What a celebration! Rare coins grabbed the headlines at this year's edition of the FUN show with record setting prices realized in the week-long session of auctions. Carson City coins fared well, gaining many new admirers.
Carson City Coins Nominated in Best Supporting Role Category at FUN Show
By Rusty Goe
Why do Americans love award ceremonies? A simple answer is that these award shows remind everyone who their favorite movies, TV shows and musicians are. Anticipation and excitement rise whenever the Emmys, Grammys or Oscars approach. Sometimes the suspense is not as intense because there are overwhelming favorites in specific categories. Like in 1997, when Titanic was nominated for 14 Oscars, and seemed a shoe-in to sweep the awards that year. It wasn't a clean sweep; however, Titanic still won 11.
Although there are no award ceremonies for rare coins, major auctions can provide a precise pulse of popular opinion of what's hot and what's not in selected markets. This year's FUN show auctions brought out a stellar cast of hundreds of celebrated stars from the field of coin collecting.
It was practically a cinch that the Brasher gold doubloons auctioned by Heritage would take top honors and of course they did. The 1787 with "EB" punched on the eagle's breast reinforced its status in American numismatics by realizing a show-stopping price of $2.99 million. Next came the specimen with "EB" punched on the eagle's wing bellowing in at $2.415 million and winding out this treasured trio was the "Lima Style" doubloon, which brought $690,000.
With towering giants like these, all other coins would certainly be overshadowed. However, not to be overlooked was the world-class 1866 No Motto Seated Liberty silver dollar, auctioned by ANR for a record $1.207 million. And it doesn't end there. Heritage, on its way to shattering the world record for coins sold in a single sale with prices realized of over $53 million, featured a number of other highlights, including the following:
|1894||Barber Dime||PCGS PR-65||$1,035,000|
|1833||$5 Gold, Large Date||PCGS PR-67||977,500|
|1880||$4 Coiled Hair Stella||NGC PR-66 CAM||977,500|
|1835||$5 Gold||PCGS PR-67||690,000|
|1879||$4 Coiled Hair Stella||NGC PR-67 CAM||655,500|
|1795||$10 Gold 13 Leaves||PCGS MS-64||460,000|
|1839/8||$10 Ty of '38||PCGS MS-66||402,500|
These titanic prices unreservedly reinforced prognosticator's theories that the rare coin market is in the early stages of a strong bull market. Indeed there were many winners at this year's FUN show auctions as collectors, dealers and investors voted with their checkbooks for the coins they believed deserved recognition. Interest appeared to be across the board in terms of coin categories. Certainly the colonial and early gold coins gained the strongest favoritism in terms of money spent. But silver coins fared well too, with the 1894-S dime and 1866 No Motto Seated dollar crashing through the million-dollar barrier.
While most of the numismatic world was enraptured by the record setting performances of the Brasher Doubloons and other classic rarities, Carson City enthusiasts had plenty to cheer about. For this niche market experienced a grand showing from the cast of hundreds of coins representing this legendary branch mint. Although Carson City coins did not have a finisher in the Top Prices Realized category, as a whole, it recorded a very respectable aggregate total of $3,862,430. Stop for a minute and ponder the whimsical notion that for the money spent in the Brasher Doubloon, "EB" on Breast and the 1894-S Barber dime a person could have purchased all of the more than 650 lots sold in the "CC" category. There were another 100 lots among the Carson City consignments that were bought back for a combined total of $660,000. The person who paid the $655,500 for the 1879 Coiled Hair Stella in PR-67 Cameo could have picked up that group of unsold "CC"s instead. So, for somewhere in the $4.5 million range a person could have purchased all of the nearly 800 "CC" coins consigned to the FUN show sales this year.
Of course, nobody wants one person to hoard all of the coins, because it is in broad distribution that the most satisfaction comes. At least that is what the hundreds of successful bidders for "CC" coins in those sales think.
By the time the last bid was placed this year's offering of Carson City coins seemed to feature something for everyone's taste and budget. A few of the highlights were:
Dozens of "CC" coins with damaged surfaces or light problems naturally did not perform as well, proving that even a strong market can't turn ugly witches into Cinderellas. The new owners of these below standard coins can take consolation in the discounted prices, if not the aesthetic qualities.
Of the 533 lots featuring Carson City coins consigned to Heritage's FUN show sales, 493 sold for aggregate prices realized of $2.096 million. With nearly 55% of the total dollar amount sold in the "CC" coins category, Heritage's sales resulted in the lowest average per lot of the four auction companies represented. Although ANR ranked last in terms of the number of "CC" lots, their momentous offering overcame quantity with quality. Of the 57 Carson City coins consigned to ANR, 45 sold for aggregate prices realized of $1.113 million. The chart below summarizes the results of the sales of Carson City coins in the FUN show auctions.
CARSON CITY COIN AUCTION SALES
FUN Show - January, 2005
COIN AUCTION SALES
FUN Show - January, 2005
|Company||Lots Consigned||Lots Sold||Prices Realized||Average Price Per Lot|
|Bowers and Merena||94||73||362,905||4,971|
Now it's time to push the memories of the roof raising, banner waving, standing ovation performances of the star-studded assemblage of acclaimed coins in the FUN show sales behind us and focus on the future.
Rare coins don't sing and they don't dance. They can't even tell jokes. All they do is sit there, motionless, inside a plastic slab or a collector's album. You never hear a peep out of them. Yet, because of their historic significance and the competition they inspire, rare coins can provide as much entertainment as Major League baseball players on steroids or tattooed rock musicians with earrings in their noses. The lasting memory of your favorite movie or TV show can at times rival the memories collectors have of their most cherished coins.
It's all entertainment, designed to divert your attention from the humdrum routine of daily living. Whether it be going to the movies, watching sports, collecting butterfly wings, attending music concerts or involvement in numismatics, people find pursuits that give them something to look forward to. And unless your hobby is collecting string or watching fleas mate, it's going to cost you. Sometimes a minimal amount and sometimes more than you want to tell your spouse. Regardless, entertainment, hobbies, and recreational pursuits seem to be almost as essential to life as food, water and sleep. Life without something to look forward to can be in a word, boring.
Numismatists in the U.S. have known this all too well and for over 150 years have compiled their notes, studied varieties, read books, and pursued their favorite coins with a passion. Today's collectors have the accumulated wealth of knowledge and experience from all that have gone before them.
When coins are purchased for what some may view as stoked out values, it is not as if collectors are bidding without safety nets. For they have confidence that other knowledgeable numismatists have blazed trails indicating what the coins are worth in the present, giving the go ahead sign that the price is right.
Years from now, collectors will look back at the FUN show sales of 2005 and analyze the prices paid to compare them with what coins are worth in their day. If past performance is any indicator of future potential, results from the FUN sales in 2005 should prove to be a landmark in the price history of rare coins. As unfathomable as it might seem to collectors today, six and seven figure priced coins will probably be the rule, rather than the exception. Where's everyone going to get the money to afford them you may ask? That’s another subject. Suffice it to say, collectors from 50 years ago would have scoffed at the notion of $1 million coins. Will collectors a generation from now be whooping and hollering for the first $100 million coin? Many of us won’t be around to witness it, so we can only daydream.
And how about daydreaming about the future of Carson City coins? Will it still only be possible for one collector to own a complete 111 piece set 50 years from now? Or will the celebrated 1873-CC Without Arrows dime lose its Unique status? Just think of the potential financial reverberations in the coin market if the 1873-CC dime retains its Unique status. It could possibly become one of the top five most expensive coins in history. A few other dates in the Carson City series have potentially bright futures as well; especially the 1876-CC 20-cent pieces (17-19 known) and 1873-CC Without Arrows quarters (five known). These dates, and many others from the Carson City Mint have tremendous price performance potential projecting into the future.
But why put off until tomorrow what can be done today? The bravura performance staged by Carson City coins as a whole in the FUN show auctions in 2005 should convince collectors that there will be many encores for this series in the future. Response to audience demand will ensure it.
While "CC" coins may have only been nominated for a Supporting role award at this year’s FUN show auctions they certainly impressed those in attendance and probably gained many new admirers. Amid the blockbuster coins in all other categories, "CC"s held their own; and it shouldn’t be too much longer until a few of them at least achieve breakthrough performances and become marquee celebrities. Out west in Northern Nevada they call this, "hitting the big bonanza." Time to put on some fancy chaps and cook some bone suckin' chili.
Nevadans are proud of their state and nothing should bring more pride than the coins produced in their capital more than 125 years ago. It has all the salient characteristics of the traditional "Hometown Boy Makes Good" story. These coins originating from a sparsely populated community that the government considered wilderness territory are transported far from home, only to hit the big time in the world of coin collecting. If that’s not deserving of some kind of award, what is?
Copyright Southgate Coins January 2005.