The rare coin market started 2012 with a bang as auctions associated with the Jan. 5 to 8 Florida United Numismatists convention in Orlando and the New York International Numismatic Convention held the same week realized together more than $130 million.
The FUN convention and NYINC attract different sets of collectors and dealers. The FUN show’s focus is primarily on United States material while the NYINC takes a more global perspective, offering coins and attracting collectors and dealers from around the world.
Nearly 11,000 people attended the FUN show this year, and although the NYINC attracted fewer people with 1,636 public attendees, the auctions associated with both shows brought similar totals. The NYINC auctions realized more than $65 million while the Heritage FUN U.S. coin and paper money auctions brought nearly the same amount, exceeding $64 million.
The expectations for the various auctions were high, perhaps too much so. Prior to its sales, Heritage Auctions estimated that its FUN and NYINC auctions might realize more than $80 million while NYINC chair Kevin Foley said that there was a chance that the various auctions at NYINC might bring more than $100 million. While those lofty expectations went unmet, the total of $130 million is still impressive as it confirms the strength of the market for nearly all types of coins, ancient to modern, from around the world.
A robust U.S. market
Leading the Heritage auctions were two lots that each brought $1.38 million: a 1793 Flowing Hair, Chain, Periods cent, graded Mint State 65 brown and an 1829 Capped Head, Large Date gold $5 half eagle, graded Proof 64.
The 1793 Flowing Hair, Chain cent set a record in Orlando as the most expensive cent sold at auction, surpassing a record that the same coin had set in 2004 when it realized $391,000 at an American Numismatic Rarities auction. This example lost its record status, albeit it briefly, in 2009 when the finest known 1795 Liberty Cap Reeded Edge cent sold for $1.265 million at the sale of the Dan Holmes Collection of large cents.
The Chain cent was a one-year type (it was struck for only about a month) and has historically been one of the most desirable type coins for collectors. The record-setting Chain cent traced its ownership back to the Civil War, and its first owner of record was Joseph Zanoni, a Cincinnati collector who issued tokens during the Civil War advertising his ice cream shop. It later was in the Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. Collection, which is considered the only complete collection of U.S. coins ever assembled.
The 1829 Capped Head $5 half eagle also had a storied history that went back to the mid-19th century and the catalog noted that it was the only certified Proof example of the entire type. For nearly a century the coin resided in Baltimore’s Garrett collection, being purchased by T. Harrison Garrett in 1883 from W. Elliot Woodward and staying in the family’s collection through its transfer to Johns Hopkins University after John Work Garrett’s death in 1942. The legendary Garrett Collection was sold at auction in November 1979, where this coin was described as being in Mint State condition, with the description acknowledging that it was possibly a presentation piece.
The coin Heritage anticipated to lead its Platinum Night sale — a 1921 Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagle graded Mint State 66 — was expected to be a million dollar coin as a comparable example realized $1,092,500 at a 2005 auction. However, the bidding stalled at $747,500. The coin was part of Dr. and Mrs. Steven L. Duckor’s collection of Saint-Gaudens double eagles, which realized $5.68 million in total. Of the 52 coins in the Duckor offering — 33 coins set or tied record prices for their date and grade, according to Heritage.