Baltimore ANA Show Review

Being an eternal realist when it comes to the coin market, I wasn’t expecting this year’s ANA show to be a good one; let alone a great one. With the unrelentingly bad economic news in the United States (let alone the world) it seemed inevitable to me that most collectors would be slowing down. As usual, I was wrong. This year’s ANA was outstanding for me and many of the dealers that I spoke to (and who I trust) told me that it was a great show for them as well. The show began for me with the Stack’s sale of the S.S. New York shipwreck on Sunday. I had a feeling these coins would go strong, given the fact that the quality was far nicer than other shipwreck coins and the quantity was smaller. I expected that the typical “shipwreck premium” would be about 15-25%. In some cases this was true but in most, the premium was substantially higher; especially in the case of lower value coins that were being bought for their “knick-knack” appeal.

There were a few very important coins in the hoard and certainly among the best was the highest graded 1845-D quarter eagle, an NGC MS64. It sold to a very knowledgeable dealer for $63,250 which I thought was quite strong. Other Dahlonega coins in the sale went very strongly as well. Notable prices included $18,400 for an 1839-D half eagle in NGC AU58, $31,050 for an 1840-D half eagle in NGC MS62 and $51,750 for an 1842-D Large Date half eagle in NGC MS61.

Some outstanding New Orleans gold was featured and it brought remarkable prices. An NGC MS64 1844-O half eagle sold for $28,750, an NGC MS63* 1845-O half eagle brought $43,125, an impressive 1844-O eagle in NGC MS63 sold for a record $63,250 and an NGC MS62 1845-O eagle was bid to $54,625.

The show began in earnest on Tuesday with PNG day. I have never been a big fan of PNG day for one simple reason: because of the fact that only a limited number of dealers have tables, the cavernous bourse floor seems like a ghost town. I did some business but mainly concentrated on buying. As I expected, there was a shortage of interesting coins; a theme that you will no doubt read on other show reports from specialist dealers like myself.

The regular show started on Wednesday. With all of the dealers now set up, the huge hall felt more inviting. When the doors opened to the public, a stampede of collectors headed right towards my table. Could this possibly represent a tidal wave of Dahlonega collectors? A Tsunami of Charlotte aficionados? No such luck; all the collectors were headed for the Bust Half Dollar collection being sold by Sheridan Downey right in front of me.

I spent a good part of the show either at the table or out buying coins. My observations about the current rare gold coin market as are follows:

1. It is amazing how little nice material there is available. I would have been happy to have bought, say, ten interesting Dahlonega coins and a bunch of New Orleans eagles. I came home with very few of either.

2. CAC stickers are beginning to have a positive effect on liquidity, particularly in the high end of the market. As an example, I had three expensive pieces of early date gold with stickers on them and I wound up selling them to a collector who I have never done business with before. I fully believe that the stickers helped make the transaction happen.

3. Collector demand for interesting gold coins remains very strong. It seemed like every hour or so, another dealer would come up to my table and tell me that he had someone interested in some sort of gold issue. I sold a number of coins to dealers that I don’t do much—if any—business with at a typical coin show.

4. Without sounding completely self-serving, it continues to amaze me what so-so quality coins bring at auction. I expect great quality, one-of-a-kind coins and major rarities to do well at auction but I wonder why collectors are content to pay 10-20% more for average to above-average coins. Maybe said collectors should give more serious consideration to looking through dealer’s inventories.

One of my favorite things to do at an ANA show is to look at the exhibits. This year the Smithsonian had a small but awesome group of coins from the National Numismatic collection including an 1821 Proof set (the half eagle had to be seen to be believed), an 1843 Proof set (including all three denominations in gold) and an 1860 Paquet Double Eagle pattern in gold that, when viewed from the reverse appeared to grade at least Proof-68. There was also a group of Massachusetts colonial silver belonging to a well-known collector that was stunning.

Where does the market go from here? I think the next month or so will be interesting. There are no coin shows of note until Long Beach in September and my guess is that most dealers left ANA with money to spend. My guess is that there will be strong demand for good coins between now and then. Some of the money that is circling the market will get absorbed by the strong pre-Long Beach and Long Beach auctions that loom on the horizon but there will still be an excellent opportunity for collectors who have had coins for longer than five years to sell into the market.

In closing, I’d like to point out that this generally upbeat show report does not take into account one simple fact: to take advantage of this still-strong market, you have to have the right coins. At this point, you are probably sick of my saying this over and over and are wondering “what exactly ARE the right coins?” Check back later this week and I will be writing a blog that discusses what I think the right coins are. (A cliffhanger...I love it!!)