A Letter from a Collector Regarding the Newman Sale

I recently received a really thoughtful email from a reader of this blog - and with his permission am reproducing it in full. November 16, 2013

An Open Letter to Doug Winter

Hi Doug,

On the day following the Eric Newman Part II early silver auction, I wanted to take the time to thank you for all you’ve done for the hobby over these years. In internet parlance, I’ve been a lurker, someone who follows a blog for some time without contributing. Truth be told, I’ve never even done business with you, despite calling you some years back regarding a branch mint coin. Back to the story, I read your recent blog regarding your experience with the Newman preview and was inspired to view it. Engineering a trip to NYC earlier this week, I had the pleasure of previewing the auction which you had described as “one of the most pleasurable coin-related experiences [you’d] had in years”. Not being a collector of early silver, I’ve always been intrigued by its beauty and historical significance. Add the beautiful toning from the Wayte Raymond albums’ sulfur to what was already a gorgeous assembly of high-grade coins and you were certainly right that this was an historic opportunity.

Like most collectors, I don’t have unlimited resources to commit to coins. Since I have historically concentrated upon territorial and gold-rush period shipwreck coins, I’ve typically felt that a dollar spent on non-territorial, moves me away from my specialty. Frankly, after viewing the magnificent Newman collection, I felt like the proverbial fellow at the dance who keeps falling in love with the last girl he danced with (read “the last coin he viewed”) as I went through box after box. After attending on-line and reviewing the results of last night’s Signature auction, I could hear in my head many of the lessons you’ve written about over the years. To loosely paraphrase you, here are a few:

  • fresh material that’s been off the market for years brings spirited bidding
  • with the really good coins, don’t be surprised that today’s price that seems a stretch will look like a bargain in retrospect
  • superior eye appeal can transcend traditional grading values and pricing
  • a good (in this case, great) collection is worth more than the sum of its parts
  • use of a knowledgeable, honest, good-hearted dealer (readers of your blog know you resemble that remark) can add tremendous value

To make a long story short, I fell in love with many of the coins, and was prepared to buy a few based on pre-auction bid prices. I had done my due diligence as best I could by viewing comparables on the auction websites and reviewing population data. Note to self, many coins were so appealing there were few visible “comparables” to judge fair pricing. As the bidding developed, I quickly saw that factors 1) thru 4) above were at work, bringing prices multiples of what I had determined were already solid prices. Not having significant experience with early silver, nor the time to consult a knowledgeable dealer, I was on my own.

I passed on most lots I had identified as their prices went to levels way beyond my estimates, although they may very well look like bargains later. Truth be told, I bought only one coin, solely because I thought it was cool on multiple factors. The coin is the 1817 over 3 bust half dollar in MS-64, Lot 33447. The factors:

  1. a big, bold, well-struck coin with great Wayte Raymond toning and almost cameo-like eye appeal
  2. a very visible error with the 7 looming over much of a 3; magnification not necessary to enjoy and much more prominent than the 1815/2 error which goes for big money
  3. interesting vivid clash marks on both sides, very visible given the strike and toning
  4. proof-like features so prominent that they were noted by Eric Newman and Walter Breen and the subject of considerable discussion
  5. well-nestled in the condition census by grade, only 11 of 70 Heritage auction appearances were uncirculated, with few near gems, and frankly, none I liked more
  6. provenance before Eric Newman was “Colonel” Green, son of Hetty Green, known as the witch of Wall Street; interesting history and connection to two great collections
  7. I’m not sure if the Newman envelope that accompanies the coin reflects his acquisition or offer price, but he paid or valued it at $100 many years ago, far more than many of the other coins in this auction. I know it’s not scientific, but buying it for $28,200 seems a bargain when many other coins annotated by Newman for much less than $100 sold for a quarter million dollars or more.

It wasn’t quite graded a gem and it doesn’t have the CAC bean. It may not have the PCGS look. As a traditionally gold coin guy, I have trouble appreciating and viewing the somewhat muted toned “original” look much early silver exhibits; I like the flash. Perhaps I overpaid or knowledgeable folks could find fault, but it literally jumped out of the box during my preview. It turned me on for the above reasons and shall proudly sit in my cabinet to remind me of this historic sale for years to come!

Closing the loop, I wanted to thank you again for what you do for the hobby. Keep on dealing and writing. I’ve read and enjoyed all your branch mint books and I visit your website often to view your inventory and gain perspective. Your enthusiasm is contagious and your eye for the right look in a coin is superb. Don’t ever think that because you don’t get feedback on a particular piece you write or a sale from every interaction you have with a collector, you are not making an impact. It is folks like you (and Eric Newman, thru his generosity) that knowingly or not mentor, develop, and inspire the future collectors that keep our hobby vibrant. Developing future generations of collectors should be a goal of us all.

Please feel free to publish this article if you see fit, but withhold my name for privacy reasons. I hope this gives you some material, so you can have a well-deserved break from the excellent writing. Thank you.

1817/3 Bust Half NGC MS64, lot 33447, image courtesy of Heritage

Our writer also attached a wonderful photo of himself, with his 4-month old daughter, bidding on the 1817/3 bust half. He plans to give it to her when she’s old enough to understand. Thank you to our ghost-writer for sharing!

Do you buy rare gold coins?

Do you have gold coins to sell?

Would you like to have the world’s leading expert working directly with you when assembling a set?

Contact Doug Winter at 214.675.9897 or by email at dwn@ont.com.

Why I Made Collector X Mad

The phone rang early Saturday morning. It was a collector calling. The conversation went something like this: "Hi Doug, this is "collector X" (the names have been changed to protect the innocent) and I'm getting ready to enter the convention hall. I want to see your coins. What's your table number again?"

"Ummm...it was Table 201 but I left the show last night and I'm currently in my office working up my new purchases so they can be on the website this afternoon."

"You what?!? You left?!? Isn't the show on Saturday? You HAVE to be there. That's not right..."

"I'm really sorry, sir, but I arrived in Schaumberg on Tuesday and I thought three and a half days was enough time to spend at the show. I was around all day Thursday and much of Friday."

"But I work and can't get the time off."

We talked back and forth for a few more minutes. I felt bad that Collector X had driven a few hours to the show and he was about to discover that some of his favorite dealers (not just me) had left on Friday.

Which brings us to the major question at hand: why did I leave early and why will I continue to leave shows (with one or two exceptions) on Friday?

The short answer: most coin shows are too long. Many open on Wednesday and go through Saturday or even Sunday. If you ask ten dealers if they need a coin show to be four or five days, I'm guessing that nine (or more) will say "no." Exceptions to the rule: The January FUN show and the Summer ANA show which are busy enough that most dealers are OK with attending them for the extra day or two.

Here's my take on shows: not only are they too long, there are too many of them. I look at shows as a necessary evil. I have to go to them because this is where I buy a lot of my coins. But if I could figure a way to reduce my show schedule to, say, three or four a year, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

As Collector X was quick to remind me, coins shows are important for him. He gets to see coins, he gets to schmooze with his favorite dealers, and he can buy some stuff. I see his points but I'd offer the following retorts:

1: Most dealers don't put their good coins out at shows, choosing instead to offer them to selected clients via want lists or placing them on their websites.

2: At most shows, dealers are highly stressed-out and a relaxin' chat with a collector isn't practical. If a collector wants to speak to a fully focused, well-rested dealer, he'd do much better speaking to that individual on the phone a week or two after a show, when the dealer is decompressed and relaxed.

3: As a collector, wouldn't you rather make a buying decision in the comfort of your own home, using your own lighting (at most shows the lighting is abysmal...) and not being pressured to make a quick "yes or no" decision?

If you ask ten dealers what they go to shows for, I'm sure you'd get ten different answers. I go to shows primarily to buy. I believe that the excellence of my website means that I have a better delivery method for coins than putting them out in a showcase once per month. That's the reason why when you go to my table at most shows, you see around eight coins laid out in the case. Where are the rest of them? Put away in my safe, waiting for me to image and describe them and place them on my website.

As I mentioned above, I feel that my website is excellent and my inventory is best served by the good images and descriptions found on www.raregoldcoins.com. In order for me to buy coins at shows, I have to get there early.

I told Collector X that the problem with a show like Central States is that it's "front-loaded." By this, I mean that, as a dealer, if you arrive on Wednesday afternoon, you've probably blown your chance to get an early shot at the fresh coins other dealers have for sale. If I had a staff, I'd have them come in the day I was departing in order to man the table while I went home and processed the new purchases. The problem is, most collectors, like Collector X, want to talk to me and not a staff member. Which sort of leaves me between a rock and a hard place.

The ideal solution to this problem is to start shows first thing on a Thursday and end them in the mid-afternoon on Saturday; lean and efficient, please. And I like the idea of having "day tables" where I might be able to vacate my space at the front of the room on Friday and have a smaller dealer from the back of the room move up to my spot.

Collector X, when you read this blog please realize that I feel your pain. Taking the time to drive to a major show and then having many of your favorite dealers not there is no fun. Please know that I was hard at work all day on Saturday (and much of Sunday) on the two nicest days of the year so far in Portland (you have no possible idea how much I wanted to go hiking...) so that you and other DWN customers would be able to have a shot at over fifty new coins by late morning Saturday. Next time I'm in your neck of the woods, let's go have a cocktail, let's go talk about gold coins and let's bury the hatchet.


Doug Winter

What Does "On Hold" Mean on Your Website?

I was asked this seemingly innocuous question by a client the other day and it made me pause. Even though many coins are listed as "on hold" on my website, there are actually a number of potential scenarios that could more accurately describe them. These deserve a brief explanation and an end-of-the-blog realization (I hope) that just because a coin marked on hold it doesn't mean that you shouldn't inquire about it. In most instances, a coin is marked "on hold" because it has been ordered by an existing client and sent out to him on an approval basis. Generally, the status of such a coin will change quickly as I tend to ship coins out the same day they have been ordered by overnight delivery. If a coin on approval is sent out, say, on a Tuesday, I might known its atatus as early as Wednesday or Thursday.

However, I do not mark such a coin as being "sold" until it is paid for. If I trust a client enough to send him a $5,000 coin on approval, I trust him enough to pay me in good funds for it. That said odd things do happen from time to time and it is not impossible for a coin that I thought was sold on Thursday to become available again on Friday.

If a coin is sold to a client and he requests extended payments, the coin is taken off the website. This way, coins won't sit and fester with an endless "on hold" status. I update my website constantly and as soon as I know the exact status of a coin, it is marked as such.

There are times when another dealer or a collector will ask for a coin on my site to be put on hold for a pre-determined period of time while he tries to sell it or, in the case of a collector, he makes a decision. In most instances, this decision-making period is 24 to 48 hours. I don't think its fair for a coin to be tied-up longer than this and I do not generally allow for this to happen.

In a case where a coin is "on hold" while being considered, I will typically tell the second person who calls that they have second shot should the deal fall through. This doesn't happen often but it does happen enough that I would strongly urge you to request second shot on a coin you want even if it is already marked as being on hold.

The "on hold" process might be slowed down by a few factors. If the potential buyer of a coin wants it sent to CAC for approval or to PCGS for a crossover this will add time to the process. I don't want to take such a coin off my website as it is still not technically sold but, to be fair to the buyer I might attempt to get the coin stickered or crossed. Or, there might be a situation where the coin was shipped to a collector on Monday but he is out of town on business for a few days, slowing down the process.

Sometimes I will have a coin on my site marked as "sold." There are a few reasons for this. The first is thast, after selling a rare or important coin, I kind of like to brag a little bit. I might leave it up as being sold for a few days just to show people looking through my coins that I am capable of selling major coins. Plus, it feels good for me to browse my coins and see a few "solds" here and there.

I'm in the business of selling coins, so I want as many people as possible to feel confident about the entire buying process at DWN. I know collectors get frustrated when they go on my website and see many of the coins marked "on hold." I'd like to think that this is because I sell really nice coins and that there are a lot of people looking for the quality that I specialize in. Because I run a small, boutique coin business, I don't have salespeople who will manage want lists or send out emails with specific coins you may (or may not) be looking for. My feeling is that by maintaining and frequently updating a high-quality website, I am giving everyone an equal chance of purchasing coins with character.

Please remember that a coin marked as "on hold" could become available but if I don't know that you have an interest in it, it will never be offered to you directly. Just send me at email at dwn@ont.com or phone me at (214) 675-9897 when you see a coin on my site that is of interest. I will give you as much information about its availability as I can and, who knows, it might be sitting on your desk in a few days!

Tips on Selling Your Coins Via Dealer Consignment

Many retail dealers, myself included, welcome consignments from collectors. It's a great way to increase the size of a dealer's inventory without laying out cash and it is often an excellent source for dealers to place useful, fresh attractive coins to new or existing clients. As a potential consignor, what are some of the questions you should be asking a dealer and what are some of the expectations you should have? 1. What rate should you be paying a dealer? I can't speak for every dealer, so I'll share this from a DWN perspective. I generally charge between 5 and 10% to sell a coin on consignment. I've heard of dealers charging more than 10% and that seems a bit on the gouge-y side. On the other hand, to expect a dealer to sell your coins for less than 5% is unreasonable unless you are talking about a very low spread item like bullion or generics (which probably shouldn't be consigned to dealers in the first place).

2. What should my expectations be as a consignor? Obviously, your first expectation is for the coin to sell. But there should be other expectations as well. You should expect a dealer to work hard at selling your coins. This means listing them promptly on his website, imaging them, giving them good descriptions and offering them directly (via phone or email) to existing clients. You should expect clear, concise paperwork from the dealer including a receipt stating the terms and conditions of the consignment. You should expect prompt payment with good funds. And you should expect honesty and integrity. No games, no "funny stuff."

3. What sort of payment terms should I expect? There is no set answer to this so, once again, I'll share with you how I take care of payment. First of all, I am very careful to sell consigned coins to collectors or dealers who I know will pay me. There are certain dealers, for instance, whose check I absolutely will not take. I wouldn't sell these guys any of my own coins so why would I subject a collector to the risk of "will I or won't I get paid?" I generally pay clients for coins within a few days of being paid myself; a few days usually meaning two or three. In the case of having multiple coins on consignment from one collector, I pay them as they sell. I never wait until the end of a deal to pay the consignor and I don't think that's fair, unless that's what the consignor requests.

4. How long should the consigning process take? This depends on the coins that your are consigning. If you have very esoteric coins, the consignment process is going to take a while (in this case maybe three months or so). If you have very liquid coins, the process should be short (in this case just a few weeks). I would suggest that you ask the dealer how long that you think it will take him to sell each coin in the consignment. You don't want to let the consignment process go on forever. If your coins are appearing on a dealer's website they will be "stale" after a few months and will be very hard to sell in the near future should you decide to put them in auction or with another dealer.

5. How should I price the coins I am consigning? It is important to price your coins realistically or they are not likely to sell. Some dealers will take any coin that you offer them at any price. Other dealers, myself included, will probably pass on coins that are not priced in line with the current market. I would suggest you price your coins the same way that I do: look to see if there are recent comparables at auction and use these as a base line. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. An extremely rare coin, a coin in an old green label PCGS holder or something that is currently very "hot" might deserve premium pricing. As a seller, you need to ask yourself, how badly do you want to move your coin(s)? If you price a $5,000 coin at $8,000 it is likely to taint it and potential buyers may be skeptical when the price is suddenly--and dramatically--reduced.

6. What about consigning special collections? Over the years I have had a number of in-depth specialized collections consigned to me for sale. For these collections, I've created special "websites within my website" that feature these coins and they are not intermixed with my regular inventory. I would suggest that you request this when selling. It is smart marketing, it should help to sell your coins and it's a nice, lasting memorial for your collection that you can keep record of. If the dealer you are using to sell your coins is web-oriented and he is incapable of providing this service, I'd suggest you question whether he is the right person to sell the coins. If the dealer is just going to sell them wholesale, then this process is, of course, not needed.

7. What should you not expect? Just as you should have expectations of what to expect from the dealer you select, there are a few things you should not expect. One of these is for the dealer to have an obligation to tell you who your coins were sold to. You certainly have every right to tell the dealer not to sell your crusty original coins to an "upgrader" who is likely to strip and ruin them. You probably shouldn't expect daily updates on how your consignment is doing but it isn't asking too much of your dealer to hear, from time to time, how the consignment is faring.

8. How should I choose the dealer I consign to? If you've made it this far, you are probably waiting for the answers to this important question. I'd say the two most important things to consider are the relationship you already have with the dealer and his ability to understand (and get good prices) for your coins. If you have been dealing exclusively or semi-exclusively with a dealer for a few years and you like/trust this person it seems obvious to select him to sell your coins. The second point seems obvious but is worth reiterating. I think my firm is a great choice to sell branch mint gold or early gold but I'd be a poor person to sell a high grade set of Buffalo Nickels. I could probably do a decent job of presenting Buffalo Nickels but I don't know the series well and have zero clients for these coins. In this increasingly specialized market, it makes sense to choose someone who is a specialist himself, providing that you have a collection with a reasonably specific focus.

I think dealer consignments are a good way to sell your high quality, rare United States coins. Hopefully this short blog answered a few questions. If you have more, please feel free to contact me via email at dwn@ont.com

The DWN Online Rare Gold Coinapedia

For many years, it has been my strong belief that the best DWN client is one who is educated. An educated collector is a confident collector and a confident collector is a more active collector. This is one of the reasons that I have tried to share as much of my knowledge about United States gold coins as possible. I’ve written the standard reference books on Charlotte, Carson City, Dahlonega and New Orleans gold as well as hundreds of specialized articles and blogs that can be found on my website www.raregoldcoins.com. With few exceptions, I don’t think there are many other dealers who can make the claim that they are as interested in educating their clients as much as I can.

My current work-in-progress is something that I am especially proud of. I call it the DWN Online Rare Gold Coinapedia and I am proud to officially announce that it is available for collectors to use immediately.

What this online project consists of are hundreds of high-quality images (obverse and reverse) of 18th, 19th and 20th century United States gold coins along with descriptions of each. These descriptions, while taken from write-ups that originally appeared on my website, are informational as opposed to commercial and should provide the new collector with lots of basic facts about the coins they are interested in.

The beauty of this project is that it is totally non-commercial. None of the coins that appear on the on-line encyclopedia are currently for sale. No hype, no sales pressure, just useful facts about coins. And the quality of the images is superb.

At this point in time there are around 300 different images posted. These include the following:

*Over 40 gold dollars

*Over 65 quarter eagles

*Over 15 three dollars

*Over 85 half eagles

*Over 55 eagles

*Over 60 double eagles

And, there are miscellaneous images of coins such as Territorials as well.

As time passes, I will be adding images and descriptions to this resource. I hope to double it in size by the end of 2010. While it will never be totally complete (there are clearly a number of very rare issues that I will not be able to image in the near future) I anticipate that it will become an important, widely used reference in the months to come.

Please visit the DWN Online Rare Gold Coinopedia. Use it often and give me input as to how to make it better and more useful to you. I look forward to hearing your comments.

"Hey DWN, Why's Your Inventory So Small...?"

I recently received an email from a new collector with a subject line that was similar to the quotation that I titled this blog. At first I thought the question was obnoxious. Then I pondered it a little and realized that it was actually a pretty good question after all. So why is my current on-line inventory so small? I can give you the standard ten word answer but since this is my forum and I'm assuming you actually care about these things I'm going to give you the long, drawn-out multi-part answer.

I own considerably more coins than what you see for sale at any point in time on my website. Colns that aren't on www.raregoldcoins.com might not be listed for a number of reasons. They may be out at PCGS or NGC being graded. They might be at CAC awaiting a blessing from John Albanese. I may have decided to sell them somewhere else other than my website (sometimes for stealthy reasons and sometimes not) or I may have offered them directly to a collector with whom I have an established relationship with.

There are a small number of boutique retail operations (of which I proudly count myself as one) that handle really nice, really rare coins. I'm guessing that most of them are experiencing the shortage of good coins to buy right now that I am. I've already explained, ad nauseum, my reasoning for the current Coin Drought and I won't repeat my reasons here. But I'd be wary of any firm right now with hundreds and hundreds of seemingly cool coins in stock at this point in time. If you are a choosy, fussy buyer like I am, there is no way that you'll have a ton of good coins in stock right now.

Even if we weren't in the midst of Coindroughtapoolza I'd still never have what would be considered a vast, deep inventory. The coins that I specialize in are genuinely rare and that fact, coupled with my personal fussiness, means that I am likely to pass on 95+% of the coins that I see in other dealer's inventories. I promise you that for every Charlotte half eagle in Extremely Fine or Dahlonega quarter eagle in About Uncirculated that I pull the trigger on and buy, I've passed on alot of other pieces that aren't "DWN Quality."

I have always been attracted to rarity and there are not many common or semi-scarce coins that I will buy. This has changed a bit in recent years as I've had to expand my definition of what makes a coin cool enough for me to write a check for it. As an example, No Motto Philadelphia gold coinage has become interesting to me in recent years. The main reasons why this is are that a) the coins are actually available from time to time b) they seem like really good values and c) choice, original examples with nice color and surfaces are more plentiful than, say Charlotte or Dahlonega coins of this era which are often vile and not interesting to me at any price.

There's another reason why I don't want 500 coins in stock at any given time. I am very controlling when it comes to inventory control (sorry for the bad pun...) and I want to know about every coin that I own. I can always tell you what I paid for a coin, where it was bought, its pedigree and anything else interesting about it; without having to look up this information on my computer or having to refer to a spreadsheet. If I had hundreds or thousands of coins I obviously would not be able to do this. As a collector this might not be important to you. But I think it's kind of neat to deal with someone who is really aware of every coin that he owns.

Another reason why I don't list a ton of coins on my website is that I want it to be very user-friendly and easy to navigate. If I had a thousand coins listed at any given time on www.raregoldcoins.com it would become far less simple and elegant to use than it currently is. There is a reason why it is easy to find things on my site. I deliberately don't want you to have to click three links and pull down two scroll-bars just to find Liberty Head quarter eagles. I've designed the site to be exactly what I personally want when I'm looking for things on the web. And there's nothing I had more than cluttered, confusing websites.

So for those of you who want to be overwhelmed by coins on a website, you've come to the wrong place. If you value quality over quantity, I think you'll find my site to be the number one resources for rare United States gold coinage. I look forward to your visits to the site and welcome feedback to make your experience(s) more enjoyable.

Douglas Winter Numismatics To Sell the Tri-Star Collection of Proof Gold Dollars

Douglas Winter Numismatics has been chosen to sell the Tri-Star Collection of Proof gold dollars. This collection, which was formed by one of the savviest collectors of gold coins in today’s numismatic market, includes a dozen very rare Type Three Proof gold dollars dated between 1856 and 1878. In a conversation with the former owner of the coins, he stated the following: “My original goal was to assemble a complete set of Proof gold dollars in high grades. Instead of focusing on the dates from the 1880’s which I thought would be easy to acquire, I was more focused on the very rare Type Three coins struck from 1856 to 1879. These dates typically had mintage figures of fifty coins or fewer and many have as few as ten to fifteen survivors.”

This collector added another couple of interesting comments about his collection. ”I tried whenever possible to buy coins that were original and which had not been recently conserved. I also tried to add a few coins that had particularly good pedigrees. The reason that I gave up on the set was that I found it too frustrating to find the dates I needed with the eye appeal that I wanted.”

What this collector did accomplish is still nothing short of amazing. The undisputed highlight of the coins being offered for sale by DWN is an 1856 gold dollar graded PR67 Ultra Cameo by NGC. It is the earliest dated gold dollar graded this high by NGC and it is the finest known of an estimated six or seven that exist.

Remarkably, the collection continues with a nice date run of Proofs dated 1857-1863. The 1857 is an NGC PR65 Cameo, while the 1858 is a stunning NGC PR66 Cameo that is tied with one other coin as the finest known. The 1859, graded PR66 Deep Cameo by PCGS, has amazing eye appeal and is a coin that is notable for its rich original coloration. The 1860 is graded PR65 Cameo and has a pedigree from the famous Harry Bass collection while the popular 1861 is a very high end PR65 that has also been graded by PCGS. The 1862 is an NGC PR66 Ultra Cameo which is among the finest known while the 1863, while “only” graded PR64 Deep Cameo by PCGS, has the eye appeal and appearance of a Gem.

The collector who assembled this set of gold dollars was very interested in coinage from the Civil War and the only issue from this era that was missing was the 1864. His 1865 is a Gem NGC PR65 that has a Cameo designation.

There are just three coins from the 1870’s present in the Tri-Star collection but they are all remarkable and desirable pieces. The extremely rare and much underrated 1874, with an original mintage of just 20 pieces, is represented by a lovely PCGS PR64 Cameo. The extremely rare 1875 is a PR66 Cameo with an incredible pedigree. The coin was last sold as part of the Bass collection and it had been obtained from the Stack’s 1976 Garrett sale where it was part of an original 1875 gold proof set that had been obtained by the Garrett family back in 1883. The other issue from this decade is a PCGS PR65 Cameo 1878. This is another date with an original mintage of only 20 pieces and the present example is clearly among the finest known.

A number of the coins in the collection have been sent to CAC and have received a “green sticker” that indicates that they are acceptable quality for the grade.

It is my feeling that these low mintage Type Three gold dollars represent the best value in the Proof gold market. To wit, there are a host of coins in the collection that are extremely rare as based on their original mintage figure and survival rate but which are priced at a fraction of the amount of less rare large denomination Proofs from the 1880’s and 1890’s in the same grade. Clearly, size does matter when it comes to Proof gold but the dollar denomination has traditionally been popular among collectors and, unlike the larger coins, this set could be completed with patience and a deep pocketbook. If a collector wants to buy a single extremely rare Proof gold coin but he doesn’t have unlimited funds, the gold dollar denomination will prove fruitful.

It is anticipated that the Tri-Star collection will be posted on the DWN website (www.raregoldcoins.com) within the next week. Subscribers to Winter’s newsletter will be given early notification of the exact date that the coins will go “live.” Each coin will be accurately described and superbly imaged with large views of the obverse and the reverse. For more information about the Tri-Star Collection of Proof Gold Dollars, please contact Doug Winter via email at dwn@ont.com.

How Does DWN Prices Rare Coins?

I’ve been asked a few times recently how I price the coins that appear for sale on my website. No, the answer does not involve dart boards, a small man behind a curtain or invoking the spirits of coin dealers past. I have a system that is partially observational/deductive and partially intuitive that allows me, I think, to price coins in a consistent, coherent fashion. Obviously, my cost basis is a factor in pricing. But I don’t just apply a standardized mark-up to every coin I purchase. And don’t giggle when you read that last remark because I know a number of dealers who simply apply a 15%, 20% or 25% mark-up (or more) to virtually any coin they purchase, whether it’s a 1911 quarter eagle in MS62 or a 1911 quarter eagle in PR68.

When I am pricing my new purchases from a coin show, I generally take a few factors into consideration. The first is current auction prices realized. In some cases, auction prices are really helpful. Let’s say I have a certain Charlotte half eagle in AU58. There have been four separate auction transactions this year and they have ranged in price from $4,250 to $4,750. If my coin is average quality for the grade, I’m probably going to price it at the lower part of this range. If it’s what I regard as a high end coin for the grade, I’m going to price it at the high end of the price range.

I also check to see what I’ve sold the last example(s) of a certain coin for. If it’s something like an 1855-O gold dollar in AU58 (a coin that I handle on regular basis) I’m going to use my last sale(s) as a guidepost. If it’s a really rare coin like an 1855-O half eagle in MS61 (a coin that I have handled only twice in the last decade) than I will have to take other considerations into account: have other 1855-O half eagles in MS61 been graded since I sold my last coin? How is the overall strength of the New Orleans half eagle market? How many collectors are actively looking for this coin at this point in time?

What about a coin that is rare enough that none have appeared at auction since, say 2005? Or a coin that only one or two auction appearances have occurred but at least one of them is considerably higher than the other? This is where my knowledge of the coin market and coin pricing comes into play.

Let’s say the coin in question is a PR65 gold dollar with an extremely low mintage. The coin is attractive for the grade and truly rare. I would use a few criteria in this instance. First, I’d look to see if there were auction records for other Proof gold dollars with comparable mintages and comparable survivors. Second, I’d try to figure what percentage over “basal value” this coin was worth (in this case, “basal value” means what is the most common date of the type worth in this grade). Thirdly, I use the “gut check” theory of pricing. I’d ask myself, “if this coin walked-up to my table at a major coin show and I was thinking of buying it purely ‘on spec’ what would I pay?”

The two published guides for coin prices that I use most often for pricing remain Coin World’s Trends and the CDN or “Greysheet.” However, due to the fact that they are not updated as much as they should be, these two guides are beginning to become less relevant to me and the PCGS on-line guide, which is updated on a much more regular basis (and by a pretty knowledgeable dealer named David Hall) is now more of a factor in influencing my pricing of certain coins.

The knowledge part of pricing comes into play as far as coins that are undervalued by published price guides. Let me give an example. If I were to price an 1838 eagle in EF45 at 75% of Trends (which is a pretty standard pricing percentage of this series by DWN) I would be offering it around $3,100. I’m guessing if I did this, I’d have twenty orders for the coin in a day. Why? Because the coin is worth over $10,000 and all the published pricing guides (except for PCGS’, I should note) fail to reflect an accurate value. As someone who knows the Liberty Head eagle series very well, I know that the 1838 is worth far in excess of published values and will price it accordingly.

There are a few other pricing questions that I get asked frequently. Here are a few of them:

1. How do I price PCGS coins vs. NGC coins? I am a pretty strong believer in the old “look at the coin and not the holder” argument. If an NGC EF45 Dahlonega half eagle is very choice and original and I agree with the grade, I’m going to price it at the same level as a nice, original PCGS example. If an NGC AU55 Dahlonega half eagle seems overgraded to me and I think it’s really an AU53, I am going to price it at a lower percentage relative to Trends than a coin that I think is solid for the grade. But the exact same statement is true with a PCGS coin. One instance where a so-so PCGS coin might get an unfair price advantage versus a nicer NGC coin is where the PCGS population for the coin is decidedly lower. As an example, let’s look at an 1844-O eagle in AU58. The PCGS population is six in this grade with three better while the NGC population is forty-nine with thirteen better. By virtue of its much lower population, I’d price a PCGS coin at a 10-20% premium by virtue of its significantly lower population.

2. How much of a premium do CAC coins get? In the generic market(s), this is a pretty easy question to answer. John Albanese typically posts his bids for CAC-stickered Morgans, Walkers, higher grade 20th century gold, etc. and they are at premium prices over non-stickered coins. In the rare date gold arena this is a harder question to answer. When I offer a Dahlonega quarter eagle in AU55 with a CAC sticker I don’t (yet) ask any premium for it. But if I have an early half eagle in MS63 or a Proof quarter eagle in 66CAM, I charge at least a 10% premium for a CAC coin. This is due to the fact that John himself is willing to pay premiums in these markets for coins that meet his standards.

3. How do I price OOG coins? I define an OOG coin as “original but overgraded.” An example would be a nice, dirty 1838-C half eagle in an EF45 holder that faces-up well but, in my opinion, is really just a nice VF coin. My typical solution to this problem is to offer a coin like this wholesale at fair market value and to offer the coins that I have that I agree with the grades to my retail clients.

Coin pricing remains difficult, especially in a market such as this but I believe that well-informed coin dealers (and collectors) can apply published information and their personal knowledge to establish reasonably accurate levels.