There’s no question that 2016 saw declines in many United States’ numismatic denominations from small cents through half dollars. The numerous series we often refer to as “type coins” includes Seated and Barber issues, as well as the minor denominations including cents, two-cent pieces, three-cent pieces, half dimes and so on. These areas enjoyed a nice ride over the past decade (or more) and generally levels on scarcer material in this series were as reliable as blue-chip stocks of the 1980s. Values started to decline a couple years ago and, in 2016, we witnessed what we anticipate to be the tail end of this decline.

The key here, of course, is whether we are actually at the end of this slippery slope, but we feel that levels have solidified considerably over the past few months and we anticipate a growing demand for scarcer, better-date issues amid a declining supply of such coins. To understand this position, it’s best to understand why levels dropped in the first place.

For starters, the market has borne a surprisingly high number of major, named collections coming to auction over the past few years. In addition to major holdings of great type coins like the Newman Collection in 2013, we witnessed a succession of sellers as well as some very long-time collectors who decided to sell at (nearly) the same time. When active buyers like Pogue and Gardner leave the market quickly, their absence can be quickly felt. In many documented cases, for example, Gardner was a strong bidder in 2013 and quickly turned to a seller months later, leaving a serious void in the competition for high end material.

A perfect example can be found in case of the 1840-O No Drapery Liberty Seated quarter. Graded NGC/CAC MS67H, this finest-known example realized $329,000 at Heritage Auctions when sold as part of the Eric P. Newman Collection in November 2013. The buyer was later revealed to be Eugene Gardner, who sold his entire collection a short time later. This same coin came up for sale, in the same holder on May 2015, also at Heritage, and realized just $199,750. Such is the difference a single bidder can make in the rare coin market.

The great news, however, is that the new buyer of the 1840-O quarter purchased an amazing coin at 60% of its prior realization. Many other coins on the pages of Quarterly I have seen price adjustments over the last two years and, as you will see in this issue, we have the fewest price drops in over a year. Price stability is here and now is a great time to be a value buyer in this market.