U.S. Coin Price Guide

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Is old better than new?
By Steve Roach

Collectors' appetite for Morgan dollars seems to be heartiest at the high and low levels of the market, leaving the middle wanting for activity, as evidenced by activity and auctions at the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo in June.

Bowers & Merena conducted an auction with many mid-range Morgan and Peace dollars. Nearly all of these traded around wholesale levels, although a high sell-through rate shows that buyers are actively stocking up at these lower prices.

The few breakout stars that transcended wholesale levels were those dollars that were clear shots for an upgrade and a handful of coins that displayed exuberant color.

Some heavy discounting was seen with Numismatic Guaranty Corp. coins in grades of Mint State 65 through MS-68. Many of these achieved prices that hovered dangerously close to already low sight-unseen wholesale prices, with multiple NGC-graded dollars selling for half of the sight-seen wholesale price level.

Bowers & Merena denotes older generation holders with the "OGH" and "OH" abbreviation in the title line, but these notations did not always equate to higher prices.

There is a perception among collectors that older Professional Coin Grading Service and NGC holders are more conservatively graded and thus represent high-end examples for the grade. With some, like an 1889-O Morgan dollar in PCGS MS-64 that sold for $2,257, this perception was likely factual. But, among the three PCGS MS-63 1888-S Morgan dollars offered, the two in "OGH" holders realized $345 and $372, while the more recently slabbed example realized $500.

Factoring into consideration, too, is the thought that many coins reside in an older holder, not because after hiding for years in an old collection they are fresh to the market, but because they were overgraded at one point, and sellers know that under current grading standards, these coins would not pass muster.

A bright note is that the continuing interest in bullion has resulted in sustained strength for generic Uncirculated Morgan and Peace dollars, although the premiums for circulated examples have softened a bit.


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