Log in to post
Steve Roach

The Art of Collecting

Steve Roach

Steve Roach, Coin World’s editor-at-large, has been deeply involved with numismatics for more than 20 years, starting as a young coin collector in Michigan. Two years spent as a coin grader, nearly three years at a major coin wholesaler and a stint as a paintings specialist at an international auction house have given Steve a rich understanding of the hobby, its market and the unique personalities and exceptional objects that make collecting meaningful. He joined Coin World in 2006 as a columnist, and has served as associate editor and editor-in-chief. He received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Michigan, a juris doctorate from the Ohio State University and is a Certified Member of the International Society of Appraisers.

Visit one of our other blogs:

Archive for 'August 2014'

    Collecting what's timeless

    August 22, 2014 11:37 AM by

    Which of today’s coins will hold their value over time? In light of the media coverage from both within and outside of our hobby on the release of the gold 2014-W Kennedy half dollar, it’s a relevant question to ask.

    As I write in our new investment column, conveniently titled “The Investment Column,” quality, rarity and desirability are three core values at the center of successful rare coin investment for lasting value. The same was true a century ago and the same will be likely be true hundreds of years from now.

    Much of what passes for investment today is mere speculation, but, over time, collectors who have stayed true to their interests and have built a depth of experience and knowledge in a given area have built collections that stand the test of time (and often reap large profits once sold).

    Consider the current popularity of coins that are certified by major grading services in special holders recognizing that they’re sold on the first day of issue. For many collectors, these represent exciting souvenirs of a coin show and a chance to own a story alongside a coin. Other collectors wouldn’t even entertain the idea of paying a premium for a first-day-of-issue coin that is most likely physically indistinguishable from the last coin that leaves the Mint’s presses. 

    It is this difference of opinion that ignites our hobby. Ultimately, it is up to us individually as collectors to determine value. If multiple collectors are willing to pay a premium for a given item, that makes it collectible. Now, does the current market’s high prices for first-day coins have lasting value or is it a passing fad? That’s a question that only time can decide. 

    Collecting tastes change as do aesthetics. The pendulum swings between originally toned Morgan silver dollars and bright white coins just as it does between lightly circulated, “crusty” original U.S. gold coins and shiny examples.

    In short, collect what you like. Learn about it. Seek out the best and have fun with your collecting. Life is simply too short to buy coins you don’t love. 

    ​Wrapping up the ANA Show: Days 5 and 6

    August 11, 2014 10:37 AM by

    The ANA show is always a blur of excitement; people to meet, coins to see. Although, by the end of the week, I honestly don’t want to see a coin for a few days. Thankfully, that wears off quickly and as I write this on Monday, August 11, we’re busy preparing our September Coin World monthly edition.

    Of course, the key story of the ANA show was the gold Kennedy half dollar and it has raised an interesting dialogue in our hobby, specifically on the respective and connected roles of dealers, the American Numismatic Association, the U.S. Mint and grading services in managing launches of new Mint products in a way that benefits the hobby.

    Ultimately, it’s up for debate whether the launch of the gold Kennedy half dollar was a boon for the ANA show. From some perspectives, it energized the market, while others think that it sucked all of the air out of the show. 

    Thursday, August 7, was more subdued as the Mint canceled its gold Kennedy half dollar coin sales. That evening, Coin World was honored to receive multiple honors from the Numismatic Literary Guild, including best magazine. Our own Jeff Starck entertained the attendees at the organization’s “bash” with several original songs!

    On Friday, August 8, at the ANA banquet, the organization’s lifetime achievement recipient Gene Hessler had what was perhaps the line of the night. The lifelong musician said, “A gentleman is a man who knows how to play the accordion … but doesn’t.” I don’t recall the context, but it was a fantastic bit of levity in a night of speeches, including one that went beyond the 10-minute mark.

    Saturday, August 9, started bright and early with the ANA Board’s open session meeting where past President John Wilson can always be counted on to provide a comprehensive resolution thanking the many entities that make a major show like the ANA’s World’s Fair of Money possible. The public attendance on Saturday didn’t seem to reach the level of previous years, although more dealers maintained a meaningful presence at their tables on the final day of the show.

    Ultimately, the best part of the ANA show is getting to meet our readers and hearing what they like, and occasionally don’t like, about our publications. Now this week will be spent sorting out from hundreds of conversations the stories that will appear in the pages of Coin World and online at our website.

    Thank you for joining me this week, and perhaps I’ll see you at next year’s ANA show in Rosemont, Ill., Aug. 11 to 15, 2015.



    Read the rest of Steve's blog posts from the ANA:

    Steve's Week at the ANA show: Day 4

    August 8, 2014 8:15 AM by

    The following blog post is pulled from Steve Roach's editorial in the Aug. 25, 2014, issue

    ​As I’ve spent the week at the American Numismatic Association’s annual summer convention in suburban Chicago, I’ve had a first row seat to see the U.S. Mint’s launch of the 2014-W Kennedy gold half dollar. It’s exciting to see the interest that the launch of this coin has created. However, at the same time it’s troubling. 

    The majority of people who have been waiting outside of the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont are not collectors looking to add a coin to their collection. Instead, they are either being paid by someone to wait in line or are looking to flip their coin at the show for a fast profit. 

    In conversations I’ve had with people while they were waiting in line, many weren’t even clear what they were buying. They were simply bodies that would receive money to purchase something for someone else, make $400 to $600 for waiting in line, and then after lunch go back in line again.

    An ABC station in Denver broadcast an interview with a man named Demarko Anderson who said he was paid $600 to purchase a coin at the Mint’s retail space in Denver. He said, “Basically, they’re giving away … basically … free money.”

    While it brings bodies in the door of a coin show, are these people going to become coin collectors? Are they going to look at coins as any more than a way to make a fast buck?

    It’s not a good look for coin dealers and the rare coin industry. 

    The first six coins were quickly certified by Professional Coin Grading Service with special labels indicating that they were among the first coins sold at the ANA show. Of course, these coins are physically indistinguishable from other 2014-W Kennedy gold half dollars and the Mint has made clear that the quality of coins will not differ throughout the production run. The Mint also has the capacity to strike more than 100,000 of these coins and plans to have 75,000 available by Oct. 1, 2014. 

    The first four coins were sold at effectively the $6,240 level per coin (since each of the first four people in line who purchased the coins from the Mint were given $5,000 and a replacement gold Kennedy half dollar with a sale price of $1,240). Other coins from the first day of the ANA show have sold at more than the $3,000 level in transactions on the ANA’s bourse floor. 

    The Mint expects to launch more products at the ANA’s summer show in the coming years and will learn from this launch. As Tom Jurkowsky, the Mint’s director of Corporate Communications, told Coin World on Aug. 7, “we’re a victim of our own success.” 

    By 10 p.m. on the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 6, there were already more than 500 people waiting in line for the next day’s sales. On Aug. 7, the Mint and the ANA jointly announced that sales of the gold Kennedy half dollars in Rosemont were suspended for the last two days of the show, Aug. 8 and 9. 

    Of course, with the Mint’s allocation of 500 coins per day at the ANA show now cut short by 1,000 coins as the Mint won’t be distributing them on Friday or Saturday, this now only puts increased demand on the first 1,500 that were sold at the show. 

    One hopes that going forward the U.S. Mint works with the ANA, dealers, collectors and grading services to orchestrate new releases at major coin shows that will put positive attention on our hobby and avoid the uncontrolled speculation that marred this release. A successful release of a popular new issue could introduce new people to our hobby and allow collectors a chance to add an example to their collection without giving up a day at the coin show (and a night’s sleep), or paying steep premiums in the secondary market.

    Read the rest of Steve's blog posts from the ANA:

    Steve's week at the ANA show: Day 3

    August 7, 2014 9:48 AM by

    The general excitement over the Mint's new gold Kennedy half dollars shows little sign of slowing down. During the day on Wednesday, August 6, lines were as long as ever. By the time I returned to my hotel at around 10 p.m. from a reception hosted by the Austrian Mint celebrating the 25th anniversary of its Vienna Philharmonic bullion coin program, the line of people outside of the convention center likely exceeded the 500 coins that the Mint allocated to distribute at the show the following day. 

    Immediately after I send this to our news editor Bill Gibbs to polish, proof and post (on Thursday), I'm heading with our senior editor Paul Gilkes to discuss the gold Kennedy half dollar and many other issues affecting coin collectors with Dick Peterson, deputy director of the U.S. Mint. It's always a fascinating conversation. 

    As far as the ANA show goes, Wednesday felt a bit lighter in terms of traffic than Tuesday, August 5 (the show's opening day). I started the day by judging exhibits. As I entered the hobby as a young numismatist and participated actively in the ANA's exhibit program, it's always a privilege to help, and the quality of displays in terms of both presentation level and material seems to increase every year. 

    Because of the mainstream media picking up on the gold Kennedy half dollar story, I did several radio interviews with stations across the country during the day in between visiting with collectors and Coin World readers at our booth on the ANA bourse floor. In the afternoon I participated in the ANA's live broadcast of "The Coin Show," a radio show hosted by Mike Nottelmann. I had the pleasure of following my predecessor at Coin World, Beth Deisher. The second edition of her book Cash in Your Coinscomes out soon, with expanded information and more images. 

    Off to the Mint! I'm certain that it will inform what I'll be writing tonight for the editorial that will appear in the August 25 issue of Coin World

    Until tomorrow,



    Read the rest of Steve's blog posts from the ANA:

    Steve's week at the ANA show: Day 2

    August 5, 2014 5:43 PM by

    This morning I woke up way too early to the sound of police whistles directing people waiting outside of Rosemont’s convention center where the ANA show is held. People got in line at 11pm on Monday — braving a thunderstorm — for the opportunity to buy one of the Mint’s new gold Kennedy half dollars.

    Coin World writers Paul Gilkes and Joe O’Donnell both provided fine reports on the frenzy in nearly real-time, posted at coinworld.com:

    Those first four people who braved the elements for the front spot in line? Well, they sold their coins for $5,000 each and got a replacement gold Kennedy half dollar for their efforts. Would you spend the night outside to make around $400 an hour?

    To the U.S. Mint and the ANA’s credit, considering the rather unexpected turnout, it was a very smooth process. No fights broke out. Security was tight. People were polite and generally, excited for the opportunity to either add a coin to their collection or make some easy money.

    To see so many people standing outside at a coin show was certainly invigorating but by noon — after the frenzy died down — the ANA’s registration area was calm and only a handful of people were outside of the convention hall.

    I can’t help but wonder if anyone in the line will be more inclined to collect coins after this. By most reports, and confirmed by my own observations and conversations, it seemed that most people in line weren’t collectors but were rather hired to wait and purchase coins on behalf of others.

    What does the market have in store for these coins, which are likely going to be no different than gold Kennedy half dollars that are shipped later this month, or the ones shipped in September?

    In many ways it helps bring attention to the ANA show and the hobby generally, but is this type of easy money the kind of attention that our hobby really needs?

    But, thankfully the ANA provides too many pleasant distractions to keep me from dwelling on this too much. Another great part of the ANA is getting to meet so many of our readers. While I have a fairly full schedule, I try to be at the booth as much as possible and connect with collectors and those in the hobby. Tonight’s the ANA’s kick-off event , “Oktoberfest in August” where I’ll be able to ask dozens of people in the hobby what they think of today’s gold Kennedy half dollar launch.

    Until tomorrow,



    Read the rest of Steve's blog posts from the ANA:

    Steve's week at the ANA show: Day 1

    August 5, 2014 6:48 AM by

    This year at the ANA show (more formally known as the American Numismatic Association World's Fair of Money), I'm here for the entire week. It's a bit of a marathon, but one that I'm happy to tackle each year. While the official show is August 5 to 9, there's a pre-show several days before the main ANA show.

    This blog is the first of a series which will take you along with me during my week at the ANA show. This year at the ANA show (more formally known as the American Numismatic Association World's Fair of Money), I'm here for the entire week. It's a bit of a marathon, but one that I'm happy to tackle each year. While the official show is August 5 to 9, there's a pre-show several days before the main ANA show. This blog is the first of a series which will take you along with me during my week at the ANA show.

    For me, Monday (August 4) is my first full day at the show. It's primarily dealer set-up day, so I often take advantage of the lot viewing offered by the show's auctions — this year Stack's Bowers Galleries and Heritage Auctions are co-official auctioneers — to look at coins and sharpen my eye. It's a chance to get "up close and personal," so to speak, with many of the rare coins that we've previewed in the months before the ANA show. It also provides a lot of ideas for future Market Analysis columns and stories, allowing me to go beyond the published description and I'm able to make connections and in tandem with the prices realized, identify trends in the marketplace.

    As I tell students when I teach coin grading, the best way to understand how to grade coins is to look at thousands of them and the ANA auctions provide an excellent opportunity for that. I started the morning by looking at Heritage's Platinum Night offerings (that auction is Thursday, August 7) and then moved to its more general U.S. offerings (which start on Tuesday, August 5). That afternoon I moved to Stack's Bowers Rarities Night lots, which will be sold Wednesday, August 6.

    Admittedly, it's a bit numbing, and I have tremendous respect for dealers who can sit and look at coins for hours on end.

    There's something incredibly exciting about holding million dollar rarities like one of two 1861 Paquet reverse $20 Coronet double eagles or an 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar.

    I checked out the new Coin World booth, which looks fantastic, and took note of the huge amusement park style partitions that have been erected outside of the ANA convention hall to (hopefully) contain the crowds that are anticipated for the launch of the new dual-dated 2014-W gold Kennedy half dollar on Tuesday, August 5. The launch will keep all of us busy tomorrow and looking forward to sharing it with our readers.

    Tonight's the Professional Numismatists Guild dinner which is always a pleasant evening where dealers are recognized for their contributions to the hobby. It's a reminder that without dealers, there wouldn't be an ANA show.

    Until tomorrow,



    Read the rest of Steve's blog posts from the ANA:

    Lots of winners for new 1964–2014 gold Kennedy half dollar

    August 1, 2014 12:42 PM by
    The Mint will release its .9999 fine gold Proof 1964–2014-W Kennedy half dollar at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money on Aug. 5. The popular program has a lot winners that spread the wealth around our hobby. 
    • American Numismatic Association: With the ANA’s flagship convention held in Rosemont, Ill., over multiple years, each installment needs a new angle to attract mainstream media attention and reach attendees outside of the hobby. The ANA benefits with a high-profile launch, and the strict ordering limits of one coin per person, per day, will result in long lines that will make for great photo ops. 
    • The U.S. Mint : The Mint is likely the most obvious beneficiary of a successful coin launch, standing to profit from the sale of the coin and the increased awareness that a popular new coin brings to the rest of its products.
    • Grading services: Major grading services will be flooded with coins submitted for special labels commemorating the coin’s first day of issue, more labels recognizing coins purchased at the ANA show, and then the usual “Early Release” and “First Strike” labels for coins submitted during the first month. 
    • Coin dealers: Coin dealers are clear beneficiaries as the special grading service labels create a product that goes beyond the coin itself that can command premiums in the marketplace. Due to ordering limits, many impatient collectors will likely turn to dealers rather than the U.S. Mint to purchase a coin for their collection. 
    • Coin collectors who want to keep their coin: Coin collectors benefit by a well-timed fall in the price of gold that led the U.S. Mint to price the coin at $1,240 based on its pricing chart, which looks at the average price of gold for the prior week. If gold had an average price above $1,300 during the period, the opening issue price would have been a less elegant and more expensive $1,277.50. 
    • Coin collectors who want to sell their coin: Much like the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative program earlier this year, those who are quick to buy one in person at one of the Mint’s retail facilities or at the ANA show early in the ordering cycle may likely be able to resell their coins quickly for a fast profit (which, Coin World hopes, will stay in the hobby!). Strict ordering limits and the Mint’s sales strategy of releasing just 500 coins per day at the ANA show will prevent dealers from getting large quantities for retail, placing greater demand on coins. 
    The coins will be struck to demand, with no mintage limits, and the Mint has said that it has 40,000 coins ready to ship as I write this. Still, we’ll be watching the building mintage closely and comparing it to a similar recent product: the 2009 Ultra High Relief gold $20 piece, which saw an eventual sales figure of 115,178, with coins trading at roughly twice the initial issue price. 

    As our news editor William T. Gibbs addressed in his June 30 editorial, the Mint’s authority to produce a gold half dollar is a bit fuzzy. For example, the Mint was not allowed to sell gold versions of the 2000 Sacagawea dollar to the public, as Congress stated that Mint officials lacked constitutional authority to issue the dollar coin in gold. 

    There’s also the somewhat odd selection of 1964, which represents the 50th year of the Kennedy half dollar program, resulting in what is essentially a coin honoring a coin. 

    But, these types of issues add to the gold half dollar’s story and make the coin more interesting, which should provide fodder for researchers and writers in the coming decades. In an era of rapid proliferation of U.S. Mint products, one-off special issues like the gold Kennedy half dollar may need to stand out to be remembered at all.