The Pre-ANA Show and the Heritage Los Angeles Platinum Night Sale

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, 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 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.

Preparing for the 2009 ANA Convention

Amazingly, it’s time for yet another Summer ANA Convention. This year’s edition is going to be held on August 5th through August 9th at the Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles and if past shows are any indication, this will be one of the best coins shows of the year. If you’ve never been to a major coin show before, attending your first ANA can be pretty intimidating. The display area is enormous and there are hundreds of dealers from all over the world. What things should you absolutely not miss at the ANA?

The first thing I’d make sure to do at this year’s show is to view the exhibits. The competitive exhibits are always fun but it’s the Smithsonian’s display that has me very interested. This year’s star coin is the unique 1849 Double Eagle; a coin that, if it were to come to market, would set a record for the most valuable United States issue. There will be other amazing rarities on display as well but the chance to see the 1849 double eagle is just about enough to make any serious gold collector get on the plane and go to L.A.

The next thing I’d do is hit the Whitman Publishing display, buy copies of all their wonderful books and try to get as many as possible autographed by the author(s). Whitman is planning on having many of the authors attend the show and they will be signing their books throughout the show. I certainly wouldn’t miss any of the specialty club meetings in the area(s) that were of interest to me. As an example, the Liberty Seated Collectors Club will be holding a major meeting during the show and if I were a collector of Seated coins this would be an event I absolutely wouldn’t want to miss.

And, of course, I’d be going to look for coins. Even if you don’t plan on making any purchases, you’ll be amazed at what you see at an ANA show. Some dealers will have incredible rarities that they will be happy to let you hold and examine. Other dealers will have deep inventories of coins that you collect. If there was ever a place to find the proverbial “needle in the haystack” it’s at an ANA show.

I would suggest that as far as looking for coins go, you come prepared. Most dealers at an ANA are going to be reasonably busy (it gets more and more relaxed as the show draws to a close) and it won’t be quite the Mon-n-Pop atmosphere that you might be used to at a small, local show. Bring the pricing information that you rely on with you, don’t forget to bring a good glass (or even a lamp if you can ) and be ready to pull the trigger quickly if the coin(s) you have been searching for just happen to be at a dealer’s table.