US Coins

Finding opportunity in today’s rare coin market: Market Analysis

Prices within in a series can drop when several collectors finish their sets, reducing competition. This MS-67+ 1907-D Barber half dollar sold for $53,187.50 in 2009 and brought $25,850 this past October.

Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Where can collectors find value in today’s rare coin market? A good start is to look at areas where prices at auction are going down for nice coins. 

Take Barber half dollars, for instance. It’s a series with no great rarities in lower grades, but even common examples can be challenging to find in Mint State 65. In her September 26 Market Report, Legend Numismatics co-founder Laura Sperber wrote that no one in the marketplace is currently building a top-level collection of Barber half dollars. 

In the past five years, multiple top-quality sets have come to market including the Eugene Gardner Collection, along with the Price and Duckor sales. Heritage will offer another key set at its 2016 Florida United Numismatists auction in early January when it sells the Dr. and Mrs. Peter K. Shireman Collection, which is currently the top ranked Professional Coin Grading Service Registry Set of Mint State Barber half dollars. 

Presumably, these sellers aren’t putting together new collections, so the competition that has characterized this particular market in the past decade has diminished. 

The result of this is that prices have declined sharply at the top of the market, creating value for potential buyers with an eye for a long-term holding period. 

As Sperber wrote: “You don’t have to pressure yourself and build a set. Just go out and buy the neatest coins available. How cool is it to own a choice or GEM coin from the 1800’s?” 

At Heritage’s Oct. 29 U.S. coin auction in New York City, the firm offered the Greensboro Collection of Barber half dollars and there were some values to be had. A 1907-D Barber half dollar graded Mint State 67+ by PCGS with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker noting quality for the grade sold for $25,850. 

It is the finest graded by PCGS and was in both the Steven Duckor and Dale Friend collections. Heritage points out the velocity of Barber half dollars trading in the marketplace recently, observing that all three of the PCGS MS-67 coins have traded at Heritage auctions at least twice and that, while the current example was last sold at Heritage’s August 2010 sale of the Duckor collection for $29,990, it has consistently outperformed the other two PCGS MS-67 examples at auction. 

It realized $53,187.50 at Heritage’s 2009 auction of the Dale Friend Collection, representing the height of the market for this issue when multiple buyers were competing to complete sets. 

An 1895-O Barber half dollar graded PCGS MS-67 with CAC sticker offered a similar pricing history, selling for $25,850 at Heritage’s Oct. 29 auction, after trading for $32,900 at Heritage’s Gardner I auction on June 23, 2014, and having reached a high point at Heritage’s 2010 Duckor Collection auction where it sold for $51,750. 

Depending on one’s perspective, the series today could offer solid value. 

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