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!


Have not been able to write a Hot Topics in a while. It is not for lack of subjects. Just too busy. I plan on finally having more time to comment about important subjects again (a good customer said now I am doing normal work hours).  In the past 30 days I have witnessed something that is horrifying, drives me nuts, and is BAD for the collectors who have done it.

First, if you do not know, my career passion and success has come from building collections and sets-some sets are the very best ever. So my experience is above and beyond most dealers. I know what it takes to build a great set that WILL make you money down the road. I know how to build an even keel collection. And do know, before the chatroom weenies have a go at this, I am NOT talking about the biggest or most expensive sets. ANY set of ANY value can suffer from this problem.

Recently I witnessed two major gold collectors deviate from their original plans. Both had been building ALL PCGS CAC sets. BOTH all of the sudden starting buying real dreck because they felt stuck they could not find better pieces. BOTH have seriously hurt the entire value of their collections by doing this. You are far better off having a PCGS CAC MS64 something that is pretty, then owning an MS66 that is retoned or is overgraded. Of course BOTH collectors succuried around on their own and paid to much for the new additions. In one case, the value of the entire collection actually dropped as a few of the coins they felt they had to have were bigger coins in the set.

I used to blame the Registries for this. Now I realize, its like a gun, people shoot the guns. The egos of collectors can get out of hand because of the competition a Registry can create. I am NOT saying you must have a 100% PCGS CAC set. The Coronet Collection of Morgans I assembled had 3 NO CAC coins. BUT each coin was still amazing and was not messed with-it was minor grading differences of opinion. In fact, the biggest NON CAC coin in the collection was the $1 1901 PCGS MS66-which sold for OVER $500,000.00 in spirited bidding. The difference is-the 1901 was a great unmessed with coin. The gold coins the two collectors bought they got sucker punched on.  I know one felt desperate to have a high ranking. I am in shock the other is running around wildly. All of the sudden they got blinded by what ever.

The key to building any great collection-even a smaller box of 20 is consistent quality. I tell people always buy the BEST quality for the grade and or the BEST quality YOU can afford. You do NOT need a dull MS67 NO CAC if you have a killer MS65+ PCGS CAC.  Quality is far sexier then dreck. ANY top quality and eye appealing collection is what grabs the attention of buyers. Changing more then 5% of any collection to lesser quality can be devastating to its value. One of the collectors now has two real eye sores in set which undoes the flow of eye appeal-a critical component in ANY quality set. I have built many sets that are ranked 2 or 3 that have coins that WILL rival #1 sets that are all plastic. The lower grade quality sets WILL perform better. In a great set, even ONE BAD coin will be devastating. You do NOT have to have the #1 ranked coin to have one of the best sets!


Yes, I still yak buy PCGS CAC whenever you can. I try and build 100% PCGS CAC sets. While a few people (especially old timers and chatroom dweebs) can’t stand CAC, the one thing it absolutely guarantees you-NO doctored coins. Do not be short sighted and NOT buy the coins because PCCS CAC is more pricey. You are buying protection. I just was told by a dealer one of the copper docs was heard saying to another they justify selling the bad retoned coins because “they know they are stable”. What sick twisted minds.  If you buy only PCGS CAC you never have to worry about those bad coins from that greedy fool ending up in your set.

Also, be patient! WAIT for the right coin. If you need a filler because the hole is driving you nuts, take a lower grade coin-but stick to PCGS CAC (or else you’ll be ouching when you sell it to buy the right coin).  Do NOT build a set because of your ego or you think your buying top coins cheap. Build it because of quality and satisfaction. My partner Bruce Morelan and I sparred over the inclusion of the one finest known coin for one of his sets. At the time Bruce was blinded by domination and having every #1 coin. No he looks back and is glad he never bought the one coin. The coin was marginal in quality-and more important, the eye appeal was poor. One bad coin is his wonder sets would stand out like a sore thumb. I can’t tell you how many times he had been tempted to buy the coin to this day.

Last, to prevent all this work with a dealer-a real dealer not a salesman. Do NOT be cheap. You will learn sometimes passing on a coin is your best option. Make the sure the dealer has bourse floor credentials and that they know how to grade raw coins. Any dealer worth their salt who has been in biz for more then 5 years and claims to be 100% retail, must have some known credible collections they have built. The wannbes out there sicken me with plastic sets they build for people. They have no clue what the correct standards are because they learned by plastic, not by grading raw coins. You should know by now, unless a coin is part of a major fresh deal that simply did not make it to CAC due to timing, then stay away-far away, or have someone look at it. No dealer or auction house worth their salt would not want to sell anything but PCGS CAC coins as they bring the most money.

Do not get weak kneed like these two collectors did.  Have great coins, enjoy your set no matter what ranking, and be proud of what you have built. Nice coins sustain the best returns. Sadly, in this market there are not a ton of great coins to build many sets with these days. Do NOT lower your standards!

After our July Sale is over, I am going to have a major discussion about the 1994 Collection and how the coins did. EVERY coin in the sale (including the only NO bean-the 20C 1878 PCGS PR67 Cameo) is amazing. There will be record prices for the majority of the coins. Its not a hodgepodge of questionable color or overgraded coins. It is a set to learn many good lessons from!

If you have any questions or comments, please email me

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2 Replies

Very good Hot Topics!
I 100% agree with this. Many if not most collectors start without too much patience. They cannot believe that although they have the
funds that they cannot build a major collection of top items in a short time. This applies to almost all collectibles and not just coins. The best collections take TIME and
lots of it. There is NO way around this.

Unless you buy an existing collection, the longer you have, the better your holdings will be. Yes over the years I have been impatient with various things.
It is human nature. However being too impatient can be very costly. If you buy VERY nice coins that are all CAC, when one you like better comes along three years
later, you will loose less than people who are not as selective.

CAC: Sure some people are not fans. I simply cannot understand why a person would not buy almost ALL CAC coins. CAC is not perfect. However when they do not approve
a coin they have found one or more things that they do not like about it. It could be wear on certain spots, hairlines, bad color or a multitude of other things. So WHY
would you want a coin that has an issue? The issue to others, in their opinion might not stop the coin from being a certain grade. Who cares. Buy something else. WAIT.

There is no shortage of coins. Let’s say you have ten expert graders and two believe that the reason CAC did not pass the coin should not prevent it from being a 66.
Again, so what. Look for reason to NOT buy something and not reason TO buy it. Buy the best and forget the rest!
Only 15% of coins at most will pass CAC’s strict standards. Buy them. They will tell you more pass but that is not true. Look in the cases at shows.
Sure they actually pass more than 15% but that is only from what that is submitted. Many coins are not submitted because the dealers know they have no shot.

CAC has existed for ten years now. Even the haters admit that they are well respected and usually only pass the best coins. If CAC makes 10% mistakes, so what.
The haters and there are less of them now, do not care for CAC because they cannot get over on people as much before its existence. When I started I actually
bought NGC coins. What a mistake.

I have around 20 Non CAC coins. Why? Because they are beautiful and I do not care if the grade on the holder might not be correct.

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I agree and only buy cac’d coins now. I will say I have some NGC coins that are cac’d and most are very nice. The one question I have is if a coin is cac’d why should it matter if it is pcgs or ngc?. Doesn’t cac use the same sstandards for both services?

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