Eugene Gardner’s decision to sell his varied collections over a
series of Heritage auctions starting in 2014, rather than in one large
auction, serves several purposes.
First, collectors and dealers can stretch out their bidding over the
course of multiple auctions rather than having to use all of their
funds in a single auction. This is especially useful in a crowded
auction landscape that includes Heritage’s multiple auctions of St.
Louis numismatist Eric P. Newman’s holdings and the already crowded
2015 auction calendar that is peppered with several great collections
slated to come to market.
Second, the strategy provides useful fodder for market analysis as
the sales have the collector’s groups of early U.S. silver coins,
Barber coins and Seated Liberty material spread out fairly evenly.
Gardner purchased around two-thirds of his coins via public auction,
which is useful when considering the performance of Gardner’s
collection, because unlike with private sales, prices realized at
auction are public record.
An analysis of the first two Heritage auctions of Gardner’s coins
shows that many went up in value, a few went down, and some went
unchanged in their trips to the auction block. But what to make of the
coins that went down?
One thing is clear: When evaluating the performance of a collection,
it’s important to look at the performance of the whole. For the
Gardner Collection, a fair assessment can be made only once all four
of the scheduled sales take place.
Take Gardner’s 1839 Seated Liberty, With Drapery half dollar, graded
Proof 64. It’s likely unique and came from another great
collection: that owned by John Jay Pittman.
It also has everything that the market demands right now: great
condition, solid provenance and rarity.
It brought $132,000 at David Akers’ 1998 sale of Pittman’s
collection, then sold for $184,000 as part of Heritage’s 2008 auction
of the collection owned by Phil Kaufman. The same half dollar sold
again at auction in 2013 where it brought $141,000.
The price in Gardner’s 2014 sale? $98,875.
Prices for other coins in Gardner’s collection have improved
tremendously from their previous offerings.
For example, an 1802 Draped Bust half dime graded About Uncirculated
50 sold at a 2009 Heritage auction for $195,500 (then graded
Professional Coin Grading Service Extremely Fine 45). At the first
Gardner auction on June 23, 2014, the piece (upgraded to PCGS About
Uncirculated 50) sold for a strong $352,500, that price serving as a
testament to the quality and rarity of the piece.
A single auction result is indicative of just that: a single coin at
a single auction.
A collection’s success at auction needs to be looked at as a whole,
because at auction, anything can happen with a single lot. Success is
best measured by how well a collection does in total.
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