Blog

May 12, 2022
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ANA Summer Seminar is a Chance to Learn from the Experts

ANA Summer Seminar returns with sessions in June for those who want to expand their numismatic knowledge.

After a nearly three-year hiatus, the ANA Summer Seminar returns to Colorado Springs this year. Strict COVID-19 restrictions at Colorado College forced the cancellation of the iconic numismatic education event for 2020 and 2021. Summer Seminar is one of the best programs the American Numismatic Association conducts.

Each year, over half of those in attendance are repeat students. Many of the instructors have been teaching for decades; some of them are NGC representatives. The ANA is very grateful to the individuals and companies who donate their time and talent to this amazing program. Summer Seminar could not happen without them.

 

 

This year, I will return to teach Advanced United States Grading and Problem Coins with Don Ketterling. The class is nearly sold out, and we are excited to share our decades of experience with eager students from around the country. We both plan to bring lots of interesting coins for students to test their skills and master the art of rare coin grading.

One of the most wonderful aspects of Summer Seminar are the Young Numismatists (YN) who attend each year. This year, over 50 YN students will attend Summer Seminar. Most of these attend because full scholarships are made available by the ANA and other numismatic organizations.

April 28, 2022
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When at Auction, It Pays to Have An Expert by Your Side

Professional advice can go a long way when buying rare coins at auctions.

As nearly everyone who buys rare coins these days knows, a large percentage of the buying and selling happens at auctions. The auction market has exploded in recent years. Twenty-five years ago, the total amount of rare coins sold at auction in the United States was probably less than $25 million. More recently, that number is closer to $625 million or more. That does not include the thousands of coins sold each day on eBay and other websites.

There are several reasons for this, the biggest being the tremendous rise in the prices for coins at the top end of the market. Years ago, a million-dollar sale made front-page headlines; today, these are a seemingly monthly occurrence, and barely mentioned.

The size of rare coin and currency auctions has also increased tremendously. At this year’s 2022 FUN show, Heritage Auctions was simultaneously conducting separate auctions of world coins, currency and US coinage. Thousands of coins and currency were sold during the week. The US section alone realized over $65 million. The sale was also held online one week after the show.

A 1860 Clark-Gruber $20 graded NGC AU 55 realized $600,000 at Heritage Auctions' FUN US Coin Signature Auction in January 2022
Click images to enlarge.

 

A typical rare coin auction will offer a wide range of rare coins and currency. Collectors looking for interesting and rare coins will be compelled at some point to consider participating in an auction. This is especially true when a great collection of seldom-if-ever-seen rare coins come to market. These types of sales sometimes offer a once-in-a generation opportunity to buy a numismatic rarity.

April 14, 2022
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Tips for Collecting Indian Quarter Eagles

Collecting a complete set of any series of United States gold coins is a formidable task. Very few accept the challenge, as most series contain several “stoppers” that make completion almost impossible. Consider Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles as an example. The series starts with the 1907 High Relief and ends with the most expensive coin in the world, the 1933 Double Eagle. Most other series of United States gold coins are similarly difficult to complete.

The Indian Quarter Eagle set (1908-1929) is a much less challenging task to tackle, and only has one date that is a “stopper” to acquire for completeness. The 1911-D Quarter Eagle is the “key” date, but it can still be found relatively easily. Cost for this issue starts around $2,500 for low-grade examples. Most of the remaining coins are only difficult to locate in grades of MS 63 and better. More about that in the date-by-date analysis below.

As anyone who has filled a blue Whitman folder can tell you, the satisfaction of completing a set of anything is quite fulfilling. The fun of the chase and the knowledge you acquire when searching is what numismatics is all about. Collecting United States gold coins by date and mintmark is beyond the reach of most collectors, but completing a set of Indian Quarter Eagles can be done for those who want to make the commitment and investment.

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A year-by-year look at the Indian Quarter Eagle, 1908-1929

 

1908, mintage: 565,057

 

Click images to enlarge.

 

The new design for the Quarter Eagle for the first time featured an incuse design. The portrait and eagle are lowered into the surface. That is why grading the series can be difficult, as the highest points for the issue are the obverse and reverse fields. The new design was created by Bela Lyon Pratt, and features a Native American Indian chief on the obverse and an eagle facing left on the reverse.

March 31, 2022
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Tips on How to Collect Capped Bust Half Dollars

The early silver series can be rewarding, regardless of whether you collect by variety.

When I wrote an article recently about collecting coins by die variety, Capped Bust Half Dollars were one of the series mentioned. The series, which was produced from 1807 to 1836, is rich with interesting die varieties for specialists. Since United Stated silver dollars were not produced during this period, half dollars were the workhorse coinage of the day. Most years were struck in copious quantities and are generally available in lower grades for what I think are amazing bargains.

For these reasons, this series deserves close attention for anyone looking for their next numismatic journey. The following are few things to consider:

There are several ways to collect Capped Bust Half Dollars, many of which can be achieved with a relatively modest budget.

For those wanting to take a deep dive, collecting by die variety is perhaps the biggest challenge. The standard reference for the series is “Early Half Dollar Die Varieties,” by Al Overton (several editions). The book was written decades ago but has stood the test of time. Several specialty books have also been produced, with detailed attribution information.

There are about 450 different die varieties for a complete set of Draped Bust Half Dollars. Many are rare and some are exceedingly rare. One of the most exciting aspects of collecting Bust half dollars by die variety is the thrill of looking for unattributed rarities. Occasionally, an entirely new variety or die marriage is discovered. These usually make headlines in the numismatic press. NGC is often called upon to verify the discovery.

March 26, 2022
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Gold Prices are Rising — That's Good News for Collectors

Previous price spikes sparked new interest in hobby. Let's hope that happens again.

I began my career in numismatics in the mid-1970s. At the time, precious metal prices played a relatively small role in the market for rare coins. Gold sold for around $150 to $200 per ounce, and silver hovered in the $4 to $6 per ounce range.

The rare coin market was a quiet cottage industry. The most accurate and widely used price guide was the Red Book (A Guide Book of United States Coins), which was published just once per year and highly anticipated. The market for rare coins was also much smaller, and investors had barely given numismatics a glance.

Rare coins were also incredibly inexpensive in the mid-1970s. A superb 1879 $4 Stella could be purchased for under $10,000, and many rare coins were at a fraction of today’s levels. Rare coin grading was still evolving, with most still using adjectival grading.

By the late 1970s, inflation had become the No. 1 problem in the United States. The numismatic world was about to change almost overnight!

February 17, 2022
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Whether It's Coins or Video Games, Try 'Playing the Spread'

A smart approach for new collectors: Align your ambitions with your budget.

About two weeks ago, Heritage Auctions sold an unopened example of a John Madden Football Electronic Arts video game for $480,000, a stunning price for a video game that was produced by the millions. I’m pretty sure my son had a copy at one time, but his, like 99.999% of the others, was opened immediately and saw extensive use. Plus, the game was discarded when the next edition came out. 

My knowledge of 1980s video games is limited, but the amazing part of this story is the staggering plunge in value for examples of this game that have been opened and gently used. A quick search on eBay found listings in the range of $200-$300.

A lesson for coin collectors

Luckily, rare coins do not follow the exact same pattern of diminished value, but there are some similarities. Morgan Dollars are one of the most collected series of United States coinage. There are several dates that literally crash in value from MS 65 to circulated condition.

July 15, 2021
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When US Coins Were Minted in Georgia

The Dahlonega Mint struck numerous gold coins that can add a unique twist to your collection.

Contrary to popular belief, the first significant discovery of gold in America was not in California in 1848 but in the lower Piedmont area of North Carolina in 1799. Conrad Reed, the son of a local farmer, found a 17-pound, yellow-colored rock that later turned out to be gold — after it served a three-year stint as a doorstop! By the early 1830s, the Bechtler family had established a private mint at Rutherford, North Carolina. Sufficient gold was found in the area to justify the opening of an official, US branch mint in 1838 at Charlotte, North Carolina.

Discovering gold in America

Around 1828, another gold rush began when gold was discovered in an obscure area of northern Georgia that was once part of the Cherokee nation. By 1830, an average of 300 ounces of gold a day was being produced in the area. Private minters such as Templeton Reid and the Bechtler family produced their own coins from locally mined gold. In response, the US Mint established a branch mint in 1838 at nearby Dahlonega, Georgia to convert the raw gold into standardized coins.

Collecting coins by their various mintmarks did not come into vogue until the 1890s, after the publication by Augustus Heaton of a treatise on mintmarks. Many of the great collections formed before this time normally included Proof gold coins produced by the US Mint. The Smithsonian National Collection lacked most mintmark gold coins until the extensive Josiah Lilly Collection was donated in the 1960s.

Today, collectors find the short-lived gold issues from Charlotte, North Carolina and Dahlonega, Georgia to be among the most desirable coins from that era and they are eagerly collected.

August 27, 2020
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Consider Collecting Colonial Coinage

The possibilities for collecting colonial coinage are as endless as the coins are fascinating.

A few weeks ago, NGC announced that it had recently certified hundreds of additional colonial coins from the extraordinary collection assembled by Donald G. Partrick. NGC had certified about 350 colonial coins from the collection in 2014, and they were sold at public auction for over $25 million. The centerpiece of the most recent submission is the finest known 1787 ‘EB’ on Wing Brasher Doubloon graded NGC MS 65★. Brasher Doubloons were the first gold coins struck in the newly created United States of America.

Considered one of the crown jewels of American coinage, the Brasher Doubloons were produced by Ephraim Brasher, who is reported to have been a close neighbor of George Washington. Only a few examples are known, including those permanently impounded in museum collections. These coins are rarely offered at auction, with the last one trading for over $4.5 million in 2014.

 

1787 ‘EB’ on Wing Brasher Doubloon graded NGC MS 65★ and pedigreed to the Partrick Collection
Click images to enlarge

 

The Partrick coins that sold in 2014 and the ones selling over the next year are amazing, but out of reach for most collectors. These masterpieces of colonial coinage will garner tremendous media attention, however, and hopefully inspire collectors to consider this interesting corner of numismatics.

August 14, 2020
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The 2020 World’s Fair of Money that Never Was

Last week should have been the highlight of my numismatic year.

Every summer since 1974, I have attended the ANA World’s Fair of Money. The show is the cornerstone of the numismatic calendar and is greatly anticipated by thousands of collectors and dealers around the world. The bourse usually boasts over 700 tables, with dealers offering material from every corner of numismatics. Many years there are over 10,000 public attendees. My company normally has six to seven tables with sales of hundreds of thousands.

This year, none of that happened.

As everyone knows, the 2020 World’s Fair of Money in PittsburghPennsylvania was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was an agonizing decision for the ANA board, but in the end, safety ruled the day. Much of the decision was outside of the ANA’s control as the city of Pittsburgh had its own restrictions pertaining to large gatherings. Unfortunately, the trend of the pandemic seems to be going in the wrong direction, and the future of any coin show for 2020 is very much up in the air.

Starting in the early part of 2020, Heritage Auctions and Stack’s Bowers began soliciting auction consignments for the 2020 ANA World’s Fair of Money. The ANA sale is usually one of the premier events of the year, and many collectors send consignments for the prestigious sales. This year was no different, and both companies staged impressive auctions that were conducted mostly online.

July 23, 2020
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The Hobby Moves Online

Markets are no doubt being tested by the COVID-19 crisis; so far, the rare coin market is passing.

The internet has been one of the most significant driving forces for numismatics since the late 1990s. Indeed, the hobby has been forever changed by this amazing tool of the modern age. Collectors now have more information available at their fingertips than advanced hobbyists from decades ago ever could have dreamed. Doing numismatic research when making a purchase decision is now ridiculously easy. Information such as basic rarity (population information), price guides and auction records are all available on the NGC website, NGCcoin.com.

Collectors also have access to rare coin dealer inventories around the globe. There are important rare coin auctions on a weekly basis. This is so different from years ago when coin shows, trade journals and coin shops ruled the market for rare coins. If you lived in a remote location and disliked travel, your access to rare coins was very limited. To say the least, a lot has changed in 20 years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further driven the rare coin market to the internet in a major way. For the last 40 years or so, my monthly routine included attending at least two coin shows somewhere around the country. Sadly, I have not left Lexington in over three months. Nearly all of the business I have been conducting has been on the internet — either direct sales or wholesale to others who sell on the web. However, business has been amazingly brisk!

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