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Collector bids spur Heritage

The president of Heritage Auction Galleries expected great things of the company's FUN auction and was not disappointed by the results.

Heritage Auction Galleries? President Greg Rohan was understandably exuberant following his company?s setting of a world record for the largest numismatic auction ever.

Heritage?s official U.S. coin and currency auctions held Jan. 3-6 during the Florida United Numismatists convention in Orlando realized more than $75.4 million (including the 15-percent buyers? fees), smashing Heritage?s previous record of $61.7 million in 2005. Online sessions that ended Jan. 9 pushed that total to more than $77 million. Details of the lots sold are in a related story on this page.

?As Heritage?s FUN Signature and Platinum Night catalogs continued to grow during production, we knew that this sale would be inspiring,? Rohan said, ?but the consignments that arrived during the last two weeks before the deadline convinced us that this would be a monumental auction. Rarities abounded through all series, but there is no question that the many collectors who consigned important gold rarities really made the difference.?

Rohan said more than 900 consignors and 6,412 bidders participated in the coin and currency Signature auctions, with more bidding in the online session.

Heritage Co-Chairman Jim Halperin said the auctions held several surprises, including that about 70 to 80 percent of the $77 million came from non-dealers.

?I expected the Saint-Gaudens pieces to be stronger than the $10 Indians, but it turned out to be the other way around. I was also surprised by the turnover, because a lot of material was aggressively reserved.

Paul Mitchell, Heritage chief operating officer, said the impact of the Internet is still growing and likely had a hand in the record sale.

?I would say that about 30 percent of our sales are now coming from online bidders, both from the U.S. and around the world,? he said. ?It continues to bring in a new base of customers.?

When asked about Heritage?s plans for the rest of the year, Halperin said, ?We?re just going to keep doing what we?re doing ? provide a level playing field for everyone. That seems to attract more new collectors than anything. I?m optimistic in the long term about the coin market because of the demographics and the broad appeal that coins have.?

 So how did Halperin celebrate his company?s successful 2007 start?

?I slept for the next three days after it was over!? he said.