Long Beach Report

The Long and Short of It - My short (but productive) stay at Long Beach means that my Long Beach report is going to be short (but productive). I didn’t arrive at Long Beach until Thursday afternoon and I was severely jet-lagged after having just returned from Japan. I had originally intended to totally skip Long Beach but a lack of coins meant that I had to try my best to quickly and efficiently restock.

After I landed and cabbed down to Long Beach, I called a few Trusted Suppliers and asked about the show. Their replies were nearly unanimous: it was a bear finding anything of interest and I was certain to be frustrated. My mood, as I headed down the freeway, was not good.

One thing that is good about being at a major show for just over a day is that you don’t have a lot of time to mess around. So as I hit the floor at Long Beach and began to scour I was very focused.

My day at Long Beach turned out to be amazingly productive. I was able to buy over thirty interesting coins; which is about triple the amount that I expected. I sold a few older, expensive coins that I was happy to move out and in the eight seconds that I was actually at my table, I had productive retail sales with new clients.

I spoke with a number of dealers about their Long Beach Experience and got fairly mixed reviews. One dealer told me he had an excellent show and the dealer that I share a table with had one of his more productive shows in some time. Other dealers I talked to told me that they had shows that ranged from fair to poor and most complained about a lack of interesting material (surprise, surprise). I’m not sure why I was lucky and found so many good coins other than the fact that I worked my little fanny off searching for them.

My take on the coin market is that it has clearly slowed down in the last month or so with the exception of very high end items. But there are some areas that remain strong across the board. Decent to nice early gold is in strong demand and choice, interesting Seated Liberty coinage (which I’ve been begging people to buy for about ten years...) is blazing hot.

In the realm of dated gold, I’ve noticed that nice quality Dahlonega gold is virtually impossible to find right now; my current inventory is virtually non-existent. Charlotte seems to be perking up a bit (in anticipation of my new book?) and I noticed a few mid-five figure Charlotte coins selling at Long Beach. Carson City half eagles and eagles are very strong, especially Registry Set quality issues. New Orleans gold continues to be hard to find and with the exception of the odd coin here or there, I have noticed a real shortage of high quality, interesting material since the beginning of the year.

What’s not selling right now? Anything that isn’t regarded as being, at the very least, medium to high quality for the grade. And generic gold....well let’s just say generic gold isn’t exactly a big seller right now.

My guess is that the Baltimore show will be decent but not great. This is the one Baltimore show that many West Coast dealers traditionally miss but the caliber of this show is now such that even the least interesting of the three Baltimore shows is still better than the most typical conventions.

February 2008 Long Beach Show Review

As I left for Long Beach last week, I wondered if this edition would be different from the last few Long Beach shows I have attended. The answer—and some random observations about the market—are included below. Unlike some of my competitors, I have made the decision not to attend the various and sundry pre-Long Beach auctions. I figure that at this point in my life I do not need to be spending an extra three weeks each year at Long Beach sales that are full of mostly uninteresting (to me) coins. This year’s sales did have a few interesting individual consignments including a nice run of Proof Bust Dimes at Superior and some better gold at Goldberg but, again, I was gearing up for the actual show itself.

On the Winter Show Grading Scale (WSGS) I would give the recent Long Beach convention a “B” which is actually better than I thought it would be. I did not bring many coins to sell and was more interested in buying new inventory. It was a struggle to find coins (surprise, surprise...) but some neat material did surface and I was pleased with what I purchased. Some of the highlights are:

-An original, evenly matched 1860 Proof Set graded PR64 to PR66 by PCGS

-An incredible NGC PR67 CAM 1904 half eagle

-A lovely Condition Census 1847-C half eagle graded MS62 by NGC

-An 1857-C gold dollar in PCGS MS61; the highest graded example of this date

-A number of crusty, original Southern gold coins in the $1,500-5,000 range

On at least three occasions I saw really interesting coins in another dealer’s case and asked to see them and a price quote. The price that I was quoted was so over-the-top outrageous that I wasn’t sure if I had been quoted in Dollars or Rupees. When I’m quoted $95,000 on a coin that I think I’d be seriously stretching on at $70,000 this means one of two things: either I am totally out of touch with the market or dealers are very, very proud of their very, very good coins right now and you have to pay very, very dearly at the absolute top end of the market.

Of course I didn’t expect to see many interesting coins just sitting out in dealer’s cases. At this point in time, if you do not have a special relationship with at least a few dealers, you aren’t likely to be offered anything very special. This is as true for a long-time dealer like me as it is for a collector.

My general observations about the market based on the Long Beach show are as follows:

*Many of the interesting coins from the FUN auctions are already gone. It is easy to sell choice, interesting coins right now and most dealers are able to move their best pieces much easier than in the past.

*Most of the recently graded coins I saw were more original in appearance and seemed “fresher” than in the past. I think this is as a result of both NGC and PCGS starting to crack down on coin doctoring. I’d like to think that we can thank CAC for this.

*Speaking of CAC, I saw many more stickered coins than I have before. I am not certain if they are selling better than non-stickered coins but a random inspection showed me that the typical CAC has nicer overall eye appeal than the typical non-CAC coin.

*Early gold is as hot right now as I can ever remember. If you bought nice quality early gold at least two or three years ago, you are currently looking like a genius. My gut feeling is that all the attention being focused right now on early material means that there are some great values in the Liberty Head series.

*When a market area gets hot it is amazing how fast coins disappear. I can’t remember seeing more than a handful of interesting rare Seated Liberty coins at the show and despite an intense search for interesting New Orleans half eagles and eagles, I came up nearly empty-handed.

Heritage had an extremely important specialized collection of Large Cents that brought amazing prices. The Husak Collection could serve as an absolute textbook model on how to properly assemble an in-depth specialized collection. The coins were exceptional, the presentation of the catalog was exceptional and the level of interest generated by the combination of the two was even more exceptional. Collectors realize that they do not have many chances to obtain truly special coins and there were dozens of coins in the Husak collection that, once they were sold, would be essentially impossible to replicate.

The gold coins in the Heritage sale were not quite as exciting but there will still some neat pieces. I loved the 1854 Type Two gold dollar graded MS68 by NGC and it brought a healthy $149,500. I was amazed that the 1863 gold dollar in NGC AU58 brought $6,900 which is almost double AU58 Trends; I assume that collectors have finally learned how rare this coin truly is in all grades.

The supposedly weak Three Dollar series saw some very strong prices. An NGC AU58 1854-D brought $54,625 and an AU58 1854-O in an old green label PCGS holder sold for an exceptional $34,500. A nice run of early Half Eagles saw some very strong prices including $40,250 for an NGC MS63 1804 Small 8 and $71,875 for an 1806 Round 6 in NGC MS64 with a CAC sticker. I really liked the NGC MS65 1810 Large Date and it sold for $92,000. An 1837 Classic Head graded MS66 by NGC sold for $94,875 which I actually thought was pretty reasonable as a PCGS MS66 example of this date brought $97,750 back in 1999 (but was considerably nicer, in my opinion). Some of the more interesting Liberty Head half eagles included a PCGS MS63 1857-O at a record-setting$50,025, an NGC MS61 1879-CC at $21,850 and a superb PCGS MS66 1886 at $21,850. Notable Eagles included an 1882-O in PCGS MS61 for $8,625 and a PCGS MS64 1897-O for $12,650. The two most significant double eagles in the sale were an 1860-O in NGC AU58 that was bid to $80,500 and a nice NGC AU53 1861-O that sold for $48,875. One coin that amazed me from a price standpoint was a nice PCGS EF40 1850-O in an old green label holder that sold for $10,350; if this coin doesn’t upgrade to at least AU53 then the new owner is well upside-down.

With major shows in Baltimore and Phoenix occurring in the next three weeks, it will be interesting to see if the momentum generated at Long Beach continues into the Spring.

September 2007 Long Beach Show Review

I had very little in the way of expectations for the third and final version of this year’s Long Beach coin show. In my opinion, the show was slightly above average, primarily due to interest caused by the surge in metals price. I thought that set-up (on Wednesday) was a bit perkier than usual for a Long Beach. I sold coins to dealers who I don’t ordinarily do much business with but who are so in need of nice coins that they are, literally, doing everything they can to find material. One dealer, who was working a want list that included a number of scarcer Liberty Head double eagles, was able to find a few scarce dates in my inventory. I also sold virtually all of my generic gold to another dealer.

With auctions being as strong as they are these days, I decided to again focus my buying attention on the bourse floor. I was able to purchase more interesting coins than I would have expected at a Long Beach show. Some of the highlights are as follows:

    A nice group of New Orleans gold dollar including a Condition Census PCGS MS63 1850-O

    A spectacular 1867 quarter eagle in PCGS MS65, which is the Finest Known

    A lovely PCGS VF25 1870-CC half dollar

    An NGC NS60 example of the underrated 1882-O eagle

    A superb PQ NGC MS62 1837 quarter eagle

Thursday saw a decent number of collectors attending the show, including a couple of new faces. I sold a few nice quality branch mint gold coins to brand-new collectors; something that hasn’t happened at a Long Beach for quite some time.

Friday, on the other hand, was very slow with poor attendance and limited dealer enthusiasm. Clearly, this show is pretty much over by Friday afternoon and most collectors, at this point, are hanging around and waiting for the evening auction session(s).

I can’t say that I’m sorry that I won’t be attending another Long Beach show until the Winter of 2008. None of the three I was at in 2007 were exactly barn-burners. My next two shows, in Atlanta and Baltimore, respectively, are sponsored by Whitman so, at the very least, I know they will be very well attended and professionally run.

I have also acquired a wonderful complete set of Carson City half eagles which I will be breaking up. The coins in this set range in grade from AU50 to MS63 and include a number of Finest Known and Condition Census pieces. If you have a specific want list that includes any of these, please call me or email me and let me know what you are looking for. Most are very high end for the grade with great original color and surfaces.

Superior Pre-Long Beach Elite Auction

In their recent pre-Long Beach Elite Auction, Superior sold a nice set of Carson City half eagles and eagles. These coins were interesting due to the fact that they were in old green label PCGS holders and, as one might expect, a number of coins appeared to have considerable upgrade potential. The half eagles were led by an 1870-CC graded EF40 by PCGS. It was notable for its excellent strike and seemed to me to be close to an AU50 grade by today’s standards. It sold for $25,300 (note that all prices in this blog include the 15% buyer’s premium charged by the auction company). One of the most undergraded coins in the half eagle collection was an 1871-CC in an old EF40 holder. I really liked this coin a lot and it brought $16,100. An 1872-CC graded EF40 by NGC was bid to $14,950.

Not all green label holder coins are “lock upgrades.” An 1873-CC graded VF35 by PCGS had the detail of an EF45 to AU50 but it had been harshly cleaned at one time. Despite this, it brought a strong $12,650 to a “lucky” mail bidder. Other interesting results included a PCGS EF40 1875-CC at $9,200, an uncommonly nice PCGS VF35 1876-CC (I graded it AU50 by today’s standards) at $9,488 and a pretty 1877-CC in PCGS EF45 for $9,775.

I personally liked the Eagles in this collection better than the half eagles and one of my absolute favorites was a perfect, crusty PCGS EF40 1870-CC which was bid to $39,100. A lovely 1871-CC in NGC EF45 with dark, crusty surfaces sold for $14,950 while an 1872-CC in NGC AU50 was bid up to a surprising $26,450. One of the rarest dates in the series is the 1873-CC and the example in this collection was a superb NGC EF45 which had the appearance of an AU50 to AU53. It sold for $27,600.

Another Carson City eagle in this group that I thought had great eye appeal was a PCGS EF40 1875-CC with deep, dark green-gold color. It sold for a solid $14,950. I was not all that wild about a PCGS AU50 1878-CC but at least two other bidders disagreed with me and it sold for a strong $29,900. Probably my favorite eagle in the sale was a PCGS AU53 1879-CC that was one of just a handful I have seen with original color and surfaces. It sold for $35,650.

Two other Carson City eagles in this sale worthy of a quick mention were a nice 1883-CC in PCGS AU55 that sold for $6,900 and a crusty, original 1893-CC in NGC AU58 that was bid to a strong $7,475.

Overall, this was an interesting group of coins. Virtually every coin in the Carson City collection sold to knowledgeable dealers and I would be surprised if any of these remain in their current holders. This was a sale that a collector bidding strictly on Internet images and catalog descriptions had simply no chance for success, unless it was for a “trap” coin like the 1873-CC half eagle mentioned above.

May 2007 Long Beach Show Review

With few exceptions, coin shows are, for me, places to buy. So I typically judge my success at a coin show on how much I am able to purchase and if my new coins are interesting. On both fronts, I would have to say that the recent Long Beach show was a strong success. The funny thing is, the show itself seemed pretty slow. Until a few years ago, Long Beach had a very strong collector following and I could always count on staying busy on Friday and Saturday selling coins to collectors. This has clearly changed and I’d have to say that Long Beach is pretty much over these days by Thursday afternoon; i.e., it is a primarily wholesale-oriented show.

I’ve been having trouble buying coins at the last few shows I attended so I decided that I’d make a Herculean effort to find some interesting pieces at Long Beach. And I worked liked a dog; running from table to table and looking through boxes of coins from my usual sources and some dealers who I typically do not patronize.

I didn’t realize how much I bought—or how much I liked what I bought—until I returned home and wrote up my new purchases. Some of the highlights include the following:

    A nice group of choice New Orleans gold coins including a lovely PCGS MS62 1857-O quarter eagle and an 1850-O eagle in NGC AU55.

    A very rare 1841-O eagle graded AU53 by NGC.

    Some attractive Charlotte and Dahlonega half eagles ranging in price from $2,500 to over $10,000.

    A dazzling Condition Census 1852-D half eagle graded MS62 by NGC.

    An 1846 eagle graded MS61 by NGC which is tied for the finest graded by any service.

As for the show itself, I would have to say it was pretty marginal. There was a decent amount of wholesale business being done but there was very little fresh material available. If you were the kind of dealer who regally sits behind your table and waits for coins to come marching up, you had a terrible Long Beach. If, like me, you hustled and hustled, you may well have “bought your way out” of the overall malaise which now seems to hang over the show.

That said, a number of interesting trends became apparent at the show. The first thing I noted was that as soon as many dealers panicked and dumped large portions of their positions on generics, gold spiked upwards. The second thing is that Indian Head quarter eagles seem to be back in play after a year or so in the dumps. I sold a few better dates I had in stock (1912, 1914-D and 1915) for my full asking price to the first person I showed them to. The final thing I noted is that collector grade coins in all series remain very popular. If you had coins like scarce date Bust and Seated silver coins or better date Bust gold, you were going to sell them very easily.

I did not participate in the pre-show auctions due to lack of time and lack of interest. I spent very little time (or money, for that matter...) at the Heritage sale. I did sell a number of coins in the auction and was very pleasantly surprised at how well they did.

I am anticipating that the market will be relatively slow for the rest of the month although I do expect the Baltimore show at the end of June to be excellent. I am attending the summer version of this show for the first time ever (usually I go on vacation at the end of the June but now that I live in the Northwest I actually want to stay around!) and would urge you to do the same if you live anywhere near Baltimore.

February 2007 Long Beach Show Review

nother Long Beach week has come and gone and this February’s version provided some interesting insights into the current state of the rare coin market. For me, the week began with attending the Goldberg auction in Beverly Hills. This sale contained quite a bit of rare gold coinage, including extensive runs of early half eagles, numerous high grade Charlotte and Dahlonega gold coinage and some impressive double eagles.

I thought that the overall results of this sale were mixed. The early gold coinage was stronger than I expected with the coins consistently bringing 10-20% over current market values. I found that buyers weren’t hugely picky as, in a number of cases, coins that were substandard for the grade did not sell for much of a discount versus examples that were high end.

An area that definitely saw buyer discrimination was Charlotte and Dahlonega issues. The Goldberg sale contained a host of coins in the MS60 to MS62 grade range which had problems. Nearly all were passed on by bidders but attractive, medium priced pieces brought strong prices. It seems that there are still a number of overgraded, unoriginal coins overhanging this market and until some of these go away, they will drag down the desirability of the nice coins with them.

Liberty Head double eagles continued to be very popular. A number of bidders at the Goldberg sale paid strong prices for Type I and Type II issues. As expected, New Orleans pieces led the way but I saw surprising strength in the Philadelphia and San Francisco areas as well. In Type Three issues, some of the nice, high grade Carson City double eagles in the sale brought very strong prices.

I found the Long Beach coin show itself to be among the slowest editions of this convention that I have attended in years. I go to shows primarily to buy coins and I was extremely disappointed by the near-total lack of interesting material at the show. I looked at box after box of dealer’s coins and was routinely left shaking my head wondering where all the interesting coins were. Overall, I spent around one-quarter the amount of what I spent at the FUN show which I regard as one of the best buying shows I’ve ever had. Click here to see a full list of all my new purchases with images and descriptions as well.

A curious trend at the show saw the bottom falling out of the generic gold market; despite the fact that bullion is as strong as it as been for years. Buyers could purchase VF and EF Liberty Head double eagles at melt levels and it was possible to buy the same coins in MS62 holders for only a $20-30 premium over spot; essentially melt plus slabbing fees. I mostly attribute this to cash flow problems with many of the larger market makers in the generic gold market. While I hesitate to make investment recommendations, generic gold seems like an interesting play right now with premiums as low as they have been in some time.

The highlight of the Heritage sale was a fresh-to-the-market 1854-S quarter eagle graded EF45 which sold for a record price of $345,000. As many of you know, the 1854-S is an issue which I have championed for many years and I have had the good fortune to sell three of them in my career. It is interesting to quickly recap the ascendancy of this issue into the status of Classic American Gold Rarity.

In the October 1999 Bass II sale the probable finest known example of this issue brought $137,500 which was, by a considerable margin, a record price but which, in my opinion, was still cheap for a coin which, by all rights, should be considered one of the most significant of all 19th century United States gold coins. This piece was resold a few years later in the $175,000-185,000 range. Then, around a year and a half ago, I purchased the second finest known (graded EF45 by NGC) for a record price of $253,000. This clearly raised the bar for the 1854-S and I remember a number of savvy dealers complimenting me after the auction for what they thought was a great purchase. Even after the new record price realized at the Heritage sale, I still think the 1854-S is undervalued in relation to other comparable rarities.

The market for New Orleans gold coinage seems as strong as I can remember it. Many of the bread and butter issues that I like to buy (such as 1888-O eagles in MS62 or 1893-O half eagles in MS62) were completely missing from dealer’s inventories and this makes me feel that a number of marketers are now selling these “introductory O mints” to their clients.

There are two significant shows in March (Baltimore and Charlotte) and I expect these to be excellent indicators of exactly where the market will be heading as we slide into the second quarter of the year.

Factors That Determine a Good Coin Show

I hate to think how much time I’ve spent at coin shows. As an example, I’ve been going to Long Beach for 24 years now. Long Beach shows are held three times a year (that’s 72 Long Beach shows) and I’m there an average of three nights. Which adds up to a total of at least 216 days spent at Long Beach shows or, gulp, nearly three-quarters of a year. There are clearly good coins shows and bad coin shows. What are some of the factors that make a coin show good and why do some thrive while others languish or die?

1. Location: I live in the far upper left corner of the United States so every location is tough for me to get to. But I can endure endless plane flights to Orlando for the FUN show or to Baltimore (two or three times a year) because these are first-rate shows where I do a lot of business. A good coin show needs to be in a heavily populated area and in an area that is regarded as being “good” for coins. It is hard to explain why a wealthy, vibrant city like San Francisco is not a good coin town but it is pretty easy to venture a guess that St. Louis (a site of numerous conventions) is a really bad coin town. New York would seem to be a great location for coin shows but the price of putting on a good show in Manhattan makes it prohibitive for most promoters. I’ve often wondered why there aren’t more shows in Chicago—it’s in the center of the country and home to many collectors but for whatever reason there hasn’t been a major show in downtown Chicago for years.

2. Facilities: I don’t even want to attempt to figure out how many days of my life have been in spent in convention centers across the United States. After a while, the convention center in Pittsburgh seems to blend into the facility in Kansas City which appears to look like the building in Denver. But I will say that a nice, convenient location sure beats spending a few days in the basement of some ratty motel. I can remember coin shows back in the 1980’s that were held in underground garages and others that I half expected my lunch to be carried off by vermin. Unfortunately, a nice facility does not guarantee a good show. The Palm Beach show which died a fast death last year was held in a beautiful new facility in a great city. The bad news was that the closest hotel to this facility was a long walk and just try to get a flight from Portland, Oregon to Palm Beach, Florida…

3. Timing/Conflicts: One of the reasons why everyone loves the FUN show is that it’s held in a (usually) sunny climate in a month that’s traditionally gloomy and awful if you live in much of the non-tropical parts of the country. If the FUN show were held in Boston in January, I don’t think it would quite as popular. Another important factor to consider about a show is its conflicts with the traditional coin circuit. If I were starting a brand new show I would make certain it isn’t competing against a major convention and I would also be sure that it wasn’t being held a week or two after a major show. I suffered from a major case of “show burnout” in 2005 and 2006 and the conventions that I decided not to attend were the ones held too soon after major shows.

4. Public Attendance: This is less of a factor for me today than it might have been in the past. Many of my clients do not attend coin shows and prefer to do business with me via private treaty. And with just a few exceptions, I look at coin shows as opportunities for me to buy and sell coins with dealers. The exceptions to this are the major shows like FUN, ANA, Central States and Baltimore. I typically meet a number of collectors at these shows and I tend to stay longer, in an attempt to be “retail friendly.” The bottom line is that a show with good retail attendance has a much better buzz than a show that seems like a morgue and this translates to a better overall atmosphere.

5. Major Auctions: Every major show has a major auction which is held in conjunction with it. You can have a major auction without a coin show attached to it but you certainly can not have a major show with an auction to bring in collectors. One of the problems that new shows face is the difficulty in getting an auction company to commit to holding a major auction. At this point, the only big show that does not have an auction which I consider first-rate is Baltimore but even this seems to be changing as Bowers and Merena is attracting more interesting and better consignments. At other shows, like FUN or ANA, the problem tends to be too many auctions and not enough time to get these auctions done.

6. Grading Services In Attendance: If PCGS and NGC aren’t at a coin show, no fresh coins get made and the show is a waste of time. This may not necessarily be the case for a collector but for a dealer it goes without saying that “if the coins aren’t being made than the dealers aren’t getting paid.” I can’t think of a single coin show that I’ve attended in the past few years that was worthwhile when one or both of the major services weren’t in attendance.

7. Miscellaneous Factors: I can think of a few other factors that separate the wheat from the chaff as far as shows go. If the best hotel option is a Motel Six, then I’m probably not going to be anxious to get a table at a show. The same goes for the ability to fly into a town. If I’m traveling with coins and I have to change flights three times or fly a tiny commuter plane, I’m either going to come without coins or, better yet, not go at all. Safety is always a factor with me. I do not like going to shows in downtown Detroit or St. Louis because, in all honesty, I don’t feel safe. By the same token, I’ve always thought that suburban venues were sterile and boring and it’s sad when your best dining option after a hard day’s work is Applebee’s.

In summary, I think there are too many coin shows and I, for one, have decided that I will not be attending as many of them in 2007 as I did in 2005 or 2006. I’m not certain if other dealers will do the same (everyone complains about there being too many but everyone is too greedy to not go to every major show) but I predict that whenever the market gets soft, some of the shows that seem healthy now will either contract or fade away altogether.

Long Beach Show Summary

Going into Long Beach week, I was reasonably certain there was no way that this was going to be a good show. Unlike past Fall Long Beach conventions, this one was only a month after the year’s largest show (the Denver ANA). Gold had taken a terrible beating in the last month and prices for generics had dropped considerably. And many dealers had real cash flow considerations, having recently spent large amounts of cash at the ANA auctions. The recently concluded Long Beach was not an especially memorable show. But, then again, it seems that the last five or six editions of this once-blazing venue have become non-events. On an overall scale from A to F I would rank this edition of Long Beach as a C+. The good news is that it finished on a somewhat upbeat note. The first day and a half was s-l-o-w. Friday was the best day for me at the show. I sold a number of older coins and finally found a few things of interest to buy.

I hate to sound like a broken record but, as usual, there was not a lot of fresh material around to buy. I beat the bushes and was able to find some pretty interesting stuff. Some of the highlights of my new purchases at the show are as follows:

*A complete set of New Orleans gold dollars in MS61 to MS64 grades *An NGC AU55 US Assay Office $50 Slug *An interesting and varied group of New Orleans gold coinage ranging in price from $1,000 to $7,500 *A group of early half eagles including an 1806 in NGC MS63 and an 1813 in NGC MS62

While nearly every dealer I’ve talked to in the past few days admits the market has slowed down, I sure didn’t see the “blood in the streets” that one might have expected. No one is panic selling (at least yet) and I sure as heck don’t see much interesting material coming on the market. In fact, I had a chance to view the coming attractions for three future sales and saw almost nothing of interest.

So what we now have is a supposedly slow market but one with nothing really interesting for sale. I would suggest this means that the market just might not be as slow as we think. You’ll know that things are really slowing down when, as an example, a nice early gold that was an easy sale in the early part of the year becomes harder to sell (at lower levels than before). I, for one, see no lack of interest in certain key areas of the market.

One really interesting market area right now is Three Dollar gold pieces. Prices have clearly dropped on these coins in the past month, especially for common dates in higher grades. But I still see a strong level of demand for rare dates in all grades and I am still an enthusiastic buyer of good coins in this series. If you are a collector of Threes, I urge you to check out the coins I am offering for sale in the upcoming edition of Coin World. In the last few weeks I have quietly sold a number of pieces from a world-class collection of Threes and I still have some incredible pieces available including a number of Finest Known and Condition Census pieces.

I also invite you to check the inventory listings on my website as I have already listed descriptions and images of many of my new purchases from Long Beach. I’d like to blow my own horn for a second and state for the record that no other coin dealer (at least any I know of) has their new purchases up and described as quickly and efficiently as DWN.

May 2006 Long Beach Show Report

The Summer Long Beach show went pretty much as I expected. It started slowly, got exciting in the middle and finished with a whimper. My week began with the Goldberg and Superior sales. I was not hugely impressed with either of these auctions from the standpoint of quality but was able to purchase a few choice pieces including one of the finest known 1840 quarter eagles, a superb Gem 1851-O gold dollar, a glorious Gem 1915-S Panama-Pacific Octagonal $50 and a small group of reasonably crusty southern gold.

This was followed by the usual hum of activity in the pre-show hotel room circuit down in Long Beach. I looked at a ton of coins and was significantly underwhelmed by what I saw. I was, however, able to sell a number of coins including some tired pieces that I was not unhappy to get rid of.

Dealer set-up on Wednesday was a chore to slog through as most people’s attitudes were not great and few coins were available. I was able to find a few interesting pieces here and there, many of which are now listed for sale in the inventory section of my website.

Things picked up considerably when the show officially opened on Thursday. I was able to buy more coins and my wholesale sales were extremely strong. Some observations: scrubby, overgraded C&D gold was everywhere and it was generally hard to sell unless it was priced at big discounts relative to Trends. New Orleans gold was very hard to find. I was not able to find many pieces that qualified as Finest Known or Condition Census examples but I did locate some nice mid-level pieces in the $1,000-$5,000 range. I saw more Three Dollar gold pieces than in quite some time. With the recent price increases in this series there is some profit taking occurring. Early gold was also a bit more available than usual although most of the pieces I saw were common dates in the EF40 to AU55 range.

I was very surprised by the strength of the gold coins in the Heritage sale. Coins that I felt were relatively nice for the grade often sold for more money than I would sell them for retail and most of the old holder upgrades I saw went for exceptional prices. I was able to buy a few goodies but most of the lots that I liked the most went for a lot more than I was willing to pay. My favorite coin was an 1893-CC eagle in NGC MS62 that was extremely fresh and had great coloration and surfaces. I figured it would sell for around $15,000; it brought over $30,000 with the buyer’s premium.

The show slowed down considerably on Friday as many of the major dealers left and gold prices took a major hit. By Friday afternoon, it was officially done, although I did stay until Saturday in a last-ditch attempt to buy some more coins.

I found grading at the show to be pretty realistic. Both NGC and PCGS appeared to be trying to “make” some coins and most of the submitters I spoke with were a bit happier than usual. In my own experience, I was quite pleased and I made some impressive coins, most of which were quickly placed with clients who had want lists on file.

What did the Summer Long Beach show prove? The market is still strong but some areas are showing definite signs of profit taking. The recent ups and downs in the gold market are being reflected in the prices people are paying for generics. At the show, MS65 Saints dropped over $100 per coin. I would urge caution playing this market unless you are very knowledgeable and have a strong constitution.

My next show isn’t until mid-July when I attend the Summer Baltimore convention. I expect activity between now and then to slow down from the frenetic pace of the first five months of 2006. But I expect things to pick back up in August and think that the ANA show in Denver will be superb. I remain convinced that this market still has a long way to go.