US Coins

Auction firms compete to fill Denver ANA auctions

Stack’s Bowers Galleries announced in May that it would offer the MS-64 Lord St. Oswald-Norweb 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar at its Denver ANA auction.

Images courtesy of Stack’s Bowers and public domain.

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 consignment deadlines. 

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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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 for consignors. 

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. 

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