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September 1, 2022
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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
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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
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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
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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
10 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
8 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.
June 9, 2022
7 view(s) 10 min read

Collecting Barber Coinage

A basic set of Barber coins can be easy to assemble, but there are ways to make it more of a challenge.

During a recent visit to the vaults of the Smithsonian National Numismatic Collection (NNC), I ran across some amazing numismatic paraphernalia. One of the metal cabinets contains several shelves from the estate of Charles Barber, the Chief Engraver of the United States Mint from 1879 until his death in 1917. One drawer is nearly full of his engraving tools — the ones probably used to produce his classic series of coins now known as “Barber Silver Coinage.”

These are an amazing tangible link to one of the most important numismatic figures of the 19th and 20th century. The archive also includes hundreds of pages of historical documents from his storied career. The material was generously donated decades ago by the Stack family. Most of the archives have been digitized or copied over the years and are available to researchers from several sources. 

 

Barber's engraving tools from the Smithsonian National Numismatic Collection.

 

The Smithsonian National Numismatic Collection also contains the rarest Barber coins of all: the pattern coinage of 1891. There are seven coins, all of which are unique. 

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.

...

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.

Sarasota Numismatics 2022 | Site by Digital Studio NW