2013 was the year for big numbers in numismatics.
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In January, a superb Prooflike 1794 Silver Dollar sold for a whopping $10,016,875, shattering all previous records and becoming the first coin to sell for over $10 million, a barrier I never thought would be reached in my lifetime (I'm old enough to remember back when a coin broke the $100,000 barrier, and the feeling of amazement is the same today). This stunning coin is now part of the Morelan Collection of early U.S. Dollars, the finest collection ever assembled.
In April, the Walton specimen of the 1913 Liberty Nickel sold for $3,172,500 to a pair of dealer colleagues who felt the coin represented good value. This is the same coin that was rediscovered in 2003 after having been "lost" for decades. It was a big payday for the Walton heirs, and the purchase generated millions of dollars' worth of publicity for the buyers.
In August, the Eliasberg example of the 1804 Silver Dollar sold for $3,877,500, just a small increment over the $3,737,500 it sold for in 2008. In my opinion, the new buyer got a bargain. The "rising tide lifts all boats" effect of the $10 million 1794 Silver Dollar is going to help not only all of the multi-million dollar "trophy" coins, but every coin up and down the line.
In September, the Tacasyl Collection of gold coins splashed onto the market, creating new records of its own. Many of the coins in the Tacasyl Collection had been purchased within the past ten years, but the sale results showed how far coin prices have advanced since then. A prime example was the 1880 Coiled Hair Stella, purchased in 2005 for $977,500. Today's price? How about $2,574,000.
Then, of course, there was the Eric Newman Collection (sold in two parts in April and November – with more to come in 2014). The highlight was a 1796 Quarter Dollar in MS67+ that realized $1,527,000 in November's installment. Talk about a return on investment – Newman paid $100 for the coin in the 1940s! Many of the Newman coins came directly from the estate of Col. E.H.R. Green, one of the greatest pedigrees in numismatics. I would characterize the sale results from the Newman coins as "mind-blowing." Condition-rarities went through the roof. The one that really impressed me was the 1864 Quarter Dollar in PR68+CAM that sold for $141,000, but there were many others.
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More than ten coins (including those mentioned above) sold at auction for over a million dollars in 2013, setting a record pace that shows every indication of continuing unabated.
One of the advantages of being the leading coin grading company is that we see a lot of great coins, including major collections, plus many "secret deals" that simply never make it to market. Two highlights of the past year include the Missouri Cabinet of Half Cents, representing the only complete variety collection ever assembled and the Coronet Collection of Morgan Silver Dollars, the finest set ever assembled. The Missouri Cabinet includes some amazing coins that have been off the market for decades. How about a full Red Liberty Cap Half Cent, a Mint State 1796 No Pole, or a complete run of Proof Half Cents from 1831 to 1857. This was one of my favorite series as a collector back in the 1970s and I am proud that one of the coins I once owned (1797 1 over 1) was worthy of inclusion in the collection, and I am sure I will be sick to my stomach when I see today's price compared to what I sold it for circa 1981.
Despite a weak economy and a decline in gold and silver prices, the coin market remained strong and vibrant throughout 2013. Cumulative auction sales over $100 million no longer suck all the air out of the market – instead, they stimulate activity and generate excitement. Websites such as eBay have expanded our market both within the United States and abroad. Weakness in the U.S. dollar continues to drive buyers to tangible assets, of which coins are an attractive alternative. Technology has made it easier to buy and sell coins, to share with other collectors, and to learn more about our hobby and the coins we love.
2013 was a great year for coin collectors. Let's see what 2014 brings.