February 2008 Long Beach Show Review

As I left for Long Beach last week, I wondered if this edition would be different from the last few Long Beach shows I have attended. The answer—and some random observations about the market—are included below. Unlike some of my competitors, I have made the decision not to attend the various and sundry pre-Long Beach auctions. I figure that at this point in my life I do not need to be spending an extra three weeks each year at Long Beach sales that are full of mostly uninteresting (to me) coins. This year’s sales did have a few interesting individual consignments including a nice run of Proof Bust Dimes at Superior and some better gold at Goldberg but, again, I was gearing up for the actual show itself.

On the Winter Show Grading Scale (WSGS) I would give the recent Long Beach convention a “B” which is actually better than I thought it would be. I did not bring many coins to sell and was more interested in buying new inventory. It was a struggle to find coins (surprise, surprise...) but some neat material did surface and I was pleased with what I purchased. Some of the highlights are:

-An original, evenly matched 1860 Proof Set graded PR64 to PR66 by PCGS

-An incredible NGC PR67 CAM 1904 half eagle

-A lovely Condition Census 1847-C half eagle graded MS62 by NGC

-An 1857-C gold dollar in PCGS MS61; the highest graded example of this date

-A number of crusty, original Southern gold coins in the $1,500-5,000 range

On at least three occasions I saw really interesting coins in another dealer’s case and asked to see them and a price quote. The price that I was quoted was so over-the-top outrageous that I wasn’t sure if I had been quoted in Dollars or Rupees. When I’m quoted $95,000 on a coin that I think I’d be seriously stretching on at $70,000 this means one of two things: either I am totally out of touch with the market or dealers are very, very proud of their very, very good coins right now and you have to pay very, very dearly at the absolute top end of the market.

Of course I didn’t expect to see many interesting coins just sitting out in dealer’s cases. At this point in time, if you do not have a special relationship with at least a few dealers, you aren’t likely to be offered anything very special. This is as true for a long-time dealer like me as it is for a collector.

My general observations about the market based on the Long Beach show are as follows:

*Many of the interesting coins from the FUN auctions are already gone. It is easy to sell choice, interesting coins right now and most dealers are able to move their best pieces much easier than in the past.

*Most of the recently graded coins I saw were more original in appearance and seemed “fresher” than in the past. I think this is as a result of both NGC and PCGS starting to crack down on coin doctoring. I’d like to think that we can thank CAC for this.

*Speaking of CAC, I saw many more stickered coins than I have before. I am not certain if they are selling better than non-stickered coins but a random inspection showed me that the typical CAC has nicer overall eye appeal than the typical non-CAC coin.

*Early gold is as hot right now as I can ever remember. If you bought nice quality early gold at least two or three years ago, you are currently looking like a genius. My gut feeling is that all the attention being focused right now on early material means that there are some great values in the Liberty Head series.

*When a market area gets hot it is amazing how fast coins disappear. I can’t remember seeing more than a handful of interesting rare Seated Liberty coins at the show and despite an intense search for interesting New Orleans half eagles and eagles, I came up nearly empty-handed.

Heritage had an extremely important specialized collection of Large Cents that brought amazing prices. The Husak Collection could serve as an absolute textbook model on how to properly assemble an in-depth specialized collection. The coins were exceptional, the presentation of the catalog was exceptional and the level of interest generated by the combination of the two was even more exceptional. Collectors realize that they do not have many chances to obtain truly special coins and there were dozens of coins in the Husak collection that, once they were sold, would be essentially impossible to replicate.

The gold coins in the Heritage sale were not quite as exciting but there will still some neat pieces. I loved the 1854 Type Two gold dollar graded MS68 by NGC and it brought a healthy $149,500. I was amazed that the 1863 gold dollar in NGC AU58 brought $6,900 which is almost double AU58 Trends; I assume that collectors have finally learned how rare this coin truly is in all grades.

The supposedly weak Three Dollar series saw some very strong prices. An NGC AU58 1854-D brought $54,625 and an AU58 1854-O in an old green label PCGS holder sold for an exceptional $34,500. A nice run of early Half Eagles saw some very strong prices including $40,250 for an NGC MS63 1804 Small 8 and $71,875 for an 1806 Round 6 in NGC MS64 with a CAC sticker. I really liked the NGC MS65 1810 Large Date and it sold for $92,000. An 1837 Classic Head graded MS66 by NGC sold for $94,875 which I actually thought was pretty reasonable as a PCGS MS66 example of this date brought $97,750 back in 1999 (but was considerably nicer, in my opinion). Some of the more interesting Liberty Head half eagles included a PCGS MS63 1857-O at a record-setting$50,025, an NGC MS61 1879-CC at $21,850 and a superb PCGS MS66 1886 at $21,850. Notable Eagles included an 1882-O in PCGS MS61 for $8,625 and a PCGS MS64 1897-O for $12,650. The two most significant double eagles in the sale were an 1860-O in NGC AU58 that was bid to $80,500 and a nice NGC AU53 1861-O that sold for $48,875. One coin that amazed me from a price standpoint was a nice PCGS EF40 1850-O in an old green label holder that sold for $10,350; if this coin doesn’t upgrade to at least AU53 then the new owner is well upside-down.

With major shows in Baltimore and Phoenix occurring in the next three weeks, it will be interesting to see if the momentum generated at Long Beach continues into the Spring.