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The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 47, November 22, 2009, Article 19

WALL STREET JOURNAL ON RISING NUMISMATIC PRICES

Loren Gatch forwarded this article about the surge in prices for rare coins. Mentioned are the "million dollar cent" (and Warhol's "200 One Dollar Bills") that we discussed earlier. He writes:

Here's a Wall Street Journal article on the possible 'bubble' in numismatic prices. If the Feds already rescued AIG and General Motors, would a future bailout of Heritage Auctions really be so inconceivable?

1795 Large Cent S-79 obv When is a penny worth a million dollars?

When it's a 1795 reeded-edge U.S. penny, one of only seven known to exist. It recently sold for nearly $1.3 million at auction—the first time a one-cent coin has cracked the million-dollar price barrier.

Today's coin market is largely defined by high-end investors grabbing the rarest of coins that infrequently come up for sale; gold bugs snapping up gold coins; and speculators bidding up prices for coins whose grades they suspect are too low, in the hopes of securing a higher grade and selling them for more money. Yet ordinary collectible coins—the nickels, dimes and quarters that are nice but not great—have fallen in value by as much as 30% over the past year, say coin dealers and auction-house executives.

"It's easier to sell a $100,000 coin today than a $1,000 coin," says John Albanese, founder of Certified Acceptance Corp., based in Bedminster, N.J., which verifies graded coins.

That mirrors the trend in other collectible markets, such as those for fine art, wine and jewelry. The high end of these markets is garnering big interest as investors increasingly worry about the weakening dollar and the potential for future inflation. Yet lower-end collectibles are struggling in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Andy Warhol's 1962 silkscreen painting "200 One Dollar Bills" sold for $43.7 million to an anonymous buyer at a Sotheby's auction in New York—more than three times its high estimate of $12 million. Auctions this fall have established new price records for a host of fine-art photographers. And blue-chip wines such as Bordeaux from Chateau Lafitte, Petrus, Le Pin and Ausone "are on fire," says Charles Curtis, head of Christie's North American wine sales.

Sales of gold coins are up as much as 75% at Dallas-based online auction house Heritage Auctions Inc. "because there is just so much demand," says Jim Halperin, the auction house's co-chairman. "Even Warren Buffett is talking about inflation these days, and people I talk to who are buying coins are worried about a massive onslaught. They're buying coins because they want to hold something tangible that will do well."

To read the complete article, see: The Million-Dollar Penny (online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703811604574533732182243424.html)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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