic Library, classic nineteenth- and early twentieth-century works on Russian coins and medals from the library of Dr. Ira Rezak, the Dr. Jeff Hosford collection of Crosbyana, key works on ancient coins, and great classic works on American numismatics, some from the library of the New Netherlands Coin Company. Additional consignors to the sale include Norwegian numismatist Jan Olav Aamlid, Minnesota dealer Allan Davisson and the estate of the late Northern California coin dealer Robert R. Johnson.

There are any number of rarities in the sale, covering the numismatic spectrum.

A printed catalogue may be obtained by sending $25 to: KOLBE & FANNING NUMISMATIC BOOKSELLERS LLC, 141 W JOHNSTOWN ROAD, GAHANNA OH 43230-2700. The catalogue is also accessible free of charge at Kolbe & Fanning website: www.numislit.com.

The sale features no fewer than seven original editions of Sylvester Crosby’s Early Coins of America, including two from the library of the author and five other quite special copies. Other American rarities include an original 1925 Browning work on quarter dollars annotated by Walter Breen; a nice 1921 John Story Jenks sale with original photographic plates; three Eckfeldt and Du Bois works featuring actual gold examples from the California Gold Rush; a superb deluxe leather-bound set of the virtually unknown 1881 edition of Loubat’s Medallic History of the United States; all three of James Mease’s extremely rare 1821-1838 works on United States numismatics, the earliest works on the topic written from a numismatic perspective; B. Max Mehl’s own set of Mehl’s Numismatic Monthly; George Woodside’s own annotated copy, with plates, of the 1892 sale catalogue of his collection of United States pattern coins; the unique and extensive numismatic archive of Chicagoan Michael A. Powills, a noted coin collector prominent in American Numismatic Association affairs and the leading numismatic book dealer of his time, containing many thousands of letters from the key movers and shakers in American numismatics, circa 1930-1980; papers relating to the Dr. John E. Wilkison collection of United States pattern gold coins; and a deluxe edition of Valentine’s famed 1924 work on fractional currency, annotated by Walter Breen.

Classic works on medieval and modern coins and medals include a superb set of the 1791 Beskrivelse over Danske Mynter og Medailler from the library of the Prime Minister of Denmark, along with other classic works on Scandinavian numismatics including the extremely rare supplement to the Beskrivelse; a number of rare and important 16th- and 17th-century merchant guides, often termed “Coin Books”; several very rare works on coining technology; rarities on Scottish and English numismatics from the Allan Davisson library; the first 21 volumes of Rivista Italiana, 1888-1908; the firm’s own annotated copies of over 300 Glendining & Co. auction catalogues, 1966-1986; and two leather-bound presentation volumes on Canadian numismatics written by Alfred Sandham. (more…)

Rare Slabs Can Carry Big Premiums!

By Steve Roach- First published in the December 6, 2010, issue of Coin World

Some collectors wouldn’t agree with the statement, “buy the coin, not the slab,” because to them, the slab is just as important as the coin.

In particular, some collectors have acquired a taste for Numismatic Guaranty Corp. “black” holders.

NGC was formed in 1987 and these holders were used for the first several months of operation, roughly from September through November 1987.

They are similar in shape to today’s NGC slabs, but differ in that the insert securing the coin is black, and the white insert with the coin’s identifying information is on the side that displays the reverse, where the coin seems upside down.

The obverse in black holders is displayed on the side with the NGC stamped logo, which for current holders is on the back of the slab.

Few of these holders remain today. Estimates on the number of surviving black holders range from 35 to 200, and they are collected as novel relics of the early days of third-party coin grading.

Occasionally they turn up and trade at auction.

At a Nov. 14 eBay auction, a New Jersey seller offered a 1924 Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagle in an NGC Mint State 62 “black” slab. (Pictured, image courtesy of Danielle’s, on eBay as onionsavenged)

It sold for an astonishing $3,805. In comparison, one major dealer is selling current-holder NGC MS-62 double eagles for $1,600 and MS-66 coins for $2,850.

While grading was perhaps more conservative back in the early days of NGC, and the seller said the coin “looks like a MS64,” the huge premium must be attributed more to the holder than to the coin.

Nine bidders competed for the coin, with the underbidder dropping out at $3,755. The seller set the starting bid at $2,750 – a price nearly comparable to a current holder NGC MS-66 piece.

While the black holders were flattering to brilliant silver coins or lustrous Mint State gold coins, the holders did little to flatter dark coins and copper, and the holder was retired at the end of 1987.

There is even a 420-page book on slabs by Michael Schmidt, Third Party Grading/Certification Services, that covers more than 80 companies that produced slabs and 200 varieties of normal production slabs.

Rare Coin Road Warrior Market Report

By Vic Bozarth – Bozarth Numismatics

What’s happening on the rare coin show circuit?

The Whitman Baltimore Coin Exposition was really ‘cooking’! In my opinion the Baltimore Coin Expo is the hottest show on the rare coin show circuit. The folks at Whitman know how to run a show. The Fall show is the best of the three shows that Whitman Publishing holds in Baltimore each year. Attendance is always heavy and the Bowers and Merena Auction is a big draw. Business was brisk and gold was the major culprit.

I will talk more about the Baltimore Coin Exposition, but first let me tell you why I write the Rare Coin Road Warrior Column each month.

My name is Vic Bozarth and I am the Rare Coin Road Warrior. My wife Sherri and I travel over 200 days a year to buy rare coins for our customers. We attend all the major shows as well as most of the larger regional and state numismatic society shows. We own and operate Bozarth Numismatics Inc. and our website is bozarthcoins.com. I have attended coin shows since the age of 13 and set up as a dealer at my first show at the age of fifteen. Of course, I love coins, but shows are where the action is! Because many of you don’t have the luxury of attending many coin shows, I like to share with you the news and market trends I have witnessed while attending and working the ‘bourse’.

The October Show schedule was grueling. Although the only major show was the Silver Dollar Show in St. Louis we actually attended four shows in total flying coast to coast twice. After the stellar Philadelphia Whitman Coin Expo in late September/early October we flew to Manchester, NH for the NH Coin Show. Although bracketed by the bigger Philly Show and St. Louis Silver Dollar Show, the NH Show was both well attended and well run. Ernie Botte does an excellent job with this show. The show itself is growing and we are among many who really enjoy visiting the Northeast during the Fall.

The Silver Dollar Show in St. Charles, MO, a suburb of St. Louis, is well run in an excellent facility, but there are several problems with the show. Maybe it is the economy, maybe it is the city, but the show just isn’t what it once was in years past. The Silver Dollar Show also faces some major hurdles next year. The new Pittsburgh ANA Fall Show is scheduled the week prior to the Silver Dollar Show next October. The ANA is like the 800 pound gorilla in the room-they stomp around with no regard for anyone else. (more…)

The Record-Setting Sale of an 1875 Half Eagle: What Does it Portend?

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

In the Bowers and Merena November 2010 Baltimore auction, a business strike 1875 half eagle sold without a lot of fanfare for a lot of money. I think this was one of the most significant individual sales in the rare gold coin market in 2010 and I’d like to spend a bit of time analyzing both the coin that was sold and the significance it portends for both the Liberty Head half eagle series and the rare gold market as a whole.

The 1875 is the rarest collectible Liberty Head half eagle. (The 1854-S is rarer but with no pieces likely available to collectors in the near future, I regard this issue as “non-collectible.”) Only 200 business strikes were produced and the number of pieces known has generally been estimated to be in the area of ten. I think this estimate is reasonably accurate although I think the actual number known could be as low as seven or eight.

The 1875 is unknown in Uncirculated and most of the examples that exist are in the EF40 to AU50 range. PCGS has graded five coins including an EF40 and two each in AU50 and AU53 while NGC has graded four: one in EF45 and three in AU55. I believe that these figures are inflated by resubmissions and the total number of distinct 1875 half eagles in slabs is four or five. There have been 10 auction appearances since 1991. Six have occurred since 2000 but this includes a number of reappearances of the same coin(s).

The coin in the Bowers and Merena auction was graded AU55 by NGC and it appeared to have been the same coin that was offered as DLRC’s Richmond I: 1444 back in July 2004 where it brought a record-setting $86,250. There had been no other 1875 business strikes that had been available since the Goldberg 2/07: 2335 coin that brought $74,750.

The Bowers coin was part of an interesting set of 1875 gold coinage called the “Kupersmith Once in a Lifetime” collection. Terrible name but an interesting and impressive set with examples of the rare Philadelphia gold dollar, quarter eagle and three dollar gold piece from this year but, curiously without the very rare 1875 business strike (or Proof) eagle. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The PCGS SecurePlus Program, Part 1: An Explanation

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #28

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

On March 25, 2010, David Hall and Don Willis, the top officials at the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), announced and explained the PCGS SecurePlus™ program, known for weeks before as “The Big One”! For most grades between EF-45 and MS-68 inclusive, the PCGS begin assigning plus grades when warranted, such as 45+ or 63+. As the rival of the PCGS, the NGC, incorporated plus grades into their system two months afterwards, and the PCGS later allowed for standard submissions to be eligible for plus grades, not just coins submitted via the SecurePlus tier, plus grades now seem to be a secondary aspect of the program. In my view, the emphasis should always have been, as it is now, on the ‘Secure’ aspects of the SecurePlus program, which are truly revolutionary and have tremendous implications for the future of markets in rare coins.

I hope that those who are not entirely familiar with the PCGS SecurePlus program find this column (part 1) to be very clear and educational. In my opinion, the explanation of the PCGS SecurePlus program on the PCGS website is not extremely clear and, over the past six months, I have found that many collectors are confused about this program.

Collectors who are already very familiar with the PCGS SecurePlus program, and with PCGS policies in general, may wish to wait for part 2, next week. In part 2, Don Willis, the president of PCGS, responds to my explanation and a proposal for the reform of PCGS submission policies is put forth. The views of John Albanese, Mark Feld and Ira Goldberg are included.

In the first section, I provide a definition of the SecurePlus program. In the second section, I explain the benefits of the coin identification part of the SecurePlus program. In Section III, I emphasize that submitters of coins to be graded by the PCGS may choose between the SecurePlus program and standard submission options.

I. The PCGS SecurePlus Program

The SecurePlus program brings three new technologies to coin grading. (1) The introduction of a new technology for scanning and coin identification, through the use of CoinAnalyzer devices that are produced by Richard Haddock’s CoinSecure firm. An image and data from each scanned coin is entered into a database, and, if the same coin is scanned at the PCGS in the future, it will be identified as a coin that was previously scanned.

(2) The use of ‘Sniffer’ technology to detect added foreign substances and changes in the surfaces, the metal, on coins that have been deliberately harmed by coin doctors for the purpose of deceiving experts and others into believing that doctored coins merit higher grades than were (or would have been) assigned before such coins are doctored. Additionally, the adding of metal to the surfaces and/or the deliberate heating of the metal on the surfaces of a coin will, hopefully, be detectable by ‘coin sniffer’ technology as well. The PCGS has already begun using ‘sniffer’ technology to an extent, and will be phasing additional sniffer applications into the PCGS SecurePlus grading program over time. I will devote a future piece to coin sniffer technology. The subject is so complicated that it must really be treated in a long article.

To gain some understanding of coin doctoring and the urgent need to contain the coin doctoring problem, please read five previous pieces of mine. Last year, I devoted a series of three articles to the reasons why naturally toned coins are preferred and the topic of coin doctoring is discussed at length therein (part 1, part 2 and part 3). This year, I wrote two columns that address the PCGS lawsuit against alleged coin doctors, on June 3rd and on Sept. 8th. In these two columns, coin doctoring is defined, the lawsuit is analyzed, and the seriousness of the matter is emphasized.

(3) The third ‘Security’ issue relating to the PCGS SecurePlus program is the anti-counterfeiting technology incorporated into the new inserts. In each PCGS holder, there is a paper insert that provides information about the coin contained therein. A gold eagle with a shield is pictured on an insert in the PCGS holder that houses each coin that has been graded under the PCGS SecurePlus program. Unethical businesses in China have produced forgeries of PCGS holders with misleading grades printed on fake inserts. New anti-counterfeiting features are important, though less so than the coin identification and sniffer technologies that constitute the core of the PCGS SecurePlus program. (more…)

Higher premiums don’t seem to hinder demand for Silver American Eagle Coins

By Steve Roach – the Rare Coin Market ReportCoin World

While bullion markets continue their wild fluctuations, demand for American Eagle 1-ounce silver bullion coins remains vibrant.

In October, the United States Mint increased the premium charged to its authorized purchasers for American Eagle silver bullion coins from $1.50 to $2 per coin. The premium was increased in 2009 from $1.40 to $1.50 per coin and in 2008 from $1.25 to $1.40 per coin.

While Proof American Eagle silver coins may be purchased directly from the Mint, the Mint sells the silver bullion coins only to dealers in minimum 25,000-coin shipments.

However, the premium increase seems to have had no noticeable impact on demand, as the Mint has sold more than 30 million silver American Eagles thus far in 2010, eclipsing 2009’s sales record of 28,766,500 pieces.

Surely silver hitting 30-year highs including a flirtation with $29 earlier in November has helped keep demand for the attractive and easily portable silver American Eagles robust. Demand for the coins throughout the holiday gift-giving season will mean that 2010 sales figures will continue to climb.

Proof 2010-W American Eagle silver coins went on sale Nov. 19, priced at $45.95, with a 100-coin household limit.

The Mint’s Web site already warns customers of possible ordering delays on Nov. 19, due to the deluge of customers who are likely to order in light of “unusually high demand.”

Until Proof 2010-W coins enter the marketplace, wholesalers are paying up to $57 for earlier Proof American Eagle silver coins in original Mint packaging.

Grading service population reports show that 2010 American Eagle silver bullion coins are extremely well-produced. Of the 44,160 graded by Professional Coin Grading Service so far this year, a whopping 36,470 pieces have received Mint State 70 grades. Currently PCGS MS-70 2010 silver American Eagles are selling in online auctions for $60 to $100, while certified MS-69 representatives can be found for around $35 and uncertified examples are seen at $30.

In large quantities, 2010 American Eagle silver bullion coins are available from wholesale dealers at silver spot price plus $2.60 per coin.

NGC at the Beijing International Coin Expo

The premier numismatic event was well attended and provided an opportunity for Chinese dealers and collectors to learn more about NGC and submit coins for certification.

Among the most important annual coin shows held in China, the Beijing International Coin Expo provides an ideal opportunity to look at the previous year’s coinage and look ahead to the next year. It is an event focused on modern coinage, with mints from Asia and around the world showcasing their coinage. NGC was present with its Guangzhou-based submission center, both accepting coins and providing information about certification. Additionally, NGC hosted an educational numismatic seminar conducted during the show.

The Expo, jointly hosted by China Gold Coin Corporation, the China Banknote Printing and Minting Corporation, and the China Numismatic Museum, was held on November 7 to 10, 2010, in the China World Trade Center. Nearly 250 exhibitors from 27 countries were present at the 15th annual Expo. This event is very popular with the public. On opening day, large bustling crowds made it difficult to maneuver down the aisles. As in previous years, a special-edition commemorative coin was issued in celebration of the event. Owing to its popularity, the opportunity to purchase this coin is awarded in a lottery.

The Chinese coin market itself is extremely vibrant, with many scarce modern commemorative issues trading at record price levels. Collectors identify strongly with commemorative issues from the past 30 years that celebrate Chinese cultural heritage. In particular, large-format coins that are five ounces and larger are highly coveted, as many have small mintages. The NGC Oversize Holder is especially popular for these coins because of the inherent challenges of storing and transporting large coins.

It is also evident that certification is gaining a greater foothold in the Chinese market, as NGC-certified coins could be seen throughout the exposition area. During the official auction of the Expo, nearly a dozen of the 110 lots were NGC-certified. Once again this year, NGC was the only certification company represented in the auction.

NGC also hosted an educational symposium to discuss certification with prominent members of the Chinese numismatic community. A detailed discussion of the grading process and grading terminology was followed by an open question-and-answer session. “Certification is attractive to collectors in China for three major reasons: first, collectors appreciate the protection it affords against counterfeits, which are of concern even in the Chinese modern coin market; second, collectors value the standardization of grade, which makes it easier for them to identify superior condition coins; and, third, collectors love NGC’s holder, which provides incredible long-term protection for their coins,” said Scott Schechter, NGC vice president, sales & marketing, who presented at the symposium.

Coin Profiles: Monumental 1795 $10 Gold Eagle, 13 Leaves Featured in Heritage Fun Sale

This 1795 13 Leaves eagle, BD-1, certified MS64 NGC, is a monumentally important coin in both aesthetic and historic terms. The obverse of the BD-1 variety is attributed by the 1 close to the lowest lock of hair, with a closely spaced date and the flag of the 5 overlying the drapery. Star 11 is quite close to the Y adjacent, which shows two tiny “lumps” (a die line, in reality) on the left outside serif. The stars are arranged 10 and five (as on all five 1795 Bass-Dannreuther varieties), with the right-side stars cramped tightly together. This is the only pairing that employs this particular obverse.

The 13 Leaves reverse shows a palm leaf virtually touching the left bottom of the U in UNITED, and the tip of the branch stem just about bisects the bottom of the last A in AMERICA.

As mentioned, the obverse this variety is unique to this die marriage. The reverse, on the other hand, is shared with the BD-2, slightly rarer at High R.4. John Dannreuther writes in Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties:

“Bass had a State c/b of this variety that was sold in Bass III. There likely, as noted, is a later state of this obverse die, as this variety is its only use. The obverse die broke or received some other fatal injury to cause it to be retired.”

The obverse of this example shows about the same state of die advancement as the Bass coin, with a light die crack running from the rim above star 10, through star 9 and downward through all left-side stars, continuing from there to the bottoms of the 1 and 7 in the date before terminating just below the 9. Another wispy die crack runs from a point of star 13 through the upper part of star 14 and the center of star 15 before ending at the forward bust tip.

The determination of the reverse die state (or stage) is more problematic; light planchet adjustment marks appear in most of the areas diagnostic for die states. Suffice it to say that no cracks are obvious among those enumerated in Bass-Dannreuther.

More important than the die state–which in any case matters to some specialists-researchers a great deal and to many type collectors little at all–is the enormous aesthetic appeal of this coin, which we believe surpasses the Bass III coin mentioned. The orange-gold surfaces show vibrant, prooflike luster throughout both sides, a trait that some Mint State specimens do show. Dannreuther writes in this regard: (more…)

Argentine Rarities to the Fore!

by Greg Cohen – Stacks

One of the many highlights of Stacks upcoming New York International Sale is a lovely and rare 1830 RA P 8 Escudos of Argentina. This is a key date example of the classic Sunface design, the second rarest date in the series.

This piece hails from the Porteño Collection, a small but high quality offering of Argentine coinage, and displays pleasing original gold surfaces with only light wear. This specimen was uncertified when offered in Heritage’s January 2007 sale, and was recently submitted to NGC for encapsulation where it was graded EF-45.

In his 1962 work, Argentine numismatist and researcher, Jorge Ferarri was able to track fewer than 10 examples of this date. In Calico’s “Onza” book, it is simply described as “Extremely Rare.” Even in the current information age, we can only positively identify two examples that have traded at auction in the past five years.

These include: the example in the October 2008 Spink-Smythe sale (which later appeared in the Ponterio New York International 2010 sale) and this example (ex Heritage NYINC 2007). Curiously, this date was missing from our (ANR’s) sale of the Eliasberg World Gold Collection, Goldberg’s sale of the Millennia Collection, our Kroisos Collection Sale, and other important recent sales of quality Argentine coins. While there are probably examples in museums in Argentina, the number available to the collecting public is quite small indeed.

Another stunning Argentine rarity offered as part of the Porteño Collection is an 1836 Rosas portrait 8 Escudos struck in silver. Called an “ensayo” or essay in Hector Carlos Janson’s book, research conducted by our consignor shows that the 1836 8 Escudos was supposed to be an 8 Soles piece, and thus the silver strikings (which are nearly as rare as the gold) are the officially struck coins.

There are four known examples struck in gold, including the Eliasberg-Clapp coin we offered in the Eliasberg World Gold Collection in 2005. Regardless of whether these are official strikes or essay pieces, they are extremely rare. The last silver specimen to sell at public auction was the AU-50 (NGC) that appeared in the Millennia Collection sale. The Porteño Collection example is sharper than the Millennia coin; unfortunately, it has been polished, and is now residing in an AU Details (NGC) holder.

Stack’s is proud to be able to offer these rarities to the collecting public—for the advanced Argentine coin collector, this is an opportunity not to be missed.

Gold’s Holding Pattern is a Golden Opportunity

Billionaire George Soros declares: “Conditions for gold are pretty perfect”

Gold’s holding pattern is a gift to bargain hunters

Gold prices stood near the $1,350 range today on news that China’s central bank acted to slow inflation but fell short of raising interest rates outright. Gold’s holding pattern is a gift to bargain hunters because gold “should continue to remain well supported too, both by the growing debt crisis in the euro-zone peripherals, which could spill over to other countries at any time, and the expansion of liquidity on the back of renewed quantitative easing of U.S. monetary policy,” Commerzbank analysts said. Richcomm Global Services’ Pradeep Unni agreed, saying a weak dollar and a firmer euro “will continue to provide a bullish bias to the metal.”

The trend is “back up again”

Gold prices surged back Thursday as the euro rose against the dollar on optimism of a bailout for Ireland. “Having held $1,330, and with the dollar a bit weaker … we are just following the trend back up again,” the Bank of Nova Scotia’s Simon Weeks said. VTB Capital’s Andrey Kryuchenkov noted: “Should fear in the eurozone escalate, gold would draw fresh support from risk-averse buyers similar to what happened earlier this summer when investors scrambled for the safe-haven asset on fears of sovereign default.” Investors also are watching China for potential news of an interest-rate rise, which would only create a buying opportunity for bargain hunters.

Billionaire George Soros tips his hat to gold

With quantitative easing going full-steam ahead and U.S. interest rates low for the foreseeable future, billionaire investor George Soros said the precious metal still has plenty of kick to it. “The conditions for gold are pretty perfect,” he said Monday. Soros also said the present world order is on the brink of breaking down. “There is now a rapid decline of the United States and a rapid rise of China,” he said. “It is happening very quickly. … If they persist in their present course, it will lead to conflict,” he said, adding that China’s neighbors are already getting nervous about its rising global influence. Read more

Inflation surfaces at Walmart, not in feds’ data

Offering up its statistics Wednesday, the Labor Department said the core consumer price index, an inflation indicator that excludes food and energy prices, was unchanged in October. However, a new pricing survey of 86 products sold there – mostly everyday items like food and detergent – showed a “meaningful” 0.6 percent price increase in just the past two months, according to MKM Partners. At that rate, prices would be close to 4 percent higher a year from now, double the Federal Reserve’s mandate. “I suspect that when [Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke] thinks about reflation, he has a difficult time seeing any other asset besides real estate,” said Jim Iuorio of TJM Institutional Services. “Somehow the Fed thinks that if it’s not ‘wage-driven’ inflation then it is somehow unimportant. It’s not unimportant to people who see everything they own (homes) going down in value and everything they need (food and energy) going up in price.” Read more

The Fed sticks to its quantitative-easing guns

Ben Bernanke had to defend the Fed’s actions on Capitol Hill, where he briefed skeptical lawmakers on the QE plan’s merits on Wednesday, and some of his colleagues said the bank is likely to follow through on its entire $600 billion bond-buying program, citing weak economic data. “It looks like we’ll be purchasing at this pace through the end of the second quarter to add up to $600 billion,” St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard said. (more…)

Bowers and Merena November 2010 Baltimore Auction Tops $13 Million in Sales

Malibu, Kupersmith and Zürich collections excite bidders

Bowers and Merena, one of the world’s preeminent auctioneers for rare coins and currency, saw spirited bidding as the Official Auctioneer of the November 2010 Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo. Nearly 3,900 lots of rare U.S. coins and currency crossed the auction block in the Nov. 4-6 sale and realized $11.6 million. Ponterio & Associates, Bowers and Merena’s world and ancient coin division, brought over 2,900 lots and added an additional $1.6 million to the sale.

“With the selection of U.S. and foreign collections presented, this year’s November Baltimore Auction ranks as one of our most important auctions yet,” said Greg Roberts, CEO of Bowers and Merena Auctions. “Even our optimistic appraisals were far surpassed, especially those in the fabulous Malibu Collection, which was comprised of the #2 collection of Standing Liberty Quarters with full-head designation on the PCGS Set Registry and an awe-inspiring array of Seated Liberty coinage.”

The Malibu Collection of Standing Liberty Quarters, featured lot 1750, the key-date 1916 in PCGS/CAC MS-67 FH that sold for $115,000, lot 1760, the finest-known 1919-D in PCGS MS-66+ FH, that brought $109,250 and lot 1776, the pop 1/2 example of low mintage 1927-S in PCGS/CAC MS-65+ FH sold for an impressive $149,500.

The 1882 Half Dollar, one of only three Motto Seated Half Dollars certified MS-68 by PCGS and verified by CAC, lot 2074, traded hands at $74,750. Finally, the amazing Stack-Pryor-Malibu Specimen of 1855 Arrows Seated Half Dollar in PCGS/CAC MS-66, lot 2018, realized $54,625.

Leading the way among gold coin highlights, the Kupersmith Once-in-a-Lifetime Collection of 1875-dated gold coinage featured many of the rarest and most significant pieces of the sale. The proof-only 1875 Three-Dollar gold piece, certified Proof-66 Ultra Cameo by NGC with a pop 1/0 sold for $253,000. The business strike 1875 Liberty Half Eagle offered as lot 5043, an even rarer issue, went for an impressive $149,500. Certified AU-55 by NGC, the coin represents the finest grade available among the 10 coins believed to exist from a 200-piece issue.

Another anchor in the Baltimore Auction was the Zürich Collection which almost exclusively contains rare, high-grade proof Liberty Double Eagles. A beautiful gem, the 1892 Double Eagle in NGC Proof-66 Ultra Cameo from the collection netted $103,500 as lot 5392. (more…)

Thoughts on the Simpson Dime Sale

By Jason Feldman – The E-Gobrecht

The Simpson dimes were being broken up. [ Heritage Long Beach Sale #1144] This would be a great opportunity to upgrade dimes in an advanced Seated Dime collection. The big problem was there were so many coins that few buyers would be able to purchase them all and no one did surface who did. Even more amazing are some of the coins left in the collection like a MS66 1844 Dime. Legend (Numismatics) has made available to me so many wonderful dimes that news of this sale created euphoria.

It would come as no surprise that most of the coins were either crossed over to PCGS at the same or in many cases a lower grade. Seeing the secure plus holders and Simpson pedigree would make this obvious. There was a lot bidding research needed prior to bidding. There were cases where buying too many coins early would limit the ability to chase coins later. One the highlights of the sale being a simply gorgeous 1872-S, I was not the only one to think so as the coin went to the moon.

One of my regrets of the sale was not being able to purchase the 1845-O dime in mint state. This is a very rare opportunity indeed but as a rule if you set a maximum bid and exceed it by 10% you have to know to stop. Being the under bidder was really not satisfying and maybe a higher bid was warranted. Another highlight of the sale was a gem 1860-S. Prior to the sale, Laura (of Legend Numismatics) and I spoke as to where the coin would sell. It was another on my short list. I think we both underestimated the demand for this coin. It went far over preauction estimates but I don’t doubt it to be well worth the hammer price $40,250. A nice return on investment considering one sold for roughly $7,000 in 1994.

One of the interesting notes about these coins is how many were not picked up by Seated Dime registry collectors but rather a just collectors and dealers. I know one dealer picked up roughly 10% of the coins and most all have been sold. There were many bargains in this sale too. Mostly the coins following the Simpson dimes went too cheap. One example is an 1858-O is a MS64 PCGS holder population 1 with 8 finer sold for just under $3,000 while the Simpson PCGS MS65 population 7 with one finer soared to $9,200. With the grade covered it was not really possible to call either coin much better than the other.

Some of the real steals in the Simpson collection came in the coins in NGC holders. The obvious assumption is these are coins that on a given day did not cross over at PCGS. A good many of them did regrade at NGC. In the case of the ultra-rare 1853-O MS64 the coin was simply overgraded. The coin did have a wonderful and original look to it but just had too many marks to be graded higher than MS62 in my opinion. The coin could easily be traced back with little effort to its previous holder. In general the ultra high grade trophy coins were the ones hitting the moon. Clearly one of two mint state 1845-O Dimes should be worth more than a other coins that sold in the low $20,000’s. This was a sale where knowledge was king. (more…)

Rare 1903-R Italian 100 Lire Gold Coin to be Sold at Spinks Sale

Sale 304 Lot 355 – Italy. 1903-R 100 Lire, Vittorio Emanuele III. NGC MS63. KM-39. FR-22. Mintage: 966.

Numismatists won’t want to miss out on Spink Smythe’s November Collectors’ Series Sale, which is taking place tomorrow (November 20) in New York.

A colossal rarity and an ultimate collector item, as the present coin stands as the largest and highest denominated Italian gold coin of the era. The type, produced during 1903 and 1905, saw limited production, with 1903 yielding a mere 966 coins and 1905 slightly besting that amount with a production of 1,012 coins – today, relatively few of either date exist.

The surfaces of the present example, unlike its few surviving brethren, have been lovingly preserved through the years and maintain full prooflike mirrors on both sides.

Few marks are visible anywhere, and none are worthy of singular notation. Inspection of the grading services population reports confirm this example as exemplary – being the single finest graded and the only one to merit MS63 status. In fact, it is only the fourth specimen to have been graded in the 25 plus years of PCGS and NGC grading.

To further illustrate the rarity of the present example, when the Eliasberg Collection of over 3500 world gold coins was sold in 2005, neither the 1903 or 1905 date of this type was offered as a part of this collection.

For the Italian specialist, one can only stretch to imagine a more important opportunity to acquire a true collection linchpin. An opportunity that should not be missed.
Estimate $ 10,000-12,000

November Baltimore Coin Show and Market Report

By William Shamhart, Jr.  – Numismatic Americana

I can figure a coin deal as quick as anyone. In fact I can sometimes just look at a deal and know that I am going to buy it. That is because I am a coin dealer and have been my entire adult life.
baltimoreNov2010
But writing…that’s a whole other story. I’ve had trouble all my life writing papers from grade school all the way though college. Hence my tardiness in getting this show report to you, our loyal readers.

Christine and I made the trip down to Baltimore on Wednesday afternoon. We had a few appointments set up and promptly got down to business. After looking at a few dealer’s inventory (and finding the same old “tired” pieces), I went to submit our numerous coins for grading to PCGS. (At the end of this show report, and up on our web site shortly, you will find the fruits of this.)

With an opening bell of 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, Christine and I were there bright and early and literally minutes after the doors opened we arrived at our table only to find a client waiting for us. While that was a great way to start the show, sadly it wasn’t going to last. We did some wholesale business from our inventory early on and then proceeded to set up our booth for the “early birds” at 10 and the public at noon. One of the best things about having a client base is that other dealers figure out quickly that you need to buy coins for them, so while neither Christine or I really got to spend a lot of time walking the floor looking for coin to buy, it was nice that there was a steady flow of dealers coming to us, wanting to show us their wares.

Getting to the meat of this report, I will tell you that Baltimore was definitely better than CoinFest, and way better than the Silver Dollar Expo a few weeks earlier. There are many more “collectors” in Baltimore than the aforementioned shows, and while they didn’t spend money like sailors on shore leave, they did spend. As I write this gold has broken the $1400 barrier, yet in Baltimore we didn’t have one person come up to us and ask for bullion, quasi bullion, or generic gold coins. Not one. Gem gold was in demand, stronger than it has ever been in recent history. And we sold virtually all that we brought with us.

Another observation that I came back with is how focused today’s buyers are. No longer do they settle for a lesser coin, they don’t buy something just to fill a hole. They will wait until that special coin, the one with the look that they have been longing for, appears. The collectors in the market place today don’t just have a want list with a denomination, date, and grade on it, there is also the “look” on their list. And some coins, no matter the grade, just won’t make the grade (no pun intended). They are fussy and they should be. I’ve always had the opinion that coin collecting should be fun. It should release the endorphins in your brain and not cause stress. It seems that the collectors I have met recently have learned from the common mistakes that one would make early on in a hobby. They have paid their dues and will wait it out until they get exactly what they want. While I generally agree with that philosophy, it can be a very dangerous double edged sword. Passing up on a truly rare coin, in anticipation of a finer piece showing up, can be, and usually is, a bad deal. If the coin in question is that tough to locate, then there will usually be another collector lined up behind you to buy it. How many time have you looked at a coin, walked away to think about, and then returned only to find it sold?

So what, besides Gem gold, was selling? Nice commems, MONSTER commems, and type coins, both proof and mint state were selling. MONSTER type coins that sold there went for numbers off the charts. Better date walkers, and yes, even proof walkers were also in demand.

Before you start to look over our new purchases, I’d like to remind you that the next show Christine and I will be doing will be the Money Show of the Southwest in Houston the first week of December. Don’t worry, we will still be buying coins and putting them up on the web before then. So while we won’t have any of show reports until next month, there will be plenty of new coins showing up on our site.

Strong bourse + auctions at Baltimore coin show; Rarities keep soaring

By Steve Roach
First published in the November 29, 2010, issue of Coin World

The Nov. 4 to 7 Whitman Coin and Collectibles Baltimore Expo was characterized by both a strong bourse floor and well-performing auctions with interesting and fresh material.

The Baltimore show, held three times a year, has become one of the most robust on the circuit, with dealers and collectors alike praising Whitman for being responsive and Baltimore for being a good convention city, characterized by inexpensive flights, reasonably priced hotels and good local restaurants.

A walk around the bourse floor on Friday revealed healthy dealer-to-collector business being done.

Prior to the show’s start, Stack’s presented its 75th anniversary auction, which realized nearly $4.6 million across 2,500 lots.

It was anchored by the W.L. Carson Collection of U.S. Proof sets, a remarkable and large fresh-to-market collection put together decades ago consisting of more than 500 lots of Proof coins from 1837 to 1964.

The quality was characteristic of many old collections put together prior to third-party grading: some coins were amazing high-grade beauties while others were harshly cleaned or displayed artificial toning and were in Professional Coin Grading Service “Genuine” holders. The market absorbed the collection at strong prices.

Bowers and Merena Auctions hosted the official expo auction with more than 3,500 lots, anchored by the No. 2 collection of Standing Liberty quarter dollars with full head designation.

A toned 1916 Standing Liberty quarter dollar graded Mint State 67+ full head sold for $195,500 (pictured left, image courtesy of bowersandmerena.com), while a more brilliant example in the same grade without the “+” brought $115,000. A 1927-S quarter dollar graded MS-65+ full head brought $149,500. All three were graded by PCGS and carried Certified Acceptance Corp. stickers.

In total the auction saw 12 separate Standing Liberty quarter dollars realize more than $25,000 each.

The sum of the auction results shows continued health for a wide range of issues including gold, especially at the $20,000 to $200,000 level, as collectors continue to seek objects of lasting and proven value during times of economic uncertainty.

WGC: STRONG OUTLOOK FOR GOLD DEMAND FOR REMAINDER OF 2010

Global gold consumption for 2010 will be higher than 2009 as a result of increasing levels of demand in India and China, sustained global demand for gold investment, together with growth in jewellery and industrial demand, the World Gold Council (“WGC”) said.

According to the WGC’s Gold Demand Trends report for Q3 2010, published today, demand for gold in the final quarter of 2010 will be driven by the following factors:

* Increasing demand by the world’s two largest markets, India and China, as rising income levels, high savings rates and strong economic growth continue to push up consumption.

* Gold jewellery demand is likely to exceed that of 2009 due to an anticipated recovery in India, the most significant gold jewellery market, and continuing strength in China. While jewellery demand may face challenges ahead, the latest figures show that demand in key markets has shown resilience in the face of higher prices levels.

* Concern over fiscal imbalances and currency tensions will continue to support investment demand for gold. Aside from the recent additional US$600 billion of quantitative easing by the US, the weakening of the US dollar and associated fears of inflation, demand is also likely to be driven by higher gold price expectations, as well as increasing availability and accessibility of gold investment products to retail investors.

* Industrial demand, which has returned to long-term levels, is expected to remain firm on the back of renewed growth in the electronics industry, due to the majority of semi-conductors being wired by gold.

Marcus Grubb, Managing Director, Investment at the WGC commented:

“Healthy gold demand growth in the third quarter occurred in the context of record international prices, demonstrating how consumers, particularly in India and China, are continuing to appreciate the enduring value of gold. The rediscovery of gold’s properties as both a currency and a monetary asset have been brought into sharp focus. Quantitative easing has forced the adjustment of global imbalances into currency markets and the resulting currency conflict is positive for gold. In addition, we believe demand will be facilitated by the growing number of channels that serve to make gold more easily accessible to a greater number of investors.” (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The B&M Auction of the Malibu Collection of Standing Liberty Quarters

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #27

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I. The Malibu Collection

In Baltimore, on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010, B&M auctioned the ‘Malibu’ collections of Standing Liberty Quarters (SLQs), Liberty Seated Halves and Liberty Seated Dollars. Though I have a strong affinity for Liberty Seated coins, I will focus here on this collector’s Standing Liberty Quarters (SLQs), as his set of SLQs is phenomenal.

Since the collector who formed the Malibu collection wishes to remain anonymous, Malibu will be employed here as the code name of this collector and of his collections of specific series. All the Malibu collections auctioned in Novembers were of business strikes. In January, B&M will auction the Malibu collections of Proof Liberty Seated Quarters and Liberty Seated Halves, in Tampa, just prior to the winter FUN Convention.

II. Malibu SLQ Registry Set

Among the collections that Malibu has formed so far, the Malibu set of Standing Liberty Quarters (SLQs) is the most famous. In the category of “Basic” sets of Standing Liberty Quarters with Full Heads on Miss Liberty, the Malibu collection is the second “All-Time Finest” in the PCGS registry.

All of the quarters in Malibu’s set have a ‘Full Head’ designation from the PCGS, and the FH indicator is best referred to as part of the grade, though it is technically a designation that is considered separately from the numerical grade. An MS65FH SLQ is generally considered to be ‘of a higher grade’, so to speak, then an MS-65 grade SLQ of the same date with a weakly struck head, which is typical for most dates of SLQs. For some SLQ issues, only a very small percentage of those struck have a full head (FH).

In the PCGS registry, the Malibu Collection of Standing Liberty Quarters (SLQs) has a weighted grade point average of “67.92.” Relatively scarce SLQs are weighed more than relatively less scarce dates. The rules of the PCGS registry provide for “bonus points” that are awarded to SLQs with FH designations.

The sixth “All-Time Finest” Basic SLQ set in the PCGS registry was formed by Pat McInally, who was the lead punter for the Cincinnati Bengals during the football seasons from 1976 to 1985. In 1977, 1978 and 1980, he caught a significant number of passes. In the NFL, it is very unusual for a punter to also be a regular receiver. McInally’s SLQ set had a “Weighted GPA” of “67.59.” While “67.59” not nearly as high as the “Weighted GPA” of the Malibu SLQ set, “67.92,” it is impressive. Also, Malibu’s set is the #2 SLQ set in the NGC registry as well, though Malibu did not fully update his listing in the NGC registry and some SLQs that were just auctioned are not listed.

Both the PCGS and the NGC registries provide the most weight to the scarcest dates. Generally, the 1916, the 1918/7-S and the 1927-S are the queens of the SLQ series, closely followed by the 1923-S and then the 1921. The 1919-D and the 1919-S are very rare with a FH, but not rare without. The 1920-S SLQ issue is also relatively rare with a FH.

In the PCGS registry, the “Basic” SLQ sets do not include the 1918/7-S overdate, though the ‘variety’ SLQ sets do. It seems that, according to the PCGS, the 1918/7-S is the only ‘major variety’ in the SLQ series. In my view, the 1918/7-S is an overdate that has the status of a distinct date; it should not be referred to as a ‘major variety.’

In any event, Malibu’s set is ‘100% FH’ in accordance with the rules for ‘Basic’ sets of SLQs in the PCGS registry. The #1 SLQ set is ‘91.89% Full Head’ because three SLQs in the set, including a 1927-S, lack a FH. The Malibu SLQ set is thus the “All-Time Finest” in the PCGS registry that is ‘100% FH.’ Indeed, on the PCGS ‘all-time’ list of Basic sets of SLQs, the Malibu set is one of only five sets that are both ‘100% Complete’ and ‘100% FH’! (more…)

Multi-year Gold Bull Market Is Firmly Intact

Adam Crum – Monaco Rare Coins

Critics Believe Second Round of Quantitative Easing By the Fed Will Further Devalue the Dollar and Create Inflation

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has been quoted as saying he would fly over the United States and drop dollars from a helicopter should it be necessary.

Sans helicopter, for the time being at any rate, the Federal Reserve has announced that it plans to breathe new life into the economy with additional quantitative easing, a series of Treasury purchases starting with $600,000,000 that may ultimately total $1 trillion or more according to some sources. With the U.S. economy expanding at just 2 percent annually in the third quarter of this year and the jobless rate apparently stalled at about 9.6 percent, the Fed was pressured to do something to stimulate the economy.

Bernanke explained to students at Jacksonville University that a second round of easing will enable the Fed to accomplish its two Congressional mandates, ensuring full employment and stable prices while preventing deflation and generating some “good” inflation.

Critics say the dollar will weaken and create inflation

Critics believe that the dollar will weaken as these purchases (accomplished by printing money) increase the Fed’s balance sheet. Inflation is fueled by a weaker dollar as the real price of goods and services becomes more expensive. Using past research and her own models, Goldman Sachs strategist Robin Brooks suggests the dollar will need to drop a great deal more than the Federal Reserve thinks in order to meet the central bank’s inflation target.

“Substantial additional monetary stimulus is needed for the Fed to meet its dual mandate on inflation and employment,” wrote Brooks after the Fed’s announcement. She has raised her estimate for the total size of this second round of quantitative easing from $1 trillion to $2 trillion. “If indeed the Fed sees the dollar as one of its key policy levers for preventing inflation from staying below its mandate for a prolonged period, the dollar needs to fall a lot further from here,” says Brooks.

The big question is when Bernanke discovers that the plan isn’t working, how much farther could the dollar fall? This controversial plan of additional quantitative easing takes the Fed into essentially uncharted waters and puts the dollar at risk of crashing. Frankly, these additional bond purchases could be more destructive than critics even think if inflation is ignited when the economy finally comes around. (more…)

Early U.S. coins, classic proofs headline Houston Auction

Early U.S. coinage and classic proofs, including one of the finest known 1895 Morgan dollars, are the twin strengths of the Heritage Auction Galleries December 2010 U.S. Coin Auction, to be held in conjunction with the Money Show of the Southwest in Houston, TX. Floor sessions are Dec. 2-3.

With Featured Collections such as The W. Philip Keller Collection of U.S. Colonials and The Eagle Harbor Collection, Part Two lined up, we knew this auction was going to be heavy on early U.S. coinage. The many great proof coins we’re going to offer were more of a surprise, though definitely a welcome one.

Perhaps the most surprising lot of them all is an 1895 Morgan dollar graded PR68 Ultra Cameo by NGC. This example from what is arguably the most famous Morgan dollar issue combines great condition with immense popular demand. It is estimated at $90,000+.

For many years, collectors believed that there were business strike 1895 Morgan dollars out there waiting to be discovered, and in the meantime, they collected proof examples to fill the gap. Today, there is growing acceptance that the business strikes may never be found, but this has hardly dampened enthusiasm for the proofs.

Just 880 proof Morgan dollars were struck in 1895 for inclusion in the year’s silver proof sets. Perhaps half that number survive today, but only a handful of those coins are in a condition approaching the PR68 Ultra Cameo level.


On the early coinage side, the most prestigious pedigree belongs to a 1793 Wreath cent with Vine and Bars edge, S-5, B-6, graded MS61 Brown by PCGS. It is estimated at $50,000+.

This coin has been well-recognized and important to collectors for more than a century. It was first highlighted in the auction catalog for the Dr. Charles Clay Collection, sold all the way back in 1871. After that, it passed through a series of famous hands, including W. Eliot Woodward, Lorin G. Parmelee, and Wayte Raymond. We expect another name with plenty of future appeal to add this prestigious and carefully preserved coin to his or her collection. (more…)

The DWN Rare Gold Coin Market Heat Index: 2010

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

As someone who is pretty attuned to the strengths and weaknesses of the rare gold coin market, I can accurately rate how well (or poorly) a specific series is performing. 2010 was an interesting year for gold coins. We saw tremendous price increases in gold bullion but many areas of the coin market were flat. In the first annual DWN Rare Gold Coin Market Heat Index (cue sizzling sound effect…), I am going to discuss the relative position(s) of the most commonly traded areas of the market.

This totally non-scientific study is keyed to the following ratings, which go from 1 to 10:

1. This series is so cold you couldn’t give the coins away
2-5: This series ranges from ice cold to moderate strength
6-9: This series ranges from strong to very strong
10: This series is en fuego

And without further ado, let’s talk hot or cold gold…

I. Gold Dollars

There is pretty solid overall collector support for gold dollars. While there do not appear to be many specialists working on complete sets, there are a number of collectors working on focused subsets; i.e., Dahlonega dollars, Civil War issues, etc. I would say that Type One branch mint dollars are probably the strongest overall segement of this market and the weakest is, clearly, high grade non-branch mint Type Two coins.

In the Type Three series, I am noticing some strength in very high quality Philadelphia issues from the 1870’s and 1880’s. In most cases, the coins that are the strongest are PCGS graded MS67 and better pieces with great eye appeal. The Charlotte and Dahlonega market is very bifurcated. Top quality original pieces in all grades are very strong while overgraded, non-original pieces are hard to sell even at a serious discount.

OVERALL RATING: 5. This denomination is collector-driven and reasonably strong as of the end of 2010. The coins showing the greatest demand include the very rare Dahlonega issues (1855-D, 1856-D and 1861-D), mintmarked Type Two coins in “collector grades” and Finest Known or high Condition Census Type Three issues graded by PCGS and approved by CAC.

II. Quarter Eagles

This is perhaps the most mixed denomination in the entire U.S. gold oeuvre as the heat index ranges from borderline frigid to pretty toasty. Early quarter eagles are showing mixed collector support. These coins are still undervalued when compared to other early gold denominations but they are no longer “cheap.” Some weak auction results for overgraded 1796 No Stars and 1808 quarter eagles have lowered Trends but nice examples of these two significant dates are still in demand. Collectors of early quarter eagles are looking for value. They want either very rare issues that are underpriced (such as the 1826/5 or the 1834) or coins that are choice and original. (more…)

Morton & Eden Ancient and World Coin Auction Yields Surprise Result

Below are the Top Ten prices for a sale of Islamic, Ancient, British and World Coins Medals and Memorabilia relating to Edward VIII Historical and Renaissance Medals and Plaquettes, held at London specialist auctioneers Morton & Eden on Thursday November 11.

The surprise of the sale was the outstanding price paid for the Roman aureus of Maximinus I Thrax (AD 235-238) which tripled estimate to sell for £195,500 to a European private collector, bidding against telephones and internet interest (lot 272).

This wide-ranging sale also registered strong interest in Islamic coins where a poorly preserved but extremely rare Umayyad dirham of Ifriqiya dated AH120 also tripled its top estimate to sell for £4,370 (lot 30).

English coins were in demand and the Charing Hoard of coins of Edward IV (1461-70), discovered by a metal detectorist in Kent last year sold for a total of £2,300.

There were strong results for Italian Renaissance plaquettes and medals where a finely preserved plaquette of Marcus Curtius (the legendary saviour of Rome) by the famous sculptor Riccio sold to a U.S. collector for £16,100, more than double its top estimate (lot 585).

The sale demonstrated the continuing strength of the numismatic market despite the current world economic climate. Images are available on request.

Lot 272
*Maximinus I, Thrax (235-238), aureus, Rome, April-December 235, IMP MAXIMINVS PIVS AVG, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right, rev., PAX AVGVSTI, Pax standing left holding branch and transverse spear, 5.37g (RIC 12; BMC 4; C. 30; Calico 3159; Alram 10/1B), well struck on a broad flan, a few minor marks but about extremely fine and extremely rare.

Ex Nelson Bunker Hunt Collection, Part 2, Sotheby’s New York, 21-22 June 1990, lot 789 and Rauch auction 46, Vienna, 14 May 1991, lot 597.

While the silver coinage of Maximinus is plentiful, in contrast, his gold is extremely rare. Of lowly birth in Thrace, Gaius Julius Verus Maximinus, known for his enormous stature (the Historia Augusta claimed he was over 8 feet tall) came to the notice of Septimius Severus and rose through the ranks of the army. When there was rebellion against the policies of Severus Alexander and his mother Julia Mamaea during the German campaign, the emperor was murdered at Moguntiacum (Mainz) and Maximinus was proclaimed emperor, bringing an end to the Severan dynasty. Maximinus’s reign marked the beginning of the so-called Crisis of the Third Century. He never set foot in Rome itself, and his harsh rule was resented by the Senate. On his way to Rome to deal with the insurrection there, he and his son Maximus were assassinated at Aquileia by disaffected soldiers.

Estimate: £40,000-60,000 SOLD FOR £195,500 Purchased by private European collector (more…)

One of the finest 1895 Morgan dollars known headlines Heritage Houston U.S. Coin Auction

Early U.S. coins and classic proofs to provide holiday cheer to numismatists at the Money Show of the Southwest, Dec. 2-3

Early U.S. coinage and classic proofs, among them one of the finest known 1895 Morgan dollars, are the twin strengths of the Heritage Auction Galleries December 2010 U.S. Coin Auction, to be held in conjunction with the Money Show of the Southwest in Houston, TX. Floor sessions are Dec. 2-3.

“With Featured Collections such as The W. Philip Keller Collection of U.S. Colonials and The Eagle Harbor Collection, Part Two lined up, we knew this auction was going to be heavy on early U.S. coinage,” said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage. “The many great proof coins we’re going to offer were more of a surprise, though definitely a welcome one.”

Perhaps the most surprising lot of them all is an 1895 Morgan dollar graded PR68 Ultra Cameo by NGC. This example from what is arguably the most famous Morgan dollar issue combines great condition with immense popular demand. It is estimated at $90,000+.

“For many years, collectors believed that there were business strike 1895 Morgan dollars out there waiting to be discovered, and in the meantime, they collected proof examples to fill the gap,” said Rohan. “Today, there is growing acceptance that the business strikes may never be found, but this has hardly dampened enthusiasm for the proofs.”

Just 880 proof Morgan dollars were struck in 1895 for inclusion in the year’s silver proof sets. Perhaps half that number survive today, but only a handful of those coins are in a condition approaching the PR68 Ultra Cameo level.

On the early coinage side, the most prestigious pedigree belongs to a 1793 Wreath cent with Vine and Bars edge, S-5, B-6, graded MS61 Brown by PCGS. It is estimated at $50,000+.

“This coin has been well-recognized and important to collectors for more than a century,” said Rohan. “It was first highlighted in the auction catalog for the Dr. Charles Clay Collection, sold all the way back in 1871. After that, it passed through a series of famous hands, including W. Eliot Woodward, Lorin G. Parmelee, and Wayte Raymond. We expect another name with plenty of future appeal to add this prestigious and carefully preserved coin to his or her collection.”

In addition to proof silver, proof gold is also well-represented in this auction by an 1876 three dollar gold piece graded PR63 by PCGS, a proof-only issue with an official mintage of just 45 pieces, among the most elusive Philadelphia dates in the series. This Select example was certified early in the history of PCGS, and no mention is made on the holder of the coin’s obvious cameo contrast. It is estimated at $40,000+. (more…)