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!


As many of you now know, Legend Rare Coin Auctions just completed a blockbuster auction. In it were many coins that were handpicked for collectors by myself and George Huang, the principals of Legend Numismatics.


The 1994 Collection really was an early box of 20 type deal. The collector who was seeking a good long term investment directed us to buy him great coins-of our choosing. That is exactly what we did. To us, it was like being an artist and starting with a blank pallet in sea of gorgeous paints.  I remember rejecting many coins. But I was having a great time being able to pick what I wanted. At the time I had a thing for Matte Proof Lincolns and 20C Proofs. We were one coin shy of completing that set. Stupid me, I remember passing on a great 1875 because the guy wanted $1,000.00 too much (at the time they were $5,000.00 coins)! Regardless, look how the deal ended up doing:

First it should be noted there actually was another group of 1994 coins that were NOT sold via auction. Those coins did every bit as well as the auctioned coins (all were sold to Want List customers).  One coin we can mention was a $3 1864 PCGS PR65 Cameo. Cost: $36,500.00. Sold for $65,000.00.

The auction coins HAMMERED at $461,300.00 ($542,028.00 w/the vig)! The total cost of those coins: $134,500.00. Not too shabby! The coins were off the market for 23 years. Unless the math is wrong, that is about 12% per year.

Of course some coins did way better then others:

The biggest % and price increase had to be the 1C 1909 VDB PCGS PR65RB. Original cost: $2,400.00! It was sold as part of the set. However we can tell you there was a $26,000.00 book bid left by a major dealer. In fact the entire set of Matte Proof Lincolns that sold cost $7,000.00. Hammer in the sale for the set was $50,000.00! Again, EVERY single coin in the set was beyond incredible in both QUALITY  and EYE APPEAL -and several even received gold beans from CAC.

We knew the 1909 $20 PCGS PR66 CAC  would have fierce bidding and would sell strong. It brought $165,000.00 HAMMER ($193,875.00 all in). The original cost: $32,510.00. Next in line is the 1877 20C PCGS PR66 CAC. Cost $6,500.00. Sold: $34,000.00 HAMMER!

What I am going to discuss now is EXTREMELY critical for people to understand. There were a few laggards in the sale. The biggest dud was a 1C 1911 PR65BN. We could not get it to cross or sticker. It sold for $700.00 HAMMER. Cost: $375.00. The 20C 1878 PCGS PR65+ CAC. Cost: $5,950.00. hammer price: $7,500.00. The reason why these coins fared so poorly: QUALITY AND EYE APPEAL. I did my best to pick the very best. I can not explain why the 1C made the 1994 Collection. Had this coin been up to snuff, it probably would have brought $2,000.00-like the others did. The 20C I bought because at the time the toning did not seem as dark-and 20C pieces were hard to come by. It was an okay coin. If this coin were super, it would have brought probably $15-$20,000.00 or more! I can NOT stress enough, a coin that is okay is not ever going to give you the returns a killer coin will. I will stand by the fact I am one of the few (and I mean few) dealers capable of sifting through all the dreck out there today and build a collection that WILL yield the kind of result that 1994 did. Most dealers today, never really learned how to grade. To make real money in coins, its not about the plastic-or even the price. Its about the QUALITY and EYE APPEAL. Even if you think you are buying right out of auctions on your own-chances are you are NOT. If you want to build a world class group of coins like 1994-I am here to help. You have to know when to overpay and when NOT to buy.

Even though I built the monster Bob Simpson Collection, I am by far most proud of the 1994 Collection. Its was everything a top group of coins was supposed to be. I am sadden that the owner passed away and it had to be sold. At least collectors can now enjoy all the work that went into finding these GEM’s!


OMG! This final session went beyond nutso. We saw real Pluto prices realized. As we said before, on the Grand Dame-the famous $1 1880S PCGS MS68+ CAC it had 24 bidders leaving 35 bids which lead to a $52,500.00 HAMMER sale price ($61,688.00 total).  Considering the Northern Lights collector bought the coin 2.5 years ago from our Sunnywood Simpson Sale for $35,250.00 (which many people thought was nuts), the price realized is amazing.

The reason this coin brought so much more is the unlike the other series out there suffering, toned Morgans are different. Toners are viewed as a true work of art. What is even more amazing to us, there is a big following who do seem to know the difference between a coin that is 95% all there and on e that is 100%. While we believe as many as 1,000 wild toners exist, others who have been collecting longer feel there are just a few hundred pieces.  And yes, the services do snag most of the fake toners and no grade them.

This 1880S was a famous toner dating back to 1983. It has a price history of setting record each time it was sold. Any time we displayed it, people would stop in their tracks to look at it. With out a doubt it is coin far beyond anything else that exists. Hence the record price and all the bidding. Its easy to get there when out of 100 million Morgans minted, this coin is widely considered the BEST toner that exists. We really do believe the next time this coin sells, it will bring $100,000.00 or more!

This is a coin that more then proves the ultimate quality and eye appeal costs “moon money” to acquire, and DOES yield the same “moon money” results when sold (like the famous $10 1920 S PCGS MS67+ CAC Ex Duckor which he paid a ridiculous $77,000.00 for in the late 70’s and we paid a beyond crazy $1,500,000.00 HAMMER for it in 2007). We do consider it an abberation the 1880S sold for so much so quick. We had expected a $35-$40,000.00 hammer tops. Typically a hold on a great should be 5-10 years.  Do note: down cycles do occur but usually are short term.

With out the retreads, this session of Northern Lights realized $224,600.00. Cost $124,000.00.

The market for the FINEST clearly has survived the summer doldrums in a big way. Clearly our boutique style of 500 or so great coins works. If 1994 and Northern Lights had been broken up in a phone book size sale, we ‘d say take 10% right off the top-no matter how big or great a company claims their customer base is. The presentation and reach (no ones customer base beats Legends Numismatics) of our sale had a BIG reason why these coins did so well when the rest of the market is choppy at best.

My final comments are what I have always said: “buy the BEST quality can afford’. That does not mean buy PR68’s. Always buy the very top of the grade coins. Never ever skimp on cost if the coin has killer eye appeal or if you never ever see any examples.

Last if you notice 1994 and Northern Lights were both Collections. If we had to deal with an individual coin today-no matter how wild, we do NOT think we would have had the same results. Building a stunning collection did matter in both cases. It even spilled over the super $1 1892S PCGS MS64 CAC which brought a world record price of $250,000.00 HAMMER ($293,750.00 all in). It helped we won’t put dreck (a bad coin) in our sales!

Yes, you clearly CAN make money in coins! Buying today for tomorrow works. Buying today and reselling today is real crap shoot that rarely works. Buying marginal coins cheap-good luck too. And NEVER EVER buy horrible dreck to fill a hole-no matter how rare or cheap (although I have been proven wrong on one coin).

Any questions or comments please email me directly:

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