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U.S. Rare Coin

( August, 2001)

There are times when an author's pen either runs temporarily dry, or the summer vacation schedule makes obtaining fresh material difficult.  I am still attempting to compile discussions on how the most popular sources of rare coin prices fall short of their mark, but some of the trusted buyers I have used over the years have just not been available to contribute their knowledge to this venue.  We will succeed however, and this multi-part series will continue on a monthly basis until the well runs dry.

In quasi-desperation I have turned once again to that sharp, experienced pen of Michael De Falco of Numismatic Enterprises for a heads up on some of the sickening prices being paid for modern material.  I will make this statement and then shut-up about many post-1933 coins just not being rare or likely to provide healthy appreciation over the next 10 years, but this stuff just ain't rare by any roll of the dice.  It is very unfortunate and actually misleading that some of the biggest names in numismatics today are promoting this material as if the buyer is acquiring a specimen that will handily beat a money market account throughout the New Millennium.  Ain't going to happen,  since thousands of coins in very high states of preservation were pounded out by the U.S. Mint in the latter half of the 20th Century and today with the States Quarters Program and the Buffalo Silver Dollar.  They will never be scarce unless the precious metals content gets so valuable that they are melted for bullion, a possibility that is probably remote.  And there you have it.  And without further adieu, I introduce Part II:




By Mike De Falco


UPDATE: WORLD RECORD PRICE FRANKLIN HALF CRASHES, giving up 50% of its value when sold at the ANA! Last January I reported the sale of a PCGS graded MS66 Full Bell Line 1953-S Franklin half-dollar at the Bowers and Merena RARITIES SALE for the astonishing sum of $69,000 – an all time WORLD RECORD price for any coin from this series. I thought that the selling price was totally insane, particularly in light of the fact that this date could be purchased in MS66 (non-FBL) condition for a few hundred dollars or less. Well folks, that very SAME coin (January 2001 Rarities Sale Lot # 246) just sold in the Heritage 2001 Atlanta ANA SIGNATURE SALE for the sum of $35,075 – HALF of what it fetched just eight short months ago! I can’t help but wonder what it will bring when it is put up for sale again. As far as I’m concerned, its recent selling price is still way TOO high!

 ANA COIN CONVENTION ACTION MIXED…Lack of fresh material was a contributing factor. This year’s ANA Convention in Atlanta was a mixed bag with some dealers reporting a mediocre to average show while others raved about how great it was – nothing new here. The most poignant comment I heard was from longtime dealer friend Evan Gale who had this to say; there was a total lack of fresh material available. In fact, it was the least amount of NICE buyable coins I’ve seen at a major coin show in quite some time. Evan went on to say that genuinely nice coins sold quickly and that buyers were especially abundant for pretty eye appealing coins with great color. Although I didn’t attend this year’s ANA I concur with Evan’s assessment based upon conversations I had with other dealers and my own experience in the ANA SIGNATURE SALE, which contained a number of coins that I aggressively tried to purchase. Following is a partial list of the coins I tried to buy, including my Bid and the actual SELLING price:


1883 S$1 MS66 DMPL PCGS: My bid $3,900 – price realized $4,888

1936 Delaware 50C MS66 PCGS: My bid $650 – price realized $1,208

1936 Elgin 50C MS67 PCGS: My bid $3,500 – price realized $8,625

1936 Norfolk 50C MS68 PCGS: My bid $2,600 – price realized $7,188

1926-S Oregon 50C MS67 PCGS: My bid $975 – price realized $1,955


My bids were strong! For instance, the PCGS MS67 Elgin for which I placed a $3,500 bid (that would have translated into a $4,025 purchase price when the 15% buyers fee was added) carried a CCDN MS67 Bid price of $1,035, and yet realized nearly EIGHT times that amount! Therein is a prime example of a NICE coin that wasn’t realistically buyable from a dealer’s perspective. I certainly wasn’t attempting to “rip” the coin at FOUR times CCDN Bid and yet I didn’t even come close to buying it. I realize that this may appear to be an extreme example but the fact is (confirmed by reliable sources who were in attendance) there was a very discernible shortage of NICE buyable coins in Atlanta. From every indication coming out of the ANA, I believe that we can look forward to a continuation of strong demand for really nice, pretty coins during the fall coin show season. The collector (who is much more sophisticated and demanding than the fickle investor of years past) is the dominant force in the rare coin marketplace today. He sets the trends, establishes values and is in for the long term. To my way of thinking, we couldn’t be blessed with a better (or more reliable) base upon which to build.    


THE MANIA CONTINUES – Key date Washington quarter sets new WORLD RECORD and sells for nearly $90,000!  

Much to my amazement (and chagrin) it appears as if common sense and the concept of good relative value have been thrown out with the bath water once again in regard to high-grade contemporary rarities. In this case I’m referring to the PCGS certified MS66 1932-D Washington quarter (the finest graded to date), which recently sold for $89,125 at the Heritage 2001 Atlanta ANA SIGNATURE SALE. Had it realized $20,000 to $25,000 I would have thought the price high, but not somewhere out in the Twilight Zone. The August 10, 2001 issue of the CERTIFIED COIN DEALER newsletter lists the MS66 Bid price at $9,300, which I agree is too low in relation to a MS65 Bid price of $8,500, but nearly $90,000? I can only hope that the new owner has plenty of money and unlimited staying power so he doesn’t experience the same thing that happened to the buyer of the aforementioned record setting MS66 FBL 1953-S Franklin half dollar. As I said in reference to the stratospheric selling price of that coin last January… Take it from me, there are hundreds – NO, thousands of other coins that offer much better relative value.


BROKER'S CLOSING COMMENT:  An asset is an asset is an asset.  When you grossly over-pay during the frenzy of an auction (or on the bourse floor or at a dealer's shop or on the internet) because you just have to own that particular bobble, don't expect a decent return on your investment.  FINANCE 101.  Easy for me to say, but try to eliminate emotion from your investing or collecting habits.  It will cost you dearly in the end, especially with respect to today's super-hyped Modern material that exists aplenty in MS67 to MS69 condition, and you will not have the funds you would otherwise have for making upgrade or additional purchases.  Money is a scarce commodity, unless you are the Clintons' book agent.


U.S. Rare Coin

( September, 2001)




OR, How to lose lots of money…GUARANTEED!

 By Mike De Falco


Per-fect-o-mania (perfectomania)  1. The emotionally charged, sometimes ego-driven, always frenzied pursuit of super grade uncirculated and proof contemporary (post-1950) U.S. coinage, certified MS68, PR68 or better, regardless of the asking price, without due diligence or prudent forethought.  2. A trend that will enrich numerous dealers and result in horrific losses for those collectors and investors who choose to participate.

 In my twenty-eight year tenure as a full time professional numismatist (and fifteen years as an avid collector prior to that) I have never seen such flagrant nor exorbitant examples of OVER PRICING and DECEPTIVE advertising and promotion as that which is associated with the current mania for super high-grade modern U.S. uncirculated and proof mint products. In fact, it’s eerily reminiscent of the seventeenth century “tulip mania” wherein the price of tulip bulbs rose to such dizzying heights (up to $5,000 for a single bulb) that they lost all correlation to their comparative value with other goods and services. The bubble burst in 1637, the market crashed and prices never recovered! The very SAME thing will happen (I absolutely GUARANTEE it) with regard to “perfectomania”, which as I defined at the beginning of this article, as the frenzied pursuit of super high grade (MS and PR68 DCAM – MS and PR70 DCAM), or other alleged “condition” rarity contemporary (post 1950) U.S. coins.


I recently saw a 1995-W Silver Eagle graded ICG PR70 offered for sale on the Certified Coin Exchange (CCE) Collectors Corner for $13,950. The advertiser said that all 95’s were to have been produced by the Philadelphia Mint but a “few” were struck at West Point. He went on to say that another PR70 recently sold for $20,000 and that to find this RARE piece in perfect condition is a UNIQUE opportunity, in an attempt to create the illusion good value and genuine rarity, neither of which is accurate by any measure.


By the way, this isn’t even a legal tender coin! Simply put it is nothing more than a BULLION COIN, which is exactly how it is categorized by NGC. Following is a table showing the current number of coins certified by both PCGS and NGC that should hopefully expose the illusion of rarity and debunk the statement that only a FEW coins were struck at West Point.



As you can plainly see, SEVEN HUNDRED TWENTY NINE 1995-W Silver Eagles certified by PCGS and NGC so far represent far more than just a FEW coins. I don’t have the ICG population figures so those were not included in the total. Currently there are at least FOUR confirmed certified PR70 DCAM 1995-S Silver Eagles. As more and more coins are submitted for grading (which there will be because it is a very profitable undertaking) you may rest assured that there will be many, if not even hundreds of other PR70 DCAM’s certified in the near future. As far as I’m concerned the term RARITY or UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY shouldn’t even be used in the same breath when attempting to market these bullion coins.


Now that the issue of “rarity” has been debunked (to my satisfaction and hopefully to yours) I’d like to have a frank discussion regarding the ACTUAL value and RELATIVE value of a PR70 DCAM 1995-W Silver Eagle. To begin with, the August 3, 2001 issue of the COIN DEALER newsletter (CDN) reports a dealer to dealer wholesale Bid price of $90 for proof 1995-W Silver Eagles (most of which are preserved in PR68 DCAM or better condition). With that being so, does it sound reasonable that a PR70 DCAM is justifiably worth a 15,500 PERCENT premium? I think NOT! Perhaps $500 would be a fair price, but then again, that may be too high.


Let’s view it from another perspective. Based upon the factual information that I have provided thus far, if given the opportunity to purchase a PR70 DCAM 1995-W Silver Eagles or an 1891 PR65 $2.5 Liberty Gold Piece for the SAME price, which would you choose? Before you decide, consider this. The 1891 Proof $2.5 Liberty is a legitimately RARE coin with an original mintage of just EIGHTY pieces (not THOUSANDS as is the case with the 1995-W Silver Eagle)! Unlike modern Silver Eagles, it is genuine legal tender GOLD coin struck nearly a century and a half ago with a very low survival rate in Gem Proof condition (PCGS and NGC have cumulatively certified 15 PR65 and 8 higher). Current CDN dealer to dealer Bid is listed at $11,500, so if you could acquire one for the same price as the Silver Eagle ($13,950) that would represent a fair and reasonable mark-up of 21%, not FIFTEEN THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED PERCENT! As was the case during the “tulip mania” of the seventeenth century, today’s $13,950 PR70 DCAM 1995-W Silver Eagle (a prime example of the term I coined earlier, “perfectomania”) has lost all correlation to its comparative value of legitimately RARE coins.


Before I conclude this article (or warning if you will) I’d like to cite a few more examples of advertised coins that I found to be other excellent examples of “perfectomania”.


        1959 Lincoln Cent (1.14 MILLION proofs struck) PCGS PR69 DCAM, one of three certified – asking price $5,200.  The current CDN Bid price for a PR65 is a mere 75 CENTS! Even if it were the ONLY 1959 Lincoln Cent certified PR69 DCAM, is it worth nearly SEVEN THOUSAND times the price of a PR65? How can that price be reasonably justified? For the same amount of money you could purchase a hundred year old PR67 Barber half-dollar with an original mintage of 813 pieces.


        1961 Lincoln Cent (3.02 MILLION proofs struck) PCGS PR69 DCAM, one of six certified – asking price $2,200. The CDN PR65 Bid price is 45 CENTS, rendering the PR69 DCAM nearly FIVE THOUSAND times the price! For a few hundred dollars more you could buy a PR67 RD Indian Head Cent with a mintage of under 4,000 coins.


        1958 Jefferson Nickel (875,652 proofs struck) PCGS PR68 DCAM (one of two certified) – asking price $10,500. The CDN PR65 Bid price stands at $1.50, another jewel whose asking price is SEVEN THOUSAND times that of a PR65. The advertiser goes on to say that he recommends this coin most highly, and makes no apology for the price! Regarding the price, prior to certification you can safely wager the family farm that there isn’t a coin dealer alive today who would pay even $200 for a 1958 Proof Jefferson nickel regardless of what it looked like! In other words, without its certified plastic holder, this is an extraordinarily common coin worth a few bucks! In my estimation it would take a gigantic leap of faith to buy a coin for TEN GRAND that is only worth a few dollars without the plastic holder. To each his own. For a little less money I’d much rather buy a Gem PR65 1881 Gold Dollar (original mintage a mere 87 pieces) a coin that’s still worth THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS even without the benefit of the plastic.


        1964 Kennedy Half Dollar (3.9 MILLION proofs struck) PCGS PR69 DCAM (one of seven certified) – asking price $6,500. The CDN PR65 Bid for this coin is $6, rendering the asking price for the PR69 DCAM less than TWO THOUSAND times that of a PR65. Gee whiz, this one must be a bargain! So much for my feeble attempt at levity. I’m quite certain that you could acquire a gorgeous PR68 Barber Dime for the same amount of money.


The coins I chose over the modern rarities are genuinely rare coins with a well-established history of being highly prized and valued in the marketplace. That is not to say that they don’t experience volatility from time to time, but they aren’t just a passing fancy, they’re the Blue Chips of the rare coin market (not the Junk Bonds).





Barnum claimed… “There’s a sucker born every minute and two to take him”.


A few years ago most dealers wouldn’t bother grading cheap modern coins because it wasn’t economically feasible. However, when they noticed that a few bold sellers were asking (and getting) exorbitantly high prices for this material, their attitude began to change as good old fashioned greed set in. After all, it was suddenly possible to mark-up coins from FIFTY to HUNDREDS (or even THOUSANDS) of PERCENT because buyers had no meaningful price guides from which to compare. The industry standard CERTIFIED COIN DEALER newsletter (CCDN) and the COIN DEALER newsletter (CDN) do not provide dealer to dealer Bid prices for these modern issues in super grades. Without a source of timely, reliable and accurate pricing information it’s fairly easy for a seller to ask (and get) whatever obscenely high price he sets for a given coin. Just tell ‘em a good story, quote low population figures and bingo… a successfully consummated sale!


I can state without hesitation (and with some authority based upon my experience and past track record) that I believe these contemporary super grade uncirculated and proof issues are about to undergo population increases of unprecedented proportions followed by a cataclysmic price collapse. During a recent conversation with a dealer (who wishes to remain anonymous) that specializes certifying super grade modern singles he expressed dismay at the fact that “everybody” is now jumping on the contemporary rarities band wagon and submitting coins themselves, which dramatically impacts his volume and cuts into his profits. As this trend continues to expand, more and more product will find its way into the various grading services and will eventually flood the market with super grade coins, exerting tremendous downward pressure on prices. On the front page of the August 10, 2001 issue of the CCDN the editor made a very poignant observation. He was comparing “common” type coin Bids from August 1989 to today. MS67 Buffalo nickels touted as rare and undervalued at $2,275 in ’89 are now Bid at $185. MS67 FB common date Mercury dimes valued then at $1,150 are now Bid $40. He cited numerous other similar examples, but this is the point that really tells it all; referring to the huge losses incurred in the aforementioned examples, he said one point that is often overlooked is that coin certification by PCGS and NGC were still fairly new (they were started in 1986 and 1987 respectively) and no one was really sure how many MS67 Buffalo nickels or MS67 FB Mercury dimes were out there. The Population/Census figures were still extremely low. The editor went on to say that this SAME scenario may now be occurring with modern coinage receiving the ultimate grades such as MS68, PR69, etc. I wholeheartedly concur with his assessment but would change “may now be occurring” to “IS now occurring”! Whether it takes a few months or a few years, the extraordinary abundance of super grade contemporary U.S. coinage WILL be revealed. When that day arrives, the losses incurred when MS67 Buffalo nickels and MS67 FB Mercury dimes collapsed will pale by comparison after the smoke of the modern, super grade coin crash has dissipated.


The fact is that these contemporary super grade “rarities” are nothing more than ultra high mintage modern coins of which enormous quantities of pristinely preserved specimens still exist and are awaiting certification wherein they will receive the benefit of the world’s most valuable plastic! They have no meaningful, well-established or lengthy history of being highly prized and valued in the REAL numismatic marketplace. Moreover, they’re sure to rot (value-wise) just as the unsold tulip bulbs did in Holland following the 1637 market collapse.







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