Over 200 Years Of Combined Numismatic Experience At Your Disposal.
A Newsletter By:
By Warren Mills
In our last issue, I tried to elaborate on having fun with your coin collection. We are elated when a youngster comes in to see us and has an interest in the coin hobby.
For many younger generations, collectibles are of no concern at all! It’s unfortunate because you lose a connection with history. My offer stands that if you have a child or grandchild that expresses an interest in any area of coins and I have an album for it, I’ll be happy to give it to you at no charge.
Adults also need a hand when they are bit by the rare coin bug. There seems to be a tendency to go headfirst into numismatics with little regard for learning the ins and outs or getting true value for one’s money. This can be devastating, especially when it’s time to sell. One doesn’t want to learn an expensive lesson too late.
As an example, we had a collector come in last week with a Morgan Dollar collection. He said that the Red Book price for his collection was $96,000. We said we would be happy to look at his coins and make a “no obligation, free of charge offer.” Joe was examining his collection and asked me to look at one of the coins. It was graded MS-64 and slabbed by a service with which I was unfamiliar. The current Red Book price is $1,300. I looked at the coin and saw a piece that was whizzed and to top it off, it looked like it was also erasered! I felt awful about it and told him that I would pay $20 for the coin, which is the same price for which Joe had evaluated the coin. We came to that figure totally independent of one another.
Needless to say, these “certified” coins left much to be desired, and when it was all said and done, his $96,000 Red Book priced coins were evaluated at around $4,000. You’d think this would be an isolated incident until the next day when someone mailed us a group of coins that again were “certified” by companies with which I was also unfamiliar. One beauty had a price on it of $7,600 that again fell into the $20 range.
These examples are extreme, but it is a shock to me that people are still susceptible to buying these types of coins. With no coin knowledge, you have people buying from internet sites, various auctions, and estate sales that may use a Red Book as a guide but with no idea of grading. They know enough to be a danger to themselves. If they only knew what to do to ensure that what they were buying had a solid value. So what do you do?
In a previous edition of The Enthusiast, I asked our readers to inquire about the types of coins their friends may be buying so as to gain our advice and be protected. You would hope that friends and family members would exercise due diligence to protect themselves, but in many instances, they don’t know how! As stewards to the hobby and as good people, we owe it to ourselves to help others learn. Sometimes, there is a fine balance to being intrusive and protective, but isn’t it better to just explain why you are inquiring about what they are buying? A little extra effort can go a long way to helping others.
I have always felt that for any serious collector, the two most important factors in buying coins are to buy the coin (not the holder) and to deal with honest and knowledgeable dealers that will educate you and protect your interest. For assembling a top-notch collection, the next most important factor is patience.
I’d like to explain what I mean by “buying the coin and not the holder.” The coin inside the plastic carries most of the weight for pricing, desirability, liquidity and future potential. I recently met a new collector that fell in love with Morgan Dollars and, to a lesser extent, Peace Dollars. He found out in his research that he should only buy PCGS or NGC holders since he was no grading expert. He went hog wild, spending tens of thousands of hard-earned dollars on brilliant certified Morgan and Peace Dollars. Auctions that had the product caught his attention. He tried on his own to learn more about grading and stumbled on CAC. He gave me a call and asked me what CAC was all about.
To sum it up, I said that for the most part, a CAC sticker represented the higher end of the grade for a particular coin. Their focus for the A and B coins for grade or high-end pieces would merit a green CAC sticker and the C coins or commercially graded or lower-end examples for the grade would not qualify for a CAC sticker. The enhanced desirability and future liquidity could really be enhanced with a CAC sticker. He liked the idea and sent in 43 of his coins for CAC review. Seven of the 43 stickered, a 17% success rate that - for a beginner to the hobby - wasn’t bad. We then looked at coins so I could point out to him low-end examples for the grade and original white as opposed to dipped white coins. Remember, anyone can read a grading insert tag! When you can have your grading eye for technically correct graded coins and separate them from the commercially graded pieces, you are on your way to buying the coin on its own merit and not what the insert tag says.
How to find a knowledgeable caring dealer can be tricky. Some people are very deceptive. If you’re not inclined to go to shows and observe dealers in action or don’t know what to say to discern the good from the bad, I’d say look for a P.N.G. member. These P.N.G. members have a strong commitment to the industry and are subject to binding arbitration in a customer dispute. I find many P.N.G. dealers to be knowledgeable and interested in helping customers learn.
Beware of giving a dealer a price range on a coin that you want to pay. This is a scenario where you could end up with a horribly over-graded coin.
You’re better off asking the dealer what is their philosophy on buying coins. He or she could sling you a bunch of BS, and I don’t mean Bachelor of Science! So ask about his or her thoughts on high end or low end for grade coins. This should flush them out. Finally, if you are offered a coin, ask if it will CAC. Tell them you will pay to have it sent in. Then you should get a crystal clear picture.
Remember that beginner client I referred to in the earlier part of this article? Just before we put this on our site, another batch of his coins came back from CAC. He went 1 for 14! You can buy all the brilliant ms65, or better, PCGS and NGC Dollars that your budget can hold in this market. The trick is avoiding the commercial fodder for high end coins. The grading now is so lax in the series that I believe prices are going to fall. There’s just too much over-grading going on.
Remember, if a CAC coin represents the top three pieces of the grade spectrum, there are still seven pieces that are graded the same but are lower-end or subpar coins for the grade. Take these factors to heart, and coins should be a rewarding pursuit for you.
Partner and owner of Rare Coins of New Hampshire, Inc. since June, 1990 and a full time coin dealer since 1979. Warren is a full member of the Professional Numismatists Guild and a life member of the American Numismatic Association. He was selected by the Rosen Numismatic Advisory as one of the ten leading numismatists in the country for twelve consecutive years. He was selected by PCGS and written up in their newsletter as handling and submitting some of the nicest coins they have ever seen.
A Hard Call to Make
By Dave Carleton
We do coin evaluations daily and it can be a very pleasurable experience most of the time, but sometimes not so much.
We’ve had an incredible number of people coming in this Summer; the last couple of weeks we’ve seen more collections/accumulations then we can remember. I’m certainly not complaining as we welcome the opportunity to review new groups of coins. Part of the fun for us is that we never know what’s in the next envelope or can or Alka-Seltzer bottle. In a vicarious way, we get as much or more enjoyment when we find a coin of significant value or rarity than the owner, who in many instances has no idea of what they have. This usually occurs when someone has inherited a collection or accumulation of coins and exonumia.
The good part of the evaluation and purchase process of these collections is when the owner is completely elated with the cumulative value of what they thought was just a bunch of junk. As a matter of fact, in many cases, it is the junk (90% Silver coins) that adds a large portion of the value (12 times face value adds up quickly).
The buying process can get a bit sketchy when the owner of the coins comes in armed with all kinds of misinformation regarding the value of their coins. This erroneous information may come in many ways such as “My neighbor knows coins and said that they should be worth X” or “I looked on eBay and it shows MY coin is worth X dollars” when they were actually looking at someone’s ask, which could be totally arbitrary. It’s at this point where we educate the person about the many factors that go into valuing a coin and about which they may not have been aware. We’re happy to do this because we don’t want anyone leaving RCNH feeling bewildered about the process. These are just a couple of observations of face to face transactions.
Then there are scenarios such as the one that occurred yesterday. I received a call from a gentleman who told me that he had sent us 12 Morgan dollars that he would like us to review and give our buy prices. I asked him if he had checked us out before he sent the package, and he said that he had and that we had come highly recommended. I asked him to give me a clue as to what I should expect and he said that he has between 200 and 300 Slabs and several bags of dollars as well, and that these were just some random pieces from the stash. We ended the conversation with me telling him that I would contact him as soon as the package arrived and we should have prices at that time as well.
A while later I went into our mail receiving area to give them a heads-up to keep an eye out for the package and to bring it to my attention. To my surprise, the package had already arrived. As part of our process when we receive packages, we log the contents. As I’m not the one that opens packages, I had to wait for a while, but I did notice that the package had been heavily insured, so I thought that there must be some very nice material within. The box went to Warren and he called me in to discuss his findings.
This is the uncomfortable part of my story, but I’m just going to tell it like it is. I’m under the impression and I believe the general coin collecting community will agree with me that there are three grading services that have proven themselves over time with consistency of grading and have their prices printed in various numismatic publications. They are PCGS, NGC, and ANACS. The slabs in the package we received were not graded by any of these three. It’s not that I haven’t seen slabs graded by these other companies; it’s just that I haven’t seen so many slabs in one package. The grading services that certified these coins were NCG (kind of reminds me of NGC), ANGS (really looks like ANACS), WCG, ACG, and TAS.
Warren had completed the evaluation, and the first thing he asked me is, “What did this person pay for these coins?” because the group of coins came to a total value of $410.75. I told him that I didn’t know, but I would find out, but before I made the call, I wanted to find out how the PCGS Price Guide would value the coins. I knew the number would be significantly higher, but when the total came to $138,250, I almost fell out of my chair.
The numbers really add up when you have a coin like an 1897-O in MS-65; PCGS Price Guide has the value at $55,000; upon close inspection, we figured the coin as an XF-Cleaned for $19.00. How about a 1902-O Morgan in MS-67? PCGS says $15,000; we graded it MS-60 with a scratch under the ear for a total value of $33.00.
Unfortunately, the “grading” of these coins nowhere reflected the evaluation that would have been given by PCGS, NGC, and ANACS.
Anyway, you get the drift. Now I must make the call, and believe me, this just about makes me sick. When the person answered, I greeted him and then asked, “Did you ever hear the expression, don’t shoot the messenger?” He said that he had and I asked that it be invoked.
I was unable to find out what he had paid for the coins right then because he didn’t have any receipts handy, but he said that he had paid way more than our evaluation, but not as much as the numbers I got off the price guide. I could go on, but the bottom line is that he thought all grading services were basically the same and if a coin were sealed in plastic then all worries about the condition were eliminated.
I hate making these calls because I don’t like being the bearer of bad tidings, and I can’t help thinking how much more these coins would have been worth if they had been properly graded. I’m glad I met this person before he dug himself into a deeper hole, and I’m hoping he still has an interest in coins after we get done evaluating his holdings. As you might appreciate, this is the part of our business that’s not all fun and games.
David Carleton, a New Hampshire native was introduced to coin collecting by his father and Grandfather in the 50’s. Gold bullion speculation dominated the 70’s culminating in 1980 when focus on Numismatics returned. He became a life member of the ANA , met Warren Mills (his coin Guru) and they cofounded RCNH in 1990.
A FAVOUR, A CHILD’S EXCITEMENT, AN INQUIRY and THE MIND’S EYE
Paul V. Battaglia
“The next assignment is a favor. I have had these coins lying around for at least fifteen years. Would you look at them and see if any should be certified? I have always read and enjoyed your RCNH Newsletter where you tell your personal connection to a particular coin. Some of the above coins have stories from my childhood. One takes me back to Vermont Heights, Florida, and a Civil War diary written by a Tennessee volunteer. After looking at the diary, which was an English teacher’s nightmare, but a historian’s treasure of personal thoughts and everyday experiences, the son of this vet said, ‘Would you like to see my coins?’ I became a two cent collector on that day.”
Thanks so much. Wayne (actual date unknown)
“Wow, dad! [or something to that effect as the individual has forgotten] … this dime was in your pocket and is a 1916-D [since verified as a VG, but remains raw]; can I have it instead of my allowance [a dime] this week?”
(Wednesday, 18th June 1958)
“Hey, Paul, my daughter found this on the edge of our plowed field just before a big storm rolled in. We washed it off and it says ‘1800,’ a large cent….any worth?”
Kyle in Iowa, April 2017
Any of this sound familiar, my fine readers? Of course. Nearly all of us have had a similar experience minus names and faces at points in our lives, since most of those life-shaping individuals’ countenances have been softened . Our personal coin collections ARE a time portal, just for YOU, the actual owner-steward, as to when and where each coin brought us when it first came to intermingle with our life. Each coin we own holds a deeply personal and unique tale that can be brought to life with our mere touch, over and over again, and with a different perspective.
Our mind’s eye is often bent unto romanticism for it is of days past softened with sweet, forlorn longing, gentility, simplicity and, often, how WE would want it to be played out instead of how life handled it. The richness, the colour, the warmth of those moments and all other forces that interacted to create that imperishable spot in eternity are powerful and beyond comprehension. WE created it and we own it, but always strive to share it… that which can never quite be shared to our chagrin, as it belongs solely to the spirit.
Yet, we keep trying! Yes, never give up, ha!
The individuals whose words I have shared with you are all true as well as their coin experiences. I credit the idea for this month’s article to “Wayne,” a fine gentleman and avid collector who knows quality and has a natural eye for original coins, whether they be circulated, business strike or proof pieces.
What these three people have told me is TRUTH, for they are my friends, firstly, and, yes, customers as well. Over the years, we have crossed that invisible boundary of “‘just business’, no more than that” into mutually shared stories and the sharing of our coins. At some equally unknown moment, I realized these customers (among others) and I transcended what I have termed “mere dollars and cents” into a “we may never shake hands, but we still feel like pals nonetheless” type of friendship. From that elevation the flames burn brighter… where does that already razor’s edge of being professional now lie? Was I wrong to share more of myself and my coins with some of my customers? What did I surrender OR did we both gain?
The latter seems to be the case. After all, it WAS the coins that acted as a sort of metallic matchmaker of sorts, was it not? Coins… so cold to the touch despite their beautiful visages and unique-to-each dulcet tones upon any surface, yet, they do bring us together for reasons far beyond their base value. Hmmmm……. something for we mortals to grasp, eh?
Give some time to the role your coins have played in your life. If you can recall, harken back to that beginning when you both met. They have equally endured the full breadth, scope and sweep of human interactions and mute witnesses to all vices and virtues. Each coin you own takes with it a few human atoms as it passes time. Our personal coins have had a direct bearing on who we now are, where we are, and our place in the universe. Again, give simple thanks to when your coins gifted themselves to you and the happiness you felt by sitting with them for a spell. They have taught you much and permit us to dream of infinite possibilities.
Until next time, happy trails and give me a call as I would invite your thoughts. I am a good listener.
Yours most truly,
PS: With the eventual passing of all but the most specialized books, many non-profit stores and Sunday flea markets are giving away numismatic books for a song. I picked up Walter Breen’s book on half cents last Sunday for $5.
Paul Battaglia is the Senior Numismatist and a Life Member of the ANA. He travels with owner, Warren Mills, to the major coin shows across the country. Paul has 50+ years numismatic experience and has been with RCNH since 1990. He also cherishes reading, cooking, language, music, classic cars, lily/orchid culture, chess, economic statistics, differing viewpoints and FISHING.
Questions From Our Mail Bag
By Warren Mills
Hey Warren, what gives with your new inventory purchases from the ANA show? I was waiting for newps and didn’t see anything. S.R.
Thanks S.R. I’m sorry to say that we only acquired 13 coins from the ANA. Most were “want list” pieces that never made our inventory list. As you know, I’ve been looking for three pieces for you for months now. The coins you need are not rare, however, for me to buy a coin for you or any of our customers, it must be exceptional for the grade.
ANA is a major show with thousands of coins on display. It wasn’t a lack of effort but a lack of top quality coins for the grade that led to us not posting newps from that show. We are always looking and periodically add to our inventory. So, keep an eye on our site and thanks for the questions.
Thanks for your question, S.R., and please keep your questions coming. If anyone would prefer for me to answer your questions privately, I would be happy to do so.