The GreatCollections.com Internet auction firm’s Aug. 26 sale has proven that average collectors can make a fortune.
The key is to be aware of changing collector preferences, buy the best, and have time to watch the investment grow.
Ruth Weinberg’s estate sold 27 coins in this auction.
These were acquired for her by her son, well-known coin dealer Fred Weinberg, back in the 1970s.
But the thing to remember is the coins he purchased for his mother were not some insider special.
They were coins available to any collector active at the time.
GreatCollections President Ian Russell said, “The Ruth Weinberg coins sold for extremely high prices. I think the GreySheet numbers were about $30,000. They sold for $128,372.”
What makes the results so fascinating is the receipts for the coins are available for us to study.
A May 26, 1973, receipt lists $2,595 for the purchase of seven coins:
• BU Type I 1853 gold dollar, $265
• Gem BU Type 3 1883 gold dollar, $325
• Gem BU Type 3 1889 gold dollar, $265
• Gem BU 1898 $2.50, $155
• Gem BU 1878 gold $3, $1,000
• Gem BU 1885-S gold $5, $110
• BU 1922-S Saint-Gaudens $20, $475
Notice that Fred Weinberg wasn’t buying 1950-D Jefferson nickels. He bought gold.
Conventional wisdom back in 1973 was gold was the place to be.
He was buying them in uncirculated and higher grade.
No circulated pieces were included.
None of these seven coins is particularly rare.
They could all could have been purchased by an average collector of the time.
What did they sell for Aug. 26?
They brought a combined $25,333.87, including the 12.5 percent buyer’s fee.
That’s almost 10 times the original sum.
The 1853 Type I gold dollar was graded in the late 1980s by the Professional Coin Grading Service as MS-64 and is housed in an old green holder, as are all the coins.
The coin has a Certified Acceptance Corporation sticker. Sale price was $2,475.
The Type 3 1883 gold dollar was a home run.
It was graded MS-67 CAC. Sale price was $9,114.75.
The Type 3 1889 gold $1 was graded MS-66 CAC. Sales price was $2,193.75.
The dud of the bunch was the 1898 gold $2.50. It graded MS-62.
Sale price was $459, about three times purchase price.
The most expensive purchase of 1973 did not do as well as the average.
The 1878 gold $3 was graded as MS-64 CAC.
It sold for $6,862.50, not quite seven times the purchase price.
The 1885-S gold $5 graded MS-63 CAC.
It sold for $1,103.62, almost precisely 10 times purchase price.
The 1922-S Saint-Gaudens gold $20 graded MS-62 CAC.
It sold for $3,125.25.
Weinberg also sold his mother a key date that everyone in the 1970s would have recognized and appreciated.
It is a 1916 Standing Liberty quarter.
It was described on a 1976 receipt as Choice BU with a sale price of $2,000.
It is in the old green PCGS holder as MS-63 FH (Full Head).
It sold for $29,531.25. That is almost 15 times the original purchase price.
This was one of just three silver coins.
The other 24 coins were gold.
The importance of timing is illustrated by a 1979 purchase of a Gem Proof 1860 Seated Liberty half dollar purchased for $3,000.
It sold for $19,176.13.
This is a better coin that an average collector probably would have passed on in the 1970s.
It sold for six times the original purchase price, but that is a lesser performance than what was achieved by the 1973 list of seven coins.
A Gem BU 1904 Saint-Gaudens $20 was purchased in 1979 for $1,100. It sold for $22,500.
It graded MS-65 CAC.
But another $20 of the same common 1904 date ended up slabbed as an MS-62. It sold for just $1,352.25.
These two $20 coins were picked out by a professional dealer for his mother.
One was a home run.
The other is just so much bullion.
Russell said, “It was certainly an honor to handle Ruth’s coins on behalf of Fred and his brother and sister. The coins sold extremely well, well beyond my expectations.
"It definitely helped having the pedigree back to the 1970s with the original receipts, the one-time grading back in the late 1980s, and the coins were superb.
"In today’s market, coins with that ‘original’ look are selling for record prices. We have endless demand for coins like this.”
I would like to thank Ian for providing all of this information.
The lesson cannot be clearer.
Buy the best. Buy the best. Buy the best.
If you have some quality coins you have been sitting on since the 1970s, you might be in for a pleasant surprise.
If you are looking to maximize results when you sell out in the year 2063, remember to buy top-graded coins.
As the GreatCollections.com auction shows, all top-graded coins will not bring miracle prices, but they do stack the odds in your favor.
On average, the results will make you smile.
That’s not a bad thing for an average collector to strive for, is it?
Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017 . He is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."
- Like this blog? Read more by subscribing to Numismatic News.