So, you’ve decided to attend this year’s Summer ANA show (aka The World’s Fair of Money) in Philadelphia. I’ve never attended an east coast ANA show that wasn’t excellent, so if this is your first show or if it’s your 100th, you have very reason to be excited.Read More
The 1914 eagle has a mintage of just 50 which is the lowest in the series. It seems that a higher percentage of Proofs of this date were saved than in other years, and as many as 30 to 40 are known. Nearly all have been mishandled in some shape or fashion, and my best estimate is that no more than six to eight Matte Proofs of this year are known with original color and surfaces.Read More
As a date, the 1840-C half eagle is a scarce and numismatically significant issue. It is the first year in which half eagles were made at this mint with the new, modified head, and the first year in which the mintmark was placed on the reverse. In the third edition of my book “Gold Coins of the Charlotte Mint, 1838-1861,” I rank it as the fourth rarest of 24 Charlotte half eagles, and believe it is the third rarest in high grades. My estimate is that there are around 150 known in all grades with most in the Very Fine to Extremely Fine range. In Uncirculated, the 1840-C half eagles is very rare with five or six known.Read More
Without fail, the annual ANA convention brings out many great coins. Some of these are old friends; others are new to the market. Many of the best coins I buy at major shows never make it onto my website, but they deserve attention.Read More
The ANA week has never been easy for a small numismatic firm like mine to handle, and when I learned that this year’s version included not one but two companies’ auctions I let out an audible groan. This was repeated when I saw the offerings online: both Heritage and Stack's Bowers had impressive sales, and I would need to carefully view them.
I booked flights to Orange County and Dallas to view the sales in person and at my leisure. One thing I have learned about auctions is that viewing conditions have to be ideal. For me this means the following: my special coin lamp, my music played loud over headphones, no distractions, and plenty of time to take notes on the coins I’m most interested in. I can’t do this at a coin show as, by then, my nerves are frazzled and I can’t properly concentrate. And when I don’t pay full attention, I make mistakes. In my level of dealing, a small mistake can equate to thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars so I want to be cautious, careful, and critical.
The sales were very successful for me. I spent in excess of $2 million dollars including a record-setting purchase of the ultra-rare 1861 Paquet double eagle. (But that’s another story.) The tale I want to tell here is about three coins which I have chosen for what I believe to be their overall level of interest to gold coin enthusiasts.
1. The One I Got at My Price
Lot 11077, Stack's Bowers. 1804 Small 8 over Large 8 half eagle, PCGS AU55, Old Green Holder.
A good client of mine has been searching for the “right” 1804 half eagle for the better part of two years. We’ve bid on a few at auction and always come up just a hair short; on others I’ve put the kibosh to the coin due to quality issues. The above referenced coin, after I saw it in person, was exactly what this collector would want and I knew it was a coin he would be excited about.
After we discussed it on the phone, we debated the value. I told him it was a coin I would gladly bid $10,000 on to stock it for my inventory. We decided to go to $11,000 in the sale, and I was told, “Don’t let this one get away.”
The coin opened at $9,000 and another floor bidder jumped in at $10,000. I bid $11,000 and waited to see if my bid would be topped. After a long pause, it wasn’t, and the coin was mine.
The collector texted me about fifteen seconds after the lot had closed and asked, “Was that our bid?” When I told him it was, I got back a short but rewarding text: “YESSSS!!!!!!!” He was happy, I was happy, and the coin now has a great new home where it will be appreciated for years and years.
2. The One I Ripped
Lot 12010, Stack's Bowers. 1854-S double eagle, PCGS MS64, ex SS Central America.
I’m going to be honest. It took me longer to “like” the SSCA coins than most gold coin experts. I had trouble with the coins due to the conservation and the lack of “originality.” But as time has marched on, I have come to like these coins, and certain coins from this wreck really excite me. This 1854-S was one coin that truly floated my boat.
This specific coin was the single finest of only 25 examples of this date found on the S.S. Central America. In addition, the 1854-S is a condition rarity in the Type One double eagle series, and it is desirable as the first double eagle from the brand new San Francisco mint. Not to mention the fact in person this coin was outstanding; quite possibly the best 1854-S double eagle I had ever seen and clearly finer, in my opinion, than the PCGS MS65 which sold for $115,000 in the Heritage 10/08 auction.
With this information at hand, I decided that I would bid up to $80,000 hammer on this coin and I might even stretch a bit if I had to. The coin, it turned out, was reserved by the consignor at $57,500. This meant that a $60,000 bid was required for a potential sale. The auctioneer opened the lot, I bid, and in a matter of seconds, it was hammered to me at $60,000, meaning I purchased it all in at $70,500. I considered this to be an excellent purchase and I grinned quietly, waiting for my next lot to come up in a few minutes.
3. The One That Got Away
Lot 4120, Heritage. 1865-S double eagle, NGC Improperly Cleaned, Uncirculated Details.
I don’t generally buy “problem coins” and I never, ever, ever doctor said pieces, but this lot was a really big riddle to me. It was the first and only truly Gem example of this date that I had ever seen except for one big problem: it had been lightly cleaned around the date years ago. Without this cleaning, this was a slam-dunk MS65 and, as an example with original surfaces (i.e., not from the Brother Johnathan or Republic shipwrecks) it could easily be worth $50,000++.
I had a dealer friend who is smarter than I am about such coins look at this and he agreed with me that it was a “no grade” now and likely a “no grade” in the foreseeable future. Still, I was haunted by this coin, and I threw in a bid of $5,000 just for the heck of it.
The coin wound up bringing $11,162.50, and I can guess which dealer bought it even without knowing the answer. I will be on the lookout for this coin in the near future and I won’t be shocked if it is in a “regular” MS65 holder and priced at some crazy number.
So there you have it: two sales, three coins, and one very tired dealer’s opinions. I greatly enjoyed my participation in both of these sales, and thanks go to Stack's Bowers and Heritage for putting on such a great group of coin auctions.
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You know how I feel about show reports. They tend to be self-serving, inaccurate, biased as hell, and generally not very interesting. Which is why I stopped writing them a few years ago. But most readers of this blog want to know about my experiences at the ANA and my thoughts about the market so I’m going to do what I said I wouldn’t: I’m going to write about the 2013 ANA show but from a perspective that you might not have already heard before.
1. So how was the show?
The ANA summer show has been the Big Kahuna ever since I was a kid and although its impact has slightly waned over the years (for numerous reasons which I will discuss at another time) it’s such a significant show that if you are a dealer with even a reasonable amount of a clue on how to buy and sell coins, you are going to have decent results just on account of being there. On the Doug Winter Show Grading System (with 1 being a show cancelled by a nuclear accident and 10 being the show that a dude walks up to my table with a box of unopened 1873 Proof Sets) I would call the 2013 ANA a 7.5 to 8.0. I was very busy from the beginning to the end. I sold a ton and I bought some very cool numismatic items. More on this later in the blog.
2. Modern coins made huge inroads at the 2013 ANA show.
Chances are good that if you go to your local regional show, you will see moderns. But the ANA wasn’t a place I expected to see dealers like APMEX with the mack-daddy of all coin show tables. (If my hefty-sized table was Oklahoma, they were Texas…) The strong presence of modern and bullion-related dealers at this year’s show sends a clear message: more and more, the coin market is about alternatives to classic or vintage coins.
3. There seemed to be more foreign dealers at the show than usual.
I didn’t count the exact number of Brits, Brazilians, and Bolivians - but taking a stroll through the foreign/ancient section of the show was interesting and, for a coin show, downright cosmopolitan. For me, the ANA has an interesting social aspect. There are overseas dealers who I literally see once per year and my annual three minute "heyhowyadoin’" chat always occurs at the ANA.
4. The ANA remains an overwhelming logistics operation for a one or two-person operation.
I attended the pre-show (ANA Lite) and the regular ANA and committed to a full eight days and seven nights in the process. Even after deciding to blow-off the Stacks Bowers auctions due, frankly, to being overwhelmed, I still found it nearly impossible to accomplish even half of what I wanted to do at the show. I never made it to see the book dealers, missed the exhibits, and failed to talk to at least ten people I wanted to connect with. Being busy is a good thing (and on more than one day, I said to Jenna, “Hey, I’m hungry, let’s eat lunch!” only to look at my phone’s clock and see that it was already 1:47 in the afternoon) but being too busy can be kind of flustering.
5. What do you think about the location of the show, Doug?
I’m about as much of a city guy as anyone you know. I grew up in Manhattan, I vacation in big cities, and my house in Portland is in the heart of downtown. That said, I despise Rosemont and everything it represents. Would I ever spend a minute more in Rosemont than I had to? Of course not. But do I think it’s a good location for a convention? Yes, it’s actually a great location. Dead center of the country. Easy and cheap air access. Nice hotels within walking distance. A small but decent number of good dining options. (Although my Gibson’s overload factor went nearly off the charts this year. The seared crusted Ahi Tuna salad was a wonderful lunch but six days in a row?) If it were up to me, coin shows would be small, highly professional 100 dealer operations that lasted two days/nights at most, and were located in great cities like San Francisco, New York and Boston. But there aren’t so we make do with locations like Rosemont. For me it’s a true love/hate relationship, but when you realize analyze it, it makes sense.
6. Heartfelt congratulations to John Albanese for winning the Sol Kaplan award.
This is presented annually by PNG “for work in helping to fight fraud and thievery in numismatics.” John is one of the good guys in the coin business and he has done more for consumer protection and advocacy than nearly anyone I know. I’m happy to see him get some professional recognition from the PNG.
7. The coin show wasn’t all Rosemont/Gibson’s/Numismatics for me.
I took part of Saturday and most of Sunday off and stayed in downtown Chicago. The highlight of my trip was going to the Art Institute of Chicago. As you might know, I’m a bit of an Art Weenie and the AIC was on my shortlist of great American museums that I had yet to visit. It was worth the wait. It is spectacular and I highly recommend it. I mostly wanted to see this.
8. As you have no doubt read countless number of times in the past year(s), it is hard to buy nice coins now.
For a number of reasons, there are real issues with supply and this is across-the-board; whether you deal in Gem Proof gold or Conder Tokens, nice material is really in short supply. I actually was able to find some pretty neat coins at the show. (That surprised me.) I noticed a drop-off in coins around Wednesday afternoon and the reason for this was clear: PCGS was so slammed by submissions for walk-throughs that they shut off grading - and when I left the show on Friday, they still hadn’t returned coins. Had they done so, I would have had the appetite for more new purchases. And I’m sure so would have other dealers.
9. In Observation #1 I mentioned that the ANA is the Big Kahuna of coin shows...
But for those of us old enough to remember back before, say, 2000, the ANA used to be a lot different. I can recall saving coins for three or four months to sell at the ANA. But that was before the internet made the coin market a 24/7 thing, and it was back when the only spring show of note was Central States, and the next show on the Coin Calendar was the Summer ANA. Back when people used to hold coins, you’d see some wild, wild stuff in dealers' cases. I remember how Dave Akers, Ed Milas, Paul Nugget, Mike Brownlee, and my other gold-coin-heroes would have crazy Territorials I had never seen before, insane early gold and groups of fresh branch mint coins (some of which I could actually buy for my fledgling business), and more. In 2013, the cupboard is pretty bare. Oh sure, I grooved on the Eric Newman silver coins. Legend’s 1894-S Dime was pretty neat, and the Proof 1921 Saint that a dealer friend of mine owns caught my attention. Ah, but for the Good ‘ol Days…
10. There were clear signs of what was hot and what wasn’t hot at the show.
The strongest areas included Carson City double eagles, Type One double eagles, virtually all interesting Liberty Head eagles, Dahlonega gold (I could have sold twenty half eagles had I found any for sale; where the heck are they?), and choice early gold with original color and surfaces.
To those of you who stopped by my table at the Throes in Rose(mont), thanks. And to everyone who has bought one or more of the new coins that I purchased at the show and listed on the website (www.raregoldcoins.com), double thanks.
The annual Summer ANA show is a highlight on any collector's or dealer's calendar. This is my 30th in a row to attend and I am very much looking forward to the show, especially as it appears to be the last ANA that will be held on the east coast for many years. Here's a list of at least ten things that I'm excited about doing and seeing next week in Philadelphia: 1. Having a Mystery Guest Sighting: Without fail, every year at ANA always brings out at least one "mystery guest." Typically, it's a dealer who left the market and have been unseen for years or it's a collector who I haven't seen since the late 1980's who has decided to wander in because he heard that the ANA show was close to his house. I wonder who it will be this year?
2. Attending the Battle Born Sale. I'm very interested in this sale for a number of reasons. I sold many of the coins to the owner and am curious to see how they do at auction. I am excited to go "head to head" with the sharpest rare date gold buyers in the business as we compete to buy coins for clients and for stock. In the not so distant past, it wasn't uncommon to have big specialized sales like this that all the big players attended in person. I'm hoping that during this sale I'm able to see who I am bidding against, and it will go a long way to answering my questions about the State of the Market for Carson City coinage.
3. Having Something Great Walk Up to My Table: Every dealer hopes this will happen at an ANA show: a well-dressed man walks up to the table with a run of 19th century proof sets that he wants to sell for his elderly parents or a little old lady walks up with an original roll of Saints. These things DO happen from time to time and the fact that we are in Philadelphia, the cradle of American numismatics, bodes well for something exciting walking into the show. So if you are reading this blog, great-grandson of James Longacre, please come to tables 805-807 first and ask for me by name!
4. Wearing Nice Clothes in the 95 Degree/100 % Humidity Philly Summer As excited as I am to spend a week in Philadelphia, I'm going to miss the nearly perfect summer we've had so far in the Northwest. It's been under 80 degrees nearly every day here and I haven't had the air conditioner on once. While I'd like to attend the ANA show in my typical Portland Summer Uniform of polo shirt, shorts and sneakers, I feel this wouldn't be appropriate and will, instead, be suited-up every day. Sigh...
5. Viewing the ANA Exhibits. One of my favorite things to do at the show every year is to take thirty minutes off and go view the competitive and non-competitive exhibits. I still am eager to learn about areas of numismatics I know little about, and to see great U.S. coins that I haven't viewed before. It is always fun for me to do this and I always learn which dealers are true coin weenies when I get a text(s) during the show telling me "you have to see (such and such) coin at the Smithsonian or ANS exhibit."
6. Going to The Barnes Museum. Is it wrong for me to admit that I'm actually more excited to see this art museum than I am to attend the coin show? If you have a teeny iota of interest in great 19th and 20th century art, you need to go.
7. Eating Breakfast and Lunch Every Day at Reading Market. Two words: Amish Breakfast. And I can already taste the Italian sammies I'll be chowing down on every day. Sure beats typical coin show food! (Let's not even begin to talk about Philly cheese steaks, South Philly noodles and gravy, the Belgian mussels and frites place I went to the last time I was in Philly, cheap and good Chinese food, etc. etc.)
8. Restocking My Depleted Inventory. Back in the day, I would save coins for the ANA show because June and July were typically dead months. Now, with the internet 24/7/365 having taken over all retail businesses, I typically go to ANA with very few fresh coins due to the fact that there is essentially no summer break for the coin market any more. I had an atypically busy July and am now in dire need to buy coins. As are, I would assume, most other dealers. That fact, combined with strong metals prices and a great east coast location, lead me to think that this year's show will be a very good to excellent one.
9. Experiencing the ANA Buzz. To use a sports metaphor, the ANA is the Super Bowl of coin shows. It's a whole lot more exciting for a dealer to be at the ANA for a week than its is to spend three days trapped in the purgatory of a slow regional show where you've realized within thirty minutes that there is nothing to buy but your airline wants $1,000+ to change to an earlier flight. (Note to self: continue to pay the change fees and chalk it up to mental health benefits...). Even though I've been doing this show for 30 years and it has becoming a bit of grind, it is still exciting for me every day to walk in, see the hundreds and hundreds of tables and wondering what will happen, good or bad, on this particular day.
10. Leaving the Show. As I hinted above, the ANA is a lot of work, especially when you are doing the majority of the buying/selling/bidding/schmoozing/running around/answering calls/scheduling...let's just say I stay busy pretty much every minute of the day from 8am until 10pm (or later on some of the big auction nights). I like the action and I love the up-side, but it is very tiring and I have to tell you that when my plane lands in Portland, I might be doing the Pope-kissing-the tarmac routine. Except for the fact that the Saturday, Sunday, and Monday after the show are all 12+ hour days...
See you in Philadelphia!