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Special Long Beach Expo Preview Featuring David Hall

Posted on May 20, 2014 by No Comments

Hello Fellow Coin Enthusiasts

David Hall here to share with you the special attractions that are making the Long Beach Expo the must-attend show of the summer! Pawn Stars, the famous cable TV show, will be doing a casting audition at the show so bring your antiques and collectibles. We will also have 20 dealers from mainland China and Hong Kong visiting Long Beach. Many of these dealers are coming to the United States for the first time, and several have never been out of China before – making this a rare opportunity for you to interact with the best dealers China has to offer! I hope to see you there!

Filed Under: News

Government Wins 1933 $20 Case

Posted on July 20, 2011 by 24 Comments

A jury found in favor of the government today in a case involving ten 1933 $20 gold pieces. The government has long contended that no 1933 $20 Saint Gaudens were officially released and that any surviving specimens were in fact stolen. The government confiscated numerous specimens in the 1940s and 1950s.

Ten years ago or so, a specimen showed up in New York and was seized by the government in a sting operation. After a few years of legal wrangling, the coin was sold by Sotheby’s and Stack for $7.5 million, the government splitting the proceeds with the owner, British dealer Stephen Fenton. The coin was supossedly the King Farouk specimen which had an official export license sometime in the 1940s when Farouk acquired the piece. At the time of the sale, it was stated that this was the only specimen that would ever officially be monetized and legal to own.

There are also two examples in the Smithsonian Institution collection. There are also 2 to 5 more existing specimens out in the shadow world…one of which I personally saw in 1980.

To complicate matters, the Philadelphia heirs of the jeweler who originally handled probably all of the existing specimens post-1933 turned in ten specimens (there existence being unknown to the numismatic community) to government after the $7.5 million sale and asked them to rule on their legal status. The governemnt decided to keep the coins. The heirs sued.

I assume the decision will be appealed. I am not a lawyer and I don’t know who’s right legally. But as a coin person I think the decision sucks. I would much prefer the coins be legal to own and sold into the marketplace so numerous people could own them. If the ten coins were legal to own they’d probably be worth $3 million each, give or take. Two intersting questions to think about. If the ten coins are made legal to own on appeal, would the shadow coins then be legal too? Second, what’s the government going to do with the coins? They have stated that they would not make any other 1933 $20 gold pieces legal. But are they going to melt $30 million worth of coins????

Filed Under: News

Two Winds Blowing in the Coin Market

Posted on May 23, 2011 by 10 Comments

I’m frequently asked the following questions (actually it’s really just one question expressed several different ways)…

“Gold went way up, but my graded gold coins haven’t went up. Why are my gold coins not going up when gold is going up so much?”

“Gold has gone up a lot more than my rare coins. Should I sell all my rare coins and just buy gold?”

“If the coin market is so hot, why haven’t my coins increased in value?”

The bottom line question is why is it that gold and silver done so well, while rare coins (some of them at least) haven’t moved at all?

Two part answer in my opinion. First, in past mega-moves for gold and silver, bullion went first followed by generic gold and silver coins, then finally rarer coins. Seems rare coins lag bullion movements, or have in the past, and need a little time to “catch up.”

Second, and most importantly, we have two winds blowing strong in the coin market, one blowing with us and one blowing against us. On the positive side (at least positive for us, but maybe not so positive for our grand kids) is the tremendous surge in gold and silver prices, driven by the deterioration in value of the U.S. dollar. This is very bullish for all coins, both generic and rare. And it’s a very strong wind at our back. The U.S. dollar is headed (eventually) for toilet paper status. The world knows this and is acting accordingly. And this deterioration of the value of the U.S. dollar is systemic and I for one see nothing on the horizon to stop this extremely long term trend. People, we have fiat money in the USA now and it seems like the fate of the dollar is sealed. The emperor has no clothes!

The negative wind blowing against us is the crappy economy. I have people call me often and say things like, “I can’t buy any coins now, my business is down 70% in the past two years.” I know some pretty intelligent, talented people that have been out of work for as long as two years. The 8000 square foot office space next to ours at PCGS (nice building in the Orange County Airport area business section of town) has been vacant for two years. The economy sucks and a lot of people who normally buy can’t now either can’t or won’t.

So, with two market forces pulling in opposite directions we have a mixed market. Some prices are rising and some are falling. What’s rising? What’s hot so-to-speak? All of the semi-numismatic bullion type coins are being forced higher by the bullion prices. $20 Saints in lower grades and circulated Morgan and Peace dollars aren’t going to sell below melt value! So their prices have gone up a lot in mirror movement to the bullion markets. And some really rare coins are also performing well…rare date circulated 19th century coins, super high end of the grading scale coins, and the Ultra Rarities (1913 Liberty nickels, 1804 dollars, etc.) On the negative side price movement wise are many modern coins (post-1964 coins, especially post-1980 coins) and a lot of the standard numismatic fare. For example, 1892-1954 silver commemoratives keep drifting lower in price even though they are at historically very cheap levels and they are great collector coins.

So what about the future? Depends on the bullion markets, the strength (or lack of) of the U.S. dollar, the real inflation rate (not the bogus government reported rate, but the real world rate), and the economy. It seems to me that at least some of those factors will remain bullish, and if they all turn bullish at once…then the entire coin market should do really well and some parts should soar.

As for me, I think everyone should have some gold and silver…and also some good rare coins. That’s what I do.

David Hall

Filed Under: News

PCGS…It Really Did Start As A Book…A Look Back and a Look to the Future

Posted on October 31, 2010 by 4 Comments

PCGS is about to celebrate its 25 anniversary! We opened for business in February, 1986.

The story about how PCGS came to be tells a lot about the coin market and what happened. And it also tells a lot about what will most likely happen in the future. I was obviously there, so I’ll give you my insider’s view of what happened 25 years ago, and I’ll also give you my feelings about where all of this is going.

We were show dealers…John Dannreuther, Gordon Wrubel, Bruce Amspacher and I. We traveled the coin show circuit and from about 1971 to 1990 or so, in the pre-Internet, pre-online auction days, the coin show circuit was the center of the coin universe. It was where all the action was…and where the smartest dealers in the world met every two weeks or so to buy and sell coins with one another.

I’m going to talk about four “eras.” The 1946-1970 (approximate dates on all the eras) “Post War coin collecting boom,” the 1971-1990 gold and silver “investment” era, the 1986-2010 graded coins era, and the 2010 on “information” era.

Before 1971, we had the “post War coin boom” and the period from roughly 1946 to 1970 was all about proof sets, BU rolls, and finding coins in circulation to put in your coin collection. Collectors would go to the bank, get rolls of pennies or nickels or dimes or quarters or even rolls of Morgan and Peace dollars and search thru them to find better coins. When I was in the eighth grade coin club (1959-60) I remember that one of the fathers actually cashed his pay check every Friday at the bank in silver dollars. He took the dates he needed for his collection and paid his bills with the rest. And of course everybody bought proof sets from the Mint and many “put away” BU rolls “for the future.” The post War coin collecting boom “ended” with the “coin shortage” of 1964/65. What really happened was that the price of silver rose to the level that silver dimes, quarters, halves, and dollars were worth more than face value. The coins disappeared from circulation. The government responded by minting clad coins in place of the silver ones and all of the sudden you really couldn’t find much in circulation. BU rolls and proof set prices topped out and the market was pretty quiet during the 1965-1970 time period. In terms of grading, it wasn’t the issue that it is today. Most of us just didn’t look at coins that closely.

Gold and silver prices were quite active during the late 60’s but things got really interesting in 1971 when Nixon “shut the gold window” and the U.S. stopped redeeming U.S. dollars internationally with our gold reserves. Prior to 1971, if a foreign government had excess dollars they just sent them to us and we gave them gold. That was stopped in 1971 and the gold market started to rise dramatically. Several things happened in the coin market. Gold coins, common and rare, became high demand items. All rare coins in general experienced a boom. And we started looking at coins much more critically as quality became a big factor.Coin shops had been the center of the coin universe during the 1946-1970 era. Shops were still a factor in the 1970’s and 1980’S, but the action shifted to the coin show circuit. It was pretty hard to take proofs sets and BU rolls to coin shows in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but once rare and/or super high quality coins took the spotlight, the coin shows became much more important.

I went to my first coin show in 1966…the Long Beach Coin Show! At that time, I hung out at coin shops, hung coins on bid boards,etc….yes, it’s true, I was a teenage coin hustler. But I really didn’t go to many coin shows. As the market changed, my focus changed. I started paying attention to rarity and quality and in 1972 I started traveling the coin show circuit. Between 1972 and about 1985 I attended 20 to 25 coin shows a year.

The coin shows were a big proving ground. You could own a coin shop and buy and sell with the public. You could have a mail order business and sell to the public…using whatever grading standards you wanted. You could have an “investment company” and sell gold and silver coins (and rare coins) to “investors.” You could have an auction company and sell on a relatively no risk consignment basis. But at the coin shows, it was dealer-to-dealer and you really had to know what you were doing or you had your butt handed to you. The dealers were smart, the price of everything was negotiable, and of course there was the coin show 30-30-30 guarantee…30 seconds, 30 steps, or 30%. If you could buy a coin from Fred Sweeney and sell it to Joe Flynn, you really had accomplished something. The margin for error was thin and BS got you nowhere.

So I was a show dealer and in the early 1970’s, I met and hung out with three other like-minded show dealers, Gordon Wrubel, John Dannreuther, and Bruce Amspacher. We were young, we knew our coins, we had good grading eyes (not all dealers do, you know), and we liked the same kind of coins…Gem quality coins and/or rarities. And we liked to talk about coins. So we’d get together at nights during the coin shows and talk about coins (I know…get a life!)

John Dannreuther says PCGS started as a book and it really did. At some point in time John, Gordy, Bruce and I decided we were going to do the ultimate coin encyclopedia…a page or two for every coin with survival estimates, rarity comparisons, and condition census lists. If that sounds familiar, it is of course what PCGS CoinFacts is doing now. I have somewhere in my desk, the original table of contents from 1981 or so for our multi-volume ultimate coin encyclopedia…Volume One was half cents and large cents, Volume Two was going to be small cents, etc. As for condition census, I took the line drawings from the Brown and Dunn grading book and printed up index cards for each type. Then Gordon and I would fill in the cards for important coins we saw at shows and auctions, noting identifying marks on each coin. This condition census project using hand-written index cards was of course an impossible task. I don’t know what I was thinking, but it just seemed like something that needed to be done.

As we keep talking about our book project two things happened. First, we keep running into the “grading problem.” How could you have a condition census if there was no real grading standard. You couldn’t research auctions and fix price offerings because there was no telling the “real grade” of the coins offered. The other thing that happened was we were all selling coins to investors. Bruce had a newsletter and investor clients. And I was really hot. I was going to the “hard money” shows, writing a newsletter, and I had people lined up waiting to buy coins. The big question was, “who guarantees the grade?” “What happens if you die…will others buy the coins at the same grade?”

At some point in time it became obvious that the coin market needed a universally accepted grading standard. Truthfully, it wasn’t really that far-sighted by us. It was actually obvious to us that what we needed was a universal grading standard and we thought a few other dealers would also be interested in something like that. So we decided to launch a third party grading service using world class graders…us…and sealing the coins and guaranteeing the grade. We pitched a few other dealers about the idea and it gathered momentum way beyond our expectations. We really thought we’d just do 3000 or so coins a month. The first month we did 18,000 coins, the second month we did 30,000 coins, and it took off from there. And so began the “graded coins era.” And then came Population Reports, sight-unseen bidding, Pop-Tops, and Set Registries.

As for the future, the real key to everything is the information. Coins…all collectibles really…are about the information. It’s a story…and it’s a good story. The more you know about coins, the more you usually want to be involved. Coins are a big beneficiary of the information age. And I believe the next era will be all about the information. And technology is really helping us. No more hand-written index cards to keep track of the condition census for coins.

As for the ultimate encyclopedia, that idea never died. It just got postponed while we launched a grading revolution and waited for the technology to catch up with our grand vision. Now we have PCGS CoinFacts, the online version of the book JD, Gordy, Bruce and I wanted to write before we started PCGS. I have three artifacts that trace the development of the PCGS CoinFacts push for information. There’s the 1981 table of contents for our ultimate coin encyclopedia and the condition census index cards. And there’s also something interesting I saved from 1999. That year I had our internet team design the page format for the online version of the ultimate encyclopedia (I used an 1889-CC dollar as the model coin.) And I have to tell you, the format is almost identical to what you see on PCGS CoinFacts today. It’s the basic idea we had 30 years ago. And of course we have combined forces with the like-minded coin information producer extraordinaire Ron Guth.

For the future, the coin market is subject to many outside forces…the price of gold, the rate of inflation, government regulations, etc., so there are some unknowns. But what I do know is that the information about coins is going to expand geometrically. And I can tell you with absolute certainty that PCGS, though PCGS CoinFacts, will create a condition census for every U.S. coin, online images for every U.S. coin and every coin in the condition census, survival estimates for every U.S. coin, deep historical auction prices realized data, expert commentaries on every coin, details about every great collection, and deep and detailed price histories for every coin in every grade. It’s a humongous task. Fortunately we don’t have to do it on hand-written index cards.

The expansion of numismatic information benefits us all. It’s great time to be involved with rare coins. We’re having fun with coins and we hope you’re having fun with coins too!

PS…There are of course still grading issues to deal with…and we spend a lot of time and money on the grading issues. The grading job is far from “done” and as I always say to our graders, “Nothing we do…CoinFacts, Set Registries, Price Guides, etc…is possible without what you do in the grading room.” So rest assured we still consider grading the coins right to be Job One. And from that base we create the information we can all use to make the coin market an even better place.

Filed Under: News

Generic Gold Premiums Collapsed

Posted on October 23, 2010 by 1 Comment

Generic gold coins, i.e. MS61 to MS64 examples of the most common dates of $2.5, $5 & $10 Liberties and Indians, and $20 Liberites & St. Gaudens, trade on the basis of the premium of their price over their bullion content. This premium can expand and conract due to various factors including buyer demand, dealer inventory levels, and, since a lot generic U.S. gold is imported from Europe each year, the value of the dollar versus gold and the Euro.

Recently, premiums have shrunk dramatically. They are as low as I’ve ever seen them, almost as low as they were in the 1969-1971 era just before the price of gold took off from $35 an ounce. Gold bullion prices have increased tremendously in the past few years. And when gold bullion runs up a lot, premiums tend to come down and generic gold coin prices tend to lag the moves in bullion and then “catch up” later. But premiums are really low now.

Smart generic gold buyers, both dealers and the public buyers, pay close attention to the generic gold coin premium. Obviously, the best time to buy is when premiums are low. And that’s the exact situation we have right now.

I’m not neccessarily recommending generic gold coins. Hey, I’m a rarity and quality guy. I’m a MS65 or better Gem quality chauvinist and have been my whole career. But premiums are so low now that if you like these coins for your gold portfolio, now is definitely the time to take a look. I’m even thinking about myself!

It will be interesting to see if premiums expand assuming gold bullion prices will stabilize and establish a trading range. Then again, gold looks pretty strong and could keep running for a while. If gold goes down, I would assume that premiums would go up a little. There are a lot of things that could happen and this is obviously something to watch.

Filed Under: News

Commems on CoinFacts

Posted on October 7, 2010 by No Comments

I do a lot of narratives for PCGS Coinfacts. But there are lot of coins to do, to say the least, so the question is…which coin should I do? I’ve been a major dealer in silver commems (the 1892 to 1954 issues) since 1974 and they are very popular with a lot of people so I’ve started to do that series for PCGS Coinfacts. I do at least one per day and I’m currently at the 1935-D Arkansas so I have about 135 issues to go.

For the PCGS CoinFacts narratives on silver commems I present some of the original issue and distribution facts, I go over the current rarity and relative rarity relationships, I describe what the luster and strike generally look like for the issue, and I tell any interesting stories I might know about the issue. So if you like silver commems and want this “old timer’s” view on the individual coins, then check the silver commem section out on PCGS CoinFacts, or just click on the “most recent narratives” section of the home page to see what I’ve written in the past few days.

Filed Under: News

The Great Coin Dealer Wedding

Posted on September 7, 2010 by 2 Comments

This weekend (Sunday) was the coin dealer wedding of the decade as two coin dealer families united. PCGS founder John Dannreuther’s daughter, Drew, married long time dealer Walt Ankerman’s son, Erik. It was a beautiful wedding and there sure were a lot of coin dealers there. Best wishes to Erik and Drew.

wedding photo, Erik and Drew Ankerman

Filed Under: News

Thoughts on the 2010 Boston ANA Show

Posted on August 16, 2010 by 1 Comment

The biggest show of the year…the summer ANA show…is now over. I thought, and said here, that this would be a bellwhether show for the rare coin market…telling us a lot about the current state of the market. And this show did exactly that.

I was at the show from start to finish. i actually arrived early and attended both the Bowers & Merena and Stack’s auctions, and I stayed until the show closed Saturday. I looked at every coin in all three auctions. I looked at even more coins at the show. I talked to a lot of dealers and collectors.

I have some definite feelings about this show and what it tells me about the market. I won’t go into the specific coins. You’ve probably already heard about them…the PCGS MS68 1944-P half at $109,000, the two Barber halves that brought more than $100,000 each in the Duckor sale. I can say that they were more six figure coins sold in the auctions than I can ever remember happening…and two coins sold for over a million. Overall, prices in the auctions were strong and prices at the show were also strong. The main difference in the show and the auctions was that there were a lot more of the juicy coins to buy in the auctions than on the bourse floor. Yes, there were a lot of great coins at the show, but you’d expect that at an ANA. But there weren’t that many, and the dealer asking prices were usually high. As a dealer, it was very hard to buy at the show. It was also very, very hard to buy at the auctions unless you were willing to stretch on your buying price limit.

What does the above and the other show action tell me? Simply put, the rare coin market is doing very well. With one exception, all areas of the market are doing somewhere between so-so and great. The only area of the market that is soft is generic U.S. gold coins, and the cause of that seems to be a very significant supply overhang. Premiums for generic gold coins are very low (perhaps a great buying opportunity?), but this market comes and goes and often marches to a different beat than the rest of the coin market. But all other areas of the rare coin market are A-OK. I have to tell you, when I left the show half the dealers had already packed up and left, but I had the real strong wish that the show would last another day or two. I felt regret as I left the show for the last time and I haven’t haad that feeling for many years. I have a very good feeling about the coin market.

The positive aspect of the rare coin market extends to most other collectibles markets as well. Before Boston, I was in the Baltimore for the the National Sports Collectors show. I saw a Cap Anson bat sell at auction (Heritage strikes again!) for over $300,000, a new record. And I saw many other strong prices. The story is similar in other collectibles fields. Outstanding collectibles are bringing good prices. Most collectibles are doing very well considering the current economic recession, or downturn, or whatever it is we’re in now. And I can tell you for a fact that rare coins are doing best of all. This is probably an indictment of the U.S. dollar (and its deteriorating value) and/or current government fiscal policy…the smart money in the world is obviously betting on future inflation.

Once again, I have a very good feeling about the rare coin market. And I must say I had a blast (though I really worked hard) at this year’s ANA. I hope you’re having as much fun with coins as I am.

Filed Under: News

Report on Heritage Platinum Night

Posted on August 12, 2010 by 1 Comment

Holy Sh*t! What an auction. One night, 746 lots, $22,372,528!!!!!!!

Overall prices were very strong, and prices for rarities and ultra high grades were super strong. There’s no recession in the rare coin market!

Dealers at the auction (there were a lot of dealers there, including me) had a tough time buying. The book and internet bidding was strong, and there were a lot of collectors in the audience. I looked at every lot and there were a lot of coins I wanted to buy. I was really getting skunked until the gold section started. I wanted to buy the 1793 Chain cent in AU55, the Wreath cent in AU53…no luck. I wanted to buy the 1796 quarter in MS65…no go. I wanted to buy a lot of the Barber halves from Dr. Duckor’s incredible set and was only able to buy two of the less expensive ones. I’m a dealer, so I’m somewhat price conscious, but I’m not a cheap buyer. I’ll pay up for a great coin. But I was in a pretty bad mood until I was able to sneak in and buy a few of the early $5 gold pieces.

The highlight of the sale was the Dr. Duckor set of Barber half dollars, the finest ever assembled…and the prices were mind-boogling. The whole set…a set of Barber half dollars mind you…brought over $2,000,000! We can understand (sort of) the super key date 1904-S in MS67 at $138,000, but how about a 1905 at $132,500! It’s was PCGS Secure MS68+, the only 68+ Barber half of any date, but that’s a big price. Go to the Heritage website and check out the prices…1894 MS67+ $46,000…1895-O MS67 $51,750…1899 MS67 $34,500…1900-O MS66 $43,125…1900-S MS67 $57,500…1901-O MS67+ $63,250…1901-S MS67+ $86,250…1903-O MS67 $46,000…1904 MS67+ $51,750 and on and on.

The Duckor set of Barber halves took thirty years to build, but the results tell us a few things. Whenever people come to me for advise on what to do in coins I tell them three things. First, buy the coins you like, not what someone tells you to buy. Second, HAVE FUN WITH YOUR COINS! But there’s a financial aspect to this and the third thing I say is build a set. The people I’ve seen do the best are those that build sets over time as opposed to just making random purchases. And it doesn’t have to be a set of expensive coins…you can do Roosevelt dimes or Ike dollars. And it doesn’t have to be ga-ga grades. You want a real challenge? Try putting a set of Barber halves together in Fine or Very Fine condition. But what Dr. Duckor did is the real way to do it. Pick a coin series or series you really like and build a set. Take your time and do it right.

Heritage Platinum night is always a big event. I don’t attend many auctions in person, I usually bid online, but the two auctions I never miss are the Heritage ANA Platinum Night and the Heritage FUN show Platinum Night. When I go to an auction I go to buy coins, and the Heritage Platinum Nights are always loaded with great coins. I’m not a big seller at auction, but I did have two duplicates from my $10 Liberty set in the Platinum Night aucion last night and I was very pleased with the results. So congratulations to Heritage for one truly incredible auction night!

A few more results to think about…

NE Shilling AU50 $416,875

1796 quarter MS65 $322,000

1916 Standing quarter MS67FH $149,500

1817/4 Half VF20 $184,000

1944 Half MS68 $109,250…read it again, not a typo…1944 Walker $109,000!

We obviously have some work to do on the PCGS Price Guide.

Filed Under: News

Wow…Report from first ANA auctions

Posted on August 9, 2010 by 3 Comments

I attended the Bowers and Merena auction on Saturday and the Stack’s auction today (Sunday) in Boston. I can tell you there is no economic slowdown in today’s coin market. Prices, while a little mixed overall…which is how it usually is in all auctions, were quite strong overall. This was especially true in three areas: Gem Two Cent pieces, rare $10 Liberties, and O-Mint $20 Liberties.

Bowers and Merena sold one of the best sets of Two Cent pieces ever assembled and the prices were super strong. Here are a few of the prices that were way over the PCGS price guide;

1864 Small Motto PR65CAM $161,000 (PCGS Price Guide was $100,000)

1864 Large Motto PR65RD CAM an incredible $20,700

1865 PR65RD CAM $9,775

1866 PR66CAM $20,700

1870 PR66+RD $24,457

1871 PR66RD CAM $24,437

1872 PR66RD $14,950

1873 Closed 3 PR67RD $52,900 (just a little over the PCGS price guide, but perhaps the coolest coin in the set. Laura bought it!

Stack’s had a nearly complete set of high grade Early $10 and $10 Liberties. The prices on some of the rare $10 liberties were way over our Price Guide, examples;

1842-O MS61 sold for a mind boggling $74,750 versus the PCGS Price Guide of $20,000

1848-O AU55 $12,650

1853-O catalogued as “Specimen 61” $316,250

1862 AU58 $25,300

1863 $27,600 which I had to buy as it was one of only two coins I needed to complete my personal collection of $10 Liberties…and they really made me pay for it.

1864 AU53 $23,000

I was talking to Dave Bowers before the sale and he told me he thought $10 Liberties were the most underappreciated gold series. You wouldn’t have known it from his auction prices.

I also tried to buy some O Mint $20 Liberties as I feel they are great coins, but I didn’t even get close. Those coins are always very hard to buy.

There were two Ultra Rarities that sold in the B&M auction for about what they should have sold for.

1870-S Seated Dollar EF45 $632,500

1854-O $20 Liberty $517,500

I’ll BLOG after the Wednesday Heritage Platinum Night auction and later in the show. This should be a great ANA!

Filed Under: News

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