Allow me, if I may, to strike a tone of optimism here. For the first time this year, we are starting to feel some of the weight lifted from our collective shoulders. I speak from a coin dealer’s perspective, of course, however, many small businesses the world over are experiencing the beginnings of the sun poking through the clouds.
After months of lockdown, is it safe to say we are in recovery mode? Maybe yes, maybe no. However, here in the Commonwealth (we don’t call it a state for some reason) of Virginia the governor has opened the economy to “Phase 2” (limited indoor restaurant seating, gyms, swimming pools, beaches, etc) with Phase 3 in sight. That, in itself, is encouraging enough to get me out of bed in the morning. I’m so excited to actually get a real cup of Starbucks in the morning. I always appreciated it, but now I don’t take it for granted!
We have written in these pages over the past few months that the numismatic market was incredibly resilient during the initial scares of COVID. Hobbies like coin collecting were largely beneficiaries of people’s extra time during the darkest months of the pandemic. Heck, even the Wall Street Journal posted an article on Friday, June 5 titled, “Why Stamp Collecting Is Back in Vogue.” Say what?? (Disclaimer, I am a lifelong stamp collector and I’m not looking for more competition in auctions.)
As we emerge from the lockdown it is clear that the coin business may look somewhat different than when we last witnessed a public event, way, way, back in February. So many coin shows were forced to cancel that I personally re-coded our web site to change “Coin Show Calendar” to “Events Calendar” and allow for auction (live and otherwise) as well as Internet-only events. I was already planning to do this but the future arrived a few years sooner than I imagined.
Among the canceled shows, there appears to be some internal turmoil. Central States Numismatic Society not only canceled their seminal March event but also discontinued their decades-long relationship with show promoter Kevin Foley, and his daughter Patricia. As I write, the ANA is still grappling with their decision to go forward – or not – with the World’s Fair of Money in August. So far the city of Pittsburgh hasn’t made any formal decisions about events and the non-profit organization stands to lose quite a bit of money if they cancel without legal cause. If they do hold the show, will anyone come???
Meanwhile the live auction companies of Heritage and Stack’s Bowers have continued to hold their live auctions – traditionally in conjunction with major shows – back at their offices without any noticeable backlash or degradation of prices realized. Don’t for a second think their controllers haven’t noticed.
Prices at Auction Will Start Rising
I am told by numerous contacts that the biggest hangover going into the late Summer months will be a lack of fresh inventory. Retailers, auction houses and grading firms alike are experiencing the lagging indicator of fresh material entering the market. Collectors are more engaged than ever, which means they’re not inclined to sell. And wholesale business without coin shows is much less efficient.
So, what does this portend? Higher prices! After several years of sliding valuations, I am extremely optimistic that prices at auction and bids on CDN Exchange will start rising. If you’ve been thinking of selling, you will find the companies running ads in this magazine extremely friendly right now. They all tell me they need fresh material. As Patrick Ian Perez reports in his “Activity Across the Market” column, one major retailer has been aggressively seeking uncirculated rolls to fill orders. (We’ve been waiting since the 1960’s for this news!) Franklin and Kennedy halves are super-hot sellers on TV and dealers are bidding these up as well.
It won’t take much to put some real air in this balloon. Pretty soon we will get back to live auctions with real live coin shows and I predict we will all be happier than ever when we see one another. The coin community has been my family for over 35 years and I miss you all!
This article originally appeared in the July 2020 edition of Monthly Greysheet. Subscribe to Monthly Greysheet today for the industry’s most respected pricing and more articles just like this.
We published the announcement that Convention Chairman Kevin Foley’s contract for the Central States Numismatic Society wasn’t renewed.
After the original article was published, the ANA announced the suspension of the 2020 World’s Fair of Money, click here to find out about the consequences of this decision.