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Year of change for dealers

How did coin collecting in 2014 go for you?

For some coin dealers, it was a year of change as the precious metals market continued its downward trend.

Jim Long, owner of JEL Coins, Baltimore, Md., said 2014 was better than 2013, but not by much in terms of profit.

“Overall, it was 5 to 10 percent better than last year with bullion prices heading down for most of the year,” he said. “Sales were brisk in the area of $500 coins. The more expensive merchandise was all right.

“In the ads I put out, I’ve got $6 coins next to $600 ones. It seems I get five or six calls about the $6 coins and five or six calls for the $600 one as well.”

Collector coin sales were steady in 2014, but dependent on the coin series, he said.

“I specialize in large cents,” he said. “That area has cooled down.

Morgan dollars were strong in 2014, a market that may well carry into 2015.

Morgan dollars were strong in 2014, a market that may well carry into 2015.

“Silver dollars are strong. I recently sold 100 silver dollars in the $25 to $60 range.”

When asked what aspect of the coin market in 2014 might carry into 2015, Long said the market would see a small but steady growth.

“It’s going to go up incrementally,” he said. “That’s how it’s always been since 1859 or so when the market began forming. We’ll see increases in new collectors, which will offset the people coming out of coin collecting.”

Harry Miller, owner of Miller’s Mint, Patchogue, N.Y., said that the number of people no longer collecting coins has affected the market recently.

“It’s been somewhat of a troublesome year with bright spots,” he said. “There’s a lot of liquidity issues on the market.

“There’s an over saturation of the market in modern coins right now. You have a drop-off in the number of beginner to mid-range collectors. Might be with the 50-state quarter program. A lot of people started collecting with that and now it’s kind of lost its appeal.”

Miller said another reason for the lackluster market right now may lie with financial concerns.

“The economy seems to be getting better, but that’s for those on top,” he said. “The middle range worker is really squeezed. The median income now is lower than it was at the start of the Great Recession or, as I like to call it, the Great Repression.”

There was some strengthening in the coin market in certain areas though, particularly in better date Seated Liberty coins and Barber coinage, he said.

“The 1896-S and 1913-S Barber quarters have come up some,” Miller said. “This presents a buying opportunity, especially with the 1913-S. The 1896-O quarter seems to be a little weaker.

“I think I was a little surprised by better date Morgan dollars. They’re more than holding their value, they’re increasing in value, especially the Carson City, San Francisco and New Orleans issues.”

Julian Leidman, owner of Bonanza Coins, Silver Spring, Md., said that while Morgan dollars have been popular, they also avoided the large drop in the precious metals market.

“It doesn’t affect the coins where, with $3 of silver in the coin, it’s priced at $10,000,” he said. “Whether the silver in the coin is $3 or $4 doesn’t matter.

“Now, a circulated gold quarter eagle that trades for the gold value has a bit of a discount. It’s a bonus to the collector. He was probably buying silver and gold coins throughout the year.”

Sales were lower in 2014 than in 2013 because of falling silver and gold prices, he said.

“I think they’re undervalued,” Leidman said. “I think many see them as a good diversification of assets. That’s how a lot of great collections started. A lot of collectors began with bullion and moved on to collectible coins.”

Miller said that a low precious metals market will continue to affect how dealers do business into the next year.

“In terms of precious metals, I expected to see them higher or lower, not in this mid-range,” he said. “Precious metals are a double edged sword.

“You have a lot of bargain buys. You also have a lot of people who deal with metals, particularly scrap, who are losing money on them.

“The dealers aren’t able to get enough in metals now when they could once sell $10,000 in scrap a week.

“As a dealer, it was a year where you had to work a little harder for your money.”

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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