Is a smaller coin market in 2016 something to be worried about?

?How concerned should those of us in the rare coin market be about market statistics released this year?  
As we report on Page 1 this week, the Profes­sional Numismatists Guild’s annual market survey of major auction firms suggests auction results and direct sales in 2016 totaled more than $4 billion, not counting bullion coin sales nor sales by the U.S. Mint (more on those later).

Of that figure, the aggregate prices realized for U.S. coins sold at major public auctions in 2016 totaled $341,815,542. While that auction total is a sizeable sum, the 2016 figure is below totals for other recent years in similar PNG surveys. Totals were $439 million in 2015; $536 million in 2014; and $393 million in 2013.

However, some factors need to be consider­ed. For example, while the market witnessed two auctions from the D. Brent Pogue Collect­ion in 2016, the third auction (held in February 2016) lacked the seven-figure rarities that were highlights of the first two auctions (both held in 2015), and the fourth sale (May 2016) saw its two stars fail to meet reserves. The $51.4 million realized for the 2015 Pogue auctions was well above the $33.8 million realized for the two 2016 sales. Also, 2016 lacked any installments from another major collection that started to hit the auction circuit in 2015 — that of collector Donald G. Partrick. In January 2015, the first of what was planned as four auctions from the Partrick Collection realized $25.93 million. The second planned sale for 2015 and both 2016 auctions, however, were canceled after the collector decided to hang on to his prized holdings longer. And, 2016 lacked any major offerings from the collection of Eric P. Newman, whose collection made headlines in 2013, 2014, and 2015, and realized tens of millions of dollars.

The PNG’s report on the market in 2016 followed the October release of sales data for recent years by the U.S. Mint. The Mint, too, has experienced a drop-off in sales, since late in the first decade of the 21st century. Much of the Mint’s sales decline can be attributed to its aging customer base of mostly white men, and to the lack of a program as popular as the State quarter dollars series of 1999 to 2008. The Mint also experienced a decline in sales of its American Eagle silver bullion coin in 2016, to their lowest levels since 2012. However, gold sales were up in 2016, a bright spot.

The PNG survey of the coin market in the United States in 2016 is only sobering if you expect every year to be bigger and better than the last. As noted in the PNG article, the coin market ebbs and flows in a cycle, with periods of market increases and decreases. While certainly hobby and market leaders need to be concerned about the demographics of the collector base, we should all avoid reading too much into this year’s market figures.