by Adam Crum
This year started off with several coins hitting the auction block that were certain to sell for more than $1,000,000. The first was the 1866 No-Motto Seated Dollar which sold for $1.2 Million+…and then, of course, the trio of Brasher Doubloons which brought more than $6 million just two nights later. The stage was therein set, and these rarities would prove to be only a few of the coins to sell for what used to be a fantasy price just a short decade ago.
While all of these rarities have been among the most famous of numismatic treasures for decades, we have seen many far less famous coins break the seven figure realm over the past couple of years. It seems the classics from every series have captured the imagination of collectors, and the key coins of each series are among those targeted.
To understand the significance of these prices we have to look at the history of such transactions. In 1989, the Dexter example of the 1804 Draped Bust dollar just missed seven-figure fame by selling for $990,000. It took seven years for the magic million number to be breached when the 1913 Liberty Nickel sold for $1,485,000. Just one year later, the Eliasberg specimen of the 1804 Draped Bust dollar sold for an impressive $1.84 million. In the following year there were several coins exceeding the million dollar mark, the most public being the 1907 Ultra High Relief which realized $1.2 million.
In 1999, Monaco Financial bought a million dollar PR68 example of the 1907 Ultra High Relief and sold the finest known 1880 Coiled Hair Stella for $850,000 (which recently sold again for $1.2 million). Fast forwarding to August 2005, there have been more than 25 coins sold this year alone for over $1,000,000.
The highest price this year and the second highest price ever paid for a coin was the recent sale of the finest of five 1913 Liberty Nickels. After selling via a private treaty in 2003 for a reported $3 million, it was recently sold again to a New Jersey dealer for a reported $4.15 million. Yes, it is a far cry from the record-holding 1933 Saint-Gaudens which sold in 2002 for $7.59 million, but still impressive nonetheless.
This summer has been a constant reminder of a dinner I had with coin industry colleagues following an exciting auction in 1989. I remember laughing and saying, yeah, one day we will see coins selling every month for a million dollars. So far, the summer of 2005 has been stellar, at a time when the market usually takes a breather.
But it is not only the Monsters of Numismatics selling for the magical million number, we are seeing far less famous rarities breaking through the million dollar barrier. Just this summer, a 1927-D Saint-Gaudens sold for $1.65 million…a 1796 No Stars $2.50 sold for $1.38 million…and a 1794 Silver Dollar realized $1.15 million.
In addition to these record-breakers, dozens have sold for $500K, $600K, $700K and more. These transactions are significant because it demonstrates the growing maturity of an industry. We are seeing the return of the baby boomer generation, probably the wealthiest generation in history of the world, to collecting of United States coins of all price ranges. And with the long-term plan and introduction of minting new commemoratives by the U.S Mint, we are sure to see the growth continue.