US Coins

Market Analysis: COVID-19 making bidders go online even more to buy

As the COVID-19 pandemic leads to coin show cancellations and relocated auctions, many collectors are led to discover online auctions, which are well-suited to social distancing. In response to demand, the two largest numismatic auctioneers, Heritage Auctions and Stack’s Bowers Galleries, are placing more online-only auctions in their calendars.

Understanding pricing is key to succeeding in an online auction environment where one bid increment can make all the difference.

Two gold coins from the 1920s offered in a Heritage March 15 month-long online auction of Certified Acceptance Corp. stickered coins illustrate how the market responds to quality and rarity.

One, a 1922 Saint-Gaudens $20 double eagle, is not a rare coin. It has a mintage of 1,375,500 and Professional Coin Grading Service has graded 10,026 in MS-64, 275 in MS-64+, 1,593 in MS-65 and just 59 finer. The issue is considered a condition rarity, in that, while it trades near bullion prices even in lower Mint State grades, price and demand soars as one reaches the top grades.

Gold markets closed March 13 at $1,562.80 an ounce, and a typical MS-64 example of the 1922 double eagle might sell for $1,800. An average MS-65 example might bring around $3,000, while a top-level MS-65 piece with a green CAC sticker brought $7,200 at a March 20 Stack’s Bowers auction. Heritage’s handsome MS-64+ coin with a green CAC sticker, as close to MS-65 as one gets and with nicer eye appeal than many in higher grades, sold for $3,360, in recognition of the quality within the MS-64+ grade.

Likewise, another March 15 offering, a 1925-D Indian Head gold $2.50 quarter eagle is not rare, though it sees a solid jump in price from MS-64, where PCGS has graded 2,729, to the 204 in MS-64+ and the 692 in MS-65. The increase in relative rarity is similar to other late issues in the series, and it gets a bit of a boost from collectors as the final Mint marked issue in the series.

With solid MS-64 examples trading at $550 in mid-March, and nice MS-64+ pieces at the $700 level, one can really see the CAC-sticker price jump in MS-65. Heritage’s September 2019 Long Beach Expo auction sold two PCGS MS-65 examples: one with a CAC sticker brought $3,000, while one without realized $1,920.

Unlike the 1922 double eagle, where the March 15 Heritage auction result for the stickered MS-64+ coin was unpredictable based on grade jumps, the March 15 result of $1,080 for the CAC-stickered MS-64+ quarter eagle is easier to understand, in that it is worth significantly more than an average MS-64+ piece, but still less than an MS-65 example.

These examples show the strain on the one-size-fits-all nature of price guide. Recent auction records provide another input that can help you make smart decisions when figuring your bids for online auctions.

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