For the past several summers both Stack’s Bowers
Galleries and Heritage
Auctions have shared duties as the official auctioneers for the American Numismatic
Association’s flagship World’s Fair of Money (its summer
convention). This year’s show is set for Denver, Aug. 1 to 5, and both
firms have been actively courting collectors, dealers and ANA members
for material to fill their various sessions before their early June
ANA Executive Director Kim Kiick has sent out thousands of letters
urging ANA members to consign, praising “Heritage’s devotion to
integrity, transparency, professionalism, service and quality” and
Stack’s Bowers’ “tradition of selling legendary collections and
generating legendary results.” Of course, the ANA stands to benefit
from strong sales since auction houses pay for the privilege of being
an official auctioneer of the ANA and both firms have prepared glossy
marketing materials trying to distinguish themselves.
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Heritage focuses on its technology and aggregate totals — its last
three summer ANA sales have realized more than $133.7 million — while
Stack’s Bowers reminds potential consignors that thanks to the D.
Brent Pogue Collection it had 15 of the top 20 prices realized at
auction in 2016.
The result of this competition benefits collectors on both the
buying and selling end of things. Collectors get a condensed week of
auctions in a single place and sellers enjoy a competitive environment
to negotiate favorable sales terms.
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Another column in the June 26 Coin World profiles John J. Pittman,
a czar of numismatic knowledge.
A parallel can be seen in the art market as Christie’s and
Sotheby’s battle for market share — the week of Impressionist, Modern
and Contemporary Art sales held each May and November in New York City
serves as barometers of the art market and defines the relative
strength of the two firms. Both auctioneers push one another to
innovate to enhance the buyer experience and generate stronger prices
In both coins and art, exceptional smaller auctioneers are eager and
able to pick up areas of the market that are underserved, and to keep
the major firms on their toes.
Stack’s Bowers announced in early May that it will offer a 1794
Flowing Hair silver dollar graded Mint State 64 by Professional Coin Grading
Service in Denver. It was last offered in Bowers and Merena’s 1988
sale of the Norweb Collection, where it realized $242,000. With
Pogue’s MS-66+ example bringing nearly $5 million at the September
2015 Pogue auction, expectations are high for this dollar. By
announcing a star lot well-before the consignment deadline, Stack’s
Bowers aims to give potential consignors confidence; the piece
provides a solid anchor for the firm’s Rarities Night auction. Surely
Heritage will now feel some extra pressure to come up with its own
marquee rarity to anchor its Platinum Night sale as the official
co-auctioneers compete to get “top lot” honors at the Denver ANA auctions.