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Heritage makes it big

When I went to school I was taught about the formation of U.S. Steel, the first billion dollar American company at the beginning of the 20th century.

That impressed me.

In 2015 we are now are on the threshold of a billion dollar sales year by a private numismatic firm.

When it happens, it will impress me even more as it is occurring in a field that I know a little something about.

Heritage Auctions of Dallas has announced that 2014 was its best year ever with sales of over $969 million.

Naturally, the firm is proud of the achievement.

Two-thirds of the number was generated by auctions and one-third derives from private treaty sales.

American coins have a great story to tell in this set of results, though not the only story.

Auction results for U.S. coins surged by 53 percent to over $334 million.

This represents 62 percent of the $536 million U.S. coin auction results in 2014 as measured by the Professional Numismatists Guild survey.

Growing even faster were sales results in the world and ancient coin segment of Heritage’s business.

Here growth of 65 percent took auction sales to $61 million from $36.9 million the year before.

“The popularity of world and ancient coins has skyrocketed in the last few years,” said Steve Ivy, Heritage CEO.

But just looking at numismatic results does not tell the full story of Heritage’s business.

Coin collectors might not realize the scope of a firm they have come to know over the last four decades or so.

“As a company we continue to be impressed with what we see across all 39 categories we specialize in, culminating in our best ever year,” said Ivy.

I had no idea there were that many categories. Did you?

The comics and comic art category was familiar to me because my firm, Krause Publications, used to be in that field. If we had had the $31.2 million results that Heritage has I am sure we would still be in it.

Sports memorabilia brought $29.7 million.

In areas beyond my daily view were nearly $50 million in fine arts and decorative arts and $12.3 million in rare wine.

Vintage luxury handbags brought in over $9.3 million.

Heritage says it is the largest auction house founded in the United States and the third largest in the world.

The fact Heritage is still growing might make it No. 1 in the world, which could be a source of great pride for all coin collectors who have watched the firm expand since its earliest days.

In the meantime, those collectors who have done well with their numismatic auction results might just be tempted to look at a new Heritage business, its luxury real estate category, which recorded sales of over $8.2 million.

Imagine all of this stemming from a field where we were all once trying to fill our 35-cent Whitman albums with Lincoln cents.

Who would have ever dreamed those cents could add up to $969 million?

For that matter, who would have ever thought those cents would lead me to my desk here at Numismatic News to write a blog like this?

Congratulations, Heritage.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."