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Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The Fun Has Begun

News and Analysis on scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #34

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

While the Summer ANA Convention includes a wide variety of items of interest to collectors of U.S. coins, paper money, tokens and medals, plus some coins of the world, the Winter FUN Convention is the leading event of the year in the field of rare U.S. coins. Today’s discussion will be a little shorter than usual as I am busy in Tampa viewing coins, witnessing events and gathering information during FUN week. Yes, the winter FUN Convention formally begins on Thursday, at the Tampa Convention center. Coin related events, however, have already occurred.

I. B&M Pre-FUN Auction

I attended the Bowers & Merena pre-FUN auction on Tuesday at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, which is near the Tampa Airport. In last week’s column, I discussed the fact that Bowers & Merena and Stack’s are in the process of merging. The new Stack’s-Bowers president, Chris Napolitano, was in attendance. It was made clear that QDB and Chris Karstedt would continue to play roles in Stack’s-Bowers. Brad Karoleff, the longtime auctioneer for B&M, and Melissa Karstedt, an auctioneer at Stack’s, served as auctioneers during Tuesday night. Unfortunately, as this auction did not finish until well into Tuesday night, there was not time for me to thoroughly analyze this event.

On Tuesday, the lot viewing room for the B&M auction was packed. There were, at times, people waiting for seats in a fairly large room on the main floor of a very large hotel. My sources tell me that lot viewing attendance was excellent on Sunday and Monday as well, and that there were many collectors and dealers viewing at Heritage’s lot viewing room at the Tampa Convention center on Monday and Tuesday. So far, there seems to be even more interest in the FUN auctions than there was last year. It is too early, however, to draw a conclusion on the topic of collector interest in FUN week auctions.

In my column of Dec. 8, I raised the topic of FUN auctions, and I then provided explanations as to the general importance of January FUN auctions. My column of Dec. 8 is primarily about Jim O’Neal’s landmark set of Indian Head Half Eagles ($5 gold coins) and I remind readers that I wrote a two part series on O’Neal’s Eagles ($10 gold coins) in 2009. Please also read my article about the Jan. 7, 2010 Platinum Night event. (As usual, clickable links are in blue.)

In my column of Dec. 22, I focused upon the Henry Miller collection, the core of which Heritage will auction on Thursday, during Platinum Night. On Dec. 15, I wrote about the Malibu set of Proof Liberty Seated Quarters. The collector known as ‘Malibu’ also consigned Proof Liberty Seated halves and silver dollars to Tuesday night’s event, plus a few other coins. As I earlier suggested, his set of Proof Liberty Seated Quarters is far more spectacular than his respective sets of halves and dollars. I was delighted to finally have the opportunity to view all of his Liberty Seated Quarters, Half Dollars and Dollars. (more…)

PMG Announces Second-Generation Holder

The next generation  PMG label and holder is scheduled for release on Jan. 3, 2011.

PMG will begin use of a new generation holder on January 3, 2011. All notes encapsulated after that date by PMG will automatically be placed in the new holder. Additionally, the new holder will be used for on-site grading during the Florida United Numismatists (FUN) convention in January. This holder marks the first design iteration of the PMG holder since the company launched in 2005. The second-generation PMG holder is made from the same high-quality inert materials and is very similar in shape and overall aesthetics; however, it features new, highly sophisticated anti-counterfeiting and tampering-prevention technologies.

While PMG has not had any reported instances of holder tampering or counterfeiting, the company’s mandate requires periodic reviews of the security of its products. PMG was able to take advantage of advances and technologies used by other Certified Collectibles Group companies, including NGC, in their own certification holders. Ultimately, the holder was upgraded to maintain PMG’s leadership role and the strong preference for its certification holder among currency collectors.

“Our newest label and holder fully satisfies PMG’s combined objectives of exceptional visual display, security and long-term preservation,” comments PMG Grader Richard Stelzer.

Some of the changes will be almost invisible. For example, the label in the second-generation PMG holder includes a conservation-grade UV fiber paper, as did the previous version, but also includes a new UV watermark. These features are not visible under normal light, but when viewed under ultraviolet light these features help confirm the authenticity of PMG product.

Additionally, spot metallic-foil and holographic patterns have been added to the label design and borders. A state-of-the-art hologram is also now fused directly to the label paper. All of these features combine to make the PMG label virtually impossible to reproduce.

The outside holder itself has also undergone important changes. The holder’s sealed edges now include an embossed pattern. The custom design relies on a unique safe-sealing method pioneered by Certified Collectibles Group. The complex repeating texture includes the PMG logo and other elements within the seal that also confirm the quality and thoroughness of the holder seal.

For more information or to have your notes encapsulated in the newest PMG holder, contact PMG customer service at 1-877-PMG-5570 or service@PMGnotes.com.

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The Ten Leading Topics of 2010

News and Analysis on scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #33

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

This is my last column of the year 2010. It seems appropriate to list the ten leading topics of the year, starting with number ten.

Please note that I am referring to news relating to rare U.S. coins, not to coins actually minted in 2010 or to coins minted in recent years. In addition to often discussing rarities, I have written, and will write more, about classic coins that are not rare. Please see my two part series on why 1933/34 is the clear dividing line between classic and modern U.S. coins (part 1part 2), and my column on advice for beginning and intermediate collectors. I have recently written about modern coins as well. (As always, clickable links are in blue.)

X. The Fate of 1933 $20 gold coins

For decades, the U.S. Treasury Department has maintained that it is not legal for individuals to possess 1933 Double Eagles. Indeed, the Federal Government has allocated considerable funds to chase and seize 1933 Double Eagles ($20 gold coins).

In 2002, Stephen Fenton, who owned a 1933 Double Eagle, and the U.S. Treasury reached a settlement that stipulated that the Fenton 1933 Double Eagle be sold at auction and the proceeds, after the auction house’s commission, be split between Fenton and the U.S. Treasury Department, which granted title to the successful bidder. Sotheby’s, in partnership with Stack’s, auctioned the Fenton 1933 Double Eagle for $7.59 million on July 30, 2002. This result remains the auction record for a coin.

The Switt-Langbord family acknowledges inheriting ten 1933 Double Eagles. The U.S. Treasury Department and the Langbord family are currently involved in litigation over the title to these ten 1933 Double Eagles.

Although the Langbord case could have been more of a non-story than a story in 2010, as not much happened in Federal Court, it was discussed at length by innumerable collectors and received much attention in the media. Importantly, researcher Roger Burdette announced in 2010 that he unearthed government documents that demonstrate that the “first 1933 Double Eagles were struck March 2nd, during the Hoover administration.” Before Burdette’s recent find, the “assumed date was March 15 or shortly before, since that was the initial delivery date.” Moreover, Burdette discovered that the Mint Cashier was provided with forty-three 1933 Double Eagles on March 4 and these “balanced” the accounting of the production of 1932 Double Eagles as some 1932 Double Eagles were earlier found to be defective.

So, in my (this writer’s) view, some or all of these 1933 Double Eagles that were counted, for bookkeeping purposes, as 1932 Double Eagles could certainly have been traded to collectors and dealers. Documents discovered by Burdette support the argument that collectors may have legally traded earlier dated Double Eagles for 1933 Double Eagles before President Roosevelt ordered the Treasury Department to stop ‘paying out’ gold coins. (more…)

LOOKING FORWARD TO A BIGGER 2011 – IS BIGGER BETTER?

Hot Topics by Laura Sperber – Legend Numismatics

Consolidation in reverse! I expected a few firms to fold and smaller dealers to shut. Out of the blue comes the mega merger of Stacks and Bowers and Merena. I was not so shocked because for the last 3 years it had been no secret I tried to talk the owners into selling Stacks to Legend. The apparent loss would have been too great and doing a deal this way, they get a shot at some stock that could go up. Regardless, I feel it was a tragic end to once powerful and glamorus dealership.

It is my strong opinion, in this mergers case, bigger is NOT better for the coin market. Why? We already have one mega monster firm who obviously has reached their limits-Heritage. They know they can’t expand any more with in coins, so they did the smartest thing, branched out into other areas. I give them tons of credit for that because it seems as they grow, they do not forget their roots and promote coins to this new crowd.

To satisfy two large auction companies with huge staffs, where are all the coins going to come from? These firms need expensive coins to generate large fees. If these firms on their own were not getting much prior, where are the coins going to come from after the merger? Think about how big each firms overheads are. Will fees rise? Will coin values artifically inflate because of excessive tiny demand with each auction?

This new mega merger concerns me. My goal in going after Stacks was not to make it bigger-just better. In my opinion, the potential of Stacks combining with Legend was huge. I believe it would have greatly benefited collectors. I do admit, I was nervous about where the consignments would come from, but Legend has sold OVER $600,000,000.00 RETAIL so we have some contacts. I have always viewed owning an auction company as a natural extension for us and our customers. Unfortunately, I do not have the time or energy to try again to enter the auction field from scratch. I saw the demise of Stacks as inevitable. I would have loved to have fixed it. It is frustrating to me ownership decided to end the misery this way. When I was told about it I was angry for one second and have moved on. Now I just wonder if bigger is really better? And how will it effect the marketplace?

I do wish The B+M team good luck in their merger. Greg Roberts, CEO of Spectrum is one of the sharpest executives in this business.

FUN

My prediction is that FUN will be a good show. Out of the clear blue, collectors were buying strong in December-a time when they normally fade away. Yet again, only supply was the problem. So if nothing else, dealers will need to replenish at FUN.

Gold coins are still screaming crazy hot. Prices are NOT moving up, but collectors do want them. We think 2011 will be the tell tale year for gold. It will be interesting to say the least. (more…)

Dr. Norman Jacobs Collection of Korean and Japanese Coins on display at NYINC

Heritage Auctions has announced that we will be auctioning The Dr. Norman Jacobs Collection of Korean and Japanese Coins, the most important collection of its kind, from one of the most famous Asian numismatic experts to have lived. This collection will be featured in our September 2011 Long Beach Signature Auction.

The groups of coins from both nations individually represent possibly the most complete sets of Japanese and Korean coins and currency ever assembled, and most likely the most important numismatic offerings of both countries in the last half century.

Collectors will not have to wait 10 months to get a look at these amazing coins, however, as highlights will be on display at the New York International Numismatic Convention, at the Waldorf-Astoria, Jan. 6-9, 2011, in conjunction with our New York Signature World and Ancient Coin Auction. This appearance will be the beginning of a “world tour” for the coins, as they visit the Chicago International Coin Fair, April 13-16, 2011, heading to Tokyo in May and coming home for the ANA World’s Fair of Money in Chicago, Aug. 15-21, 2011.

“Collections such as Dr. Jacobs’ is what we live for here at Heritage,” said Cris Bierrenbach, Vice President of International Numismatics at Heritage. “Handling the incredible Asian rarities that Dr. Jacobs dedicated his numismatic life to is a great honor to us. The World Coin department at Heritage, along with our entire company, will be working hard to produce a catalog and an auction that match the fantastic accomplishments of Dr. Jacobs in Korean and Japanese numismatics. The next 10 months are going to be a great ride.”

In 1953, Dr. Jacobs (along with Cornelius Vermeule) wrote the first English language book on Japanese numismatics that covered both ancient and modern coins. It was also the first publication (in any language) to catalog Japanese coins by date and type. That book opened up the world of Japanese (and modern Korean) coinage to western collectors.

The principle highlight of the auction comes from the Korean collection: a unique set of 1909 Korean gold in 5, 10 and 20 Won denominations — the only other set in existence is in the collection of the Bank of Japan.

“The vast majority of these coins, and the core of the collections, were purchased in the 1940s and 1950s,” said Bierrenbach, “during Dr. Jacobs’ time in Asia. He also added significantly to his collection when he worked with Robert Friedberg at Capital Coin of New York in the 1950s. So the vast majority of the ultra rarities have been in his collection for 50+ years.”

Bowers and Merena Auctions and Stacks Announce Merger

BOWERS AND MERENA AUCTIONS TO JOIN FORCES WITH STACK’S TO CREATE STACK’S-BOWERS NUMISMATICS

Spectrum Group International, Inc. (SPGZ.PK) announced today that its subsidiary Bowers and Merena Auctions, one of the world’s pre-eminent auctioneers of rare coins and currency, has entered into an agreement with Stack’s, the oldest rare coin retail and auction company in the U.S., to combine their operations.

The new company, which will be known as Stack’s-Bowers Numismatics, with a world coin division to be known as Stack’s-Bowers and Ponterio, will be owned 51% by Bowers and Merena Auctions and 49% by Stack’s. The closing, which is subject to the satisfaction of customary conditions, is expected to take place in early 2011.

Greg Roberts, president and chief executive officer of Spectrum Group (SGI), commented, “We believe that this combination, once consummated, will create a major player in the coin industry. Stack’s had over $65 million in aggregate sales in 2010 and between them, the two companies have handled many of the significant coin collections that have sold at public auction, including the Eliasberg Sales, the Norweb Sales and the Ford Collections.”

Bowers and Merena Auctions president Chris Napolitano, who will serve as president of the combined company, said, “I am honored and excited to lead this new venture, which combines two of the leading names in our industry. We consider Stack’s to be the crown jewel of coin auction houses and with this partnership, we have assembled a numismatic team that we believe to be unequaled in the industry. We look forward to continuing and expanding Stack’s auction and retail locations in mid-town Manhattan, which serve not only the greater New York metropolitan area but also the entire east coast.”

Added Mr. Roberts, “A significant factor for SGI in pursuing this merger was the opportunity to partner with Charles, Joel and Harold Anderson and the rest of the Anderson family, who own a controlling interest in Stacks. For years I have enjoyed a strong personal and professional relationship with the Andersons and now look forward to a long-lasting association with the family through Stack’s-Bowers Numismatics. We intend to continue the long tradition that the Stack family developed over many decades in New York. For years it has been a goal of ours to have a presence in NYC. With this partnership, we will achieve that goal at one of the most famous and prestigious addresses in the numismatics industry: 123 West 57th Street, New York, New York.”

Joel Anderson commented, “We are looking forward with great enthusiasm to the successful combination of these two fine companies. Both have rich histories of service with integrity to the numismatic community and together their combined resources and talents will bring new levels of service and value to the numismatic market. In addition, Charles, Harold and I have assembled some nice collections and we are pleased that Stack’s-Bowers Numismatics will be there for us when the time comes to sell.” (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The Henry Miller Collection

News and Analysis on scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #32

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I. FUN Auctions

Two weeks ago, I wrote about Jim O’Neal’s set of Indian Head Half Eagles ($5 gold coins), which will be auctioned during the Jan. 6, 2011 FUN Platinum Night auction in Tampa. During the FUN Convention, Heritage will auction a wide variety of items, including the Henry Miller collection. Miller specialized in Proof gold coins and many of his coins will also be sold during this Platinum Night event. He also had business strikes. The topic here is the Henry Miller collection.

To attain some understanding of FUN Platinum Night events, please see my column two weeks ago and my articles concerning coins auctioned in Jan. 2009 and 2010: The Jan. 2010 Platinum Night, $3,737,500 for a nickel, the O’Neal Collection of Indian Head Eagles, and Jay Brahin’s $20 gold coins.

II. Henry Miller

Henry Miller collected coins for decades before passing in 2009. He lived and worked in New York City. Miller collected Proof Liberty Head Double Eagles ‘by date’ and gold coins from many other series mostly ‘by type.’ Though Miller had a few pre-1834 Half Eagles and some early 20th century gold coins, he generally focused on U.S. gold coins of the second half of the 19th century. Additionally, he had an accumulation of ‘not rare date’ Liberty Head and Saint Gaudens Double Eagles. Also, Miller had a complete 1887 Proof Set, copper, nickel, silver and gold, which Eric Streiner regards as “a fantastic set.”

Eric Streiner remembers Miller’s coins though he has not seen any of them for more than a dozen years. Streiner “knew the guy quite well. Miller really liked his coins. He spent a lot of time looking at his coins,” Streiner recounts. Eric emphasizes that Miller was an enthusiastic collector.

Eric reports that “Miller bought most of his coins in the 1970s from dealers in the New York area, many from Stack’s. He bought some at auction, but mostly he bought coins privately,” Streiner says. “He bought a few coins in the mid 1990s,” Eric adds.

Streiner relates that, “in the late 1980s or early 1990s,” Eric arranged for Miller’s coins to be submitted to the NGC for grading and encapsulation. Streiner remembers that Miller contacted him through Stack’s. At the time, Eric was a very young dealer who had a reputation as a grading wizard. I (this writer) heard many stories, some clearly verifiable, of Eric spotting coins that were undergraded, or not clearly graded, by other coin dealers.

John Albanese recollects that, “a long time ago, probably in the late 1980s, [he] had lunch at a seafood restaurant with Eric Streiner and Henry Miller, who was a really nice guy.” Albanese is glad to have had the opportunity to view Miller’s Proofs again. Recently, Heritage sent many of Miller’s Proof coins to the CAC.

John Albanese was the sole founder of the NGC in 1987. Mark Salzberg, the largest current shareholder in the NGC, joined Albanese as a partner in 1988. Ten years later, Albanese sold his shares in the NGC to Salzberg. In 2007, John founded the CAC, which evaluates the quality of coins that are already graded and encapsulated by the PCGS or the NGC. Submitted coins may be approved or rejected. Approved coins receive a CAC sticker.

Both Albanese and Streiner were very impressed by the quality of Miller’s coins. Streiner, “even around twenty years later,” recalls Miller’s coins “as great pieces, nice original stuff, mostly gem, definitely good eye appeal.” Indeed, John and Eric separately emphasized that Miller’s Proof gold coins tend to be “original,” meaning that these have never been dipped, substantially cleaned, or doctored.

Though Streiner “hates to say it,” Eric is concerned that “some of these coins might lose their original surfaces, after the auction”! Some dealers will dip or doctor them in efforts to get higher grades assigned. (more…)

Odyssey Marine Exploration Comments on WikiLeaks Information

“Black Swan” and HMS Sussex projects named in Government Communications

Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. (NasdaqCM: OMEX) a pioneer in the field of deep ocean exploration, was named in several U.S. State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks and furnished to the media worldwide. Some of the released cables suggest that the State Department offered special assistance in the “Black Swan” case to Spanish officials in exchange for assistance in acquiring a French painting confiscated by the Nazis during World War II and now controlled by Spain.

The cables indicate that the U.S. Government also provided confidential documentation on Odyssey to Spain.

Other State Department cables contradict Spain’s claims and support Odyssey’s previously stated version of events relating to the company’s activities in Spain, including the HMS Sussex project and the boarding of Odyssey’s vessels.

“While we are obviously concerned about these implications regarding the ‘Black Swan’ case, we are attempting to obtain additional information before taking any specific actions. I have personally sent a letter to the Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, requesting additional information and a review of the position taken by the U.S. in the ‘Black Swan’ legal case,” stated Greg Stemm, Odyssey CEO. “The possibility that someone in the U.S. Government came up with this perfidious offer to sacrifice Odyssey, its thousands of shareholders, and the many jobs created by the company in exchange for the return of one painting to one individual is hard to believe. The WikiLeaks cables clearly show that we have worked cooperatively and transparently with both Spain and the State Department for many years, in spite of claims to the contrary. That fact makes the revelations all the more disappointing. The cables also make us wonder what other agreements may have taken place between U.S. Government officials and Spain regarding the amicus brief filed in support of Spain’s position in the ‘Black Swan’ case.”

“We’ve wondered why the United States changed its long standing position on sovereign immunity, which prior to this case was consistent with U.S. law, international law and U.S. naval regulations that in order for a foreign country’s ships and cargo to be immune from the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts they must be engaged in military, non-commercial activities,” stated Melinda MacConnel, Odyssey Vice President and General Counsel. “These released cables do call into question the motivation behind the amicus brief filed by the Executive Branch supporting Spain in the ‘Black Swan’ case.”

Additional cables released support Odyssey’s statements that, contrary to allegations of certain Spanish officials, the company always cooperated with the Spanish Government and that permits from the Spanish government were granted for work on the HMS Sussex project. The cables also demonstrate the obstructionist activities carried out by certain Spanish officials who had personal reasons for trying to prevent Odyssey from working on the Sussex. These obstructions took place even though Odyssey has an exclusive contract for the archaeological excavation of this UK sovereign immune warship (which was on a strictly military mission when it sank in 1694 off the coast of Gibraltar). Odyssey filed an affidavit in 2007 with a chronology of Odyssey’s interactions with the Spanish Government since 1998. It can be accessed at http://shipwreck.net/pdf/ExhibitE.pdf. The document contains entries that are corroborated by information in the State Department cables, which directly contradict claims by some Spanish officials and the Spanish media. (more…)

Malibu Collection Part II Anchors Bowers and Merena’s January 2011 Rarities Sale

Nearly 1,700 lots to cross the auction block in Tampa, FL immediately prior to  FUN

Bowers and Merena, one of the world’s preeminent auctioneers for rare coins and currency, will conduct the January Rarities Sale as its first event of 2011. The single-session sale on Jan. 4 at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay will offer nearly 1,700 lots of rare and desirable United State and Colonial-era coinage.

“It is and honor and thrill to start my career with Bowers and Merena with such an important sale,” said Chris Napolitano, President of Bowers and Merena. “Our January 2011 Rarities Sale will be presenting a wide selection of United States, Colonial and Territorial coins which range from affordable collector coins to world-renowned absolute and condition pieces.”

Headlining the sale is Part II of the Malibu Collection. “The first part of this impressive Malibu Collection helped propel our Official Auction of the November Whitman Coin & Collectible Baltimore Expo to the forefront among numismatic events of 2010. Part II promises the same rarity, quality and eye appeal that we have come to expect from the collection,” said Napolitano.

Highlights from the Malibu Collection include lot 855, one of the finest-known 1866 Motto Seated Dollars in PCGS Secure Proof-66 Deep Cameo, as well as lot 594, an important strike and condition rarity 1918-S Standing Liberty Quarter certified MS-67 Full Head by NGC with a combined pop of just 2/0 by PCGS and NGC.

“From U.S. minors to patterns, bidders will also enjoy Part II of the G. Edward Reahl, Jr. M.D. Collection and the Abingdon Collection,” said Napolitano.

Additional highlights in the sale include:

* Lot 48, 1883 Hawaii Eighth Dollar, Proof-62 Cameo (PCGS), Secure Holder
* Lot 59, Undated (Circa 1616) Sommer Islands Twopence, BMA Type I, Small Star Below Hog, AG-3 (PCGS)
* Lot 73, 1776 Continental Dollar, CURENCY, Pewter, MS-63 (NGC)
* Lot 302, 1924-S Buffalo Nickel, MS-66 (NGC)
* Lot 304, 1925-D Buffalo Nickel, MS-66 (PCGS), Secure Holder (more…)

Coin Profiles: Unique 1834 Original Half Dollar O-104, Ex: Brand, Norweb

1834 Capped Bust Half Dollar PR65 NGC. O-104, Unique as a Proof.

Only a few proof 1834 half dollars are known, mostly restrikes from the dies used to produce the Crushed Lettered Edge coins. In the catalog of the George “Buddy” Byers Collection (Stack’s, 10/2006), the cataloger enumerated these Overton varieties used to produce the Crushed Lettered Edge restrikes, of which at least 10 pieces survive in all: O-101, O-103, O-104, O-106, O-114, and O-122.

The cataloger also included five Overton varieties known for the 1834 proof half dollars, each unique original coins, that were not CLE restrikes. Those varieties include: O-101 (Large Date, Large Letters, ex: Floyd Starr), O-103 (Large Date, Large Letters; in the King of Siam set), O-104 (the present piece, from the Norweb Collection), O-106 (Large Date, Small Letters; the Byers coin), and O-114 (Small Date, Small Letters; Bowers and Merena, 8/1991, lot 2268). Each one of those unique proof original half dollars is much, much rarer than the 1834 Crushed Lettered Edge restrikes.

The present coin is one of those original pieces, unique as far as we can determine. The catalogers in the Norweb Collection sale described it in this way:

“1834 O-104. Large Date, Small Letters. Proof-64/65. A glittering gem specimen with full Proof surface on all areas, including within the shield stripes on the reverse. This piece is breathtakingly beautiful and is toned a delicate blend of muted rainbow colors, ranging from magenta at the center, to electric and gunmetal blue, to gold at the borders.

“Perhaps unique as a die variety; Walter Breen did not know of other examples, but he was aware of this one, as he participated in the sale of it to Mrs. Norweb. “Here is a superb gem coin, a half dollar for the ages.”

Technical Description: Large Date, Small Letters. The 4 in the date is tall and recut, with the 18 wider than 834. The 4 is higher. The Overton reference describes the date “with an open 3 and extra tall tapered 1” a half-millimeter from the drapery, “the closest of any large date 1834.” On the reverse the top of the C in the denomination is close to the olive stem. The I is centered left of the crossbar of the T. This die lacks the die lump normally seen on business strikes under TE, providing evidence that this proof was struck first. The thin left stand of the M is joined at its base to the center stand. (more…)

Historic proof sets and ‘Stella’ pattern coins present momentous opportunities for collectors at FUN

1834 and 1846 proof sets from private collection released as part of Heritage’s Jan. 6 FUN Platinum Night offerings in Tampa, FL

Two rare early proof sets and a remarkable set of six pattern coins associated with the famous “Stella” coinage experiment are important collective highlights of Heritage’s Tampa FUN Platinum Night U.S. Coin Auction, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011.

“All three of these sets have remained intact from the time of issue,” said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage. “It’s amazing to be able to see an 1834 proof set all at once, or the three coins of an 1846 proof gold set, or a six-coin set of Stella patterns. We understand that many collectors are interested in particular coins rather than sets, so we’ve chosen to offer the pieces from these sets as individual lots. It wouldn’t surprise me, though, if a single buyer were to keep one of the sets together.”

The earliest set is an 1834 eight-piece proof set, half cent through half eagle, with grades ranging from PR63 to PR65 NGC. While this proof set does not include the denominations included in diplomatic presentation sets of that year – namely the legendary 1804-dated silver dollar and gold eagle – it does include eight denominations, all extremely rare: the half cent, large cent, half dime, dime, quarter, half dollar, quarter eagle, and half eagle.

“Perhaps four or five of these non-diplomatic sets were issued,” said Rohan. “All the rest were broken up long ago. Depending on who buys these coins, this may literally be the last chance for collectors to bid on one of the non-diplomatic sets while it’s still intact.”

The second set, smaller but just as important in its own fashion, is a three-piece gold proof set from 1846. It contains the three gold denominations struck that year, the quarter eagle, half eagle, and eagle, and each coin is graded PR64 Cameo by NGC. The three-coin gold set was part of a larger 10-coin complete proof set that was last offered as part of the legendary John Jay Pittman Collection. The coins trace their origin all the way back to an 1892 sale by Ed Frossard.

“Today’s collectors have a chance to make these incredibly rare 1846 gold coins part of their collections,” said Rohan. “The half eagle, for example, is the only proof specimen not in a museum collection. We hope the winning bidders enjoy the same pride of ownership that Pittman displayed.”

Chronologically last, but of similarly momentous importance, is a set of five pattern pieces dated 1879 and 1880 and related to the famous proposed international trade coin, the four dollar or “Stella.” The first five coins, all very rare or extremely rare, were made of copper and later gilt. They grade PR62 to PR64 and include a Judd-1636 1879 Flowing Hair four dollar, a Judd-1639 1879 Coiled Hair four dollar, a Judd-1658 1880 Flowing Hair four dollar, a Judd-1661 1880 Coiled Hair four dollar, and the legendary Judd-1644 1879 quintuple stella – a trade-coin spin on the existing double eagle. (more…)

Three Big Rarities Offered at FUN Auctions

By Steve Roach – First published in the Jan. 3, 2011, Special Edition of Coin World – Rare Coin Market Report

For the past few years, arguably the main annual event for the rare coin market has been the massive Heritage auctions at the Florida United Numismatists convention, a major coin show that will take place during the first week of the new year in Tampa Jan. 6 to 9.

The multiday auctions and the packed bourse floor at FUN set the tone of the market for at least the year’s early months, as dealers reposition their inventories, and collectors make their first buys of the year.

Some expensive coins were sold at the 2010 FUN Heritage auction, including $3,737,500 realized for one of finest known examples of the 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin, tying the third-place record for the largest sum ever paid at auction for a single U.S. coin.

Two other million-dollar coins traded hands in the 2010 Heritage FUN auctions: a 1927-D Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagle graded Mint State 66, which sold for $1,495,000, and an 1874 Dana Bickford gold $10 eagle pattern in Proof 65 deep cameo, which sold above expectations for $1,265,000.

In total, more than $36.5 million in coins traded hands at the 2010 Heritage official FUN coin auctions.

While the new year’s first auction lacks an obvious million-dollar superstar on the level of the 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent piece, three exceptional coins could prove dazzling.

Perhaps the most noteworthy is an 1852-O Coronet $20 double eagle graded MS-65. It is the finest known example of the date and the catalog description states that it is “quite likely the finest New Orleans twenty of any date.”

In 2009, a Specimen 63 1856-O Coronet double eagle realized $1,437,500. In addition, 1850 to 1866 New Orleans Mint double eagles enjoy a healthy popularity.

Since the offered 1852-O Coronet double eagle has been off the market for more than 30 years, it’s anyone’s guess as to what this grand condition rarity will bring.

Another New Orleans Mint gold coin may also soar – the finest collectible 1909-O Indian Head $5 half eagle, graded MS-66. The lot description counts 19 examples graded MS-64 to MS-66 and the issue is the key to the series. The offered example last sold publicly in May 1998 as part of the Thaine B. Price Collection for $374,000, where it was described by auctioneer David Akers as “the finest collectible example of the rarest issue in the entire series.” (more…)

NGC Certifies Historic Cache of Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles

These coins were part of a family’s possessions during World War II exile and remained together for more than 65 years.

NGC has certified a very interesting group of Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles that have remained in the possession of a family since prior to World War II. When purchased in Europe last month, their unusual history was revealed to the buyer. During the turbulent period prior to World War II, these coins were a trove meant to sustain a family through the worst possible situation.

Just subsequent to the Nazi invasion of this family’s home country in 1940, each of these coins was sewn into the lining of a leather coat. With great risk, they were spirited out to a safe-haven neutral country, where they have been kept ever since.

According to the gold buyer, who relayed the history of these coins to NGC, the family in possession of the coins elected to sell them this year because gold had risen to record price levels. The group of 200 coins has been encapsulated with the pedigree WWII EXILE HOARD.

While other US gold coins come from caches with similar histories, several features contribute to the significance of this group. When they arrived at NGC, many of the coins still had bits of leather still adhering to the coins’ rims.

At the submitter’s request, professionals at Numismatic Conservation Services expertly removed the leather so that the coins would be eligible for certification. Their unconventional storage imparted a number of the coins with a delicate reddish patina that was left untouched during conservation.

Another unusual feature is the uniformly high grade of these coins. Each graded from MS 63 to MS 67, with seven coins achieving this highest grade and a greater number grading each MS 66 and MS 66+. All are dated 1924 and 1925, with over three-quarters being from the latter date.

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The Malibu Collection of Proof Liberty Seated Quarters, with information for beginning and intermediate collectors

News and Analysis of scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #31

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I. The Malibu Collection

In Tampa, on Tuesday, Jan. 4, B&M will auction the second part of the Malibu Collection, among other consignments. The focus here is on Malibu’s collection of Proof Liberty Seated Quarters dating from 1863 to 1891.

This sale will occur almost exactly two months after B&M auctioned the first part of the Malibu Collection, in Baltimore. In my column of Nov. 17, I reviewed the sale of the Malibu set of Standing Liberty Quarters. On Nov. 4, B&M also auctioned Malibu’s business strike Liberty Seated Half Dollars and silver dollars. On Jan. 4, B&M will auction Malibu’s sets of Proof Liberty Seated Quarters, Proof Liberty Seated Half Dollars and Proof Liberty Seated Dollars, plus a few other coins from the Malibu collection, as well as a wide variety of items from other consignors.

This Jan. 4 auction will be conducted just prior to the FUN Convention. Please see last week’s column for a discussion of FUN Convention auctions and a review of the O’Neal Collection of Indian Head Half Eagles that Heritage will offer. (As always, clickable links are in blue.)

Since the collector who formed the Malibu collection has not granted permission for his name to be mentioned, the code name Malibu is employed for his overall collection, sets of specific series, and the collector himself. Other coins from the Malibu Collection may be auctioned in Baltimore in March. Most of the coins in the Malibu collection are, or were, included in set listings in the PCGS and NGC Registries.

Besides Malibu’s set of Standing Liberty Quarters, which was complete and excellent, each of his sets seems to be a ‘work in progress’ with some missing dates that are not difficult to find. It is sad that his sets of Proof Liberty Seated coins were not completed as he seems to have had both the budget and the dedication to ‘complete’ sets of ‘later date’ Liberty Seated Proof Quarters, half dollars and silver dollars, those dating from 1858 onwards.

Starting in 1858, Proof Sets were publicly offered by the U.S. Mint each year. Before then, Proof coins were released quietly to collectors and dealers who had contacts at the Philadelphia Mint or elsewhere in the U.S. Treasury Dept. While Proof sets were not available to collectors every year prior to 1858, my impression is that these were often available to collectors who took the initiative to seek Proof coins.

Generally, it is customary to define a set of each series of Proof Liberty Seated silver coins, or of Proof Liberty Head gold coins, as a collection of one of each issue from 1858 onwards. Pre-1858 Proofs tend to be much rarer, and a set of all Proof Liberty Seated coins would not be feasible.

Clearly, the Malibu collector was in the process of assembling sets of Proof quarters and halves dating from 1858 to 1891, and of Proof Liberty Seated Dollars dating from 1858 to 1873, which was the last year of Liberty Seated Dollars. The Malibu 1858 to 1891 set of Proof Liberty Seated Halves contains twenty seven Proofs of different dates, and a second Proof 1887 Half Dollar. This half set is missing eight dates.

A set of Proof Liberty Seated Dollars consists of sixteen dates and the Malibu set has eleven plus a duplicate Proof 1873 dollar. The PCGS and the NGC Registries ignore the 1866 ‘No Motto’ Proofs of quarters, halves and silver dollars, as these are mysterious strikings about which little is known, and were not available to the public. While the Malibu sets of halves and silver dollars are important, and will receive much attention when auctioned on Jan. 4th, the topic here is his set of Proof Liberty Seated Quarters. (more…)

Wa She Wong Collection of Chinese and Other Asian Coins Tops $10.7 Million at Hong Kong Auction

Exclusive NGC-graded sale marks most important array of Chinese coinage offered at auction in 20 years

Over 300 anxious bidders filled the live auction floor for the highly anticipated sale of the Wa She Wong Collection and other Asian Coins on Dec. 3-4. The Hong Kong auction, presented by Ponterio & Associates, a division of Bowers and Merena Auctions, featured 1,107 lots with total sales reaching $10.7 million.

“A collection of Chinese coinage of this magnitude has not come to market in over 20 years and it surely did not disappoint,” said Rick Ponterio, executive vice president of Bowers and Merena. “We saw such spirited bidding, the sale of the first 487 lots took an astounding 11 hours with many of the lots selling for multiple times their estimated value.”

Drawing worldwide attention, the collection is a compilation of Wa She Wong’s lifelong passion for collecting which contained multiple rarities missing from major exhibits including many scarce pattern coins that were never released into general circulation. Headlining the collection, the 1890 Kwantung Mint Specimen Set, lot 220, began with an estimated value of $300,000 and realized a staggering $718,750. The set represents a landmark in Chinese minting as the first silver coinage produced with modern machinery.

Another important coin was the extremely rare “Flying Dragon” Szechuan 30 Cash Struck in Copper, lot 311. Opening at $12,500, lively bidding quickly brought the coin to a final selling price of $460,000. “The buyer had been searching for this rarity, one of only two known in private hands, for more than 30 years. The two other examples known to exist are housed in public museum collections,” said Ponterio.

All major rarities in the collection were certified by the Numismatic Guarantee Corporation (NGC), a market leader in grading Chinese coins, and pedigreed as “Wa She Wong Collection” on individual holders. Additional highlights of the Wa She Wong Collection include:

  • Lot 3, 1920 “Yuan Shi Kai” Dollar Struck in Gold, MS-64 (NGC), realized $138,000
  • Lot 27, 1911 “Long-Whisker” Dragon Pattern Dollar Struck in Silver, MS-65 (NGC), realized $431,250 (Ex: Kann Collection)
  • Lot 130, 1844 Changchow Military Rotation Dollar, AU-50 (NGC), realized $103,500
  • Lot 139, 1909 Honan Pattern 20 Cash Struck in Copper, AU-55 BN (NGC), realized $126,500
  • Lot 147, 1930 Hunan Pattern 500 Cash Struck in Copper, MS-63 BN (NGC), realized $103,500
  • Lot 162, 1897 Kiangnan Dollar, Plain Edge, Proof-66 Cameo (NGC), realized $373,750 (more…)

Coin Profile 1804 Bust Quarter, Single Finest Certified B-1, Ex: Colonel Green

Colonel Edward Howland Robinson Green (better known as Col. E.H.R. Green or, more simply, Col. Green), was the son of Henrietta Howland Robinson Green, née Henrietta Howland Robinson (1834-1916). She, too, is known more simply as Hetty Green, and even more familiarly as the “Witch of Wall Street.” Hetty Green was connected on the Howland side of her family to one of the great merchant families of New England. She grew up in a Quaker household, noted for its austerity.

Upon their deaths in 1865, her father and maternal aunt willed to her a total of about $10 million. Even after her 1867 marriage to Edward H. Green, she kept her finances separate, managing them herself with single-minded monomania. Her father and grandfather had educated her in finance from early childhood, and she dedicated herself to expanding that fortune. As her wealth increased, she continued to live with her son and daughter in modest surroundings, avoiding all social contacts or displays of wealth. In time she became a major force on Wall Street, despite which she often appeared in public in shabby garb and sought medical treatment for herself at charity clinics. She left an estate valued at more than $100 million when she died in 1916, reputedly the world’s richest woman.

“Extremely rare grade and one of two finest known of just three, possibly four known in full Mint State. Certainly the most famous specimen and long thought to be clearly the finest.”

The most often-repeated story concerning her penury is that concerning her son Edward, whom she refused to take for medical treatment, resulting in the need for his leg to be amputated. Col. Green was born the year following Hetty’s marriage to Edward Green, during his parents’ tour of Europe.

By age 25, Col. Green had been admitted to the bar and become president of the Texas Midland Railroad (his mother Hetty had owned many railroad stocks during her lifetime). He was active in Texas Republican politics, served as chairman of the Texas Republican State Committee, and was a director of the St. Louis Exposition of 1904. In order to maintain a Texas residence, he kept a suit of clothes and one of his wooden legs in a “fine residence” in Terrell, Texas. He died at age 68 in Lake Placid, New York.

At the time of his death–with a total estate valued at more than $40 million–his coin collection was valued at an estimated $5 million, along with a stamp collection worth $3.5 million. Green’s numismatic holdings included at least seven different 1838-O half dollars, a Brasher doubloon, all five of the 1913 Liberty nickels, and a staggering hoard of 1796 quarters, said to number more than 200 pieces. (more…)

Heritage’s World and Ancient Coin Auction in NYC

International numismatic treasures highlighted by rare German, Polish and South American coins, as well as the largest gold coin in the world, a Chinese 321+ ounce Beijing Olympics gold 100,000 Yuan

DALLAS, TX – As the profile of Heritage Auctions’ World & Ancient Coins category has continued to skyrocket over the last few years, each consecutive offering has raised the bar significantly. With the Jan. 3-4 New York Signature? World & Ancient Coin Auction at the Waldorf Astoria, coinciding with the New York International Coin Show (NYINC), Heritage has not only assembled its largest World Coin auction to date, it has also once again raised the bar in terms of absolute quality.

“With more than 5,000 total lots in this auction we have literally scoured the planet for the best possible international numismatic offerings,” said Cristiano Bierrenbach, Vice President of International Numismatics at Heritage. “The incredible scope of countries represented, and the depth to which the collections go is so advanced that putting this catalog together was like a getting a graduate degree in world numismatics at a crash course pace.”

More than 240 consignors have placed coins in the auction, most of which will be on display for lot viewing, Dec. 29 and 30, at Heritage’s jewelbox New York space at 445 Park Avenue (at 57th). To further entice International coin collectors, Heritage will have highlights from the upcoming auction the Norman Jacobs Collection of Korean and Japanese Coins, the most important collection of its kind, on display at the NYINC, January 6-9, at the Waldorf-Astoria.

A Polish Sigismund III gold 10 Dukats 1588, Fr-83, XF45 NGC represents one of the superb early highlights of the auction. This exceedingly rare type, with its clean lines and striking imagery is appealing as much for its numismatic value as for its artistic value, and is sure to be the subject of spirited bidding. It carries an estimate of $175,000+. (more…)

Laura Sperber: 2010 IN REVIEW-MY VISION

EVERYTHING WRITTEN HERE IS THE SOLE OPINION OF THE AUTHOR.

2010

What a year it was. We saw gold hit a new record and the stock market made a semi come back. The coin market had what I would call a turbulent but productive year. Prices did not go up as much as good coins weren’t being drowned by dreck anymore. There actually has been a small influx of new collectors.

It was also great year in the sense of we dragged certain taboo subjects (like gradeflation, coin doctoring, etc) through the mud and brought them out in the publics eye in the nick of time. While the bad guys all have been pissed off, it unquestionably has given the collecting public a better feeling and renewed sense we can self police ourselves and that some of the “leadership” of the hobby does indeed care. Consumer confidence is critical to having coins rise in value and maintaining a healthy marketplace.

I do NOT regret saying or doing what I did to help make coins and the coin market a better place.

COIN DOCTORING

Exposing how bad the coin doctoring issue had become, was by far the MOST important POSITIVE thing to have happened. Had everyone just kept their heads turned and let these criminals rape coins and the coin market, it would have killed the hobbies future.

PCGS took a heroic lead in firing off a lawsuit with absolute hard evidence against a small crew. Other coin small to mid size docs took notice and are running scared. Now, PCGS is coming out with even more sophisticated technology to catch these guys and hopefully make them stop forever. I knew this was a critical problem when the Kutasi Collection of $10’s and $20’s was sold a few years ago and the putty was so thick on many coins sometimes you could not see all the details! I do not regret standing up and speaking out about this subject when it was really taboo to do so. Just passing on a coin certainly was not stopping the doctors fromtheir reign of destruction. In my opinion, destroying a coin should be considered a full criminal act. These low lifes are taking away the few pieces of original history we have and are slowly ruining our enjoyment of collecting. They deserve to be harshly punished and shamed.

The grading services are definately doing their share to work on the problem, however I am disgusted with so many retail dealers who will not speak out. No, its not just the lame PNG (next topic), but the dealers who want to be your friends, the ones who can’t grade for crap, or have huge web sites. They are greedy cowards in my book, worth no more than the bad slabs they sell. There needs to be a shake out of these people.

I know there is still a long, long way to go in this fight. A few major firms who still employee doctors are still quietly practicing thinking they are just too big to tackle. I believe in 2011 they will be exposed and will fall. Its a matter of compiling more evidence. They certainly have been frustrasted at the very least in 2010. At least this issue is moving forward and not backwards. I hope this year to get more people speaking out. EVERY voice is important-no matter what size collector you are! (more…)

Scott Travers’ ‘Survival Manual’ Now Available in Seventh Edition

(New York, NY) – Gold and grading share the spotlight in The Coin Collector’s Survival Manual, Seventh Edition, the just-released latest edition of the perennial hobby bestseller by award-winning author Scott A. Travers. Published by Random House, this thoroughly updated 400-page book also contains two new and timely fact-filled chapters; one on buying and selling gold coins and other precious metal items, the other on recent innovations in coin grading.

With gold scaling record-high price levels, Travers examines the impact the precious metals boom is having on the rare coin market. Citing one expert’s prediction that gold might soar to $10,000 an ounce, he shows why this is not far-fetched. A new section of the book looks at possible negative effects for collectors and dealers if burdensome IRS 1099 reporting requirements are not changed before their scheduled implementation in 2012.

Travers also provides pointers on how to avoid being victimized when buying or selling valuables containing precious metal, and goes behind the scenes to show in detail how buyers determine the value of gold and silver in items they buy from the public. Travers reveals insider secrets for getting the most money when selling gold and silver coins, jewelry or “scrap.”

He cautions that high-profile gold buyers who advertise extensively often pay rock-bottom prices, “luring cash-starved victims with slick TV commercials or eye-catching newspaper ads promising ‘top dollar’ for the gold that’s sitting idle in their jewelry boxes or drawers.”

A new chapter titled “A Grade Leap Forward” explores what Travers calls “the new math of coin grading” – the enhancement made possible in early 2010 when the Professional Coin Grading Service introduced its PCGS Secure Plus™ system and added intermediate “plus” (+) designations to coins at the high end of their grade level. The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America (NGC) soon began offering similar grading.

Exclusive first-time photographs show the differences between “regular” and “plus” grades.

Travers also explains how Secure Plus™ combats coin “doctoring” and shares insiders’ tips on how to get the greatest value when buying and selling PCGS and NGC plus-grade coins.

Hundreds of never-before-published digitized coin images give readers a clear look at subtle grading nuances and ways to detect altered coins. In a beefed-up color section, surprising photos reveal how the same coin was given different grades by leading services. It also shows examples of difficult-to-detect doctored and altered coins, plus endangered coins rescued from harm’s way through proper conservation.

Exclusive color photographs pinpoint how to distinguish between Morgan dollars and Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles that are Mint State-65 and Mint State 65+ — a small difference in grade that can make a significant difference in marketplace value. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: O’Neal Collection of Indian Head $5 Gold Coins

News and Analysis on scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #30

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I. FUN Auctions

During the Jan. 2011 FUN Platinum Night auction in Tampa, Heritage will offer Jim O’Neal’s set of Indian Head Half Eagles ($5 gold coins). This set is the “All-Time Finest” in the PCGS Registry and contains many individual coins that are at or near the top of the condition rankings for their respective dates. Many other rare U.S. coins, including some Great Rarities, will be auctioned during the Platinum Night event and I will cover those soon.

Since 2005, the Heritage FUN Convention auction has been the leading auction of the year for U.S. coins. Indeed, four of the last six January FUN auctions have been phenomenal.

A few days before the start of the FUN Convention at the Tampa Convention Center, B&M will conduct a pre-FUN auction at a nearby hotel. The Malibu collection will be included. Traditionally, pre-FUN auctions have featured especially choice and rare coins as well.

While the winter Florida United Numismatists (FUN) Convention is typically in Orlando, it was in Fort Lauderdale in 2005 and will be in Tampa in January 2011. The Fort Lauderdale area is a more sensible location, as Southern Florida is densely populated. Fort Lauderdale is close to especially affluent areas in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. Plus, there are many snowbirds in Southern Florida, people who otherwise live in the Northeastern States.

To attain a better understanding of FUN auctions, or at least to get a flavor for them, please see my articles relating to 2009 and 2010 events: The Jan. 2010 Platinum Night, $3,737,500 for a nickel, the O’Neal Collection of Indian Head Eagles, Queller Collection of Patterns, and Jay Brahin’s $20 gold coins.

When the Jim O’Neal collection of Indian Head (or Saint Gaudens) Eagles ($10 coins) was the opening feature of the Jan. 8, 2009 Platinum Night event, the room was packed. Afterwards, a few experts in attendance indicated to me that prices were higher than expected. Prices were much higher than I expected, as I was not overwhelmed by O’Neal’s Eagles. My preliminary impression is that I will be much more enthusiastic about O’Neal’s Indian Head Half Eagles ($5 pieces), which will be sold during the Jan. 6, 2011 Platinum Night event.

II. O’Neal’s Half Eagles

It now seems that Jim O’Neal’s set of business strike Indian Head Half Eagles is the most famous collection that will be auctioned at the Jan. 2011 FUN Convention. For years, this has been the “finest” such set in both the PCGS and NGC registries. Although the PCGS ranks it ahead of the Dr. Thaine Price and Dr. Duckor sets of Indian Head Half Eagles, my belief is that the Duckor collection was finer. I have yet, however, to see most of the coins in the O’Neal set. The Duckor set of Indian Half Eagles was auctioned by the firm of David Akers as part of the Auction ’90 event, in the Chicago area.

Dr. Thaine Price’s collection was also auctioned by Akers’ firm. All of the Price collection was sold on the evening of May 19, 1998, and it was overshadowed by the epic Pittman II event that was held the same week at the same location. In most other situations, the offering of the Thaine Price collection would have been considered an amazing event of epic proportions. Dr. Duckor admits that he takes his Thaine Price catalogue with him on vacations to Hawaii, “probably fifteen times” so far. “Akers did a great job.”

The sets of Thaine Price and Steven Duckor were assembled during an era when grading standards were tougher than standards were in the late 1990s and in the early part of the 2000s. Even so, there is no doubt that this O’Neal set contains some of the greatest and most important Indian Head Half Eagles. (more…)

Chris Napolitano Named President of Bowers and Merena Auctions

Bowers and Merena Auctions, one of the world’s preeminent auctioneers for rare coins and currency and a subsidiary of Spectrum Group International, Inc. (SPGZ.PK), announced today that noted numismatic professional Chris Napolitano has joined the 27-year-old auction house as president. At the same time, Spectrum Group International (SGI) reported that its Collectibles Division achieved a record $45 million in worldwide aggregate auction sales for the three months ended December 31, 2010, its second fiscal 2011 quarter.

Mr. Greg Roberts, CEO of Spectrum Group International: “His numismatic knowledge is virtually unsurpassed, and I have tremendous confidence in his business and leadership abilities. Along with the addition of Chris, who will be relocating to Orange County, Bowers and Merena has also acquired certain assets of Summit Rare Coins, furthering our goals of expansion and growth.”

A collector since childhood, Mr. Napolitano decided to make numismatics his life’s career in 1989 with the founding of Summit Rare Coins, Inc., serving as president and CEO since its inception. Under Mr. Napolitano’s leadership spanning more than two decades, the company has handled in excess of $250 million in rare coins, including many classic American rarities, and has attended every major show and auction during that period. In 2001, Mr. Napolitano co-founded American Rare Coins and Collectibles with locations in St. Paul and Minneapolis, which he helped to grow into a $20 million business. Mr. Napolitano belongs to many important numismatic organizations and is a Lifetime Member of the American Numismatic Association.

Mr. Napolitano has personally handled approximately 80 of the coins featured in the popular numismatic reference book by Jeff Garrett, “100 Greatest U.S. Coins,” along with many notable pedigrees. He counts the L. Rogers 1794 FH $1 in PCGS 66 among his favorites, and other career highlights that include:

* 1794 50c PCGS 64
* 1793 Chain 1c PCGS Specimen 67 BN
* 1793 Wreath 1c PCGS Specimen 68 RED
* 1870-S Seated $1 PCGS AU 58 EX-NORWEB
* 1893-S $1 PCGS 67 EX-NORWEB/JACK LEE
* 1870-CC 25c NGC 64 EX-ELIASBERG
* 1856-O $20 PCGS 58 EX-AMON CARTER

“My mission in business has always been to provide great service and the right product — at the right price — to both the wholesale and retail community,” Mr. Napolitano said. “I have known Bowers and Merena throughout my career in this industry, and I am excited to join such a highly regarded business that shares my goals.”

“We are very happy to welcome Chris to our team,” said Greg Roberts, president and CEO of SGI. “His numismatic knowledge is virtually unsurpassed, and I have tremendous confidence in his business and leadership abilities. Along with the addition of Chris, who will be relocating to Orange County, Bowers and Merena has also acquired certain assets of Summit Rare Coins, furthering our goals of expansion and growth.” (more…)

The Jim O’Neal Collection of $5 Indians readies for auction in Heritage FUN U.S. Coin event

Finest known 1909-O half eagle headlines the Jan. 6 Platinum Night auction of this PCGS Registry Set All-Time Finest in Tampa, FL

DALLAS, TX — The finest collectible 1909-O Indian half eagle, MS66 PCGS, the Mitchelson-Clapp-Eliasberg-Price example – designated by legendary numismatist David Akers as “The Coin” – will provide some New Year’s fireworks on Thursday, Jan 6, 2011, when it comes up for auction as part of Heritage’s Tampa FUN Platinum Night U.S. Coin Auction. This magnificent coin is the principal highlight of The Jim O’Neal Collection of $5 Indians, the #1 All-Time Finest set of its kind graded by PCGS.

“This is the fourth major collection from Mr. O’Neal that Heritage has had the distinct pleasure to handle, starting with his U.S. currency collection in 2005,” said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage Auctions. “ His incredible $5 Indian Registry Set stands alone in terms of quality, and the advance buzz from collectors is considerable, to say the least. A high grade mint state set of $5 Indians is easily the most daunting challenge facing collectors of 20th Century gold.

The O’Neal specimen of the 1909-O Indian half eagle, the only Indian Head gold coin ever minted in New Orleans and the rarest issue in the set, has an unimpeachable provenance from J.C. Mitchelson to John H. Clapp, Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr., Dr. Thaine B. Price before reaching O’Neal. The Clapp Notebook recording acquisitions of coins in that collection indicates that Mitchelson sold the coin to Clapp in June 1909. That means that Mitchelson almost certainly ordered the coin directly from the Mint and, given that it is well-known that the 1909-O half eagles were coined in February or March 1909, this piece may well have been among the first coins minted.

Going one year earlier, among the most luminous of the O’Neal coins is a 1908-S half eagle MS68, PCGS, the single highest PCGS-graded mint state $5 Indian of any date. While specific information about this coin’s origin dates back only five years, it may date back to a small hoard of high-quality pieces once owned by legendary businessman and collector Virgil Brand.

The finest certified example of a 1911-D half eagle, MS65+ PCGS, CAC, one of several famous gold issues bearing that date and mintmark, continues the top offerings of the collection.

“It’s rare to find a 1911-D half eagle with a smooth surface, period,” said Rohan, “let alone one as gorgeous, glossy and appealing as this particular example. It’s the #1 coin of its kind for good reason and we anticipate spirited competition to take it home in Tampa.”

A stunning 1913-S half eagle, MS66 PCGS, the finest known example certified by PCGS and likely the finest of its kind – certainly, in the absolute sense, one of the great condition rarities of the series – rounds out the top offerings in The O’Neal Collection. The coin’s provenance, which includes a long stay in the famous Dr. Thaine B. Price Collection, indicates that this example has only been offered publicly on two previous occasions, in 1998 and 1999.

Which Civil War Gold Coins Will Be Promoted in 2011?

I don’t consider myself to be a real pro when it comes to rare coin promotion but even I know a no-brainer when I see it. 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, you can bet that rare coin promotion gurus who are far more clever than I have been preparing for this event for some time.

So if you are Joe Coin Promoter and you are gearing up for the Civil War Sesquicentennial in 2011, what kind of gold coins can you get enough of to do a promotion? Let’s go denomination by denomination and figure this out.

I. Gold Dollars

Only two mints made gold dollars in 1861: Philadelphia and Dahlonega. The 1861-P is common and cheap; the 1861-D is rare and expensive. The 1861-D is unpromotable; it is too rare to accumulate in quantity and is already too expensive. A clever dealer could probably stealthily buy 40-50 1861-P gold dollars in lower Mint State grades over the course of a year and have enough coins to promote. He could probably find as many 1862-P gold dollars and maybe have as many as 100 coins in total. I would have to wonder, though, if the intended audience for this promotion would get excited about gold dollars as they are small, common and not really “sexy.” As a collector I’d probably avoid stockpiling any Civil War gold dollars to ride the coattails of a promotion.

II. Quarter Eagles

Two mints made quarter eagles in 1861: Philadelphia and San Francisco. The 1861-S is unheralded but scarce and I doubt if you could put together a group of more than three or four over the course of a year. The 1861-P is common in grades up to MS63 and it might be possible to accumulate enough to promote. I like the promotional possibilities of this issue and it might not be a bad idea for a collector to buy a few MS62 to MS63 pieces and see if prices increase in the next few years. None of the other Civil War Philadelphia issues can be found in enough quanity to promote. The San Francisco issues are all rare but it might be possible to put together a rag-tag group of circulated examples.

III. Three Dollar Gold Pieces

You couldn’t promote threes in Uncircirculated as all of the Civil War issues are rare enough and expensive enough to preclude this. But you might actually be able to acculate a few dozen nice circulated pieces. This promotion actually makes sense to me as the three dollar denomination is odd and interesting and it would appeal to non-collectors. It is also out of favor right now so the possibility of buying a fair quantity exists. The 1861-64 dates are all moderately scarce but available in the EF-AU range for less than $4,000 per coin. As a promotion bandwagon jumper, these three dollar gold pieces kind of make sense to me. (more…)

The Finest New Orleans Double Eagle Gold Coin to be Sold at FUN

The upcoming 2011 January Tampa FUN Signature & Platinum Night US Coin Auction features what is probably the finest New Orleans twenty of any date. Easily the finest known 1852-O double eagle, this Gem has been off the market since the early 1970s, when our consignor purchased it through a private treaty transaction with Stack’s.

This coin has long been unavailable for study by most modern researchers, although Doug Winter was aware of it when he wrote the first edition of New Orleans Mint Gold Coins: 1839-1909 in 1992. At that time, Winter considered the specimen in the Dallas Bank Collection the finest known 1852-O, with this coin listed in the number two spot. Like the present coin, the Dallas Bank specimen had only been examined by a few specialists during the 1990s.

After the collection was sold in 2001, Winter had the opportunity to view the coin, and he determined that the present specimen is actually superior to the Dallas Bank example. Jim Halperin, Co-Chairman of Heritage Auction Galleries, had the opportunity to study this coin many years ago, and he always believed it was special. Halperin states that this coin is “By far the best condition New Orleans twenty I have ever seen.” Discounting the SP63 PCGS 1856-O double eagle, a coin that many consider a full proof, no other New Orl eans Mint twenty has been certified in any grade above MS63 by NGC or PCGS.

In 1852 the New Orleans Mint produced a generous mintage of 190,000 Liberty Head double eagles, largely due to the influx of gold from the California gold fields. Because of its substantial mintage, the 1852-O is one of the more available Type One double eagles from the New Orleans Mint. Winter estimates a surviving population of 900-1100 pieces in all grades. Most examples seen are in lower circulated grades, and the issue becomes scarce in AU55 and quite rare in Mint State. Due to the availability of the 1852-O in AU, the date is always in demand from mintmark type collectors, seeking a high grade example for their collections.

Of course, the Miller collection coin is in a class of its own as a condition rarity. No 1852-O double eagle of comparable quality has been offered at auction since the Dallas Bank specimen came on the market, nearly a decade ago. In 2006, a PCGS graded MS62 specimen realized $48,875 as lot 5580 of the Denver Signature Auction in 2006, but even that coin clearly lacked the quality of this magnificent Gem, which grades a full three points higher.

As the finest known specimen of the date, with claims to the title of finest New Orleans business strike double eagle, it might be fair to compare this coin to the finest known specimens of other issues offered at auction recently. Considered as a date, the 1852-O is not in the same rarity category as the 1856-O, the classic rarity of the series, but the rarity of the 1852-O in MS65 is just as great as the rarity of the 1856-O in SP63. (more…)

PNG 2011 YN Scholarship Competition Begins

(Fallbrook, California) — The Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) will provide a scholarship to a deserving young numismatist (YN) to attend the 2011 American Numismatic Association (ANA) Summer Seminar in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This is the seventh consecutive year of PNG YN scholarships for the popular, annual ANA program.

“The scholarship will cover airfare, tuition for one of the two week-long Summer Seminar sessions in June or July, meals and six nights of dormitory accommodations on the campus of Colorado College, site of the ANA headquarters,” said PNG Executive Director Robert Brueggeman.

“All young numismatists between the ages of 13 and 22 are eligible to enter and are cordially invited to apply for the scholarship. Entrants must submit a short essay outlining why they should be chosen as the 2011 scholarship recipient. The deadline for receipt of the entries is March 31, 2011,” said PNG President Paul Montgomery.

Entries must include the applicant’s name and contact information. The essays can be sent by email to info@PNGdealers.com or by mail to the PNG Executive Director, 28441 Rancho California Road, Suite 106, Temecula, CA 92590.

The two separate 2011 ANA Summer Seminar week-long sessions will be held Saturday, June 25, to Friday July 1, and from Saturday, July 2, to Friday, July 8. Participants ranging from teenagers to senior citizens spend 25 hours taking one course of their choice about specific coins or paper money or the hobby’s technical or business aspects. Additional information about the Summer Seminar sessions can be found on the ANA website, www.money.org.

“We are thankful that the PNG recognizes the value of providing young collectors a chance to realize their full numismatic potential, and offering a scholarship to the ANA’s Summer Seminar is a great start. We want to thank the PNG for generosity in providing this YN scholarship and for promoting the ANA’s education programs,” said Susan M. McMillan, ANA Education Project Manager.

Photo caption: picture taken at the Chase Manhattan Money Museum circa 1945 when Vernon Brown was curator. Image from The E-Sylum

The money to pay for the annual PNG YN Scholarship is administered from PNG’s Gerald Bauman Memorial Fund. Bauman, who died in 2001, served for many years as a prominent coin dealer with Manfra, Tordella & Brookes in New York City.

The PNG is a nonprofit organization composed of many of the top rare coin and paper money dealers in the United States and seven other countries. PNG member-dealers must adhere to a strict Code of Ethics in the buying and selling of numismatic merchandise. For additional information, visit online at www.PNGdealers.com or call (951) 587-8300.

Low Mintages To Create New Modern Rarities

By Steve RoachThe Rare Coin Market Report Blog

The U.S. Mint’s Dec. 1 announcement that it is placing tighter than expected mintage limits on the new 2010 America the Beautiful 5-ounce .999 fine silver bullion quarter dollars may result in the creation of some new modern rarities.

The large (3 inches in diameter) and undoubtedly impressive coins will surely be in hot demand, especially with such limited supplies.

The bullion issues are made available to authorized dealers who then resell the coins to the market. The mintages are strictly limited to not more than 33,000 of each design – a sharp decline from the 100,000 previously announced. The Mint will charge its distributors $9.75 per coin above the price of silver.

Uncirculated examples will be offered for sale directly to collectors during the first quarter of 2011. With mintage limits of 27,000 per coin, the 2010 issues seem destined to be modern classics, as the coins relate to circulating coins, are likely affordable to many collectors, and are simply big and flashy.

Of course, the long-term demand is largely dependent on whether collectors take to the large silver coins and seek to build sets.

Time will tell about the long-term popularity of these coins, but in the meantime, the lower-than-expected mintages should provide great action for speculators and spectators alike.

The American Eagle silver bullion coins provide a comparison point, having as key to the series the Proof 1995-W American Eagle with a mintage of 30,125 pieces. Examples of that issue regularly sell for $3,000.

Collectors’ difficulties in acquiring Proof 2010-W American Eagle silver bullion coins, with strict 100-coin per household ordering limits, have already created a robust aftermarket for these coins.

On eBay, ready-to-ship examples have been regularly selling for $55.

At least one major market-maker is offering $49 a coin for 100-coin confirmed orders of Proof 2010-W American Eagle silver coins. At an issue price of $45.95, this allows a profit of nearly $300 for dealers, and provides the market-maker a large group of coins to market during the holidays.

NGC Launches New Coin Price Guide Powered by NumisMedia

Powerful resource includes over five years of historical data and dynamic charting tools.

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) has released a new online price guide, the NGC Coin Price Guide, powered by NumisMedia.

The price guide is now available to all NGC website visitors for free at www.NGCcoin.com. It includes five years of accurate coin pricing data for nearly all US coins, and collectors can analyze coin prices using dynamic graphing tools and ranking filters. Many of these features are entirely new to the numismatic marketplace.

For example, the performance of up to five different coins can be viewed on a single graph. Innovative trend spotting tools allow users to rank coin performance based on criteria they supply to gain unique insight into the value of collectable US coins.

The rare coin values shown in the NGC Coin Price Guide are independently compiled and edited by NumisMedia based on real, documented market transactions.

Since 2005, NumisMedia has served as the official price guide of NGC and the NGC Collectors Society. NumisMedia is the industry’s most accurate, impartial report of US coin values. The online guide constitutes the most comprehensive pricing available for US coins, including prices for the full range of AU and MS grades, as well as prices for a broad number of modern issues.

“Tools this powerful simply were not available to coin collectors before today,” comments Mark Salzberg, NGC chairman. “Since the price guide is free, we’re offering everyone complete access to the most advanced way to assess rare coin valuation trends. NGC is providing the ultimate means for collectors to make better purchasing decisions and build better collections.”

The NGC Coin Price Guide launched November 30, 2010. The price guide is part of a suite of collecting resources available on NGC’s Web site, including a US coin encyclopedia, US coin variety attribution guide, and US coin grading guide. Earlier this year, NGC launched a comprehensive coin collection management portal. Like the price guide, it is a free resource available to the numismatic community.

Spink World Coin Auction Realises over £3.2 Million

Over the past 48 hours, Spink auctioned their highest grossing coin sale to date. The fantastic catalogue of over 1300 coins totalled over £3.2 million in sales and generated interest from collectors around the world. Dozens of phone bidders, a standing only room and hundreds of participants on Spink Live contributed to a bidding frenzy in the room.

William Mackay, specialist at Spink, had this to say about the sale:

“This sale demonstrates the strong market for top quality, rare historical gold coins. It definitely showcases the extent to which the value of these sorts of coins have appreciated in the last few years. We are extremely pleased with the results of this sale which demonstrates continued confidence in the marketplace.”

Top lots included the following:

Lot 895
Henry VII (1485-1509), Sovereign, type IV
Sold for £180,000

Lot 949
Charles I, Civil War issues, Oxford,
small module type Triple Unite
Sold for £161,000

Lot 5
Mughal Empire, Jalal ud-Din Muhammad Akbar,
AV 5-Mohurs
Sold for £150,000

Lot 948
Charles I, Civil War issues, Oxford, Triple Unite
Sold for £120,000

Lot 975
James VI (1567-1625), second coinage,
Twenty-Pound piece
Sold for £102,000

About Spink

Spink is the world’s leading auctioneer of coins, stamps, medals, banknotes, bonds, share certificates and autographs, with offices in London, Singapore, New York and Dallas. Since its foundation in 1666, the Spink name has become synonymous with tradition, experience and integrity. Holders of three royal warrants and numerous records for prices achieved at auction, Spink offer an unparalleled range of services to collectors worldwide.

For more information, pictures or to request an interview with the specialist please contact Emily Johnston, ejohnston@spink.com , 020 7563 4009.