Charlotte gold coinage is about as unpopular right now as at any time I can recall in the past two decades. Why are the coins from Charlotte getting no love when their Southern counterparts from Dahlonega and New Orleans are as popular as they’ve been in some time? Read on for a few suggestions. There’s no exact, scientific reason(s) which I can point to which “prove” why Charlotte coinage currently seems to be lagging Dahlonega and New Orleans when it comes to popularity. I can think of at least six possible reasons which, when taken together, have conspired to make these coins currently out of favor with collectors.
1. I’ve written two books on Charlotte gold coinage. The second—and most current—was published in 1997. This book is not only out of print and hard to find, it is out of date as well. Until I get around to publishing a third edition of this book (and I plan to get to work on this sometime in 2007 and hope to have it available by the end of the year) new collectors will not have access to current information. In my experience, whenever I publish a new (or revised) book on gold coinage, the popularity of that series tends to surge immediately. I anticipate that this will happen again by the end of this year or the beginning of 2008.
2. No significant new players for Charlotte coins at the top end of the market have come around in the past few years. In the 1970’s, it was Harry Bass, while the 1980’s saw Stanley Elrod and the 1990’s were dominated by Paul Dingler. Each of these individuals built world-class sets of Charlotte coinage that focused on very high grade pieces. During this time period, other collectors like Ed Milas could be counted on to purchase significant, high grade issues as well. The Charlotte market needs a new “Mr. Big” to step up and take some of the very high end pieces off the market.
3. There are no significant dealers in the Charlotte area who are building a local collecting base. One of the reasons why Dahlonega gold coinage has always had such a strong local following is that Georgia dealers like Hancock & Harwell, Al Adams, John Hamrick and Larry Jackson have loyally supported the market for Dahlonega coinage for three decades. Despite its status as the undisputed #2 city of the New South, Charlotte still does not have the solid dealer community that characterizes Atlanta.
4. Many of the Charlotte coins currently on the market, especially those in the AU50 to MS61 range, are overgraded, unoriginal and genuinely ugly. It’s hard to get collectors or dealers enthusiastic about coins with minimal eye appeal. One reason why the VF and EF segment of the Charlotte market is comparatively strong is that the coins tend to be decent and collectors are more active. If a fresh deal of attractive, original Charlotte coinage came onto the market in the next year or so, it might act as an excellent jumpstart.
5. A number of the telemarketers who have always been an outlet for the not-so-nice-for-the-grade Charlotte gold coinage have stopped selling these coins. I can think of at least two marketers who I’ve sold hundreds of thousands of dollars of Charlotte gold coinage to over the years who are currently out of the market because their sales forces are tired of selling Charlotte coins or they strongly believe that point #4 I made above is true.
6. In the coin market, tastes are cyclical. After years of neglect, New Orleans gold is currently popular. For years, no one liked early quarter eagles, but now everyone wants them. The market for Charlotte coinage is cyclical as well and happenstance dictates that we are currently in a down cycle. It is very possible that an up cycle of popularity could begin again very soon.
OK, so what has to happen for these coins to get popular again? First we need a new Charlotte book. Then, we need a couple of dealers (myself included) to fall in love with Charlotte coins all over again and start spreading the love. Then we need a couple of wealthy guys from North Carolina to discover how neat these coins are and for them to make a decision that they want to be the Paul Dingler or the Stanley Elrod of the 2000’s. Assuming that at least one or two of these three things happen, I think we can look forward to a renaissance of interest in this area of the market in the coming years. Until then, can you say “contrarian opportunity?”