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All Posts Tagged With: "Pinnacle Rarities"

Finding Numismatic History in Unlikely Places

By Dan Duncan – Pinnacle-Rarities

Ezra Meeker – Champion of the Oregon Trail

Over the summer months our numismatic travels took us to great historical cities like Boston and Philadelphia. And this week we travel to Baltimore, another city rich in early Americana. Of course, across the nation there are local historical sites and, more specifically, sites of numismatic interest. Over the last 200 plus years, our mints have aided the extraction from a number of precious metal lodes. Now many of the once thriving businesses are gone, with a few remaining as mint and mining museums or historical landmarks.

Each place chronicles a rich history founded in capturing natural resources and refining them into tangible representations of our history. Living in the Northwest, we are thousands of miles from any of these sites. While some old mines exist in the state, the real history of Washington State lies in the old growth forests. The “American” history of the region is for all intent and purpose quite young. But, sometimes you don’t have to look far to find a piece of numismatic lore right in your own back yard.

Recently we took the family to a large state fair located in the city of Puyallup (pyoo-al-uh p). One of the town’s principal founders was a pioneer who travelled to the Oregon Territory in the mid-nineteenth century. He eventually settled in the foothills of Mt. Rainier. This man was Ezra Meeker. His contributions to the northwest are many, but he is best remembered nationally for his extensive work on having the Oregon Trail marked.

According to the Meeker Mansion website, “Ezra Meeker became the self-appointed champion of the Oregon Trail in 1906, when at the age of 76, accompanied by two oxen, a wagon, a driver and a dog, he made his way from his front yard to Washington D.C., by way of New York City.”

Meeker first took the Oregon Trail as a young man in 1852. A true pioneer, Ezra was lured by the promise of the new territories. Finally settling in a valley below Mt. Rainier, Meeker cleared his own land and eventually became an internationally successful hops farmer. His travels included a stint in Europe and a couple forays into the Alaskan territories.

Meeker was obviously impacted by his early trip out west. He had a connection to the Oregon Trail. He recognized it as a part of American history and felt it should be cherished and preserved. In his mid-seventies, he harnessed his oxen and retraced his steps from some 50 odd years ago in a Conestoga wagon. He deemed this trip the Oregon Trail Monument Expedition Trip. During this trip he promoted the trail awareness, lectured, handed out pamphlets and eventually gained a lot of publicity. Meeker met with Teddy Roosevelt, who agreed in principle to in some way recognize the Oregon Trail, but the bill died in Congress.

After returning to his home, Meeker wrote an acclaimed book on the subject entitled The Lost Trail, Meeker again braved the 2,000 mile trail with an ox drawn wagon in 1910. He was again to promote its preservation, but this time he intended to map the route. He was in favor of a transcontinental railroad along a similiar course, which he also intended to lobby for. Despite completing the trail, and the map, his second trip was somewhat of a failure. When he arrived out East he was contacted by the Senate and told not to come to D.C. After some other tribulations, he found his way back to Washington State. He continued to campaign, worked on a movie, lectured and published another book – Ox Team Days. Eventually he’s instrumental in the formation of the Oregon Trail Memorial Association. Through that organization he petitioned Congress getting final approval for the Oregon Trail Commemorative in 1926. The proceeds from the distrubution were used to mark the trail. (more…)

Coin Show Myth: The Long Beach Curse

By Pinnacle Rarities

Gold Closes Up, But the Myth Lives On

Before last week’s convention, I had a discussion about the myth referred to as the “Long Beach Curse.” The prevailing sentiment is that the spot price of gold always goes down during the week of the convention. This phenomenon is often bantered amongst gold dealers deciding whether to load up or unload inventories around these major conventions. During last week’s show, gold touched an all time high, and settled on Friday about nine dollars up for the week seemingly debunking the myth. A quick review of spot prices for the last decade’s thirty shows reveals the trend has some statistical backbone. However, the true curse has been the lack of quality material available for purchase. And this isn’t limited to the Long Beach Convention.

Collectors have continued to cull their collections as economic uncertainty has caused many to tighten their belts. However, they sell off the lesser quality material first. Spending habits have become more selective with the prevailing market focused on value and rarity. When major collections and true rarities enter this market the best quality material is quickly absorbed. The dregs are then recycled through dealer inventories and the myriad of auction houses that also clamor for fresh material. But rest assured, if you’ve been selective in your purchases and your collection was purchased for the coins it contains and not the plastic that contains it, you’re in good shape. The rare coin industry is alive and well – with an emphasis on “rare.” Looking at auction records over the last couple years, it’s easy to see quality and rarity still rule in this hobby of kings.

Now, back to that myth. During the last decade the spot price of gold has gone from a $256 in 2001 to $1297 (the Friday close after the latest Long Beach). It’s hard to imagine during this meteoric rise that the price of gold in any given week faltered. But overall, there were 19 of 30 weeks that showed declines in spot gold during the Long Beach convention. During the first five years of the decade, the rate of down cycles was an astounding three of four shows.

The number of down weeks is a bit padded as several of the weeks with advances only showed modest gains of $2 or less. So if you left the show early, the spot price would have been theoretically down for that show also. Regardless, with over three quarters of the conventions showing weak or down trends, it is no wonder the rumors started. The last five years have shown an improvement on the trend, but gold was still down at more than half the shows (eight of fifteen had declines).

So there is some statistical indications as to how the Long Beach Curse gained acceptance. But again, the real curse is one we recognize with all numismatic venues. There is an extremely diminished amount of quality material. True rarities and top pop condition rarities are commanding strong premiums, while the more common and lesser quality stuff has fallen stagnate. This increasing shift in the supply and demand equation coupled with an ever stronger precious metal price makes the outlook for rare coins seem bright – if only we could find the more coins.

A quick note to thank all our customers who have recently sold us coins or collections. Many of these items were exceptionally rare and of high quality. Thanks to you we have avoided the curse.

The Three L’s of Coin Photography

By Pinnacle Rarities

The digital age has ushered in a new coin cabinet for collectors. Digital photography allows collectors to display their treasures without leaving their valuables exposed. Registry programs and advances in the digital technology, coupled with the proliferation of the rare coin websites and social networking platforms, has made digital coin representations an integral part of a collector’s portfolio. The overall demand for quality photos has been facilitated by digital camera manufacturers who produce a number of cameras capable of capturing the nuances of rare coins. With practice, consistent high quality images can be taken by any collector, even with a limited equipment budget. If you plan on photographing your coins yourself, here’s a quick primer. Consider these three “L’s” before you get started – the lens, the lighting, and the luster.

The Lens

The first “L” stands for the lens, but it includes other camera equipment too. It isn’t necessary to spend thousands to capture images of you coins. However, don’t fool yourself. In photography, the more you spend, the more you get. The “more” may just be more bells and whistles. But most likely, the “more” will be in the optics. The cheaper lenses do not produce as sharp an image especially along the peripheries. It will perform poorly in tougher lighting situations. The general rule here is the more light that gets through the lens, the better the depth of focus. Better light will result in crisper images up close. The better the lens the more light it lets through.

In this same vein the body of the lower priced camera will not have the options and “gadgets” that the more pricey models may include. The expensive models will produce better resolution and have a wider range of file types and sizes to choose from. You will get better results with cameras that have interchangeable lenses. You should outfit these cameras with a good quality macro lens (macro zooms are adequate, I suggest splurging on a dedicated macro lens). If you’re using an “all in one” point and shoot camera, you’ll still be able to get great images. However, a macro setting is a must. The macro setting is usually a flower icon. You may want to consult your owner’s manual.

If you are planning to image coins sealed in third party holders (or slabs), consider this plastic an additional “lens”. Before you photograph your coins, be sure that you’ve cleaned the holder to the best of your ability. Fingerprints and sticker glue will fog the holder. Many holders develop scratches on the surfaces from handling and contact with other holders. These will show-up in high quality images. Some of this can be removed or at least masked using a variety of plastic cleaners and polish. The heavier scuffs may need a light polishing with the aid of a small power craft tool fitted with a polishing wheel. (We use a Dremel MiniMite). Practice this before ruining a holder on a prized possession.

You’ll need to stabilize the lens and camera. Trying to achieve anything of quality with a handheld camera is futile. A simple inexpensive tripod at the corner or a low table works as well as a professional photo stand. Remember position you camera where you’ll be able to manipulate your lights, while keeping the camera stationary. This set-up is our second “L”.
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Need Money? 5 Steps To Sell Right.

Reprinted with Permission from Pinnacle-Rarities

Whether or not you need to sell, these five basic steps can help focus your collecting so you can receive maximum enjoyment and profit. Start by getting organized. Next, cull some of the lesser coins from your portfolio. Finally, focus on those areas which are the most meaningful to you.

1. Make A List
The vast majority of our clients keep their coins in safe deposit boxes, and rarely do have an opportunity to look at everything together. Since they were likely acquired over many years, accompanying records and notes tend to get scattered. A comprehensive list of the necessary information is very useful. It will allow you to see exactly which coins you’re missing, which coins you have too many of, and give you a starting point to review your collecting goals. It helps not just to list the date, grade, and denomination, but the certification service, amount paid, purchase date, and source as well.

Having all of this information at your fingertips will prevent mistakes such as purchasing duplicates or passing on coins that you need.

The best charts are sorted first by denomination, then by date, and third by grade. This will make it very easy for you to find coins. The certification number on the holder is useful to keep track of duplicates, and can be important in locating your coins if they are lost or stolen. Knowing whom you bought your coins from is also surprisingly useful. We will always make a stronger offer on coins we’ve sold, since we are picky buyers and we are, therefore, confident the coins will be nice for their respective grades.

2. Cull Your Duplicates
At this point, you may find that you have some extra coins. You may have purchased an MS66 to replace an MS64, without trading the lower grade example, or you may have mistakenly bought two coins of the same date and grade. We recommend that you eliminate those items that are not essential to your collection or portfolio. These coins can either be sold outright, or can be used as trades to reduce the amount of cash necessary for future acquisitions. (more…)

COLLECTING STRATEGIES FOR CLASSIC COMMEMORATIVES

by Kathleen Duncan of Pinnacle Rarities

pinnacle_commems_092409Between 1892 and 1954, there were 50 different silver commemoratives authorized by Congress: 48 Half Dollars along with a single Quarter and Dollar. Because many of these were issued for multiple years, were struck at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints, and were issued with subtle design variations, there are a total of 144 different silver coins that constitute the Classic Silver Commemorative category. Many of the coins were designed in contest by important sculptors and among them are some of the most creative examples of coinage art in all of numismatics. They also form an instructive history course of our nation, as each commemorates an important event.

Commemoratives differ from regular issue coins as they are struck primarily for collectors rather than to circulate as money, although they are legal tender. Most Classic Commemoratives were struck in conjunction with a large exhibition and festival. These coins were sold to collectors at a premium to their face value, typically to raise money for a monument to be built or to defray the costs of the particular celebration. The very first such exhibition was the 1892 Chicago World’s fair, which produced the 1892 Columbus Half Dollar, honoring the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World.

Silver Commemoratives can be assembled in nearly an endless number of ways, in all price ranges, making them an easy area to pursue. Purchasing one of each of the 50 unique designs is referred to as a type set. The ambitious pursuit of a complete set requires one of each of the 144 dates and mintmarks referenced above. If you prefer a less daunting task, you can choose among any number of sub segments to match your particular interests.
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