Archive for July, 2010

Before You Buy or Sell

Posted on July 30, 2010 by 1 Comment

I just bought a new flat screen TV for my daughter. Before I bought it I spent a couple hours on the Internet researching different models and comparing prices from different Retailers. Good thing I did because I didn’t know that 120 Hz screens have the best performance for video games!

It’s the same thing with coins. I only spent $900 on the TV but I know I spent more time learning about my options then some coin buyers do before spending far greater amounts on a coin. So what should you do before you buy a coin? (By the way the exact same information applies when you are selling.) I have always thought there are three basic pieces of information that are essential to know before buying: population; APR (auction prices realized) and pricing. Let’s dig into each a little more.

A population report can tell you a lot. Not only do you want to know how many coins have been graded in the grade you are considering but you want to know how many are graded higher and lower and how the distribution of grades looks. Let’s say you are looking at an AU58 coin. There may be 6 coins in AU58 with another 14 coins in AU50-55 and 80 or so below that. But in Mint State there are only 2 coins in MS61, 1 in MS62 and 1 in MS63. Well your AU58 is a Condition Census (top 5) grade! You can surmise that this coin in AU58 or better probably doesn’t trade too often and price guides are always going to be a little out of date. Sometimes it’s also very helpful to know how many coins have been graded for the entire series in the grade you are considering. For example if you are considering a deep cameo proof (DCAM) you definitely want to know how many DCAMs are found in that series. And so on. Don’t just look at the population for the specific grade of a specific coin. Look at similar coins and similar grades throughout the series and you’ll get a much better perspective of the scarcity of your coin.

Auction Prices Realized is a powerful tool because that’s where you learn what other people have actually paid for your coin (sometimes you can even find the coin you are considering in the auction archives!). Not only can you see the prices paid but you’ll get a quick lesson on how often this coin appears in the market. In our example if you see a single AU58 selling in the past 2 years and no mint state coins that tells you a lot. What do you think you should do if you don’t see either selling for the past 5 years? If you really need the coin you better run out and pay the seller what ever he wants because you probably won’t get the chance to buy the coin again for a long time! Photographs included in auction prices realized are very helpful because you can compare your coin with the coins that have sold and compare quality. Often times you have to resort to extrapolations when trying to figure value because you can’t find the exact information you need. In some cases where there is very little information you can find a similar coin (same series, similar mintage, same strike – proof vs. mint state) and make some guesstimates based on APRs for that coin. This does work. When looking at older auction records try to keep in mind market cycles. How does the market at the time of that sale compare to today’s market? Also, don’t forget that “auction fever” is very real and just because one bidder got carried away doesn’t mean that’s the right value for the coin. The bottom line is that you want to have all the information you can find. Hopefully it turns out that you know more than your counterpart in the transaction!

Price guides can also be very useful. Prices guides are typically very accurate for coins that trade regularly. Watching the guides and knowing when coin values are going up or down is good information to have. Pay attention to pricing trends. Understand that the less a coin trades (you’ll know this from the previous two information sources) the less current the price guide will be. Also knowing where the price guides get their raw data is very helpful. You want something that is updated frequently and reflects what is happening in today’s market. It’s possible that you could realize that the price guide information is a little out of date for your coin but your counterpart may not know that. Advantage – you!

Now you are ready to buy your coin. You can bid with confidence or negotiate from a position of strength. It really doesn’t take too long to research a coin – less than an hour usually. The time you spend will be well worth it. I can’t promise you that you will get a better deal but I can promise that you will be more satisfied with the deal now that you know so much more about your coin.

Filed Under: News

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Posted on July 29, 2010 by No Comments

PCGS CoinFacts turned one year old on July 27!

PCGS CoinFacts was already a big baby when it was born, having gestated for over ten years.  However, in the last year, thanks to lots of attention from our IT department and our Board of Experts, PCGS CoinFacts has put on a lot of meat and muscle.

Enhancements include:

Thousands of new images, ranging from high-grade modern coins to classic, ultra-rarities and everything in between.

Condition Census – a listing of the top five examples all U.S. coins (top ten for rarities, if there are that many!)

Hundreds of new narratives from experts in every area – anecdotes, facts, and figures from people in-the-know.

Million Dollar Coin Club – a roster of coins that have sold for over a million dollars (and those that will soon).

Auction Prices Realized – more complete and more timely than from any other source…extremely valuable information if you’re active in the market

Survival rates, Rarity, and Relative Rarity by series – information that transcends mintage figures and looks at realistic survival rates of the coins you care about

If you’re already a subscriber, then you’re already aware of these great new features.

If you’re not a subscriber, come on board and see what you’re missing.

Check us out at www.pcgscoinfacts.com

Filed Under: News

How I Got Started

Posted on July 27, 2010 by 3 Comments

I started collecting coins in 1959 at age 12. My grandmother was a coin collector. She was also a heavy smoker. At the time, cigarettes were found in vending machines all over the place, the cost was 22 cents a pack. You put a quarter in the vending machine and you got a pack of cigarettes. Inside the cellophane wrapped pack was your change…three shinny new pennies. That’s how my grandmother got started. She saved pennies, then nickels, then dimes, then quarters and halves, placing them in her Whitman blue book coin albums.

My grandfather was very old country (Poland) old school…very conservative. He would not let my grandmother ever buy a coin she needed for her collection. She could only trade…a nickel for nickel…a dime for a dime. My grandfather’s comment…”Anyone who would pay a dime for a nickel is a fool.” An interesting comment for anyone who has ever owned a 1913 Liberty nickel!

I was very close to my grandmother. For my 12th birthday, she gave me the Lincoln cents and Jefferson nickels coin albums and I then started searching my parents change every night for coins I needed for my coin collection. I was totally and completely hooked.

I soon figured out that you could go to the bank, get two rolls of pennies…50 per roll…for a buck. I’d take the 100 coins home and search them for coins I needed. I also would line the 100 coins up in order of condition, so I guess that’s how I learned to grade, comparing one coin to the other, over and over and over again. I’d return the coins, trade at the bank for nickel rolls, trade nickel rolls for penny rolls and on and on, constantly searching thru coins.

In 1961, at age 14, I discovered coin shops. A friend of mine at school (8th grade) was also a coin collector. His dad was a coin collector too. His dad collected Morgan and Peace dollars and every Friday he cashed his paycheck at the bank in silver dollars…remember, this was 1961 and silver dollars were in circulation and available at face value from the banks. My friend’s dad would check the silver dollars he got at the time for coins he needed for his collection. He put the few coins he found into his collection and then used the rest to pay his bills. One Saturday they took me to the local coin shop. I thought I had died and gone to Heaven. Coins all over the place…and the bid boards…coin after coin hung on the wall and being auctioned every Saturday afternoon. I was also working in my parents business (draperies) and I was very involved in sports. But every night and every Saturday afternoon from then on it was coins, coins, coins. I stayed at the coin shop in downtown Santa Ana all day long every Saturday, looking at the coins on the bid board over and over again. The shop owner, Andy Verbance, was amazed at my enthusiasm. He gave me odd jobs, sorting pennies, sweeping up, etc. and at the end of each Saturday gave me a few Indian pennies or something like that.

I soon figured out that you could sell coins and make a profit. My first deal…I bought a BU roll (50 coins) of 1961 Philadelphia Lincoln cents for $1.50. I took them to school and sold them to my classmates for 10 cents each. They say, “Why would I want to buy a penny for a dime?” I’d say, “But this is not an ordinary penny. Look in your pocket. All your pennies have a D on them. They are from the Denver Mint. But my brand new never-been-in-circulation pennies do not have a D on them. They are from the Philadelphia Mint and they are much rarer than the Denver coins.” Amazingly, I sold all 50 pennies in one day. This is a true story! I had become a coin dealer.

As a 15 to 18 year old, I developed a bid board route. I’d buy BU rolls and proof sets and break them up and hang lots of individual coins on the local bid boards (the owner took a modest 10% cut). At the time there were four coin shops in downtown Santa Ana. Today, there are four coin shops in Orange County. I could buy a proof set for five dollars for example, do a whole bunch of work and end up making 75 cents profit. But I did it a lot and it was fun and addicting.

As I started to drive, I expanded my bid board route. I went all the way to Dick Striley’s coin shop in Compton. Dick’s son Mark is still in the coin business and comes to the Long Beach coin shows. During the Watts riots, Dick sat on the roof of his coin shop with a shot gun. I also started buying and selling between dealers at this time, buying from one guy and selling to another. A few dealers that knew me gave me coins on consignment and I drove around selling coins to dealers. I sold my first “bullion” coin in 1966, a Mexican 50 peso.

I went to my first coin show in 1966…the Long Beach Coin Show! It was really different then, almost all BU rolls and proof sets. I remember that one dealer had two cases at his table and both cases were filled up with 1957 proof sets. That’s all he had on display…1957 proof sets. He must of had over 1000 of them. I bought five or ten sets for my bid board route.

At the time (1966 or so) all the local dealers would go to Coin-A-Rama City in Hawthorne every Wednesday night for a mini-show. I think Ron Gillio would even drive down from Santa Barbara. That’s where I first saw Steve Deeds, trying to sell some rolls of 1955 P, D, & S dimes to George Pateras.

From 1967 to 1971 I wasn’t very involved with coins. I was in college and also playing in a crappy rock band at nights, trying to be a rock and roll star. In 1972 it dawned on me that I wasn’t going to be a professional musician, so I sold all my guitars and amps, took the money and started doing bid boards again, and also setting up at swap meets. The timing was good, gold and silver were taking off and the coin market was heating up. It was at this time I got into better type coins and gold. I met a few serious collectors and hustled coins to them. I was really into Gem type coins. I’d go to the shows and hang out with specialists like Hank Rodgers. I also started traveling the National coin show circuit…my first ANA was New Orleans in 1972. From then on it was up and up (OK some downs too) as I dealt in better and better coins. But after 1972 is another story altogether…we’ll save that for another blog.

Filed Under: News

THE WILD RIDE OF NUMISMATIC RESEARCH

Posted on July 23, 2010 by 1 Comment

Numismatic research is a never-ending journey full of twists, turns, side-roads, dead-ends, and new discoveries.  Much of the fun of numismatic research is that you’re not alone: you can utilize the findings of those who have gone before or bring current experts along to help you navigate.  The following is a quick run-through of steps involved in research of the undated Templeton Reid $10.

Reviewed census of the three pieces listed in Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins.
Tried to find images off all three examples: the Smithsonian’s best piece is plated in Breen; the other Smithsonian piece is illustrated on PCGS CoinFacts; the third piece was missing.
Breen notes that the lesser Smithsonian piece was illustrated in the Redbook from 1947-1970.  Pulled a 1969 edition…the coins do not match.
Called David McCarthy at Kagin’s to find out what he knew.  He’s an expert on Territorial gold coins and he agreed with three specimens.  Mentioned the Breen/Redbook image conflict and David looked up the 1966 Kreisberg/Schulman sale, where the plate matched the Redbook image exactly.  Problem solved.  He thinks this coin, the only one in private hands, may have been part of the 1967 Dupont robbery that was never recovered, thus there may be NO examples in private hands anymore.  I need to find out if this coin was actually part of the robbery…another side-road.
Called John Dannreuther for his opinion of grades.  He and McCarthy agree that the best Smithsonian coin is MS62-ish and Prooflike, and that both the second Smithsonian and the Kresiberg/Schulman examples are/were AU.
Reviewed Edgar H. Adams publications concerning Territorial Gold as published on-line at Google Books.  No insight there, but I did learn something about the J.S. Ormsby $5…another side-road.
Trying to locate copies of Dr. Dexter Seymour’s two works on Templeton Reid coins…apparently, he was Reid’s biographer and an expert on his life and coins.  Must purchase two different numbers of the American Numismatic Society’s Museum Notes.
Finally, I discovered through a Google search that Templeton Reid’s parents were Alexander Reid and Elizabeth Sarrazin and that he had two brothers, Collin and Samuel.

The upshot is that we now have corrected/updated pedigrees for all three pieces and we either have or can get images of all three.  There are a couple of side-roads to be investigated, as time permits in the future, which I’m sure will be interesting journeys in themselves.

Now, it’s on to the next coin and another wild ride!

Filed Under: News

Collecting Walking Liberty Half Dollars (part II)

Posted on July 20, 2010 by No Comments

Once the short set (1941-1947) is complete many collectors graduate to the middle set. This set runs from 1934 – 1940. The toughest date to find in fully struck condition is by far the 1935-D. It will take some patience and luck to find a fully struck 35-D. You should be prepared to pay a substantial premium as most dealers seem to be aware of the striking characteristics of this date. A little easier to find but still difficult to locate with a full strike is the 1934-S. This can be obtained with little premium. It will take a lot of looking, but the middle set can be assembled in full or nearly full strike. I had a client who assembled a middle set and short set over a period of several years. He would often stop by and we would go through my inventory and upgrade his collection if we could. He ended up with a really top notch, fully struck set. To his credit he sold me the set, in trade for gold, just before gold began its big run up. I sold the coins. Boy, do I regret that now!

The early set, from 1916-1933, is where it gets really interesting. Supposedly all the dates can be found in gem although the 1919-D is nearly impossible. When I assembled my set in the late 80s – early 90s I could not find a 1919-D or a 1921-S in full gem. Based on my experience, in gem condition the 1919-D and 1921-S are followed in scarcity by the 1918-D, 1917-S Obverse, 1917-D Reverse and 1919-S. Also, many early dates are rarely seen fully struck. It has been speculated that there was a period of time during which the Denver mint deliberately spaced dies slightly farther apart in an effort to prolong their useful life. The 1918-D, 1919-D and 1920-D all are typically very poorly struck. The only nearly fully struck 1919-D that I have ever seen was a PCGS AU58. Several of the S mint dates were weakly struck as well including those made in 1923, 1927 and 1928. Well struck examples will bring a large premium. I remember going after a nearly full strike 1927-S a few years ago in auction and watching as it brought nearly 4 times what I thought it would. All the P mint dates can be found well struck and in gem as can all the coins minted in 1916 and 1917 (except the two mentioned). Coins from 1929 and 1933 can also be found well struck in gem. Assembling a top notch early set will take a great deal of time and a fair amount of money.

When I was putting my set together I searched for a 1921-S in gem for years. I got impatient (one of the most common collector mistakes) and bought a coin in MS62. I never liked it. Then one Friday night Bruce Fox came by my house with a gorgeous, blast white, very well struck, MS64 1921-S. Eureka! It wasn’t an MS65 but it was close. I was overjoyed and quickly wrote the check for $19,500. The following Monday morning I received a call from another dealer who knew I was looking for a 21-S. “Don, I have found a special coin that you need. It’s in the mail and you should be getting it in a day or two.” When I opened the package it was another 21-S in MS64. It looked to me like the spitting image of the one that I had just bought. After searching for that date for so long I couldn’t pass it up and bought it as well (after talking him down to $19,500). I now owned three 1921-S coins! My entire set was MS65, all graded by PCGS, except for the 1921-S and the 1919-D (the best example I could find was MS63). What a beautiful site it was to lay out on the dining room table the entire set of blast white, well struck products of this gorgeous design!

A couple of things that I always look for when buying Walkers, besides the strike, are: I avoid coins with the dark spot of Liberty’s left breast. This is often seen, even on very high grade examples. I avoid coins with marks in the rays of the sun. I find them very distractive. I also avoid coins with hash marks on Liberty’s head. Liberty’s head is a high point and many coins have 2-3 heavy marks running horizontally through her head. I look for blast white coins – not dipped out – but coins with full halo luster. They are special. Of course some of the early dates in gem are nearly impossible to find all white.

I hope you have fun collecting this great series. I know I did.

Filed Under: News

Morgan dollars…back in the day

Posted on July 19, 2010 by 6 Comments

A few of you have asked me to write about the old days of dollars, dollars everywhere…and tell some roll and bag stories…so here goes.

First thing I remember was when I had a friend in 8th grade who’s father was a silver dollar collector. This was in the early 60s when Morgan and Peace dollars were still in circulation and they were in every teller’s tray at the banks. My friend’s father would cash his weekly paycheck at the bank and take the whole thing in silver dollars. He’d take the dollars home and go through them every Friday night, keeping the few he might find that he needed for his collection and then using the rest for what they were at the time…money.

About 1966 or so, I was hanging coins on the local coin shop bid boards. I’d buy Morgans by the roll and pick out the cherries for the bid boards. I had to pay $28 a roll ($1.40 a coin) for the P and O Mints, but the S Mints cost $30 ($1.50 a coin) because they came with a lot more Gemmy coins. I once pickedout a virtually flawless 1880-S (or at least it looked flawless at the time) and I stapled it in a 2×2 and wrote “I am a perfect silver dollar” on the 2×2. I hung it on one of the bid boards and a couple of collectors bid it up to $8 or $9, an unheard of price for a common date Morgan dollar at the time. I thought I had really scored!

A little later I started hanging signs in laundromats that said, “Will pay $1.10 for any silver dollar.” Dollars were worth like $1.15 at the time, so when I’d buy a group I’d make a nickel a coin plus the extra on any better date that I bought. I keep doing that for a three or four years. I even paid Walt Ankerman (he was just out of high school at the time) to run around Orange County hanging the buy cards up in as many laundromats as possible, the price of course was a little higher, but not much.

In 1972, I starting traveling to national coin shows and buying and selling more expensive coins, but I always did a lot of dollar business. In 1977, I used to run a full page ad in Numismatic News (I think I had the inside front cover) and about a quarter of the ad was a special I ran with about 16 or 17 different dates of Morgan and Peace dollars in “Gem MS65″ condition…”Pick any date or all dates…$10 per coin.” At the time uncircualted rolls were like $140 or $150 ($7.00 to $7.50 a coin). A few of the local dealers thought I was a big fish because I’d pay extra…like $8 instead of $7.00 or $7.50…to pick select coins out of original rolls and bags.

I’ve bought and sold so many 1000 coin bags of dollars it’s amazing. Here are three bag stories.

First, for you toner fans. When fresh, original $1000 (1000 coin) bags were available, there were usually some great toners in the bags, and occasionally some really wild ones. When frosty Choice Uncs were $10 retail, I used to retail the insane coins for $20 to $25, and if I got something absolutely beyond wild Wayne Miller would give me $25 or $30 for it. Sure wish I would have kept 20 of the wildest. Here’s the catch. I probably personally bought and sold several million common date uncirculated dollars, and I’ve probably seen 10 million uncirculated dollars. The toners weren’t that easy to find back in the day when they were $8 or 10 a coin. If I would have saved every coin I saw, I bet it wouldn’t have been much more than 100 or 200 coins out of the 10 million. That’s why I’m very suspicious of some of today’s toners. And many of the toners of today just aren’t the same colors that were seen in the 1970s and 1980s. So unless you believe global warming is changing the color of Morgan dollars, there’s something fishy about some of today’s toners.

Story number two…the world record price. About 1984 or 1985…about two years before PCGS…common date dollars were really bid for a huge price, but the had to be really, really nice. Ed Milas of RARCOA had the Continental Illinois Bank deal, which included an enormous amount of silver dollars. Ed invited me in the cherry pick 1000 1881-S dollars. I went through several bags and picked out 1000 cherries. The price was $500 a coin…$500,000 for the 1000 coin bag. To this day I believe it’s the most anyone has ever paid for a bag of common date Morgan dollars. I sold them retail for $550, but they most likely weren’t a good deal as they’d probably grade “only” MS66 today, maybe some would grade MS67. But that was the height of common date dollar mania…1984-1986.

Last story…the incredible bag deal. When Superior of Beverly Hills was Larry and Ira Goldberg, Larry and Ira had a huge BU dollar deal out of Las Vegas that they sold out of for years. They handled some really incredible coins and some really incredible bag deals. One day in I think 1979, Larry called me and said he had a phenomenal quality deal for me. He said he wanted a premium per coin, but I could pick…it was my kind of deal. It was something like 2 bags of 1878-S, 6 bags of 1879-S, 12 bags of 1880-S, 5 bags of 1881-S, 2 bags of 1900-O and a DMPL bag (I’m not kidding) of 1898-O. Gordon Wrubel was living in Kansas City at the time. I called Gordy up and asked him to fly out and help me look at the deal. It took us two days to go through the coins. Understand that all of the coins were very Gemmy. Nonetheless we picked about half and left some pretty nice “rejects.” Dollars were worth about $10/$11 a coin at the time I think, but Larry wanted $12.50 for the S Mints, $15 for the 1878-S and $15 for the DMPL 1898-O, a significant premium at the time. I bought 3000 1879-S, 6000 1880-S, 2000 1881-S, 1000 1900-O, 500 absolutely incredible 1878-S and 500 DMPL 1898-O dollars. The coins were simply amazing. I sold the 20 best 1878-S dollars to Fred Sweeney and Bruce Amspacher for $50 a coin, an enormous price at the time, but they’d all be MS67 today and I think one of the coins ended up in a PCGS MS68 holder. It took me a year or so to sell all 500 1898-O DMPLs, but I got $20/$25 a coin. To this day, I think a lot of the 1898-O DMPLs come from that deal. The really humorous part of the deal had to do with the rejects…and they were very nice. A few days after I bought the deal from Larry Goldberg, Bob Hughes called me up and said he had just bought the most amazing deal of dollars….bags and bags of ultra Gems…right up my alley he said. I asked him if it was 1878-S, 1879-S, 1880-S, 1881-S, 1900-O, and 1898-O PLs. All he could say was , How did you know? Did you already pass this deal?” I didn’t have the heart to tell him I he had bought my rejects so I just said I bought as much as I could afford. No knock on Bob…the coins he bought were really nice. It was just a totally amazing deal of dollars.

That’s the Sunday night blog on common dollars. We could talk about rare dates…in 1975 Dave Bowers, Jim Ruddy, Joel Rettew, and I were the underbidders at $7.3 million on the Redfield dollar deal (484,000 BU dollars, mostly better date S Mints)…A-Mark (Steve Markoff, Hugh Sconyers, and Steve Deeds) bought it in a Reno courtroom, outbidding us at $7.4 million. I’ll blog about that…the big one that got away…another time. Or there’s the 1896-S and 1884-S ultra Gems story…you can read those stories on CoinFacts. It’s getting late. Hope you enjoyed the stories. It sure brought back memories for me. Bottom line…there are a lot of silver dollars out there…and there are also a lot of people that like them and want them. Morgan and Peace dollars have been a huge part of the coin market for over 45 years and today they are one of the mostly widely collected U.S. coins. They are great coins and they’ve certainly been fun for me.

Filed Under: News

Coin Collecting Is Fun – Spread The Word!

Posted on July 15, 2010 by No Comments

Coin collecting has always had to compete with other activities as ways to fill our spare time (if we’re lucky enough to have any).  Back when I was a kid, popular activities included baseball card collecting and trading, fishing, playing with the neighborhood kids (until dark or when Mom called us for dinner…whichever came first), riding our bikes, fighting, and getting dirty.  Today’s kids are tempted by an entirely new and different set of activities: video games, updating their Facebook pages, texting, tweeting, watching hundreds of cable channels, and listening to thousands of songs on their iPod, iPad, or iPhone.

How can coin collecting compete with this technological onslaught?  Is the “graying” of the coin collecting community because numismatics is boring, or because we haven’t done a good enough job of promoting it’s positive aspects, especially to kids.

I believe we can do a much better job of promoting coin collecting.  Here’s how.

1. Focus on the positive. Through coin collecting, kids can learn about people, art, geography, economics, politics, history, and language.  They learn about the value of money and how to save for something they want.  They’ll learn how to organize an accumulation of coins into a meaningful collection.  They’ll learn about stewardship as they protecting their coins for the collectors of tomorrow.

2. Focus on the financial aspects. Coin collecting is a great way to teach kids about saving, investing, and preserving wealth.  Buying a coin is not like buying a video game.  Both will provide hours of entertainment, but in the end, the coin will be worth something.  Coin collectors learn about the time value of money, inflation, deflation, how different currencies relate to each other, how money is valued in terms of gold and silver, and trends in pricing.

3. Spread the word. Coin collecting is not a spectator sport…it is meant to be shared.  Kids need to learn that coin collecting is a fun way to spend their time.  Give a kid a coin, take them to your local coin shop, attend a coin club meeting, help your kid develop an exhibit or a Powerpoint demonstration, help your Boy Scout Troop with their coin collecting merit badge, or give them a few dollars and let them loose at a coin show.

Most important, make it fun!

Filed Under: News

Auction Report…Are Coins Really Hard to Buy?

Posted on July 12, 2010 by No Comments

It’s really hard to buy good coins right now. OK, you’ve heard it before. It is the oldest coin dealer line in the book. However, sometimes it’s true. Right now it is true…and here are some facts that show the situation as it really is.

Let’s talk about last week’s Heritage auction. And remember we’re talking Heritage…THE Heritage. I did an auction survey and Heritage’s market share used to be enormous…now it’s even larger. Heritage…I buy coins in every one of their auctions. Heritage…I look at the results of every single lot sold by them at auction and their results have a tremendous impact on the PCGS Price Guide.

So what kind of coins were offered in last week’s Heritage auction? I looked at every lot. I wanted to buy coins…a lot of them. I was disappointed…big time disappointed…in how few of the kind of coins I want were in the auction. And it wasn’t Heritage’s fault at all. Fact is…there simply aren’t a lot of great coins for sale right now…and not even Heritage can change the course of that river.

In the past Heritage auction there was not one single PR65 or better proof gold. Zero…Nada…Zip. There was not even a single Matte Proof Gold coin in any grade! There was not one PCGS graded early $10. Not one PCGS graded MS65 or better $3 gold piece. Not one PCGS graded PR65 or better Morgan dollar. For key dates in MS65 or better condition, there were no 1932-D or 1932-S quarters, no 1916-D dimes (highest grade on that one was AU55), no 1916 SL quarters (in any mint state grade) , no 1896-S, 1901-S, or 1913-S quarter in any grade above Good 6, and no 1877 Indian penny in any grade above VF35.

I’m telling you, the cupboard is pretty bare. I believe that everyone that needed to sell in the past 24 months has already sold and coins are in strong hands now. I’m not saying coin prices are going up or down, I’m just telling you from an insider’s point of view, great rare coins are currently in short supply.

Good luck with your purchasing. I’m looking forward to the ANA show in August. Hopefully there will be more coins available to buy at that show.

Filed Under: News

Choosing a Coin to Collect

Posted on July 7, 2010 by 5 Comments

Coin collecting offers a myriad of choices for the collector, but there is one governing rule: You will run out of money before you run out of coins to buy.  Therefore, it is important to choose wisely in the beginning, so that you stay on budget and your interest level remains high.

Here are some choices to consider:

U.S. coins or world coins?  The U.S. coin market is easily the biggest in the world, with the largest number of collectors, the highest capitalization, and the best liquidity.  Some countries (such as Canada, Germany, and Great Britain) have advanced collector markets, while most others do not.  Liquidity is a problem with most world coins, as are transaction and transportation costs.  However, world coins offer a lot of value because rare, high quality world coins simply haven’t caught up to their U.S. counterparts.

Vintage or moderns?  1965 is usually recognized as the cutoff date between vintage and modern coins because it was the first year for production of “clad” coins.  Vintage coins are the “classics” and include great series such as Morgan Dollars, Mercury Head Dimes, Walking Liberty Half Dollars, etc.  Modern coins include the 50 States Quarters, all types of commemorative coins, American Eagle silver and gold coins.  Vintage coins can be extremely expensive as either rarities or in high grade; moderns tend to be more affordable and they almost always come in superb condition.  If you want a crossover between the vintage and modern coins, try the Silver Eagle (with a redo of the classic Walking Liberty design) or the Gold Eagle (with Augustus Saint Gaudens’ classic design).

Circulated or Uncirculated?  The higher the grade, the higher the cost…but not always.  Some collectors try to obtain the worst possible example of a coin, while other try to locate the best.  Lowball sets (those with the worst possible examples) are a fun, affordable way to collect otherwise expensive coins.  The PCGS Set Registry offers Everyman collections, which preclude any Uncirculated coins.  At the top end, the Condition Census includes the top 5 or ten examples of a given coin.  Your budget determines the level you choose.

Certified or raw?  This is an easy choice.  If you want authentic, uncleaned, undoctored coins, stick with those that are certified, preferably by PCGS.  They may cost a little more, but the peace of mind is well worth the premium.

Gold or silver (or copper, etc.)?  Often, the intrinsic value of a coin plays a big part in determining the collector value of a coin.  For instance, the modern American Eagle gold coin fluctuates with and stays close to the spot price of gold.  Most circulated U.S. silver coins are sold in bags of $1,000 face value, sometimes for a discount off the silver price.  Currently, gold and silver prices are at or near their all-time highs.  If you think they are overvalued, stay away from bullion-related coins; if you think they are undervalued, buy as many as you can.  Again, cost and affordability should be your guide.

Finally, the most important decision of all: to collect coins or not.  On the pro side are what you’ll learn about history, geography, politics, economics, and language.  Then there’s the stress-relieving side of coin collecting, the research, the camaraderie among collectors, travel, bonding with family, the thrill of discovery and the sheer fun of it all.  On the con side…well, I can’t think of any!

Filed Under: News

PCGS CoinFacts…the grand plan

Posted on July 6, 2010 by 1 Comment

Imagine with me for a few minutes…

Imagine if you will…

Every U.S. coin…all regular Mint issues, all proofs, all varieties of those issues, and include Colonials, Territorials, and Patterns. In other words…imagine the entirety of U.S. numismatics.

Now imagine a photo…an image online…a great image…of the finest known example of all of those coins.

Imagine a variety guide…a guide which has detailed images, including close-ups, of each variety. A guide on how to distinguish each variety.

Imagine all the technical info for every coin: mintage, metal content, size, designer, etc.

OK mintage is important, but what about rarity? Well, imagine a survival rating for every coin…a rating based on expert consensus opinions. An estimate of the number of survivors in all grades, MS/PR60 or better and MS/PR65 or better. And imagine you could compare the rarity of each individual coin with all coins of its type and series.

And what about price and the PCGS Population. Imagine the price and PCGS Population for every coin in every grade in which it exists.

And while were on the subject of price, imagine a 20 year auction prices realized data base for every U.S. coin.

As for the best known examples of every coin…imagine a condition census for every U.S. coin. A list of the top ten known examples for every coin, with great images of all ten, and pedigree and auction appearance info.

And we certainly would want to known what experts say about each coin so imagine expert commentaries on every U.S. coin.

What you are imagining is what I have been imagining for over 20 years. And now with the online PCGS Coinfacts website, this grand numismatic dream…this grand scheme…is becoming a reality. It’s a massive project, a ten year plus project, but a lot of it has already been done. That’s right, there is a lot of this information up on the PCGS Coinfacts website right now….images, variety attribution guides, survival rates, condition census info, expert narratives…more numismatic information than you’ll find anywhere else, and it’s growing every day.

But as much as is already on PCGS CoinFacts, there’s even more that still needs to be done. And PCGS is totally committed to PCGS CoinFacts. It should be done, it needs to be done, and because of today’s technology it can be done. And we (PCGS) are probably the only company/people/team that can do it. So we are spending the money and have committed the resources to PCGS CoinFacts. Ron Guth, coin expert and author extraordinaire works full time on PCGS CoinFacts. Our modern expert, Jaime Hernandez spends half his time on PCGS CoinFacts. We have a dedicated IT team for PCGS CoinFacts. Project man/collectibles expert Mike Sherman spends a lot of his time on PCGS COinFacts, PCGS President Don Willis devotes some of his time to PCGS CoinFacts. And we have enlisted the help of many of the world’s top rare coin experts…check out the incredible expert list on the PCGS CoinFacts home page. They all think PCGS Coinfacts is great and they want to help us when they can. Finally, I spend about 30% of my working time…about 15 to 20 hours a week…on PCGS CoinFacts. That’s how important I think it is.

So what has this got to do with you and your coins. In all collectibles markets, information is king. The more you know, the more you’ll enjoy your coins…and for the capitalists among you, the more money you’ll make. So check out PCGS CoinFacts. OK, it’s subscription based…but it’s cheap. And we don’t make money on PCGS CoinFacts, but the subscription money makes the costs we have semi-OK. So take a free tour…sign up if you like it. It’s an incredible source of info about coins. I always end the stuff I write with “Have fun with your coins.” And that’s what PCGS CoinFacts is about. It’s a ton of information about coins. For me, working on PCGS Coinfacts is a lot of fun. And for you, I hope taking in all the online info available with PCGS CoinFacts is equally fun!

Filed Under: News

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