Blog

December 14, 2022
9 view(s) 6 min read

Finding a Numismatic Mentor

As coin market values continue to rise, so does the need for professional advice from trustworthy and experienced dealers, like the numismatists from PNG.

Over the years, one of the most constant pieces of wisdom that I have suggested is to find someone you can trust for advice. Numismatics can be complicated and full of risks, especially now that rare coin prices have, in many cases, entered the stratosphere. We live in an information age, but there is no substitute for experience.

Most dealers are more than willing to share their vast knowledge with collectors. You just need to know whom to ask, and I recommend the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG).

The Professional Numismatists Guild was founded in 1955 by legendary dealer Abe Kosoff and several others. Its motto — “Knowledge. Integrity. Responsibility.” — still holds true after nearly 70 years. The PNG started as just a handful of the top dealers in the United States. Today, most major rare coin dealers belong to this prestigious organization. There are PNG dealers in nearly all geographic locations of the country.

 

 

I have been a member of the PNG for nearly 40 years and even served as President of the organization. Recently, I became involved at the board level again to help grow the organization and the hobby. No other numismatic organization offers collectors the level of consumer protection and pool of expertise as the PNG.

November 10, 2022
11 view(s) 10 min read

The Art of Submitting Rare Coins for Grading

Here's an in-depth guide on how to submit your coins to NGC in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible.

Numismatic publications are full of headlines about seemingly low-value coins bringing amazing sums in ultra-condition. I have personally observed lines of people at rare coin conventions submitting handfuls of coins that are not worth the cost of the submission. How are collectors to understand that their Franklin Half Dollar is not worth $100,000 if they have the coin certified?

For many, submitting rare coins for grading can be daunting, especially for the uninitiated. Understanding the process can save time, money and frustration, and fortunately, there are dozens of options to choose from when submitting coins. This guide will help you understand the different options available to you and, hopefully, help you better understand the submission process.

Where to start

Some collectors submit coins for certification for the peace of mind of having an entire series authenticated and graded, and for the attractive display that comes with encapsulation. But for many others, submitting coins for certification is basically a mathematical equation. You need to determine if the coin will be more valuable if submitted for grading and authentication, and if the grading fees justify the cost. For example, it may not be profitable to grade common-date Morgan Silver Dollars in grades below MS 63. For the average collector, the added cost of the grading outweighs what the coins could be sold for uncertified on the current market. 

I have, many times, mentioned the need for collectors to find a trustworthy dealer for advice. Most rare coin dealers have decades of experience they are willing to share with collectors. This is especially useful when using a coin dealer who is a nationally known expert in their collecting specialty. Established coin companies’ operations have years of experience sending coins for grading and certification. Many are willing to help you with the process of certification. We often assist clients who want to have their coins certified before they are sold. 

Experts can help you screen coins that are being submitted for the following reasons:

Authentication

Authentication has become crucial in recent years with the proliferation of counterfeit coins being offered online and in other venues. Several clients have come into our offices with dozens of coins for certification, just to find that every coin was counterfeit. If all of the coins had been submitted, thousands of dollars in grading fees would have been wasted. This week, an experienced collector brought in four Carson City Morgan Dollars he wanted me to send for grading. Sadly, they were recent Chinese fakes. 

Value

Coins must be screened to determine their value. Unless you have basic grading skills, this part of the process is nearly impossible without expert advice. Many collectors or individuals who have inherited coins look up the value on Google with extremely mixed results. Searching for a 1963-D Lincoln Cent can bring up auction results for nearly $1,000, but most aren’t worth that much money. In general, a coin should be worth $50 or more to consider being worth the cost of submission.

As mentioned above, it can be very confusing to determine which coins should be submitted for grading when there are so many giant auction records for seemingly common coins. We get calls frequently from the public about coins they think are extremely valuable because of a price they found on Google. The rise of set-registry collecting is recent years causes ultra-high-grade coins to bring seemingly crazy prices at auction. For example, a common 1930s Mercury Dime sold for over $300,000 a few years ago.

Prices like these make even a seasoned professional like me to want to submit every coin that might be considered Gem to the services. Unfortunately, it is not that easy. Making a superb “top pop” (finest graded) coin at NGC is very difficult regardless of the series or age of the coin. Many of the coins you see, such as the six-figure Franklin Half Dollars or Mercury Dime were the result of careful cherry picking, mass submissions, multi-submissions or a combination of all of the above. There are a lot of rare coin dealers who submit thousands of coins trying to make just a few of these mega-grade coins. 

Unless you are an expert in the series that you are submitting, the chances of making a “top pop” coin are remote and the math of the grading expenses make the costs prohibitive. Understanding the basics of coin grading is essential to submitting coins successfully. 

When trying to submit coins in the hopes of getting ultra-high grades, you should start small to verify the most likely outcome. Submit just a few to understand the grading standards. It’s nearly impossible to compare the photos of a high-grade coin to one you have raw. The 1963-D Lincoln Cent illustration here is a good example. Coins from a roll of 1963-D cents would look identical to the untrained eye. 

Once you've determined the value of your coin, you must consider grading fees. Grading fees per individual coins start at $19 for modern coins and $23 for vintage coins. These fees do not include shipping to and from the grading company, which can add another $20 to $50 per submission. Plus, NGC charges a $10 handling fee per invoice. In summary, fees can be substantial for even the smallest submission. 

September 29, 2022
7 view(s) 7 min read

What To Do When There Are No Price Guides

Even if there's no current pricing information in your favorite price guides, there are other resources you can use to accurately price your coins.

Establishing the value of a rare coin is one of the basic requirements for being a professional coin dealer. Most use the usual price guides such as the Greysheet or Red Book, auction records, the NGC Price Guide, population reports and many other pricing tools. In most cases, one or a combination of these tools provides enough information to make an accurate decision.

Usually, a dealer or collector is trying to determine the value of something in their comfort zone; this means the coin is something they handle frequently and they understand the variables that come into play when determining value. For most coins, this has to do with an understanding of the coin’s appearance and how to interpret value based on the average example for the issue, which can be accomplished with some degree of experience.

The task becomes much more difficult when you encounter a coin that is beyond your comfort zone, or is so rare that there is little or no pricing information available. Hardly a day goes by that a collector or dealer does not call me to consult on the value of a rare or unusual numismatic item. It is one of the most interesting and exciting parts of my work as a professional numismatist.

Sometimes the questions come from someone with little knowledge, and the answer is easy and straightforward. Other times, the inquiry will be about a coin that has not traded in decades or is so rare and unusual that deep research is required. This is where it gets exciting!

Let’s start with the most commonly seen pricing dilemma: a rare coin in high grade with a low pop (number of coins graded). Although there are some pricing guides that cover coins in high grade, these are somewhat unreliable. One of the biggest mistakes a dealer or collector can make is to underestimate the value of a high-grade, low-pop coin. In recent years, these coins have become the focus of intense bidding wars from collectors seeking to assemble the finest possible sets for registry competition. This applies to everything from Proof gold coins to Roosevelt Dimes. For the finest known example of almost anything, you can, as the old saying goes, “throw out the book.” I am frequently astounded by the price that coins of this caliber bring. The final word on value for these items is usually established at auction.

 

1950-S Roosevelt Dime from NGC Coin Explorer
Click images to enlarge.

 

September 15, 2022
9 view(s) 10 min read

Tips for Collecting Twenty Cent Pieces

An important question for most collectors when tackling this series from the 1870s is: Which coins are beyond my reach?

Among the most short-lived series of United States coins are the Twenty Cent pieces struck from 1875 to 1878. Although the coins were made for a very short time, the series contains several interesting and, in some cases, very rare issues. Collectors usually seek examples of this series for Type collections and, surprisingly, few attempt to assemble a complete set. Usually, serious aficionados collect Twenty Cent pieces by date and mintmark of this Liberty Seated series.

The origins of the series began with the United States government’s need to absorb the prodigious quantities of silver being mined in the western parts of the country. The discovery of the Comstock Lode in Nevada eventually created pressure on the price of silver in the world markets. One solution was to use the silver for coinage.

Mint Director Charles Lindeman worked with politicians of the era to promote legislation for the Twenty Cent coin. One reason stated for the new denomination was to facilitate commerce because of the discontinuation of the Half Dime. Shoring up the silver market for Western interests was certainly the stronger motivation.

Liberty Seated coinage, which began in 1836, was designed by Christian Gobrecht. Mint Director Charles Lindeman instructed Charles Barber to design the new denomination. In 1875, Charles Barber designed and produced several very interesting pattern Twenty Cent specimens. These are all highly collectible but rarely appear for sale.

One of the most obvious objections to the new design would have been the confusion with the circulating Seated Quarters of the time. Why the Mint chose the Liberty Seated design, which closely resembles the Seated Quarter design is vexing. The pattern designs offered by Charles Barber would have at least given the new denomination a fighting chance. Despite the coin having a plain edge, similarities doomed the issue. The Mint made a similar error of judgment with the Susan B. Anthony Dollar about 100 years later. That series, too, was short-lived.

Twenty Cent pieces were struck in San Francisco, Carson City and Philadelphia. The coins range from easily available to extremely rare. The following date-by-date analysis will give readers an idea of each coin’s rarity and collectability.

Business Strike

 

1875 Philadelphia, Mintage: 38,500

1875 Twenty Cents from NGC Coin Explorer
Click images to enlarge.
September 1, 2022
16 view(s) 5 min read

Do Bullion Prices Still Matter?

While prices of gold and silver have cooled, the collectible coin market is still on a hot streak.

This afternoon, I saw another slip in the prices for gold and silver. The spot price of gold now stands at $1,710, and the price of silver just slipped below $18 for the first time in three years or more. These downward moves are remarkable in light of the current inflation rates reported by the US government. After years of very modest inflation, the reported rate is now around 8.5%. For anyone who buys food and many other necessary goods, you know that the rate increases for many products are much higher.

For decades, precious metals have been an investment hedge for those wanting to protect against excess government spending and the resulting inflation. We now have extreme government spending and inflation, but gold and silver have fallen. Equally confounding is the strong demand for physical gold and silver. American Silver Eagles are trading for about $10 over spot, an incredible 50 to 60 percent above melt.

The strength of the US Dollar is the reason most often given, and many skeptics believe the “global powers” are artificially depressing paper trading of precious metals to mask the impact of inflation. I will let the gold and silver bugs debate this issue, but the big question is: Do gold and silver prices still matter in the rare coin market?

August 18, 2022
7 view(s) 5 min read

Sharp Competition in the Stratosphere of Numismatics

"Mega-collectors" are buying rare coins at high prices.

Each year about this time (leading up to the ANA World’s Fair of Money), Heritage Auctions and Stack’s Bowers Galleries send their catalogs for their summer auctions. This year’s editions feature over 20 separate catalogs covering ancient and world coins, colonial coinage, early copper coins, regular issue US coins, paper money, tokens and medals. Several major specialty collections are being sold, with hundreds of six-figure-plus coins as well as a few multi-million-dollar coins offered. The combined sales this year will easily surpass $100 million.

Like most of those who ponder the state of the rare coin market, the obvious question is: How can the market absorb so much material at once? The question is especially pointed this year as the stock market has slipped, cryptocurrencies have fallen sharply and the general public is being stressed by the rising costs of inflation.

 

Despite concerns by some observers, the rare coin market is much larger than many realize. The collector coins in the above plethora of sales will undoubtedly perform well, especially those needed for set registry competition. In a few weeks, the numismatic press will be singing the praises of the many auction records that were broken.

August 4, 2022
7 view(s) 4 min read

1836 Reeded Edge Half Dollars

Advanced technology led to the production of these scarce coins.

One of the more interesting coins made by the US Mint over the last 200-plus years are those that can be called “transitional issues.” These coins straddle one design from the next and are often the result of some historical or technological development. The 1836 Reeded Edge Half Dollar touches on both. It is also quite rare and sought after.

Although Christian Gobrecht is best known for his Seated Liberty design, introduced in 1836 for the dollars which bear his name, he also redesigned the 1836 Reeded Edge Half Dollars. John Reich originally engraved the Liberty Capped design for half dollars in 1807. This design continued until 1836, when Reeded Edge Half Dollars were produced. The modified Reeded Edge design continued through 1839, overlapping with Gobrecht’s Seated Liberty Half Dollars that same year.

A portrait of Christian Gobrecht (top)
and two sketches (bottom), used with permission from the Smithsonian Institution.
Click images to enlarge.

 

Bust Half Dollars were truly a workhorse coin for the United States. Starting in 1805, half dollars were the primary large denomination coin produced. Half dollars were produced annually in large numbers with the exception of 1816 because of a fire at the Philadelphia Mint. The coins were struck from hand-engraved dies on the Mint’s original screw press. Because of the hand-engraved dies, numerous varieties are known each year, and Bust Half Dollars are eagerly collected by die variety.

July 21, 2022
7 view(s) 4 min read

Collecting Medals

Interest in medals is growing, and most are affordable for beginners.

The recent sale of the Dmitry Muratov Nobel Peace Prize Medal for $103 million by Heritage Auctions caused an amazing media sensation and brought attention to the world of medal collecting. The sale price was more of a statement of support for Ukraine than a true reflection of value. However, the record price for the numismatic item will still be on the books.

Most collectors consider medals an obscure corner of the market with little relevance to the broad market. The majority of coin dealers seldom offer a selection of medals, apart from a few who specialize in them. Recently, the US Mint has increased the production of interesting medals, and you should explore what they have to offer.

2016-W American Liberty Silver Medal graded NGC PF 69 Ultra Cameo
Click images to enlarge.
July 7, 2022
16 view(s) 9 min read

Tips for Collecting Indian Half Eagles, Part II

If you want to complete this series, begin at the end by considering what grade of the 1929 key date is within your reach.

In the last article, I began a date-by-date analysis of the very popular Indian Head Half Eagle series. This week, we conclude the series by examining those coins struck from 1911 to 1929.

There are some real “killers” in this series, but it is a doable project for ambitious collectors, especially in grades below Mint State. There are no million-dollar showstoppers that would make collecting Indian Head Half Eagles impossible. I believe the series offers great value and should be studied carefully by anyone interested in US gold coinage.

The recent hoards of US gold coins coming onto the market have provided a fresh supply of many previously scarce dates. Nearly all of the coins seen so far are circulated, but some issues have been found in MS 61 to MS 63. A complete study of population reports from a decade ago would be very revealing and may be the subject of an upcoming article.

Indian Half Eagles 1911-1929

1911, mintage 915,000

This date is one of the more readily available of the Philadelphia Mint issues in most grades. Mint State examples can be found with little effort. The average coin for this issue is not particularly well-struck, and the luster can range from average to exceptional. As is the case with many coins of this series, Gem examples are scarce, with only around 50 coins having been certified as MS 65 or higher by NGC. The coins trade for about that of the most common dates of the series and are a great value if one can be found. Superb examples are virtually non-existent. NGC has graded two coins as MS 66, one of which was last sold at a public auction for $18,000 in October 2019.

1911 Indian Half Eagle from NGC Coin Explorer
Click images to enlarge.
June 23, 2022
13 view(s) 8 min read

Tips for Collecting Indian Half Eagles, Part I

Completing this series can be challenging; here is a detailed year-by-year guide to these gold coins.

Recently, I discussed the very popular Indian Quarter Eagle series. The Indian Quarter Eagle set consists of just 15 coins and can be completed with moderate effort and modest funds.

This week, I will start with a date-by-date analysis of the Indian Half Eagle series. The set has the same date range (1908-1929), but the coins were struck more often at the branch Mints. This creates a wonderful and challenging series. There are several very common dates in most grades, and a few dates are very difficult to find in any grade.

A complete Mint State set is possible, but it will require much more patience and a lot of money to achieve. In circulated grades, the rare issues of the 1909-O and 1929 are the only ones that cost significant sums. The remainder of the dates can be purchased for under $1,000 in circulated grades. I hope the following information will be helpful for anyone undertaking the task of assembling a set, regardless of the grade.

In the last couple of years, at least one very large hoard of United States gold has begun to be distributed. These large groups of US gold have drastically changed the population reports for many dates. Most of the Indian Half Eagles from the hoards are AU or lower Mint State. New examples of Choice or Gem Indian Half Eagles rarely surface.

INDIAN HALF EAGLES 1908-1910

1908, mintage: 577,845

The Indian Head Quarter Eagle and Half Eagle were both designed by Bela Lyon Pratt. Pratt was a protégé of Augustus Saint-Gaudens and was an outsider to the US Mint establishment. His incused design sunk the features below the surface, as opposed to being raised by the dies. The high points for the new design actually became the fields and grading this series can be somewhat difficult.

As expected, the 1908 issue was saved in quantity, and the date is one of the most often seen in Gem condition. NGC has graded one example of the date as MS 68! Unfortunately, it has never appeared at a public auction. The color for the 1908 issue is often seen in green-gold shades. Because of the quality and the number of coins saved for the year, 1908 is an excellent Type coin for the series.

1908 Indian Half Eagle from NGC Coin Explorer
Click images to enlarge.
Sarasota Numismatics 2023 | Site by Digital Studio NW