Weighty ANA auctions full of once-in-a-lifetime possibilities

The American Numismatic Association’s decision earlier this year to have two official auctioneers — Stack’s Bowers Galleries and Heritage Auctions — means one sure thing: more auction catalogs. 

The two firms competed aggressively against one another to fill their auctions. 

While they likely stressed their differences to potential consignors, their resulting auctions have some things in common. Each firm has a rarity or two that will bring more than $1 million, each firm has at least four separate catalogs, and each firm is unleashing tens of millions of dollars of rare coins and paper money into the marketplace during the ANA week.

The enormity of the catalogs when together (this doesn’t even include Heritage’s paper money auction, which we haven’t received yet) is staggering. The catalogs received by July 24 totaled almost 15 pounds!

Then there’s what is inside those publications. 

Page after page after page of coin photos, stories of collectors past and present, and research new and old to describe the lots and make them appealing to consumers (and to make the auction house’s work evident to consignors!).

Some coins are fresh to market; others are old friends that have seen the auction block multiple times over the last decade.

A friend saw a few of the catalogs on my dining room table at home and asked, “Who buys all of this stuff?”

It’s a good question, especially considering the sheer number of lots — approaching 10,000 between the two firms — that will be coming to market all at once.

The ANA show, in Rosemont, Ill., this year Aug. 5 to 9, is an exciting time for the rare coin market and the auction lots offered have been previewed for months in the pages of Coin World, while recaps will be found in our issues in the weeks post-ANA.  

What’s great for collectors is the democratization of information available today. Both auction firms make their catalogs easily accessible online at their respective websites, with tools to help collectors make smart bids. 

Every little bit of help is needed when trying to sort through this many lots, and while some coins will likely return to market quickly, others may go into collections and escape the market’s grasp for generations. The “once-in-a-lifetime” possibility is one of the things that make major auctions like the ANA sales so exciting.