Steve Roach, Coin World’s editor-in-chief, has been deeply involved with numismatics for more than 20 years, starting as a young coin collector in Michigan. Two years spent as a coin grader, nearly three years at a major coin wholesaler and a stint as a paintings specialist at an international auction house have given Steve a rich understanding of the hobby, its market and the unique personalities and exceptional objects that make collecting meaningful.
Two exhibits in Columbus, Ohio, challenged the author to think about the intersection of art and money.
What happens when an object’s value becomes more
important than the object itself?
I was confronted by this question head on when
viewing two exhibitions in Columbus, Ohio, this week.
The first was a small exhibit featuring paintings
and sculptures from the collection of Les Wexner, founder of Limited Brands.
The quality of the paintings, especially those by Pablo Picasso, was
extraordinary, but because many were sold at auction over the past decade or
so, I couldn’t separate the economic value of the art from my viewing.
Knowing that the gorgeous, sensual 1932 large
Picasso canvas Nude in a Black Armchair brought $45.1 million at auction
in 1999 and a comparable picture sold for more than $100 million recently
distanced me from my visual experience with the painting.
Rather than admiring Picasso’s mastery, I thought
about how a single object could be worth so much, and if, perhaps, there were
other uses for that money which would provide more value to society.
The next exhibit, “In_We Trust: Art and Money” at
the Columbus Museum of Art, brought it home, as 26 different artist
deconstructed the concept of money.
As the exhibit curator Tyler Cann wrote in the
exhibition catalog on money, “It connects, defines, and divides nations. It is
pocket change and dead presidents. It is the key to happiness, and the root of
all evil. It has no intrinsic value apart from what we’ve given it.”
There are those coins that have become more than
coins. It is tough to think of a 1933 Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagle and
not think of the nearly $7.6 million that one brought at a 2002 auction.
How does knowing an object’s worth in the
marketplace change our viewing experience of it (and does it even matter?)
These types of questions keep our hobby interesting in a way
that goes beyond dates, grades and Mint marks.
At the recent Virginia Numismatic Association convention, dealer John Cunningham and his daughter showcase some of the many innovative modern coins that can serve to introduce new people to the hobby.
At a recent VNA show, John Philips is assisted by Eagle Scout Will Cather, 15, in one of the several educational programs at the show offered to young collectors.
It’s autumn and local and state coin clubs are busy hosting their coin shows.
Coin World recently gave an informal survey to our email list and more than 2,000 of you replied. The results confirmed some things that we already know (such as our audience being predominantly male) and revealed a few surprises.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is how relevant coin shows are to our readers. Roughly two-thirds of the respondents reported that they attended a coin show in the past year.
Even better? Nearly 30 percent of the respondents attend three or more shows a year.
I generally go to a coin show at least each month, where I see the spirit of collecting and volunteerism in full effect. This was wonderfully evident when I was invited to address the Virginia Numismatic Association’s 56th annual convention and coin show in Fredericksburg, Va., Sept. 26 to 28.
The show was fantastic, with a variety of dealers who were busy buying and selling coins, but not too busy to chat with new collectors. I had the luxury of visiting with many of the dealers, including VNA director John Cunningham of Hibernia Rare Coins, who was assisted by his daughter. He told me that he loves introducing modern coins from around the world to new collectors, and showing more seasoned collectors the great things that world mints are doing to produce attractive, innovative coins.
Col. Steve Ellsworth of Butternut Coins shared his passion for early American large cents while Ernie Swauger explained that his customers love 17th, 18th and 19th century world coins because of their link to history.
Nearly all day on Saturday, VNA education director John Philips led dozens of young people including groups of Boy Scouts and homeschooled children through thoughtful educational programs that are sure to inspire some new collectors.
Local and state run shows are a vital part of our hobby, serving to introduce new people to numismatics, and keeping longtime collectors engaged in the hobby.
The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee recommended the above designs Sept. 23 for the 2015 Jacqueline Kennedy First Spouse gold coins.
As the First Spouse gold $10 coin series winds down, 2015 will see the release of four coins including one for Jacqueline Kennedy.
Could the launch of “Jackie O’s” coin breathe some life into this series that is in desperate need of attention?
The series has had some unfortunate twists of circumstance that have hurt its popularity with collectors. The Mint has been inconsistent with its release dates, often releasing all four (or five) coins in the final months of the year. Add to that a roaring precious metal market that saw gold rise from $660 an ounce in the summer of 2007 to more than $1,800 an ounce in the summer of 2011, meaning many collectors were priced out of the program.
With few collectors building sets, mintages have dropped. The 2007-W Thomas Jefferson’s Liberty coin saw nearly 40,000 pieces produced across both Proof and Uncirculated formats. Total sales across both formats of 4,000 to 5,000 are likely for each of the five 2013 First Spouse coins.
As gold settles down to more reasonable price levels, and the First Spouse designs celebrate first ladies who many coin buyers remember, the program could get a nice bump.
The set has a lot going for it, including handsome designs, with often very interesting reverse designs emblematic of themes of the corresponding first lady’s life, low mintages and accessible entry points with the higher-mintage pieces from the first few years of the program.
It seems that many collectors today are content having a virtual experience with their coin collecting.
They buy and sell coins online, socialize with collectors online and get their information online. These collectors are likely not maximizing their collecting experience.
Going to a coin show is a refreshing break from the routine. Many of us spend our days in front of a computer screen, and what’s great about coin collecting are the tangible aspects: putting a coin into a Whitman board, holding a coin by its edge, examining one slabbed coin against another one to figure out which one is better for the grade.
I continue to be inspired by local, state and regional organizations expanding their shows to attract new audiences.
Many show organizers are taking proactive steps to keep their shows relevant through advertising, expanded marketing and by letting people beyond their membership know that a show is happening.
But once you get someone in the door, how do you turn that person into a collector?
The best shows are realizing that mere attendance numbers don’t tell a full story of a show’s success. Great dealers offering a range of material, a warm welcome when newcomers enter, and rich educational programs and exhibits, all combine to create an environment that is conducive to cultivating a new collector.
Our Guest Commentary this week shows how the Michigan State Numismatic Society is keeping its fall show, which has traditionally anchored the show schedule over Thanksgiving weekend, relevant.
It’s neither cheap nor easy.
The $5 million rarities that are on loan from the American Numismatic Association (a 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent piece and an 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar) bring in curious visitors, but also cost a club thousands of dollars in transportation and security fees.
Advertising is expensive. Prizes for educational exhibitors can be pricey. Renting a venue costs money (and renting a nice one costs more).
These expenses add up, but smart clubs consider them investments, as a thriving coin show is a key factor to keeping local and state coin clubs — and our hobby — relevant.
Those who put together the best collections — and have the most fun doing it — put these three elements together.
Collecting doesn’t have to be expensive. This month’s world coins feature by Rita Laws highlights sets of Canadian and Mexican coins that can be put together inexpensively. Our venerable columnist Q. David Bowers points out that thousands of varieties of copper tokens, fractional currency notes, Confederate notes, encased postage stamps and more issued during the Civil War can be purchased at reasonable prices.
He has a great point: some collecting areas are ripe for discoveries. Take carved coins that combine art and numismatics. Artists today are taking as a model the traditional “Hobo nickels” that were first carved as the Indian Head 5-cent piece, 1913 to 1938, was circulating. These artists are applying their creativity to create small sculptures on a variety of different coins. Depending on the skill involved in the carving, carved coins can be found for as little as $5 or $10, while the most skilled pieces can be priced in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Nor does coin collecting have to be dull.
Our October cover feature ties coin collecting in with the macabre as depicted on coins, medals and paper money. Skeletons, skulls and the like. Rita extends the seasonal theme in her monthly column “Going Topical” where she looks at creepy, crawly critters depicted on coins.
Our interview subject this month, Thomas Hockenhull of the British Museum said that he entered his role as curator of modern coins “through the side entrance,” meaning he didn’t initially set out to be a numismatic curator. Instead, his interest in coins and paper money grew over time.
Our paper money editor, Michele Orzano, pointed out in a conversation as we were editing the issue that, in his answers, he gave great advice that’s applicable to situations beyond numismatics. Keep your eyes open, be flexible, and opportunities appear.
Even selling coins can be a boost to the spirit, especially when you’re using the money to buy new coins.
But estate planning for your coin collection, well, that’s not as fun.
However, it is necessary.
When I speak on estate planning for coin collections to coin collecting audiences, I tell the audience: You know what’s in your coin collection. But does your significant other? Do your kids? Does your estate planner?
When I speak on estate planning for coin collections to attorneys and estate planners, I remind them that a coin collection can be a hard-to-value asset that could make up a significant amount of a client’s total net worth.
A hard fact is that most people don’t like to think about what happens to their things after they are gone. This includes their coin collections.
The first step toward some preliminary estate planning for a collection doesn’t have to be complex. It can be as basic as an inventory that lists enough information for a non-numismatist to locate and identify items and for a numismatist to provide a value on them.
Photographs help, as does a list of trusted resources that non-collecting heirs might turn to for guidance.
The second edition of Cash in Your Coins: Selling the Rare Coins You’ve Inherited, the useful book by Coin World’s longtime editor Beth Deisher, has just been published by Whitman Publishing. The cover says it all, defining it as “the book that belongs in every collector’s safe deposit box.”
It’s one of those rare numismatic books that offers something for multiple audiences. For noncollectors, it provides a basic guide to identification of items, determining value and how one should go about selling a coin collection.
For collectors, her book provides a primer on collection management including how to write an effective inventory, rare coin appraisals and managing an unfortunate truth: taxes.
This week we’re sharing part of Beth’s chapter on taxes because it has important information that is relevant to many of our readers.
She writes: “As a collector, neither you nor your heirs should pay more than is legally required. To ensure that you and your heirs don’t overpay requires action now, not later (after you depart planet Earth). Awareness and good planning are the keys to peace of mind for you and protection for your heirs.”
Collections should be thought of as investments and cared for as such. With some planning, a collection can create a legacy that may provide for one’s loved ones.
But absent a thoughtful plan, a collection may end up being sold for a fraction of its value, or worse, may simply disappear.
As some regional and state organizations reach a national audience with their coin shows, should they be required to extend opportunities for leadership beyond their stated geographic region?
For example, the Central States Numismatic Society covers a 13-state region. Its annual spring convention is a major show and its associated auctions are among the largest coin auctions held during the year.
The CSNS bylaws stipulate that all officers and governors must be at least 18 years old and reside in the Central States region. The bylaws further limits the number of elected officials from any one state to keep things balanced.
These types of restrictions serve a valid purpose of keeping resources in the region that the members live in. It also presumably keeps travel expenses down, providing more money for educational opportunities that can extend throughout the region by involvement with local clubs and seminars, and beyond the region through the group’s publication.
Those who are challenging groups like CSNS and Florida United Numismatists to expand to become national organizations cite that the majority of revenue comes from their conventions and auctions, which are populated in large part by dealers and auction houses who may live outside of the region defined by the group’s geographic definition.
The hobby has multiple national organizations. Regional and state groups have a useful and relevant purpose in the hobby: to promote education, camaraderie and collecting with people who live in geographic proximity to one another.
Limiting leadership to those who live in the region is neither arbitrary nor capricious. Rather, limiting leadership to those individuals who maintain a meaningful presence in the state seems to serve a valid purpose that ultimately benefits the group’s membership.
To require state and regional groups to expand to include leaders from outside of their region seems to punish organizations that develop successful programs that extend beyond the region, while adding little benefit to the membership that the group ultimately serves.
Part of the fun of going to a major show is seeing things you rarely see. At the recent ANA show I held an 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar ...
... and discovered a 17th century European coin where both parties depicted have a serious case of “bed head.”
... saw crazy lines of patient folks trying to get their hands on one of the first new gold Kennedy half dollars ...
Which of today’s coins will hold their value over time? In light of the media coverage from both within and outside of our hobby on the release of the gold 2014-W Kennedy half dollar, it’s a relevant question to ask.
As I write in our new investment column, conveniently titled “The Investment Column,” quality, rarity and desirability are three core values at the center of successful rare coin investment for lasting value. The same was true a century ago and the same will be likely be true hundreds of years from now.
Much of what passes for investment today is mere speculation, but, over time, collectors who have stayed true to their interests and have built a depth of experience and knowledge in a given area have built collections that stand the test of time (and often reap large profits once sold).
Consider the current popularity of coins that are certified by major grading services in special holders recognizing that they’re sold on the first day of issue. For many collectors, these represent exciting souvenirs of a coin show and a chance to own a story alongside a coin. Other collectors wouldn’t even entertain the idea of paying a premium for a first-day-of-issue coin that is most likely physically indistinguishable from the last coin that leaves the Mint’s presses.
It is this difference of opinion that ignites our hobby. Ultimately, it is up to us individually as collectors to determine value. If multiple collectors are willing to pay a premium for a given item, that makes it collectible. Now, does the current market’s high prices for first-day coins have lasting value or is it a passing fad? That’s a question that only time can decide.
Collecting tastes change as do aesthetics. The pendulum swings between originally toned Morgan silver dollars and bright white coins just as it does between lightly circulated, “crusty” original U.S. gold coins and shiny examples.
In short, collect what you like. Learn about it. Seek out the best and have fun with your collecting. Life is simply too short to buy coins you don’t love.
The ANA show is always a blur of excitement; people to meet, coins to see. Although, by the end of the week, I honestly don’t want to see a coin for a few days. Thankfully, that wears off quickly and as I write this on Monday, August 11, we’re busy preparing our September Coin World monthly edition.
Of course, the key story of the ANA show was the gold Kennedy half dollar and it has raised an interesting dialogue in our hobby, specifically on the respective and connected roles of dealers, the American Numismatic Association, the U.S. Mint and grading services in managing launches of new Mint products in a way that benefits the hobby.
Ultimately, it’s up for debate whether the launch of the gold Kennedy half dollar was a boon for the ANA show. From some perspectives, it energized the market, while others think that it sucked all of the air out of the show.
Thursday, August 7, was more subdued as the Mint canceled its gold Kennedy half dollar coin sales. That evening, Coin World was honored to receive multiple honors from the Numismatic Literary Guild, including best magazine. Our own Jeff Starck entertained the attendees at the organization’s “bash” with several original songs!
On Friday, August 8, at the ANA banquet, the organization’s lifetime achievement recipient Gene Hessler had what was perhaps the line of the night. The lifelong musician said, “A gentleman is a man who knows how to play the accordion … but doesn’t.” I don’t recall the context, but it was a fantastic bit of levity in a night of speeches, including one that went beyond the 10-minute mark.
Saturday, August 9, started bright and early with the ANA Board’s open session meeting where past President John Wilson can always be counted on to provide a comprehensive resolution thanking the many entities that make a major show like the ANA’s World’s Fair of Money possible. The public attendance on Saturday didn’t seem to reach the level of previous years, although more dealers maintained a meaningful presence at their tables on the final day of the show.
Ultimately, the best part of the ANA show is getting to meet our readers and hearing what they like, and occasionally don’t like, about our publications. Now this week will be spent sorting out from hundreds of conversations the stories that will appear in the pages of Coin World and online at our website.
Thank you for joining me this week, and perhaps I’ll see you at next year’s ANA show in Rosemont, Ill., Aug. 11 to 15, 2015.
The following blog post is pulled from Steve Roach's editorial in the Aug. 25, 2014, issue
As I’ve spent the week at the American Numismatic Association’s annual summer convention in suburban Chicago, I’ve had a first row seat to see the U.S. Mint’s launch of the 2014-W Kennedy gold half dollar. It’s exciting to see the interest that the launch of this coin has created. However, at the same time it’s troubling.
The majority of people who have been waiting outside of the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont are not collectors looking to add a coin to their collection. Instead, they are either being paid by someone to wait in line or are looking to flip their coin at the show for a fast profit.
In conversations I’ve had with people while they were waiting in line, many weren’t even clear what they were buying. They were simply bodies that would receive money to purchase something for someone else, make $400 to $600 for waiting in line, and then after lunch go back in line again.
An ABC station in Denver broadcast an interview with a man named Demarko Anderson who said he was paid $600 to purchase a coin at the Mint’s retail space in Denver. He said, “Basically, they’re giving away … basically … free money.”
While it brings bodies in the door of a coin show, are these people going to become coin collectors? Are they going to look at coins as any more than a way to make a fast buck?
It’s not a good look for coin dealers and the rare coin industry.
The first six coins were quickly certified by Professional Coin Grading Service with special labels indicating that they were among the first coins sold at the ANA show. Of course, these coins are physically indistinguishable from other 2014-W Kennedy gold half dollars and the Mint has made clear that the quality of coins will not differ throughout the production run. The Mint also has the capacity to strike more than 100,000 of these coins and plans to have 75,000 available by Oct. 1, 2014.
The first four coins were sold at effectively the $6,240 level per coin (since each of the first four people in line who purchased the coins from the Mint were given $5,000 and a replacement gold Kennedy half dollar with a sale price of $1,240). Other coins from the first day of the ANA show have sold at more than the $3,000 level in transactions on the ANA’s bourse floor.
The Mint expects to launch more products at the ANA’s summer show in the coming years and will learn from this launch. As Tom Jurkowsky, the Mint’s director of Corporate Communications, told Coin World on Aug. 7, “we’re a victim of our own success.”
By 10 p.m. on the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 6, there were already more than 500 people waiting in line for the next day’s sales. On Aug. 7, the Mint and the ANA jointly announced that sales of the gold Kennedy half dollars in Rosemont were suspended for the last two days of the show, Aug. 8 and 9.
Of course, with the Mint’s allocation of 500 coins per day at the ANA show now cut short by 1,000 coins as the Mint won’t be distributing them on Friday or Saturday, this now only puts increased demand on the first 1,500 that were sold at the show.
One hopes that going forward the U.S. Mint works with the ANA, dealers, collectors and grading services to orchestrate new releases at major coin shows that will put positive attention on our hobby and avoid the uncontrolled speculation that marred this release. A successful release of a popular new issue could introduce new people to our hobby and allow collectors a chance to add an example to their collection without giving up a day at the coin show (and a night’s sleep), or paying steep premiums in the secondary market.
The general excitement over the Mint's new gold Kennedy half dollars shows little sign of slowing down. During the day on Wednesday, August 6, lines were as long as ever. By the time I returned to my hotel at around 10 p.m. from a reception hosted by the Austrian Mint celebrating the 25th anniversary of its Vienna Philharmonic bullion coin program, the line of people outside of the convention center likely exceeded the 500 coins that the Mint allocated to distribute at the show the following day.
Immediately after I send this to our news editor Bill Gibbs to polish, proof and post (on Thursday), I'm heading with our senior editor Paul Gilkes to discuss the gold Kennedy half dollar and many other issues affecting coin collectors with Dick Peterson, deputy director of the U.S. Mint. It's always a fascinating conversation.
As far as the ANA show goes, Wednesday felt a bit lighter in terms of traffic than Tuesday, August 5 (the show's opening day). I started the day by judging exhibits. As I entered the hobby as a young numismatist and participated actively in the ANA's exhibit program, it's always a privilege to help, and the quality of displays in terms of both presentation level and material seems to increase every year.
Because of the mainstream media picking up on the gold Kennedy half dollar story, I did several radio interviews with stations across the country during the day in between visiting with collectors and Coin World readers at our booth on the ANA bourse floor. In the afternoon I participated in the ANA's live broadcast of "The Coin Show," a radio show hosted by Mike Nottelmann. I had the pleasure of following my predecessor at Coin World, Beth Deisher. The second edition of her book Cash in Your Coinscomes out soon, with expanded information and more images.
Off to the Mint! I'm certain that it will inform what I'll be writing tonight for the editorial that will appear in the August 25 issue of Coin World.
This morning I woke up way too early to the sound of police whistles directing people waiting outside of Rosemont’s convention center where the ANA show is held. People got in line at 11pm on Monday — braving a thunderstorm — for the opportunity to buy one of the Mint’s new gold Kennedy half dollars.
Coin World writers Paul Gilkes and Joe O’Donnell both provided fine reports on the frenzy in nearly real-time, posted at coinworld.com:
Those first four people who braved the elements for the front spot in line? Well, they sold their coins for $5,000 each and got a replacement gold Kennedy half dollar for their efforts. Would you spend the night outside to make around $400 an hour?
To the U.S. Mint and the ANA’s credit, considering the rather unexpected turnout, it was a very smooth process. No fights broke out. Security was tight. People were polite and generally, excited for the opportunity to either add a coin to their collection or make some easy money.
To see so many people standing outside at a coin show was certainly invigorating but by noon — after the frenzy died down — the ANA’s registration area was calm and only a handful of people were outside of the convention hall.
I can’t help but wonder if anyone in the line will be more inclined to collect coins after this. By most reports, and confirmed by my own observations and conversations, it seemed that most people in line weren’t collectors but were rather hired to wait and purchase coins on behalf of others.
What does the market have in store for these coins, which are likely going to be no different than gold Kennedy half dollars that are shipped later this month, or the ones shipped in September?
In many ways it helps bring attention to the ANA show and the hobby generally, but is this type of easy money the kind of attention that our hobby really needs?
But, thankfully the ANA provides too many pleasant distractions to keep me from dwelling on this too much. Another great part of the ANA is getting to meet so many of our readers. While I have a fairly full schedule, I try to be at the booth as much as possible and connect with collectors and those in the hobby. Tonight’s the ANA’s kick-off event , “Oktoberfest in August” where I’ll be able to ask dozens of people in the hobby what they think of today’s gold Kennedy half dollar launch.
This year at the ANA show (more formally known as the American Numismatic Association World's Fair of Money), I'm here for the entire week. It's a bit of a marathon, but one that I'm happy to tackle each year. While the official show is August 5 to 9, there's a pre-show several days before the main ANA show.
This blog is the first of a series which will take you along with me during my week at the ANA show. This year at the ANA show (more formally known as the American Numismatic Association World's Fair of Money), I'm here for the entire week. It's a bit of a marathon, but one that I'm happy to tackle each year. While the official show is August 5 to 9, there's a pre-show several days before the main ANA show. This blog is the first of a series which will take you along with me during my week at the ANA show.
For me, Monday (August 4) is my first full day at the show. It's primarily dealer set-up day, so I often take advantage of the lot viewing offered by the show's auctions — this year Stack's Bowers Galleries and Heritage Auctions are co-official auctioneers — to look at coins and sharpen my eye. It's a chance to get "up close and personal," so to speak, with many of the rare coins that we've previewed in the months before the ANA show. It also provides a lot of ideas for future Market Analysis columns and stories, allowing me to go beyond the published description and I'm able to make connections and in tandem with the prices realized, identify trends in the marketplace.
As I tell students when I teach coin grading, the best way to understand how to grade coins is to look at thousands of them and the ANA auctions provide an excellent opportunity for that. I started the morning by looking at Heritage's Platinum Night offerings (that auction is Thursday, August 7) and then moved to its more general U.S. offerings (which start on Tuesday, August 5). That afternoon I moved to Stack's Bowers Rarities Night lots, which will be sold Wednesday, August 6.
Admittedly, it's a bit numbing, and I have tremendous respect for dealers who can sit and look at coins for hours on end.
There's something incredibly exciting about holding million dollar rarities like one of two 1861 Paquet reverse $20 Coronet double eagles or an 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar.
I checked out the new Coin World booth, which looks fantastic, and took note of the huge amusement park style partitions that have been erected outside of the ANA convention hall to (hopefully) contain the crowds that are anticipated for the launch of the new dual-dated 2014-W gold Kennedy half dollar on Tuesday, August 5. The launch will keep all of us busy tomorrow and looking forward to sharing it with our readers.
Tonight's the Professional Numismatists Guild dinner which is always a pleasant evening where dealers are recognized for their contributions to the hobby. It's a reminder that without dealers, there wouldn't be an ANA show.
American Numismatic Association: With the ANA’s flagship convention held in Rosemont, Ill., over multiple years, each installment needs a new angle to attract mainstream media attention and reach attendees outside of the hobby. The ANA benefits with a high-profile launch, and the strict ordering limits of one coin per person, per day, will result in long lines that will make for great photo ops.
The U.S. Mint: The Mint is likely the most obvious beneficiary of a successful coin launch, standing to profit from the sale of the coin and the increased awareness that a popular new coin brings to the rest of its products.
Grading services: Major grading services will be flooded with coins submitted for special labels commemorating the coin’s first day of issue, more labels recognizing coins purchased at the ANA show, and then the usual “Early Release” and “First Strike” labels for coins submitted during the first month.
Coin dealers: Coin dealers are clear beneficiaries as the special grading service labels create a product that goes beyond the coin itself that can command premiums in the marketplace. Due to ordering limits, many impatient collectors will likely turn to dealers rather than the U.S. Mint to purchase a coin for their collection.
Coin collectors who want to keep their coin: Coin collectors benefit by a well-timed fall in the price of gold that led the U.S. Mint to price the coin at $1,240 based on its pricing chart, which looks at the average price of gold for the prior week. If gold had an average price above $1,300 during the period, the opening issue price would have been a less elegant and more expensive $1,277.50.
Coin collectors who want to sell their coin: Much like the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative program earlier this year, those who are quick to buy one in person at one of the Mint’s retail facilities or at the ANA show early in the ordering cycle may likely be able to resell their coins quickly for a fast profit (which, Coin World hopes, will stay in the hobby!). Strict ordering limits and the Mint’s sales strategy of releasing just 500 coins per day at the ANA show will prevent dealers from getting large quantities for retail, placing greater demand on coins.
The coins will be struck to demand, with no mintage limits, and the Mint has said that it has 40,000 coins ready to ship as I write this. Still, we’ll be watching the building mintage closely and comparing it to a similar recent product: the 2009 Ultra High Relief gold $20 piece, which saw an eventual sales figure of 115,178, with coins trading at roughly twice the initial issue price.
As our news editor William T. Gibbs addressed in his June 30 editorial, the Mint’s authority to produce a gold half dollar is a bit fuzzy. For example, the Mint was not allowed to sell gold versions of the 2000 Sacagawea dollar to the public, as Congress stated that Mint officials lacked constitutional authority to issue the dollar coin in gold.
There’s also the somewhat odd selection of 1964, which represents the 50th year of the Kennedy half dollar program, resulting in what is essentially a coin honoring a coin.
But, these types of issues add to the gold half dollar’s story and make the coin more interesting, which should provide fodder for researchers and writers in the coming decades. In an era of rapid proliferation of U.S. Mint products, one-off special issues like the gold Kennedy half dollar may need to stand out to be remembered at all.
The two firms competed aggressively against one another to fill their auctions.
While they likely stressed their differences to potential consignors, their resulting auctions have some things in common. Each firm has a rarity or two that will bring more than $1 million, each firm has at least four separate catalogs, and each firm is unleashing tens of millions of dollars of rare coins and paper money into the marketplace during the ANA week.
The enormity of the catalogs when together (this doesn’t even include Heritage’s paper money auction, which we haven’t received yet) is staggering. The catalogs received by July 24 totaled almost 15 pounds!
Then there’s what is inside those publications.
Page after page after page of coin photos, stories of collectors past and present, and research new and old to describe the lots and make them appealing to consumers (and to make the auction house’s work evident to consignors!).
Some coins are fresh to market; others are old friends that have seen the auction block multiple times over the last decade.
A friend saw a few of the catalogs on my dining room table at home and asked, “Who buys all of this stuff?”
It’s a good question, especially considering the sheer number of lots — approaching 10,000 between the two firms — that will be coming to market all at once.
The ANA show, in Rosemont, Ill., this year Aug. 5 to 9, is an exciting time for the rare coin market and the auction lots offered have been previewed for months in the pages of Coin World, while recaps will be found in our issues in the weeks post-ANA.
What’s great for collectors is the democratization of information available today. Both auction firms make their catalogs easily accessible online at their respective websites, with tools to help collectors make smart bids.
Every little bit of help is needed when trying to sort through this many lots, and while some coins will likely return to market quickly, others may go into collections and escape the market’s grasp for generations. The “once-in-a-lifetime” possibility is one of the things that make major auctions like the ANA sales so exciting.
Our hobby is filled with many people who work behind the scenes, keeping the coin collecting hobby vibrant and the rare coin industry running smoothly.
Their contributions aren’t visible to collectors, but their work is essential.
Debbie Rexing was one of those people. She passed away on June 19, and with her passing, the hobby loses one of its most wonderful individuals.
She was just 52 years old and leaves behind three children she loved very much.
I had the pleasure of knowing Debbie for more than 15 years; she was in the marketing department when I spent summers working at Heritage as a teenager. She rose to vice president of Sales and Marketing.
Her professional competence in keeping Heritage’s massive auction machine running was well-known, but she also brought a caring, personal element to every person she came in contact with. She remembered details, she cared about people, and she brought a tremendous amount of joy to those around her.
Her friend Brenda Wyen put it perfectly when she said to me, “It is difficult to put Debbie into words. It is rare to find a person who has so many wonderful attributes.”
Major coin shows, and our hobby won’t be the same without Debbie, with her laugh and seemingly ever-present smile.
I recently received a mailing from an art dealer in New York City specializing in 19th and 20th century American paintings.
The message was simple. It asked, “Why is the combined value of a coke bottle, a car crash, and a balloon dog worth more than the total value of every American 19th- and 20th-century painting sold at auction in the last three years?”
It answered, “Because it’s no longer good enough to just keep up with the Joneses. Why not buy what you love — seek rational values.”
The mailing cheekily refers to eight-figure works of art by Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons that have sold at auction recently, and pokes some fun at the meteoric rise of the top of the contemporary art market over the past few years.
It was especially appropriate in the wake of mid-May’s Contemporary and Modern painting auctions in New York City, which brought more than $1.5 billion and included nearly 20 works that sold for more than $20 million each.
Christie’s Brett Gorvy had promised before the auctions that the sales would resemble “gladiator sport at the highest level.”
Rational values is something that a market loses when the heat is turned up, as it is with the contemporary art market.
In contrast, in a decade, how will the prices achieved for the various coins and tokens in the various Eric P. Newman auctions be considered?
The top coins at these sales have rested at the $1 million to $2 million level and even the top rarities in American numismatics like 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent pieces and 1804 Draped Bust silver dollars trade at the $2 million to $4 million level at auction.
The art dealer’s directive: “buy what you love — seek rational values” seems especially fitting in today’s market where the number of old collections coming to market dwindles each year.
Coins from old collections like Newman’s may seem pricey now, but history has a tendency to reward quality and rarity with price appreciation.
A great coin collection isn’t likely going to help you keep up with the Joneses (unless they’re coin collectors), but when compared with other markets, even expensive coins seem to provide rational values at their current price levels.
best parts of my job as editor-in-chief of Coin
World is being able to better connect our readers with the coin collecting
hobby. This requires me to get out of the office and travel, usually on
any work travel, sometimes it’s a bit tedious, but more often than not it’s a
pleasure. Such was the case when I visited the Central Ohio Numismatic Association and
with the coordination of club president Stephen Petty, and with co-instructor
Tony Cass, led two grading seminars on a gorgeous Saturday morning.
best coin events are like reunions with friends. Tony and I met when I was
grading part-time at ANACS when it was headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, a suburb
of Columbus. At ANACS I also met Eric Justice, who attended the seminar along
with two of his sons.
was the second time the course was offered by the club. The class is an abbreviated
version of the Introduction to Coin Grading class that I help teach every few
years at the American Numismatic Association
Summer Seminar in Colorado Springs, Colo.
the ANA Summer Seminar, where students have the better part of a week to absorb
grading, a coin club course is substantially shorter at just few hours. Tony
and I pass out a box of 20, or so, coins and ask students to look at them, make
notes on what makes them interesting, and assign them a market grade.
a break, we discuss the coins and use the individual coins to describe market grading,
which takes into account wear, eye appeal and other intangible factors.
the stumpers in the class was a 1935 Connecticut Tercentenary commemorative
half dollar with thick, rich original toning that approximates the color of
algae. The grade: Numismatic Guaranty Corp. Mint State 67 with a green
Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker indicating quality within the grade. It
wasn’t a popular coin with the class, with students being thrown both by the
weird color and the general unfamiliarity with the commemorative issue. However,
since it was recently given a green CAC sticker, I had some confidence that the
coin didn’t “turn” in the slab.
each of these seminars, I’d likely say that I learn just as much (if not more
than) the students and it’s great to connect with Coin World’s readers.