Our take on the current state of the market: Let me preface this with a little background. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, Patrick Richey and I were traveling abroad in Europe attending auctions, visiting dealer contacts and planned to attend the Munich Coin Fair (which wound up being cancelled). After the coin fair was cancelled, Patrick and I made the decision to return home as it had become clear to us that things had begun to escalate in Europe as well as in the United States. Flights were being cancelled at an alarming level as well as travel bans being put in place, and we were concerned about our ability to return to the US. We cancelled the last segment of our trip and were able to reschedule a flight home on March 10th.
It was a strange and awkward decision, but in the end, I am convinced it was the right one.
Sure enough, within days of our return travel restrictions were put in place limiting international flights.
We visited 6 countries while in the EU. Our first stop was Spain which at the time had fewer than 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19. During the next few days in Europe, we watched the number grow exponentially and decided to cut our trip short.
While on our trip it was clear that things were very different than normal in terms of buying coins.
Although we were able to acquire many new items for inventory, it was much harder to buy interesting coins than on previous trips. Many of our contacts in major cities told us similar stories to the effect of “normally in Europe when someone has coins to sell, they travel to the cities to sell coins to the major dealers”. This simply wasn’t happening and had not been happening for some time, nor do I see this returning to the way it was any time soon. Hence the normal dealers from which we buy nice coins simply did not have a lot to sell. Couple that with the inability to ship coins out of certain countries due to nation-wide lock downs and the supply issue becomes very clear. The supply of new coins to the marketplace here in the U.S. is going to be rather limited for the unforeseeable future.
What Does the Future Hold For the Coin Market?
To be perfectly honest, I have no idea. At the moment we are like Magellan circumnavigating uncharted waters and we will see where our voyage takes us. What I can share with you is my firsthand experiences and observations of what’s transpiring in the coin market since this all started.
Thus far the coin market seems to remain fairly resilient, all things considered. Some aspects of the market may even be stronger now than they were a few months ago. For example, the premiums on generic gold and silver bullion have increased significantly. Auction sales for numismatic coins have also been very strong as of late. This started with the Gorny and Mosch auction while Patrick and I were still in Europe, which yielded very high results. Other auctions, like Kunker in Germany and ROMA in the United Kingdom, were intended to be floor auctions, but wound up being internet sales due to restrictions on public gatherings and were also remarkably strong. This trend continued with CNGs electronic auction bringing well above expectations, but perhaps the real testament were the prices achieved by Stacks Bowers. With the last-minute cancelation of the Whitman EXPO in Baltimore and restrictions on public gatherings, Stacks Bowers was forced to conduct their auction using internet and phone bidding only.
After witnessing the results they yielded, I am convinced they achieved better prices than they would have during normal circumstances.
So what does this all mean? Once again, I’m not really sure. What I can tell you is that since we have been back, we have been flooded with phone calls and emails from people wanting to buy coins.
Are people bored and stuck at home looking for new coins for their collections? I suppose that’s one plausible explanation. During the lock downs in China, the Chinese coin market prospered and prices on many items actually went up in value. Simply stated, collectors were bored and sat at home examining their collections while scouring the internet looking for new acquisitions. I think that is only one factor, and there’s more to it than that. There are also those who are looking to put money into something more portable and of value. Many have taken money out of the stock market, while others are fearing hyperinflation. Whatever the reason, right now people want to buy coins.
Leading up to this event dealers’ inventories were rather depleted, and it was really hard to find nice coins at coin shows. Couple that with the inability to attend coin shows or auction for the foreseeable future, as well as the problems importing coins from abroad. I predict we are going to have a real shortage of good coins available in the marketplace. This dilemma is not going to correct itself overnight. Furthermore, when the world opens back up, a supply of nice coins will not magically appear. These things take time, and it will take time for dealers to replenish their stocks. It will be a slow gradual reboot rather than everybody opening back up for business.
Trade shows will probably be one of the last things to open back up, and this is going to be hard for a lot of us in the industry. Coin shows fall under that category of “large gatherings” and frankly I think it will take some time for them to return to normal. Certainly, the industry was already moving in a direction of online sales and had been for some time. Current events just gave it a swift push further in that direction.
What’s Important Right Now?
I would love to tell you that buying coins is important right now, but it is not. In the coming weeks and months, many of us will have much more free time than we are accustomed to. Those of you that are with your loved ones, hold them close. Those of you that are not, call them, text them photos, send them emails. I think right now it is important to reach out to loved ones as not everyone will fair this situation the same. That said, if you love coins and want to add something to your collection, by all means do so. Our hobbies are our passions and are a great tool for helping one maintain his sanity in trying times.
When I say that, I’m not just saying buy something from our website. There are a lot of dealers that will struggle in the current market. Some will have to reinvent themselves. Some made their livings primarily from traveling the coin show circuits. The inevitable truth is that we may lose some coin dealers as a result. Many of these people are our friends, people we see at every coin show and have for decades. One of my fears is that when coin shows commence again, we may not see some of these faces. For lack of a better term, some of the “mom and pop” coin dealers will struggle.
If you have the opportunity, take some time to spend a little money with some of the smaller coin dealers.
Anyhow, I will do my best to post updates on our World Numismatics website as time goes on. As coins come back from grading, they will continue to go up on the website. Several packages of new coins are in-bound from abroad and will be uploaded once graded. My hope is to continue to offer new coins for collectors on a regular basis during all of this.
I hope to see you at a coin show at some point in the future when things return to the new normal.
For more information on Kent Ponterio go to the World Numismatics website.
Right at the beginning of Corona becoming a worldwide pandemia, Ursula Kampmann too shared her thoughts about how the Coronavirus may change the coin trade.
In response to this article we received this comment by our reader David Mee from Australia as “a little Australian collector’s perspective”, as he put it: