Friday, February 19, 2021 - 11:12

As of mid February, 2021, we are happy to have recently been able to pick up a few collections as well as miscellaneous coins from other regular sources (dealers, auctions, and the like.) Really, we pretty well scour the market for coins that are good errors to then offer to you our customers. So what are some of the things we deal with or situations we find ourselves in as mint error buyers? Below are some of the more common areas that create a challenge.

1967 Cent Curved Clipped
1967 Lincoln cent with a large curved clip. 

Quality Coins

What do we look for when looking for coins? First, the coin itself has to obviously be authentic and not have any problems that are not acceptable. Sometimes slabbed coins will have a problem, perhaps that developed after it was certified or which might have been missed by a grader, and so we either pass on those or buy them realizing we will need to sell them at a discount to our customers. Even though 3rd party grading services have good quality holders, the coin still need to be stored in such a way as to prevent them from corroding, developing ugly toning, and the like. This is because the holders are not truly airtight, even if they are excellent at preventing air transfer.


Also, sometimes (and this is very rare), a counterfeit coin makes its way into a 3rd party grading  service’s holder. These are guaranteed by the major, reputable services, and the buyer of them will get a refund. However, it can of course be a headache going through the process, and so we can save our customers that hassle of buying a counterfeit. Additionally, if a certified coin is cracked out of its holder it will no longer have the services warranty, so a customer who bought a counterfeit and then cracked the coin out, perhaps to get it reholdered with a different grading service, would be in for a rude awakening when they realize they are out of luck getting that coin warranted by the grading service. Again, it is rare for a major grading service to certify a counterfeit error coin, but it has been known to occur, and is a headache and financial loss we at Sullivan Numismatics hope to help our customers avoid.

NGC 1968-S Cent on Dime Planchet Proof
Proof 1968-S Lincoln Cent on Dime Planchet PF67 Cameo 

Fair Values

Another thing we do is look for good values. Weeding out overpriced mint errors is a continual event. Even if an individual discounts a coin 20% off their asking price, that doesn’t mean we can buy it for inventory—many times (many, many times) the coin is price welled beyond what a fair retail price would be, so in order for it to be a fair value, it would need a 50% discount just to be a fair retail price! So finding fairly priced coins, and then on top of that coins that we can buy at a wholesale price is a challenge. At Sullivan Numismatics, our hope is to be able to sell our customers coins that are fairly priced. The reason for the wide variance in prices is not the dishonesty of sellers, but rather a lack of published price guides, and also that to properly price error coins, the best method is simply knowing the market for error coins by having handled a large array of mint errors, and see what they have sold for.


Raw Coin’s Authenticity

For raw coins (coins not in 3rd party holders), the challenge of authenticity becomes much more immediate. Most of the time, the coin itself is authentic, but was altered to make it look like an error. Usually, the coin is easily detected as being post mint damage, but sometimes it can be much more tricky to determine, and that is where we hope to be providing a good service to our customers since any coin we sell raw we guarantee to be an authentic error, so our reputation is attached to the raw coins we sell.


We will continue to work hard for our customers, and look forward to bringing the best inventory of major mint errors we can find to our customers in the coming years!


Saturday, January 16, 2021 - 04:42

A New Mule

This morning, a friend sent a link to a Coin World article (below), and the exciting headline read that a new mule had been discovered in a bag of dollar coins—what a great bit of error news! The mule involves a 2014-D Sacagawea obverse muled with a Liberty design reverse. It’s not as obvious a mule as some at first glance, since the reverse is used on the cousin of the Native American dollar series, the Presidential dollars. The difference is that the reverse was never used for the Native American dollars, and only for the Presidential dollar series. Instead, the coin should have had the “Hospitality” design on the reverse, which features two Indians on the reverse.


The mule is exciting to me, perhaps because it was actually found in “change”, and so there are probably more of them out there waiting to be found. Additionally, it took 6 years to be discovered, which is also remarkable, although perhaps not too unexpected since the design difference is one that most collectors wouldn’t “connect the dots on” at a glance.


Most likely more will show up at some point, as collectors search their rolls and bags of dollars for them, and collectors should be on the lookout for them. Where there is one, there is likely more. Who knows, perhaps an entire run of them was released by the Mint, which could mean thousands of them are out there to be discovered.


NGC 2014-D Native American Dollar Mule ReverseNGC 2014-D Native American Dollar Mule Reverse 2

Native American correct reverse
The correct reverse should have been the one shown above

A New Year 2021

We have been generally pleased as 2020 comes to a close that we sold nearly as many errors as in 2019. In other words, 2020 turned out for us to be nearly the same as 2019, and in a year when most coin shows were shutdown (95% or more?), and challenges arose in acquiring fresh inventory as well as staying in engaged in the hobby, we are pleased to say the least.


General conversations with other coin dealers seem to show they also had good years over all, with many dealers saying they had “their best year ever” or something similar. Perhaps this is because collectors see numismatics as a place to come and relax, and escape their day to day routines, which in 2020 was welcome, but also coins are considered by many to be a “store of value”, and something that while not an investment, is at least something you will make a little money or only lose a little—which for something that brings so much please to collectors, isn’t a bad deal.


Precious metals sky rocketing this year helped coin dealers and collectors as well, since coins in their inventories or collections went up in value, giving them more funds to pursue their hobby or business.


Whatever the reasons, we’re glad 2020 was a pretty good year in the hobby, all things considered, and we’re looking forward to 2021.


Currently, we do not have any shows booked for 2021, making the acquiring of inventory a daily challenge, but we do nonetheless have fresh coins coming in from our various sources, and we are always looking to buy. If you have any coins you’re looking to sale, feel free to send us an email with images for an offer to buy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020 - 08:34

With the recent mint error sale with Heritage Auctions, which was comprised of some 261 lots, it was interesting to see the prices the coins fetched. (Here is a link to the sale:

Many of the coins were on the high end, although there were some that sold cheaply. In fact, some coins we sell in our regular inventory stock sold for substantially at auction.

1.Collectors think they will get a better deal at auction than from a dealer. Sometimes this is true, but sometimes the coins that sell "cheap" are cheap for a reason--they have problems that might not be noticeable to the untrained eye, which is why they won the coin "for a steal!"

2.Collectors (and dealers) sometimes get carried away in "live bidding" environments, resulting in their paying more (sometimes multiples more) than the coin could be purchased from in a dealer's inventory.

3. Collectors will often frequent well-publicized auction events, see a coin, and bid it up thinking that the coin is worth the price. In a dealer's inventory, the same coin may be available at half the price, but because the dealer's website isn't regularly checked up on by the collector, they fail to realize the same coin is available at the lower price there. 

4.Collectors sometimes think a coin is worth, for example, $1,000, and plan to bid that, but at the bidding rises to their valuation, and surpasses it, they think "if other people are willing to pay this, it must be worth more." This is almost always a bad idea, since all it takes is one uninformed bidder as one's competitor for the price to go "to the moon." 

All these reasons are just my 2c, and you can get a good deal, but there are a number of pitfalls (including those just mentioned) to take into consideration when bidding in an auction. 

So what can be said for the error sale? Well, most of the high end coins went for full price and then some. Some went for substantially more than I had thought they would bring. There were a few coins that fell through the cracks, but overall, the $2,000+ errors brought "all the money." It was surprising to see a number of coins sell for DOUBLE or TRIPLE what the price realized should have been! Proof errors were strong in the sale, with the off-metals and other misc proof errors bring very strong prices. 

The "mid range" errors, in the $500-$2,000 range for the most part were strong as well. A few coins fell through the cracks, but overall strong prices.

For the lower priced market, under $500, some of the best deals were to be had, with some nice mint errors selling cheaply. However, many of the coins that are extremely common and worth about $10-$50 brought $100-$300! This is nuts, but it's what can happen in an auction environment! 

So overall, my estimation of the sale was an "A" for prices--the error market is strong if judged by this sale. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020 - 12:50

Auctions & Coin Shows

In a normal year, there would have been a few very large coin shows since the ANA, and a myriad of small coin shows. This year however, there was a smattering of very small shows (with lots of masks and the like), and no big shows at all since March when the ANA in Atlanta, Georgia was held.

As a result, the market has been unusual to say the least. Dealers have had to find inventory in different ways than normal since coin shops have less activity than normal and coin shows have been nearly non-existent, and as a result, auctions and dealer’s websites have taken on a more prominent roll in both the buying and selling of coins since they are not "in person" events (most bidding occurs online for auctions.)

There are a number of major auction houses, as well as the sites such as eBay among others. But as dealers have run low on fresh inventory, so also it seems to be more the case with auction houses having trouble getting fresh material in.

The bottom line is that until there's a greater interaction with the “public”, all "venues" for coins will be slower. It's not to say that amazing, fresh, wonderful coins aren't coming in to all these venues and dealers (and us!), but the supply is smaller. Instead of 100 coins, for example, it might be 25 or 50, etc.

The smaller supply of fresh inventory has generally caused the low end coins to be generally pretty hot. It has been amazing to to see the often sky-high prices achieved in some auction venues for low priced coins (say under $1k value.) On the other hand, higher end coins have been mixed. Some have brought unbelievably high prices double, triple or more of what they should, while others seem to have littler demand and fall through the cracks, selling for half of what they should. So it's a mixed picture, but the "right coins" are bringing some of the highest prices I have seen, while some of the other rare error coins are more soft (always exceptions, of course.)

Retail Buyers

So are collectors still buying? Yes, but with fewer coins to offer collectors, coin dealers generally are not selling as much as they have been pre-covid. It’s not a lack of demand as much as a lack of supply of fresh coins. However, although there seems to be as much “demand” for collector coins as prior to covid, sales are lower for dealers because the normal venues of coin shows, coin shops, etc, and the give and take of the buying and selling of inventory that happens between the public, middle men, auctions, coin shops, dealers, wholesalers, etc is not there with the nationwide varying degrees of shutdowns.

The good thing is everyone is “ready” for the post shutdown market. Dealers are ready, the collecting public seems to be ready, and we foresee a boom in activity once things start to reopen. Collectors want to collect, and dealers want to deal in coins, so it’s just a matter of time.

For Now

We have the online opportunities, coin clubs to participate in, club journals to read, coin books to catch up on, and the enjoyment of our collections to stay involved in. We are optimistic for the year ahead, and look forward to seeing our customers when the coin market is able to open up at full throttle once again.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020 - 08:40

This year will be one for the books for a number of reasons, one of which is that there was no ANA Convention this year. As one of the largest coin shows of the year, it annually heralds the beginning of activity in the coin market after what is often referred to as "the summer doldrums." This year, however, there was no ANA. There were still major auctions which would have normally been held in conjunction with the show, with the typical tens of millions of dollars of coins sold. Amongst those millions, was the tiny sliver of error lots, which are of course what we paid attention to. The errors in the sale overall did very well, with a few that "fell through the cracks", and going for far less than they were worth, but with a number selling for (frankly) crazy high numbers, and the rest "average." So it was mixed, but not especially high or low on average. 

What about the lack of dealer-to-dealer sales or dealer-collector activity stemming from few if any coin shows, and coin shops being limited or temporarily closed? Online is where this activity has moved, to a large degree. For most dealers, the problem is not so much selling coins as much as it is acquiring fresh inventory. This posses challenges to dealers, but it seems most dealers are doing ok.

For us, fresh coins have been coming in to us at a reasonable level, and especially some incredible proof errors, which although a decent number have come into the market over the last year or two, the number has been generally well absorbed but the coin market. Many of the more rare pieces appeal not just to pure error collectors, but also to the U.S. coin collector. As a result, sales have often been well above what we would expect a particular proof error to sale for. Because some of the pieces are rare enough to have few, if any, "prices realized" from auctions, some have also resulted in very high and occasionally very low prices. The market for major proof errors will certainly sort itself out over time, as we think there are very few left to come to market (we could be wrong, but that's our 2c.)

Non-proof errors have been selling well, such as Ike dollar off-centers, any denomination or design of major double-strikes, off-centers, Morgan and Peace dollar errors, the more common double-denominations, major clips and defective planchets, interesting and unusual pieces, as well as 11c double-denominations (which as a side note, are a good example of "buy them when they're cheap", since a year ago they had dropped a lot in price, but have since rebounded since all the supply has dried up.) As is the case 9 times out of 10, when there is a lot of something on the error market, buy it if you want it, since prices usually rebound and collectors and dealers alike look back and say "why didn't I buy more when I had the chance!" 

But not all error categories are in demand. Some of the errors right now which are down in price include state quarter errors (especially missing clad layers), nickels on cent planchets, Kennedy half off-metals, and the somewhat more "common (meaning 10 or so known) proof off-metals. You can buy most of these types quite cheap right now, as well as some other types and series of errors. All these are some areas which come to mind that are "cheap" right now in general.

As we enter the 2nd half of the year, there is some hope that there will be coin shows and a general "reconnecting" of the hobby in person. The Baltimore coin show is probably going to be held (they're planning to have it at a new venue we're told) later in the year, and perhaps more coin shows will open up. As they say "time will tell", but we are optimistic since the year so far has stated surprisingly busy and active, which is of course a good thing for the hobby. We all can stay connected over the internet, phone, and through our coin clubs such as CONECA, the ANA, and many other speciality clubs (if you're not a member, join!)