High-End Coins Dominate in 2019

Superior quality and exceptional rarity once again dominated the U.S. coin auction market in 2019, with hundreds of record prices realized and more than $325 million generated.
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Superior quality and exceptional rarity dominated the U.S. coin auction market in 2019, with hundreds of record prices realized, according to a year-end review by the Professional Numismatics Guild (PNG).  

More than $325 million was realized during major auctions of rare U.S. coins last year, down from $345 million in 2018 but higher than $316 million in 2017, according to PNG.

The most valuable U.S. rare coin sold in 2019 was a proof 1885 silver Trade dollar, graded NGC PR66, that sold for a record $3.96 million by Heritage Auctions. Heritage sold a total of $181.3 million of U.S. rare coins at auctions last year. The reverse of this coin is shown below.

The most valuable U.S. rare coin sold in 2019 was a proof 1885 silver Trade dollar, graded NGC PR66, that sold for a record $3.96 million by Heritage Auctions. Heritage sold a total of $181.3 million of U.S. rare coins at auctions last year. The reverse of this coin is shown below.

1885 Trade Dollar reverse

Six U.S. coins sold for $1 million or more during the year, five at auction and one by private transaction. Although sales of paper money were not included in the aggregate auction total, three rare U.S. bank notes sold for $1 million or more at public auction in 2019. “

The coin market overall seems very healthy,” PNG President Richard Weaver said. “As in past years, fresh ‘quality’ coins coming back on the market or appearing for the first time are very easy to sell. On the other hand, common generic coins are plentiful, and values for some continue to slide. “

The market for coins not independently certified for authenticity and grade also appears to be sliding on non-bullion-based items such as semi-key Lincoln cents, Liberty Head nickels in fine/very fine and others.

“Bullion-related coins such as silver Washington quarters and Franklin half dollars in circulated condition also seem to be only staying at or very slightly above bullion value. One of the highlights of bullion value related numismatic items seems to be the increased interest in circulated, pre-1933 U.S. gold coins. The bullion market is obviously stronger dollar-wise with the spot prices increasing led by palladium at roughly 50 percent, platinum 18 percent, gold 15 percent and silver at 8 percent,” he said.

Hundreds of noteworthy coins among the finest known of their kind from early American to modern set price records at auctions. A silver 1964 Kennedy half dollar from a previously unreported U.S. Mint special mint set, graded PCGS SP68, established a record price of $156,000 for any modern, non-error U.S. coin in an auction conducted by Stack’s Bowers Galleries, which realized nearly $60 million in rare coin auctions in 2019.

The most valuable U.S. rare coin sold in 2019 was a proof 1885 silver Trade dollar (at right), graded NGC PR66, for a record $3.96 million by Heritage Auctions which sold a total of $181.3 million of U.S. rare coins at auctions last year.

The auction houses responding to the PNG year-end questionnaire: Bonhams; Ira and Larry Goldberg Auctioneers; GreatCollections Coin Auctions; Heritage Auctions; Kagin’s; David Lawrence Rare Coins; Legend Rare Coin Auctions; Sotheby’s; and Stack’s Bowers Galleries.  

Founded in 1955, PNG is a nonprofit organization of many of the country’s top rare coin and paper money dealers. 

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