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Category: Commentary and Opinion

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The Ten Leading Topics of 2010

News and Analysis on scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #33

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

This is my last column of the year 2010. It seems appropriate to list the ten leading topics of the year, starting with number ten.

Please note that I am referring to news relating to rare U.S. coins, not to coins actually minted in 2010 or to coins minted in recent years. In addition to often discussing rarities, I have written, and will write more, about classic coins that are not rare. Please see my two part series on why 1933/34 is the clear dividing line between classic and modern U.S. coins (part 1part 2), and my column on advice for beginning and intermediate collectors. I have recently written about modern coins as well. (As always, clickable links are in blue.)

X. The Fate of 1933 $20 gold coins

For decades, the U.S. Treasury Department has maintained that it is not legal for individuals to possess 1933 Double Eagles. Indeed, the Federal Government has allocated considerable funds to chase and seize 1933 Double Eagles ($20 gold coins).

In 2002, Stephen Fenton, who owned a 1933 Double Eagle, and the U.S. Treasury reached a settlement that stipulated that the Fenton 1933 Double Eagle be sold at auction and the proceeds, after the auction house’s commission, be split between Fenton and the U.S. Treasury Department, which granted title to the successful bidder. Sotheby’s, in partnership with Stack’s, auctioned the Fenton 1933 Double Eagle for $7.59 million on July 30, 2002. This result remains the auction record for a coin.

The Switt-Langbord family acknowledges inheriting ten 1933 Double Eagles. The U.S. Treasury Department and the Langbord family are currently involved in litigation over the title to these ten 1933 Double Eagles.

Although the Langbord case could have been more of a non-story than a story in 2010, as not much happened in Federal Court, it was discussed at length by innumerable collectors and received much attention in the media. Importantly, researcher Roger Burdette announced in 2010 that he unearthed government documents that demonstrate that the “first 1933 Double Eagles were struck March 2nd, during the Hoover administration.” Before Burdette’s recent find, the “assumed date was March 15 or shortly before, since that was the initial delivery date.” Moreover, Burdette discovered that the Mint Cashier was provided with forty-three 1933 Double Eagles on March 4 and these “balanced” the accounting of the production of 1932 Double Eagles as some 1932 Double Eagles were earlier found to be defective.

So, in my (this writer’s) view, some or all of these 1933 Double Eagles that were counted, for bookkeeping purposes, as 1932 Double Eagles could certainly have been traded to collectors and dealers. Documents discovered by Burdette support the argument that collectors may have legally traded earlier dated Double Eagles for 1933 Double Eagles before President Roosevelt ordered the Treasury Department to stop ‘paying out’ gold coins. (more…)

LOOKING FORWARD TO A BIGGER 2011 – IS BIGGER BETTER?

Hot Topics by Laura Sperber – Legend Numismatics

Consolidation in reverse! I expected a few firms to fold and smaller dealers to shut. Out of the blue comes the mega merger of Stacks and Bowers and Merena. I was not so shocked because for the last 3 years it had been no secret I tried to talk the owners into selling Stacks to Legend. The apparent loss would have been too great and doing a deal this way, they get a shot at some stock that could go up. Regardless, I feel it was a tragic end to once powerful and glamorus dealership.

It is my strong opinion, in this mergers case, bigger is NOT better for the coin market. Why? We already have one mega monster firm who obviously has reached their limits-Heritage. They know they can’t expand any more with in coins, so they did the smartest thing, branched out into other areas. I give them tons of credit for that because it seems as they grow, they do not forget their roots and promote coins to this new crowd.

To satisfy two large auction companies with huge staffs, where are all the coins going to come from? These firms need expensive coins to generate large fees. If these firms on their own were not getting much prior, where are the coins going to come from after the merger? Think about how big each firms overheads are. Will fees rise? Will coin values artifically inflate because of excessive tiny demand with each auction?

This new mega merger concerns me. My goal in going after Stacks was not to make it bigger-just better. In my opinion, the potential of Stacks combining with Legend was huge. I believe it would have greatly benefited collectors. I do admit, I was nervous about where the consignments would come from, but Legend has sold OVER $600,000,000.00 RETAIL so we have some contacts. I have always viewed owning an auction company as a natural extension for us and our customers. Unfortunately, I do not have the time or energy to try again to enter the auction field from scratch. I saw the demise of Stacks as inevitable. I would have loved to have fixed it. It is frustrating to me ownership decided to end the misery this way. When I was told about it I was angry for one second and have moved on. Now I just wonder if bigger is really better? And how will it effect the marketplace?

I do wish The B+M team good luck in their merger. Greg Roberts, CEO of Spectrum is one of the sharpest executives in this business.

FUN

My prediction is that FUN will be a good show. Out of the clear blue, collectors were buying strong in December-a time when they normally fade away. Yet again, only supply was the problem. So if nothing else, dealers will need to replenish at FUN.

Gold coins are still screaming crazy hot. Prices are NOT moving up, but collectors do want them. We think 2011 will be the tell tale year for gold. It will be interesting to say the least. (more…)

Laura Sperber: 2010 IN REVIEW-MY VISION

EVERYTHING WRITTEN HERE IS THE SOLE OPINION OF THE AUTHOR.

2010

What a year it was. We saw gold hit a new record and the stock market made a semi come back. The coin market had what I would call a turbulent but productive year. Prices did not go up as much as good coins weren’t being drowned by dreck anymore. There actually has been a small influx of new collectors.

It was also great year in the sense of we dragged certain taboo subjects (like gradeflation, coin doctoring, etc) through the mud and brought them out in the publics eye in the nick of time. While the bad guys all have been pissed off, it unquestionably has given the collecting public a better feeling and renewed sense we can self police ourselves and that some of the “leadership” of the hobby does indeed care. Consumer confidence is critical to having coins rise in value and maintaining a healthy marketplace.

I do NOT regret saying or doing what I did to help make coins and the coin market a better place.

COIN DOCTORING

Exposing how bad the coin doctoring issue had become, was by far the MOST important POSITIVE thing to have happened. Had everyone just kept their heads turned and let these criminals rape coins and the coin market, it would have killed the hobbies future.

PCGS took a heroic lead in firing off a lawsuit with absolute hard evidence against a small crew. Other coin small to mid size docs took notice and are running scared. Now, PCGS is coming out with even more sophisticated technology to catch these guys and hopefully make them stop forever. I knew this was a critical problem when the Kutasi Collection of $10’s and $20’s was sold a few years ago and the putty was so thick on many coins sometimes you could not see all the details! I do not regret standing up and speaking out about this subject when it was really taboo to do so. Just passing on a coin certainly was not stopping the doctors fromtheir reign of destruction. In my opinion, destroying a coin should be considered a full criminal act. These low lifes are taking away the few pieces of original history we have and are slowly ruining our enjoyment of collecting. They deserve to be harshly punished and shamed.

The grading services are definately doing their share to work on the problem, however I am disgusted with so many retail dealers who will not speak out. No, its not just the lame PNG (next topic), but the dealers who want to be your friends, the ones who can’t grade for crap, or have huge web sites. They are greedy cowards in my book, worth no more than the bad slabs they sell. There needs to be a shake out of these people.

I know there is still a long, long way to go in this fight. A few major firms who still employee doctors are still quietly practicing thinking they are just too big to tackle. I believe in 2011 they will be exposed and will fall. Its a matter of compiling more evidence. They certainly have been frustrasted at the very least in 2010. At least this issue is moving forward and not backwards. I hope this year to get more people speaking out. EVERY voice is important-no matter what size collector you are! (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: O’Neal Collection of Indian Head $5 Gold Coins

News and Analysis on scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #30

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I. FUN Auctions

During the Jan. 2011 FUN Platinum Night auction in Tampa, Heritage will offer Jim O’Neal’s set of Indian Head Half Eagles ($5 gold coins). This set is the “All-Time Finest” in the PCGS Registry and contains many individual coins that are at or near the top of the condition rankings for their respective dates. Many other rare U.S. coins, including some Great Rarities, will be auctioned during the Platinum Night event and I will cover those soon.

Since 2005, the Heritage FUN Convention auction has been the leading auction of the year for U.S. coins. Indeed, four of the last six January FUN auctions have been phenomenal.

A few days before the start of the FUN Convention at the Tampa Convention Center, B&M will conduct a pre-FUN auction at a nearby hotel. The Malibu collection will be included. Traditionally, pre-FUN auctions have featured especially choice and rare coins as well.

While the winter Florida United Numismatists (FUN) Convention is typically in Orlando, it was in Fort Lauderdale in 2005 and will be in Tampa in January 2011. The Fort Lauderdale area is a more sensible location, as Southern Florida is densely populated. Fort Lauderdale is close to especially affluent areas in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. Plus, there are many snowbirds in Southern Florida, people who otherwise live in the Northeastern States.

To attain a better understanding of FUN auctions, or at least to get a flavor for them, please see my articles relating to 2009 and 2010 events: The Jan. 2010 Platinum Night, $3,737,500 for a nickel, the O’Neal Collection of Indian Head Eagles, Queller Collection of Patterns, and Jay Brahin’s $20 gold coins.

When the Jim O’Neal collection of Indian Head (or Saint Gaudens) Eagles ($10 coins) was the opening feature of the Jan. 8, 2009 Platinum Night event, the room was packed. Afterwards, a few experts in attendance indicated to me that prices were higher than expected. Prices were much higher than I expected, as I was not overwhelmed by O’Neal’s Eagles. My preliminary impression is that I will be much more enthusiastic about O’Neal’s Indian Head Half Eagles ($5 pieces), which will be sold during the Jan. 6, 2011 Platinum Night event.

II. O’Neal’s Half Eagles

It now seems that Jim O’Neal’s set of business strike Indian Head Half Eagles is the most famous collection that will be auctioned at the Jan. 2011 FUN Convention. For years, this has been the “finest” such set in both the PCGS and NGC registries. Although the PCGS ranks it ahead of the Dr. Thaine Price and Dr. Duckor sets of Indian Head Half Eagles, my belief is that the Duckor collection was finer. I have yet, however, to see most of the coins in the O’Neal set. The Duckor set of Indian Half Eagles was auctioned by the firm of David Akers as part of the Auction ’90 event, in the Chicago area.

Dr. Thaine Price’s collection was also auctioned by Akers’ firm. All of the Price collection was sold on the evening of May 19, 1998, and it was overshadowed by the epic Pittman II event that was held the same week at the same location. In most other situations, the offering of the Thaine Price collection would have been considered an amazing event of epic proportions. Dr. Duckor admits that he takes his Thaine Price catalogue with him on vacations to Hawaii, “probably fifteen times” so far. “Akers did a great job.”

The sets of Thaine Price and Steven Duckor were assembled during an era when grading standards were tougher than standards were in the late 1990s and in the early part of the 2000s. Even so, there is no doubt that this O’Neal set contains some of the greatest and most important Indian Head Half Eagles. (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…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

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.

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…)

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…)

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…)

Coins and the Law: Recent Stories on Numismatic Crime

Alledged “Coin Broker” Convinced Elderly Woman to put Life Savings Into Gold Coins, then Steals them Back

The Manhattan DA’s office announced the indictment of a “rare coin broker” who allegedly convinced an elderly woman and her daughter to invest their life savings in rare gold and silver coins, and then stole $430,000 worth of the coins back from them.

The “Coin Broker/Advisor”, Stephanie Brown of Paradise Valley, Arizona, has been charged with grand larceny, fraud and forgery to name a few, and DA Cy Vance said, “The defendant preyed upon the victims’ fears of a national financial collapse and convinced them to sink their life savings into collector coins.”

According to a Wall Street Journal Article,”Over the next two and a half years, the 83-year-old mother ensnared in the alleged scheme spent $1 million — her life’s savings — and her daughter paid $80,000 to acquire about 160 coins, according to prosecutors. Brown earned $100,000 in commission on the sales.Brown began selling them coins in March of 2007, and soon convinced them to “liquidate all financial investments they held and to invest their life’s savings in gold coins.” The mother and daughter combined spent about $1.1 million on the coins, and Brown  reportedly earned commissions of about $100,000.

Brown then allegedly convinced the two to keep the coins at home, and then gained entry to their house, after which she was left alone with the coins. She is accused of destroying the documents identifying the coins and stealing 57 of their 160 coins, worth $430,000. Prosecutors have now recovered 16 of the stolen coins, which Brown had resold.

Brown is currently under investigation in connection with coin sales in California and Arizona, prosecutors said, but she has not been charged in those states. She was a former employee of ITM Trading and began her own business, GBA Gold, a/k/a GBA Investments LLC ( The Web Site has been suspended) 26546 N. Alma School Road #230 Scottsdale, AZ 85255 ( Better Business Member with an A- rating joined on 7/20/2010)

Editors Note: If you read through a number the articles written about this story, it is amazing to read certain statements and characterizations.

For example, Ms Brown was described as a “Rare Coin Expert” in one WSJ article. Funny, i thought she was just a thief and a con artist. Is she indeed a “Coin Expert” or just a person selling coins? You decide. Here is a link to a brief profile on Ms. Brown.

In another article the Daily News writer made the following comment on the Gold market; “While gold has traded at an all-time high, topping $1,400 an ounce in the past few days, collectible coins are not as safe as gold because they are gilt, not solid gold.”  Even Assistant District Attorney Adam Kaufmann gave his opinion on the coin market saying.”Gold coins are not a great hedge in these economic times” REALLY?

Finally Minyanville.com took a more political angle on the story with their headline “Gold Coin Scammer Takes Page From Glenn Beck’s Playbook” Somehow I don’t think this story has anything to do with Glen Beck, Fox News, Goldline or NY Rep Wiener. Give it a rest….

Stolen Coins Removed from London Auction

The Sofia News Agency reported that Bulgarian medieval coins which were to part of a Nov 10th auction by Classical Numismatic Group, Inc in London has been removed from the sale, including a very rare silver penny of despot Dobrotitsa, minted in Kaliakra.

In 2007, a collection of 500 medieval crosses and 2 000 medieval coins, including the said silver penny, were stolen from the home of one of the authors of the book titled “Bulgarian Antique Coins from the 9th to the 15th Century Period” , published in 1999.

After the joint operation between the Main Directorate “Criminal Police,” the Bulgarian Culture Ministry, and the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Cassations, the Bulgarian medieval coins have been taken off the auction site and their sale halted. (more…)

What Gold Coins Do CAC Stickers Add the Most Value to?

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

After two+ years of being traded on the open market, I think few collectors and dealers would argue the statement that CAC stickering has added considerable value and liquidity to many types of United States gold coinage. But are we now able to determine with a decent degree of accuracy which coins are most affected by a CAC (or the absence of a sticker)? Let’s take a look at some areas of the gold coin market and see how CAC is adding value.

One of the areas that CAC has added the greatest amount of value is in the St. Gaudens double eagle market. The impact is seen two ways. The first is with common “generic” issues in MS65 and MS66. One of the main reasons why the premium for non-CAC certified MS65 Saints is so low when compared to MS64 coins is that most of the coins in MS65 holders are not significantly better than those graded MS64.

What CAC has done is to identify those coins graded MS65 that are nice quality and which are “real” 65’s. Currently, non-CAC Saints in MS65 trade for around $2,300. Those with CAC stickers are worth at least 10-15% more. They are also quite liquid and can be sold even when dealers have extensive numbers of non-CAC coins in stock. Non-CAC MS66 Saints are currently worth around $2,750-2,850 per coin. The premium for MS66 Saints with CAC stickers is at least $750-1,000 per coin. Given the fact that the stickered MS66 coins I have seen are very nice (as compared with the non-stickered coins which range from inferior for the grade to decent) this premium makes sense.

Another area where CAC stickered coins are selling for a significant premium is in the better date Saint market. Let me pick a random issue: the 1927-S in MS64. This coin has a current bid of $70,000 in this grade and a bona-fide Gem is worth double this. The quality of 1927-S double eagles varies greatly and there are coins that are very low end and hard to sell for $55,000 and coins that are very high end and worth over bid. I can’t recall having ever seen a 1927-S in MS64 with a CAC sticker but if I had a PCGS/CAC coin that I liked I’d quote $75,000+.

Early gold (i.e. gold coins struck from 1795 to 1834) is area that has shown itself to be influenced by CAC stickers. I don’t like every single piece of CAC-stickered early gold that I see but I like at least 90% of the coins. Compare this to non-CAC early gold where probably 50-60% (or more) of the coins offered at auction or through dealer’s websites are not, in my opinion, nice for the grade. I find this to be especially true with early gold in the MS63 and MS64 grades. As an example, an 1812 half eagle in MS64 with a CAC sticker is currently worth around $40,000. The same coin in the same grade that is not stickered and which is not a CAC-quality coin, in my opinion, might be hard to sell for $32,500. More and more collectors of coins like this are demanding that they be CAC stickered and the premium for the pieces that have the Green Bean is at least 10-15% and climbing.

Because so many Proof gold coins have been doctored over the years, CAC-stickered pieces are currently garnering high premiums. This is more so with Matte Proofs than Brilliant Proofs. I can’t remember seeing more than a few Matte Proof gold coins in the last two years that weren’t doctored to the point that they weren’t even the right color. When the few remaining fresh pieces come onto the market, they realize strong prices. As an example, Stack’s just sold at auction a lovely 1913 Matte Proof gold set. All four coins were CAC stickered and all four brought exceptional prices. I see similarly graded washed-out NGC Matte Proof gold from time to time and it brings Greysheet prices or lower; these superb, vibrant Gems brought numbers that were way over “sheet.” (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Stack’s auction of the W. L. Carson Collection of Proof Coins

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins and coin markets #26

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

The current topic is the W. L. Carson collection, which features Proof U.S. coins. It was auctioned by Stack’s in Baltimore last week. B&M also conducted a major auction in Baltimore, which included the Malibu Collection. Next week, I will discuss the Malibu Collection. This ‘Malibu’ collector formed one of the all-time best collections of Standing Liberty Quarters. He also had an excellent run of Liberty Seated Halves, as well as some important Liberty Seated silver dollars.

Some may wonder why I am focusing on collections rather than on the most expensive coins in these two auctions. I write about a wide variety of coins, not just expensive ones. For discussions of modestly priced coins, please see some of my recent columns: Advice for Beginning Collectors, The 1933/34 dividing line and Collecting Modern Coins.

Importantly, the most expensive coins in an auction are sometimes consigned by dealers or non-collecting speculators. In the grand scheme of the history of coin collecting, consignments from collectors (or the beneficiaries of deceased collectors) have much more significance than dealer-consignments. Moreover, collector-consignments tend to realize higher prices at auction, especially in instances where the coins consigned have been ‘off the market’ for seven years or more, and thus constitute ‘fresh material.’ Bidders become more enthusiastic about coins in very good collections than about coins that are consigned by dealers or entirely unknown parties. Noteworthy collections are central to the culture of coin collecting.

I. W. L. Carson Collection

Most (or all) of the coins in the W. L Carson collection have been ‘off the market’ for decades. This collection contained more than six hundred coins, including, but not limited to, early copper, circulated key-date Lincolns, and choice vintage commemoratives. The core of the collection, however, is Carson’s Proof sets dating from 1856 to 1915.

As best as I can tell, all of the pre-1916 Proofs in the Carson collection are PCGS certified. Most are PCGS graded and a large number have stickers of approval from the CAC, which approves or rejects coins that have already been graded by the PCGS or the NGC.

I hypothesize that Carson aimed to assemble Proof sets, from 1856 onwards, in copper, nickel and silver. Three of his sets included gold, 1888, 1906 and 1913.

Unfortunately, Carson’s level of knowledge was not great, at least not when he started buying Proof coins, and he bought some problematic coins, including non-Proofs that were probably represented to him as Proofs. I further hypothesize that he learned a good deal, received advice from an expert advisor and/or purchased many coins from honest, knowledgeable dealers, as he did obtain a large number of choice or gem Proof coins dating from the 1860s to 1915. Though Carson also had Proof sets dating from 1936 to 1942, and from 1950 to 1964, these are beside my discussion of the core of his collection. At the center of the core is a complete 1888 Proof Set.

II. 1888 Proof Set

Yes, W. L. Carson had a complete 1888 Proof Set, with copper, nickel, silver and gold coins. The Indian Cent is in a PCGS Genuine Holder. Carson probably did not know that it had problems when he acquired it. After all, other coins in the set are choice. (Coins that grade 63 or higher are termed ‘Choice.’ Coins that grade 65 or higher are gems.) (more…)

The Baltimore Coin Show – Legend Numismatics Market Report

Yeah, this is broken record: Mary Counts, David Chrenshaw, Lori Hamrick and team did it again. They put on one of the BEST shows. Our ONLY complaint (and we know many other people felt the same way) was out of their control: $13.00 for a sandwich and soda? That was DRECKY! We spoke to David Chrenshaw who pulled out a note pad of issues to work on and showed us he was on it. At no other show have we EVER seen managers who really want to absorb information to make it better. Guess that’s why we were told attendance was up a decent % this show.

Hidden GEM at the show: there is a full time massage therapist in the lobby. With all the stress on the bourse, taking a break for 10 minutes and getting a massage was so relaxing and helpful.

LEGEND SPENDS $2,000,000.00

We did not realize how much we spent until we got home and added it up. This figure includes The Stacks and Bowers Sales, and the spending damage we did on the bourse floor. Keep in mind, this is real money. Legend would not put up its own money or endanger our customers monies if we felt the market was weak or had issues.

At the Stacks sale there was an interesting group of fresh proof coins. Legend by far did the most buying. We proudly purchased (and saved them from the coin doctors) the $10 1913 PCSG PR66 CAC ($80,500.00)+$20 1913 PCGS PR65 CAC ($103,500.00). One day we would LOVE to tell you where they went as it would PROVE the depth and reach of the US coin market all over the world! Other highlight purchases: the $10 1888 PCGS PR65 Cameo and the $20 1906 PCGS PR65 Cameo. All these went to different collectors.

Prices were very strong at the Stacks sale. The nicer the coins, the stronger the premiums went. We saw some coins sell for prices as much as 3 grades higher! The marketplace is starved for fresh coins.

The Bowers Sale was crazy. We had sold many of the MS Seated Half Dollars to the collector who formed the Malibu Collection. We figured there might be a little softness and we could get some good deals. NOT! We bought ONLY about 3 halves-and the 43O PCGS MS65 CAC we sold to a collector at lot pick up! The prices were “moon” money and beyond. You had two clear cut collectors competing, us (we were buying for collectors NOT building sets), another high end dealer representing a collector, and at least one party who LOVES rare CAC stickered coins and is not specifically a Seated Half Collector (we did confirm this individual was bidding). It is interesting to note that a NON Seated half Collector would pay such strong prices. This party thinks “outside the box”. His coin purchases from this sale over the years will be as astute just as if he were building one of the finest collections of Seated Halves. He understands, you can’t be scared to stretch when great coins with low to no pops are available.

Our highlight purchases from Bowers included the monster 1851 PCGS MS62 Slug (ex Amon carter) $316,250.00. Of all of our auction purchases, this was the ONLY coin we really stole. We had been prepared to pay up to $400,000.00 hammer! We also purchased the ultra rare and grossly undervalued $3 1877 PCGS PR65 DCameo CAC. We’re helping build a PR $3 collection that is now only 4 coins short of completion! We had to pay up, but we bought just about ALL the CAC MS 64 Seated Dollars for addition to a collection we are exclusively building. The gorgeous 25C 1916 PCGS MS67+ CAC was one we lost on. It sold for $195,500.00 in Bowers. The same coin at the 2010 ANA Boston auction (less than 3 months ago) brought $149,500.00. It was simply a coin that fell thought the cracks at ANA (everyone thought it would go for crazy money, so why bother bidding). At BOTH auctions, Legend was the under-bidder! We still regret not buying the coin-for inventory! (more…)

7 Ways to Improve Your Coin Collection

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

Someone recently asked me a question that I thought was interesting and that merited a detailed response. To paraphrase this question, they basically asked me this: can you tell me some ways that I can improve my collection while spending little or no money?

Are there any actual ways that you can make your collection better without dropping a lot of coin (bad pun intended)? I believe that there are and here are a few that came to mind:

1. Bring Out Your Dead. Every collector has them. Duds. Bad deals. Low end duplicates. You know what I’m talking about: the Dead Zone of your collection. These coins may represent more value than you realize. As an example, I recently had a relatively expensive double eagle in stock that a collector wanted for his set but he had no extra money at the time. I had him send me a list of the dead coins he owned; bullion, generic Saints, Morgan dollar rolls, etc. The value of his “stuff” was considerably more than he realized and he was actually in a nice profit position on his bullion. The choice to trade spillage for one nice, rare coin was easy for him to make. And the good news was that he had enough money left over so that he can actively pursue another neat coin or two.

2. Attribute Your Coins. If you collect series like Bust half dollars or large cents you are probably already a die variety collector and all of your coins are properly attributed. But what if you are a collector of early half eagles and you have never bothered to attribute your coins to Bass-Dannreuther variety numbers? And what if one of your supposedly common half eagles turns out to be a very rare die variety that is worth a 30-50% premium? Seems like a no brainer to me. Even if you collect a series for which there is no standard reference work, it makes sense to examine your coins with a 10x glass and see if anything interesting is happening. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover a previously unknown mispunched date or a cool double date that has not been recorded.

3. Invest $500 to $1000 in improving your library. If you collect early gold coins you probably own the Bass Dannreuther book and a few other standard references. But do you own pertinent auction catalogs? It has long been my belief that one of the best uses of your money is a good library. You’ll get more enjoyment out of your coins if you know more about them and there is no better way to learn about a series, especially one that is somewhat obscure, than reading books and catalogs. If you don’t know which books or catalogs to pursue, ask a specialist dealer which ones he refers to or, better yet, contact a numismatic literature dealer and ask for some suggestions.

4. Improve your peripherals. If you are using an old, slow computer you are missing out on the “full experience” when it comes to coins. Not everyone has the luxury of owning a sporty, brand-new computer but with the price of monitors having dropped so considerably in the last few years treat yourself to a 16 inch or 18 inch flat screen monitor. It’s just a few hundred bucks and it sure beats viewing coin images on an old, low resolution screen. Spend some money on a good quality new magnifying glass and a high quality lamp to view your coins as well. You’re looking at $50-100 for a world-class loupe and around $100-150 for a professional quality halogen coin lamp. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The CoinFest, Washlady Dollar, 1861-O $20 gold coin, Connecticut Coppers

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #25

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I. The CoinFest

The fourth annual CoinFest was held in Stamford (CT) from Oct. 28th to Oct. 30th. For the first time, Heritage conducted the official CoinFest auction and this auction was very successful. Below, I discuss specific coins that were sold in the auction. Also, the exhibit of Gerry Fortin‘s collection of Liberty Seated dimes added luster to the CoinFest. Listings of Fortin’s dimes may be seen in the PCGS and NGC registries.

In my view, bourse floor displays and trading activity were much more impressive at the second and third CoinFest events, in 2008 and 2009. This is partly because the scheduling of the show was then better. This year’s event was just too close to the better established Baltimore Expo and related auction events. Lot viewing in Baltimore for a Stack’s auction started less than forty-eight hours after CoinFest closed. More importantly, this year’s security policies at CoinFest were just too aggressive.

A lot of collectors who attend coin shows do not know that a particular show’s owners are nice people, and, whether a show’s owners are nice or not, collectors often do not wish to be placed on mailing lists or on any other kind of list. Over the last ten years, it has become common for marketing firms and other firms to keep relatively secret databases regarding consumers and to trade such information. Adults certainly should not have to reveal their home addresses or their ages. A list owned by nice people may be sold to nasty people in the future, or stolen by computer hackers.

Indeed, collectors should be able to anonymously attend coin shows. They should have the right not to be bothered and the right not to have their personal information scrutinized. Like identity theft, an individual’s privacy can be invaded without him knowing about it.

Collectors who attend coin shows know that they are likely to be video recorded, which is a sufficient deterrent for wrongdoing, and video recording should be the limit to privacy invasions. The very rare attendee who causes trouble because of severe psychiatric problems is not going to be deterred by aggressive security policies. Moreover, a criminal who is planning to follow dealers from the show is certainly not going to attend the show and be video recorded. Such a criminal will wait outside or use binoculars from a distance.

Aggressive security policies do more harm than good, and when collectors tell their collecting friends about such policies, coin show attendance drops. Besides, I strongly recommend that a collector who attends a coin show keep his driver’s license in his car or in a hotel safe (as people often do with passports in Europe). If a collector is robbed after walking from a coin show, he would not wish for the thief to get his driver’s license, too, which could lead to problems more serious than a loss of a few coins.

Coin show personnel, security or otherwise, should not be asking collectors for ID or pressuring people to reveal their home addresses. Before a few years ago, this was never done at a coin show, for good reason.

II. Washlady Silver Dollar

The Washlady Dollar is one of the most famous of all U.S. pattern issues. In 1879, there were also minted Washlady dimes, quarters and half dollars. These designs were considered and never adopted for regular U.S. coinage. Though the Washlady patterns are of silver denominations, these were struck in copper as well. Copper is much less expensive than silver. On Oct. 29, Heritage auctioned one of the finest known Washlady Dollars in silver. (more…)

Coinfest 2010 Market Report

By William Shamhart – Numismatic Americana

After much anticipation, this years CoinFest has come and gone. In its third location in four years, I must say that this should be the permanent home for this show. Located in the recently renovated Marriott in Stamford, CT, the bourse itself was held in a “ballroom” atmosphere. With carpeted floors this gives a “warmer” environment to conduct business. Parking was plentiful for the attendees, and there are numerous quality restaurants within walking distance. My vote is to do whatever it takes to keep the show there.

Inside the bourse area there were, and are, many opinions as to how the show was. The local demographics, on paper, have all the making for a great show. For some it was, but for most it wasn’t. Let me explain. Unfortunately most dealers suffer from the “immediate gratification” syndrome. Not unlike most of America I suppose. If sales weren’t consummated there, and for large numbers, then some dealers look at the show as a bust. Many of the dealers don’t cater to retail on a full time basis. They set up at shows, looking for that big sale, and when it doesn’t happen then and there, they become disappointed. They don’t maintain websites, advertise in trade publications, have dedicated phone lines, or employ numismatists to handle questions. They live in the here and now.

Other dealers on the other hand look at contacts made as a possible client in the future. They follow up with emails, inquire about want lists, and basically cultivate the collector. Now I’m not looking at this through rose colored glasses, I realize that quite a few contacts made don’t pan out. In fact most don’t. Thing is you just don’t know which ones will and which ones won’t. At CoinFest we spent a lot of our time talking with collectors, some who bought something, some who didn’t. But I came away with a very positive feeling about the show. As I write this, I have numerous emails to return from people who I just met at CoinFest. I guess time will tell.

Sales: From a retailer view, they were somewhat dismal. The collector sales that were done were well thought out by the buyer. No impulse buying here. But that is good. At least the collector feels confident enough with what is going on in the world to continue their pursuit of numismatics. Polite negotiations, trades, and lay-a-ways were all done there. That’s okay. We try very hard to put coins in collector hands. Thank you.

From a wholesale point of view it was mixed. We did sell quite a bit to other dealers, mostly to retailers. No wholesalers and very little producers. That leads me to this thought. Other dealers, retailers in particular, don’t just buy coins to be buying coins. They have a thought process, perhaps another retail consumer (one that hasn’t found us yet). What I am trying to say is that when a coin trade hands wholesale it is done for a reason. Someone, somewhere, is selling the coin to a collector, that my friend is good it shows confidence in the market.

Buying: Here is where it gets interesting. None, and I mean none, of our usual contacts had anything special for us. But…there were a few deals (collections) that came to the show. And while we didn’t buy all of them directly from the original sellers, they found there way to us anyway. Most all of the coins we bought there were raw. That is they haven’t seen the inside of a grading room, ever, or a least until next week in Baltimore where we will submit them. Stay tuned, or shall I say check our web site often after Baltimore for these coins. These pieces along with our new purchases from Baltimore will make for a very special offering of coins.

Christine and I will be attending Baltimore this week starting on Thursday. If you are attending, please stop by and say hello, we are at table 1851. We’d love to chat and talk coins. And maybe even sell some…

The Whole Cultural Record

By Wayne Sayles – Ancient Coin Collecting

In the latest issue of Archaeology magazine (Nov-Dec 2010) AIA President Brian Rose proposes an intriguing professional goal, saying — “We must preserve the whole cultural record.” By “We”, I presume that he means archaeologists, since nobody else on the planet would dare to dream so big. We need not guess about what he means by the “whole” record. Dr. Rose decries a series of events from the Damnatio Memoriae of Nero to the anti-Saddam activities of president day Iraqis and views a panoply of destructive events in history as examples of “Iconoclasm”. He makes the interesting statement that “For me, as an archaeologist, there is no excuse for the destruction of cultural property…” he goes on to say “We may never be able to temper the passion for destruction, but we can at least situate those passions in historical perspective and ensure that today’s historical evidence will still be here tomorrow.”

The logic itself escapes me because the “iconoclastic” events mentioned were in themselves cultural acts and just as historical and important as the events they reacted to. Deplorable and despicable as their destruction may have been, are the empty niches of the Bamiyan Buddhas any less a cultural record than the statues that once stood there? His statement is all the more remarkable since some archaeologists have openly advocated destroying cultural property recovered from their excavations, rather than allowing it to fall into private collector hands—and who in fact followed through with the deed.

How, I have to wonder, could everything listed in the UNESCO resolution as “cultural property” be stewarded by archaeologists ad aeternum? Here is the laundry list of items so defined in that resolution—I’ve posted it before, but it’s worth another look:

(a) Rare collections and specimens of fauna, flora, minerals and anatomy, and objects of palaeontological interest;

(b) property relating to history, including the history of science and technology and military and social history, to the life of national leaders, thinkers, scientists and artist and to events of national importance;

(c) products of archaeological excavations (including regular and clandestine)
or of archaeological discoveries ;

(d) elements of artistic or historical monuments or archaeological sites which have been dismembered;

(e) antiquities more than one hundred years old, such as inscriptions, coins and engraved seals;

(f) objects of ethnological interest; (more…)

Gold tops $1,350 Before Fed Meeting Next Week

Markets await more money printing and key midterm elections

GDP meets expectations

Gold broke $1,350 today just before data showed the U.S. gross domestic product grew by 2 percent in the third quarter on high consumer spending, meeting economic forecasts. In a big meeting Tuesday – also Election Day – the Federal Reserve will discuss the prospect of further quantitative easing, or QE, which will have a major impact on the dollar, inflation expectations, and gold prices. “The Fed meeting next week has been dominating the markets,” said Standard Bank analyst Walter de Wet. “We think the gold market has priced in around a $500 billion QE exercise by the Fed,” he said. “If the Fed comes out with a higher figure, we think gold will move higher.”

The trillion-dollar question: How much money will the Fed print next?

All eyes are on the Fed and its next anticipated round of QE. Most experts agree that some form of QE will be launched at the conclusion of a two-day meeting of its policy-making committee next Wednesday. It’s now just a question of how many billions worth of assets it will purchase and how much the financial markets have already priced in that QE.

“Shock and awe”?: Goldman Sachs thinks the Fed ultimately might buy $2 trillion of assets – a figure close to its “shock and awe” purchase of $1.7 trillion in longer-term Treasury and mortgage-related bonds at the height of the financial crisis. “We expect an announcement of $500 billion or perhaps slightly more over a period of about six months,” said Goldman economist Jan Hatzius. “The key question, however, is not the size of the first step, but how far Fed officials will ultimately need to move to achieve their dual mandate of low inflation and maximum sustainable employment.” The Fed also might announce a monthly purchase rate of perhaps $100 billion that will remain in place until the outlook for jobs and inflation improve “significantly,” he wrote. Goldman thinks as much as $4 trillion of additional asset purchases might be needed to bring inflation and unemployment into line with the Fed’s targets.

Likewise, Bank of AmericaMerrill Lynch Global Research has forecast $1 trillion in QE, and a Reuters poll showed Wall Street analysts expect the Fed to buy between $80 billion to $100 billion in assets per month.
Or “a measured approach”?: However, on Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal downplayed expectations of a major round of QE: “The central bank is likely to unveil a program of U.S. Treasury bond purchases worth a few hundred billion dollars over several months, a measured approach in contrast to purchases of nearly $2 trillion it unveiled during the financial crisis. … Officials want to avoid the ‘shock and awe’ style used during the crisis in favor of an approach that allows them to adjust their policy, and possibly add to their purchases, over time as the recovery unfolds.”

Gold stands to gain: The launch of any significant QE should have an uplifting effect on gold prices. Gold could rise to $1,400 an ounce and the dollar could lose another 2 percent to 3 percent if the Fed buys $500 billion over the next six months, HSBC analysts said Monday. The Fed could eventually buy up to $2 trillion in bonds – way more than the government will issue this year, according to HSBC.

Unbottling the inflation genie

In leading the Fed into uncharted monetary territory, Chairman Ben Bernanke is risking unleashing 1970s-style inflation – against which gold is your best protection. “By reducing real interest rates and trying to break the psychology of ‘Why spend today when I can buy goods cheaper tomorrow,’ they are hoping to drive growth that would be more commensurate with a pickup in employment,” said Miller Tabak & Co. chief economic strategist Dan Greenhaus. “The risk is a late-1970s type of scenario where the inflation genie gets out of the bottle.” (more…)

Is It Time to Buy an S.S. Central America Double Eagle Gold Coin ?

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

For many years, it’s been no secret that I haven’t been a big fan of the 1857-S double eagles that trace their origin from the famous S.S. Central America shipwreck. I’ve written that price levels of these coins haven’t made sense to me and I’ve have had problems with their appearance. More than a decade after they were first released onto the market, has my opinion changed?

I believe that this is (finally) a sensible time to purchase an S.S.C.A double eagle. But there are some important parameters for the collector to follow when considering a purchase. Some of these are as follows:

1. Be Selective. There are over 5,000 1857-S double eagles from this shipwreck and they range in grade from Extremely Fine to Mint State-67. With this wide variety of grades, there are a tremendous number of coins to choose from. At any given major auction, there are typically three to five available and it isn’t terribly hard to find them in specialist dealer’s inventories. I have noticed a huge variation in quality for coins in the same grade. As an example, I’ve seen some in MS63 holders that I’ve loved and I’ve seen some in MS63 holders that I thought were horrible. Spend 10-20% more and buy a coin that is high end and attractive. In some instances, you will be able to buy nice, high end examples for little or no premium.

2. Find the Sweet Spot. In my opinion, the “right” grade range for one of these 1857-S double eagles is MS63 to MS64. There is not much of a premium for these two grades over AU and lower Mint State grades and when you buy a coin that grades MS63 to MS64 you are getting good value. In the current market, AU58 examples can bring as much as $3,500-4,000. An MS63 is worth around $7,000-8,000 while an MS64 is worth $8,000-9,000. It seems to me that an MS63 at around 2x the price of an AU58 is good value. And it also seems to me that an MS64 at around $1,000 more than an MS63 is good value as well.

3. Stick With Coins in Original Holders. It is important to focus on 1857-S double eagles that are in their original gold foil PCGS holders. And having the original box and other packaging is an added benefit. Avoid coins that are not in these holders and stay clear of NGC graded S.S. Central America double eagles. They may be nice coins but they have been cracked from their original holders and probably upgraded.

4. Avoid Coins That Have “Turned” in the Holder: All of the coins in this treasure were conserved after they salvaged. The conservation process has been well-documented and, in some cases, the work was outstanding. But there are other coins that have “turned” in the holder. These can be identified either by very hazy surfaces or unnatural splotchy golden color. Avoid these coins and look for pieces that are bright, lustrous and evenly toned. At this point in time, coins that haven’t turned are probably not going to.

5. Disregard The Die Varieties. All 1857-S double eagles from the shipwreck are attributed to a distinct die variety. There are over 20 varieties known. Some are probably rare but it is even rarer to find a collector who cares. I’d suggest not paying a premium for these.

6. If You Are Buying a PL or DMPL Example, Carefully Study the Market. A very small number of 1857-S double eagles were designated as either Prooflike (PL) or Deep Mirror Prooflike (DMPL) by PCGS. These are some of the most visually arresting coins from the shipwreck. I have seen a few pieces in the last few years bring extremely high premiums. These are no doubt very scarce and very flashy coins but I question the premium that they are currently bringing. If you do decide to purchase such a coin, carefully check auction prices for comparable examples and make certain that the price you are paying is in line with the last auction trade. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Collecting Modern Coins

News and Analysis on coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #24

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

The purpose this week is to put forth clear, constructive points regarding the collecting of modern U.S. coins. Readers who are already familiar with modern coins may wish to skip to section three, where John Albanese, Jeff Ambio and I provide advice and guidelines for collecting modern coins.

Before the rare U.S. coin auction climate starts to heat up again, I am continuing to address issues that are of interest to beginning and intermediate collectors. This week, I am revisiting the topic of modern coins, partly because many readers last week falsely and unfairly concluded that I was condemning modern coins. I was not saying that only pre-1934 coins should be collected and I was not referring to the artistic elements of the designs of coins minted after 1934. I was discussing the FACTS that distinguish classic from modern U.S. coins.

Indeed, there is a need to clarify some matters relating to recommendations for collectors and values in the marketplace. Last week, I wrote a two part series on 1933/34 being the dividing line between classic coins and modern U.S. coinage. (Please click to read part 1 or part 2.) Two weeks ago, I covered dealer recommendations regarding modestly priced coins for beginning and intermediate collectors.

Jeff Ambio certainly understood my central points last week. Ambio is the author of three books regarding U.S. coins and is one of the leading cataloguers of coin auction lots. In regards to “the 1933/34 diving line, I [Jeff] agree with your basic contention that coins minted prior to that period are much scarcer than those minted after. I [Jeff] also agree with your opinion that collectors paying huge sums of money for post-1934 coins in high grades should reconsider their buying strategies.”

The collecting of State Quarters is discussed in the second section. Strategies for collecting modern coins are addressed in the third section.

I. Commonality of Modern Coins

Although post-1934 coins are generally extremely common in contrast to pre-1934 U.S. coins, people who very much like post-1934 coins and enjoy collecting them should do so. Last week, in part 2, I emphasized that people should not spend large sums on a post-1934 coin solely because such a coin is, or is claimed to be, a condition rarity.

Indeed, I am against the rather common practice of spending thousands of dollars for common coins. For example, auction records reveal that a considerable number of businesses strike Roosevelt dimes have each sold for thousands of dollars.

Generally, I am very concerned about people spending even $35 over face value or bullion (‘melt’) value for a very common coin. Mint errors and recognized unusual varieties are different topics. I am herein referring to standard issues. I am aware that the 1955/1955 Double Die cent is scarce overall. It is, though, a mint error, or, at least, an accidental issue. U. S. Mint officials did not plan in advance for the numerals and some other devices of these cents to be doubled. Errors and unusual varieties require separate discussions, and tend to be exceptions to rules. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Coins Minted After 1934 tend to be Very Common, 1793 to 1933 is the Classic Era – Part 2

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #23-Part2

A continuation of a Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

Usually, this column is published each Wednesday morning and not at other times. I came to believe, however, that this week’s topic is of tremendous importance and warrants two parts. [Click Here to View Part One] My survey of sophisticated collectors and expert dealers, shockingly, indicated that, while most realized that 1933/34 is the traditional dividing line between classic and modern U.S. coinage, few remembered or ever knew the primary reason. U.S. coins minted before 1934 are much scarcer than U.S. coins minted after 1934. Indeed, though there are a few exceptions, regular issue U.S. coins minted after 1934 are common.

From the perspective of a collector, this is the most important and clearest dividing line in the whole history of U.S. coinage. As the basis for this dividing line is not well understood, I feel compelled to explain and prove its importance. I presented logical points and evidence in part 1, and I provide more evidence herein. I then discuss one major reason why it is imperative to emphasize this dividing line now; many people are spending substantial or even vast sums for very common coins, usually without really understanding the factors involved and the traditions of coin collecting in the U.S.

IV. Walking Liberty Half Dollars

As the somewhat recent sharp rises in the price of silver has affected the values of circulated Walking Liberty Half Dollars, it makes sense here to consider those that grade AU-50 or higher. As no Walkers were minted in Philadelphia that date from 1922 to 1933, it may not be suitable to analyze comparative values for Philadelphia Mint halves in terms of the 1933/34 dividing line. Therefore, I refer to Denver and San Francisco Mint halves. Of all the Denver Mint Walkers minted prior to 1934, the 1929-D is the least expensive and the least scarce.

In AU-50 grade, a 1929-D half is worth about three to more than ten times as much as any Denver Mint half dating from 1934 to 1945, with one exception, the 1938-D. The 1938-D is the only regular issue exception, of the half dollar denomination, to the 1933/34 dividing line between relatively scarce U.S. coins and relatively common coins. The 1938-D half is scarce, much more so than any other Denver Mint half dollar issue in the 1930s or later.

In regard to San Francisco Mint halves, there is no such exception. In AU-50 or higher grades, any pre-1934 S-Mint Walker is worth substantially more, usually from two to more than ten times as much, than any San Francisco Mint Walker from 1934-S to the last S-Mint Walking Liberty Half, 1946-S. In relative terms, pre-1934 San Francisco Mint halves are ‘very scarce’ and post-1934 San Francisco halves are quite common. (more…)

Gold Dominates Coin Market as Records Fall

By Steve Roach
First published in the Nov. 1, 2010, issue of Coin World

Gold is currently the engine that is driving the rare coin market.

It seems that Coin World’s Market Analysis of late has been alternating between gold one week and everything else the next week. However, an emphasis on gold is appropriate as the market has never seen gold hit the levels that it is currently hitting.

On Oct. 11, the price of gold hit a record London PM fix of $1,351 an ounce and at one point during the day hovered at $1,360.

On Oct. 12, the banking investment firm Goldman Sachs raised its gold price forecasts to $1,400, $1,525 and $1,650 for three-, six- and 12-month horizons, citing falling interest rates and a slowdown of the U.S. economic recovery.

Other investment firms are similarly bullish on the prospects of gold to continue rising in value.

Gold is up nearly 25 percent in 2010, and if trends continue, gold will be heading for its tenth consecutive annual gain.

The U.S. Mint’s release of Proof 2010-W American Eagle gold coins in early October has taken pressure off the secondary market for earlier 1-ounce issues.

At an issue price of $1,585, the 2010 1-ounce coins are trading at the same level as older issues in the wholesale markets, where several dealers are paying up to $1,600 an ounce for coins available for immediate shipment to fill orders from wholesalers who still have customers demanding these coins for inclusion in Individual Retirement Accounts.

As of Oct. 12, the Mint’s Web site posts an expected delivery date of Oct. 27 for new orders of Proof 2010-W gold American Eagles.

The recent announcement that the Mint will produce Proof 2010-W American Eagle silver coins has also cooled off the market for earlier coins tremendously.

Immediately after the news about the Proof 2010-W silver coins broke, market makers reduced their buy prices for Proof silver American Eagles from $55 to $45, in line with the Mint’s $45.95 price of the Proof 2010-W coins when they go on sale Nov. 19 at noon with a household limit of 100.

The Mint has not given any indication of how many Proof 2010-W American Eagles silver coins may be produced.

US Gold Coins: AU58 New Orleans Eagles – A Case Study

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

Take two 1842-O Liberty Head eagles in NGC AU58. One is worth $11,500 and gets multiple orders on my website within hours of being posted. The other sells in an auction for $6,325 and is a marginal value. Why is one coin worth nearly twice as much as the other despite the fact that they are the same date in the “same” grade?

The coin(s) in question is, as I stated above, an 1842-O eagle in AU58. A little background information on this issue is appropriate to help better understand the issue at hand. A total of 27,400 examples were produced. This issue saw extensive use in commerce and it is essentially the first available eagle from this mint given the rarity of the 1841-O (only 2,500 were produced). When available, the 1842-O tends to be in VF and EF grades and it is scarce in the lower AU grades. It becomes rare in properly graded AU55 and it is very rare in AU58. This issue is an extreme rarity in Mint State with just two or three known. The second finest of these, graded MS61 by PCGS, just brought $74,750 in the August 2010 Stack’s auction.

I bought the NGC AU58 example illustrated below at the recent Philadelphia coin show sponsored by Whitman and it was among my best purchases at the show. I paid a strong price for this coin but was happy to do so (and would do so again).

1842-O $10.00 NGC AU58

What makes this a special coin? I was really attracted top this coin by its originality. It has superb deep original coloration on the obverse and reverse which suggests that it has never been cleaned or dipped. Notice the depth of the color and how even it is on both sides. I also like how clean the surfaces are. This is an issue that is typically found with densely abraded surfaces and even the MS61 piece that I mentioned above had considerable marks on the surfaces. This example, however, was immaculate. The luster of this coin, while a bit subdued as a result of the intensity of the color, is undisturbed; a result of its not having been cleaned, dipped or processed. This coin has wonderful overall eye appeal and this sort of “look” is much appreciated by connoisseurs of U.S. gold coins. (more…)