If you have read this column before, or if you’ve spoken with me, you’ll know that the value of any item, collectibles or anything tangible, is dependent on three things: condition, supply and demand. The absence of any one of these three criteria will result in low or no valuation.
Condition is easy to visualize by considering a used car. A car that has been well kept, serviced regularly and has low mileage would generally be worth considerably more than the same year and model that was rundown, dented and in poor condition. The same holds true for collectibles. For coins, currency, cards, comics, etc., the better the condition, the higher the valuation.
With regard to the other considerations, supply and demand, I will relate a personal experience as an example. Actually, there are two lessons to be learned here: valuation, plus always closely examine collectibles that pass through your hands.
A coin I purchased a while ago, an 1891-O (New Orleans minted) Seated Liberty dime. The coin had already been graded by the Numismatic Guarantee Corporation, a highly respected third-party grading and authentication service. They had assigned a grade of MS (for mint state) 64, which is a very high uncirculated designation.
Even though NGC had already examined the coin, I spent some time going over it with a magnifying glass and discovered a variety that wasn’t well known, in which the O mintmark was actually stamped over an S (San Francisco mint) mintmark. Either the grader at NGC missed the variety or else the owner didn’t request a variety designation, but I resubmitted the coin to have the proper designation given to the coin.
When I received the coin back from NGC I checked the population report, which states how many coins were submitted and what grades they were assigned. To my surprise, mine was the only coin submitted for this variety; there were no others in any grade. This does not mean this is the only coin with this variety in existence, only that this grading service has not graded any others. There are others in existence, otherwise it wouldn’t have been a recognized variety.
My first thought was that because the coin is so specialized, meaning not every collector would necessarily want or need it in his collection, the way to get the best return was to place it in auction, which I did. That was where the supply and demand factor came into play.
Although there was only one coin graded by NGC, the catalog description noted that the demand (bidders) was not that great, at least in my estimation. While the final bid price for the coin was about four times greater than for a coin of that date and condition, but not that variety, it was not as high as I’d hoped (Even I sometimes think things are worth more than they really are).
The auction company records the number of viewers and the number of bidders, and the last time I looked there were only 12 viewers and four bidders, meaning even though the supply was low, so was the demand.
So, this goes back to what I always tell people: Even if you have the only item in existence (coin, card, comic, etc.), if no one else wants it (no demand), it has minimal or no value.
Douglas Keefe is the president of Beachcomber Coins Inc. He and his wife, Linda, operate Beachcomber Coins and Collectibles, formerly in the Shore Mall and now at 6692 Black Horse Pike in the old Wawa building just beyond the former Cardiff Circle in Egg Harbor Township. They have satellite offices in Brigantine and Absecon. Between them they have more than 70 years of experience in the coin and precious-metals business. They are members of the American Numismatic Association, the Industry Council of Tangible Assets, the Numismatic Guarantee Corp., the Certified Coin Exchange and the Professional Coin Grading Service.