As we look towards 2017, this week we will continue to look back at some statistical figures of the 2016 rare coin market in order to try and gauge its performance over the past 12 months. While last week we examined Morgan dollar performance over the past month, we thought it a good idea to look at the series performance for the year. All the numbers involved are Bluesheet values, as they are basal values and represent the baseline of each series.

One year ago, a complete set of Morgan dollars – all dates and mintmarks – in MS63 had a total bid price of $289,605 for PCGS coins and $270,480 for NGC certified coins. In gem (MS65), a set of PCGS coins was $555,781 and NGC was at $574,121. As it stands in this issue, an MS63 PCGS set sits at $296,211, a gain of 2.25%. An MS63 NGC set today is bid at $275,445, a gain of 1.82%. While not stunning, a positive gain nonetheless. However, it is a different story at the gem level. One year ago PCGS coins totaled $555,781 and NGC coins stood at $574,121. Today, these totals are at $426,901 and $459,536, respectively. This equates to a decrease of 26.2% for PCGS coins and 22.2% for NGC coins. What are some explanations for this? The first and most obvious answer is certified populations. Populations for certain better dates in the MS65 and MS66 grades have spiked due to upgrades, crossovers, and resubmissions, thus diluting the rarity of the coin. Second, it shows a lack of sight-unseen bidders at this grade level for all but the common dates.

Another question that can be asked is: “Did these coins really lose value, or did the spread between average/overgraded coins and premium quality coins just get much bigger?” The answer is both. While detractors will say that an MS64 coin that makes it into an MS65 holder dilutes the market, the fact remains that the sale of such a coin becomes a data point to anyone inside or outside the business looking at prices. It will be interesting to see how gem Morgans in PCGS and NGC holders perform over the next year.

One area that the rare coin market could significantly improve upon is year-end statistical reporting. If all of the major numismatic auction houses took the time to release their total annual prices realized sometime in January, it would be something that the wider media could pick up. Better yet, if the figures were broken down into categories (e.g. U.S. coins, world coins, paper money) a clearer picture would emerge of year over year performance. While there are many excellent sources to retrieve auction prices realized (APR) data, there are none that allow for cumulative reporting by time period or coin type. This type of breakdown would be appealing to show to potential collector/investors who may be evaluating where to put their money.