The market for U.S. collectible coins shrank in calendar year 2017, according to a market survey conducted by the Professional Numismatists Guild.
Results are the basis for a PNG estimate that the U.S. rare coin market was $3.4 billion to $3.8 billion.
That is a huge market.
However, it is down from the $4 billion PNG estimate for the market in 2016.
These estimates do not include sales of modern coins by the U.S. Mint, or sales of bullion coins to investors.
If I wanted to put the worst face on the collector coin market, I would point out that the low-end size estimate sets the decline at 15 percent and the high end estimate at 5 percent.
But neither figure really matters in the long run.
Everybody active in the business knows that the market was slower in 2017.
But that is the nature of numismatics.
Sales fluctuate. They always have.
The important takeaway is the sheer size of the collectible coin market.
This is especially true since modern marketing practice calls every knickknack made and sold a collectible.
American coin collectors know our business goes back more than 150 years.
The American Numismatic Society was founded in 1858. The American Numismatic Association began in 1891. Dealers were involved every step of the way developing a marketplace for coins.
The aggregate prices realized for U.S. coins sold at major public auctions in 2017 totaled $306,199,305, PNG said.
This is a decline of about 10 percent from the $341,815,542 achieved in 2016.
“Over the decades, the rare coin market has moved in cycles,” explained PNG President Barry Stuppler. “Unlike the last few years, there were few old-time collections that came into the marketplace, and some of the investment money that may have gone into numismatic purchases went into the booming stock market and the speculative cybercurrency market,” said Stuppler.
“Despite that, demand for extremely rare investor-collector coins rose in 2017.”
PNG pointed out that two auction houses accounted for nearly 80 percent of the overall total .
Heritage Auctions chalked up $169,100,000 sold at auction and Stack’s Bowers Galleries registered $74,099,305.
Stack’s Bowers took top rarity honors in 2017 by selling 1804-dated U.S. Class I silver dollar for $3,290,000 and a 1794 silver dollar for $2,820,000.
All totals include the buyer’s premium to reflect the actual, full prices paid by winning bidders.
The auction firms that responded to the PNG survey are: Bonham’s; Ira & Larry Goldberg Auctioneers; GreatCollections Coin Auctions; Heritage Auctions; David Lawrence Rare Coins (which reported private sales of two coins for $1 million or more); Legend Rare Coin Auctions; Scotsman Coin & Jewelry; and Stack’s Bowers Galleries.
What made the market for coins more accessible to average collectors?
Stuppler offered this take:
“High-grade, historic coins valued at over $50,000 and so-called ‘collector’ coins under $500 generally did well in 2017.
Results at local Wisconsin shows this year support Stuppler’s conclusion about coins valued at under $500.
To all potential coin buyers in 2018, I say happy hunting.
I also offer my thanks to PNG for compiling this important data.
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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."