The US Rare Coin Market - How's It Holding Up?

Asking a coin dealer what the state of the rare coin market is has to be akin to a wife asking her husband "Does my bum look big in this?" - you know the answer you're going to get even before you ask it.

Having set that gem of colloquial wisdom aside, I've had a keen interest in tracking how the US rare coin market is holding up against all that's going on over there. If we accept for the time being that the primary sources of information are accurate (that is the coin dealers, auctioneers and magazine editors that publish information online), then it does seem to be holding up reasonably well.

Heritage Auction Galleries is probably the largest numismatic auction company in the world - their website states that "$703,545,231 sold at auction and in private treaty sales over the past 12 months" - a pretty handy sum by anyone's measure! Their leading staff (Chairmen, President and Chief Operating Officer) co-wrote a letter to their client base last weekend, and it contained some date that I believe is accurate:

*Our (Heritage's) number of successful bidders is up by 11.5%.
*Our number of lots actually sold in each weekly auction is up 39.95%.
*Our average lot value is up 8.49%.
*Our total sales volume is up 43.34%

Mark Twain stated that there were several kinds of lies in this world - lies, damned lies and statistics. This means that the good men at Heritage may have been selective with the statistics that they chose to commiunicate to their client base, but I doubt it. They also stated that although they had clients looking to add to their collections rather than buying shares or property, they also had increased numbers of vendors looking to sell items or collections to fund expenses in other areas.

On the other hand, the description of the state of the US rare coin market by an established dealer goes against this somewhat: "My business was screamingly active in July and August. It slowed down considerably in September and it has been extremely slow in October. I have read on a few dealers’ websites that they are still selling lots of rare coins and that they have people calling from out of the blue purchasing items from their inventory. I think this is a crock. Unless you are a dealer selling bullion right now, you probably (there are exceptions…) are not doing much coin business. You might be purchasing coins from clients who bought them a year or two ago but selling your existing inventory right now? I doubt it." This could mean that while auctioneers are still quite active, dealers may note be as active as the majority of the clients that are in the market are keen to look for bargains.

The auction results for US coins that I'm reading about online seem to be holding up well - whether this is spin or not I'm not yet sure, but if something sells for a record price, that has to be positive. A number of fairly attractive collections have apparently turned up at auction in recent weeks, these have all sold well and some solid prices have been recorded.

I'm still keeping my eye on the US bellweather to see which way the Australian market may be headed.

Category: Market Movements