The Atlanta Coin and Collectibles Expo has real potential. It’s held in an excellent facility which has seen many great shows in the past—including at least one ANA convention. It’s well-run by friendly and efficient people and it has an aura of class that is sadly lacking at most other shows. In fact, it is only missing one thing…attendance. There just weren’t a lot of collectors at the show. The crowds were very light on Thursday and you’d almost have to view this day as wholesale-only. I actually did a decent amount of wholesale business and sold a few five-figure coins. I would have liked to have bought some interesting new material but, to my regret (but not my surprise) there was not much available to purchase. The few new coins I came home with are described and imaged on my website.
I’m told that Friday and Saturday are the more active retail-oriented days of the show. I can’t really offer any incisive comments on this as I bailed out during the early afternoon hours of Friday. I did see most of the major collectors from the Atlanta area and had the chance to speak with a few new collectors who I had not previously met.
In my opinion, there are two major reasons why this show is not doing well and these are problems that, if not corrected soon, will probably do irreparable damage. The first is that the auction that is part of the show has not traditionally been strong; certainly not strong enough to draw any collectors for a special trip down to Atlanta. Secondly, neither PCGS nor NGC were at the show. Simply put, no grading services and no auction of note means no new coins getting made and becoming available for trading among dealers.
Speaking of the auction, I attended the Stack’s/ANR sale on Thursday night. It was an extremely small sale with just 100 or so lots of United States gold. Prices, for the most part, reflected the quality of the coins that were offered. Most of the gold coins appeared not to hit their reserves but the few lots I purchased were extremely reasonable. I would blame the weakness of this sale more on its venue and lack of exciting material than on the market.
From my observation at the show and from conversations with a number of savvy wholesale traders, I can state with no fear of rebuke that the market has clearly slowed down from a few months ago. What is interesting about the current market, though, is the strong degree of realism shown by most of the leading market traders. Certain coins have dropped 15-35% in the past few months but with very few exceptions, I do not see people refusing to believe in these new levels and trying to get “old market” prices for their coins. This is a complete change from past market slowdowns where certain dealers might hold onto their bad deals for years before conceding that, in fact, their values had dropped.
There are still a number of areas that are showing strength. These include Carson City issues of nearly all denominations and price points and early gold. I had four pieces of early gold that I brought to the show and I sold every one of them to dealers for my full asking price. If I had had another four (or maybe even fourteen) similar coins I think I could have sold them as well. New Orleans gold is also selling well. I bought six New Orleans gold coins at the show and sold four of them to collectors. Scarcer half eagles and eagles from New Orleans appear to be in very strong demand right now with a number of collectors beginning sets of these two denominations.
Other areas are clearly showing weakness. Charlotte and Dahlonega gold priced at over $10,000 is very hard to sell right now unless the coin is either really nice or really rare. Common date Three Dollar gold pieces have dropped dramatically in price in the last few months, especially in MS63 to MS66 grades. I actually think the market has overreacted on these coins and they are really good deals at the new, lower levels. Generic gold is also very weak right now, especially Indian Head quarter eagles and half eagles. While I do not encourage speculating in generics, I think that some smart people will make a fortune in the next few months buying depressed series like Liberty Head eagles in MS63 and MS64 or Indian Head half eagles in MS64, running prices up and selling into the market.
At this point, there are not many major shows or auctions left until the end of the year. The forthcoming October Stack’s auctions in New York are impressive and we should see some record-breaking prices. The Baltimore show in November will, in my opinion, be much better than most people expect as this is going to be, for all intents and purposes, the close to the numismatic year.