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.

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Steve's Week at the ANA show: Day 4

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:

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Older Comments (11)
Collectors currently have the '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' by buying online. The problem at the ANA was that collectors were shut out by dealers and speculators. This has to be addressed.
Truly stated by the first commentator... For collectors, not speculators, you may purchase the item from the US Mint's website and receive it toward the mail. But if you want to MADE "more" money, then there are many ways/angles to PROFIT from the event. Enjoy the hobby. It is still fun.
Fella's - It's called a free market.
If the market bares steep premiums on newly released coins, then so be it.
My bigger concern is for the safety of the industry now that the general public believe we all carry significant amounts of cash...
If they must limit sales/production of products (these are NOT coins in the true sense of the word), the Mint should do so by a lottery among their retail customers... first priority to regular customers of similar products, then second priority to their "unrelated" products, before tossing the remaining available items onto their website...CERTAINLY not the half-assed, clearly unfair, corporate-friendly way they have been inclined to operate in the last decade or so. Their current method is nothing more than a staged dogfight or a gladiator competition, and does NOTHING for coin collectors but turn us away from the hobby, series by series as complete "series" become virtually impossible or unaffordable to assemble.
We need to have the grading services stop this nonsense - certifying for anything other than grade is destroying our hobby as people pay ridiculous premiums for modern coins, then discover later they have a worthless widgit. 100000 gold JFK's in PR 70 vs a 1795 half-dime in MS 64, of which there may be only 20 coins - which would you rather have?
Great Way of Putting it. Just a profit making day for Whoever, now so many of the true collector, you know the guy who's proud for putting something together and hoping the future makes things go up, and hopes his Kids keep it as long as. Now the Price is way beyond my budget and will only go Up before going Way down due to the unlimited mintage they are going to make.
the mint is run by idiots !
I hope the hired line sitters still got paid. Doubt it though.
As for the coin, there will be plenty to go around.
This benefits only the big dealers and the grading services. The ordinary collector hasn't a chance of getting in on the action. If the Mint is going to do this in future years, they should make pre-ordering for pickup at the show available. But the interests that control the ANA (which made a mint with day admissions and/or memberships for the line-waiters) probably won't.

The bottom line is that the Mint is catering to these people. 2,500 coins equals about $750,000 in profit. The dealers and the grading services are making a mint as well. We're back in the days when the Mint is being used for private profit.

I am reminded of Senator Frank Greene's statement in opposing the Monroe Doctrine half dollar, "it seems to me that the question is not one of selling a coin at a particular value or a particular place. The question is whether the United States government is going to go on from year to year submitting its coinage to this—well—harlotry."
I was there, and I whole heartily agree, It was the greedy dealers who are scamming the very collectors that they sell to. I drove from Michigan to Chicago in hopes of getting one added to my collection. I have a complete set of all of the Kennedy's Including 10 silver proof 70's I was so discouraged I left the show and didn't come back. I don't know whats worse the greedy dealers or now it seems the greedy grading company's making more and more labels and hype. Have you noticed how much NGC charges now to grade a single coin? They are pricing collectors out of the market too.

The Mint needs to track sales of all of the purchasers and perhaps implement some limits during the coin show release. How about making sure every purchaser has an active account with a purchase history? It really baffles me that the mint implements a household limit of 5 coins per household but allows the same purchaser to come to the coin show day after day to buy the same coin without tracking if someone has bought as many as 10 coins. Considering the 2 per day and the 5 on line it could have been as many as 15 coins with the initial limit of 2 coins per day.

I did stop by the US mint both and bought 2 of the uncirculated high relief sets. I am currently one demotivated collector.

Laurence J. Ramos
In my experience the grading company's are just as greedy as the dealers. 30.00 per coin for a modern special??? They charge me 50.00 for the walk through as of Sunday night, I still don't know my results and their web site said i was scheduled for grading Thats 1 week. is that a walk through????? 50.00 a coin? I left the show disgusted by NGC and the US MINT. I dropped my coins off Monday at NGC's table at 11:30 and the sales man told me they wouldn't be ready until Friday, maybe Thursday. This was the worst show I was ever at. I left town and returned to Michigan. Thanks NGC and US MINT

Mint and the grading company's created unsafe situations. I got to the show at 7:30 am and the coin was already sold out. When I called the mint the previous week the operator ensured me that the line to purchase the coin wouldn't be able to start until 11:00. They also said the uncirculated version would not be on sale, So basically the mint doesn't even know how to run their business.

Laurence J. Ramos