VIEW FROM THE USA
Jeff Garrett reflects on coin collecting events and the move to virtual shows
Numismatic events around the world have had to be cancelled, postponed, or moved online, but as US coins expert Jeff Garrett explains the coin market is proving to be very resilient, and the future could be brighter than ever
For the last several years I have attended the annual World Money Fair in Belin. The show is unlike any in the United States, and I truly enjoy exploring the diverse bourse with everything from ancient coins to coins being struck that day. The show is about meeting people and establishing relationships that will be fruitful for years to come. The amazing attendance which is displayed by the long lines to get in are the envy of show promoters around the world.
My wife and I also enjoy the many social events surrounding the World Money Fair, the highlight being the show banquet that is hosted by the sponsoring Mint. In 2020 the Japanese Mint staged an elegant dinner with engaging entertainment. Part of the evening event each year is the announcement of next year’s sponsoring Mint. The event was held in February, and the unveiling of China
(and the absence of their delegation) as sponsoring host of next year’s 50th World Money Fair, caused murmurs from those in attendance. It was at that early point that the reality of the Covid19 crisis first set in for me and many others.
The World Money Fair 2021 has now been postponed and a virtual event is being planned instead.
Every year since 1974, I have attended the summer ANA World’s Fair of Money in the United States. The show is the cornerstone of my numismatic calendar, and is greatly anticipated by thousands of collectors and dealers around the world. The bourse usually boasts over 700 tables, with dealers offering material from every corner of numismatics. Many years there are over 10,000 public attendees. My company would normally have six or seven tables with sales of hundreds of thousands of dollars. This year none of that happened!
Many numismatic pundits, including myself, always worry when a lot of coins enter the market. The rare coin market is bigger than most of us realise, and these coins always find new homes.
As everyone knows, the 2020 World’s Fair of Money in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was cancelled because of the Covid19 pandemic. It was an agonizing decision for the ANA board, but in the end, safety of the membership ruled the day. Much of the decision was outside of the ANA’s control as each city manages with Covid19 restrictions dealing with large gatherings. Right now the
trend of the pandemic seems to be going in the wrong direction, but talk of a number of effective vaccines is encouraging; the future of any coin show is very much up in the air.
Starting in the early part of 2020, Stacks/ Bowers and Heritage Auctions began soliciting auction consignments for the 2020 ANA Worlds Fair of Money. The ANA sale is usually one of the premier events of the year, and many collectors send consignments for the prestigious sales. This year was no different and both companies staged impressive auctions that were conducted mostly online.
Over the last few months I have been calling dealers and collectors around the country asking about their view of the ANA sales (rebranded August Sales) conducted by Heritage and Stacks/Bowers. I have also talked to consigners to get their opinion on results.
To start, the auctions were conducted with the tails winds of exploding precious metal prices. At one point, gold reached new highs and silver was up around 40%. The hobby is also enjoying new-found awareness because of so many individuals who now have extra time on their hands. An interest in tangible assets is benefiting numismatics significantly as well. Any company with a strong internet presence is doing brick business. The hobby of numismatics is flourishing, especially when compared to many other segments of the global economy. Many businesses are suffering greatly and any one who sells rare coins for a living should feel blessed.
The combined auctions featured tens of millions of dollars’ worth of United States coins, world coins, ancient coins and paper money. There we some coins that failed to meet reserves, but the vast majority of the coins found new homes. Whenever this many coins enter the market it can be a test of the depth of the demand for rare coins and currency. This is even more of an observed test considering the state of the economy and concerns about the Covid19 crisis.
When speaking to those who attended the auctions or consigned material to the sales, one theme was constant: the market demands quality. Attractive coins with original surfaces sold well. Set registry collecting (including world coins) is also still a significant driver of the market for rare coins. Less appealing coins sold for discounts, which has been a consistent result for the last few years. There also seemed to be some resistance for those coins priced near or above $100,000. A few of these coins sold for less than they had brought several years ago.
Both sales featured many great and unusual coins that seldom appear on the market. The greatest demand in the sales was for attractive coins under $10,000. With the lack of coins shows, many coin dealers are seeing their inventories being depleted of these types of coins.
World and Ancient coins performed extremely well and many new auction records were set. Many numismatic pundits, including myself, always worry when a lot of coins enter the market. The rare coin market is bigger than most of us realize, and these coins always find new homes. There is little doubt in my mind that the market for rare coins is now a global affair and the hobby of numismatics will continue to flourish.
Jeff Garrett is the President of MidAmerican Rare Coin Galleries, Inc., you can contact him on email: firstname.lastname@example.org