My Opinion of the Coin Market Based on the Recent Heritage Auction
There were five sessions hosted by Heritage
for their auctions at the LB Expo at Long Beach from June 14th - 17th, numbered as Sale #1276.
First, let me say I'll present the coins I won from this auction at the end. Also, I am not affiliated with Heritage
in any way, other than enjoying their sales. I've included some basic information for those who have never used Heritage
as a source for coins. I think with this more in-depth information it may provide a few collectors with good basic information. Heritage
does a wonderful job of answering all questions already, on their site. Heritage
offers a range of lots that begin below $100, and end with million dollar coins. If you are spending $100 or more on a coin once in a while, Heritage
is most definitely a place to hunt.
While there were some super big items offered that received great prices and much attention (1804 $1 sold for $2.64 M, 1793 Chain 1 Cent for $990 K, and many more at $100,000 to $450,000), so it was no surprise that once the Whales were swimming those auction waters, it was unlikely that much would go cheaply.
I love this type of auction because of the outstanding quality of the coins available. It is rare to see so many wonderful examples all at one auction at one time. Plus, the way Heritage
sets up their lots with crisp photos and every detail about a lot accurately described in detail, you never have a question about what you are bidding on.
Not only can you view Heritage
's own sold archives which include over 4 Million coins, but you can sort your research through dozens of filters so you don't waste time when you are looking for specific information. On each lot Heritage
gives you the Census numbers for NGC and PCGS coins, plus CAC, plus every price guide worth reviewing - including some you have to pay for elsewhere. Those price guides include CDN Collector's Price Guide, CDN, CCDN, NGC Price Guide, NGC Plus Price Guide, PCGS Price Guide, PCGS Plus Price Guide, CDN Exchange SS/SU, Heritage
Value Index, Numismedia Retail, Numismedia CAC, and Numismedia Wholesale - all in one place, all at one time, for any coin you could name.
You need go nowhere else to get all the numbers about any specific lot, and it only takes a minute to check past sales.
This particular auction had a real plethora of exceptional eye-appeal coins. There were many dozens of top 10/10 eye appeal coins included. For those coins, with or without toning to raise them to that 9/10 or 10/10 level of eye appeal, those coins had to be outstanding enough that the VAST majority of collectors examining them would absolutely LOVE to own them without question or comment.
Copper was on fire in this auction. Early copper, both Half Cents
and Large Cents, went for exceptionally good prices in most cases. I didn't spot a one that could be considered a "bargain". The Indian and Lincolns didn't have quite that level of bidding, except on the truly choice examples, and those did much better than I would have anticipated. Many of the full red (orange) Indians nailed bids at 30-40% over what I expected. Even the two-cent pieces did well, not great, but strong. There were some with great red, but nothing that met my own eye appeal standards.
The three-cent silver and nickel were from different worlds, bidding wise. The silver issues all went for what I considered stupid high prices for the great eye appeal examples available. I had hoped to nail a 1861 3CS in NGC 65, with 9/10 eye appeal, and would have happily paid $720 to nab it. That price was high, but I'm very picky about those little fish scales and often don't agree with the TPG
grading. This one was an exception. My bid was squashed like an annoying bug.
The poor 3CN simply didn't have great bidding for some amazing coins. Both for the business strike and Proof issues, many getting to MS or PF 67 or better, many with screaming luster and many with pluses, stars, and CAC were only moderately successful. In short, if I was picking one area of type coins to pursue as a set right now, I think the 3CN would be one of my strong recommendations. The prices are just soft right now. Although it's true that 3CN have been soft for a very long time, they did seem to rally about 2 years ago, but that has faded. Perhaps the folks buying them completed their sets.
Both Nickels and half dimes
could not be touched unless you were willing to pay very strong prices for the best eye appeals that were accurately graded. I had a number of half dimes
that were on my very short list of coins I was willing to pay 30% over average price for. I did not win one of them. Although I wasn't pursuing any nickels this time, their high end stuff, particularly high MS and PF Shields, were up at the rim for prices too. Liberties were soft. Jefferson's had some prices that I just shake my head over. I have just never understood why a Jefferson nickel
, even in the top tier of grade, could be worth more than a gorgeous Saint Gaudens, or an early copper, or amazing world of coins (the list could go on). But I'm not a buyer for those, and obviously there are maniac collectors in that area, because the prices I saw were hanging their dollar signs on the clouds. As I've often said, just because it doesn't appeal to me, doesn't mean that it isn't a great area to collect. Jefferson prices confirmed that.
Any pre-Seated Liberty coins, regardless of Flowing Hair, Draped Bust, or Capped Bust for all of the silver issues - half dimes
, Dimes, Twenty Cent Pieces, Quarters, Half Dollars and Dollars - were all very strong on nice issues. Capped Bust halves, in particular, had some MONSTER buys on gorgeously toned examples. I had three of those on my short list, and I didn't even get within tossing distance of owning any of them. There were some low winning bids in all of those denominations for partially or unattractive (to me) toning. If you collect those series, you know that the vast majority will have some toning, but much of that toning really isn't all that great. The dark tones, in particular, had few views, watchers, nor bidders. From what I saw, I would definitely stay away from Dark Seated in any denomination (with the possible exception of some dollars).
Early Halves did FANTASTIC. There were a bunch of 1794 and I wouldn't have been surprised to see some shotguns leveled during that bidding escapade. None of them went cheaply. None of them went easily. Everyone got some great bids, as every one of them deserved.
Which brings me to the side point about details rated coins in this auction. Obviously there is a differentiation between not so bad to terrible reasons for a details rating. You might have a coin rated as Environmental damage that has as single tiny spot that has eaten into the surface. Another coin might be given that same Environmental damage assignment that has many bad spots (particularly on copper) that really make the coin very unattractive. So, yes, I am aware of the broad strokes of details covering an awfully large range of actual damage.
But it appears, particularly with the early coinage of flowing hair, draped bust, and, to a lesser extent, capped bust - and ALL of the early copper - that getting a details grade does not portend terrible prices realized. Much of the copper, in particular, still had raving mad bidding for the rarest varieties even with some details assignments.
The early dollars were steady as usual. Nothing too amazing (other than for the 1804!). They all sold in the 90-110% of their expected sales prices, but there were some amazingly great eye appeal issues included that I really expected to see better those average prices.
Seated Dollars, every one of them from "market acceptable" or natural tone, or amazing eye appeal - ALL went for great prices. I didn't see a one that sold for anything like what they were selling for three years ago. There must be a fair number of date set collectors now, rather than those only looking for two for their 7070, because the better dates were getting MUCH stronger bidding.
The next is a point I need to explain. I have no clue what the Morgan's were doing. With the exceptions of Morgan's that I need for my year sets, like the 1883 (I'm working on 1853, 1873, and 1883 right now) I just don't spend much time with Morgan's. So any report on those would have to come from other quarters. I have an impossibly hard time buying Morgan's rated at 65, or 66, that really don't look all that great to me, have lesser eye appeal, barely make the grade, with TENS OF THOUSANDS graded with prices in the many hundreds or thousands of dollars.
For the same price as a relatively common date Morgan, with 10,000+ in grade and 5,000+ better, I can get type coins that have only hundreds in grade, and hundreds (or less) better. I'd simply much rather have a gorgeous Seated half dollar
than a middling Morgan.
Likewise, my own Classic Silver Commemorative set is done, so I spent only a brief time looking those over. They were all getting GREAT high prices, particularly on the beautifully toned examples.
The only gold I was looking for is a 64 or 65 $2.5 Indian that DOESN'T have tiny copper spots. I've been looking for one of those as my last piece in my gold set for YEARS. I also looked at the Gold for my year sets, but I didn't see anything I loved for any of those dates. Prices seemed to be stronger on the Saint Gauden's and Indians over the Liberty issues. I only glanced at earlier gold so as not to drive myself insane.
With the exception of those four year sets above, I'm now strictly adhering to bettering all my type coins to a higher level of beauty (not just grade and not just eye appeal). I started out with 153 coins in these sessions that I would have liked to have. 101 of those I were included only if they were at a moderate price range as they could be bested, looks wise. Two weeks before the bidding started, I was already whittled down to 51 coins as 102 of them had exceeded the price I thought prudent.
Two hours before the sale, I was down to just 32 coins that I would love to have at the next bidding level, or higher. There were only 4 of those coins which I considered must haves. I was able to win 3 of those 4, but the 1874 Seated half dollar
, Arrows, NGC 63+ with amazing perfect luster, went for well over 3 times what I expected. Obviously, that was a coin that more adventuresome collectors also wanted very badly.
I was left with just three coins - all quarters, which were on my must have list, and those three were the only ones I netted. A very good additional bonus was Heritage
's No Fee Sales Certificates, which means if I sell those coins at an auction by Heritage
in the future, I will not be charged for any fees for their sales. Free Heritage
sales were a great bonus that I didn't expect. If you know how tough it is to get those, you know that three out of three is exceptional.
There were plenty of other areas in the sessions that I didn't bother with because I don't collect in those genres and could not comment on how well they sold.
Overall, this was a very strong sale. I purchase 80% of my coins from Heritage
, Stacks, and Great Collections. The trend for sales has continued to increase at a steady pace during the last three years, and in some areas, particularly the earliest types, they are reaching levels well above any sales they've had previously (even the 1989 insanity that turned into the worst drop in coin value history).
Here are my three quarters:
The following is Heritages own note about this auction:
An Important New York Collection realized a total of over $6.7 million, highlighting $18 million in overall results in the June 14-17 Long Beach US coins
auction. All prices include a 20% Buyer's Premium.
An important New York Collection featured a selection of 22 outstanding type coins, many of which were extreme rarities in their own right. Foremost among these was an 1804 dollar, "The King of American Coins". This Class I example, the Mickley-Hawn-Queller specimen, was graded PR62 by NGC and realized $2,640,000. A 1793 Chain Cent, graded MS65 Brown by PCGS and pedigreed to the famed Eliasberg collection, sold for $990,000 when the bidding ended. Overall, the top twelve lots in this auction were from An Important New York Collection.
Additional top lots from An Important New York Collection included:
1776 Continental Dollar, CURRENCY, Pewter, EG FECIT, MS67 NGC. Newman 3-D
1796 $2 1/2 No Stars on Obverse, BD-2, MS61 PCGS. CAC.
1794 $1 B-1, BB-1, XF40 PCGS. CAC.
1804 25C B-1, MS65 NGC.
1870 $20 PR65 Ultra Cameo NGC. CAC
1907 $20 High Relief, Wire Rim MS67 PCGS. CAC
1909 $5 PR68 NGC
1798 $5 Large Eagle, Large 8, 13 Stars Reverse, BD-4, MS64 NGC. CAC.
1840-C $5 MS64+ PCGS. CAC
1805/4 50C O-101, MS65 NGC. CAC.
A 1910 nickel, graded PR68 Deep Cameo by PCGS, is the only coin in the entire series to have been awarded such a grade by PCGS. It hammered for $84,000.