Archive for April, 2018

April 24, 2018

Ten Reasons Why the Rare Coin Market is Looking Up

Nearly everyone who is deeply involved with numismatics can attest to the fact that the rare coin market has been soft or depressed in the last few years. Coin prices for many series have drifted downward, some to historic lows. There are a lot of coins that can be purchased for prices last seen in the 1980s. I have highlighted a few of these series in recent months, and plan to discuss several more in the coming weeks and months.


Despite the lower prices for many series and issues, the prices for extreme rarities and grades have been solid, if not higher. In the last five years, a lot of great coins brought record prices at auction. The demand for mega coins far outstripped the limited supply. A few big payers have had a tremendous impact, competing with each other to build registry sets of the finest known coins.

Other collectible fields have seen similar demand for the top end of the market. The extreme wealth of some Americans has greatly benefited everything from fine art to vintage automobiles.

These mega coins have very little impact on the average collector or dealer. I would love to sell million-dollar coins, but they seldom are offered privately, and usually sell at auction. Coins in this price range are only fantasies for most collectors. They can be fun to read about, but owning them would be impossible for all but a handful of well-heeled collectors.

I have been following rare coin trends for decades, starting in the mid-1970s. Until recent years, the rare coin market has been much more volatile. In January of 1980, a Gem Proof Three Cent Nickel sold for about $2,500 USD. A few months later, they had crashed to under $500. This up-and-down cycle for rare coins played out many times over the next 30 years. The lowest point in the rare coin market that I have personally experienced was in the summer of 1982. Nearly every major rare coin dealer was broke or nearly so. By 1989, the market had roared back.


Starting around the year 2000, the prices and the market for rare coins seemed to stabilize a great deal. I believe the invention of the internet had much to do with this. The market for rare coins was spread out significantly due to access, and the supply of rare coins didn’t overwhelm demand, as it had in the past. The access to numismatic information also greatly helped the hobby. Today’s collectors have far more tools than collectors of the past to make purchase decisions.

The current market malady started several years ago after the financial crisis. Simply put, the supply of rare coins outpaced the demand. A lot of great collections entered the market, with mega sales of the Newman and Gardner collections being just a couple of examples. The stock market also performed amazingly well during this time period and a lot of money was allocated to that asset instead of to numismatics.

The point of this article is that I feel we may have seen the worst of the recent downturn in rare coin prices. There are quite a few indicators than have given me hope that the lows of this recent market downturn are behind us:

Coin show activity: I attend almost every mid-size and major coin show in the country. I have been doing this for decades, and this has given me great insight on the pulse of the market. Nearly every coin show I have attended in recent months has been much busier. There is an actual buzz on the bourse floor that anyone who frequents the coin show circuit would recognize. Sales are much stronger across the board for everything, with the exception of unattractive material.

Rare coins are harder to find: There are considerably fewer exciting coins to be found on the bourse floors than in previous months. Everyone is complaining about the lack of fresh material.

Demand has increased: Nearly every large retail company in the country is scrambling to find coins for their operations. All of these web retail sites and telemarketing operations are having a hard time acquiring coins for the increased sales.
Collectors have become more active: The stock market slide in recent months may have convinced a lot of people that it’s a good idea to diversify. There is clearly a lot of fresh money coming into the market.
Auction prices have been strong: Recent auctions have been very strong for attractive collector’s coins. A few specialty sales, such as the recent Heritage auction of $10 Dollar Liberties, have seen astounding prices.
Generic gold coins have finally hit rock bottom: Prices could not have gone down much more, with lower-grade $20 Double Eagle gold coins finally ending up in the melting pot. In recent weeks, there has been a smattering of increased premiums and attention to this decimated part of the market.
ANA membership has increased: While President of the ANA from 2016-2017, I tried everything in my power to increase membership. Sadly, it would not budge. I took stabilization as a victory. In the last several months, membership has increased about 5%!
Young people have discovered the hobby: Contrary to what you may read from some pessimists, there are actually a lot of young people who love rare coins. Many very talented young folks have chosen numismatics as a career in the last few years. A lot of them love the combination of numismatics and modern technology. You old guys reading this had better watch out!
Modern mint product sales have fallen: The US Mint sales of its bullion and commemorative programs have fallen for the last few years. A lot of the attention given to this part of the market by large rare coin companies is now being diverted to vintage numismatics.
Numismatics has discovered social media: Several months ago, I wrote an article about the Facebook group Coin Dealers Helping Coin Dealers. The group has continued to grow and is now the largest dealer network in the United States with about 800 members. A lot of business is being conducted by the group every day. It turns out that mobile devices and social media could be a major driving force in the hobby in coming years.

The future is never guaranteed for any hobby or business, but from my observations, numismatics is poised for greatness in the next few years!

April 10, 2018

PBS Video: Gold Fever & The Bechtler Mint

click below for movie:

During the Colonial Era gold in North Carolina was only found in trace amounts.  It wasn’t until the year 1799 that substantial success was achieved, by accident, in Cabarrus County.  The first substantial piece was found by twelve year old Conrad Reed who was fishing in Meadow Creek with his brother and sister.  He withdrew from the small stream a shiny yellow substance that he assumed to be some type of metal.  He brought the nugget home to his father, John Reed, who upon examination declared it as an unknown metal and put it to use as a door stop for two years.  In 1802 he took the nugget to a jeweler in town who immediately recognized the “metal” and its value.  The jeweler converted the nugget into a gold bar measuring roughly 8 inches long and asked Mr. Reed if he would sell it.  Mr. Reed, not knowing the value of the gold bar, sold it to the jeweler for $3.50.  In time Mr. Reed found several pieces of gold along the creek bed and in 1803 he found a piece weighing in at twenty-eight pounds.  The creek was rich in gold and in the year 1831 the veins of the mine were discovered.  In 1848 a sketch of the mine was made by a miner, Colonel George Barnhardt, and he declared the Reed Gold Mine to be the first in the United States.

Meanwhile in 1825 several mines were opened within a twenty mile radius of Charlotte. Two of the more significant mines were the Rudisill Mine of Count Ravafanoli, which brought experienced miners from Italy and other parts of Europe and the St. Catherine Mine opened by Samual McComb. These two mines were the most profitable with assays ranging from $24.80 to $72.41 per ton. Being rich in ore, the Rudisill mine was still in operation by the end of the Civil War.

It soon became essential that the miners have a local facility for processing the substantial quantities of gold flowing through North Carolina. Unfortunately the U.S. Mint was opposed to the idea and it was several years before a branch mint was established; this delay provided and excellent opportunity for private minters.

In 1829 German born Christopher Bechtler, Sr., arrived in New York City with his son August and his nephew, Christopher. A year later they bought a tract of land in Rutherford County establishing themselves in the local community as jewelers and watchmakers. In 1831 the miners’ plight brought enough business to the Bechtler’s that it resulted in a private mint and assay office. The Bechtler mint cast dies for $1.00, $2.50 and $5.00 pieces. The coins were noted for being 20 carats fine, or 2 carats below the US standard. Bechtler coinage of 1831 bore the words “South Carolina” and “gold”. Coins appearing later than 1834 bore the words “North Carolina Gold”, “Carolina Gold”, and “Georgia Gold”. Bechtler soon had a reputation as a “man of competent science and skill to assay and bring the gold of the mines to a standard value, in the form of coin…he is a man of the strictest honesty and singleness of purpose.” His popularity and reputation allowed for almost ten years of coinage.

Bechtler, Sr. operated the mint until his death in 1842 and was succeeded by his son August who was later succeeded by his nephew Christopher. Unfortunately neither August or Christopher had the pristine reputation of Sr., as their coins were often underweight or of dubious fineness.

Bechtler gold coins were minted eighteen years before the first striking at Philadelphia in 1849 and were so well accepted for commerce that they became a standard for currency. During the Civil War the monetary obligations of the Confederacy were specified as payable in “Bechtler gold” rather than Union, Confederate, or State currency.

Today, Bechtler coins are rare and command high prices, especially those minted prior to the Coinage Act of 1834 which increased the value of gold by more than six percent which resulting in a massive melting of gold coins, Bechtler’s included.


April 10, 2018

Saint-Gaudens coin collection designed in Cornish, NH could fetch more than $7m at auction


CORNISH, NH — A complete set of historic U.S. Double Eagle $20 gold coins designed by famed sculptor and Cornish resident Augustus Saint-Gaudens minted between 1907 and 1932 are currently up for auction online and expected to fetch “north of $7 million,” said coin dealer Barry Stuppler.

Stuppler’s California-based firm Mint State Gold by Stuppler and Co. is representing the collection owner in the auction that began Thursday on e-Bay, he said Tuesday.

The collection owner spent 15 years bringing the collection together so that each coin in the collection is of the highest quality in terms of its condition.

In all his years in numismatics — the study or collection of currency — “I’ve never seen a set like this come on the market,” Stuppler said.

He said the auction is expected to end Sunday and already has 53 bidders and a high bid of $2.1 million, though he predicts that by Sunday the bids will reach “north of $7 million.”

“A number of these people are numismatists, many of them are not. Many of them are just looking for an interesting collection with investment potential,” Stuppler said.

One of the reasons these coins are so rare is that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ended the production of all gold coins in the United States because of the Great Depression, ordering the collection of the coins by the banks so they could be melted down.

“That’s how we got Fort Knox,” Stuppler said.

The ban on gold coins in the U.S. continued well into the 1960s, he added. “American citizens in the U.S. weren’t able to own gold coins until 1968.”

Before that, $5, $10 and $20 gold coins were used interchangeably with paper currency, Stuppler said.

One of America’s foremost sculptors, Saint-Gaudens was living and working in Cornish when he designed the coin in 1907, the last year of his life, said Henry Duffy, curator of the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish.

“He was designing it in the last year of his life. He had started, of course, earlier than that, but he was working on it at the time of his death,” Duffy said. “He had done small works when he had started off when he was a child designing, making jewelry, making cameos, so he was familiar working in small scale and he had also done medals. So he did know about small objects, but designing coins was something new and that was the idea of President Roosevelt, who wanted to redesign American coins, and he was familiar with Saint-Gaudens’ work. Saint-Gaudens had made an inaugural medal for him when he became President.”

Now a museum and National Park, the former home, gardens and studios of Saint-Gaudens is home to more than 100 pieces of art made by the sculptor as well as a complete set of the Double Eagle coins, Duffy said.

Stuppler said people interested in learning more about the set and how to make a bid can find out online at