Archive for August, 2010

Buchanan Spouse Coins – Introduced on Sept. 02, 2010

Posted on August 31, 2010 by 1 Comment

In 2 days, (September 02, 2010) the U.S. Mint will introduce the 2010 Buchanan Spouse coins with a maximum authorized mintage of 15,000 coins, for both the Uncirculated and Proof coins combined. Buchanan didn’t have a Spouse during his term in office as U.S. President. Therefore, the obverse of the coin will depict the same Liberty design used on all Quarter Eagles produced from 1840-1907.

The Spouse Coins were first introduced in 2007. The maximum authorized mintages were originally set at 40,000 for both Uncirculated and Proof coins combined.

The first three coins (Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, and Thomas Jefferson’s Liberty) proved to be extremely popular as they completely sold out. The fourth or last coin of 2007 (Dolley Madison) failed to sell out and approximately 30,000 coins were sold. Some of the previously issued Spouse coins even got melted and sold for melt value only.

In 2008, we witnessed a huge decrease in sales for all four different Spouse coins issued that year. All four different 2008 Spouse coins had mintages of about 12,000 for each design, between both the Uncirculated and Proof coins combined.

In 2009, the demand decreased even more. The first coin dropped to a mintage of about 10,000 and since then, the mintages have declined even more. Some coins have turned out to have some of the lowest mintages in modern and classic U.S. coinage. For instance, the 2009 Julia Tyler Uncirculated coin has a mintage of 2,861.

Will the mintages for the Buchanan coins go even lower than 2009 mintages, or will the coins finally become popular? In the next several months, we shall find out.

In the meantime, here are the links to order these coins on the U.S. Mint website:
Buchanan Uncirculated Spouse coins
Buchanan Proof coins

Filed Under: News

What’s In A Picture?

Posted on August 23, 2010 by 1 Comment

A Condition Census is a listing of the top examples known (usually five or ten)  of a particular coin.  The best way to create an accurate Condition  Census is to place the coins side by side, make  physical comparison, and rank them by condition.  However, in real life, this is usually impossible because the best coins are scattered among collections in different parts of the country, or they may be held by institutions that are reluctant to release them, or the whereabouts of some of the coins are simply not known.  So, in real life, the next best way to create a condition census is to create a visual library of the best coins by gathering high-quality images of as many of the best coins as possible.

Current technology makes it very easy to take an image, put it in the proper format, and transmit it electronically via the Internet or email.  Issues still exist with different “looks” created by inconsistent lighting and imaging techniques but it is still much easier to identify the same coin in different photographs today than it was years ago using dot-matrix images in auction catalogues.  It is also much easier to differentiate coins, which can be just as important as matching them.

PCGS CoinFacts is developing a Condition Census for all U.S. coins, using a combination of PCGS True-View images, PCGS grades, a visual examination of raw or non-PCGS graded coins through the lens of PCGS grading, and the help of leading experts.  For many U.S. coins, we already have the Condition Census listing in place…now it’s a matter of gathering the images.  At shows and in-house, PCGS is imaging as many important, Condition Census-quality coins as possible.  Most of the numismatic auction houses are participating, as well.  Experts and specialists are helping us round up images or putting us in touch with collectors who possess important coins.

In our opinion, the PCGS CoinFacts Condition Census adds value by identifying coins of special importance…those that are the finest of their kind.  The U.S. coin market is driven by quality, and collectors and dealers have shown their willingness to pay significant premiums for the best coins.

For a limited time, PCGS is offering the following deals to entice you to send your coins in for imaging:

Submit your coin for grading through PCGS Secure Plus™ at the standard fee, and; if it is a Condition Census candidate, we will take a TrueView™ photograph at no additional charge (a $20 savings). Your coin will then take its place of recognition as a member of the PCGS CoinFacts Condition Census. The TrueView photograph will of course be available to you as well.


Submit your coin simply for photographing and, if it is a Condition Census candidate, we will take a TrueView photo and reholder your coin in a PCGS Secure Plus holder for only $20 (a $20 savings).  Your coin will then take its place of recognition as a member of the PCGS CoinFacts Condition Census. The TrueView photograph will of course also be available to you.

Plus, if you have a Condition Census coin photographed under this special offer we will give you – at no additional charge – a one-month subscription to PCGS CoinFacts!  Or if you’re already a PCGS CoinFacts subscriber we will extend your subscription one month for free!  (Limit one free month subscription per person.)

To take advantage of this offer, simply complete your submission form as usual and write “Condition Census Offer” in the “Other” box at the top of the submission form.  If you have any questions call PCGS Customer Service at 800-447-8848.

What’s in a picture?  Something that can’t be transmitted in words, even a thousand of them.  If you own a Condition Census candidate, contact us so that your coin can be included in the PCGS CoinFacts Condition Census.

Filed Under: News

You Don’t Have To Miss A Thing

Posted on August 16, 2010 by No Comments

Coin shows are great opportunities to buy and sell coins, meet old friends (and make new ones), learn about coins, view great exhibits, and bid on coins at auction.

Twenty or thirty years ago, it was absolutely essential to attend coin shows if you were a serious dealer or collector.  If you weren’t there, you simply weren’t part of the action…or part of the fun.

My, how things have changed.  Thanks to the Internet and modern technology, missing a coin show does not mean missing out completely.  Here are some ways to participate in a coin show even if you can’t make it in person.

Coin auctions. Before the Internet, it was impossible to buy coins at auction unless you either viewed the coins in person or had someone represent you.  Pictures in catalogs were limited in size, thus it was difficult to see what a coin really looked like.  Also, you could not control your bids like you might have wanted to.  If you needed to adjust your bids as the auction progressed, it was difficult or impossible to do so.  Today, all of the major auction houses post their auctions on-line, complete with over-sized images that show the coin in great detail.  Most auction houses have sophisticated programs that allow you to bid online.  If you want to “stretch” on a coin you really want, keep hitting that BID button.  If you’ve reached your spending limit, turn off your computer.  You can do it all from the comfort of your home.

What’s happening? If you can’t be there, it’s nice to know what’s going on.  Today, lots of dealers and collectors post regular updates so that we know all about the show activity, the venue, the general state of the market, etc.  For example, I saw several posts about the recent ANA convention on the PCGS Message Boards, Facebook, and Twitter.  Dealer websites often feature interesting posts and updates (one of my favorites are the Road Reports on coinraritiesonline; another are the sometimes fiery commentary from Legend Numismatics).  Also, it’s very easy to stay in close touch with people at the show via email (most of today’s cell phones allow emailing and text messaging) or by cell phone.  Blog postings by our own David Hall and Don Willis kept us up-to-date on important happenings and announcements.  Finally, the same programs that run the coin auctions let you see the auction prices realized almost immediately after the sale.

“First shot.” Nothing can replace being the first person to view coins in a dealer’s case.  However, many dealers are quick to upload their new inventory so that those of us at home can still have a chance at coins we need or want.  For instance, Doug Winter posted on Saturday that he would have all of his new inventory listed on his website the next day and that all of the unsold coins would be imaged by Monday.  I would not be surprised if he sold most of his new purchases by the end of the week, because he has a big following of eager buyers who couldn’t make it to the show.

Being at home doesn’t mean you have to be out of the picture.  Use the Internet and today’s technology to enjoy a coin show almost as much as if you were there.  And, keep in the back of your mind that one thing hasn’t changed over they years: the expense, time, and hassle of travelling.

Have fun!

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

Too good to be true….

Posted on August 14, 2010 by 1 Comment

The classic story is you are walking down the city street and a stranger approaches you opening his trench coat to reveal a selection of Rolex watches to chose from. Of course he can offer a fantastic deal – only pennies on the dollar – for your cash purchase. We are all familiar with this scam, but I wonder why so many seem to forget this lesson when it comes to numismatics.

Far too often someone contacts PCGS to ask for help after they have been on the wrong end of one of these transactions. It’s very unfortunate as there is nothing PCGS can do to help someone who has bought a counterfeit coin or a coin in a counterfeit holder (of course every coin in a genuine PCGS holder is fully guaranteed by us). We usually offer the same advice: contact the seller and ask for a refund; contact the venue through which the item was sold and report the seller; contact the police in the locality where the sale was made. Just as when someone buys a counterfeit Rolex there is not much Rolex can do except try to help put the illegal sellers out of business. (PCGS is actively working with law enforcement.)

So how can you avoid this happening to you? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

First of all there are no Santa Clauses in Numismatics. If a deal seems to be too good to be true, it isn’t. When someone is offering to sell you a coin for far less than its market value you should be very suspicious. Every coin dealer in America would love to buy coins at 30-50% below market value. Why wouldn’t the seller walk into any coin shop and make an easy sale? Second, when a seller wants to meet you at some unusual location to complete the transaction you should be very suspicious. Would you normally think of meeting someone at an airport or in front of a bank to buy a coin? And when the seller insists on cash only, that’s another good reason to run away from the transaction.

The reason these sellers stay in business is because they prey on one specific human weakness: GREED. Do you really think that you were so lucky you were able to buy a rare coin at half of its value? Is the seller such a nice guy that he is giving you this great deal, or maybe he is just ignorant and you can “get a steal”. What’s that old saying – “A sucker is born every minute.” Even professional numismatists allow greed to cloud their judgment and fall victim to the same scams. When we see a collector get taken by one of these scams we feel very badly. When we see a dealer get taken we have far less sympathy.

I just had an incident with a collector who bought a rare date coin off of Craig’s list. The transaction had all the classic characteristics that we’ve already mentioned. When we told him that he had bought a counterfeit coin he was very upset. Maybe at first he was upset at us – the messenger – but soon his anger turned towards himself. He knew it was too good to be true. How could he be fooled so badly? Even though he had bought the coin at far below market value he was out $11,000.

Collecting coins is a great hobby and can be very fulfilling. I’ve collected for years and still do. The vast majority of transactions are safe and without risk. To minimize the chances of getting involved in a bad transaction you should always be careful of whom you are dealing with. My suggestion is to deal only with established and reputable dealers or auction houses who are members of one or more of the industry groups like PCGS, NGC, PNG or ANA. If you aren’t familiar with a dealer check him out. I never had a problem with a potential customer checking my references nor does any other legitimate dealer. Any dealer who does not guarantee the product they sell and offer some type of return privilege should be avoided. It’s that simple. You probably won’t find too many coins for sale at half their value, but as some people find out half of nothing is not a good deal.

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

Bean town!

Posted on August 7, 2010 by No Comments

Here we are in Boston at the ANA pre-show. Actually there are two pre-shows going on at the same time. We are here in “The Castle” and a couple blocks down the street the other pre-show is being held at the Radisson Hotel. I guess we can chalk up the two shows to the spirit of entrepreneurship as two competing parties try to make a go of it. For the dealers and collectors it’s only a short walk between the two so it’s not too inconvenient. This splintering will end when the ANA begins sponsoring its own pre-show next year.
The mood here is upbeat with the general anticipation of a strong and active ANA show. I’ve spent time at both pre-shows, both of which seem well attended, with a fair amount of trading going on. PCGS has been accepting coins for onsite grading since Thursday afternoon. We will be running through next Saturday with a one day break tomorrow on Sunday. Submissions for onsite grading are currently planned to be cutoff at 5 PM Friday the 13th. It’s a bit of a grind for all the PCGS crew but we know you want us here and we appreciate it.
Speaking of the PCGS crew, most people have no idea of how many PCGS team members it takes to pull off a show like the ANA or all the work that is entailed. Planning starts a year in advance. Dates have to be confirmed, calendars coordinated, hotel accommodations made, then there is the massive amount of equipment and supplies that are required and the logistics it takes to get them to the right spot at the right time. You won’t see all of us as many are working behind the scenes, but there will be 35 PCGS employees here in Boston!
Boston is a great city full of history and many wonderful historic venues. I lived and worked here years ago and still have family here in the city and nearby. One of the things I miss about East Coast summers are the later afternoon thunder storms. My connecting flight from Dallas was delayed on Thursday as Boston experienced a nice storm!

Filed Under: News

Treasures From The Vault, Part I

Posted on August 5, 2010 by No Comments

U.S. Patterns cover a wide range of coins that were struck (for the most part) to test new designs, new metal  compositions, new denominations, or new minting techniques.  They are an extremely interesting series that include famous coins such as: 1792 Silver-Center Cent; 1879 and 1880 Stellas; the 1866 No Motto Quarter, Half, and Dollar; certain Gobrecht Dollars; and a plethora of other rarities.  Most patterns are extremely rare, many of them unique or with mintages in the low single digits, although there are exceptions (over 1,000 1856 Flying Eagle Cents were made).  Pattern coins appear on the market infrequently and usually end up in strong hands when they sell.  In some cases, it might be years (or even decades) before a particular pattern coin comes on the market.  Thus, building a collection of patterns is an expensive, life-long pursuit.

Just finding pictures of the coins is difficult.  I know, because I’ve been uploading images of U.S. Pattern coins to the PCGS CoinFacts site for the past year.  There are a lot of “holes” waiting to be filled.

Recently, two opportunities arose for us to make significant additions to the Pattern section on PCGS CoinFacts.  The first was the opportunity to grade and photograph many of the pattern coins from the Simpson collection, the largest collection of pattern coins ever assembled in the modern era.  The second was the appearance at the recent PCGS Invitational show( in Las Vegas) of a large collection of over 100 different pattern coins, including dual-metal and unique or semi-unique pieces.  Surprisingly, there was very little overlap between the two collections, allowing us to really “beef” up this section of our website.

If you’re a subscriber to PCGS CoinFacts, you’ll enjoy a stroll through this fortified section of our website.  If you’re not a subscriber, join today at  You’ll be glad you did!

Filed Under: News

The Biggest Show of the Year

Posted on August 3, 2010 by No Comments

The annual convention of the American Numismatic Association is always the biggest coin show of the year. Dealers bring out their best coins, most of the major buyers attend (many plan their summer vacations around the ANA show), and there are always huge auctions held in conjunction with the show.

This year the ANA summer show is being held in Boston, August 10 to 14, though there is a “pre-show” August 7 and 8. There will be three auctions…Stack’s, Bowers and Merena, and Heritage held before and during the show. The show auction is the Heritage auction and it is huge. Both the B&M and Stack’s auctions have some great coins. I estimate that over $50 million worth of coins will be sold at the three auctions and another $50 million worth of coins will trade hands on the floor of the coin show. It is going to be a monstrous event.

It will also be a bell weather event for the rare coin market as the prices and trends at this show will be very indicative of the current state of the coin market. Early indications are that the show will be very active and most dealers I have talked to are pretty pumped up about this year’s show.

I’ll be at show and I’ll attend all three auctions. I’ll blog for you from the show and of course we’ll incorporate the prices we see into the PCGS Price Guide. There will also be new info presented for PCGS CoinFacts, such as new Condition Census info and narratives from experts at the show. It is going to be a great ten days for rare coins and all of us who love them.

If you are going to the show you’re in for a treat. You’ll see all the major dealers and many coins you cannot see anywhere else. Stop by the PCGS table and say “Hi!”

Filed Under: News