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December 31, 2014: The Year in Review


As we stride confidently toward the end of another exciting year here at CRO it is time for us to pause briefly, reflect on the past year and then unleash some of the notable events here in our annual TYIR article.

Now some of you may be asking “CRO, was it difficult to hone an entire year down to just a few pointed paragraphs?”, to which we would respond with an emphatic numismatic “Yes!”, since as always there was kind of a lot of stuff to choose from. How much? Well, let’s see, we attended 12 major and 5 regional shows this year, bid in 221 auctions in 13 countries, launched 14 highly anticipated Early Bird Notifications, created 45 new CRO ads (a bit less than in years past as we have migrated to more internet advertising), handled 11 finest known coins and many, many more highest graded coins, traded for more bullion than we ever have before in any prior 2-year period, viewed some amazing private collections, visited 6 new cities on numismatic business, bought 9 intact collections, graded 1,366 coins, had 369 new people click on the gold Early Bird button on our home page and add their name to our mailing list, shipped coins to customers in Canada, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia, squirreled away a dozen new coins into 3 semi-secret collections stashed in the CRO vault, and overall enjoyed another stellar year in numismatics from which we can highlight the following:

Coolest Coin Handled
That would be this spectacular, totally original, incredibly lustrous and beautifully toned 1853 Liberty Seated Dollar housed in a PCGS Green Label CAC-certified MS66 holder:

But while that was the coolest coin, it was not the most popular. That honor goes to this 1935 Canadian $1 housed in an old PCGS MS65 Green Label holder from our July 8th Early Bird Notification which was ordered by nine (9) different customers:

Alas (and as we always say), every coin on an EB was one of a kind in our inventory in 2014, and was sold on a first come, first served basis.

Least Appetizing Meal
With a hearty congratulations to our clear winner, the gentleman I encountered in the Baltimore airport who was eating a large hoagie with one hand while simultaneously using a urinal in the mens room near gate B7.

Paranoia Activity Award
With the plethora of big name collections that came to market this year, including Newman and Gardner, as well as those announced for 2015, including Pogue and Partrick, several people asked us “CRO, do these people know something I don’t?” (implying that these prominent collectors must know that the market was about to crash and were therefore dumping their holdings ASAP). To which our response was “Are you suggesting that Eric Newman had been ‘timing the market’ for ~80 years and finally determined that 2014 was the peak and therefore the perfect time to get out? Our more realistic conclusion was that it is not unusual for a collector to eventually sell when he reaches a certain age or station in life, and these prominent collectors simply reached their own personal ‘sell’ age and/or station at about the same time.

Grading Coin Grading
In 2014, probably more so than any previous year we can recall, there seemed to exist two distinct grading worlds:

  1. The coins we submitted ourselves, which generally came back graded about where we expected.
  2. The coins we encountered at lot viewing (especially at the really high profile auctions with freshly certified coins), which in many cases seemed, in the opinion of this author, to be amazingly liberally graded.

So what did we do about it? Exactly what we’ve always done, which was to try to buy the coins we like at values that make sense to us based on our own assessment of quality, irrespective of the holder grades, auction catalog descriptions, viewing room rumors, pre-auction scuttlebutt, barometric pressure, biorhythms, etc. And we found that a good way to avoid being influenced by those things is to not listen to the plethora of other opinions, cover the slab labels and make our own determinations. Of course, if we graded a coin AU55 and valued it at $2,000 and then saw that it was in an MS64 slab with a price guide listing of $10,000, we knew we weren’t going to be able to buy it, and that’s OK.

The 2014 Juuuuust Slightly Overzealous Award
This story began in August, when we were contacted by an English metal dectorist who had unearthed what he believed was a 1652 Willow Tree Threepence in the UK.  Now, that would have been an AMAZING find, considering that the last one to sell was in Stack’s sale of the Ford Collection, Part XII, in October of 2005 for a princely $632,500.  Our dectorist included a photo of his find, which revealed a seemingly authentic piece with excellent detail, but some environmental damage (as expected of a ground find):

Unfortunately, it also revealed that the coin was actually an Oak Tree Threepence (a Noe-23 to be exact).  Now, that is still a really fantastic find, but we had to be the bearer of bad news informing him that this piece was worth more like $6,000 to $10,000 based on our assessment of the condition gleaned from these images (XF-AU details, environmental damage).  So we were surprised when the London Daily Mail wrote about this discovery in September, described it correctly as an Oak Tree Threepence, but inexplicably stated that “The extremely rare New England coin, bearing the date 1652, is expected to sell for up to £1 million [$1.5 million+] when it is auctioned.” Alas, it did come to auction in December at St. James in London, was accurately and very thoroughly described as an Oak Tree Threepence, housed in a straight graded NGC AU50 slab, but now with an estimated value of £20,000 [$30,000 or so].  Still way more than I would have paid given the surface quality, but at least below the £million mark.  Ultimately, it hammered for £5,200 [~$8,000].  And a result which should have been thrilling for the owner must have been a tremendous let down after those earlier estimates.

The Throw it in Reverse Award
There was only one entrant in this category in 2014 – CAC’s December announcement that as of January 1st they “will no longer accept Colonial Coinage for stickering”. Now, since we deal a lot in this category, a number of people called and emailed to ask “CRO, how does this impact you?”  Answer:  “Not much.” As noted above, we have always try to buy nice coins that we like, irrespective of the holder grade, but also irrespective of sticker status. We’ve bought and sold plenty of colonial coins that we liked without stickers through the years and, overall, continue to feel exactly as articulated on this site in our July 23rd, 2008 Coin Commentary titled On CAC.

Earliest Early Bird Award, Pre-Worm Edition
It has been pretty well documented on this site through the years (understatement alert!) that your author is an early riser, a guy who likes to beat the rush and get a jump on the competition. And I certainly achieved that at the Atlanta ANA National Money Show in February, where a scheduling miscalculation caused me to arrive in town days before the show started and even before Heritage showed up, providing a rare opportunity to hang out in a giant, empty hotel and then have dinner with some local relatives.

U-Haul Award
Your author likes to buy coins as much as anyone, in all categories, individually, a few at a time or in giant collections, privately or via auctions, in the US and all around the world. And, predictably, we bought plenty at major shows this year where one would expect to find a huge selection on the floor and in the associated auction(s). But during the year our most unexpected haul was undoubtedly the 31 coins we bought at the relatively small and auction-less Bay State show in Marlborough, Massachusetts in March, including this cool one:

The Coin We Wished We’d Kept
We handled a lot of great coins in all categories, but your author was really sorry to see this lovely 1652 Oak Tree Shilling from the Newman sale go just a couple of weeks after the May Heritage auction:

On the other hand, that sale contributed quite nicely to another thoroughly excellent year at CRO for which we owe our sincere thanks to all of our numismatic friends, coin colleagues and, of course, our loyal customers who make all of this possible.

All the best in 2015!

John & MaryAnn