I recently attended a dealer-only pre-ANA show in Beverly Hills. I’m not usually a big fan of these pre-shows but I made an exception for this one as it was held in a location that was easy enough for me to get to and still go home for a weekend rest before the Big Show begins next week. Also, for better or worse these shows are an excellent opportunity for me to get an early shot as some major dealer’s coins. I was able to buy a few very interesting pieces (all of which are now imaged and described on my website, www.raregoldcoins.com) These pre-shows don’t really give a great indication as to how the “real” show is going to turn out. My take on the market right now is that it is harder than ever to buy interesting coins and when nice stuff does show up, price levels are a bit stronger than they were a few months ago.
I sold quite a few coins at the pre-show. I noted demand for nice early gold, CAC-approved issues, Proof gold and anything that was “special.” No surprise there, of course...
On Friday, I attended the Heritage Platinum Night sale. The auction contained some very interesting early gold, quarter eagles and eagles and some of the results are worth a quick analysis.
Lot 1199 was an 1861-D gold dollar that was in an NCS “Uncirculated details” holder. This was a really intriguing coin. It had the look of an MS62 but it had been lightly wiped on the reverse years ago. I had thought the coin would bring around $20,000 but it was bid all the way up to $29,900. I’m guessing a dealer bought it and he thinks that with a little “improvement” it will be in an NGC or PCGS holder in the near future.
A group of early quarter eagles ran the gamut from truly exceptional to downright ugly. The ugliest of the ugly was a holed and plugged 1796 No Stars that brought just $19,550; probably the cheapest example of this celebrated issue to sell in a decade or more. The highlight was what is likely the finest known example of the exceptionally rare 1804 13 star reverse, graded AU58 by PCGS. I purchased it for $322,000 which is exactly the same amount as the Price coin, graded AU55 by NGC, sold for last year.
Prices for the Capped Head issues were strong. A nice NGC AU58* 1825 (which was accompanied by an old PCGS MS61 tag!) sold for $23,500 and a pleasing NGC AU53* 1827 realized $21,850. Even though I usually steer clear of cleaned coins, I did buy an NCS “AU details” example of the extremely rare 1834. This coin showed the detail of an AU53 to AU55 and, despite the cleaning, it was a presentable example of this great rarity. It sold for $25,300.
My favorite coin in the sale was an NGC VF35 1854-S quarter eagle. This coin had been off the market since 1991 and it was probably the nicest VF Liberty Head quarter eagle of any date I can recall seeing; let alone a great rarity like the 1854-S. Only a dozen or so are known and all of the pieces graded higher are off the market in private collections or museums. This one brought $253,000 which is exactly the same price that I paid for an NGC 45 example back in 2005. This price seems a bit on the high side but I would contend that the 1854-S remains one of the most undervalued of the Classic Rarities and, when compared to issues like the 1894-S Dime and the 1876-CC Twenty Cent Piece, it is a great value. My hats off to the new owner of this coin...you bought a great 1854-S!
One coin that surprised me was the 1864 graded AU53 by PCGS. This was a solid coin for the grade and the 1864 has finally been recognized as a major rarity. But this piece sold for $32,200 which has to be a record price for a circulated 1864 quarter eagle.
Another notable quarter eagle was an NGC AU58 1841. This very rare Proof-only issue has just 15-18 known and the example in the Platinum Night session was exceptional with lovely original color and just a touch of rub on the high spots; in other words it was a real 58 and not some ugly processed “faux-slider.” It sold for $132,250 which I think is a pretty strong price but I thought it could have brought as much as $150,000.
The extremely rare 1880 Coiled Hair Stella was offered as Lot 1246. One of just eight or nine known, it was in an NGC PR62 holder and it had brought $618,125 back in 2005. At the Heritage sale it $546,250 which I actually think is a pretty strong price.
A run of early half eagles tended to bring prices commensurate with the quality. Low end coins were a bit on the cheap side while nice higher end CAC coins were stronger.
The sale also featured a run of damaged or cleaned early eagles which, I’m sorry to say, was one of the less impressive early gold collections I have seen. The prices realized were on the (very) cheap side and I think this was an example of the “you get what you pay for” philosophy of coin pricing.
Two 1799 eagles, lots 1289 and 1290, offered a good example of the intricacies of the early gold market. Lot 1289 was a 1799 eagle in PCGS AU58. It was original and gorgeous with lovely color and the “look” that I strive for when buying early gold. It brought $20,700. The next lot was a 1799 in NGC AU58 that was low-end with zero originality. It brought $18,400. Here was an instance when spending a few thousand dollars more would have meant a huge difference in quality.
The last coin I had interest in was a lovely 1873-CC eagle in NGC AU55*. This was probably the second finest known example of the second rarest eagle from this mint. It brought $63,250 which is far and away a record auction price for the date. Here’s proof that in a popular series like CC eagles, a great coin can still bring a great price.
I left soon afterwards, happy to be done with an auction by 9PM and ready to go home for a weekend of relaxation before the Big Show.