Saturday, November 28, 2015

Coming Attractions - The Tom Reynolds Large Cents !

The Goldbergs are making plans to sell the Tom Reynolds coins (Part-1) in late Jan. 2016. Based upon the early press releases, and published images of coins included in the sale, this auction promises to become one of the "whales" of early copper collection sales.
However, there is one significant difference between the Reynolds auction, and those of other legendary early copper figures like Robbie Brown, Walter Husak, Dan Holmes, and R. Tettenhorst (The Missouri Cabinet half cents): The difference involves the breadth of the collection. While the focus of the earlier legendary collectors just mentioned was BOTH completeness and quality, the Reynolds coins generally represent the single dimension of high quality.
There are certainly some rare coins in the Reynolds offering - a 1793 S-12 (R6-) is included, along with an 1801 S-217 (R6+), and a number of NC varieties from multiple years. However, it is obvious that completion in terms of all Sheldon varieties was not an aim for this collection (with the possible exception of the year 1798, which has been a particular passion for Reynolds).
With that said, there will be a lot of memorable coins in the Reynolds auction: There are at least 7 mint-state 1794 cents, and more than 30 mint-state 1798's (roughly half the PCGS population of MS coins for this date)! Many "finest-known" coins (for the variety) should bring strong bids from quality conscious buyers.
I am making plans to be "in the room" when this sale gets hammered!

The link below should provide a preview of some of the top coins in the Reynolds sale:

Sunday, July 12, 2015

EAC Convention 2015 - A Retrospective

The 2015 EAC convention was held from April 30 to May 2 in Dallas Tx. I was fortunate enough to attend, and enjoyed three full days talking to fellow copper collectors and looking at early copper. These annual events both strengthen the organization of Early American Coppers and reinforce the positive aspects of coin collecting for each member who attends.

Upon arriving at the hotel, I was informed that the folks from Stacks/Bowers were already set up in a 1st-floor conference room with coins from the Twin Leaf collection. The best way to begin was spending an hour browsing through this premier collection of middle-date and late-date U.S. cents. I was not disappointed - there are some fantastic coins in this collection.

Thurs. evening brought the EAC reception, which was well attended and had a great selection of tasty mini entrees. I re-connected with many old friends who seem to "appear" at this event each year. Following the reception, the half cent and large cent "Happenings" were conducted in a pair of nearby conference rooms. It took two hours to check out all the featured varieties, and swap some copper tales with fellow EAC'ers. One of the featured cent varieties, 1839 N12 had two nice coins that vied for 1st place in my mind. The variety that provoked the most discussion was 1852 N11, where numerous examples displayed cuds (or folded extra metal) at various different locations on the obverse rim. A number of experts contemplated the mystery posed by these aged disks of copper.

Friday was filled with a number of cuprous activities; the perusal of the bourse floor was very casual, since I did not have any particular coins on my "want list". The Heritage Auctions display of coins from the Eugene Exman Collection struck me as one of the nicest groups of early cents from old-line collectors seen since the Dan Holmes collection (sold in 2009). Lot viewing for the EAC auction (to be held Sat. night) was an important activity. I attended a few of the presentations in the educational forum - the discussion of the contents of the 1795 Massachusetts State House Cornerstone by John Kraljevich was memorable.

Saturday was mostly consumed with more camaraderie, along with a few swaps and sales of coins. At last, Saturday evening brought the long-anticipated EAC auction. For many members, this auction is the highlight of the convention. This year’s sale did not contain any “wonder coins”, but it was packed with collectible and affordable copper. In the early going, I was delighted when a low-grade 1793 Chain cent was hammered to me. This coin was destined to be a gift to an exceptional friend who briefly owned a chain back in 1989, but has been without one since then. Later in the sale, I outbid another buddy (and went over my budget) to buy a sharp 1839 N14 (Booby Head) cent. I have no regrets, as the pleasure of owning this beautiful coin has outlasted the pain of paying for it.

 And, just that fast, it was all over for another year! I brought home a few nice copper coins and added to my collection of good memories. Only 10 more months to wait for EAC 2016!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Directions in Copper - where from here?

The Greek Philosopher Heraclitus is credited with the famous quote "Change is the Only Constant"*
*this is loosely translated from the Greek, which has also been interpreted as "Everything changes and nothing stands still"
Things may change less rapidly in the world of coin collecting than in other human endeavors, yet change they will.

This past year has witnessed some remarkable milestones in U.S. copper coins, with important implications for those with an interest in these series:
  • In Jan. 2014, the sale of the Missouri Cabinet collection by Ira & Larry Goldberg established numerous price records for U.S. half cents, including the first two half cents to sell at auction for at least $1 Million. The sale was reported in this blog, and in the on-line story  below:

  • Just last month, not one, but two early copper coins broke through the $2 Million mark. The first of these was the fantastic 1792 Birch Cent (NGC graded MS65). The second coin, from the same Heritage auction was the finest graded 1793 Chain Cent (PCGS graded MS66). These results have been reported in the on-line story below:


    In most respects, the copper coin market has been holding up very well, and is apparently thriving, along with the markets for U.S. equities and real estate in most places.
    However, it is often worthwhile to look beyond the headlines, and get "beneath the surface" in order to understand the dynamics of a complex market. Not every sector of the copper market is on the upswing.
    While the stellar collections and high-grade rarities have been grabbing the coin news headlines, another more insidious trend has also emerged. Prices for many rare coins in less-than-flawless condition have languished or even declined recently. What could be causing this apparent contradictory behavior? Here are a couple of thoughts:

  • The Quest for the Best - Nothing is particularly new about this trend. People have always tended to want the best, whether it is for their morning cup of coffee, their home, their car, or the coins in their collection. Popular coin publications even suggest that, when selecting a coin, we should aim for the "Best You Can Afford". What has changed is the intensity with which this sentiment is now pursued. Everyone cares about the "finest known" for a coin type or variety. Apparently being in 2nd place is simply being 2nd-class! The third-party grading services have aided and abetted this trend, by publishing population reports and establishing set registries, to encourage the race to the top. Uncertified coins have become "suspect", and are presumed to have problems that prevent them from being graded. Being at the "top of the pop" gives a coin the added marketing buzz needed to justify its astronomic price level. The only problem is: if everyone wants only the best, who is left to want the rest?

  • New Collecting Strategies - Higher coin prices are good for those selling, and also for those who already own the coins. For those who are still collecting, higher prices mean one of two things: either you will collect fewer coins, or you will collect more low-grade coins. And, since we have already mentioned the "quest for the best" trend (see above), most collectors are making the rational choice to limit the size of their collections. Most are choosing some specialty area to focus on - whether it is coins from one particular year (1794, for example), or a copper type coin set, or a collection with a special theme (coins previously owned by famous numismatists, etc.)

  • Most collectors of early copper are familiar with the Sheldon rarity scale. This logarithmic scale classifies the scarcity of copper coins into eight levels, running from R1 (common, >2000 known) to R8 (unique, 1-3 known). There are a number of early copper coins that have traditionally been highly revered and eagerly sought for being considered scarce (at least R5 or higher, with fewer than 75 examples known). These coins were considered "necessary" for a full collection, and they were sought in all grades for inclusion in collections. But lately, these coins have been pinched on both sides of the economic equation: On the demand side, there are fewer collectors trying to obtain a "full" set, especially a set in low grade. On the supply side, more coins have emerged on ebay and other internet sites. The net effect has been soft demand for these formerly desirable scarce varieties. This is neither good nor bad, but just "the way it is". The driving forces behind this trend do not look like short-term phenomena. This is the new reality with which copper collectors should learn to live.