Weekly World Numismatic News for October 18, 2020

The narrative about the 2020 numismatic market has been consistent across the media. These reports claim that hat collector coins are selling but at less than enthusiastic rates. Dealers are reporting that bullion coins dominate the market, primarily online. And everyone has read stories that the rare coin market is as healthy as it has ever been.

1794 Flowing Hair Dollar, PCGS SP-66, from the Bruce Moreland Collection (Image courtesy of Rare Coin Wholesalers via PCGS)

Within that narrative, two of the rarest and most expensive coins did not sell within the last month. The finest-known 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar, one of the first coins to be minted by the United States in 1794, failed to sell. Purchased in 2013 by Bruce Morelan, Legend Auctions tried to find a buyer at a recent auction in Las Vegas. The coin had a pre-sale estimate of $8-9 million but failed to find a buyer with an opening bid of $7 million.

A few lots later, the Dexter Specimen Class I 1804 Draped Bust Dollar, recognized as the finest known, failed to sell. The auctioneer lowered the opening bid to $3.2 million and still had no interest.

Although the top of other collectible auctions has seen lower prices, the drop is not as significant as being demonstrated with numismatics. It has become common for art to sell for over $1 million that it no longer makes the news. But few are selling at record prices.

Auction watchers are reporting that rare and scarce items are selling at 20-50 percent over their previous prices. Sports collectibles and other memorabilia are amongst the hottest collectibles. Simultaneously, these same watchers report that automobilia, pottery, and numismatics are not generating the same interest.

Analysts are not trying to explain why the market shifts noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected everything. One analyst wrote that some markets see the benefit of material once locked up in collections has surfaced to generate money for the sellers. The market has not kept pace. It is assumed that the buyers are not financially capable of purchasing at the prices being demanded.

It has become a cliché to call these “unprecedented times.” For the auction predictors, the pandemic’s effect has most trying to understand what it means for the markets. We will see if it carries into November when Stacks-Bowers tries to auction the Stickney-Eliasberg 1804 dollar.

And now the news…

 October 10, 2020
An exceedingly rare American coin up for auction turned out to be chump change.  → Read more at nydailynews.com

 October 11, 2020
Residents of Hosur in Tamil Nadu's Krishnagiri district were recently forced to learn a valuable lesson — All that glitters is not gold. On Friday evening, close to 4 pm, residents who were passing by Bagalur-Sarjapur road, suddenly noticed some coins glittering on the muddy sides off the main path.  → Read more at thenewsminute.com

 October 12, 2020
MIND-BLOWING photographs from the Royal Mint's archive give a rare look at its 1,100-year-long history. The images have been revealed by the government-owned mint to celebrate its first-ever coin released to commemorate itself.  → Read more at thesun.co.uk

 October 13, 2020
The Vatican City State Mint has issued a 10-euro silver coin depicting "Mother Earth" — an image designed for World Earth Day by Bergamo-born sculptor and engraver Luigi Oldani.  → Read more at churchmilitant.com

 October 17, 2020
The Royal Canadian Mint's silver collector coin celebrates an unexplained sighting in 1978 in Clarenville.  → Read more at cbc.ca

 October 17, 2020
Amid escalating demand for alternative investments, expert cites 5 key ways to determine if the historical rare coin asset class ‘fits’ your personal needs and overarching investment goals  → Read more at blackenterprise.com
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Weekly World Numismatic News for September 6, 2020

When a $1 coin worth over $10 million is scheduled for auction, it will make worldwide news. The announcement that one of the first silver dollars ever struck by the U.S. Mint will be sold at auction in October.

In June, Legend Numismatics announced the Bruce Morelan Collection sale that includes a rare, early die-state 1794 Silver Dollar graded Specimen 66 by PCGS that Legend purchased for a record $10 million in 2917.

Moreland assembled the finest examples of early dollar coins from the founding of the Mint in 1794 through 1804 with Legend and its principal owner, Laura Sperber.

1794 Flowing Hair Dollar, PCGS SP66
(Image courtesy of PCGS)

1804 Draped Bust Dollar, Original – Class BB-304, PCGS PR65 (Image courtesy of PCGS)

While the news focused on the 1794 dollar coin, most missed the Class I 1804 dollar, the other significant rarity in the collection. Class I 1804 dollars was part of the eight coins that were struck in the early 1830s to create sets for diplomatic missions. The 1804 dollar in the Moreland collection is the Dexter Specimen named for one of its first owners James V. Dexter. It is believed that Dexter carved a small “D” into the reverse of the coin.

The coin’s pedigree includes being owned by the U.S. Mint, who bought the coin after being in a private collection, and D. Brent Pogue. It is the third finest example of the 1804 dollar.

The Moreland collection is scheduled to be part of the auction at the PCGS Members-only Show held in Las Vegas in early October.

And now the news…

 August 28, 2020
On October 15, 1794, Henry Voigt, the Chief Coiner of the United States, hurried nearly 2,000 silver coins to the desk of David Rittenhouse, the Director of the United States Mint. That day marked a milestone in the making of a country: Two years after Alexander Hamilton established the Mint under President George Washington, the first dollars had been minted.  → Read more at atlasobscura.com

 August 28, 2020
Elana Hagler’s grandmother, an avid coin collector when she lived in Russia, has a special gift coming soon. Hagler had a major role in the design of an upcoming 2020 presidential $1 coin from the U.S. Mint. The coin will feature her drawing of President George H.W. Bush.  → Read more at fresnobee.com

 August 29, 2020
Today, 28 August, a treasure of 32 silver coins dated to the early Kyivan Rus times is discovered and donated to the local regional history museum in north-Ukrainian Zhytomyr Oblast. The silver coins known as srebreniks or sribnyks were the first coinage minted in medieval Kyiv around the early 1000s A.D. Historians attribute the 32 silver coins to the times of Kyiv princes Volodymyr and Sviatopolk around 1000-1019 A.D.  → Read more at euromaidanpress.com

 September 2, 2020
• The Royal Australian Mint has unveiled a new coin that is designed to be donated. • The Donation Dollar encourages Aussies to use it for charity.  → Read more at businessinsider.com.au
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My First Numismatic Auction

UPDATE: The auction is online and begins to close at 7:00 PM on Sunday, November 3, 2019!

1878 Liberty $2 1/2 Quarter Eagle Gold Coin

Lot #1: Beautiful classic Liberty Head $2½ quarter eagle gold coin in a Capital Plastics holder.

One of the reasons for my limited posting is that I started a business in collectibles and estate downsizing. Until now, I had not received many numismatic consignments. The few numismatic items that consignors have brought in were not exciting.

A few weeks ago, someone walked into the shop and asked about consigning coins. The coins were something he inherited and did not know what to do with them. Then my consignor removed an 1878 Liberty $2½ quarter eagle gold coin in a Capital Plastics holder. It is a beautiful coin in hand. It looks uncirculated.

Although the 1984 U.S. Olympics Commemorative Set sare not popular, he handed two of the three-coin sets with the gold coin.

He continued to empty the bag, and I found Morgan and Peace dollars, Seated Liberty quarters, and a few other coins.

1 Gram TAYER Gold Ingot

1 Gram TAYER Gold Ingot

While unpacking another consignment, there was a 1 gram gold bar mixed in amongst the papers.

Finally, someone brought in the few Israeli coins and medals his late father owned.

Put it all together, add a few of my surplus coins, and there are 54 total coins in my company’s current auction.

Here is a small sample of some of the coins in this auction:

We do ship!

If you want more than coins, check out the rest of the auction which includes sports autographs (like a Joe Montana autographed football), art (two prints from Yaacov Agam), a Black Forest Cukoo Clock (it works!), and so much more. Feel free to peruse the entire 284 lot auction.

But don’t forget the coins, including this 2005 Canadian Silver Maple Leaf silver bullion coin with a Rooster Privy Mark.

Weekly World Numismatic Newsletter for December 23, 2018

Imperial Russian Government, 1917 Specimen 4% Savings bond sold at auction for $12,810 (Image courtesy of Archives International)

When it comes to numismatic-related news, nothing catches my interest more than when the news is not coin-related. Even though this is the Coin Collectors Blog, I have advocated that numismatic consider more areas of collecting than coins.

This past week, Archives International announced that a 1917 Imperial Russian Government 4% Savings Bond Specimen that was estimated at $400-600 sold for $12,810 with buyer’s premium. It was a record for Russian Specimen bonds.

Archives International is not the standard numismatic auction house many have come to recognize. They specialize in all types of financial paper from around the world. From 2007 to 2011 the firm handled American Bank Note Archives Auctions, Parts I through VIII, which included their entire archives of samples and other financial paper ephemera from the worldwide customer base of ABN through history.

Recognizing this accomplishment is not only good for Archives Internation but for the numismatic industry. It shows everyone that there is more to collecting numismatics than coins. It shows that you can take an interest in collecting currency, bonds, stock certificates, and other scripophily and still be a numismatist.

Somewhere in grandpa or grandma’s belonging may be a stock certificate for The Haloid Photographic Company, Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, or Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company that may not be worth anything financially, but what a wonderful piece of history would be added to your collection!

And now the news…

 December 16, 2018

KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Monday issued Rs50 commemorative coin with regard to International Anti-Corruption Day, ARY News reported. The federal government had authorised the central bank for issuing the coin, which was made available at the exchange counters of all the field offices of SBP Banking Services Corporation.  → Read more at arynews.tv


 December 17, 2018

(ArtfixDaily.com) FORT LEE, N.J. – Archives International Auction’s “50th Milestone Auction” held on December 3rd & 4th, 2018 was highlighted by a 1917 Imperial Russian Government 4% Savings Bond Specimen estimated at $400 to $600 and hammering for $12,810 smashing all previous records for Russian Specimen bonds on December 3rd, 2018, the first day of a two day sale, held at the historic Collectors Club in New York City.  → Read more at artfixdaily.com


 December 17, 2018

Editor's Note: Kitco News has officially launched Outlook 2019 – Rush To Safety – the definitive reference for precious metals investors for the new year. We chose this year's theme as financial markets face growing uncertainty.  → Read more at kitco.com


 December 18, 2018

NATIONAL Police warn the public to keep an eye out for coin scam going around Europe once again.  → Read more at euroweeklynews.com


 December 19, 2018

A Tudor coin hoard found in Shropshire which features Henry VIII and all his children is on display at Ludlow Museum.  → Read more at shropshirestar.com


 December 21, 2018

CBK lauded over new currency that is friendly to the blind  → Read more at standardmedia.co.ke

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BONUS

I named three very significant companies above. If you have not guessed who they are today and have read this far:

The Haloid Photographic Company
Founded in Rochester, NY in 1906 as a company that manufactured photographic paper and equipment. In 1938, Chester Carlson invented a process for using an electrically charged dry powder that could be transferred to paper by pressing it on a roller. It took nearly 20 years to perfect before it became a product. The company coined the term “xerography” from two Greek words meaning “dry writing.” In 1961, the company was renamed Xerox.
Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company
Formed in 1911 to be the holding company for four companies: The Tabulating Machine Company, International Time Recording Company, Computing Scale Company of America, and the Bundy Manufacturing Company. The four companies made a range of products from time-keeping systems, scales, meat slicers, and punch card equipment. Thomas J. Watson Sr. was hired by CTC in 1914 after he was fired from NCR. He became company president in 1915. In 1924, Watson renamed the company the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM).
Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company
The company was founded in 1902 in Two Harbors, Minnesota to attempt to mine corundum in Minnesota and provide manufacturing support. When the mines turned out to be a failure, the company moved to Duluth and began to manufacture sandpaper. Over the years, the company found new products to manufacture and diverged from its mining roots. The name was too cumbersome to put in packages so they used the trade name “Three-M.” Later it was shortened to 3M and in 2002, the company officially changed their name to 3M.

As Paul Harvey used to say, “Now you know the rest of the story.

An Estate Auction tip

Not long ago I wrote about alternative places to find coins and other numismatic collectibles that included some of my secrets. As an addendum, I am going to provide another secret to an estate auction from a company I have done business with in the past.

If you are in the central Virginia area or willing to pay for shipping, you can bid on the Coin and Postcard Auction from JLR Auctions of Culpeper, Virginia.

The auction has 144 lots of coins along with eight lots of supplies. If you are into old postcards, there are a few nice lots in this auction. A little something for everyone.

I have bought items through JLR Auctions and have consigned surplus items. They are a good company to work with. I have no stake in this auction but passing along a tip to my readers.

Happy bidding!

You know there are more ways to bid than eBay

There are many ways to collect numismatics and there are many places that a collector can find items to add to a collection.

Collecting can be an expensive hobby regardless of what is collected. Whether it is numismatics or comic books, one piece is never enough and there is always a desire to collect an entire set regardless of the parts that make up the set.

When collecting numismatics, we know about the coin dealer, coin shows, and online auctions from the major auction houses and eBay. But did you know there were other online auctions that you can tap into to find collectibles with better prices?

There is an entire community of resellers working with estates, relocations, downsizing, and liquidation that offers a way to find bargains.

Estates are an easy concept to understand. Someone dies and the family, executor, or personal representative of the estate has the responsibility to clean out the home, apartment, or condominium of the decedent so that everyone else can move on. Regardless of how gentle we try to be, everyone dies and something has to be done with the stuff left behind.

This is where estate sale companies are a help. These companies are contracted to whoever is trying to sell off the estate and hold a sale of the goods. Some estate sales are held over one or two weekends. Buyers go to the house to see what is for sale and buy what they want.

Over the last few years, there has been a growing number of online estate auctions. Rather than holding a sale, the items are either staged in the home or in a warehouse and people bid online. Estate auctions have been extended to relocations, downsizing, and liquidation of seized properties and even commercial assets.

Online estate auctions work like any other online auction. You bid for the item you want and hope you win. When the auction is over, you pay for the item plus a buyer’s premium, similar to what you would pay if you were buying from an auction house. In most cases, the buyer’s premium ranges from 10-15 percent of the selling (hammer) price. In most cases, local sales tax is charged.

Although you can find bargains at these auctions, it is not always an easy process.

First, not every company works the same. Unlike eBay where there are consistent rules sellers have to abide by, estate auction terms and conditions can be very different than what you are used to. Before you bid, read the terms and conditions. If you cannot abide by them, do not agree to bid on the auction.

How do you agree to the terms and condition? Register on the auction site and click the button for that auction. Registration requires you to identify yourself including entering a valid credit card. When you agree to the terms and conditions of the auction, most companies will put a hold on your credit card for a set value to determine that the credit card is valid. These holds can range from $1-100. Remember this if you use a debit card. In most cases, your credit card will be charged for the purchases immediately up the close of the auction.

The auction platforms may be very different than what you are used to. These auction platforms take their cues from services offered by major auction houses and not eBay. Their catalog is a list of lots for sale that includes pictures an additional information. Not every item includes good pictures or descriptions and not every auction service uses their software to its best capabilities.

Some companies offer a live preview. If the auction is being staged onsite, then you can go to that site during the designated time and examine the items up for bid. Auctions held from warehouses usually hold multi-day previews. If you cannot attend a preview or if there is no preview offered, you have to rely on the pictures. If the picture does not give you the confidence you need to bid, pass on that item.

These auctions allow you to enter a maximum bid and will raise your bid price until someone outbids your maximum, similar to what you may be used to on eBay. One big difference is that most of these auctions use a soft close system. A soft close happens when a bid is received at the last minute of the auction. When a bid is received the end of the auction is extended. Most auctions will extend the end time 3-5 minutes to prevent sniping.

Most of these estate and liquidation auction services set their lots up with a low starting price. Usually, the opening price is $1.00 and sell with no reserve. Some have other practices that they use to protect the seller of higher-priced items. But this scenario can be a recipe for finding bargains. In one auction, I was able to purchase three Carson City Morgan Dollars in GSA holders for about 75-percent of than their Greysheet value even after sales taxes and buyer’s fee were added. I was then able to sell the coins to a client who paid their Greysheet value giving me a nice profit for the day.

Another issue you will have to work around is that many of these auctions do not provide shipping. If you read their terms it will say that if you win you will have to pick up your items at a specific place during the designated pickup time. If you want your items shipped you will have to work with a third-party shipping service such as the local Parcels Plus or UPS Store.

There have been mixed reports using third-party shipping services. Some are very good, contientious, and will take care of you but at a cost. There are others that are not very good and have been known not to pack the items well and pilfer from your winnings. There is no way to know the rating of the auction service’s recommended shipper. You may want to try to find online reviews of that shipper.

A few of these estate auction companies will provide shipping services. If you require shipping, you may have to do this as part of the registration or contact the company immediately following the close of the auction. Those companies that provide shipping will charge a service fee in addition to the postage.

Remember, the larger and more expensive the item, the more will be required for it to be shipped.

When purchasing anything from an estate auction, it is important that you read and understand their terms and conditions before you bid and buy. Each service has different terms and conditions that could turn your purchase into a nightmare. If you are careful, you can find bargains.

Where can you find these bargains?

This is where I give up the secrets that have allowed me to build a collectibles business. I have used these resources to travel the region to find cool items that have made a lot of people smile.

My first go-to resource is EstateSales.net. I have found no other resource with the most complete listing of every estate sale and auctions for whatever region of the country I am located. It is a free service for buyers. Either select your state or enter your zip code to find all of the sales in your area. Even if you are visiting your relatives out of town, enter their zip code and see if you can find some bargains.

Listings on EstateSales.net include the address and hours of the sale. If it is an online auction, it will provide a link to the auction site. Each sale page can include photos of the items for sale. While photos are not required, most listings include them. You can get a preview of the items for sale to help you decide whether it is worth the trip or the effort to bid.

They also have a mailing list you can sign up for that will send you sales in your selected region.

Using the listing on EstateSales.net, you will learn who some of the local auction companies are. You can either watch for their sales on EstateSales.net or go to their website and sign up for their mailing list. Some of these auction companies continue to have live, in-person auctions and it may be something you will consider attending.

Another place to find estate auctions is on the site that provides the auction services to the various companies. One of the largest services is HiBid.com.

HiBid is a great site for finding a lot of auctions in a lot of places and supports a few different auction formats including online only, live webcast auctions, absentee bidding, or just catalogs for auctions that will be live or even on another platform. They will allow you to search across auction companies and regions.

As I am writing this, there are 1,134 open auctions with 794 being internet online-only. Of those online-only auctions, there are 3,607 lots in the Coins & Paper Money category.

AuctionZip.com is another auction hosting service that is very auction company-centric. While you can search across auctions its model is to try to protect the propriety of the companies that use its site. Once you see the difference in the interface between HiBid.com and AuctionZip.com, you will understand why the former is more popular.

One nice feature about AuctionZip.com is that when you do a search it lets you look at the auctions open for a particular day. If you have time restrictions, it will allow you to better tailor your bidding times. This is good if you are traveling so that you do not have a conflict with the end of the auction.

LiveAuctioneers.com is a similar service but serves a more upscale audience. Their service has stricter requirements as to who can list auctions on their platform. What this does is provide better assurances for the buyer that they are dealing with a more established company. Currently, there are 7,780 items listed for auction in the Coins, Currency & Stamps category.

A feature of LiveAuctioneers.com, aside from its clean interface, is that they have a consignment service that helps connect you with an auctioneer that will help sell your items. If you have something that you want to sell at auction but do not know who to speak with, this is a good service to help get you started.

One of the oldest services is icollector.com. They are a strictly collectible market auction service. Although their catalog is smaller than the others listed, their listings are comparable in the collecting categories. iCollector.com may not be as elegant as other services, but they do have the inventory for you to look at. There are just under 15,000 lots of various numismatics. Their strength is that the numismatic categories are divided by country and type. Where other auctions make have a general category, iCollector.com has categories to allow you to narrow your search down to what your interest.

Last, but definitely not least, is Invaluable. Auction companies that use Invaluable are what could be classified as mid-to-upper range companies. These companies are more concentrated around art and furniture but have added collectibles and other categories likely to facilitate sales from companies that buy higher-end estates in order to keep them as clients. Most of the auctions on Invaluable are absentee bid auctions with some items available for immediate sale. As I write there, there are 20,485 lots available in the Coins, Money & Stamps category. In fact, over the last few weeks, gold and silver bars dominate the listings on the first page of the category.

Invaluable is also a site with a very clean interface that is very welcoming. They also divide their larger sections into individual categories so whether you are interested in US Coins or Ancient Coins, you can browse that section without clutter.

Since I started writing this article, I won several silver Chinese Panda coins from an online estate auction. Most of the coins were purchased at or below the spot price of silver even when adding the buyer’s premium. One of those coins that were purchased a little over the spot price is the very popular 2000 Panda that can sell for a lot of money. There are other coins that I purchased at less than market value.

Even though I am not a fan of third-party grading services, especially for modern coins, I will send these coins to one. Although I think all but one is genuine, and it is possible it was a pocket piece, as long as the 2000 and amake up of the pre-2000 silver Panda coins are genuine, I will more than makeup for the cost of the entire purchase plus the grading fees.

Now go out and find your own bargains!

My trip to Balmer, Hon

Whitman Spring 2016 Expo looking into Hall C

Whitman Spring 2016 Expo looking into Hall C

It has been over a week since I attended the Whitman Baltimore Expo Spring show at the Baltimore Convention Center and finally found time to write about my visit.

Those who followed me on Twitter knows that I had a late start. We working stiffs do have weekend responsibilities that have to be taken care of before we can go out to play. Once I was able to complete my errands, I was able to travel north to Baltimore.

I may be one of the few people who are not from Baltimore who likes Baltimore. But going to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area can be a lot of fun, even if it is frustrating trying to find parking. Then again, show me any city that does not have a parking problem and I will show you a city that is not as fun.

Once I was able to find parking I walked to the convention center. After entering in the early afternoon on Saturday I was struck by the number of empty tables that could be seen from the entry door. In all areas of the three convention center halls, the number of empty tables was surprising. I was also surprised to see a number of shared tables being half used.

As I walked around the convention center floor I was struck by the number of tables that were either never occupied or the dealer did not show up at all on Saturday. You can tell these tables from the others by the number of fliers left on the table. Some tables had rental cases with the keys in them showing that these tables were either unused or the dealer left early.

Dealer attendance inside Hall B

Dealer attendance inside Hall B

Another view of the dealer attendance on Saturday

Another view of the dealer attendance on Saturday

I recently learned that a table for the Baltimore show costs $750. Add the cost of travel, food, lodging, and the inventory, does the costs justify leaving and not trying to make money? When I discussed this with a regular dealer, I was told that some that are not having a good show will leave early to cut their losses.

Of the dealers that were left, there was a nice mix of items. For once, I did not get the impression that one type of coin was more popular than the other. In fact, I think this is the first show where bullion and bullion-related coins were not the focus. I was able to find American Silver Eagles without problem but finding some of the foreign bullion coins was a little more challenging.

Obverse of the to be released 2016 Mercury Dime Centennial Tribute

Obverse of the to be released 2016 Mercury Dime Centennial Tribute

Reverse of the to be released 2016 Mercury Dime Centennial Tribute

Reverse of the to be released 2016 Mercury Dime Centennial Tribute

Medals on display at the U.S. Mint booth

Medals on display at the U.S. Mint booth

Shawnee National Forest 5 ounce silver coin

Shawnee National Forest 5 ounce silver coin

Whitman, the sponsor of the show, had their own booth and was actually selling discounted items. In prior years, Whitman would sell their own products at full price but this time offered some discount. And they had a clearance table. I did not buy from the clearance table because they did not have anything I wanted but there were some nice and current items that were worth the value.

Sale at the Whitman Booth!

Sale at the Whitman Booth!

There were good collectors guide books on the sale table

There were good collectors guide books on the sale table

One thing Whitman did was to give away hardcover copies of the 70th Edition of the Red Book autographed by Ken Bressett and Jeff Garrett. All I had to do was fill out a ticket at the Whitman booth, return to the booth at the time of the drawing, and wait for them to give away the eight books being offered on Saturday. I think I was the fourth book given away.

Drawing for the autographed Red Book

Drawing for the autographed Red Book

I WON! It looks like I received lucky #7.

I WON! It looks like I received lucky #7.

Previously, I noted that the choices of numismatic literature has diminished. While the death of numismatic book dealer John Burns is a tragic story in and of itself, what has not happened is that someone has not stepped into that market. Aside from being intelligent and a character with a sharp wit, his inventory was so varied that I was always able to find something a little off-beat or out of the ordinary that was intriguing. If someone wants to move into numismatics but wants to occupy a different space, this might be something for you to get into.

Swimming in the pools of inexpensive slabs.

Swimming in the pools of inexpensive slabs.

The most fun thing I found was the dealer that used kiddie pools as their junk box. Rather than going through boxes or bins, they set up three kiddie pools and threw in a lot of low value slabs and some other items. They had a lot of slabs and it was interesting diving into the pools looking for something fun. Although I did not buy anything from the pools, I did buy some other coins and a non-numismatic related book from their discount table.

Every show I try to find one neat item that is out of the ordinary. As I approached one table I noticed there were a few large brass medals on the table. I am intrigued by brass medals both for their size and a lot of the artwork. I have seen many brass medals with art that rival anything produced on canvas for their beauty. But this one was different in that it bore the local of Carnegie Mellon University, where I went to graduate school.

Carnegie Mellon was formed in 1967 when the Carnegie Institute of Technology (Carnegie Tech, founded in 1900) merged with the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research (founded in 1913). I earned a masters degree in one calendar year 1999-2000. Although I was an older student, it was a great experience for me and my (late) first wife.

The reverse of the medal is an image of Hamerschlag Hall, the first permanent building of Carnegie Tech and the home of the current College of Engineering. Around the rim celebrates the 50 Year Reunion with a space for the college which is having the reunion and the year being celebrated. Since the date engraved on the reverse is 1938, it was given to its previous owner in 1988. But that does not bother me. The front has the Carnegie Mellon logo and a great reminder of my good year in Pittsburgh.

Obverse of the Carnegie Mellon University medal features the school's logo

Obverse of the Carnegie Mellon University medal features the school’s logo

Reverse of the Carnegie Mellon University medal features Hamerschlag Hall and proclaims the 50th Anniversary reunion.

Reverse of the Carnegie Mellon University medal features Hamerschlag Hall and proclaims the 50th Anniversary reunion Class of 1938.

The next Whitman Expo will be July 14-17. I hope the dealers that show up will be there if I have to spend the morning running errands.

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An auction hunter’s lesson

Over the weekend I attended an estate auction that included coins for sale. While my new business venture concentrates on all vintage collectibles, I am still a collector and continue to look for those interesting items and the good coins to add to my collection. As I was looking over the lots I noticed one had several blue folders of Lincoln cents. The collector in me could not resist and I picked up the folders and started looking.

Every hold was filled.

What drew my eye first was the hole marked “1909-S VDB.” Even though the 1914-D may be worth more, the 1909-S VDB is considered the Holy Grail amongst change hunters. With only 484,000 struck the odds of finding one are not in a change hunter’s favor. But we keep looking and hoping.

After reaching into my pocket for my ever present loupe, I asked the attendant if I could remove the coin to see the reverse. I had to check for those three letters on the back because it did say it was a 1909-S on the front. With the attendant watching me, I removed the coin from the slot, turned it over and brought it up to my loupe.

Using a 16X loupe I zeroed in on the area where I could find the “V.D.B” only to find something unexpected. On this coin, the “VDB” with no periods were punched into the coin. Holding the coin and turning it in the light to see how the light reacts, it was easy to see that the coin was not real.

Being very disappointed I quietly told the attendant that the coin was altered. She did not know what to do. When I suggested she tell her boss, she took the coin from me and went into a back room. A moment later, she returned and asked me to follow her to the office.

Scott’s 1909-S VDB

Scott’s 1909-S VDB

While the owner of the auction house was a bit upset, we talked to establish who I was and how I was qualified to judge the authenticity. After asking him to bring up my blog and showing him that I own a real 1909-S VDB, I told him how I know that the coin was altered. I handed him my loupe and told him to look at the letters. When he saw that the letters were punched into the coin instead of being in relief, he became upset again, but not at me.

I understand how he felt. In the auction business, they earn money from the buyer and seller fees. If the item sells for a high price, the auction house makes more money. In this case, since the coin was a solid VF, it could have sold for $700-800 alone.

Before he became too angry, I asked to see the 1914-D. At VF that coin is about $400 in the retail market. When I looked carefully I could see that the mintmark was added to the coin. It was not a very good job when you see it under magnification but looked all right on first glance. I showed the auctioneer how I know it had the mintmark added. He agreed with my assessment.

He asked if there were any more important dates that he should know about. I zeroed in on the hole for the 1922-D that had “No D” written in pen under the date. Even before finding the date under the loupe I could tell the coin was whizzed. That is a bad sign to begin with but if the coin was real, it would diminish its value but not make it worthless. What made it worthless was that you can tell someone filed the mintmark off the coin. Whoever did the filing did not do a good job because it made a little hole where the mintmark should be. This coin doctor probably whizzed the coin in order to cover up the alterations.

To say I gave this gentleman a shock would be an understatement. He shook my hand and offered me a discount on the buyer’s fee for helping him. After leaving his office he had the attendant who helped me remove all of the blue binders from the auction. When I spoke with the attendant later, she said they were all from the same consignor and that he was going to return them as being unsalable.

This was not the first time I attended an auction at this place and it will not be my last. Aside from being able to purchase good inventory for my business, they have proven to me they have integrity. Knowing this helps me buy with confidence.

I tell this story to provide two lessons. First, always examine the items before you bid. Even for online auctions, examine the pictures and read any descriptions carefully. If you are afraid to buy ungraded coins, then buy only graded coins. But make sure you are fully aware of what is being sold. Do not be afraid of asking the seller a question or even asking for a better picture. If the seller cannot help you then do not buy from that seller.

Buy the book before buying the coin!

Buy the book before buying the coin!

When buying from a live auction, look carefully at the coins. Even if the coin was encased by a grading service, take out that loupe and examine. This means you should know what you are looking at. Educate yourself about the coins you are interested in purchasing. In a future post, I will discuss my portable reference and buying tools.

My second lesson is to know who you are buying from. This is more difficult online but you do have to take the feedback seriously. Again, if you have any questions you should ask. Every site has a way to contact the seller in order for you to ask questions. If the seller is not cooperative, let that be a sign for you.

When working with auction houses, it takes a little longer to establish a relationship. But you need to introduce yourself, talk with people and ask questions. Make yourself known and show that you are a serious buyer. It may take a few auctions to establish a relationship, but be persistent. Aside from preferential treatment and discounted seller fees, someone with a relationship can be told bout unpublished items in advance so that you are prepared to buy quicker than someone off the street. Another advantage is that if you specialize in something that the auction house cannot sell, you can buy it as a good price. As a reseller, I find that very good for business.

Even though online auctions are very popular, there is nothing better than being there live. I highly recommend the experience.

POLL: How much will the Saddle Ridge Hoard sell for?

One of the 1,427 "Saddle Ridge Hoard" buried treasure gold coins certified by PCGS.

One of the 1,427 “Saddle Ridge Hoard” buried treasure gold coins certified by PCGS.

Kagin’s, the rare coin firm hired by the couple who found the Saddle Ridge Hoard, partnered with Amazon.com to sell the coins online. At some point, I will contact Kagin’s to ask why they chose this route to sell these coins, but I find it an interesting choice.

In the middle of the 20th century, recognized sales expert Elmer Wheeler came up with the phrase, “Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle.” Wheeler says, “it’s the sizzle that sells the steak and not the cow.” He has a point. How many relatively common coins sell at higher prices because of their pedigree. How many coins have sold for more than expected because they were ex-Eliasberg, ex-Norweb, ex-Bass, or ex-Ford pedigrees? Right now, the Saddle Ridge Hoard has a lot of sizzle. Even in a few months at an auction, can you imagine the interest that would be generated by opening these coins up for public bid?

For this week’s poll, I am not going to ask if you are interested in purchasing a coin from the Saddle Ridge Hoard. Given the sizzle, I am sure many people would love to own one of the coins. Rather, given what may be seen as an unusual way of selling these coins, how much do you think the collection will realize? Of course if you have a different opinion, add it as a comment. I would love to know what you think!

How much do you think the Saddle Ridge Hoard will bring in?

More than the $10 million estimate. (49%, 23 Votes)
Why aren't they selling it at auction? (23%, 11 Votes)
Less than the $10 million estimate. (19%, 9 Votes)
Right around the $10 million estimate. (9%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 47

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Adding to the Top 10: #2 More Auction Records

PNGAs a follow-up to #2 Records have been broken in the Coin Collectors Blog Top 10 countdown, the Professional Numismatists Guild published a “State of the Industry” report that included the list of 12 U.S. coins that sold for over $1 million. One was a private sale while the others were sold at auction.

The eleven most valuable U.S. coins purchased by winning bidders at auctions in 2013 were as follows:

  1. 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar, $10,016,875 (Stack’s Bowers Galleries)
  2. 1804 Type I silver dollar, $3,877,500 (Heritage Auctions)
  3. 1913 Liberty Head nickel, $3,172,500 (Heritage Auctions)
  4. 1880 Coiled Hair gold $4 denomination Stella, $2,574,000 (Bonhams)
  5. 1796 silver quarter-dollar, $1,527,500 (Heritage Auctions)
  6. 1792 silver half disme (early spelling of dime) $1,410,000 (Heritage Auctions)
  7. 1796 silver dollar, $1,175,000 (Heritage Auctions)
  8. 1783 Nova Constellatio Quint Type II, $1,175,000 (Heritage Auctions)
  9. 1852 Augustus Humbert $10 gold coin, $1,057,500 (Heritage Auctions)
  10. 1792 half disme, $1,145,625 (Stack’s Bowers Galleries)
  11. 1879 Coiled Hair gold $4 Stella, $1,041,300 (Bonhams)

The 12th U.S. rare coin that sold for more than a $1 million in 2013 was an 1894 San Francisco Mint dime that sold for over $2 million in a private sale conducted by David Lawrence Rare Coins.

A PNG survey of auction houses showed that they sold a total of $392.8 million in U.S. rare coins in public auctions in 2013. Based on the PNG survey, the sales scoreboard is as follows:

  1. Heritage Auctions, $236.5 million
  2. Spectrum Group International (Stack’s Bowers Galleries and Teletrade), $105 million
  3. Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, $21.1 million
  4. Bonhams, $13.5 million
  5. Legend-Morphy Rare Coins, $7.2 million
  6. David Lawrence Rare Coins, $5.5 million
  7. Scotsman, $2.8 million
  8. Krueger & Krueger, $1.2 million

All prices include the buyer’s premium, if any.

This survey did not include paper money or world coins. It would be interesting to see the impact of the currency and world coin market alongside the U.S. coin market.

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