World’s largest collectibles auctioneer


Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. and Kamala Devi Harris have just been inaugurated as president and vice president of the United States of America. Several collectibles were produced as mementos for this important historical occasion. I just saw that the Republic of Fiji issued a 50 cents inauguration commemorative coin in a mintage of 10,000 pieces. I don’t think you will find the 50 grams gold-plated copper coin circulating in Fiji which is offered for US$29.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee Store offers a number of items. A medal is offered as a coin for US$30 and socks are selling for US$25. Face masks for only US$28. A Commemorative licence plate costs US$20. I would probably not drive around in the USA with this licence plate, as Trump had 74 million who voted for him and some of his staunchest followers have proven to be quite violent.

Heritage Auctions has six locations in the United States and also have offices in Hong Kong, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. They are not the sellers of the above-mentioned items, but probably in the future they can be found in one of their collectibles sales.

Heritage Auctions will conduct the American & Political Signature Sale auction on February 27-28, 2021. A collection of historical inaugural medals, badges and buttons is offered. So far, no estimations are set.

One of the most expensive George Washington clothing buttons was produced for his inauguration on 30 April 1789. The copper button was sold in a sale on 21 October 2017 for US$ 37,500.

A Woodrow Wilson Inauguration Dinner Ribbon sold by Heritage on 21 October 2017 for US$1,000. The ribbon was issued as a souvenir of a dinner ‘Given in Honour of Pres. Woodrow Wilson On the evening of his Inauguration March 4th, 1913, By his classmates `79 Princeton University, Washington, DC’. It is assumed that President Wilson managed to slip away from the Inauguration Ball to make an appearance at the dinner.

Last week, 21-24 January, Heritage Auctions conducted several auctions behind closed doors in Dallas, Texas, USA. This did not have any effect on the prices as Heritage has good systems in place for live bidding.

The highest price was paid for the 1787 New York-Style Brasher Doubloon graded by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, NGC, to be MS65*. This is a very high grade, the top grade is 70 and the lowest is 1. NGC puts a star after the grade for coins having an exceptional eye appeal and is very rarely done.

The coin sold for US$9,360,000, about THB 282,000,000, the highest price ever for a gold coin. Ephraim Brasher, who produced the coin, was later, in 1792, employed as a contract essayer for the newly established United States Mint. George Washington was Ephraim Brasher’s next-door neighbour and purchased his silverware for use on formal occasions and state dinners.

In 1907 this Brasher doubloon was offered in the Henry Chapman sale for US$6,200, at the time a record price. In 1979 it was offered in the Garret Collection, setting a new record price of US$725,000. This is the finest of the seven specimens known to exist.

The next lot in the sale was another coin produced by Brusher, a 1786 Lima style doubloon graded by NGC to be MS61. This coin is considered the first circulating gold coin struck in the United States and was sold for US$2,100,000.

Greg Rohan, President at Heritage auctions, had the honour to place the winning bid for all the Brasher coins in the sale, a total of US$11,940,000. Becca Van Norman, Fine Art Cataloguer at Heritage, led the sale when the Brasher coins were sold. Greg Rohan commented to me after the sale, “A single bidder, who had never bought a coin before tonight, bought all the 6 Brasher coins for a total of US$11,940,000.”

Heritage sold a large variety of World Coins. A Norwegian Frederick III Speciedaler 1660 was estimated to be worth US$10,000 to US$15,000. Professional Coin Grading Services, PCGS graded the coin to be MS63. This very pleasing coin was sold for US$34,800, more than double the estimate.

The rarest Norwegian 1 krone was struck in 1878 during the reign of King Oscar II. In the Heritage sale this one is in the very best condition that I have seen offered, graded by NGC to be MS63. It was estimated to sell for US$6,000 – US$8,000. In the Norwegian Dealers Catalogue it is in grade 0/01 that I assume equals MS63 estimated to be (Norwegian Kroner) NOK 125,000, about US$14,700, or about THB 376,000. I made a bid of US$18,000 including commission, but it sold for US$19,200. For this grade I think the one who bought it got it for a reasonable amount even though it was above the catalogue price.

In Norway and some other European countries both dealers and collectors use a grading system where the best grade is O and the lowest is 2. Grades can also be given with a plus or a minus like 1+ and 1-. Grades can also be set in the middle of grades like 1/1+. Some Norwegian dealers and collectors are having their coins, medals and banknotes graded, others keep to the original grading system from 0 to 2. In Thailand Third party grading is very popular. It is difficult to sell some of the better coins, banknotes and medals without Third party grading done by a reputable grading company.

Heritage Auctions also sells a great deal of other collectibles. Comics and Comic Art is one of their departments. On 17 January 2021 a Batman #1 published in 1940 was sold for US$2,200,000, about THB 66,200,000. In 1940 the price was 10 cents. The quality was 9.4 White pages graded by Certified Guaranty Company, CGS. An ungraded Batman #1 was sold on 16 March 2002 for US$11,500 while a graded copy was sold on 3 August 2013 for US$567,625. It was graded by CGC to be 9.2 Off-white pages.

The parent company Collectors Universe of Professional Coin Grading Services, PCGS are listed on NASDAQ: CLCT. PCGS provides grading services for coins, banknotes, medals, event tickets, autographs and sports cards to mention just a few. In March/April last year the stocks were traded around US$15. On 30 November 2020 Collectors Universe announced that an Investor Group led by Entrepreneur and Collector Nat Turner was to acquire the Collectors Universe for approximately US$700 million. The group would be paying US$75.25 per share for all outstanding stocks.

On 20 January 2021 Collectors Universe informed that they expected second quarter revenues to be approximately US$35.4 million, which was 35% higher than the prior quarter. Ted Turner and his group increased its offer for outstanding shares to US$92 per share in cash.

Many believed that the COVID-19 would be negative for the collectors market but many record prices have been set around the world for collectibles. One reason might be that collectors had more time to spend on their collections during the pandemic. Some predict that there is a risk that after the pandemic the collectors will spend more time on other duties and that the grading services will decline. In my opinion third part grading services for collectibles are here to stay.