US Coins

$94,000 Key 1909-S Lincoln, sells: Market Analysis

Key dates in top grades continue to perform well at auction. This 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent graded MS-67 red CAC sold for $94,000 at Heritage’s Jan. 7 FUN Platinum Night auction.

Original images courtesy of Heritage Auctions

The Professional Numismatists Guild issued its annual review of the rare U.S. coin market and estimated the size of the market between $4.5 billion and $5 billion. The Jan. 11 report cited the aggregate prices realized for U.S. coins sold at major public auctions in 2015 as $439,623,237, compared to $536 million in 2014 and $393 million in 2013.

Within the 2015 auction totals are 17 coins that brought more than $1 million at auction, five more than the dozen that passed the $1 million mark in 2014. Further, two auction companies surpassed $100 million in auctions of U.S. coins: Heritage Auctions at $254,097,887 and Stack’s Bowers Galleries at $104,991,259.

The top lot at auction in 2015? The Pogue Collection’s 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar graded Mint State 66+ by Professional Coin Grading Service that brought $4,933,750 at Stack’s Bowers Galleries and Sotheby’s joint auction on Sept. 30, 2015.

Beyond the six- and seven-figure coins are the tens of thousands of more regular coins that trade hands each year. Heritage’s various U.S. coin auctions held before, during and after the Florida United Numismatists convention in Tampa between Jan. 6 and 11 are approaching $35 million as of Jan. 12 with the top lot being the finest known 1894-S Barber dime graded PCGS Proof 66 with a Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker that sold for just under $2 million. Beyond that rare dime, there were many other standouts that showed the market’s strength beyond the very top lots.

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A PCGS MS-67 red 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent sold for $94,000 amid strong bidding. The 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent is a key coin in assessing a market. It is scarce, but widely available in nearly all grades. In well-circulated grades its often a collector’s first big purchase, and in top-grades auction results can be used to assess the strength of a market. The top example offered at the FUN auction was described as “virtually perfect in both strike and quality” and is tied with a dozen other examples as the finest certified at PCGS.

To show the difference between the best and the rest, the lot before was a 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent graded PCGS MS-66+ red CAC. As Heritage observed, “It falls into the ‘virtually MS67 without the money’ camp” and it sold for less than a third of its MS-67 red counterpart, bringing $30,550.

Before that, another 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent graded PCGS MS-66+ red without a CAC sticker sold for $14,100, providing an extreme example of how in today’s market, tiny variations in quality can mean huge jumps in price for a coin.

The least expensive of the dozens of 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cents at the FUN auctions was graded Fine Details, Cleaned, by PCGS and sold for $540.50. A solid PCGS About Uncirculated 53 example with nice chocolate brown surfaces sold for $881.25 while a lovely PCGS MS-64 red and brown with a green CAC sticker, with a particularly red obverse, sold for $1,938.75

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