US Coins

Understanding today’s retail rare coin market

A PCGS MS-70 Prooflike 2015-W American Liberty, High Relief gold coin with both a First Strike label and a label signed by former Mint Director Edmund Moy brought $13,310 at an Aug. 30 GreatCollections online auction.

Images courtesy of GreatCollections.

It’s often said that today’s coin market has two tiers: the best, and then the rest.

The success of Stack’s Bowers and Sotheby’s Sept. 30 auction of the D. Brent Pogue Collection where 105 coins sold for more than $26 million showed that collectors are still buying the best in force. Most of the coins were purchased directly by collectors or through dealer intermediaries buying on behalf of collectors, rather than by dealers looking to buy for inventory.

Like in the first Pogue auction earlier this year, few of these coins will likely return to market quickly as they were placed in strong collector hands. 

The retail prices for coins in the Pogue sale don’t usually correspond to printed price guides because of the uniqueness of the coins and their nearly uniformly high quality for the grades. There are coins in the collection that likely couldn’t be found anywhere else, for any price. 

Take an 1804 Capped Bust gold $5 half eagle, Normal 8 Over Large 8 variety, graded Mint State 64 by Professional Coin Grading Service that sold for $94,000. It’s a rare coin in this grade, but the Pogue example was special. It has a unique look, described in the Pogue catalog as, “One of the most beautiful early half eagles extant, this specimen is without a doubt the most colorful, rich with deep magenta and coppery tones on the right side of the obverse, framed with orange and translucent ice blue on both sides that embrace deepest golden yellow fields.” 

Called, “A spectacle and a prize,” it last traded at auction in 2004 at American Numismatic Rarities’ sale of the Oliver Jung Collection where it brought $48,300. 

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New owners for the Greysheet

Dealers and collectors alike are curious as to what direction The Coin Dealer Newsletter (the Greysheet) and its related publications that track the wholesale markets will take under the new ownership of John Feigenbaum and his partners. In the Sept. 11 Greysheet, Feigenbaum wrote that the new owners won’t rush into changes, but will move pricing more in line with auction results and marketplace.

For the Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter (the Bluesheet), the publishers are now reporting on the sight unseen market not at the “lowest of the low” price, but rather “a reliable price for which average quality PCGS & NGC [Numismatic Guaranty Corp.] coins have traded recently.” 

Like it or not, auctions are now a primary way that collectors buy coins, and as Coin World’s Coin Values prices the retail market, Greysheet tracks the wholesale market, and we both look to auctions as a factor that informs our pricing.

Few if any of the Pogue coins will sell at levels near the Greysheet. That is fine, because these are not coins that are traded at the wholesale level. They are sold directly to collectors. Most Pogue results will even surpass Coin World’s Coin Values, which provides retail prices for coins that are solid for the grade, but not necessarily the finest-possible examples within a given grade.  

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