Author Archive

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

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

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

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

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

914 N Mountain View, Santa Ana and the price of gold

Posted on June 22, 2010 by 4 Comments

As I’m writing this gold is at $1221, near its all-time high. Everybody seems to be talking about gold nowadays. And many experts have been predicting gold prices to go to $2,000, $3,000, and even $5,000 per ounce. I am not going to make any predictions. But I want to present a different view of how to think about gold. We’ll start with the fundamentals…actually THE FUNDAMENTAL.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse and I’m sure you’ve probably heard it all before, but the bottom line is that the United States has a fiat currency. The paper money in your wallet and the “electronic money” in your bank accounts is supposedly backed by the “full faith and credit of the U.S. Government.” It’s not backed by gold or any other tangible asset. This “money” is just a bunch of pieces of paper that proclaim “This note is legal tender for all debts public and private.” It’s just paper. And yes you can go to the grocery store and exchange this paper for food. But the fact is that this money buys less food than it did ten years ago, which was less than it bought 20 years ago, which was way less than it bought 30 years ago. To state the obvious, the value of the U.S. dollar has deteriorated dramatically over the long term. If you’re older than a teenager you’ve seen the purchasing power of your dollars decline dramatically.

I think we all need think about this in a way that gets our head on straight about gold, coins, and our real net worth. Don’t think I’m going radical on you, but I believe this is all just a big government Ponzi scheme. I don’t think politicians consciously think about reducing the purchasing power of the dollar and I doubt that they call what they do a Ponzi scheme. I’m pretty sure politicians just think about getting re-elected and the tools to accomplish that are silly deficit spending and catering to special interests and/or anyone who will vote for them. But this whole mechanism is a Ponzi scheme of sorts…robbing Peter to pay Paul, in this case robbing the future to pay the present. And it it is destroying the value of the dollar. And it’s put our country in a pretty precarious position. This robbing of the future to pay the present has been going on for decades and eventually there comes a point when the house of cards gets pretty shaky. When, if, and how the house of cards gets shaken into reality is something I don’t know. But I do know…and this is THE FUNDAMENTAL…that IT IS NOW MATHEMATICALLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE U.S. GOVERNMENT TO PAY ITS DEBT.

The question is what to do about the dollar denominated house of fiat money cards. And the first thing I think everyone should do is get their head on straight about dollar denominated thinking. This is part of the problem. You think you live in a million dollar home. But a lot of people live in million dollar homes…the government has made us property millionaires…it just doesn’t mean what it used to. In 1962, my parents bought a house in Santa Ana, California. it was pretty nice for the time…1500 square feet, 4 bedrooms, and a real swimming pool. I’ll even give you the address…914 N Mountain View, Santa Ana, California (it was a track home…not in any mountain and sure didn’t have a mountain view). You can go to and see a picture of that house and the swimming pool I swam in as a teenager. My parents paid $12,000 for the house. At the time there were no million dollar homes…maybe Hearst Castle, but no real homes. An ultra mansion, the biggest in Beverly Hills, was maybe $100,000…maybe. According to the house at 914 N Mountain View is now worth $377,000 (down from $600,000 in 2007). But did the house really go up 31 times, 1.e. 3000%, in the past 48 years? Let’s look at it another way. In 1962, the price of gold was $38 an ounce so it would have taken 317 ounces of gold to buy that house. As I’m writing this gold is at $1220 an ounce so today it would take 309 ounces of gold to buy that house. So, if my parents were alive and they still owned that house they could say they had made over $350,000 on that house. But would they really have? They would if you think of that house as a dollar denominated asset. But in terms of their real tangible net worth nothing really has changed. And you know what…that house i still the same house (basically) that it was in 1962. The house hasn’ changed, and an ounce of gold hasn’t changed. What has changed is the value of the dollar, and the dollar’s value has collapsed long term.

Let’s talk about gold and getting your head on straight about the value of the dollar. When it comes to gold, you need to avoid the trap of thinking about the price of gold in U.S. dollars, or any other currency for that matter. I NEVER THINK ABOUT THE PRICE OF GOLD IN DOLLARS. it’s not the number I pay attention to. The number I think about is THE NUMBER OF OUNCES I OWN! That’s the number I want to get bigger. And I don’t care about the price of gold in dollars. If the dollar price goes down, I buy more. If the dollar price goes up, I smile. Either way I’m happy…and it’s also very liberating. I no people that are always trying to pick the best time to buy some gold. I know a few people who have been waiting for the best time since gold was $450 an ounce. But I never try to pick the best time to buy gold, I just buy it when i feel like I want some more. And I advise you to take the same approach. It’s so much simpler and so much less stressful. You should own gold…no question about that. And you should buy gold when you feel like you want to own it.

What about rare gold coins, or rare coins in general? They are another tangible asset class and a great one at that. And over the long term, they’ve been an even better hedge against the dollar than plain gold bullion. It would take a lot more proof gold coins, rare $20 St. Gaudens, 19th Century silver type coins, Gem quality Walking Liberty half dollars, etc. to buy the house at 914 N Mountain View in 1962 than it would today as unlike gold bullion which has held its value compared to that house,  quality rare coins have actually gone up in real value. And rare coins have a tendency to lag during sharp run-ups in gold prices.  So right this moment, rare coins are relatively inexpensive as a real asset class. But like gold bullion, you need to get your head on straight about prices.The right time to buy is when you feel like it…when you want to own some more rare coins.

Bottom line for me…the dollar will continue to depreciate in value long term, and nothing will be done by politicians to stop the trend…they don’t even talk about it…and they couldn’t do anything about it even if they wanted to. So make sure you own some gold bullion, and if you like rare coins, now’s a great time for them too.

Get some gold and have fun with your coins!

Filed Under: News

PCGS Secure Plus…The Big One

Posted on March 29, 2010 by 3 Comments

We announced a bunch of new things at the ANA show in Fort Worth, Texas last week…on March 25 to be exact. If you didn’t get the news yet there’s a video on the PCGS home page.

Basically, there are three new things we’re doing. First, we’ve formalized guidelines for how eye appeal effects grade (Chck out the cool images on the PCGS home page.) Second, we’re gone to “plus” grading to help the market recognize what we’ve all known for years, i.e. that high end coins are worth more and are recognizablly different. Finally, we now have a process, computer software and laser imaging, that can regognize coins we’ve seen before.

The feedback from people at the coin show who either saw the new coins, had some coins graded, or bought some coins was extremely positive. People like the idea that some of their coins are worth more money and those who truly understand the “Secure” part of the deal are excited about what it will do in terms of dealing with coin doctoring and gradeflation.


The feedback from those not at the show…message boards, etc…has been mixed. Some of you just aren’t getting this. First…as Don Willis said, “This is the first day…it will evolve.” Second, as I said, “This is the a first step, a first huge step.” The plus part is great and everyone will benefit. But the real meat of the new deal is the Secure part. We will use technology to improve the coin market…how coins are graded and how they are bought and sold. Watch what happens in the next year or two. The coin market is in a pretty good place and it’s going to get even better.

Filed Under: News


Posted on February 7, 2010 by 2 Comments

The Long Beach show was very active. Dealers had pretty good sales and there was a lot of activity. Look, it’s not 1979 or 1989 or even 2007, but considering the current economy, rare coins are doing extremely well.

The thing I noticed about Long Beach was a significant lack of quality material…not just the really rare stuff, but some of the more generic items. For example, slightly better date to better date Peace dollars in nice MS65 or better…very, very few coins available and dealer inventories extremely low on even crappy looking 65s. Silver commems…the classic era, 1892-1954…very few coins available. Van and I have been buying these for two years now. The prices keep going down (shows you how smart we are?!?!?!) but we keep buying. We have a huge appetite and would take a large six figure deal with pleasure. Our Long Beach purchases: less than $20k and it was one and two coins at a time. Silver commems may be the most underpriced major area of the coin market…but you can’t buy very many coins at current levels.

Auction action was good. We tried to buy the 1892 proof $20 Lib in the Goldberg auction and didn’t even get close. The 1875 gold dollar PCGS MS66 brought $109,250 against a PCGS price guide price of $45,000. One coin did sell at a much lower level than the price guide was the 1849-C Open Wreath gold dollar (NGC EF45) which brought $218,500. Probably would have brought $300,000 to $400,000 in 2007. The interesting thing about the Heritage auction was that there were much fewer top quality coins than usual. So the cupboard was pretty bare at the show and the auctions.

The one area of the market that does look soft to me is generic gold coins…like commonest dates in MS62,63,64. There seems to be a lot of coins around and prices are soft.

But all in all the rare coin market is doing extremely well and I think we’re going to have a great year.

Filed Under: News

Gold…Real Money

Posted on February 2, 2010 by 12 Comments

Investor/hedge fund manager extraordinaire George Soros recently called gold an “asset bubble.” While I certainly feel Soros is a very smart guy, I’m really certain he got this one wrong. I think he’s implying that gold is overpriced, but in my opinion he’s making the same mistake everyone makes when talking about gold. He’s measuring gold in terms of the value of gold in U.S. dollars as if the U.S. dollar was …what an appropriate term…the “gold standard” of value. To me this is backwards thinking. The issue for me isn’t the price of gold in U.S. dollars, but the value of the U.S. dollar in terms of gold.

Let’s look at the long term facts. And the stone cold hard fact is that in the long term the U.S. dollar has consistently and significantly deteriorated in value. What’s the cheapest price you remember for a gallon of gas. I remember in the early 1960s when gas was 29 cents a gallon and would go down a little lower during “gas wars.” As a high schooler, we would give rides to the beach to anyone who could contribute a quarter for gas money even if we didn’t like them because if you had 75 cents you had enough money left over to get from Santa Ana to Newport Beach and back and still have enough money left over to buy two Der Weinerschnitzel hot dogs with chili, cheese, and onions for 15 cents each.

Continue the exercise. What price did your parents pay for a house in the 1950s or 1960s. My parents bought a semi-decent house (2500 sq ft plus a real swimming pool) in Santa Ana, California for $14,000 in 1960. Even though California real estate has come down pretty hard that house is still worth $400,000 or so today. I remember the 3 cent stamp for first class mail. And I remember movies at 25 cents and popcorn at a dime. I’m not trying to sound like an old timer here but the fact is that the dollar buys less now than it did 40 years, 30 years ago, 20 years ago and, in many cases, yesterday.

And what is our government doing? They are printing more money…or sticking it in computer accounts or however they expand the money supply today. Record deficits, health care plans, wars, bail-outs…spend, spend, spend. As my commodity trading friends would say, this is an obvious trade.

It is guaranteed that the dollar will continue to lose value long term…unless U.S. fiscal policy is dramatically changed and you and I know that’s not going to happen. The value of the dollar will decline and real things…land, oil, real businesses, milk, pasta, and our favorite…rare coins…and of course gold, will increase in value when measured in depreciating U.S. dollars.

So what do we do. First, everyone needs to get their head on straight about how to measure value. I own some ounces of gold…U.S. eagles and a few other things. I have to tell you I don’t fret about the price of gold measured in U.S. dollars. If the price of gold goes up, then the coin market is good and the gold I own is “worth” more so I’m happy. If the price of gold goes down, I’m also happy because then I get to buy more ounces of Oro Puro and I know the decline is only big picture temporary.

My advice to you, if you want to buy gold, go for it! But don’t try to pick the right time, because a lot of people who are way smarter than you and me only get market timing right 50% or so of the time. And don’t worry about the price. Buy your ounces of gold, put them away and forget about them. The only number you should think about is the number I focus on. I don’t think about the price of gold…that’s not the number. I think about how many ounces of gold I own…now that’s the number I think about and the number I want to grow, no matter what the price of gold is in terms of U.S. dollars.

So buy gold if you like it…and of course have fun with your coins.

Your gold bug friend David Hall

Filed Under: News

Three MDCC coins sell at Heritage auction, including one new member of the club!

Posted on January 8, 2010 by No Comments

By David Hall…live from the FUN show.

Thursday, January 7, at the Heritage auction held in conjunction with the annual Florida United Numismatists (FUN) coin show, three coins sold for more than $1,000,000, including a coin that did so for the first time. To have a million dollar coin sell at auction is always something special. But to have three different million dollar coins sell the same night is truly extraordinary.

The first MDCC coin to come to the auction block that night was one of the finest examples of the 1927-D $20 St. Gaudens gold piece, a PCGS graded MS66 (PCGS coin # 9187). This coin sold for $1,495,000, a price that I personally consider very reasonable. In fact, I almost put my hand up to bid, but I hadn’t really thought about it before the sale as I was actually thinking about the other two ultra rarities in the sale. The buyer was Laura Sperber of Legend Numismatics.

The second coin to sell was what would become the newest member of the PCGS Million Dollar Coin Club, a PCGS graded PR65 Deep Cameo example of the famous Bickford $10 gold pattern (PCGS coin # 61677), one of only two known specimens. The coin sold for $1,265,000…and I must admit I was the underbidder at $1,200,000, and I have to say it really hurts to come in second place on a coin like that. We’ll have to include the Bickford $10 in the Million Dollar Coin Club listing as soon as we write the story and add it to the PCGS Million Dollar Coin Club section of our website.

Finally, the most famous U.S. coin of all appeared on the auction block when one of the five known examples of the 1913 Liberty nickel (PCGS coin # 3912) was offered. This example was the Olsen specimen, the second finest of the five, grading PR64. The final price was a very healthy $3,737,500.

Congratulations to Heritage Auction Galleries for selling three million dollar coins in one night.

Visit the Million Dollar Coin Club at

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