February 14, 2018

Not Chump Change: Rare Coins Could Outperform as Investments This Year


Coin collecting isn’t just for nerds anymore.


Coins typically have a higher correlation with inflation than other asset classes.

With inflation expected to rise this year, and a concurrently strengthening U.S. dollar seen eating into any gains that might be made by pure gold, investors may want to consider a niche asset class as a protection against market turbulence: rare coins.

With inflation expected to rise this year, and a concurrently strengthening U.S. dollar seen eating into any gains that might be made by pure gold, investors may want to consider a niche asset class as a protection against market turbulence: rare coins.

While such a strategy may seem akin to putting your money in baseball cards, coins have long been used as an investment, and one that could be particularly beneficial in the current economic climate.

“Rare coins deliver a higher annual return than gold, and they provide an excellent hedge against inflation,” said David Beahm, chief executive officer of Blanchard and Company, a rare coin and precious metal investment firm. “We believe that with President Trump and some of the policies he’s set forth, that we should see inflation, possibly double-digit inflation, in the very near future.”
Trump has proposed massive corporate tax cuts and fiscal stimulus, both of which are expected to stoke inflation this year. That could increase the appeal of gold, which has traditionally been viewed as an inflation hedge.

Investable coins are defined as ones minted between the late 1700s and 1933, when gold ceased to be an ingredient in their construction. Prices are determined both by their scarcity and their condition, and they’re scored on a scale of zero to 70, with Blanchard focusing on the ones graded above 50.

Between 1979 and 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, coins with a minimum score of 65 posted an average annual return of 11.9%, according to a study by Penn State University. That’s near the average annual return of 13% posted by equities SPX, -0.22% and more than twice the 5.5% average annual gain of gold bullion US:GCZ7 Coins with a lower score, between 63 and 65, had an average annual return of 10.1%.

Coins posted a higher correlation with inflation than other asset classes, according to the study, with the relationship about twice as strong as for gold. The correlation between coins and inflation is 0.58 (perfect correlation would be 1.0). It’s 0.27 for gold bullion and 0.15 for stocks. The higher the correlation, the better it works as a hedge.

“The rarity factor builds on the actual value of the gold, increasing its value,” Beahm said.

He added that the more common rare coins, such as Morgan dollars, could be had for as little as $20, while the scarcest ones, including Brasher Doubloons, the first gold coin minted for the U.S., have sold for more than $7 million.

“There’s a wide range, so this is really for everyone,” he said.

February 13, 2018

Buyers of Coin Bargains Active in Marketplace



Bargain hunting may be the watchword within the scarce to rare segment of the coin market. There are indications a significant number of collectors and perhaps speculators who know what they are doing are purchasing better date and superior condition coins at today’s somewhat depressed price levels.

These buyers do not appear to be willing to pay premiums above current pricing, but they aren’t dragging prices lower, either. Since current price levels are significantly lower than they have been in the not-too-distant-past, this may inadvertently signal a future rally in this important segment of what I will call the “collector coin” market.

The spot price of gold and silver bullion continues to take center stage in the overall business of coins. Currently, the value of the majority of the coins being traded in the business are being impacted by the intrinsic value of what is bought and sold.

The modest appreciation in gold has been a catalyst for the First Spouse coins, with likewise modest price increases, and with sales nearly doubling from one month earlier.

Gold and silver bullion did increase modestly in price when the stock market recently sold off but did not make sufficient gains to grab much attention from potential investors.

Bottom line this week is that the market for coins is healthy, but it is still far from earning a label indicating it is robust.

December 28, 2017

Chance of US Stock Market Correction Now at 70 Percent: Vanguard Group


There is a 70 percent chance of a US stock market correction, according to research conducted by fund giant Vanguard Group.
Several forces are contributing to the much higher than typical risk, including narrowing of the bond yield curve and stretched U.S. equity valuations.
The trade-off between stocks and bonds, or even stocks and cash, doesn’t look as strong as it did earlier in the bull market, following the financial crash.


Don’t panic, but there is now a 70 percent chance of a U.S. stock market correction, according to research conducted by fund giant Vanguard Group. There is always the risk of a correction in stocks, but the Vanguard research shows that the current probability is 30 percent higher than what has been typical over the past six decades.

Vanguard, which manages roughly $5 trillion in assets and is a proponent of long-term investing, isn’t sounding the alarm bells to scare investors out of the market. But according to Vanguard’s chief economist Joe Davis, investors do need to be prepared for a significant downturn.

“It’s about having reasonable expectations,” Davis said of the research, which attempts to provide investors with a view of what can occur in the markets in the next five years. “Having a 10 percent negative return in the U.S. market in a calendar year [within a five-year forward period] has happened 40 percent of the time since 1960. That goes with the territory of being a stock investor.” He added, “It’s unreasonable to expect rates of returns, which exceeded our own bullish forecast from 2010, to continue.”

In its annual economic and investing outlook published last week, Vanguard told investors to expect no better than 4 percent to 6 percent returns from stocks in the next five years, its least bullish outlook since the post-financial crisis recovery began.

Contributing to that outlook are market indicators that suggest “a little froth” in the market, according to the Vanguard chief economist.

“The risk premium, whether corporate bond spreads or the shape of yield curve, or earnings yields for stocks, have continued to compress,” Davis said. “We’re starting to see, for first time … some measures of expected risk premiums compressed below areas where we think it can be associated with fair value.”

Many market participants have worried in recent months about the flattening in the yield curve — the spread between 2-year note yields and 10-year yields — at the lowest level since before the financial crisis. Meanwhile, the spread between junk bond yields and Treasurys recently has moved closer to the level before the financial crash than the long-term historical average.

For Vanguard the research is a chance to remind investors that overreaching is no better a solution for a lower-return environment than getting out of the market entirely. Davis worries some investors will hear “lower returns” and view it as a catalyst to become more aggressive as a way to generate the returns they have been used to in recent years.

As long as an investor is in a financial situation in which they can cope with a single down year, “you need to stay invested, because of lower expected returns,” Davis said. But he added, “Don’t become overly aggressive. The next five years will be challenging, and investors need to have their eyes wide open.”

For investors who have done well with a U.S.-centric stock portfolio, it’s also past time to consider overseas equities. When international equities are added into a stock portfolio, the Vanguard research shows a drop to a 60 percent correction risk for a stock portfolio.

“It doesn’t drive risk down to zero, but valuations are not neatly as stretched in other parts of the world,” Davis said. Emerging markets stocks, which have roared in 2017, are highly correlated to U.S. stocks, and the Vanguard official said that would hold if U.S. stocks experience a downturn. “The real power is other developed markets,” Davis said.

As part of its forecast that stocks will return no better than 4 percent to 6 percent in the coming years, Vanguard projected that developed markets stocks in the EAFE region will return more than U.S. stocks, at an estimated 5 percent to 7 percent, and emerging markets stocks possibly more, though with greater risk.

The Vanguard research also suggests that an allocation to bonds may prove more important in the coming years. “There is greater risk in the equity market than bond market,” Davis said. “Our projections show that the downside risk in a portfolio with even a 20 percent investment-grade bond allocation is significantly lower.”

Other major financial services firms are more cautious headed into 2018 as well, pointing to the length of the current bull market. Bank of America wrote in a recent note that the current bull market will be the longest in history if it continues to Aug. 22, 2018, while the outperformance of stocks vs. bonds, at seven years running, would be the longest streak since 1929.

Now in the ninth year of an economic recovery, Vanguard’s chief economist said the position of the investor has flipped. Back in 2009 the economic outlook was poor but the investment outlook was very compelling. The progression through the economic recovery, although slow, now includes 80 percent of the world at full employment and an investment environment and outlook that is more muted.

“It’s important to separate what is expected of the global economy from the price being paid for it. In the United States, stock prices have already been bid up based on future business expansion,” Davis said.

Vanguard’s economics team reviewed multiple stock valuation measures in coming to its conclusions, including Yale University professor Robert Shiller’s CAPE ratio. “As markets rise and valuation on the Shiller has risen … [it] doesn’t mean we’re in bubble territory, but we have deviated from where values should be,” Davis said. Historically, low interest rates on bonds help explain why stock valuations have overshot corporate fundamental growth, but still can’t justify the valuation levels.

Vanguard’s bottom line is that the trade-off — the equity risk premium — between stocks and bonds, or even stocks and cash, will be lower going forward than it has been historically, and lower than what it has been in the past five years, specifically.

November 28, 2017

Take Advantage of Generally Weak Prices


If you follow the value of excessively rare coins sold at auction, you are likely to be impressed with recent prices realized. If you collect anything else, that being coins ranging from between common but collectible to scarce or to rare, you’ll realize there are truly few coins that have been recently increasing in price.

Astute collectors are buying such bargains as common date proof silver American Eagles. Only a few months ago, they sold for significantly higher prices.


Generic gold quarter eagles, half eagles, eagles and double eagles are attractive at today’s prices, the only exception being very high Mint State graded examples.

Even among coins certified to be in unusually high condition by reliable third-party certification services, prices are mostly flat lined or down.

This is no time to ring the alarm bells. It is a time for a feeding frenzy! It’s been a long time since many scarcer and more desirable coins have been selling at current price levels.

Prices of many collectible yet common to scarce gold coins barely change between grades except for the very loftiest examples. Morgan and Peace silver dollars remain popular, but the price of most of these continues to remain flat.

There are some exceptions to these general conditions. Very specialized areas such as large cents and Capped Bust half dollars are showing an inherent strength, but even in these two areas there are bargains to be had.

It is a buyer’s market. We don’t know how long it will last. Act before it is too late.

November 9, 2017

MORGAN STANLEY: A Stock Market Correction is ‘Looking More Likely’


Morgan Stanley warns that a near-term pullback in the S&P 500 could be coming.


Earnings season can be a euphoric time for stocks.

It’s a time when companies have the opportunity to show off growth that matches their valuations, and it can encourage investment by traders looking to put money to work.

But that may not be the case this time around, Morgan Stanley warns.

A big part of that has to do with how investors approach earnings season. When investors anticipate strong results, stocks tend to rally heading into the season only to fade as results are actually reported, the firm says.

This scenario has played out in a relatively benign way twice already this year, with the maximum loss reaching just 3%. But it’s different this time around, with the benchmark S&P 500 holding roughly just half of its previous upside, according to Morgan Stanley forecasts.

“If stocks follow the pattern they have been all year, actual earnings season will be a sell the news event and we could have a decent pull back or consolidation,” a group of equity strategists led by Michael J. Wilson wrote in a client note. “Near term, a correction is looking more likely.”

So what could cause this decline, which the firm says could stretch further than 5%? Wilson & Co. lay out five possible negative catalysts:

-The unwinding of the Federal Reserve’s massive balance sheet

-Tax-cut legislation proves to be more difficult than simply making promises

-The announcement of a new Fed chief could “disrupt financial conditions”

-The US dollar, fresh off multiyear lows, looks to be reversing to the upside

-Leading economic indicators are hitting extremes, suggesting peaks are “more likely than not”

With all that said, Morgan Stanley is far from calling the end of the 8-1/2-year bull market. The firm is simply warning about the possibility of a relatively mild pullback from what have been record-high valuations.

In fact, the firm is the most bullish on Wall Street, with a 2,700 target on the S&P 500 by the end of first quarter 2018. That’s 5.6% above the index’s closing price on Monday.

As such, Wilson recommends that investors use whatever weakness results from a potential correction as an opportunity to load back up on equity exposure. In other words, buy the dip — the unofficial slogan of the unstoppable bull market.

November 9, 2017

Price Guide Values Left in the Dust by Quarter Eagle in GreatCollections Auction


1865-S Coronet gold $2.50 quarter eagle realizes $36,001 in Oct. 29 sale.


An 1865-S Coronet gold $2.50 quarter eagle sold during an Oct. 29 GreatCollections online auction for more than double its value listed in published price guides.

Graded and encapsulated Mint State 63 by Professional Coin Grading Service and stickered with a green label by Certified Acceptance Corp. as being exceptional for the grade, the coin realized $36,001.14, which includes the 10 percent buyer’s fee. Twelve active bidders placed 49 bids.

Russell said the underbidder, who was outbid by $1,000.01, had anticipated winning with his $31,001 bid to start a box of 20 of coins “that have everything going for it — finest PCGS/CAC, super fresh (never appeared on the market before) and so forth.”

The coin was one of two PCGS submissions recorded in MS-63, with one submission higher at MS-64.

Coin World’s Coin Values lists a price of $13,000 in MS-62, but lists no value for the coin in MS-63. The PCGS Price Guide values the coin at $15,000 in MS-63.

“The coin was one of many highlights from a collection in California that is being sold by GreatCollections,” Russell said. “The coins were graded for the first time this year by PCGS. There are still amazing coins that have never seen the light of day coming onto the market, it’s what makes our job so enjoyable to see newly discovered coins like this and seeing the vast bidder interest”.

Another gold coin highlight from the Oct. 29 sale was an 1861-D Indian Head dollar graded Fine 12, the lowest grade for any gold dollar struck at the Dahlonega Mint in Georgia in 1861.

Coin Values lists a price of $13,500 in Fine 12. The coin realized $26,437.50.

A total of 12 bidders placed 44 bids combined for the gold coin.

November 9, 2017

Take Advantage of Lower Prices by Buying.


Inflation is a concern for everyone, but what about deflation? Deflation is what the entire collectibles industry, be it coins or other collectibles, has been experiencing for several years. What we in coin collecting have bee is a dip in the spot price of gold or silver.


This relentless price decline has impacted almost all coins, not just the more common collectibles. Scarce to rare coins have not performed well in some time.

As the price of both gold and silver continue to slump, it becomes increasingly difficult for those of us who are active collectors or commodity investors to understand why more people aren’t realizing just how cheap both bullion and coins have become.

This low price is becoming a boon to active collectors, some of whom are increasingly taking advantage of the depressed price of better date or better condition coins. There aren’t sufficient collectors chasing these coins for the demand to outstrip supply – at the moment. At some point, people need to take stock and bond profits off the table, going after coins and other collectibles with their financial gains.

In the meantime, if you are an active collector, enjoy what’s available. You can shop around. You can be picky. But then make a decision and buy what you have hankered after. The only way you can benefit from lower prices is to make additions to your collection.

August 30, 2017

Silver Typically Soars in September


Silver is entering its “sweet spot” of the year. This September, silver has another special reason for rising – rising industrial demand.  Since 1975, silver has gained an average of 4.1% every September, making September far and away the best month for silver.(Second place is January, at +2.9%.)September is also the #1 month for gold, due to the beginning of the jewelry fabrication season for the gold gift-giving holidays in India (Diwali, followed by the wedding season), America (Christmas, followed by Valentine’s Day) and China’s New Year. Silver often follows gold’s lead – as silver often acts like “gold on steroids.”


A secondary reason for silver to rise strongly this September is that major industrial metals are making a strong recovery due to rising economic growth in China and the rest of the world. This year is the first year since 2007 in which all 45 of the leading economies followed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) are all rising in tandem.  As a result, copper is at up over 20% this year, reaching a three-year high.  Iron ore is up 35% just since the end of May.  Zinc is at a 10-year high, while aluminum and other industrial metals are at multi-year highs even though oil is down.

Silver holds a unique position as a precious metal and an industrial metal. According to the Silver Institute, industrial fabrication was responsible for over half (54%) of demand for physical silver in 2016.With industrial production rising in 2017, that demand can only grow, since silver is an essential part of some very popular products, like LCD touchscreens and other modern electric devices using silver switches or printed circuit boards.  Silver is also essential for the photovoltaic cells which make up solar panels, a popular new form of alternative energy.Demand for silver in photovoltaic cells is expected to more than double between 2016 and 2018.  Meanwhile, new silver supplies from mining operations have declined due to the low cost of silver recently.

Rising demand and sinking supply should lift silver prices.

As a precious metal, silver attracts attention from investors who cannot afford multiple ounces of gold bullion.  Since silver tends to follow gold up, but in greater percentage terms, if gold makes a move this fall, silver will also rise.  We are entering a period of crisis domestically over the debt ceiling debate, and internationally over North Korea and other hot spots.  During the crisis of 2008, gold rose 15% from mid-August to late September. During the debt ceiling debate of 2011, gold rose 28% from July to September.

If we see a similar crisis in September of 2017, it is likely that gold will rise … and silver will soar.

Gold Rose Above Key $1300 Level

Gold rose above $1,300 on Monday, while stocks were flat.  Overall, August was bad for stocks but very good for gold and silver.  Over the weekend, the meeting of the world’s leading central bankers at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, did not bring forth any startling news.Perhaps the speakers were reticent to say anything controversial for fear it would be misinterpreted, so they stayed close to their prepared texts.  The one speech that helped drive gold higher was when European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi said that the ECB would continue quantitative easing (QE) and bond-buying, which pushed the euro higher and the U.S. dollar lower. A falling dollar tends to push the gold price higher in dollar terms.

Put Away Some Gold for a “Texas Rainy Day”

While we in Texas are struggling through high waters this week, I have heard from some clients and news reports, in the past, that some banks may not be “on-line” to honor their debit cards or other electronic fund exchanges.  Even though we recommend that you keep the bulk of your rare coins and precious metals in bank safety deposit boxes, it is also important in these crisis situations to maintain a small amount of gold and silver bullion at home, so that you can convert these forms of “real money” into paper money at various coin shops and bullion dealers in your area.  You never know what kind of disaster can limit the electronic transfer of funds in the future, so be sure to keep some emergency bullion coins at home. Call it your Texas Rainy Day fund.

Terror and Threats of War Tend to Boost Gold and Gold Coin Prices

After gold popped on President Trump’s war of words with North Korea, gold coin sales rose strongly. Gold coin purchases by collectors, investors and dealers are up dramatically. We and many other dealers across the country – both small and large – have seen an increase in coin sales. We enjoyed a rise of about 40% vs. the average of recent weeks. This is an important early sign for future sales growth, too, since higher gold prices have been the primary reason behind the beginning of past multi-year rare coin bull markets in which prices rise by 100% to 1,000% in only a few years.  Any significant rise in gold’s price builds a base of new customers who will first buy bullion coins, then rare coins – for years to come.

Gold is already up 12% this year, and it has a history of going up strongly in the first year of a new President from a new party.  Back in 1993, Bill Clinton’s first year, gold rose 19.3%.  In George W. Bush’s first year, gold rose only 2.2%, but more importantly the uncertainty after 9/11 gave birth to a major gold bull market running from 2001 to 2011.  Then, in 2009 – Barack Obama’s first year – gold rose 24.4%.  Gold tends to rise in a President’s first year in part because new Presidents tend to face huge problems before they gain the experience necessary to handle those problems wisely.  We’re seeing that happen once again with the threats coming from North Korea, Russia, China and other global hot spots.

Sharply higher gold prices have been the primary reason for past rare coin bull markets where prices rise 100% to 1000% in only a few years.  When gold rises sharply new customers contact coin dealers in droves and many new customers eventually end up buying rare coins.

This is not the time to be selling gold coins or any other precious-metals-based investment. This is the time to increase your allocation in hard assets.  The kind of chaos you’re seeing around the world should continue for several years to come.

August 29, 2017

Experts Identify First Proof 1865 Indian Head Gold $3 Coin With Medal Turn


1865-proof-three-dollar-gold-lead.jpgThe first Proof 1865 Indian Head gold $3 coin struck with dies oriented in “medal turn” instead of “coin turn” has been identified.

Centennial Auctions will offer the coin, graded Proof 61 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., in its Oct. 17 sale in the ballroom of the Holiday Inn at 9 Northeastern Blvd., in Nashua, New Hampshire. The live auction begins at 4:30 p.m. ET.

1865 gold $3 Gold

Identification of the Proof 1865 Indian Head gold $3 coin struck with medal turn was made recently, by numismatists Julian Leidman and John Dannreuther during the Aug. 1 to 5 American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Denver.

According to Steve Schofield from Centennial Auctions, the die orientation is not noted on the grading label insert contained within the NGC encapsulation.

Schofield said he brought a number of the lots to be offered in his firm’s Oct. 17 auction to the ANA convention, including the gold $3 coin. Schofield said Leidman, with Bonanza Coins in Silver Spring, Maryland, took particular interest in the Proof $3 coin, spending considerable time examining the coin’s obverse and reverse. The reason for Leidman’s extended evaluation was the orientation of the coin’s obverse and reverse. Numismatist and gold specialist John Dannreuther from John Dannreuther Rare Coins in Memphis, Tennessee, also examined the coin and concurred with the attribution.

With coin turn, when a coin is rotated on its vertical axis, the reverse is oriented 180 degrees opposite to the obverse, so the reverse appears upside down. With medal turn, the reverse appears right side up relative to the obverse.

The reported production in Proof for the 1865 Indian Head gold $3 coin is 25, and, according to Schofield, possibly half that mintage survives.

“While there are coins that grade higher — the [Ed] Trompeter Proof 66 piece, sold by Bowers and Merena in 2004 for $60,375, comes to mind — none of this date have ever been identified as a medal strike,” Schofield said. “Maybe [Mint officials] noticed the die rotation and corrected it. After 150+ years, you would think at least one other would exist, would have been found, and would be known. That is not the case.”

August 15, 2017

Could a North Korean Missile Launch Send Gold Soaring Later This Year?



Gold hit a 6-week high of $1,274 last week (and silver reached $16.84) but both metals corrected on Friday when the dollar staged a surprise recovery. The proximate cause was the U.S. dollar rally after a positive jobs report came out on Friday morning. Gold traded at $1,268 at 8:30 am, right before the jobs report came out. Gold fell to $1,254 by 10:00 am before rebounding. The U.S. Dollar Index rose over 1% on Friday at the same time gold fell by 1%. The dollar has declined all year long, and there is a chance the dollar recovery will limit gold’s rise this year, but some unexpected international event could send gold soaring quickly – no matter what the dollar does – and such a moment may be brewing in North Korea.
On July 27, after the death of the 22-year-old American student Otto Warmbier due to torture by the North Korean government, the U.S. government announced a ban of all U.S. citizens traveling to North Korea, citing “mounting concerns over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention.” That reason was a credible cover for keeping all American citizens out of harm’s way during any potential attack on the renegade North Koreans over their nuclear missile testing and capability of sending atomic bombs as far as the U.S. mainland. Earlier this year, President Trump thought he had gained some cooperation from the Chinese in limiting trade with North Korea and solving the problem locally, but China has since increased its trade with North Korea, a country whose only bordering nations are China and South Korea.
The U.S. travel ban will come into effect August 26. It was published in the Federal Register July 27 with a 30-day lead time. But right after the U.S. recalled U.S. tourists, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un launched another ICBM test in a way which seemed to virtually dare the U.S. to intervene to stop them from further nuclear missile testing. Since China has shown no interest in disciplining its neighbor, a prudent U.S. military response would be either a military blockade of sea-born trade, or a pre-emptive strike. Such a move could send gold sharply higher, even if the U.S. dollar rallies as a “safe haven.” Sharply higher gold prices have been the primary reason for past rare coin bull markets where prices rise 100% to 1000% in only a few years. When gold rises sharply new customers contact coin dealers in droves and many new customers eventually end up buying rare coins.