I recently received a really thoughtful email from a reader of this blog - and with his permission am reproducing it in full. November 16, 2013
An Open Letter to Doug Winter
On the day following the Eric Newman Part II early silver auction, I wanted to take the time to thank you for all you’ve done for the hobby over these years. In internet parlance, I’ve been a lurker, someone who follows a blog for some time without contributing. Truth be told, I’ve never even done business with you, despite calling you some years back regarding a branch mint coin. Back to the story, I read your recent blog regarding your experience with the Newman preview and was inspired to view it. Engineering a trip to NYC earlier this week, I had the pleasure of previewing the auction which you had described as “one of the most pleasurable coin-related experiences [you’d] had in years”. Not being a collector of early silver, I’ve always been intrigued by its beauty and historical significance. Add the beautiful toning from the Wayte Raymond albums’ sulfur to what was already a gorgeous assembly of high-grade coins and you were certainly right that this was an historic opportunity.
Like most collectors, I don’t have unlimited resources to commit to coins. Since I have historically concentrated upon territorial and gold-rush period shipwreck coins, I’ve typically felt that a dollar spent on non-territorial, moves me away from my specialty. Frankly, after viewing the magnificent Newman collection, I felt like the proverbial fellow at the dance who keeps falling in love with the last girl he danced with (read “the last coin he viewed”) as I went through box after box. After attending on-line and reviewing the results of last night’s Signature auction, I could hear in my head many of the lessons you’ve written about over the years. To loosely paraphrase you, here are a few:
- fresh material that’s been off the market for years brings spirited bidding
- with the really good coins, don’t be surprised that today’s price that seems a stretch will look like a bargain in retrospect
- superior eye appeal can transcend traditional grading values and pricing
- a good (in this case, great) collection is worth more than the sum of its parts
- use of a knowledgeable, honest, good-hearted dealer (readers of your blog know you resemble that remark) can add tremendous value
To make a long story short, I fell in love with many of the coins, and was prepared to buy a few based on pre-auction bid prices. I had done my due diligence as best I could by viewing comparables on the auction websites and reviewing population data. Note to self, many coins were so appealing there were few visible “comparables” to judge fair pricing. As the bidding developed, I quickly saw that factors 1) thru 4) above were at work, bringing prices multiples of what I had determined were already solid prices. Not having significant experience with early silver, nor the time to consult a knowledgeable dealer, I was on my own.
I passed on most lots I had identified as their prices went to levels way beyond my estimates, although they may very well look like bargains later. Truth be told, I bought only one coin, solely because I thought it was cool on multiple factors. The coin is the 1817 over 3 bust half dollar in MS-64, Lot 33447. The factors:
- a big, bold, well-struck coin with great Wayte Raymond toning and almost cameo-like eye appeal
- a very visible error with the 7 looming over much of a 3; magnification not necessary to enjoy and much more prominent than the 1815/2 error which goes for big money
- interesting vivid clash marks on both sides, very visible given the strike and toning
- proof-like features so prominent that they were noted by Eric Newman and Walter Breen and the subject of considerable discussion
- well-nestled in the condition census by grade, only 11 of 70 Heritage auction appearances were uncirculated, with few near gems, and frankly, none I liked more
- provenance before Eric Newman was “Colonel” Green, son of Hetty Green, known as the witch of Wall Street; interesting history and connection to two great collections
- I’m not sure if the Newman envelope that accompanies the coin reflects his acquisition or offer price, but he paid or valued it at $100 many years ago, far more than many of the other coins in this auction. I know it’s not scientific, but buying it for $28,200 seems a bargain when many other coins annotated by Newman for much less than $100 sold for a quarter million dollars or more.
It wasn’t quite graded a gem and it doesn’t have the CAC bean. It may not have the PCGS look. As a traditionally gold coin guy, I have trouble appreciating and viewing the somewhat muted toned “original” look much early silver exhibits; I like the flash. Perhaps I overpaid or knowledgeable folks could find fault, but it literally jumped out of the box during my preview. It turned me on for the above reasons and shall proudly sit in my cabinet to remind me of this historic sale for years to come!
Closing the loop, I wanted to thank you again for what you do for the hobby. Keep on dealing and writing. I’ve read and enjoyed all your branch mint books and I visit your website often to view your inventory and gain perspective. Your enthusiasm is contagious and your eye for the right look in a coin is superb. Don’t ever think that because you don’t get feedback on a particular piece you write or a sale from every interaction you have with a collector, you are not making an impact. It is folks like you (and Eric Newman, thru his generosity) that knowingly or not mentor, develop, and inspire the future collectors that keep our hobby vibrant. Developing future generations of collectors should be a goal of us all.
Please feel free to publish this article if you see fit, but withhold my name for privacy reasons. I hope this gives you some material, so you can have a well-deserved break from the excellent writing. Thank you.
Our writer also attached a wonderful photo of himself, with his 4-month old daughter, bidding on the 1817/3 bust half. He plans to give it to her when she’s old enough to understand. Thank you to our ghost-writer for sharing!
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Contact Doug Winter at 214.675.9897 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.