‘Crazy’ prices paid for world coins at Chicago Int’l Coin Expo

The Chicago International Coin Expo, held April 10-13 in Rosemont, Illinois, was buzzing with activity. Image courtesy of FW Media.

The Chicago International Coin Expo, held April 10-13 in Rosemont, Illinois, was buzzing with activity. Image courtesy of FW Media.

ROSEMONT, Ill. – It doesn’t matter whether it’s a US or foreign coin, collectors want to own the best.

“Any rare types in high grades are bringing just crazy, crazy prices, and at auction mostly,” said Tom Michael, world coin market analyst at Krause Publications.

Michael just returned from the Chicago International Coin Expo held April 10-13 in Rosemont, Ill., where he spoke to collectors from around the world.

“Almost all dealers who have coins worth over $10,000 or $20,000 are consigning them to auctions and that is where they are getting the big money,” he said.

Heritage Auctions, for example, held four auctions at CICF, bringing in more than $13 million on the hammer.

“Auctions draw collectors to the shows,” Michael said.

And while the auctions may have the high-priced coins, collectors can find plenty of mainstream coins on the show floor, Michael said, with about 70 percent of the coins selling for $500 or less.

“On professional preview day, I ran into somebody I knew from the East Coast, a low-key guy, who spent most of the day with one dealer and spent $3,000 to $4,000 with him to fill in holes in his collection,” Michael said.

Many dealers are helping people build collections, and will buy coins at shows specifically to resell to their clients, Michael added.

But in every instance, collectors are looking for high-grade coins, he said.

“You can have a high-rarity coin in a low grade and it goes homeless,” Michael said. “If you’ve got a nice dragon dollar from a province in China in MS-60, its chances of selling at auction is iffy. If it’s MS-65, you can get big dollars for it.”

While commercial third-party grading has been an integral part of the US coin market for almost 30 years, it is just now taking hold for world coins.

“But it’s fast becoming the standard,” Michael said.

American auction houses sell graded world coins, Michael said, while some European firms want to stay away from graded coins. But that is slowly changing.

“And that is a function of the type of person buying and collecting today,” he said. “A vast majority of people paying these high prices aren’t the traditional coin collector of the last 20 years. They may not know how to grade very well.”

That’s why they are drawn to third-party graded coins.

“When you’re looking at a coin that may be an MS-60 or MS-65 you’d better be darned sure which it is, because there is a big difference in price,” Michael said. “If you don’t have the confidence to grade it yourself, you need a third party.”

But Michael knows not every collector can buy coins that are the best of the best.

“If you have been a core collector and are put off by the crazy, crazy prices for third-party high grade coins, don’t be discouraged,” Michael said. “There is a lot of nice material in lower grades like XF and AU. You can build a nice collection.”

In fact, the drop in gold and silver prices has helped bring down the price of many mainstream coins, he said.

“For any coin graded below MS, prices are quite reasonable again,” he said.

“When gold is at $2,000 an ounce and silver is at $40, that pushes a lot of circulated-type coins out of the range of the average collector. But with gold at $1,300 and silver at $20, some of those coins that they might have been interested in will now be available at a price they can afford.”

Collectors came from as far away as Moscow for the CICF show and Heritage’s auctions.

“As a show organizer, the most satisfying sight is to look over the bourse floor and see customers sitting in chairs at every dealer’s table,” said Scott Tappa, KP numismatics publisher and CICF chairman. “That was definitely the case at CICF. Early auction lot viewing was busier than usual, and that fed into very active dealer setup, early bird and general public attendance days. There may be larger coin shows out there, but for world and ancient coins CICF continues to be a must-attend.”

Next year’s CICF show will be held April 9-12, 2015 at the Crowne Plaza O’Hare. For more information visit www.cicfshow.com.

#   #   #