Queller Collection of Coin Patterns Sells for $8.36 Million (Part 2 of 3)
by Greg Reynolds for CoinLink
The FUN Convention is the leading event for rare U.S. coins, and Heritage devoted an entire evening to the auction of one collection of U.S. Patterns. On Wed., Jan. 7, 2009, at the Orlando Convention Center, the Queller collection of pattern, experimental, trial, and fantasy pieces was sold without reserves.
- Part 1 - An overview of the sale of the Queller collection and a definition of patterns in general, along with discussions of $50 gold denomination patterns and the famous Washlady patterns of 1879.
- Part 2 - Famous patterns and a few ‘not so famous’ silver dollar (or trade dollar) patterns.
- Part 3 – Discussions of 1792 cent patterns, relatively inexpensive items in the sale, patterns of gold denominations, and my favorite piece in the Queller pattern collection.
Pattern enthusiasts become energized when some of the most famous patterns are auctioned. The Schoolgirl Silver Dollar patterns are extremely famous. This design is found only on silver dollar size pieces dated 1879; there are no Schoolgirl dimes, quarters, or halves.
Queller’s copper Schoolgirl realized $37,375. While other copper Schoolgirls have realized considerably more in past auctions, those are of much higher quality than this one. In my opinion, this price is a little high, in terms of market prices for patterns. The Queller copper Schoolgirl is at, or near, the bottom of the condition rankings. Perhaps all Schoolgirl patterns are logically undervalued, however, when the rarity and fame of the issue is considered. There are probably fewer than thirty Schoolgirl dollars in all metals. There may be more than two thousand 1893-S Morgan Dollars. (Please see my article on an 1893-S that sold for more than $1 million.) It would be both interesting and exciting to own any of the Schoolgirl patterns, regardless of metal or grade.
Queller’s silver Schoolgirl is NGC certified “Proof-65 Cameo.” According to Saul Teichman, “there are at least fourteen different Schoolgirl dollars in silver.” Though the Queller Schoolgirl is not among the top three or four known, it is colorful and flashy. It has full, strongly mirrored fields. It looks much different in actuality than it does in the catalogue pictures. It has to be seen to be interpreted.
When it was offered by B&R in the July 1981 ANA auction, this Schoolgirl did not sell. Coin markets were very weak at the time. The consignor then, William “Rudy” Sieck, would not let it go for $28,000. Sieck and Queller were friends, and Sieck sold it privately to Queller, not long after that auction, for considerably more than $28,000.
On Jan. 7, 2009, bidding opened at nearly $70,000. Laura Sperber quickly bid more than $80,000. A telephone bidder pushed the level beyond $90,000. I believe someone on the floor bid about $105,000. Steve Contursi then grabbed the Queller Schoolgirl for $115,000.
Like Schoolgirls, the 1882 Shield Earring pieces are among the most famous of all coin designs that were never adopted. Collectors have eagerly sought these for more than a century. The presence of just one Shield Earring pattern will tend to draw attention to a collection.
Queller had the Shield Earring Dollar in silver that was formerly in the Rothschild collection. It is fairly graded Proof-64 by the NGC. Though it has been moderately dipped in the past, it is sharply struck and has dynamic surfaces. It brought $27,600, which is one of the few not so high prices for a very famous pattern in this auction.
Queller’s Shield Earring Dollar in copper is amazingly cool. It is NGC certified Proof-66RB with a star for eye appeal. It has never been cleaned or dipped. There are no substantial imperfections. If not for very few light hairlines, it would certainly grade 67 or even 68!
Various natural shades of Mint Red, pinkish-russet, and orange-russet are found all over this copper Shield Earring Dollar. When tilted under a light, its full, strong mirrors exhibit a mesmerizing orange tint. This piece is very attractive plus and I will remember it for years. It sold for $51,750, and is worth it.
Several ‘not so famous’ patterns of silver dollars brought incredible prices. Consider an 1871 pattern with the seated Indian Princess on the obverse (front) and the regular reverse (back) design of the Liberty Seated silver dollar ‘No Motto’ type that was minted from 1866 to 1873.
This Indian Princess dollar variety is not one of the rarest patterns. There could be around twenty-five known. Further, there are many similar patterns dated 1871. The distinctions among some such varieties are minor, sometimes just barely noticeable. This one, lot #1814, is NGC certified Proof-66 with ‘Brown’ (“BN”) not Mint Red color. Teichman remarks that the $46,000 auction price is “a lot of money for this variety,” more than twice the amount that Saul expected it to bring.
Bidding was intense for an 1872 dollar in copper, of the design of the contemporary, regular Liberty Seated Dollar ‘With Motto’ type. Sometimes, before Proofs of regular silver issues are struck, the dies are tested via copper strikings. Queller’s 1872 dollar in copper, lot #1826, may be such a test piece. Even if Teichman’s assertion that sets of 1872 copper strikings were offered to collectors is true, it does not follow that these are not die trials. Such items could have first been die trials and then later have been offered to collectors. Obviously, it would not have made sense for Mint Officials to destroy or indefinitely store copper die trials. Why not offer die trials to collectors?
As for this 1872 Liberty Seated dollar in copper, Teichman states that “there are probably only one or two known”! Nonetheless, there are plenty of copper strikings of Liberty Seated Dollars of other dates. In the history of pattern collecting, it would be unusual for a collector to seek one of every single variety of a copper striking of a Liberty Seated dollar. This 1872 piece is NGC graded ‘Proof-65-Brown.’ I have not seen it.
Bidding for this Proof 1872 Liberty Seated dollar, in copper, opened at more than $12,500. After a long contest, it eventually sold for $57,500. Sperber was the top bidder, probably for SIM. Teichman had estimated that it would bring from “$35,000 to $40,000.”
I agree that the $57,500 price is high. My research suggests that there are NOT two or more people who are seriously seeking all such copper dollar varieties. I really believe that some pattern buyers became so enthusiastic about this event that they were willing to pay substantially more than they would have had, hypothetically, the same pieces been offered on the FUN Convention bourse floor.
The pattern in the next lot, #1827, has the seated Indian Princess obverse paired with a “Commercial Dollar” reverse, which is significantly different from any reverse used on regularly issued, silver dollars or trade dollars. This seated Indian Princess design is not really famous, nor is it obscure. While there are just six to eight known of this variety, there are a fair number other pieces with the same (or a very similar) obverse. This piece is NGC graded PF-64, and I did not see it. My impression is that the $18,400 price is strong from both market and logical perspectives.
The Sailor’s Head patterns are not particularly famous, and are probably not as well known as the seated Indian Princess designs. These are artistically interesting though, and unlike any design that was actually employed for regular issue U.S. coinage. Several of them brought astonishing prices, and the offering of these was among the exciting parts of the auction. Moreover, a discussion of Queller’s Sailor’s Head dollars sheds light on the phenomenon that some patterns may sell for dramatically more than others that are very similar in design and quality. There are opportunities for collectors who wish to ‘collect patterns by general type’ or wish to add a few patterns to a collection of regular issue U.S. coins.
The Sailor’s Head motif appears on patterns of several denominations. Further, there are multiple design varieties of Sailor’s Head obverses, sometimes relating to the placement of “In God We Trust” or the presence of stars. Additionally, more than one reverse design type was mated with Sailor’s Head obverses, and these reverse designs tend to be somewhat plain. While several varieties are extremely rare, or even unique, it is unusual for a collector to seek multiple varieties of Sailor’s Head patterns of any one year and denomination.
For most collectors of pattern dollars, one Sailor’s Head dollar pattern, from either 1876 or 1877, is sufficient. I was flabbergasted by some of the prices that Sailor’s Head dollar patterns realized in the Queller sale. I realize that SIM might be collecting all such varieties. Even if so, bidding for these went wild. Besides, my sources suggest that there are not two collectors seriously seeking all such varieties.
The first Queller Sailor’s Head dollar, lot#1865, is a copper striking. There are no stars and the motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ is not found on this design. The reverse is of a relatively simple, silver dollar design. This dollar pattern is NGC certified ‘Proof-66RB’ and its grade is perhaps in the low end of the 66 range, though it is a really nice coin.
While Saul Teichman has determined that this piece is unique, the only one of this design in copper with a plain edge, Saul suggests that “about a half dozen are known” of the exact same design, in copper, with a reeded edge. Do many pattern collectors focus upon the edges? Until recently, the edge was not visible in any widely used PCGS or NGC holders. There are also at least two Sailor’s Heads of the same design in silver, and the silver ones may have more historical significance.
Saul Teichman “estimated that this unique piece would realize from $50,000 to $60,000.” I would have guessed a price under $50,000. It realized $74,750! Sperber edged a collector from the Midwest.
The Sailor’s Head in the next lot, lot #1866, is slightly different from the pattern sold in lot #1865. The motto, “In God We Trust,” was placed in between a relatively small Sailor’s Head and the 1876 date. The statistics for dollar patterns of this design are apparently, according to Teichman, the same as for dollars of the previous Sailor’s Head design; two in silver, one in copper with a plain edge and “about a half dozen” copper strikings with a reeded edge, of which this is one. This piece, though, is really, really cool.
This reeded edge, 1876 copper, Sailor’s Head dollar, with motto and no stars, has never been cleaned or dipped. It has incredible, original Mint Red color. The surfaces seem active. Though I did not tell him that I had written the word “alive’ in my catalogue when I viewed this piece, Teichman also used the word “alive” to describe this piece when I asked him about it. Furthermore, he declared that it has “pizazz”! Indeed, I wish I could fully describe the exceptional, natural characteristics of this pattern. Bidding started at around $25,000 and ended at $57,500. There were several participants. The victor was an Internet bidder whom Teichman knows to be “a serious collector.”
A third 1876 Sailor’s Head dollar in copper followed, which was sold as lot #1867. This one has “In God We Trust” on top, above the Sailor, and stars on both the right and left sides. Curiously, this design type seems to have been produced in accordance with the same formula as the two just mentioned Sailor’s Head dollar patterns. This is the unique copper striking with a plain edge.
It was formerly in the collection of King Farouk, and it is now generously graded ‘Proof-65-Brown’ by the NGC. Saul figured that it would sell for an amount in “the range of $55,000.” I would not even of valued it that high. There are numerous really intriguing patterns, including some very famous ones, that could be acquired for less than $55,000. Besides, there is the possibility of buying one of the reeded edge pieces of the exact same design for considerably less. This unique piece brought the startling price of $86,250!
There are Washlady, Shield Earring, Amazonian and Schoolgirl patterns that each sold for less than $86,250 in the Queller auction, and those have legendary status in the coin collecting community. The fact that this Sailor’s Head variety is unique is very important, but other factors are as well.
An 1877 Sailor’s Head dollar, in copper, with a design that is very similar to the 1876 piece just mentioned, realized $25,300. The buyer was a collector in attendance. This copper 1877 is PCGS certified ‘Proof-66 Red & Brown.’ I did not see it. Tentatively, I guess that it might be a relatively good value, even though it is not as rare as a variety as the Sailor’s Head dollars just mentioned. There could be ten or so in existence.
Queller had silver dollar patterns in addition to the Washlady, Schoolgirl, Shield Earring, Indian Princess, and Sailor’s Head pieces that I discussed. It is my intention to report and analyze some (not all) of the more newsworthy and/or more interesting parts of the Queller collection. Other objectives are to convey the greatness of the Queller collection and to provide impressions of the excitement at the auction.
©2009 Greg Reynolds
About the Author
Greg Reynolds is a numismatic writer, researcher and analyst. Greg has examined almost all of the greatest U.S. coins and most of the finest type coins and patterns, He has extensively researched the pedigrees of important numismatic properties, and he has written about and analyzed numerous auctions, private sales and collections.
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