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November 15, 2007: How Come the Coins Went so Cheap?


I got an email from a customer the other day who had been watching the Stack’s ‘Amherst & Waccubuc’ catalog colonial session online and seeing (with a handful of notable exceptions) very low prices or coins not meeting reserve.

As a colonial collector he was concerned, and his question was "What’s going on with the colonial market?"

To which I responded as follows (abridged somewhat for this Coin Commentary):

The bulk of the coins in this session were part of a fairly large colonial collection that had been assembled by someone who evidently selected items because they were inexpensive.

As a result, the majority of the coins were overgraded, unattractive and/or simply undesirable – running the gamut from PCGS and NGC coins that were sub-par, to corroded and damaged pieces in NCS holders, to problem pieces offered raw.

Of the entire collection, there were exactly three (3) coins out of over 200 that we liked enough to bid on, and we bought two of them. We didn’t bid anything on any other coins. At all. Zippo. Nada. And based on a perusal of the room during the auction, most of the specialist dealers had concluded the exact same thing.

A good example was lot #11, a St. Patrick Farthing in VF35 [NGC] that we graded VF20, porous. That’s an issue we can find looking considerably better than that for the grade level, and so we had no interest.

Or lot #40, a Rhode Island Ship Medal graded MS62 RB by PCGS. I personally graded the coin AU details, cleaned, with myriad scratches and with artificial and odd pinkish-orange color. To their credit, Stack’s hinted at the issue, calling the color "Mint" orange (their quotes, not mine) and inviting potential bidders to view the coin in hand.

Lot #60, the Nova Constellatio in MS63 [PCGS] was unoriginal, weak and unattractive. Pass.

Lot #226, a Washington Unity States in an MS61 [NGC] holder was simply not even close to uncirculated in our opinion.

I could go on and on, but perhaps you get the idea.

A few other coins, including the MS64 Continental Dollar were not from this same consignor and were of materially better quality (and the results reflected it).

And so the conclusions which can be drawn from a sale like this are much like the conclusions that can be drawn from any other sale: Good coins usually bring strong money; inferior coins usually go cheap (if they sell at all).