Welcome to Steve's blog, sharing stories of his professional coin career, 1963 to date. Enjoy stories of Steve's numismatic journey.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Dealer Toolkit Includes Radar Detector, Crystal Ball and Wizard's Wand

Let's have a little fun today and explore a fascinating human phenomenon:  Flock (verb):  to move or come together in large numbers

Seemingly without warning coin collectors flock towards a specific series of coins.  This interesting direction change often occurs suddenly, sometimes over a month or less.  It’s as if some special collector sense has become activated.

Flock (or murmuration) of birds
Let’s examine one example:

In the early 1980s older silver and gold commemorative coins had been snoozing for the better part of ten years.  Suddenly the series awakened and commemorative coins were HOT.  General collectors and specialists alike flocked to buy and sell commems.  During the period lots of nice coins appeared in the marketplace, unearthed from dealer back rooms, collections and so on, fueling and feeding demand. The advent of certification increased the heat and the series continued to boom until reaching a peak about 1990. 

Commemoratives have been somewhat dormant since the 1990 peak and quantities of really nice pieces remain limited in today’s market.  The general collector soon turned to other series, leaving commemorative specialists to work quietly on their collections.

To service a moving flock of collectors, dealers need to operate ahead of the curve.  How do they do that? 

Certainly a good coin dealer needs common sense, years of experience, and the ability to fluidly change with collector interest. A dealer’s toolkit might also include a radar detector - to determine what direction the flock will take; a crystal ball - to guess the timing of the movement; and a wizard’s wand - to scare up inventory in time to serve demand. 

Today we see collectors flocking towards Mercury Dimes.  Now, Mercs have always been one of the most solid series of U.S. coins, rarely, if ever, experiencing dormancy of collector interest.  That said, Mercury Dimes have been a relaxed series over the past two to three years.  Until now.  All across the country we see heightened collector interest in Mercury Dimes.

Here’s a final anecdote on the topic, about a savvy Pacific Northwest dealer who acted as soon as he sensed collector interest shift.  This dealer runs a retail coin shop in a large metro area, attending local and regional coin shows.  When he sensed building demand he made a beeline to a local wholesale source with hoards of US coins tucked away, virtually cleaning out the wholesaler’s stockpile of Mercury Dimes.

I have been in this dealer’s shoes many times and applaud his foresight and motivation.  So long for now, I must get back to work.  We’ll chat again soon.  Until then have fun . . . and happy collecting.

Steve Estes

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sidestepping The Bubble

In my earliest years as a coin dealer – primarily the 1960s and 1970s – early coinage and key date pieces in the Seated and Gold series were very scarce, and when they appeared, it was an occasion to remember.

For example, I attended a show in Los Angeles sometime in the 1960s where there was a serious buzz pervading the bourse floor.  A dealer had brought one 1796 Quarter in XF-AU to sell.  A pack of dealers swarmed his table, each vying to outdo the other to procure the coin.  It’s difficult to adequately illustrate the drama and commotion created by a single not-unique coin during that time period.  Nowadays appearance of that coin would not elicit much more than “oh!”
1796 Quarter

So what made the presence of a single old rare coin such an event?  In those days rare coins were not worth a great deal, so the smart old money kept their rare coins in safekeeping.   They knew what they possessed!

This all changed during the inflationary binge of the late 1970s and early 1980s when increased coin values brought multitudes of rare coins to market.

The next development that unearthed closely held rarities from their storage cabinets was the creation of third party grading.  And what a party that became!

I remember 1989 like it was yesterday.  The certified coin market was boiling over and I sensed a price bubble soon to burst.  In April, Debbi and I attended a Central States show in Overland Park, near Kansas City.  We brought along all the certified coins in our stock, then roughly 400 pieces of mostly common U.S. coins.
Up, Up, Up:
How Far Will It go?

During the show set up period, I announced to dealers at hand that I was selling all certified coins at Graysheet bid.  First come, first served.