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Barber Dimes Hot at ANA Show
By Patrick A. Heller
August 20, 2013

As last week’s American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont, Ill., was not excessively far from my store, I drove there. Doing so enabled me to bring a couple hundred pounds of U.S. collector coins that gradually build up in inventory faster than customers buy them from my firm.

Most of the coins were under $100 in unit value. They typically ranged in grades from less than good up to fine or very fine, depending on the series. My staff “worked the floor,” concentrating on selling the accumulated excess inventory that had built up since last year’s ANA show. We did not take our stock boxes of Roosevelt dimes, Washington quarters, or Franklin half dollars as most dealers tend to want uncirculated original rolls rather than single specimens.

Each dealer’s definition of excess inventory varies. For example, my company is in generally good shape with four specimens of different grades of the 1914-D Lincoln cent. My team took 20 specimens to the ANA and was able to sell 10 of them. Although we did take some exceptional quality coins, including one condition census piece, most of the coins we brought were the everyday coins that most collectors seek. Although we did sell some certified coins, the following discussion mostly covers coins of lesser value that were not worth sending to a grading service.

Our inventory covered a wide range of series and key dates. From our experiences of selling these coins for five days, here is our joint evaluation of what is hot and what is not among U.S. rare coins.

What is hot: Barber dimes were by far the most popular, with our inventory depleted about 85 percent. Circulated dated Morgan and Peace dollars were also strong, with the exception of Carson City issues that had cleaning or other problems. Other strong selling categories included any Bust coinage, Flying Eagle cents, two cents, three-cents silver, three- cent nickels, 1859-1879 and 1908-S and 1909-S Indian cents, most problem-free early Lincoln cents (but not key dates – although we sold a number of 1931-S specimens), early Buffalo nickels, early Mercury dimes, Barber quarters, early Type 2 Standing Liberty quarters and early Walking Liberty half dollars.

Not hot: Classic silver commemoratives were barely worth the effort to bring. Among key-date coins, demand was virtually non-existent for 1877 Indian cents, 1909 VDB Lincoln cents (we didn’t have any excess 1909-S VDBs to take), 1913 Type 1 Buffalo nickels, 1937-D 3-legged Buffalo nickels, 1921 and 1921-D Mercury dimes, 1875-S 20-cent pieces, 1917 Type 1 Standing Liberty quarters, 1938-D Walking Liberty half dollars, circulated Carson City dollars with problems, 1921 and 1928 Peace dollars, and a wide range of circulated common-date U.S. gold coins from the Liberty and later series. In many instances, prices for these coins have enjoyed substantial increases over the past several years, with only some of them related to rising gold and silver prices.

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In-between demand: There were several series where demand was neither raging nor cold. Among them were large cents, common-date Indian cents grading very fine through about uncirculated, Seated Liberty coinage, Shield nickels, Liberty nickels, Barber half dollars, Trade dollars, Carson City Mint Morgan dollars in the GSA holders, and later-dated Mint State Mercury dimes.

We did not have enough half cents to take to gauge market demand. Only one dealer asked if we had Washington quarter or Franklin half dollar singles. No one asked if we had early Mint State Roosevelt dimes. The retail demand for paper money has been strong enough this year that we did not take any to the ANA show to offer to other dealers.

The U.S. Mint booth offered the reverse proof one-ounce gold Buffalo at the show. The public as well as several dealers were eager to snap up these coins, waiting in long lines to do so. I believe 2,000 specimens were sold at the show. This means that the U.S. Mint booth took in over $3.3 million just for these coins, part of which might otherwise have been spent with other coin dealers at the show. From my discussions with dozens of dealers who had tables at the show, the retail demand at the show was noticeably down from previous ANA shows.

Overall, about half the dealers with tables at the ANA show told me that their show ranged from good to extremely busy. Even those who reported a decline in retail sales often said that their wholesale sales had picked up the slack. In general, it seemed like the coin dealers who actively drum up business were the ones mostly happy with their results.

Unfortunately, half the dealers told me that they were disappointed by the show, either in absolute terms or against their expectations. This latter group included many dealers who quietly sat behind their tables waiting for customers to stop by. Perhaps a lesson can be drawn from this observation.

Traffic at the ANA was strong on Tuesday and part way into Wednesday. Thereafter, the aisles were fairly empty until the time I left early Friday afternoon.

Rising gold and silver prices, especially on Thursday, did not seem to really affect activity on the bourse floor. The Austrian Mint did not raise prices fast enough at the show and sold out their available bullion-priced gold coin inventory, but that was the only story of that kind I heard.

My Money Talks presentation Thursday afternoon titled “Creating Fun-Filled Numismatic Programs For the General Public” was once again well-received. The ANA’s Susan McMillan assured me that the ANA library would have a copy of the video of a previous version of this program available online as soon as possible. The Chicago Coin Club gave me a personally inscribed lovely medal for conducting this program.

I was involved with various meetings at the ANA, but did make part of the Numismatic Literary Guild Bash Thursday evening. I arrived there in time to accept the Extraordinary Merit award for my local radio program titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know.” This was the third consecutive NLG award for this radio program. I thank the NLG and its judges for this recognition.

Patrick A. Heller is the American Numismatic Association 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He owns Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes “Liberty’s Outlook,” a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Other commentaries are available at Coin Week and CoinInfo.com. He also writes a bi-monthly column on collectibles for “The Greater Lansing Business Monthly.” His radio show “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing.


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