May 26-June 2, 2006: The Long Beach Coin & Currency Expo
Our 8 day, 20,000 coin, 3 major auction company, 19 auction session, 3 days of wholesale activity and 3 days of actual coin-show odyssey began on Friday, May 26 when we arrived in Beverly Hills.
We viewed lots intensively at Superior and Goldberg in preparation for the first session on Sunday night, May 28th, and then continued on through Tuesday, viewing and bidding, bidding and viewing until there was nothing left to see or (try to) buy.
In general, our impression was that the coins in both auctions were better and fresher than we expected. Sure, there were retreads and dealer inventories mixed in, but also plenty of nice things to pursue and many coins which had been off the market for a good long time.
As we pored through the various auction lots, a few things caught our attention:
- The process of lot viewing was incredibly cramped and hectic at both companies as the viewing rooms were packed to beyond capacity, the most popular boxes of coins were always out and it was very difficult to take the time necessary to view and compare coins. We viewed the same coins multiple times and Dave and I viewed separately and then compared notes afterward to ensure that we were comfortable with our conclusions before bidding. I’m not sure how others managed or how one person attempting to view everything could have possibly kept it all straight.
- Out of many thousands of coins at Superior and Goldberg’s, we saw no more than a small handful of new ANACS slabs in total. It really struck us how difficult it will be and how long it will take for them to gain any real traction in the major market.
- We don’t think this will come as a surprise to anyone, but Goldberg’s catalog images (particularly those of toned coins) bore very little resemblance to the actual coins they represented, turning lot viewing into some kind of Christmas morning-Forrest Gump experience where you had no idea what you were going to get when pulling lots from the boxes and seeing them for the first time.
The auctions themselves were about as we expected – anything really good and fresh went for money that would have made no sense to anyone using any kind of sheet to establish values. A few examples:
- We were the underbidders on the beautiful 1833 $5 gold at Goldberg’s in a circa 1989 PCGS MS63 holder at $105,000 hammer. The new owner paid $126,500 for a coin that bids $52,500.
- A nice run of eye-appealing PCGS AU53-58 capped bust dimes at Superior went for exceptionally strong money (in some cases multiples higher than sheet).
- How about an 1823 dime in PCGS AU58 – a beautiful coin but not a crackout – for $2,760? Graysheet bid is ~$650; the price realized is just shy of MS64 money.
- We bought a lovely PCGS MS64 capped bust half dime at Goldberg’s for well above Greysheet bid, then had a dealer unsuccessfully request to re-open the lot shortly after it hammered to us, and then we agreed to sell it to that same dealer while still in the auction room about 10 minutes later. I guess that was a pretty good coin.
- We bought a few world coins for a customer in a session at Goldberg’s that concluded at about 2:30 AM. For east coast guys with jet lag, sitting in an auction room at 2:30 AM in Beverly Hills was not ideal – but we got what we wanted.
Wednesday we moved from Beverly Hills on down to Long Beach for show set-up and the long series of Heritage auctions and viewing.
Our reaction to the Heritage lots was somewhat similar, in that there were more attractive and seemingly fresh coins mixed in than we expected. Also surprising was the number of new ANACS slabs we saw interspersed in their early US sessions. The coins were decent and the grades were about as we would have expected – but after concluding that ANACS was a non-player in the Beverly Hills auctions they seemed to be making a dent – albeit a small one – in the sessions in Long Beach.
The actual auctions themselves were similar to the others – good, original and fresh coins went very strong and anything choice for the grade and/or in an old holder went for a price that had nothing to do with the grade on the slab label.
I found the colonial coin session at Heritage particularly enlightening. A very rare and desirable Fugio FUCIO variety in exceptional (for the issue) PCGS VF30 condition sold for what I thought was a very reasonable $29,900 to a specialist dealer, while an unappealing, overgraded, badly dinged up PCGS AU50 Elephant Token with Diagonals variety (with verdigris to boot) realized an astonishing $25,300 to an internet bidder. The latter was dramatically inferior overall to an XF40 example we placed with a knowledgeable client for less than one third the price a few months ago.
In a moment of levity, I sat through hours of world coin auctions featuring lots of all shapes and sizes and values up into the mid five-figure range until at some point on Friday afternoon a lot opened at the modest price of just $15. As the auctioneer repeatedly and half-jokingly pleaded for $16 from someone, the dealer in front of me offered to cut the bid to $15.50 which had us all rolling on the floor.
Overall, though, even with prices high on choice coins, there were values to be had and coins that slipped through the cracks.
The show itself was pretty good. Our sales were decent, but they were almost entirely made to other dealers even though the coins we sold were bought for, targeted to and priced for retail. In many cases we sold coins that we purchased either at Stack’s the preceding week and from Superior or Goldberg auctions days earlier before we ever got to display them in our case or here on the website to our retail customers. So if we can buy a coin at auction, mark it up reasonably and then sell it to another dealer, there must have been some good buys buried somewhere in those catalogs, right?
With the show ending Saturday at 6 PM (there was no Sunday session), we stayed right up until closing and made 2 sales late in the afternoon before heading out for the overnight flights home.
Officially, I can say that we are very, very tired. But it’s a good kind of tired.