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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…)

Bowers and Merena Selected for 2011-2013 ANA Pre-Show Auctions

Bowers and Merena Auctions has been selected by the American Numismatic Association as the official auctioneer for the ANA Pre-Show, which will immediately precede the World’s Fair of Money conventions. This three-year agreement includes the ANA Pre-Shows to be held in Chicago in 2011, Philadelphia in 2012 and Chicago in 2013.

“The ANA is very pleased with the selection of Bowers and Merena as the Official Auctioneer for the ANA Pre-Show Auctions,” said Larry Shepherd, ANA Executive Director. “We are working to ensure that our official ANA Pre-Shows are great events for everyone, and we are excited that Bowers and Merena’s top-tier auctions will be a significant part of these events.”

Bowers and Merena will hold live auctions of coins and paper money including:

• U.S. Coins, U.S. Colonial Coins, U.S. Tokens, U.S. Exonumia
• U.S. Paper Money, World Paper Money
• Ancient and World Coins

The Bowers and Merena Auctions will increase the availability of numismatic material at the World’s Fair of Money convention which starts immediately after the ANA Pre-Show ends.

“We are thrilled to continue our relationship with the ANA and honored to have been entrusted with the rights to host the Official ANA Pre-Show Auction for the next three years,” said Greg Roberts, CEO of Bowers and Merena Auctions. “The ANA World’s Fair of Money is one of the most important coin shows in the world and the ANA Pre-Show presents an amazing auction venue. We look forward to working with such a well-respected organization as the ANA.”

The ANA Pre-Show is scheduled the three days prior to each ANA World’s Fair of Money convention. The 2011 Chicago ANA Pre-Show will be held Aug. 13-15 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. In 2012 the ANA Pre-Show will be held Aug. 4-6 in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The ANA Pre-Show returns to Chicago Aug. 10-12 in 2013.

Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., Bowers and Merena Auctions is a world leader in numismatic auctions. For more information, visit www.bowersandmerena.com or call 800-458-4646.

The American Numismatic Association is a congressionally chartered nonprofit educational organization dedicated to encouraging people to study and collect money and related items. The ANA helps its members and the public discover and explore the world of money through its vast array of education and outreach programs, as well as its museum, library, publications, conventions and seminars. For more information, call 719-632-2646 or visit www.money.org.

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…

1879 ‘Washlady’ dollar brings $161,000 to lead $9.42 million Heritage COINFEST auction

Rare U.S. Coins continue to provide for steady, even stellar prices in a crawling national economy, as evidenced by Heritage’s $9.42 million COINFEST Signature® U.S. Coin Auction, held Oct. 27-30 at the Marriot Hotel & Spa in Stamford, CT, and by the auction’s top lot, a magnificent 1879 Washlady dollar, which brought $161,000.

“These results are 20% percent higher than our pre-sale projections,” said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage Auctions. “The market for rare coins is, simply put, very strong. The best examples continue to command top prices and the top collectors are more than happy to acquire these examples.”

More than 4,380 bidders participated in the auction, both live on the auction room floor and via Heritage LIVE!™, the company’s proprietary live internet auction platform. The auction boasts a sell-through rate of 92% by value and 97% by number of lots.

Recent Heritage coin auctions have mostly seen examples of rare gold coinage taking the top slot, but the stunning 1879 $1 Washlady Dollar, Judd-1603, Pollock-1798, High R.6, PR66+ NGC, the finest known specimen, handily took top honors, finishing at $161,000 after a fierce bidding between advanced collectors. Between 12 and 15 examples are believed known of the Washlady dollar in both copper and silver. There is also one example known in white metal.

“In the late 19th century this design was not well received by dealers and collectors, and was apparently given the nickname of ‘Washlady’ by David Proskey around April 1891 at the Doughty Sale,” said Rohan. “The name stuck, but today the Washlady design is considered one of the most beautiful ever produced by the Mint.”

The equally rare and collector-coveted 1785 COPPER Connecticut Copper, African Head VF30 NGC. M. 4.2-F.6, W-2360, R.8., from The W. Philip Keller Collection of U.S. Colonials, took the second spot on the auction podium in Stamford, realizing $115,000, while a famous 1882 $20 AU53 PCGS, one of only 571 pieces struck – a coin so rare that even the Smithsonian Institution, keeper of the National Numismatic Collection, lacks an example of the issue – piqued the interest of numerous collectors of important gold with a final price realized of $80,500.

“While there are numerous double eagle issues from the late 1870s through early 1890s that boast extraordinarily low mintages,” said Rohan, “the 1882 is the absolute lowest-mintage of them all, at 571 coins. Any representative of this issue, in any grade, is an extraordinary rarity.”

A remarkable 1904 $20 PR65 Cameo PCGS was close behind the 1882 example with a final price of $74,750, a mark that was equaled in the auction by the finest known 1879 $1 Metric Dollar, Judd-1622, Pollock-1818, Low R.7, PR68 Cameo NGC, a highly desirable coin of great beauty and peculiar metallic composition (silver, copper, aluminum, and white metal) that drew considerable enthusiasm from collectors at the auction.

Further highlights include, but are not limited to:

1896 $10 PR66 PCGS. CAC. Ex: Trompeter: Realized: $63,250.

1861-O $20 AU53 PCGS. CAC: Realized: $54,625.

1796 50C 16 Stars Fine 12 PCGS Secure. O-102, High R.5: Realized: $52,900.

1909 $5 PR67 NGC. Roman Finish. Only two graded higher: Realized: $51,750.

1907 $20 Liberty PR64 Cameo PCGS: Realized: $43,125.

Heritage Auctions, headed by Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin and Greg Rohan, is the world’s third largest auction house, with annual sales more than $600 million, and 500,000+ registered online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com.

Coin Profile: Norweb Specimen of the 1796 15 Stars Small Eagle Half Dollar Highlights B&M Sale in Baltimore

A Prooflike NGC MS-63; Tied for Condition Census #3

The Half Dollars that the United States Mint delivered in 1797 differed from the previous issues for this denomination from 1794 and 1795. For in late 1796 Mint personnel adopted Robert Scot’s Draped Bust, Small Eagle design that had already been used in the production of 1795-dated Silver Dollars for use on the Half Dollar. The delivery of 1797 amounted to a mere 3,918 pieces, the first 934 or so examples having been struck from one of two 1796-dated obverse dies.

Surprisingly for a denomination that otherwise proved extremely popular with contemporary bullion depositors, no more Half Dollars were ordered until 1801, at which time the Large Eagle variant of the Draped Bust type became current. The Draped Bust, Small Eagle Half Dollar, therefore, became an instant numismatic rarity–a two-year type with a combined mintage of just 3,918 pieces. Survivors of both dates are very scarce-to-rare in all grades, and they never fail to cause a stir among advanced collectors whenever the coins make an appearance at auction.

The 1796-dated Half Dollar delivery was achieved through the use of two obverse dies and a single reverse die in two marriages. O-101 is easy to distinguish from O-102 as the former variety exhibits only 15 stars at the obverse border. There are fewer than 100 different examples of the O-101 die marriage believed extant, an estimate that allows us to further estimate the mintage for this variety at just 569 pieces. The phenomenal Choice Unc that we offer here traces its pedigree to the fabulous Norweb Collection–as well as other important numismatic cabinets–and it is tied for Condition Census #3 for the die marriage with only two other MS-63s of which we are aware:

1. Ex: Benjamin H. Collins (1/1896); J.M. Clapp; John H. Clapp; Clapp estate (1942); Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; The Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection (Bowers and Merena, 8/1997), lot 1673; Denver, CO Signature & Platinum Night Auction (Heritage, 8/2006), lot 5222. PCGS MS-63.

2. Ex: Four Landmark Collections Sale (Bowers and Merena, 3/1989), lot 1990; The Allison Park Collection Sale (American Numismatic Rarities, 8/2004), lot 418; Long Beach Signature Auction (Heritage, 6/2005), lot 6209; The Southwest Collection (Heritage, 2/2008), lot 528. NGC MS-63.

3 – Ex: Waldo C. Newcomer; Colonel E.H.R. Green; The T. James Clarke Collection (New Netherlands’ 47th Sale, 4/1956), lot 1195; The Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), lot 3024; The Dennis Irving Long Collection (Bowers and Merena, 1/1990), lot 256; 65th Anniversary Sale (Stack’s, 10/2000), lot 876; The Frog Run Farm Collection Sale (American Numismatic Rarities, 11-12/2004), lot 1236. NGC MS-63, the present example.

This coin is fully prooflike in finish and, in fact, the coin was cataloged as a “Proof” in New Netherlands’ 1956 sale of the T. James Clarke Collection. Numismatic scholarship having advanced considerably since the 1950s, we now know that this coin does not qualify as a proof in the strictest sense of the term. On the other hand, the fields are so well mirrored, the strike is so superior for a product of the early United States Mint and the surfaces have been so carefully preserved that we find it likely that this coin was specially prepared for presentation or other important purposes. (more…)

Coin Discovery: New Variety Discovered -1878 Vam 852010

A New die marriage for the 1878 Morgan Dollar had been discovered by Kenneth Robb,  a collector whose primary interest center around Vam varieties for the popular Morgan Silver Dollar series.

When a Morgan or Peace Dollar is attributed with a VAM number, this means it is one of the recognized varieties that are listed in the Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars.

This book was written by Leroy Van Allen & George Mallis — their initials make up the abbreviation VAM.

Each different date/mint combination has it’s own set of varieties and VAM numbers.  VAM-4 would be the 4th listed variety for that specific date/mint.  A VAM-4 for one date/mint will not be the same for a different date/mint.

Each of these VAMs has its own rarity & interest factor.  A rare variety with a high interest factor will be quite valuable — a common, low-interest variety may not have any premium at all.  The rarity and interest factors are listed in the encyclopedia, but prices are not.

Vam collectors are passionate about their specialty, and this is the first new discovery of a new die marrige for a 1878 with B1 reverse that has been reported in the past 45 years.

First posted on the Coin Community message boards on October 21st, and then on the Vamword website several hours later, the  coin initially had collectors stumped in trying to reconcile the die charactoristics with the then known Vam Varieties. It was suggested by several collectors that the coin be sent to Vam expert Leroy Van Allen for inspection and attribution.

On October 26th, the following news reportedly arrived from Mr. Van Allen:

NEW 1878 P B1 DIE VARIETY LISTING
In late October 2010, Kenneth Robb sent a nice condition PL 1878 P with B1 type reverse that had the II/I 6 obverse of VAM 80. However, he pointed out that the reverse die didn’t match the reverse die cracks of VAM 80 and also didn’t have the die chips on the eagle’s right wing. Furthermore, the reverse die didn’t seem to match any of the known B1 reverse listings. (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 Profile: Roman Finish 1909 Half Eagle Gold Coin

The proof five dollar coinage of 1907 through 1909 provides quite an object lesson in the evolution of Mint technology and consumer tastes. The 1907 Liberty Head proof, last of the series, was produced in a mostly brilliant or “semibrilliant” proof format that was introduced in 1902; as a result, most proof gold from 1902-1907 lacks much cameo contrast–half eagles or otherwise.

The 1908 gold coins of the new Bela Lyon Pratt and Augustus Saint-Gaudens designs were launched with a new “matte” proof format that was all the rage in European mints of the era. The Robert Loewinger reference, Proof Gold Coinage of the United States, offers this:

“The [matte proof] process originally started in Belgium and was popularized in the Paris Mint. The finish was applied after striking and was made by sandblasting the coins at different forces and speeds with different sizes of grains of sand. Also pickling the coins in a weak acid was another technique that was used on these coins after striking.”

We are unsure how widespread the “pickling” was, but the sandblasting was a well-known, widespread Mint technique that produced a granular (sometimes fine, sometimes coarser), usually dark, subdued finish to the product, a function of the lack of normally reflective surfaces. The matte proof coins of 1908 are usually dark, brownish-gold to olive-brown, and they were extremely unpopular with collectors accustomed to a more brilliant finish.

The Mint in 1909 reverted to a lighter Roman or satin finish for proof gold. The updated Akers Handbook offers these thoughts:

“The proof 1909 introduced the Roman Gold proofing method in the Indian Half Eagle series, although at least one specimen was prepared using the dark matte finish of 1908. Despite having brighter, flashier surfaces than the proof 1908, the proof 1909 still failed to gain wide acceptance among the contemporary public The Mint melted many examples at year’s end. Interestingly, even though most survivors present as overall smooth, the issue has the lowest average grade in the entire proof Indian Half Eagle series.”

A  PR67 piece is being offering in the current 2010 October Stamford Coinfest Signature US Coin Auction #1145, and is one of the nicest survivors of the proof 1909 half eagle mintage, recorded as 78 pieces. It is one of six so graded at NGC, with but two coins finer.

Coin Profile: 2000-W Library of Congress Bicentennial Bimetallic Ten Dollars

The First and Only Bimetalic Commemorative Coin Minted by the US

The Library of Congress, founded on April 24, 1800, is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. Also the world’s largest library, it houses 119 million items– 18 million books; two million recordings; 12 million photographs; four million maps; and 53 million manuscripts.

The library’s rare book collection is the largest in North America and includes the oldest surviving book printed in North America – the Bay Psalm Book, printed in 1640; the world’s largest book, John James Audubon’s Birds of America, which is 1 meter high; and the world’s smallest book, Old King Cole, about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. This book is so small that its pages can be turned only with the use of a needle- and equally sharp eyes.

President Thomas Jefferson played a key role both in the U.S. Mint’s history and in the Library of Congress’ development. Jefferson proposed the decimal coinage system we use today and advocated founding a mint on U.S. soil. A lifelong reader, Jefferson donated his personal collection of 6,487 books to Congress for $23,950 after the British burned the new Capitol and Library in 1814. On Christmas Eve 1851, another fire destroyed two-thirds of Jefferson’s collection. Although many of the volumes have been replaced, nearly 900 remain missing and the Library is engaged in a worldwide search to replace them.

Not only does the Library of Congress supply whatever research Congress needs, it serves all Americans through its 22 reading rooms on Capitol Hill, its Web site (http://www.loc.gov/), and as a monument to our nation’s love of learning.

These commemorative coins are called the coins of many firsts.” The first commemorative coins of the new Century, they are also the first-ever gold and platinum bimetallic coins in the nation’s history. For the bimetallic version, the outer ring is stamped from a sheet of gold, then a solid core of platinum is placed within the ring. The coins contain about one-half an ounce of precious metal.

The bimetallic coin design was inspired by the graceful architecture of the library’s Jefferson Building. The outer ring is stamped from a sheet of gold, then a solid core of platinum is placed within the ring. Then, the gold ring and platinum core are simultaneously stamped forming an annular bead where the two precious metals meet. The obverse depicts the hand of Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom, raising the torch of learning aside the dome of the Thomas Jefferson Building. The coin’s reverse is marked with the Library of Congress seal encircled by a laurel wreath, symbolizing its national accomplishment.

Designers: John Mercanti, obverse; Thomas D. Rogers Sr., reverse

Bowers and Merena Nov Baltimore Coin Auction Features over 3500 Lots

Bowers and Merena will conduct the official auction of the November 2010 Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo. Scheduled for November 4-5 at the Baltimore Convention Center, the sale will present more than 3,500 lots of important United States coins and currency.

“We are thrilled to continue our long-standing and successful partnership with the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo,” said Greg Roberts, CEO of Bowers and Merena. “This year’s official auction of the November Expo ranks as one of Bowers and Merena’s most important Baltimore auctions of all time. With more than 3,500 lots, our catalog for U.S. coins and currency offers something for everyone, from collectors and dealers on a strict budget to advanced numismatists seeking the finest-known examples of some of the rarest and most famous coins ever struck in the United States Mint.”

Three consignments in particular stand out as defining the importance of the upcoming Baltimore auction. The Kupersmith Once-in-a-Lifetime Collection is a truly amazing offering, the likes of which is rarely seen in even the most prestigious sales, that has at its core six of the rarest gold coins struck in the Philadelphia in 1875. Nearly impossible to assemble such a collection in any grade, the consignor remained committed to quality and selected only the highest-graded examples that he could find, many of which are actually top-of-the-pop.

“Needless to say, it is difficult for us to single out one coin in this collection for each piece qualifies as a highlight, although special recognition must go to the 1875 Three-Dollar Gold Piece in NGC Proof-66 Ultra Cameo,” said Roberts. A pop 1/0 coin at both PCGS and NGC, this coin also ranks as the finest of perhaps just 10 original strikings of the proof-only 1875 Three-Dollar. Not to be overlooked and in addition to the 1875-dated gold set, the Kupersmith Collection will also be presenting a selection of rare proof and business strike Three-Dollar gold pieces, the proofs of which comprise the highest-ranked set on the NGC Registry.

The Malibu Collection offers the #2 collection of Standing Liberty Quarters with full-head designation on the PCGS Set Registry. “Nearly all of the Standing Liberty Quarters in the Malibu Collection are either top-of-the-pop or tied for finest certified, and plus-designated coins are figured prominently throughout the set. Of particular note are the low-mintage 1916 in PCGS MS-67 FH (Pop: 2/1), the conditionally challenging 1919-D in PCGS MS-66+ FH (Pop: 1/0) and the key-date 1927-S in PCGS MS-65+ FH (Pop: 1/2),” said Roberts. Other selections from the Malibu Collection include impressive runs of Seated Liberty Half Dollars and Silver Dollars that feature many key-date and/or conditionally rare pieces. (more…)

W. Philip Keller Colonoal Coin Collection Leads Heritage COINFEST Auction

Locked in a Pennsylvania vault for 43 years, one of the most comprehensive collections of colonial and early American coins ever to reach public auction, The W. Philip Keller Collection of U.S. Colonials, is the principle highlight of the upcoming Rare U.S. Coin auction, Oct. 28-31 in conjunction with COINFEST in Stamford, CT.

Mr. Keller apparently stopped actively collecting around 1966, with intermittent purchases through the early 1970s, and stored his collection in a bank vault where it was discovered nearly 40 years later by his surprised family after he died last year, who knew that Mr. Keller was a collector, but had no idea of the depth, or value, of his collection.

This is Heritage’s first official auction with COINFEST, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Fittingly enough, our debut at this New England venue is filled with a variety of colonial and early American coins, including dozens of different Connecticut coppers struck shortly after independence.

One of those Connecticut coppers is a 1785 African Head Connecticut copper, the extremely rare Miller 4.2-F.6 variety, graded VF30 by NGC. It is estimated at $40,000+, but could go significantly higher.

There are two varieties of the African Head Connecticut copper, one relatively common, the other extremely rare. This piece is one of the rare variety, one of just two or three known. Its appearance at COINFEST is truly a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Keller bought most of his collection from leading dealers and auctioneers in the 1950s and 1960s, and this African Head copper has been in Keller’s collection, and thus off the market, since 1966.

Another anchor consignment of the auction is The Diotte Collection, which spans U.S. Mint history from some of the earliest issues to noted modern rarities. Its chief highlight is a 1797 half dollar, O-102 variety, graded Fine Details by NCS. It is estimated at $50,000+.

The half dollars of 1796-1797 are among the most prized U.S. type coins regardless of grade. Just four varieties were struck between the two years, all of them are very scarce to very rare, and the 1797 O-102 variety is the most elusive of them all.

In addition to colonials, pattern coinage is among the strengths of this auction. In a relatively small but impressive selection, the most prominent piece is an 1879 “Washlady” dollar struck in silver, Judd-1603 variety, graded PR66+ by NGC. It is estimated at $50,000+.

This design’s nickname was originally an insult. In 1891, just a dozen years after this pattern was struck, David Proskey called it the ‘Washlady,’ a negative reference to how Liberty’s hair appeared. Today, however, the ‘Washlady’ is considered one of the most beautiful patterns ever produced, and the very rare examples struck in silver are especially sought-after.

The 20th century has its share of highlights as well, led by a 1909 half eagle, graded PR67 by NGC. Like other gold proofs of that year, it has a distinct semi-bright finish sometimes called “Roman gold,” which tried to find a balance between the mirrored proofs of the 19th century and the dull-finished matte proofs that were popular in Europe but had received a disastrous reception among U.S. coin collectors. The “Roman gold” experiment failed, but survivors from the issue’s mintage of 78 half eagles are popular with modern numismatists. It is estimated at $55,000+.

A more conventional mirrored proof offered is a 1904 double eagle graded PR65 Cameo by PCGS. Just 98 proof $20s were struck in 1904, and most of them lack the contrast that was often seen on pre-1902 specimens. Thanks to its Cameo status and solid all-around preservation, it is one of the most important representatives of its issue. It is estimated at $60,000+.

Additional highlights include, but are not limited to:

Rare Coin Road Warrior – October 2010

Hi, my name is Vic Bozarth and I am a Rare Coin Road Warrior. I have spent most of my twenty plus years in the rare coin business at shows or on buying trips all over the continental U.S. My wife, Sherri Bozarth, and I own Bozarth Numismatics Inc. and our website is Bozarthcoins.com.

In my first Rare Coin Road Warrior column for September I talked about the ANA Convention in Boston, MA held in early August as well as the Illinois State Numismatic Association Show in Chicago, the Long Beach Show, and the newer Whitman Coin Expo in Philadelphia. This month I will write about some of the news from Long Beach and Philadelphia as well as previewing shows in Manchester, NH, St. Louis, MO, Portland, OR, Stamford, CT, Baltimore, MD, and Boston, MA. As you might have guessed the Fall season is very busy with lots of big coin shows. We try to attend all the major shows as well as most of the larger regional shows.

The coin business is very busy right now with the gold bullion price hitting an all time high with each new day. Currently gold is at $1356 as I pen this article from my seat (20C) on a Continental Airlines flight to Boston. Although we are at an all time high price for bullion many rare gold coins are trading at a smaller premium (over melt) than at any time in recent memory. Prices are rising with both the higher bullion prices and increased demand, but good values are still readily available.

The Long Beach Coin and Stamp Expo is one of the largest and most successful shows in the rare coin business. Dealers have been attending the Long Beach Show since the sixties when there were two shows annually. Since the seventies there have been three shows each year generally in February, June, and September. Personally I have attended over 70 straight Long Beach Shows and wouldn’t miss one for the world. We love to visit CA and the Long Beach Show has hundreds of dealers in attendance plus a major Heritage Auction at each show.

Over the last several years the Long Beach Show has had some challenges. Attendance has slipped and many smaller dealers were, to put it frankly, just priced out of the room. I was pleasantly surprised at the September show to see some ‘new’ dealers set up as well as healthy attendance by the public. Indeed, prior to the show, the management of the show did a good job trying to fill the bourse by offering some more attractive table prices to both new attendees and those who had not had a table recently. Long Beach is cool and a lot of dealers make it a better show for everyone.

The Whitman Philadelphia Coin Expo is only in the second year of existence, but these folks know how to run a show. Philadelphia is the home of our first, and for many years only, mint. Philadelphia and the Northeast comprise a large portion of the original thirteen states and ‘old’ coins come out of the woodwork there. After all, the ‘old’ coins were made there. Not only is Philadelphia a great coin town, but it is fun to visit also. The Convention Center itself is conveniently located with lots of lodging and dining options. Public transportation is available too. We really enjoyed the Reading Terminal Market and the dozens of vendors and restaurants available there. (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…)

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…)

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

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

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

Last week’s column was about dealer recommendations for new collectors who seek coins valued at $250, more or less, with consideration of a few that are valued at more than $1000. Among the experts that I interviewed, no one suggested buying coins minted after 1934. This column is devoted to an exploration of the topic of the 1933 to 1935 time period being a dividing line between classic and modern U.S. coins. This is not my opinion; it is an objective reality. Conclusive evidence will be provided herein.

A review of coin related publications in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s would suggest this dividing line. Indeed, quite a few dealers in classic U.S. coins used to include a statement relating to the years ‘1793 to 1933’ in their ads and pricelists. Almost always, leading auction firms emphasized coins in the 1793 to 1933 time period and still do so.

Why discuss this dividing line now? I am concerned about the amounts paid for condition rarities of the post-1934 era. I do not have a problem with a collector paying a large sum of money for a condition rarity if the coin issue in general is at least moderately scarce. It is wonderful that someone paid $138,000 for the Duckor 1904-S half dollar, which is PCGS graded MS-67. (Please click to read my two part series on Dr. Duckor’s halves, part 1 or part 2.) A low grade 1904-S half could be obtained for less than one hundred dollars. The 1904-S date, though, is scarce in general. The PCGS and the NGC together have certified less than two hundred different 1904-S halves, and probably more than two thousand uncertified 1904-S halves exist. Certainly, there are fewer than five thousand in existence, in all grades. For post-1934 coins, however, people often spend vast amounts for superb gem quality coins when hundreds of thousands or literally millions exist of the same respective coin issue.

If millions of a coin issue exist overall or thousands in MS-65 grade, how much should a MS-67 or higher grade representative of the same coin issue be worth? There is not an easy answer to the question. Of course, supply and demand determine prices in relatively free markets. I am not challenging the truthfulness of current price levels for supergrade modern coins. I am wondering whether the buyers have thought carefully about their demands. I am also wondering whether many sellers of post-1934 coins are, sometimes implicitly, misleading buyers, or are ignorant themselves. Anyone who can afford an inventory may become a coin dealer. In any event, in order to understand the distinction between classic U.S. coins and modern issues, there is a need to learn about both and about the dividing line between classic coins and modern issues.

I. The 1793-1933 Tradition

Referring to U.S. coins minted from 1793 to 1933 as classic coin issues is not arbitrary and it is not an accidental tradition. When polling dealers and collectors, I became aware that everyone seemed to remember the tradition of referring to 1933 or 1934 as a dividing line, but no one recollected the origins or meaning of the tradition. The true reason is that pre-1934 coins (with few exceptions) are much scarcer than post-1934 coins. (more…)

Profiles: Medal and Coin Artist Alex Shagin

Alex Shagin was born in Russia, near Leningrad, on January 21, 1947. Alexander George Shagin is the only child of George and Ekaterina Shagin. He studied at the Vera Mukhina School of Arts and Design, completing his education in 1971. Shortly after completing his education he was drafted into the soviet army where he spent a little over a year.

Following his discharge, he became an apprentice at the Leningrad Mint. As an apprentice, he submitted his diploma project, a medal of Peter the Great, to the Soviet authorities. His work was so admired that he was recommended for appointment as an artist of the mint. By 1974, Shagin had become a leading designer and sculptor.

In the 1970’s the Leningrad mint was involved mostly in the production of medals and commemorative coins. Shagin was responsible to produce at least one medal every two months. Although he was allowed a rather wide latitude in his work, all of his designs had to be approved by the Council of Art medals before they could be struck.

By the end of the 1970’s, Shagin began to become more and more concerned about the Soviet government’s control over his artistic expression. While visiting an exhibit of medals in Poland in 1978, Shagin was astonished to learn of the artistic freedom his Polish colleagues. During that visit Shagin became convinced that he had to seek artistic freedom in the West.

[iframe http://www.coinlink.com/Video/092310_shagin.html 544px 395px]

David Lisot of Coin Television Interviews Alex Shagin at the recent Long Beach Expo

Upon his return to Leningrad, Shagin applied for an exit visa. This so angered the Soviet officials that he was immediately relieved of his position. After waiting more than a year, during which time he had no means of earning a living, he was finally given an exit visa. In 1979 Shagin emigrated to the United States and now resides in Santa Monica, California where he continues his art.

He has works in museums and private collections around the world, including the Hermitage Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, Yad Vashem Museum, the British Museum and the Swedish Royal Medallic Collection. In 2002, as First Vice President of the American Medallic Sculpture Association (A.M.S.A.) he participated in the Federation Internationale de le Medaille (F.I.D.E.M.) congress by designing a special presentation medal for the American Delegation–The Medal of Liberty presented to twelve individuals by Ronald Reagan in 1986.

Each project Alex Shagin designs is a personal tribute to the freedom and democracy he found since immigrating to America from Russia in the 1980’s. His work on the Moscow Olympics (1980) and Los Angeles Olympics (1984) led to international recognition culminating in the American Numismatic Society’s Saltus Award in 1995. He has created works for the US Mint, Singapore Mint, Israel Government Mint, American Numismatic Association, Leningrad Mint, The White House (Ronald Reagan) to name a few.

Ancient Coins: The Yin and Yang – A Smorgasbord of Views on Cultural Property

This week I was treated to a smorgasbord of views on cultural property from members of the archaeological and collecting communities.

On Tuesday morning, I listened with interest to the presentations of several archaeologists at the U.S. State Department’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) in Washington, DC. This was my fifth appearance at a CPAC hearing in as many years. In every case, the general tenor of oral comments by public presenters has reflected a dichotomy of interests—those of collectors versus those of nationalist governments (defended mainly by the archaeological community). The dividing line has always been clear, and not just in the rhetoric that is entered into the public record at these events. Even the informal assemblage of speakers prior to the event (call them gaggles, if you will) is indicative of the diverse philosophical views. I suppose it’s only natural for like-minded people to congregate, but the atmosphere is and has very much been one of “us and them” . This is not to say that either camp is overtly unfriendly, in fact the opposite is true. I think both camps try very hard to be polite and cordial in a personal sense. But camps there are, and gaggle they do.

The Collector camp is comprised mainly of collector advocacy groups. Occasionally, individual collectors, dealers or concerned citizens have appeared or have been represented by counsel. However, the lion’s share of opposition to Memorandums of Understanding these days has come from the Ancient Coin Collecting community and the Art Museum community. The former is represented by advocacy groups, like the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) and the American Numismatic Association (ANA), along with representatives of the numismatic trade and other non-profit organizations like Ancient Coins for Education. The latter is represented primarily by the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD).

The proponents of Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) are primarily the representatives of governments seeking import restrictions and the archaeological community, including its related museums—most of which are institutional. The advocacy group Saving Antiquities For Everyone (SAFE) has consistently supported import restrictions, but has not appeared before CPAC in the public sessions lately. A rather late attempt by SAFE to compile and introduce a petition in support of the MOU with Greece was apparently aborted when it failed to meet the State Department imposed deadline for public comment. (more…)

The Gold, Silver and Rare Coin Market Report

By Laura Sperber – Legend NumismaticsBelow is a portion of the most recent Legend Market Report

GOLD

This is hard for us to believe that gold spot went up, yet ALL Generic $20’s came down! That is the most ridiculous thing we have ever seen. We have been told that the market makers here are flooded with coins. Plus, there seems to be a huge flood of gold coming from Europe. We have even heard some grumblings that the quality of these new arrivals have been poor (more gradeflation?). So no one wants to step out and make bids.

At one point last week, the LARGEST market maker in MS65 Saints quoted us $2,000.00 as his “buy” on a day when gold went up $20.00 (MS65 BID did end the week at $2,200.00). In the meantime, we know dealers who badly need CAC MS 65 Saints and have open BIDS of $2,300.00-$2,400.00 per coin and are buying very few.The demand for NON CAC generics is obviously thin.

The demand for CAC coins is huge with many MAJOR Funds or financial advisers selling the coins easily. We know they cannot get enough, because we supply them and we haven’t bought squat. We will still buy ALL the PCGS /NGC W/M MS66 CAC we can get at $3,475.00 sight UNSEEN. We will pay $2,675.00 for NON CAC PCGS coins only on a SIGHT seen basis. BTW, for anyone who wants to cat call, the CAC market is NOT artificial, its as real and powerful as you get.

The CAC coins sell by demand, not dealers creating phony bids and trying to pump the market. With gold (especially generics) right now for sure there is a two tier market, and quality is what people want.

You know there is something seriously wrong when graded MS61 $20 Libs are priced at $100.00 OVER melt!

With $20’s, it also seems to us that the market feels they are too high (along with the price of gold). We doubt at the lower grade levels quality is the issue. Something has to give in that market. We believe there will be a correction in the price of gold sometime soon. But, its really the hedges who control the price of gold and it seems they want to take it up a little further.

Its totally bewildering to us why there are not stronger premiums since gold is climbing daily into record territory. Something is just not right with this picture.

Right now the BEST buys are $10 Indians and $5 Indians (no 09D) in MS64 and higher. You can not find them emass, and the grading seems to be OK. If you insist on playing the $20 generic market we still believe MS66’s are too cheap or, you can buy NICE MS61/62 $20 (if you can find them) for little over melt and hope one day the premiums expand. We still recommend building a Gold Type set. You can include ANY coin you want then.

SILVER

People are finally waking up to the fact silver is at its all time high. Here too, things like MS65 Morgans and Walkers have come down. That’s insane! How can such a huge market as coins show little demand for simple $100-$200.00 items that actually were popular? Where are all the collectors? (more…)

A Numismatically Significant 1859-D Quarter Eagle

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

I recently bought and sold a seemingly innocuous 1859-D quarter eagle that had a great degree of numismatic significance. Before I explain why, let me give you a little background on the specific coin and on this issue in general.

This 1859-D quarter eagle has been graded as Fine-15 by PCGS. It is the single lowest graded example of this date seen by either service. In looking back through my records, I have seen very few that grade below Extremely Fine and certainly can’t recall a non-damaged Fine example.

The example I sold is problem-free and actually quite attractive despite its extensive wear. It shows nice natural coloration and the obverse is a full Very Fine from the standpoint of detail.

This is the final quarter eagle produced at the Dahlonega mint. But, for all intents and purposes, the death knell for this denomination at the Dahlonega mint had been spelled as early as 1854 when mintages figures declined precipitously from the 1840’s. In 1856, only 874 were struck; making this the lowest mintage figure of any coin ever produced at this branch mint. In 1857-D, the mintage increased to 2,364 but no quarter eagles were made in 1858. 1859 saw a resumption of the denomination but only to the tune of 2,244 coins. None were struck in 1860 and when the mint closed in 1861, no further plans had been made to coin quarter eagles.

The 1857-D and 1859-D are interesting issues among the quarter eagles from this mint. The grade distribution is different for these issues than for nearly all other coins from Dahlonega. The coins from the 1840’s and early 1850’s have what I regard as a typical distribution of survivors: most are in the VF-EF range with AU coins being scarce to rare and Uncirculated coins being very rare to extremely rare.

But in 1857 and 1859, the distribution curve looks different. These two dates are almost never seen in grades below EF and are most often seen in About Uncirculated. Both are rare in Uncirculated but not as much so as their very low mintage figures would suggest. There are as many as ten Uncirculated 1859-D quarter eagles known as well as another four or five dozen in About Uncirculated. This doesn’t seem like a lot of coins but when you consider that there are only 150 or so known from the original mintage, the fact that nearly half grade AU or better suggests that this issue didn’t circulate as freely as the quarter eagles from the 1840’s.

I had long believed that the 1859-D was an issue that saw very little circulation. The existence of the coin shown above is proof that at least a few examples did circulate. I don’t believe that this Fine-15 example was a pocket piece as it shows all the hallmarks of extensive natural circulation. Ironically, it is more rare in this grade than it is in Uncirculated and, to my way of thinking, this is one of the neater Dahlonega quarter eagles to have come up for sale this year: a highly circulated example of a date that was hitherto believed to have never seen extensive circulation. Considering that this coin cost its new owner well under $2,000 I think it is an amazing piece of Southern gold history.

Opinion: Laura Sperber’s Hot Topics – SO WHATS (NOT) NEW?

By Laura Sperber – Hot Topics

MY HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED!

NOT! I can not believe how lethargic and pathetic the leadership of the coin business has become. PCGS launched their lawsuit back in May. Other than scaring the greedy bastards into slowing their dirty deeds-NOT MUCH ELSE HAS HAPPENED. No hobby groups have stood up what so ever and done anything about the situation. The attitude among dealers still seems to that the grading services are there to be abused.

I think its a crime that the best the PNG could do is announce they have a definition of coin doctoring. Whuppie! Did they do anything? Apparently not a damn thing. They are hiding behind the lamest of lame excuses (they are a reactionary, not proactive group). The perpetrators named in the suit got caught (by their own stupidity) still trying to ruin coins yet again recently (the evidence was even posted in Coin World). Even better, at the ANA Show this past summer one of the parties in the suit set up and proudly displayed his PNG banner at his table! What a slap in the face to those of us who do care. I know the PNG’s time has come and gone. They do nothing and are nothing for this coin biz-in MY opinion. Their PNG Days prior to major shows not only have become a show case for the parts of their membership they refuse to punish, they are a complete joke anyway (one must be invited for admission-how arrogant and stupid). I hope the PNG tries to prove me wrong about their total waste and ineffectiveness.

My head hurts from shaking so much after seeing what they are NOT doing! Besides, we all know its not the entire group of PNG dealers who are bad-so where are the innocent ones? You telling me they have little to no powers on these critical issues? Just more of a point about the bad dudes who apparently control that organization. if they wanted too, they could chase after and maybe even prevent coin doctoring-btye clearly choose not too. Looks like I will never have to pay $1,000.00 I promised for anyone the PNG catches and expels for coin doctoring. Yeah PNG, I am grandstanding for attention (NOT)! -at least I am not sitting on the sidelines with rose colored glasses doing nothing about all this!

Its not just them. I have only seen a handful of smaller dealers-the ones who get screwed by the coin docs perpetually stand up and make statements. Where are all the other big shot retailers? Why I am the lone wolf speaking out? But then I guess when you have a coin doc who sits behind your table and who sells you a lot of coins cheap your not going to complain about them. This doesn’t rock the boat culture has to change. Its for the good of the hobby for the long term.

READ THIS AND WEEP

Many people ask me why I do not like so many other dealers. It has nothing to do with them being competition. It has to do with them not caring or worse, they are phonies. One of the problems in today’s coin market place-many of the “newer” dealers just can not grade. That’s right, give them a raw coin out of the holder and they are clueless. Sadly, they have the best web sites and act like they are kings and hook the public. They are just one more means keep to the coin doctors longevity going. These unqualified dealers certainly are not going to be involved in stopping the coin docs. But we can make them change since they are too dumb to know what to do. Yet again, I call for more public scrutiny of dealers. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Advice for beginning and intermediate collectors of U.S. coins

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #22

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

Until CoinFest occurs at the end of the month, there will not be a live event conducted by any of the four leading auction firms of rare U.S. coins. Plus, I am not aware of any private sales of newsworthy rarities over the last week. So, this is a good time to address another topic. Often, I hear about collectors who have decided to start acquiring U.S. coins and who are unsure as to how to proceed.

Sometimes, adults who collected coins as kids wish to return. In many other instances, people who have never before bought a rare or very scarce coin wish to get started. Further, people who collect paintings, sculptures, baseball cards, antique silver objects, or rare books, frequently find themselves drawn to coins. This week’s theme of suggestions for beginners will, I hope, be of interest to many intermediate collectors as well.

I. U.S. Coins valued from $250 to $1000

The focus here is on advice for a collector who seeks U.S. coins valued at over $250 each. Of course, I realize that not everyone can afford to pay $250 for a coin. I am not ignoring people who cannot. I strongly believe, though, that collectors who buy $10 to $100 coins may learn by reading this column. In order to understand the coins that a collector owns, the collector needs to understand coins that he (or she) cannot afford. It is important for all collectors to learn about the values and traditions relating to the coin collecting community. Besides, I will devote a future column or article to coins valued in the $10 to $100 range.

Advice and suggestions put forth here are geared towards a collector who is just starting, though may be of use to any collector who is willing and able to spend $250 or more per coin. Suppose he (or she) has decided to collect U.S. coins and thus will not be considering (at least not yet) colonials, territorials, patterns, or world coins. Also, further suppose this collector is not likely to will spend hours studying books on die pairings or other technical matters.

In general, the average collector spends a limited amount of time reading about coins, and is much more likely to read articles than books. Indeed, most collectors I know do not take the time to read entire books on coins, though I would recommend doing so.

Most collectors wish to have fun. It is true, however, that beginning collectors tend to enjoy coins more after they spend a few weeks or months learning.

So, herein, consider a collector who plans, over a period of years, to buy plenty of coins in the $250 to $1000 range, plus a few that cost more or less. Such a collector is flexible. On occasion, this collector may spend $1000 to $3000 per coin. The emphasis here, though, is on getting started collecting U.S. coins in the $250 to $500 range.

Rather than focus on my own advice, I have asked experts to provide their respective opinions. I selected experts who are knowledgeable about a wide variety of U.S. coins in copper, nickel, silver and gold, and have each played different roles in the coin business. Moreover, it is beneficial for collectors to be aware of the views of several experts, especially from highly qualified people that may not be available to most collectors. Below, please find recommendations from John Albanese, Kris Oyster, Nick van der Laan, and Andy Lustig.

Before putting forth detailed recommendations from these four, I relay Ira Goldberg‘s more general advice. Ira is a partner in the Goldbergs auction firm and he has been a leader in the coin auction business for decades. (more…)

Fast Profits Not Guaranteed At Auction

By Steve Roach – Rare Coin Market Report

While many dealers continue to grumble about weak bourse action at the recently finished back-to-back Long Beach, Calif., and Philadelphia coin shows, in which a review of the dealer bourse lists seem to show a clear bifurcation between West and East coast dealers, the market continues to be robust in the auction sector.

In the official Heritage Auction Galleries Long Beach sale, the top lot was an Extremely Fine 45+ 1856-O Coronet gold $20 double eagle that surfaced in Ohio and was the cover story of the July 26 Coin World. It brought $345,000.

The Heritage auction realized $13.4 million total.

The next two top lots were large gold ingots; further evidence for the market’s insatiable appetite for gold.

Heritage has had a curious auction history in the last two years with 1856-O double eagles, with five auction appearances in the past two years. The recent auction price seems to break what has been a downward trajectory for the issue in auction results.

In January 2009, an EF-45 example sold for $276,000 and the same coin sold again in July 2009, for $253,000. In October 2008, an AU-58 example sold for $576,150 and that same example brought $460,000 in July 2009.

Perhaps too many auction appearances skewed bidders’ sense of its rarity. Heritage estimates that fewer than 20 are available for collectors and the most recently offered example, held by a family in Ohio for nearly 100 years, was as “fresh-to-market” as they get.

For top rarities, the perception of rarity can be almost as important as actual rarity to justify six- and seven-figure prices.

The next week, Stack’s Philadelphia Americana sale realized a very healthy $9,676,867.

One of the highlights, a Proof 65 Cameo 1887 Coronet gold $5 half eagle, brought $97,750, a bit less than it realized at auction in January 2007 where it brought $103,500 when offered as part of the Robert J. Loewinger Collection (pictured above, left).

Results like this serve as a cautionary tale that even at the top-end of the market with coins of superlative quality and absolute rarity, quick profits are not a guarantee

First published in the October 25, 2010, issue of Coin World

Kolbe & Fanning’s 119th auction sale, closing on November 18, 2010.

Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers announce their 119th auction sale, closing on November 18, 2010. The 60-page, 588-lot catalogue comprises a diverse selection of interesting and elusive works on ancient, medieval and modern numismatics, and is particularly rich in rare and unusual works on American numismatics.

Featured in the sale among the many interesting lots of American interest are: the Currency Act of 1764, a rare British Parliamentary Act regulating American colonial paper money, the severe restriction of which provided in part the justification of the American Revolution; the Wayne Homren collection of some fifty early American newspapers with numismatic content, including a 1787 description of Fugio coppers, Birmingham coppers in 1752, a 1788 account of the Massachusetts Mint, George Washington’s 1792 comments on the establishment of the U.S. Mint, a contemporary account of 1794 dollars, early Mint Reports, a contemporary account of the 1851 Lewis Roper sale, and the 1857 loss of the S.S. Central America; nice examples of the first two coin publications of Q. David Bowers, issued in 1955 and 1956, and specially bound combined presentation editions of both the Garrett and Norweb collection sales; a special hardbound edition of Barney Bluestone’s famous Grinnell paper money sales; a 1914 letter from S.H. Chapman to William H. Woodin, discussing plated Gable sale catalogues; Evelyn’s 1697 Numismata, which includes the earliest illustration of the St. Patrick’s coinage; Sanborn Partridge’s rare 1979 article on Vermont coins, hand-annotated by the author; the famous 1878 Adolph Weyl sale of the Fonrobert collection of over 6,000 American and Canadian coins, tokens and medals; a nice first edition, first printing of the Red Book; a rare antebellum children’s guide book with currency tables, published in 1857 in Charleston by William Babcock; Confederate States of America publications on currency; a nautical almanac for the year 1803 signed by early American naval hero Thomas Truxtun that may well have accompanied Truxtun when he captured the French frigate L’Insurgente in 1799 and during the successful encounter in 1800 with La Vengeance, which resulted in President Jefferson presenting Truxtun with the first Congressional medal made in the United States; an interesting collection of American numismatic literature from the Civil War years; and two of the rarest limited editions of the Red Book: the 2008 ANS sesquicentennial and 2008 NLG Bash volumes, limited to editions of 250 and 135 copies respectively.

A few of the important works on ancient, medieval and modern numismatics include: a fine copy of John Evelyn’s 1697 Numismata, the first substantial work on English medals, once in the libraries of Rogers Ruding, Matthew Young and Edward Hawkins; a set of the Forni reprint of Babelon’s Traité des Monnaies Grecques et Romaines; a handsomely bound sales room copy of the iconic 1974 Zurich Kunstfreundes sale of superb ancient Greek coins, with buyers’ names and prices; a nice selection of Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum fascicules; the first 15 volumes, 1960-1989, of Numizmatika i Epigrafika; Medina’s classic 1924 Medallas Europeas Relativas à América; Cayón’s 1990-95 four-volume Compendio de las Monedas del Imperio Romano; the seldom-encountered Forni reprint of Imhoof-Blumer’s Die Antiken Münzen Nord-Griechenlands; and Éditions Spéciales of seven Victor Gadoury works on French coins.

A printed catalogue may be obtained by sending $10 to: KOLBE & FANNING NUMISMATIC BOOKSELLERS LLC, 141 W JOHNSTOWN ROAD, GAHANNA OH 43230-2700. The catalogue is also accessible free of charge on the Kolbe & Fanning website at www.numislit.com. (more…)

Some Recent Observations From A Coin Show Perspective

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com
Having just come from the Philadelphia Whitman Coin Expo show and, the week before this, the Long Beach show, I feel pretty qualified to make some market observations. Without further ado, I’d like to share them with you.

1. There Are Too Many Coin Shows Right Now. I’m sure I’m not going to make any friends with coin show promoters for saying this but with Long Beach occuring last week, Philly this week and the St. Louis show next week, this is too many coin shows in a short period of time. I saw few fresh coins in Philadelphia because I looked at many dealer’s coins in Long Beach and the thought of turning around next week and going to St. Louis…uh, no thanks. The market just can’t support this many shows and this is why you are seeing many formerly good regional three and four day events beginning to die rapid deaths.

2. Buying Nice Coins Is Tough, Tough, Tough. If you thought it was hard two or three years ago to buy nice coins at shows, it is as tough now as its ever been; maybe tougher. I’ve heard dealers all of all sizes and shapes complain how hard it is to find interesting fresh material at recent shows. I was lucky and I had an amazing ANA show with lots and lots of great new coins to offer DWN clients. But it is a real grind to find coins now and, clearly, the good stuff is going off the market and staying there.

3. Everyone Wants to Buy Type One Double Eagles. There are many firms and individual dealers (myself included) who are very active buyers right now of Type One double eagles. At the Philadelphia show I saw almost nothing for sale other than the usual motley assortment of Uncirculated S.S. Central America 1857-S , a few lower grade common dates and the odd overpriced rarity here and there. This is clearly an extremely popular area of the market and coins in the $2,000-15,000+ price range are exceptionally popular right now.

4. And CC Double Eagles Too. You can add $2,000-10,000+ Carson City double eagles to this list as well. They are most definitely in strong demand and if the coins are properly priced (or even just a hair too expensive) they are easy sellers. Even big money coins like 1870-CC double eagles are beginnig to sell again and I am aware of at least two EF examples changing hands since ANA. If you have any nice CC double eagles for sale, please contact me as I’d like to buy them from you!

5. Nice New Orleans Gold Has Disappeared. Where has all the nice New Orleans gold gone? Good question. The last few months have seen very, very few interesting New Orleans gold coins available and the few choice or rare pieces that I have had in stock have sold quickly. Clearly, this is an area of the market that is very active.

6. And Dahlonega Gold Also. I think you can safely add choice, original Dahlonega gold in all denominations to the “where the heck are the coins?” list. I can generally only find two or three decent D mint coins at a major show and they seem to sell very quickly when I list them on my website.

7. Coin Pricing Is a Total Disaster. I’ve mentioned this a number of times but I am finding it more and more of a hassle that coin pricing is such out of touch with reality. What typically happens is that one very low quality rare coin trades cheaply at auction and Trends whacks the price for the issue down. This has recently happened with rare, desirable coins like the 1796 No Stars and 1808 quarter eagles and the 1795 eagle. I look at this as, in its own way, as big a concern in the coin market as the doctoring issue. One reason why good coins aren’t being sold is that pricing doesn’t reflect the real value of choice, high end pieces. Fix this problem and you will fix the lack of supply that is hurting the market right now. Don’t fix it and new buyers will be more interested in purchasing MS64 Saints than “real” coins. (more…)

Coin Market: Full Band Roosevelt Dimes

By Steve Roach – Rare Coin Market Report

The market for full bands Roosevelt dimes is one dominated by a handful of specialists who are willing to spend big for the right coin.

Numismatic Guaranty Corp. calls circulation-strike Roosevelt dimes with both the upper and lower pair of bands on the torch showing full separation, having a complete and unbroken line dividing the bands, “full torch” (abbreviated as FT), while Professional Coin Grading Service calls them “full bands” (FB).

Both services began to recognize the designation in 2003 and the popularity of registry sets has fueled four-figure prices for condition rarities.

For example, on Sept. 6, a 1953-S Roosevelt dime graded Mint State 68 full torch by NGC realized $2,600 during an auction conducted by Teletrade.

Earlier this year, a 1951-D Roosevelt dime graded MS-68 full bands by PCGS (pictured above) sold for a very strong $4,600 while a stunning and beautifully toned 1949-D PCGS MS-68 full bands from the same consignor realized $3,105 at a Heritage Auction Galleries sale.

The market for high-end Roosevelt dimes is not entirely dependent on a full bands/torch designation.

At a Sept. 9, 2009, Heritage auction, a 1963-D Roosevelt dime graded MS-68 (without a full bands designation) realized a whopping $5,175.

The market for full bands Roosevelt dimes is the most robust for the series’ silver issues, produced from 1949 to 1964, although the occasional copper-nickel clad issue can soar, such as a NGC MS-68 full torch 1965 dime that brought $805 at a March 25 Heritage auction.

In the PCGS Registry, 137 registered sets are listed, consisting of the 48 Roosevelt dime circulation strikes from 1949 to 1964, with the top four sets 100 percent complete.

Many of the issues are unknown in grades finer than MS-67 full bands and the current No. 1 set contains each issue in MS-67 full bands and finer, with several MS-67+ full bands and a single MS-68 FB.

The owner of the No. 1 set has posted pictures of all but two of the coins in his set, named “close to perfect,” online. Browsing through them gives an introduction to the many different looks that Mint State Roosevelt dimes can have.

A Look at Early U.S. Gold Coins

By Jim Fehr – The Winning Edge

Gold Strengthens

The gold market is hot. Bullion prices are rising and driving gold coin prices higher. Economic conditions over the last two years have investors seeking a heaven against rising money supply/inflation. The government printing presses are running over-time as the treasury departments prints trillions of dollars to try revive a weak economy. Keynesian economic practices and an explosion in the size of the U.S. government should keep gold at healthy levels as prices flirt with $1,310 + an ounce.

Early U.S. Gold

Not too long ago I wrote about Early U.S. silver coins. Like the Early silver type, I wanted to break down the Early U.S. gold pieces in this issue. Hope you enjoy it. Prices are an approximation of your actual past and present acquisition cost. PCGS and NGC populations are based on their respective censuses reports.

Draped Bust $2.5 1796 – 1807

The first U.S. coin to have the heraldic (large) eagle on the reverse which was then adopted for all U.S. gold and silver coins from 1798 to 1807. There are two major design varieties for the 1796; the “with stars” and “no stars” obverse. Both of which are extremely rare. The populations listed are for all dates combined. Prices are an approximation of your actual past and present acquisition cost and are for a type coin (not better dates) in the series.

PCGS Circ. population: 392; NGC: 298
PCGS Unc. population: 89; NGC: 163

Prices have steadily climbed since 2002 and are still strong today. This issue is somewhat overlooked like most smaller denomination coins, but less so recently. The prices listed are for type coins in the series. Better dates like the 1796 no stars bring more. I like the issue in all grades at the current levels and believe they will continue to perform well.

In the next two groups Liberty is facing left as is true with most all U.S. coins after 1807. For the single year of 1808 the design had no denticles and was of the large bust type. Then none were minted until 1821. The new design included smaller stars and bust. After 1827 they reduced the coins size and denticles, hence the Capped Bust small size. Prices are an approximation of your actual past and present acquisition cost and are for a type coin (not better dates) in the series.

Capped Bust $2.5 1808 – 1827 large size

PCGS Circ. population: 115; NGC: 87
PCGS Unc. population: 72; NGC: 75

(more…)