After a few more days at home and having further decompressed from The ANA That Would Not End, I have some further thoughts/observations on the coin market and on the show itself. * I was very surprised to see almost no significant New Orleans gold coins (with the exception of the double eagles in the Heritage Platinum night sale) in any of the auctions or on the bourse floor. I’ve had a number of people call me and express surprise at the paucity of these coins, especially given the fact that my new book on New Orleans gold was just released, ostensibly spurring the market. I think the absence of these coins is due to three reasons. First, many New Orleans gold coins are genuinely scarce in higher grades. Second, the people who own higher grade New Orleans gold appear to be serious collectors who are in no rush to sell. Third, I would guess that at least a few dealers are quietly buying all of the nice higher grade New Orleans gold they can find in anticipation of successful marketing programs based around my new book.
* Early gold remains very much in demand. I usually buy a decent amount of interesting early gold at a show like the ANA and this year I bought just a few pieces. Despite the fact that prices for early gold have risen considerably in the past few years, the demand for nearly any piece (slabbed or raw, nice or ugly) remains very high and shows no signs of immediate cooling. I can’t recall having seen more than a tiny number of Fat Head (1813-1834 issues) gold at the show and most of what I did see was aggressively priced, to say the least. I think this area of the market will remain strong for the foreseeable future but I would not be surprised to see the more common or the less attractive coins start to show weakness in the next year. Any very rare or very nice early gold remains an excellent long-term hold.
* Although I was at my table or scurrying around buying coins most of the time, I did get a chance to look at some of the exhibits. I was sure glad to know that my tax dollars were going towards paying for an armed SWAT team of US Mint Police to guard the gang of 1933 Double Eagles that were on display. An exhibit that I found much more interesting was a small group of rarities from the Smithsonian including an example of the only Liberty Head gold coin that I have never owned or handled: the 1854-S half eagle. The Mint’s specimen (one of either two or three known) is a lovely slider example that would probably grade MS61 to MS62 was it ever to be slabbed by PCGS or NGC. There were also a few amazing Territorial issues including a superb Wass Molitor $50, a very high grade Mormon $20 and a nice group of Clark Gruber issues.
* In addition to my New Orleans gold book, another reference work that was released at the show was John Dannreuther’s work on die varieties of early gold coins. While the topic of this book sounds a bit esoteric, the book is a wonderful source work on early gold with incredible research from Harry Bass’ notes and superb photography. When you look at most coin books, you can always predict that a better version will come along and outdate the work in question. With the Dannreuther book, I think it is safe to say that the final word on the subject has been written and this book will be to early gold as the Crosby book has been to Colonial coinage. I would also expect that the die variety market for early gold will be stimulated and we may finally see rare early gold varieties get the respect that they deserve among well-heeled collectors.
* I did not attend the pre-show(s) this year but every dealer I spoke with told me that they were duds. Having done very well at the last few pre-shows, I was nervous that my decision to punt this year would backfire and prove expensive. It turned out to be the only thing that kept me sane and allowed me to survive The Show That Would Not End. Wouldn’t it be nice if dealers just said “enough!” and decided to limit their ANA Experience to the coin show and one or two of the auctions which occurred immediately prior to the opening of the convention?
* I’m glad I’m not a big player in the generic gold market because you certainly need very large cojones to actively participate in this market. It always seems that support for certain issues mysteriously erodes whenever supplies increase but that when you need a dozen saints in MS65 (as an example) to fill an order supplies are, mysteriously, as tight as a drum. I appreciated the fact that I was able to make some extra money in the generic gold rally that occurred in the months leading up to ANA. I don’t even mind that I had to give some of that money back when levels dropped at the show. But every time the market drops and rises and then drops and rises again I’m glad that I’m a rare gold specialist.
* The initial reaction to my new Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint book was very favorable. If you haven’t already seen a copy of this book, it is the first work I’ve done with color plates and these images, if I don’t mind saying so, are superb. Unlike most books that employ useless black and white plates, these color images are so lifelike that you’ll (almost) be able to learn how to grade just from looking at the pictures. I sold quite a few hundred books at the show and my publisher tells me that the book is literally flying off the shelves. Well, maybe not flying off the shelves but it is selling pretty decently. Seriously, it’s a great book and you should buy a copy or two for your library. Visit www.transline.com for ordering information.