Hurricane Ian Fails to Hinder a Robust North Carolina Numismatic Association Show

Any doubts that the coin market has stalled were quickly put to rest last weekend in Concord, NC. The NCNA Annual Coin Show boasted record crowds, despite dealing with the remnants of Hurricane Ian. Business was brisk both Friday and Saturday, and had we not been faced with a 7 hour+ drive home, may have opted to stay even longer. It was plainly obvious from the onset of setup, those that braved the elements to attend this show were serious about doing business. Since NCNA landed on Concord as their permanent home, we  have noticed a steady uptick in both this, show’s public attendance and overall relevance in the realm of coin shows. Perry Siegel and the NCNA are very proactive in the marketing and management of the show. The resultant good show is not merely a biproduct of good circumstances, but plenty of good planning on the part of the club. Similar club shows like PAN and CONA also prosper from engaged administration, and should serve as models for some other less active venues. We have often contended that a show is only as good as the make-up of the dealers in attendance and the quality of the public through the front doors. In both departments, NCNA checked the boxes. The Reeded Edge will enjoy a two week hiatus before going back on the road for three consecutive shows in Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Vienna, VA. With November elections on the horizon, and the prospect of change looming, we are beginning to sense some newfound optimism. Could this be a resurgence of the post-COVID bull market? Time will tell!

The Coin Market Shows Unusual Strength Throughout the Summer

The deck has been stacked against us for some time. Lockdowns, restrictions, and the overall COVID narrative was testing the patience of all but the most ardent believers. Society in general was done. Most people entered this summer as if it were just another normal pre-pandemic summer, albeit with more pent-up cabin fever than ever. Translation for the coin business? This was not going to be a summer where people spent their time indoors with their collections. This was going to be a time where we started traveling again, having outdoor cook-outs,  attending sporting events and concerts….yes, this was going to be the summer when things returned to normal.

Our hobby is both cyclical and seasonal, and the summer is not historically a robust period for the coin business. Many factors promoted a complete turnaround in consumer behavior this summer, especially given the thankful end to the COVID pandemic. But our crystal ball was not projecting a recession with the accompanying collapse of BITCOIN, sluggish financial markets, weak precious metals and record fuel prices. The situation just got more complicated…..at least, potentially. Where the deck was arguably lacking aces at the end of the pandemic, it was now void of all face cards, thanks to the recession. This spelled potential disaster for the coin business and the hobby overall. So knowing the cards were not in our favor, how did we fare? The short answer is, damn well!

Why did the coin market persevere in such adverse circumstances? Obviously, the answer transcends both circumstances and conventional wisdom. At the heart of the coin market is a nucleus of collectors. They did not go away. Their spending habits arguably were altered, but compared to what we normally encounter with a summer slowdown, it was slight, at worst. Is this to imply that coin collectors did not travel or otherwise alter their pandemic lifestyles? The answer would be a resounding NO! We interact with our customers on a daily basis, and it was obvious after talking to both our wholesale customers (dealers), and our retail customers (collectors), that both were mimicking society as a whole. Vacations and overdue trips were being taken, outdoor and social activities were being enjoyed and a resumption of a normal lifestyle appeared to be the order of the day. They simply did not drop collecting as a component to that lifestyle. Rather, numismatics were seemingly integrated and wound into their post-pandemic routines, perhaps one of the few positive outcomes of COVID.

Our regular readers have probably noted that it’s been a while since we have posted a Market Update. This was not by choice but rather necessity. The pandemic altered all of our routines. In retrospect, this was probably the most fluid two year period of our company’s history. Remembering back to all of the initial closures/shutdowns in Spring, 2020, there was a hobby-wide coin shortage. Coming into 2020, we had built up a store inventory of over 25 double-row boxes of certified coins. Less than six months later, we had sold down to under half a dozen boxes. What had started as a concern for restocking the shelves quickly evolved into a plight. With coin shops closed and shows on-hold, the supply chain for rare coins came to a screeching halt. The short version is, we had to get very creative during this period to stay in business. It was obvious that collectors, with more time on their hands, desired new coins, and perhaps more-so than ever. Keeping them supplied proved to be a different matter. Using some in-house ingenuity, we treaded water during COVID, ultimately living to fight another day. Fortunately, as both shops began to reopen and coin shows resumed, this supply problem gradually resolved itself. This was an indirect consequence of COVID, and as we’re only too aware, was not a challenge just  limited to the coin business. The direct consequence was that our office experienced health-related staffing problems, a situation that persisted for almost 6 months. We often allude to time being our most precious commodity. With fewer employees to staff the office, more orders than ever in company history, and additional time spent on the phone/online alternatively sourcing coins, Market Update became a sacrilegious lamb.

Readers of Numismatic News and Coin World may have noted yet another change. Where we used to run large, once-a-month, item-specific advertisements in both publications, we now have gone to more regular ads promoting readers to sign up for our monthly price lists. Why the change? The answer stems from the aforementioned coin shortages, in tandem with the unprecedented, newfound demand. During COVID, and almost without fail, when a reader would call/email to order a specific coin, it had been previously sold. Some of this had to do with the lag time of the publications. On average, the timeline between sending our final ad copy to Numismatic News and/or Coin World, to the time that it took each of them to get the publication in their subscribers’ hands, was 7-10 days. Simply stated, in that window, advertised coins got sold elsewhere. Conversely, our in-house generated price list was able to get an updated inventory in our customers’ hands in just 2-3 business days, thereby increasing their chances that the coins would still be available. We felt promoting the price list component was a more effective use of our advertising dollar. Hence, this strategy replaced the item-specific listings.

As we alluded to at the beginning of this report, this summer has been an enigma. For all intents and purposes, it should have been a complete disaster. Unfavorable economic conditions and a desire to resume a normal routine, pointed to both less time and money to devote to coins. Thankfully, neither was the case. Although the market and corresponding demand have both predictably slowed from their pandemic fervor, the coin market still remains surprisingly healthy. How this translates to the fall is anybody’s guess.

Farmers have an old saying. Make hay when the sun shines. The sun continues to shine on this business and the hobby that we collectively know as numismatics. As long as that continues, The Reeded Edge will remain in the forefront, bringing fresh, new coins to the marketplace, while servicing all of your numismatic needs. We consider ourselves very fortunate to be part of such a great hobby and business; it’s something that we never lose sight of…..Until next time, Happy Collecting!

PAN Show Fires on All Cylinders!

What is the definition of a successful coin show? Does the answer lie in the number of collectors present? If so, PAN checked that box. Maybe, wholesale activity is the measure of success. Again, PAN also checked that box. Perhaps, the answer does not lie in the total head count, but rather in the quality of the customer. Although this measure is harder to quantify, PAN lured in serious customers, most of whom were more interested in opening their checkbooks than kicking Goodyears. The mood of the show was positive throughout, the crowds robust, and as always, the PAN organization bent over backwards to insure that environment was conducive for business. What more could we ask for?

Preceding PAN, there was some trepidation over whether this bull market had run its course. Certain areas of the market appeared over-promoted and over-valued, resulting in excess supply of ordinary coins. But, the operative word here was ordinary. Great collector coins proved to be short in supply and demand for them was as intense as ever. Conversely, common-date CC dollars were everywhere. Not surprisingly, this week we have witnessed corrections in the prices of 1882, 83 & 84-CC Morgan Dollars in basal mint state grades. Equally as predictable, the dealers driving the prices of these coins have excess stock, and are finding less liquidity in the current marketplace. Is this an indictment on the overall coin market? Is the bull market running out of gas? After four days of PAN, we would submit that there is no correlation. Again, great coins were elusive, and common coins proved common. Yes, there is a line in the sand. But for those of us seeking out the less ordinary numismatic material, conditions are still challenging. Our first day back in the office has affirmed that the demand for collector coins remains as strong as ever. Virtually every small type coin that we posted from PAN, is either sold or in play. Today, we will be listing the larger type, dollars and gold. We are expecting a similar response. We shall see….

The summer is typically a more challenging season for the coin business. Vacations usually take precedence to hobbies. We’ll see if this predictable shift impacts the coin market. It will be a good litmus test for the actual underlying strength. We remain cautiously optimistic that the numismatic arena will prevail. Next up, in approximately 2 weeks, is the quintessential Whitman Baltimore Coin Show, which should provide at least a preliminary answer to this question. Stay tuned!

Then and Now-A Personal Perspective of the Coin Market

I enjoy Black Kalamata Olives. They are one of my go-to snack foods. Consequently, every trip to the market starts at the deli counter where I order a pound of the olives. One year ago, these olives were $5/pound. The day before yesterday, the same olives were $10/pound-exactly double what they were 12 short months ago. Let’s take this comparison a step further. Two years ago, the nationwide average price for a gallon of gas was $1.94. Today, it is a staggering $4.21, with a few urban areas topping $6.00! If we were to extend these comparisons back another two years, the differences in price would be more dramatic yet. Inflation has hit the highest levels in over 40 years, and is affecting most of our everyday lives. So, have coin prices gone up proportionally in the overall scheme of things? Let’s take a look.

For the basis of comparison, I will use CDN (Greysheet) wholesale prices from April 20, 2018 (pre-COVID) and compare them to CDN dated April 2022 (It should be noted that CDN is now a monthly publication, where it previously had been a weekly publication). Let’s use Morgan Dollars as our reference group, since they are frequently traded and have traditionally been considered a primary numismatic market indicator. In the 2018 CDN, common-date Morgan Dollars were reported at $115 in MS-65, and $200 in MS-66. Presently, the same coins are reported at $190 in MS-65 and $270 in MS-66. The price increases for MS-65 Morgans in this 4 year window were approximately 65%, and approximately 42% for MS-66 examples. Let’s now make this same comparison on a scarcer date Morgan Dollar, such as an 1879-CC. For this example, I will compare MS-60 and MS-63 prices, as this date gets prohibitively scarce and expensive in higher grades, and is also much less frequently traded. In 2018, the 1879-CC was reported at $4000 in MS-60 and $6800 in MS-63. Today, this same coin clocks in at $5000 in MS-60 and $7250 in MS-63. These represent modest increases of 25% in MS-60 and just over 6.5% in MS-63. In these isolated examples, the aforementioned Morgan Dollars sure look cheap when compared to olives (100% price increase in one year) and gas (117% price increase in 4 years) . Further correlations can be made by comparing the CDN Morgan Dollar pages below of April 2022 and April 20, 2018. Suffice to say, coins still appear to be one of the better deals going, which likely is what’s fueling the current market. The emerging trend with coins, cars, real estate, antiques and collectibles, art and fine wine, just to name a few areas, seems to indicate that people would rather own things than accumulate money. It thus becomes a question of which area presents the best value. My simple example above sure sheds a favorable light on coins, even at today’s higher levels.

Having just returned from The Central States Numismatic Convention in Scahumburg, Illinois, I made some interesting observations. This was one of the largest Central States shows ever, due in part to a well-needed change in the show leadership and direction, in tandem with extremely favorable market conditions. A large contingent of dealers from around the country were present, including all of the most prominent rare coin firms. An abundance of numismatic sharks created a challenging environment for buying coins. The feeling seemed to be, that even at today’s higher levels, the coin market as a whole, was still undervalued. What I witnessed were many dealers attempting to sell coins at tomorrow’s levels. The quandary of selling a coin at x, and then being forced to pay x+y to replace it, seemed to resonate throughout the bourse floor. For the collectors out there still on a market disconnect-news flash; this has become a seller’s market. For many dealers, chiseling, low-balling and even counter-offers are being viewed with disdain. To quote a dealer friend’s response to a collector inquiring about the prospect of any “end-of-the-day blowouts‘, he politely replied, “Sir, that ship has sailed“.

 

 

Gettysburg NON-STOP Activity-Market RED HOT!

Smaller shows generally come with tempered expectations. Going into Gettysburg, we expected a decent show….maybe even a really good show, if we were fortunate. Never in our wildest imagination could we have predicted what ensued. The Battlefield Coin Show might as well have been the ANA’s Worlds Fair of Money. A sold-out bourse, comprised of mostly smaller dealers, were eager to do business. This was plainly evident from the time we arrived. When we weren’t being hailed to a booth to look at “a fresh deal”, we were deluged at our own booth with buying opportunities. It was all but impossible to get set up during dealer day-the pace was such that we barely had time to even come up for air! Transactions were nonstop throughout Thursday, with people lined up 2-deep for much of the day. Robbie and I looked at each other several times in utter disbelief of the frenzied pace. Once the public was admitted on Friday, it got crazier yet. It literally took me 5 mins to walk a sold coin to another dealer’s booth just 25-30 feet away. The aisles were packed so tight for much of the day that simply walking the floor became a task. Now we realize, it’s one thing to get people in the room, but getting the right people in the room is an entirely different matter. The folks who ventured to Gettysburg weee definitely serious about doing business, and for all that we bought on Thursday, we sold virtually just as much on Friday. The kicker was that we didn’t bring that much in the first place to sell, but what we did bring, went. By Friday at the close of business, our showcases looked like Swiss cheese with more holes than remaining coins. Perhaps never in my 33 years as a full time numismatist, has it been this easy to sell coins. This heated activity level sustained throughout the closing bell on Saturday. This was one helluva coin show, and even more apparent, this is one even crazier coin market. Our next door neighbor may have surmised it best when a collector asked him, “what are your end-of-the-day specials?”, to which he replied, “Sir, that boat has sailed!” We want to extend a special thank you to Mike Dixon and his staff for hosting their best Gettysburg show yet. Finally, we were happy to see Mike’s right-hand man, and our good friend, Bill Waltman in attendance, after fighting some serious health issues. Hopefully, this market continues its momentum into the summer months. Given the present driving fundamentals (which will be a discussion for an upcoming market update), we see absolutely no reasons to the contrary.

BALTIMORE A HUB OF ACTIVITY-STACKS AUCTION PRICES OFF THE CHART!

Well, for anybody wondering if this market is real, you need not guess any further. Trying to buy coins at last week’s Baltimore Coin Show proved taxing. Although there was no lack of availability, asking prices were at the least, optimistic, and at the extreme, downright maniacal. It was if dealers had a crystal ball, and could see auction results from the upcoming Stack’s Fairmont Collection and Rarities Night sales. In retrospect, dealers were not wrong. We were representing several of our advanced collectors in both Stack’s sales, trying to pick up some new additions for their collections. In all instances, we had a carte blanche to figure bids at OUR discretion, knowing that the primary objective was to buy coins. In ALL instances, we figured our bids at well over what anything comparable had sold for in the past. Our litmus test was trying to figure the most that a particular coin could be worth in today’s market, and then adding 20%. it didn’t work. We were not even the underbidder on a single lot, let alone the successful buyer. Most of the material in both sales defied our wildest expectations, making dealer asking prices at Baltimore the previous week look more realistic than we initially thought. The trajectory of this market is frenetic, with no let up in sight. One of our most respected trading partners, who has been a fulltime numismatist for over 30 years (and at the very highest level) proclaimed that he had never seen a market like this. Although, as many of you know, we try not to get too far ahead of ourselves, we must concur with our friend. In this market, if you want to own great coins, you’re going to have to resign yourself to being aggressive. Most coin dealers across the spectrum understand that they are in the driver’s seat; this is a seller’s market. The collector who insists on negotiating price, in many instances, is getting left behind. The operative question is, how much longer will this paradigm sustain. Alluding back to our aforementioned crystal ball, the safe answer is, if only we knew? We make a point of not reminiscing about the past or trying to prognosticate the future. Instead, we elect to deal in the present, and presently, we like what we see!

COIN MARKET ON FIRE – DEALERS REPORTING THAT THERE AREN’T ENOUGH HOURS IN THE DAY!

Surprisingly, all of the current global turmoil is not derailing the coin market,,, not in the least. This speaks volumes about the underlying strength of the market. At the very core is a lot of money chasing rare coins, along with an an extremely enthusiastic collector base. It seems that every time that we go to replace a coin, we end paying more than we just sold the last one for-a true sign of a bull market. Collectors on a disconnect thinking that they can still buy coins at, or near, Greysheet wholesale prices, are finding themselves getting shut out of the market. The same holds true for potential eBay buyers anxious to tender their aggressive offers. This is truly a seller-driven market; if you own coins, you are in the driver’s seat. Active precious metals markets have undoubtedly lent strength to the numismatic side. But honestly, it’s not just coins that are experiencing a renaissance. Everything from antiques, art, fine wines, firearms and even used cars are red-hot. There is a LOT of money chasing a lot of different things, with no end in sight. Despite the current fervor, we try not to get too far ahead of ourselves. We have seen robust markets before, and history teaches us, that they can end on a dime. The fact that all signs point to a sustaining market can be misleading, something we always keep in the back of our minds. For the time being, as the old saying goes, we will make hey while the sun is shining.

Coin Market Strength Continues Amidst Inflationary Concerns

Last week’s Vienna Quarterly Coin and Stamp Show was poorly attended. This was due in part to a forecast for a major storm for the D.C. area, which fortunately, never materialized. Additionally, the current iteration of this show has been under-promoted, relying more on word-of-mouth than traditional marketing methods. A factor that definitely did NOT contribute to Vienna’s poor attendance, was the coin market’s health. Market conditions have remained robust throughout January (which is a traditionally slow, post-FUN period). Inflationary worries have created a sense of urgency with both collectors and investors alike, as they scurry to buy coins at today’s levels. Limited supply and the reduced purchasing power of the dollar seem to be concerning the numismatic community, much the same way as this mindset is driving other areas of the economy. Curiously, amidst the current uncertainty, gold and silver have shown limited movement. If precious metals start to heat up, this could be the impetus to catapult a healthy, bullish coin market into a full-blown, raging bull market. Many feel that this component is not an if, but rather a when.

Twentieth century collector coins, Silver Dollars and post-1907 gold coins remain the hottest areas of the market, although other numismatic areas are also experiencing a renaissance. Finding pockets of value in this market is progressively more challenging by the day. As dealers, we have resigned ourselves to paying whatever seems reasonable to keep good coins in inventory. Again, it’s likely that tomorrow’s levels will make today’s prices look cheap. Equally as concerning, is that good coins are disappearing from the marketplace, many likely not to reappear anytime soon. There is quite a bit of speculative buying going on, with many well-healed buyers aggressively trolling the marketplace. It is quite an interesting dynamic, to say the least!

The Coin Market Continues its Bullish Path

There is always a concern that after the FUN show and the predictable beginning-of-year optimism,  that the coin market will take a pause. Under ordinary circumstances, this is a valid concern; but nothing about current circumstances can be deemed ordinary. Amidst renewed political turmoil in Eastern Europe combined with an ongoing global COVID hangover, there is no indication that anything will return to ordinary anytime soon. The numismatic market seems to be thriving on this uncertainty, creating coin shortages due to excess demand. Just as box store shelves remain depleted, the numismatic shelves of many coin dealers across the country are equally as sparse. The supply of desirable collector coins is being outpaced by demand, and judging from the competitive nature evidenced in recent auctions, this relationship seems to be getting more lopsided by the day. Here in house, there have been coins listed on recent price lists that have sold multiple times within minutes after mailing the list. This is a trend that’s becoming way too familiar. The takeaway is that if you see something that piques your interest, call. If you don’t, somebody else will. Of course, we remain committed to buying any worthwhile numismatic properties, whether it be an individual coin or an entire collection. More importantly, our buy prices will reflect the aggressive nature of today’s numismatic marketplace.

This coming weekend, The Reeded Edge will be heading to Northern Virginia for The Vienna Quarterly Coin & Stamp Show. This is the oldest established coin show in the DC metropolitan area, anchored by a group of regular dealers from the mid-Atlantic area. Both Rob and Robbie will be on-hand for The Reeded Edge, with a full array of numismatic and philatelic items in tow. Yes, this is one of a only a few shows that we actually bring stamps, so we urge all of our collector friends on the other side of the aisle to stop by our booth and peruse our ever-changing stamp inventory, As we eluded to earlier, keeping great coins in stock has been challenging. Given the circumstances, we are quite pleased with both the diversity and quality of out numismatic inventory. Of course, we hope to add to it, and encourage all would-be sellers to stop by our booth for an aggressive, on-the-spot offer. Our open checkbook policy will be in full effect throughout the weekend, so again, if you’re selling, we’re buying! You will find The Reeded Edge’s booth in its usual location, immediately inside the main bourse hall on the left hand side. We hope that Northern Virginia and the DC area are in your plans for this weekend, as we would love to see you at the show.

FUN Blows Away All Expectations; Market is Sizzling!

It’s been a while since we have found the time to do a market update. Our apologies for the delay. Much has happened since our last Baltimore report, most of it positive. The coin market remains starved for fresh, good material. Not every coin is hot, but what is, is RED HOT! So, which areas are leading the way? Key-date 19th and 20th century coins remain extremely strong, many trading at their highest prices in almost 30 years. A few examples of coins that everybody seems to want but far fewer people have for sale, include: 1856 Flying Eagle 1c, 1877 Indian 1c, 1909-S VDB Lincoln 1c, 1922 No D, Strong Reverse Lincoln 1c, 1885 & 1886 V 5c, 1916 DDO Buffalo 5c, 1918/7-D Buffalo 5c, 1937-D 3 Leg Buffalo 5c, 1895-O Barber 10c, 1916-D Mercury 10c, 1901-S Barber 25c, 1913-S Barber 25c, 1916 SL 25c, 1918/7-S SL 25c, 1932-D Washington 25c, 1921 P, D & S Walking 50c (especially in higher grades), virtually every better-date Morgan $1 and Peace $1….and the list goes on. Filling an inventory with these coins presently, is all but impossible. That is plainly evident by the number of these type of coins appearing on collector want lists. Further, we find virtually every time that we sell one of these coins, we have to pay even more to replace it. The other option is to pass at some of these seemingly inflated levels, only to have the next person in line buy it. This can create a quandary, especially for the smaller dealers and collectors on a disconnect. We saw this phenomena play out repeatedly last week at the highly-anticipated FUN show in Orlando, Florida. Attendees with their Greysheet in tow, trying to buy coins at what they perceived to be “market levels” found themselves lonelier that the Maytag Repairman (a reference that only some of our older readers will understand). By most other measures, the FUN Show exceeded just about everybody’s expectation. It should be noted that the bourse floor was affected by a combination of COVID-related absences, and those who abstained from travel challenges, which had been manifesting for months. But even with some empty booths, the show still flourished. Florida relaxed their mask requirements which helped the public attendance figures. Honestly, we noticed no drop-off in the public attendance. It was solely the dealer contingent that seemed smaller. With that said, NO dealer who did attend reported a bad show…none….nada…not one! Conversely, we heard terms like, “best show ever”, “blew away all expectations”, “stupendous” and other similar accolades. The mood of the show reflected the mood of the market-AGGRESSIVE! We are usually cautious when reporting a FUN Show, because Orlando in January can almost serve as reason enough for a positive vibe. But, this FUN Show was clearly different. There was a different feel about it, a feel that transcended being in a warm climate in cold month, a feeling that transcended the typical beginning-of-year optimism. This show felt like the real deal, sparked by intense collector demand compounded by a limited dealer supply. Somehow, we still figured out a method to buy new coins, and plenty of them. Perhaps, we were just resigned to doing whatever it took to buy new coins at the new levels, accepting that willing buyers would be ready to pay a bit more yet. That has been the pattern of the post-COVID market, and we see no let-up in sight. We will try to stay more regular with our market reports, especially during this dynamic and fast moving time. A numismatic paradigm may well be upon us-time will definitely tell.