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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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Archive for 'April 2015'

    The 1933 double eagle’s story is one that continues to be written

    April 24, 2015 12:58 PM by

    1933 Saint-Gaudens $20 gold double eagles occupy a unique position among U.S. coins. In 2013 in The New York Times, I characterized the example that was allegedly owned by Egypt’s King Farouk and later sold at a 2002 Sotheby’s/Stack’s auction for a then-record $7,590,020 as “The Hope Diamond of numismatics.”

    The comparison of the 1933 double eagle to the 45.52-carat deep blue diamond in the Smithsonian seemed good shorthand for the coin’s mystery, value, beauty, and fame.

    The story of the 1933 double eagles continues to be written, although currently the authors are judges and attorneys as the case weaves its way through the U.S. court system.

    My understanding of this case has long been intertwined with Coin World. I remember in high school and college reading about the dramatic seizure of the “Farouk” example in 1996 and its subsequent sale. I followed with interest the brewing lawsuit in 2005 when the Langbord coins were discovered and ultimately claimed by the government as property, and continued to cover the case as it developed including daily trial coverage in 2011 and beyond.
    Now, as these coins might enter the marketplace, they may travel far and wide to private collections where they will be graded, regraded, sold and resold, lost and found.

    As I write my final editorials as Coin World’s editor-in-chief, I reflect on the stories that link each of us to coins, and make our hobby so much more than just acquiring objects.

    I look forward to continuing to share the story of these infamous double eagles, and exploring new ways to personally connect people with the pleasures that come from learning about, and ultimately owning great coins. 

    More from CoinWorld.com:

    Court rules in favor of Langbord family in 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle case

    Langbord case: What are those 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagles worth?

    The £34 million worth of silver coins from SS City of Cairo wreck have been melted

    The curious 1837 dime in an NGC black holder (or, when a coin in an MS-65 slab is valued like an MS-67)

    NGC grades first Mint State 68 1884-CC Morgan dollar while still in its GSA holder

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    Langbord case: What are those 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagles worth?

    April 17, 2015 5:29 PM by

    It's wild for me to think that I started full time at Coin World in 2009, and the Langbord 1933 double eagle case was in full swing. Now, six years later, the case continues to have twists and turns as it evolves.

    From daily trial coverage at the 2011 trial in Philadelphia, to dozens of follow-ups, it’s a case that has never bored me. Here’s the latest development, which is a game-changer for the coins and potentially the hobby.

    As I reported earlier today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on April 17 vacated a previous declaratory judgment by a district court that declared the coins as government property that was unlawfully removed from the U.S. Mint.

    That decision vacated a July 21, 2011, jury decision where 10 jurors unanimously ruled in favor of the government, concluding that the coins were illegally obtained from the U.S. Mint.

    While the government is now weighing its options, the Langbord familys attorney Barry Berke is optimistic, stating, The Langbords are thrilled to receive their property back after fighting to vindicate their rights for over a decade.

    So the big question is, what exactly are these 10 1933 double eagles worth?

    I did my best to answer that question at the outset of the 2011 trial.

    Here's what I wrote in Coin World just before the original trial began that July:

    We know what the coins grade since Numismatic Guaranty Corp. reported Nov. 3, 2009, that it had graded one coin Mint State 66, two MS-65, six MS-64 and one with an NGC Uncirculated Details, Improperly Cleaned grade.

    When pricing any object, one first looks at comparables — other objects of similar type and quality and the prices they sold for. In 2002, the 1933 double eagle allegedly owned by Egypts King Farouk sold for $7,590,000 at auction. It graded MS-65 and was — and currently is — the only 1933 double eagle that can be legally owned by an individual.

    So if the coins are ruled private property, are the Langbord 10 worth around $7 million each?

    That's unlikely. When multiple examples of an object enter a market, the demand/supply ratio changes. While the added publicity helps — meaning that more people know what a 1933 double eagle is and may want one — its not enough to compensate for the fact that the coins are not unique.

    A parallel in the art market is when an artists estate is valued for estate tax purposes, a blockage discount is sometimes used. This assumes that the works are sold at once, depressing the market. To maximize value, prudent estates use long-range marketing, which places objects into the market slowly, responding to the ebbs and flows of demand and artist reputation.

    What pricing comparables do the 1933 double eagles have?

    Perhaps most obvious is the 1927-D Saint-Gaudens double eagle, considered by some the rarest regular issue coin of the 20th century. Around 10 are collectible today from a mintage of 180,000. They are sold infrequently. The last example at public auction was an MS-66 that realized $1.495 million at a January 2010 auction.

    Seeing that the prices for the top objects in many collecting categories are going sky high, with proper marketing to buyers beyond the existing coin-market, the 10 Langbord 1933 double eagle coins could be worth around $2 million each, perhaps more.

    But how many more examples remain to be discovered is a troubling, lingering question.

    Especially as the market for multi-million dollar rarities expands, there could be a wider market for these 10 1933 double eagles than there was in 2011.

    And I look forward to continuing to cover these coins as they proceed though the legal system and potentially enter the numismatic marketplace.

    What opera can teach us about collecting (and the difference between good and great)

    April 17, 2015 2:41 PM by
    This month for the Q&A I had the pleasure of chatting with my friend Mark Van Winkle. Mark has cataloged many of the greatest rarities in numismatics in his job as chief cataloger at Heritage Auctions, but he’s also passionate about the arts, specifically opera.

    During our conversation I asked him, “What can the opera teach someone about collecting coins?”

    While I’ve never been much of an opera fan, I’m always curious how people find connections with the various passions in their lives, and how these connections enhance things.

    Mark shared this story: In the 19th century, there were two prominent German operatic composers, Giacomo Meyerbeer and Richard Wagner. Meyerbeer was popular during his lifetime, but is little remembered today while Wagner is undoubtedly even more popular today than during his lifetime.

    Why is one remembered and the other all but forgotten?

    The answer is the difference between good and great. In U.S. numismatics, who is better remembered a hundred years after his death: Charles Barber or Augustus Saint-Gaudens? Obviously, Saint-Gaudens. Although Charles Barber created serviceable, traditional neoclassical designs that could be struck with one blow from a steam press, Saint-Gaudens adapted the three-dimensionality of sculpture to coin designs, something no one before (or arguably since) had done.

    His coins were certainly a challenge to produce, but the results were magnificent. Greatness is remembered, while mediocrity is relegated to history’s dust-bin.

    How does this relate to coin collecting? 

    Think of the names that continue to pop up in numismatics: they’re typically collectors who assembled magnificent groups of coins or those who have made a lifetime of contributions to the hobby and our collective numismatic knowledge base. 

    When you think of your collection, which coins bring the most pleasure or hold the most meaning? Just as with one’s home, a coin collection can benefit from a spring cleaning to weed out the mediocrity and allow more room for greatness.

    Introduce someone to our hobby during National Coin Week 2015

    April 10, 2015 3:07 PM by

    We get dozens of club publications each month in our Sidney, Ohio, Coin World office.

    Reading these gives me a great feel for where our hobby is at the local level, and it’s been refreshing this year to see how many clubs are planning public programming for National Coin Week.

    This year’s NCW marks the 92nd installment of this annual event that takes place during the third week of April. It’s organized by the American Numismatic Association and each year has a different theme, meant to inspire discussion and unique programming.

    In 2015 NCW takes place April 19 to 25 and is titled: “Building Tomorrows: Inspiration and Innovation at World’s Fairs.”

    Kudos to ANA member Esther Leising who submitted the winning theme, as 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, which is well-known to collectors for the gorgeous (not to mention rare and expensive) round and octagonal gold $50 commemorative coins issued in celebration. There were also 1915-S Panama-Pacific commemorative silver half dollars, gold dollars and gold quarter eagles, as well as a host of other numismatic mementos.

    As Jeff Starck noted, “Expositions have a rich numismatic history, from the prize medals awarded to participants or coins and medals struck on the grounds or in commemoration.”

    It’s a great topic and local clubs across the nation are planning presentations and exhibits in public spaces including libraries and schools to expand the reach of numismatics.

    NCW is one of the many rich traditions that continue to bring visibility to our hobby. The continued viability of NCW is dependent on the generous local clubs and individuals who plan activities to introduce numismatics to new people who may eventually become collectors. 

    More from CoinWorld.com:

    Internet surfing yields Mint State 1796 Draped Bust cent

    Know your U.S. coins: Morgan dollar

    Federal Government calls in America’s gold

    Coin users recommend the Mint make no changes to the copper-nickel clad quarter dollar composition

    Federal Judge rules against government in 1974-D aluminum cent case

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    A success in Virginia, but state tax issues continue to threaten hobby

    April 7, 2015 2:20 PM by

    Shifting state tax laws as they relate to the retail sales of coins and bullion continue to cause headaches for our hobby. 

    Dealers, collectors and numismatic organizations including the Industry Council for Tangible Assets should be applauded for their efforts to bring attention to this area and make changes at the state legislature level. 

    For example, Virginia recently passed a bill that provides a sales and use tax exemption that includes gold, silver, and platinum purchases totaling more than $1,000. 

    This could not have happened without the work of many dealers, including David Lawrence Rare Coins’ John Feigenbaum and ICTA. The groundwork for this exemption took hundreds of hours of effort and many months. The law becomes effective on July 1, 2015, and it makes Virginia as the 32nd state to have an exemption, according to ICTA.

    Yet, the exemption could have been wider. Virginia’s governor Terry McAuliffe did not elect to expand the exemption to all legal-tender coins (regardless of their metal content) and paper money. 

    So, the effort will continue in Virginia as it does in other states. 

    Sales and use taxes have a real impact on dealers and collectors. 

    Pennsylvania’s proposed $78.6 billion 2015–16 budget includes various ways to address a $2.3 billion budget deficit, including raising the state sales tax from 6 percent to 6.6 percent and removing an exemption on investment metal bullion and rare coins. 

    The budget notes: “An unknown number of individuals and businesses engaged in the purchase and sale of investment bullion and coins benefit from this tax expenditure.” 

    However, while the state doesn’t know the number of individuals impacted, it has a firm handle on the money it’s lost, and what it stands to gain with the additional taxation.

    The state estimates that the coin and bullion exemption during 2013–14 cost the state $9.3 million and forecasts the potential revenue for taxing coins and bullion for 2015–16 as $12.2 million. This number increases to $14 million in the next budget cycle before concluding at $21.1 million in 2019–20. 

    That steady rise in forecasted tax revenue assumes that numismatic business will stay in the state. 

    However, when state sales tax laws become unpredictable or punitive to coin dealers, dealers often move. 

    Several large dealers that I’ve chatted with in Pennsylvania are considering moving to more tax-friendly climates such as Florida or Texas.

    RELATED: Pennsylvania dealer leaving state to avoid proposed sales tax

    Should the exemption be lifted and coins be subject to state sales tax, this will surely put a chill on the 2018 American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money, scheduled for downtown Philadelphia. While ANA officials have expressed concern, the sales tax threat is becoming more real with each passing year.