I Bought a Modern Coin...and I Liked it.

Those of you who know my numismatic taste knows that it tends to run to coins dated 1890 and earlier, and coins which are truly rare. I have mostly avoided the modern coin market for a variety of reasons but one stands out: I generally don’t like the designs of modern coins (exceptions: the High Relief St. Gaudens and Buffalo revivals), and the thought of collecting them doesn’t personally appeal to me.

Confession time:

I participated in the recent offering of 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative issues, and did so in the most mercenary way: I bought them, paid extra for NGC and PCGS gimmick labels (early release or something of this ilk) and flopped them as fast as I could get my greedy little hands on them.

When I arrived at the recent Baltimore coin show, I had just barely heard that the new Hall of Fame coins were going to be released in limited quantities. Being a lifetime baseball fan, these coins appealed to me from a historic perspective. Being an art aficionado, the revolutionary new designs of these coins appealed to me as well.

Baseball Half of Fame Commemorative

I didn’t really have time to formulate a game plan, but I knew these coins were going to be winners. I also knew that there would be a decent opportunity to buy them and flip them for a decent profit. I quickly realized that given the limits of how many coins I could buy, and the fact that this would take away from my main reason for being at the show (buying and selling rare 18th and 19th US gold coins), my participation in the Great Baltimore Baseball Coin Flip was going to be modest at best. Still, for Mr. Rare Coin Snob, any sort of participation in the modern market seemed like a blog topic at the very least.

To make a long story short, my wife (who was with me at the show) got on line around 10am, somehow was third in line, and waited until 10:58am when she texted me that the line was starting to move, and to get over to the Mint booth ASAP.

We each bought our full allotment, and quickly ran the coins over to be graded. On the way there, a friend suggested that I split the coins in half to “hedge” my grading. This seemed like a pretty clever idea so while I submitted them to NGC, my wife walked them over to PCGS. A day and a half later we had them back, all in MS/PR69 and 70 holders, and looking pretty spiffy if I may say so.

Since I promised my wife the full profits from this deal as she was the one who patiently waited in line (her impatient husband doesn’t “do” lines very well…) I then asked her how she wanted to sell the coins. I gave her a few options: we could flip them immediately and make a pretty decent profit, we could hold them for a few weeks or months and see how the market for these coins played out, or we could sell them on E-Bay. She chose her own option: she decided to consign them to Great Collections where, even as we speak, they are being offered for sale.

A few quick observations about my foray into moderns:

 1. The U.S. Mint could turn me into a Libertarian.

I don’t often deal with the mint so I didn’t realize I was dealing with such a low-tech operation. When it was time for our orders to be filled, they were both done incorrectly and done without barcodes and scanners. I heard that the fulfillment issues grew worse as the line grew longer.

Some other news that might make me embrace Ron Paul: the Mint ran out of gold coins a few hours into the sale and had no contingency plans to bring more coins in; even though they could have sold hundreds if not thousands. The Mint had no idea that they were going to be so successful, and didn’t even bring stanchions for the long lines which even a Modern Coin Newbie like me knew would inevitably form. The Mint personnel at the show seemed nice and they seemed overwhelmed. Perhaps a little marketing meeting before the sale might have helped…

2. I LOVED the design of the coins.

I had vaguely followed the story about the Baseball HOF coins in the numismatic press and from the printed/online images they looked OK. In person, they were far better. The concave/convex design is unique in American numismatics and it is an impressive feat from a technological standpoint. The design was “different” without being hokey and as a collector, this is a modern coin I might actually want to own. I liked the gold coins the best and I liked them as Proofs better than I did as business strikes.

 3. Modern coins are a PITA

One of the reasons I don’t deal in modern coins is that they are extremely labor intensive. As an example, when I got them graded, I had to remove all the coins from the original packaging; taking care not to destroy the packaging or discarding the COA’s. Yes, I know this sounds very wimpy, but it was time consuming and really kind of a pain. The whole key to buying and selling modern coins is a mastery of logistics. I’m a pretty good coin dealer, but I am crappy at logistics, hence my decision to stick with what I know best.

4. The Mint hit a home run with the Baseball HOF coin.

I couldn’t write a blog about baseball with using this cliché. Just couldn’t. Sorry.


Do you buy rare gold coins?

Do you have coins to sell?

Would you like to have the world’s leading expert with you assembling a set of coins?

Contact me, Doug Winter, directly at (214) 675-9897 or by email at dwn@ont.com.