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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: 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…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Eliasberg 1795 Eagle, Gem Oak Tree Shilling and 1806 quarter of the rarest variety!

News and Analysis:  scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #16

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

Yes, there are more rarities, available in Boston this month, which should be discussed. In my columns over the last two to three months, I have covered many important rarities that sold or appeared in Boston, especially coins in the Heritage, B&M and Stack’s auctions. In my column just two weeks ago, I discussed rarities that were ‘on the floor’ at the ANA Convention in Boston, which was held from Aug. 10th to 15th. Even so, three additional coins are each extremely important in their own different and very distinctive ways.

Perhaps few collectors would be enthusiastic about all three of these, though I find all three to be intriguing. These are an Eliasberg 1795 Eagle ($10 gold coin), the gem quality Earle-Boyd-Manley Oak Tree Shilling (of colonial Massachusetts), and an 1806 quarter in Very Good condition that sold for $18,666! An expected retail price for a VG grade 1806 quarter would be in a range from $600 to $900.

I. Eliasberg 1795 $10 Gold Coin

To the best of my recollection at this moment, this Eliasberg 1795 Eagle is the second best 1795 Eagle that I have ever seen, and it has more eye appeal than the first best. Gold coins were first struck at the U.S. Mint in 1795. As the 1796 and 1797 dates, of the Bust – Small Eagle type, are much rarer, the 1795 Eagle is one of the most popular of all U.S. gold coin issues. Plus, the Eagle ($10 gold coin) was the largest denomination of all U.S. coins until 1850, and zero business strike Eagles were struck between 1804 and 1838. (Please see my columns of Aug. 18 and July 28th for comments on a Proof 1804 Eagle.) As 1795 Eagles were the first U.S. $10 coins and are of a scarce design type, collectors tend to be extremely enthusiastic about them.

Louis Eliasberg, Sr. formed the all-time greatest collection of U.S. coins. After his death, one of his sons consigned his U.S. gold coins to Bowers & Ruddy, which auctioned them in New York in Oct. 1982. This coin, which is thought to be the finest of Eliasberg’s 1795 Eagles, was later graded by the NGC as “MS-65.” At the ANA Convention in Boston, it was in Kevin Lipton’s display case. Kevin’s asking price is “$1 million”!

It was Kris Oyster who drew my attention to this 1795 Eagle. “It is just a magnificent coin, a lustrous gem,” Oyster says. “It is the best 1795 Eagle that I have ever seen. It has bold detail, frosty devices, and fantastic appeal. I [Oyster] was struck by it.” Oyster is the managing director of numismatics for DGSE, which operates stores in Texas and elsewhere. In 2007, DGSE acquired Superior Galleries, a name that is well known to coin collectors.

I (this writer) also like this 1795 Eagle, which has a terrific overall look. It is very brilliant, with strong cartwheel luster. Its soft grass green tint is particularly appealing. There are a significant number of contact marks and hairlines, most of which are not noticeable without a magnifying glass. My hunch is that it is the fourth or fifth finest known.

Originally, I had planned to compile a condition ranking for 1795 Eagles. This project, however, will have to be postponed. I wish to be contacted by those who have examined 1795 Eagles that grade MS-64 or higher. The two that the PCGS and the three that the NGC has graded MS-65 probably amount to just two to four different coins.

My guess is that the Garrett coin, the coin in the leading collection of pre-1840 gold, and the coin that is PCGS graded MS-66 are all the same 1795 Eagle. John Albanese reports that “Dave Akers submitted a beautiful 1795 Eagle” to the NGC “in the late 1980s.” I (this writer) suggest that it is the coin that the PCGS later graded MS-66. “It is just amazing,” Albanese exclaims. “We [at the NGC] were talking about for months afterwards.”

Saul Teichman attended the auctions of the Eliasberg and Garrett collections. He states that the “Garrett 1795 eagle was an awesome coin” that is (or was) similar in quality to a few superb pre-1840 Half Eagles in the Eliasberg collection, which Teichman found to be spectacular. “The Eliasberg 1795 Eagles did not strike me as being in that class. They were nice pieces but not like the Garrett coin,” Teichman relates. (more…)