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NumisMedia Monthly Article Archive

Our monthly articles detailing specific areas of numismatics for dealers, collectors, and investors of United States Rare Coins

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NumisMedia Monthly

February 2014

The Case for Premium Quality Coins

       Major auctions showcase the final results of coins acquired by collectors. What the prices realized don't reveal is how the individual collector began and transformed his collection over a period of time. Their methodology is typically very flexible in the beginning as the collector develops an interest in one area and then moves on to another, with age and depth of their pocketbook a determining factor.

       In the past, young novice collectors typically began with Lincoln Cents and progressed as they found other treasures. Completing a set of Lincoln Cents was the goal. Today we still find some new collectors starting in the Lincoln Cent series, but many others are being introduced to numismatics with bullion-related coins before venturing off into other specific areas of coin collecting. There are so many collecting variables that there is no right or wrong way to collect coins. However, most auctions of the highest merits are highlighted by specific sets collected over a long period of time.

       Not all collections in major auctions are complete for a specific series. Take for example the FUN Show Auction hosted by Heritage Auctions. The Platinum Night contained coins from no less than thirteen different collections. Of these collections, each and every one of them had their own individual highlights. Below you will find some of the more memorable selections. For a complete list of prices realized contact Heritage Auctions.


1913 Liberty Head Nickel NGC PR64 CAC

1913 Liberty Head Nickel NGC PR64 CAC sold for $3,290,000 at the 2014 January 8-12 Heritage Auctions FUN Show U.S. Coin Signature Auction in Orlando


Date/DenominationGradePrice Realized
1913 Liberty Head NickelNGC PR64 CAC$3,290,000
1838 O Bust HalfNGC PR64 CAC$763,750
1870 S Seated DollarPCGS XF40$763,750
1879 $4 Gold Stella Coiled HairPCGS PR66 Cameo$851,875
1826 $5 Gold Capped BustPCGS MS66 CAC$763,750
1927 D $20 Gold Saint GaudensNGC MS66$1,997,500
1787 Brasher DoubloonNGC MS63 CAC$4,582,500


       The majority of advanced collectors are quite meticulous in their search for specific coins to add to their collections. In many auctions you will find that a lot of the coins from a particular collector will have the same kind of look, or eye appeal. They go to great lengths to match coins in their collection as best as possible. The very same philosophy can be used whether you are putting together a $1,000 set of coins or a million dollar set. Today's buyers are attracted to sets of coins that appear to have like characteristics; this may include strike, luster, toning, and any other descriptor one might implement.

       Let's examine the values of a set of Barber Half Dollars in MS65. In February 2007 we listed the FMV for a complete set at $495,550. Today, the same set has an FMV of $499,610. This is not much of an increase over seven years. Obviously, some dates have increased while others have decreased. But let's take the collector who works meticulously to build the best set for the grade, only buying upper-end coins that today may receive the + designation or the CAC label, or both. The current FMV for a complete set of Barber Halves in MS65+ is $540,000 and for a set of CAC Barber Halves the FMV is $570,000. Now, these prices are somewhat fluid because as we have all seen from major auctions over the last several years, the premiums for some + coins or CAC coins can be 10% to 50% above FMV and in some cases, as much as 100%. These prices are based on the assumption that you can find them; in many cases, even if they are available, the potential sellers will want markedly more for them.

       We studied the results from the Heritage Auction at the FUN Show and looked at three examples of the same date Barber Half, 1915 D MS65. Two of the coins were certified by PCGS and one was NGC. The first coin sold for $2,350 in the PCGS holder; the next coin brought $2,585 in an NGC holder; and the third coin realized the highest of the three at $3,055 in a PCGS holder. All three coins had varying degrees of toning, although the highest priced coin was more brilliant than the other two. All three coins had the CAC label. This is just one example but we see these variables all the time. Eye appeal is different to all collectors. For some coins the eye appeal simply jumps out at you. Others, the eye appeal is more subdued and then there are the coins that lack eye appeal altogether but still make the technical grade. The last group is typically collected by those who shop by price, thus looking for bargains.

       To further illustrate the benefits of Premium Quality coins we have created a list of coins that have sold in recent Heritage Auctions that have quite substantial premiums because of their exceptional eye appeal. We chose coins within the Barber Half Dollar series; however, there are thousands of examples in all series, especially those dated prior to 1930.


Date/DenominationGradePrice RealizedCurrent FMV
1894 Barber Half DollarNGC MS65 CAC$16,450$4,280
1898 Barber Half DollarPCGS MS66+ CAC$18,800$8,870
1901 S Barber Half DollarPCGS MS64 CAC$12,925$9,940
1907 Barber Half DollarPCGS MS66 CAC$19,975$5,920
1907 D Barber Half DollarPCGS MS67 CAC$25,850$22,750
1908 O Barber Half DollarPCGS MS67 CAC$16,450$14,630
1915 Barber Half DollarNGC PR68 * CAC$22,325$17,310


       In today's market most advanced collectors are searching for coins that have considerable eye appeal. They want coins that are virtually problem-free for the grade so that the only question is price. It is not just big coins collectors want; they want PQ coins and that sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a set. They may not always finish the set as they stray toward other series, but that original goal is what keeps collectors in the game.


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