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CICF Report: Crazy Prices for Best Coins
By Debbie Bradley
April 17, 2014

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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It doesn’t matter if it’s a U.S. coin or a foreign coin, collectors want to own the best.

“Any rare types in high grades are bringing just crazy, crazy prices, and at auction mostly,” said Tom Michael, world coin market analyst at Krause Publications.

Michael just returned from the Chicago International Coin Expo held April 10-13 in Rosemont, Ill., where he spoke to collectors from around the world.

“Almost all dealers who have coins worth over $10,000 or $20,000 are consigning them to auctions and that is where they are getting the big money,” he said.

Jerzy Popielarz (left) shows coins to collectors attending the Chicago International Coin Expo.

Heritage Auctions, for example, held four auctions at CICF, bringing in more than to $13 million hammer prices.

“Auctions draw collectors to the shows,” Michael said.

And while the auctions may have the high priced coins, collectors can find plenty of mainstream coins on the show floor, Michael said, with about 70 percent of the coins selling for $500 or less.

“On Professional Preview Day I ran into somebody I knew from the East Coast, a low-key guy, who spent most of the day with one dealer and spent $3,000 to $4,000 with him to fill in holes in his collection.”

Many dealers are helping people build collections, and will buy coins at shows specifically for them, Michael said.

But no matter what, collectors are looking for high grade coins, he said.

You can have a high rarity coin in a low grade and it goes homeless,” Michael said. “If you’ve got a nice dragon dollar from a province in China in MS-60, its chances of selling at auction is iffy. If it’s MS-65, you can get big dollars for it.”

While commercial third-party grading has been an integral part of the U.S. coin market for almost 30 years, it is just now taking hold for world coins.

“But it’s fast becoming the standard,” Michael said.

U.S. auction houses sell graded world coins, Michael said, while some European firms want to stay away from graded coins. But that is slowly changing.

“And that is a function of the type of person buying and collecting today,” he said. “A vast majority of people paying these high prices aren’t the traditional coin collector of the last 20 years. They may not know how to grade very well.”

That’s why they are drawn to third-party graded coins.

“When you’re looking at a coin that may be an MS-60 or MS-65 you better be darn sure which it is because there is a big difference in price,” Michael said. “If you don’t have the confidence to grade it yourself, you need a third party.”

But Michael knows not every collector can buy coins that are the best of the best.

“If you have been a core collector and are put off by the crazy, crazy prices for third-party high grade coins, don’t be discouraged,” Michael said. “There is a lot of nice material in lower grades like XF and AU. You can build a nice collection.”

In fact, the drop in gold and silver prices has helped bring down the price of many mainstream coins, he said.

“For any coin graded below MS, prices are quite reasonable again,” he said.

“When gold is at $2,000 an ounce and silver is at $40, that pushes a lot of circulated type coins out of the range of the average collector. But with gold at $1,300 and silver at $20, some of those coins that they might have been interested in will now be available at a price they can afford.”

Collectors came from as far away as Moscow for the CICF show and Heritage auctions.

More Coin Collecting Resources:

• Kick-start your coin collection with the Fundamentals of Coin Collecting set of essential resources and tools.

• Strike it rich with this U.S. coins value pack.

• Build an impressive collection with Coin Collecting 101.


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