Hot Topics

Journal entries from the founder of Legend Numismatics, Laura Sperber, help you stay current with the real happenings of numismatics.  A former ANA Board Member, Laura has handled close to $1 billion worth of rare coins to date and has assembled many of the greatest collections ever. Her views and opinions are as "inside" as you can get. Warning: ALL her Hot Topics articles are pretty blunt!

Hello 2015 

2014 WAS THE YEAR FROM HELL

Can’t say 2014 was a good year for myself or The Legend companies. We would have our good months, only to give back and then some the following months. Choppy accurately describes the overall market. I’m not one who has to have everything rocking and rolling all the time, but to completely stop and start-that’s extremely stressful.

It was also a year I bit off way too much. If you notice my Hot Topics Reports were few. No, I have not been silenced. Between being on the ANA Board, extensive travel, and my day jobs (Legend Rare Coin Auctions ate up so much time), I had little extra time to even sleep! It all took a bad toll on me. I would like to have written more Hot Topics. I feel its critical to keep the struggles to make this hobby great front and center so we never fall backwards.

I do not expect to do 140,000 miles of flying this year (2014 was an all time record for me). I already have cut back my schedule. Hopefully 2015 will be a better year and I can write many more Hot Topics.

THE FIGHTS

Coin doctoring and gradeflation, my two pet peeves. I honestly think we have made small progress in coin doctoring (although when we are not looking the children are still trying) and gradeflation, its a culture that I do not think we can change. I do not think I have encountered a collector anywhere in the past few years who does not want an upgrade (its not just the dealers pushing the line).

All we can do is identify the people messing with coins and stay on them. Naming names to bunch of chat-room gossips who would never deal with the guys is not answer. Making sure PCGS and NGC punish them is part of a solution. Having dealers such as my self stop buying from the known sources might slow them (but they just put their coins in auction and sell that way). I do think the public is learning recognizing what doctored coins looks like. I think that is also why the dreck in these huge auctions seems to sell at below market prices (the coins are really selling for what they are worth) to a weakening demand. And the critics who poo pooed it, CAC has helped tremendously in BOTH areas, coin doctoring and gradeflation. There is still much more work to be done in these areas. I am still mad at the PNG for sitting back and doing nothing except creating what they think are is an anti coin doctoring code/definition. Please, step up and be self policing and punish the bums in club! Shame on hiding behind the argument you need people to complain.

Since dealers still won’t do it, we need collectors still to be vocal about these two issues. They effect everyone. Gradeflation and coin doctoring  can hurt a good coins value. No one wants that.

My next biggest concern: dealer and grading service competency. I believe that 90% of the dealers who sell to the public-including many VERY well known names, can NOT grade a raw coin to save themselves. Not only is this pathetic, but what will it lead to for our hobbies future? Who will the next generation of graders be and what will they really know? I call them wannabes, but I see the public is more interested in buying from these people because they always manage to coddle their sweet spot with a story or good marketing. Eventually, dealers need to be tested and maybe even licensed.  Just ask the dealer you work with if they deal in any RAW coins. Looking at holder where there is already a grade and cracking out a coin does NOT mean you are a world class grader.

THE ANA

WOW did I hit a wall. My time on the board has been a total waste of time. I contributed nothing-even though I have tried to raise my concerns: dwindling membership, poor web site, poor ANA Show, poor marketing, creating an expansion of the educational services, and consumer protection, etc. We are always bogged down in “other” issues that take over marathon teleconferences. To be a successful board member you really need to be there and devote a lot of time. My failure was the time allotment. I couldn’t do it. Because my business demands too much from me, at this stage in my life I can’t help the ANA like it needs so I will not be seeking another term. I was a total failure. I do NOT blame the ANA for this.

I have nothing but praise for the Board. I was expecting to see personal fiefdoms and abuse of positions. I saw NONE of that. The board does want to be proactive and DOES want change-but is mired down by past nonsense, it made very little headway. BUT, it does seem like it is inching toward improvement-even though it will happen probably too late. I can’t devote endless hours of my precious to sitting through nonsense while there are burning issues we just do not get too. We’ll see if we can make 2015 on the board a bit better functionally.

I would have liked to see the ANA take the lead and become the hobby’s consumer watchdog for all collectors. After seeing how the ANA works, I do not think this could ever be possible. Collectors do need an advocate. Maybe one day the ANA can make it happen. We have such a great  hobby, we just can’t let the bad parts grow or overshadow all the good. I suggest to anyone thinking of running for the ANA board-a business background would be helpful. Be prepared to spend a huge amount of time on long teleconference calls. And push hard for change at every call or meeting.

LEGEND AND LEGEND RARE COIN AUCTIONS

Legend Auctions really was a struggle. It was harder then I thought to work with a company not directly in coins (Morphy Auctions). I took them in as partner because I felt they knew auctions and could introduce us to their huge customer base. They did not understand most of the ways we do business in our field (especially shipping coins on credit). so we had to split and backtrack pretty much a years worth of work. Plus, we had a major melt down of our software early this year-ouch! So 2014 was a nightmare scenario for Legend Auctions. I think I can safely say, we are now 100% operational and functional. The business does everything we want it to do for coin collectors. We are on the road to being the super boutique that we want to be. 2015 should be our breakout year (see our major announcement coming at FUN).

Legend Rare Coins had a barely decent year. It was tough though. The stopping and starting of the market hurt and stressed us. Competing with wannabes was annoying. And our biggest problem-we ran so dry of coins mid year, we LOST huge money. Legend does indeed sell the very BEST coins on the market (we will challenge anyone). We will not accept the dreck most others do and we do not need to tell BS stories to sell. In 2014 a lot of that dreck on the market actually hurt us. Can’t say 2015 is starting off any better. Typically we’d spend $1,000,000.00+ on coins in the FUN sale we actually need. This year, its maybe $100,000.00. An awful lot of “stuff” will be flooding the market Jan/feb-ONLY buy what you really need-IF its properly graded and beaned. I am not so sure how Legend will do this year. We are off to a much better start then I imagined could happen-and we are only 5 days in to the new year! I do have plans to limit growth. Our customer base is huge and is the very best in the business. It took 30+ years of extremely hard work for Legend to be where it is today. However., until I see more of an even market, why waste precious time and energy?

 

A very interesting note: in 2014, Legend Numismatics picked up more foreign buyers of US coins then ever. The last buyer was a collector from Poland who bought a Standing Quarter in GEM! We think this market will grow dramatically over the next few years. Could be an interesting dynamic.

Also, I wish to address a myth that Legend does not handle coins under $2,500.00. Not true at all. As many of you know we sure do! Its just when we post the coins, they immediately get hit. Rarely do these coins stick around to mid week on the site. We’ll try a few extended postings and other things. Dealers love nothing more then to place false ideas in peoples heads about us. Sadly, many collectors feel intimidated by us because we handle so many “BIG GIRL” coins. This year I will work harder to dispel all that BS. George and I are very approachable and we are coin collectors too! We are one of the few dealers who really care about the collector-and have fought hard to make sure this hobby treats them right.

WHAT IS WRITTEN HERE ARE SOLE OPINIONS OF THE AUTHOR LAURA SPERBER. You may reach me at lsperber1@hotmail.com

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