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Category: US Coins

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The CoinFest, Washlady Dollar, 1861-O $20 gold coin, Connecticut Coppers

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #25

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I. The CoinFest

The fourth annual CoinFest was held in Stamford (CT) from Oct. 28th to Oct. 30th. For the first time, Heritage conducted the official CoinFest auction and this auction was very successful. Below, I discuss specific coins that were sold in the auction. Also, the exhibit of Gerry Fortin‘s collection of Liberty Seated dimes added luster to the CoinFest. Listings of Fortin’s dimes may be seen in the PCGS and NGC registries.

In my view, bourse floor displays and trading activity were much more impressive at the second and third CoinFest events, in 2008 and 2009. This is partly because the scheduling of the show was then better. This year’s event was just too close to the better established Baltimore Expo and related auction events. Lot viewing in Baltimore for a Stack’s auction started less than forty-eight hours after CoinFest closed. More importantly, this year’s security policies at CoinFest were just too aggressive.

A lot of collectors who attend coin shows do not know that a particular show’s owners are nice people, and, whether a show’s owners are nice or not, collectors often do not wish to be placed on mailing lists or on any other kind of list. Over the last ten years, it has become common for marketing firms and other firms to keep relatively secret databases regarding consumers and to trade such information. Adults certainly should not have to reveal their home addresses or their ages. A list owned by nice people may be sold to nasty people in the future, or stolen by computer hackers.

Indeed, collectors should be able to anonymously attend coin shows. They should have the right not to be bothered and the right not to have their personal information scrutinized. Like identity theft, an individual’s privacy can be invaded without him knowing about it.

Collectors who attend coin shows know that they are likely to be video recorded, which is a sufficient deterrent for wrongdoing, and video recording should be the limit to privacy invasions. The very rare attendee who causes trouble because of severe psychiatric problems is not going to be deterred by aggressive security policies. Moreover, a criminal who is planning to follow dealers from the show is certainly not going to attend the show and be video recorded. Such a criminal will wait outside or use binoculars from a distance.

Aggressive security policies do more harm than good, and when collectors tell their collecting friends about such policies, coin show attendance drops. Besides, I strongly recommend that a collector who attends a coin show keep his driver’s license in his car or in a hotel safe (as people often do with passports in Europe). If a collector is robbed after walking from a coin show, he would not wish for the thief to get his driver’s license, too, which could lead to problems more serious than a loss of a few coins.

Coin show personnel, security or otherwise, should not be asking collectors for ID or pressuring people to reveal their home addresses. Before a few years ago, this was never done at a coin show, for good reason.

II. Washlady Silver Dollar

The Washlady Dollar is one of the most famous of all U.S. pattern issues. In 1879, there were also minted Washlady dimes, quarters and half dollars. These designs were considered and never adopted for regular U.S. coinage. Though the Washlady patterns are of silver denominations, these were struck in copper as well. Copper is much less expensive than silver. On Oct. 29, Heritage auctioned one of the finest known Washlady Dollars in silver. (more…)

Coin Profile: Norweb Specimen of the 1796 15 Stars Small Eagle Half Dollar Highlights B&M Sale in Baltimore

A Prooflike NGC MS-63; Tied for Condition Census #3

The Half Dollars that the United States Mint delivered in 1797 differed from the previous issues for this denomination from 1794 and 1795. For in late 1796 Mint personnel adopted Robert Scot’s Draped Bust, Small Eagle design that had already been used in the production of 1795-dated Silver Dollars for use on the Half Dollar. The delivery of 1797 amounted to a mere 3,918 pieces, the first 934 or so examples having been struck from one of two 1796-dated obverse dies.

Surprisingly for a denomination that otherwise proved extremely popular with contemporary bullion depositors, no more Half Dollars were ordered until 1801, at which time the Large Eagle variant of the Draped Bust type became current. The Draped Bust, Small Eagle Half Dollar, therefore, became an instant numismatic rarity–a two-year type with a combined mintage of just 3,918 pieces. Survivors of both dates are very scarce-to-rare in all grades, and they never fail to cause a stir among advanced collectors whenever the coins make an appearance at auction.

The 1796-dated Half Dollar delivery was achieved through the use of two obverse dies and a single reverse die in two marriages. O-101 is easy to distinguish from O-102 as the former variety exhibits only 15 stars at the obverse border. There are fewer than 100 different examples of the O-101 die marriage believed extant, an estimate that allows us to further estimate the mintage for this variety at just 569 pieces. The phenomenal Choice Unc that we offer here traces its pedigree to the fabulous Norweb Collection–as well as other important numismatic cabinets–and it is tied for Condition Census #3 for the die marriage with only two other MS-63s of which we are aware:

1. Ex: Benjamin H. Collins (1/1896); J.M. Clapp; John H. Clapp; Clapp estate (1942); Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; The Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection (Bowers and Merena, 8/1997), lot 1673; Denver, CO Signature & Platinum Night Auction (Heritage, 8/2006), lot 5222. PCGS MS-63.

2. Ex: Four Landmark Collections Sale (Bowers and Merena, 3/1989), lot 1990; The Allison Park Collection Sale (American Numismatic Rarities, 8/2004), lot 418; Long Beach Signature Auction (Heritage, 6/2005), lot 6209; The Southwest Collection (Heritage, 2/2008), lot 528. NGC MS-63.

3 – Ex: Waldo C. Newcomer; Colonel E.H.R. Green; The T. James Clarke Collection (New Netherlands’ 47th Sale, 4/1956), lot 1195; The Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), lot 3024; The Dennis Irving Long Collection (Bowers and Merena, 1/1990), lot 256; 65th Anniversary Sale (Stack’s, 10/2000), lot 876; The Frog Run Farm Collection Sale (American Numismatic Rarities, 11-12/2004), lot 1236. NGC MS-63, the present example.

This coin is fully prooflike in finish and, in fact, the coin was cataloged as a “Proof” in New Netherlands’ 1956 sale of the T. James Clarke Collection. Numismatic scholarship having advanced considerably since the 1950s, we now know that this coin does not qualify as a proof in the strictest sense of the term. On the other hand, the fields are so well mirrored, the strike is so superior for a product of the early United States Mint and the surfaces have been so carefully preserved that we find it likely that this coin was specially prepared for presentation or other important purposes. (more…)

Coin Discovery: New Variety Discovered -1878 Vam 852010

A New die marriage for the 1878 Morgan Dollar had been discovered by Kenneth Robb,  a collector whose primary interest center around Vam varieties for the popular Morgan Silver Dollar series.

When a Morgan or Peace Dollar is attributed with a VAM number, this means it is one of the recognized varieties that are listed in the Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars.

This book was written by Leroy Van Allen & George Mallis — their initials make up the abbreviation VAM.

Each different date/mint combination has it’s own set of varieties and VAM numbers.  VAM-4 would be the 4th listed variety for that specific date/mint.  A VAM-4 for one date/mint will not be the same for a different date/mint.

Each of these VAMs has its own rarity & interest factor.  A rare variety with a high interest factor will be quite valuable — a common, low-interest variety may not have any premium at all.  The rarity and interest factors are listed in the encyclopedia, but prices are not.

Vam collectors are passionate about their specialty, and this is the first new discovery of a new die marrige for a 1878 with B1 reverse that has been reported in the past 45 years.

First posted on the Coin Community message boards on October 21st, and then on the Vamword website several hours later, the  coin initially had collectors stumped in trying to reconcile the die charactoristics with the then known Vam Varieties. It was suggested by several collectors that the coin be sent to Vam expert Leroy Van Allen for inspection and attribution.

On October 26th, the following news reportedly arrived from Mr. Van Allen:

NEW 1878 P B1 DIE VARIETY LISTING
In late October 2010, Kenneth Robb sent a nice condition PL 1878 P with B1 type reverse that had the II/I 6 obverse of VAM 80. However, he pointed out that the reverse die didn’t match the reverse die cracks of VAM 80 and also didn’t have the die chips on the eagle’s right wing. Furthermore, the reverse die didn’t seem to match any of the known B1 reverse listings. (more…)

Is It Time to Buy an S.S. Central America Double Eagle Gold Coin ?

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

For many years, it’s been no secret that I haven’t been a big fan of the 1857-S double eagles that trace their origin from the famous S.S. Central America shipwreck. I’ve written that price levels of these coins haven’t made sense to me and I’ve have had problems with their appearance. More than a decade after they were first released onto the market, has my opinion changed?

I believe that this is (finally) a sensible time to purchase an S.S.C.A double eagle. But there are some important parameters for the collector to follow when considering a purchase. Some of these are as follows:

1. Be Selective. There are over 5,000 1857-S double eagles from this shipwreck and they range in grade from Extremely Fine to Mint State-67. With this wide variety of grades, there are a tremendous number of coins to choose from. At any given major auction, there are typically three to five available and it isn’t terribly hard to find them in specialist dealer’s inventories. I have noticed a huge variation in quality for coins in the same grade. As an example, I’ve seen some in MS63 holders that I’ve loved and I’ve seen some in MS63 holders that I thought were horrible. Spend 10-20% more and buy a coin that is high end and attractive. In some instances, you will be able to buy nice, high end examples for little or no premium.

2. Find the Sweet Spot. In my opinion, the “right” grade range for one of these 1857-S double eagles is MS63 to MS64. There is not much of a premium for these two grades over AU and lower Mint State grades and when you buy a coin that grades MS63 to MS64 you are getting good value. In the current market, AU58 examples can bring as much as $3,500-4,000. An MS63 is worth around $7,000-8,000 while an MS64 is worth $8,000-9,000. It seems to me that an MS63 at around 2x the price of an AU58 is good value. And it also seems to me that an MS64 at around $1,000 more than an MS63 is good value as well.

3. Stick With Coins in Original Holders. It is important to focus on 1857-S double eagles that are in their original gold foil PCGS holders. And having the original box and other packaging is an added benefit. Avoid coins that are not in these holders and stay clear of NGC graded S.S. Central America double eagles. They may be nice coins but they have been cracked from their original holders and probably upgraded.

4. Avoid Coins That Have “Turned” in the Holder: All of the coins in this treasure were conserved after they salvaged. The conservation process has been well-documented and, in some cases, the work was outstanding. But there are other coins that have “turned” in the holder. These can be identified either by very hazy surfaces or unnatural splotchy golden color. Avoid these coins and look for pieces that are bright, lustrous and evenly toned. At this point in time, coins that haven’t turned are probably not going to.

5. Disregard The Die Varieties. All 1857-S double eagles from the shipwreck are attributed to a distinct die variety. There are over 20 varieties known. Some are probably rare but it is even rarer to find a collector who cares. I’d suggest not paying a premium for these.

6. If You Are Buying a PL or DMPL Example, Carefully Study the Market. A very small number of 1857-S double eagles were designated as either Prooflike (PL) or Deep Mirror Prooflike (DMPL) by PCGS. These are some of the most visually arresting coins from the shipwreck. I have seen a few pieces in the last few years bring extremely high premiums. These are no doubt very scarce and very flashy coins but I question the premium that they are currently bringing. If you do decide to purchase such a coin, carefully check auction prices for comparable examples and make certain that the price you are paying is in line with the last auction trade. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Collecting Modern Coins

News and Analysis on coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #24

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

The purpose this week is to put forth clear, constructive points regarding the collecting of modern U.S. coins. Readers who are already familiar with modern coins may wish to skip to section three, where John Albanese, Jeff Ambio and I provide advice and guidelines for collecting modern coins.

Before the rare U.S. coin auction climate starts to heat up again, I am continuing to address issues that are of interest to beginning and intermediate collectors. This week, I am revisiting the topic of modern coins, partly because many readers last week falsely and unfairly concluded that I was condemning modern coins. I was not saying that only pre-1934 coins should be collected and I was not referring to the artistic elements of the designs of coins minted after 1934. I was discussing the FACTS that distinguish classic from modern U.S. coins.

Indeed, there is a need to clarify some matters relating to recommendations for collectors and values in the marketplace. Last week, I wrote a two part series on 1933/34 being the dividing line between classic coins and modern U.S. coinage. (Please click to read part 1 or part 2.) Two weeks ago, I covered dealer recommendations regarding modestly priced coins for beginning and intermediate collectors.

Jeff Ambio certainly understood my central points last week. Ambio is the author of three books regarding U.S. coins and is one of the leading cataloguers of coin auction lots. In regards to “the 1933/34 diving line, I [Jeff] agree with your basic contention that coins minted prior to that period are much scarcer than those minted after. I [Jeff] also agree with your opinion that collectors paying huge sums of money for post-1934 coins in high grades should reconsider their buying strategies.”

The collecting of State Quarters is discussed in the second section. Strategies for collecting modern coins are addressed in the third section.

I. Commonality of Modern Coins

Although post-1934 coins are generally extremely common in contrast to pre-1934 U.S. coins, people who very much like post-1934 coins and enjoy collecting them should do so. Last week, in part 2, I emphasized that people should not spend large sums on a post-1934 coin solely because such a coin is, or is claimed to be, a condition rarity.

Indeed, I am against the rather common practice of spending thousands of dollars for common coins. For example, auction records reveal that a considerable number of businesses strike Roosevelt dimes have each sold for thousands of dollars.

Generally, I am very concerned about people spending even $35 over face value or bullion (‘melt’) value for a very common coin. Mint errors and recognized unusual varieties are different topics. I am herein referring to standard issues. I am aware that the 1955/1955 Double Die cent is scarce overall. It is, though, a mint error, or, at least, an accidental issue. U. S. Mint officials did not plan in advance for the numerals and some other devices of these cents to be doubled. Errors and unusual varieties require separate discussions, and tend to be exceptions to rules. (more…)

Coin Guides: Tips on Buying Precious Metals and Bullion Coins

By Gainesville Coins – www.gainesvillecoins.com

The Advantage of Physical Assets

Precious metals have long been treasured both for their beauty and rarity. As a result, these metals have been used by many civilizations as a store of wealth, and in some cases, a foundation for currency.

Historically speaking, these stores of wealth have not experienced the kind of boom and bust cycles present in other forms of investment. This observed stability exists for several reasons. First, precious metals such as modern bullion have intrinsic value. The fact that precious metals consist of something that actually has value makes them more stable than fiat currency which is made of near-worthless paper.

In addition, these metals in many cases have practical applications. Modern industrial processes make use of metals such as gold and platinum for their unparalleled conductivity and use in manufacturing electronics. Moreover, in the case of economic turbulence, when investors do seek investments other than those vulnerable to market fluctuations, they wisely turn to the stability of precious metals. This increased demand has the effect of increasing their values, making them an even better investment.

Finally, when precious metals are minted as collectable coins such as the popular Gold Eagle or Gold Buffalo, they are sought after not only for their intrinsic value, but for their rarity as a collectable item. Again, because there is a fixed supply of any one coin, increased demand for such an asset increases its value. It is for these reasons that for hundreds of years, gold and silver coins have enjoyed a remarkable history of defining purchasing power and backing international finance. For more on this subject, see our article addressing the superiority of precious metals.

Technology and Precious Metals

The influence of the Internet on the trade of precious metals has been vast. It is no longer necessary for collectors to buy and sell coins only locally. The Internet has several venues through which to vend or purchase these assets to buyers or sellers around the world. (more…)

Coin Market: Generics slow to match gains of gold, silver

By Steve Roach – Rare Coin Market Report
First published in the November 8, 2010, issue of Coin World

Some of the coins that one would expect to rise such as generic Mint State Morgan silver dollars and Coronet and Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagles are showing only minimal gains, although they are trading at high volumes.

On Oct. 14, gold hit a historic high London AM fix price of $1,380.75 an ounce, and during intraday trading that day reached a record $1,388.10.

The same day the U.S. dollar sunk to lows not seen since January upon news that Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke indicated that another round of government monetary stimulus funding may be necessary to revive the U.S. economy.

As silver continues to flirt with $25 per ounce, MS-63 through MS-65 Morgan dollars – the bread and butter of the generic market – are showing some upward movement in price, with several dealers paying more than wholesale “ask” prices for MS-64 and MS-65 dollars, as long as they are “white or white-ish,” to fill large orders from retailers.

Retail prices may increase soon in kind, although some collectors will likely elect to sit out the silver coin market for a while, hoping that the price of silver declines and their wanted coins return to more affordable levels.

As an example, when a common silver quarter dollar is trading for almost $5, many collectors are in no rush to buy.

Circulated silver dollars are showing even more action, with several wholesale dealers paying $22 for Extremely Fine pre-1921 Morgan dollars and $29 for uncertified Mint State examples.

As the public continues to sell these coins to dealers in record numbers, a steady supply is created that should keep prices from escalating rapidly.

Prices for generic gold coins continue to lag behind gold’s ascent and most issues show modest if any price increases. Those prices still have not come close to the levels seen at the beginning of the year, despite the fact that gold is now 25 percent more expensive.

An increased supply of these coins is entering the marketplace, keeping prices in check, at least for now.

Coin Profile: Roman Finish 1909 Half Eagle Gold Coin

The proof five dollar coinage of 1907 through 1909 provides quite an object lesson in the evolution of Mint technology and consumer tastes. The 1907 Liberty Head proof, last of the series, was produced in a mostly brilliant or “semibrilliant” proof format that was introduced in 1902; as a result, most proof gold from 1902-1907 lacks much cameo contrast–half eagles or otherwise.

The 1908 gold coins of the new Bela Lyon Pratt and Augustus Saint-Gaudens designs were launched with a new “matte” proof format that was all the rage in European mints of the era. The Robert Loewinger reference, Proof Gold Coinage of the United States, offers this:

“The [matte proof] process originally started in Belgium and was popularized in the Paris Mint. The finish was applied after striking and was made by sandblasting the coins at different forces and speeds with different sizes of grains of sand. Also pickling the coins in a weak acid was another technique that was used on these coins after striking.”

We are unsure how widespread the “pickling” was, but the sandblasting was a well-known, widespread Mint technique that produced a granular (sometimes fine, sometimes coarser), usually dark, subdued finish to the product, a function of the lack of normally reflective surfaces. The matte proof coins of 1908 are usually dark, brownish-gold to olive-brown, and they were extremely unpopular with collectors accustomed to a more brilliant finish.

The Mint in 1909 reverted to a lighter Roman or satin finish for proof gold. The updated Akers Handbook offers these thoughts:

“The proof 1909 introduced the Roman Gold proofing method in the Indian Half Eagle series, although at least one specimen was prepared using the dark matte finish of 1908. Despite having brighter, flashier surfaces than the proof 1908, the proof 1909 still failed to gain wide acceptance among the contemporary public The Mint melted many examples at year’s end. Interestingly, even though most survivors present as overall smooth, the issue has the lowest average grade in the entire proof Indian Half Eagle series.”

A  PR67 piece is being offering in the current 2010 October Stamford Coinfest Signature US Coin Auction #1145, and is one of the nicest survivors of the proof 1909 half eagle mintage, recorded as 78 pieces. It is one of six so graded at NGC, with but two coins finer.

Coin Profile: 2000-W Library of Congress Bicentennial Bimetallic Ten Dollars

The First and Only Bimetalic Commemorative Coin Minted by the US

The Library of Congress, founded on April 24, 1800, is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. Also the world’s largest library, it houses 119 million items– 18 million books; two million recordings; 12 million photographs; four million maps; and 53 million manuscripts.

The library’s rare book collection is the largest in North America and includes the oldest surviving book printed in North America – the Bay Psalm Book, printed in 1640; the world’s largest book, John James Audubon’s Birds of America, which is 1 meter high; and the world’s smallest book, Old King Cole, about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. This book is so small that its pages can be turned only with the use of a needle- and equally sharp eyes.

President Thomas Jefferson played a key role both in the U.S. Mint’s history and in the Library of Congress’ development. Jefferson proposed the decimal coinage system we use today and advocated founding a mint on U.S. soil. A lifelong reader, Jefferson donated his personal collection of 6,487 books to Congress for $23,950 after the British burned the new Capitol and Library in 1814. On Christmas Eve 1851, another fire destroyed two-thirds of Jefferson’s collection. Although many of the volumes have been replaced, nearly 900 remain missing and the Library is engaged in a worldwide search to replace them.

Not only does the Library of Congress supply whatever research Congress needs, it serves all Americans through its 22 reading rooms on Capitol Hill, its Web site (http://www.loc.gov/), and as a monument to our nation’s love of learning.

These commemorative coins are called the coins of many firsts.” The first commemorative coins of the new Century, they are also the first-ever gold and platinum bimetallic coins in the nation’s history. For the bimetallic version, the outer ring is stamped from a sheet of gold, then a solid core of platinum is placed within the ring. The coins contain about one-half an ounce of precious metal.

The bimetallic coin design was inspired by the graceful architecture of the library’s Jefferson Building. The outer ring is stamped from a sheet of gold, then a solid core of platinum is placed within the ring. Then, the gold ring and platinum core are simultaneously stamped forming an annular bead where the two precious metals meet. The obverse depicts the hand of Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom, raising the torch of learning aside the dome of the Thomas Jefferson Building. The coin’s reverse is marked with the Library of Congress seal encircled by a laurel wreath, symbolizing its national accomplishment.

Designers: John Mercanti, obverse; Thomas D. Rogers Sr., reverse

Bowers and Merena Nov Baltimore Coin Auction Features over 3500 Lots

Bowers and Merena will conduct the official auction of the November 2010 Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo. Scheduled for November 4-5 at the Baltimore Convention Center, the sale will present more than 3,500 lots of important United States coins and currency.

“We are thrilled to continue our long-standing and successful partnership with the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo,” said Greg Roberts, CEO of Bowers and Merena. “This year’s official auction of the November Expo ranks as one of Bowers and Merena’s most important Baltimore auctions of all time. With more than 3,500 lots, our catalog for U.S. coins and currency offers something for everyone, from collectors and dealers on a strict budget to advanced numismatists seeking the finest-known examples of some of the rarest and most famous coins ever struck in the United States Mint.”

Three consignments in particular stand out as defining the importance of the upcoming Baltimore auction. The Kupersmith Once-in-a-Lifetime Collection is a truly amazing offering, the likes of which is rarely seen in even the most prestigious sales, that has at its core six of the rarest gold coins struck in the Philadelphia in 1875. Nearly impossible to assemble such a collection in any grade, the consignor remained committed to quality and selected only the highest-graded examples that he could find, many of which are actually top-of-the-pop.

“Needless to say, it is difficult for us to single out one coin in this collection for each piece qualifies as a highlight, although special recognition must go to the 1875 Three-Dollar Gold Piece in NGC Proof-66 Ultra Cameo,” said Roberts. A pop 1/0 coin at both PCGS and NGC, this coin also ranks as the finest of perhaps just 10 original strikings of the proof-only 1875 Three-Dollar. Not to be overlooked and in addition to the 1875-dated gold set, the Kupersmith Collection will also be presenting a selection of rare proof and business strike Three-Dollar gold pieces, the proofs of which comprise the highest-ranked set on the NGC Registry.

The Malibu Collection offers the #2 collection of Standing Liberty Quarters with full-head designation on the PCGS Set Registry. “Nearly all of the Standing Liberty Quarters in the Malibu Collection are either top-of-the-pop or tied for finest certified, and plus-designated coins are figured prominently throughout the set. Of particular note are the low-mintage 1916 in PCGS MS-67 FH (Pop: 2/1), the conditionally challenging 1919-D in PCGS MS-66+ FH (Pop: 1/0) and the key-date 1927-S in PCGS MS-65+ FH (Pop: 1/2),” said Roberts. Other selections from the Malibu Collection include impressive runs of Seated Liberty Half Dollars and Silver Dollars that feature many key-date and/or conditionally rare pieces. (more…)

W. Philip Keller Colonoal Coin Collection Leads Heritage COINFEST Auction

Locked in a Pennsylvania vault for 43 years, one of the most comprehensive collections of colonial and early American coins ever to reach public auction, The W. Philip Keller Collection of U.S. Colonials, is the principle highlight of the upcoming Rare U.S. Coin auction, Oct. 28-31 in conjunction with COINFEST in Stamford, CT.

Mr. Keller apparently stopped actively collecting around 1966, with intermittent purchases through the early 1970s, and stored his collection in a bank vault where it was discovered nearly 40 years later by his surprised family after he died last year, who knew that Mr. Keller was a collector, but had no idea of the depth, or value, of his collection.

This is Heritage’s first official auction with COINFEST, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Fittingly enough, our debut at this New England venue is filled with a variety of colonial and early American coins, including dozens of different Connecticut coppers struck shortly after independence.

One of those Connecticut coppers is a 1785 African Head Connecticut copper, the extremely rare Miller 4.2-F.6 variety, graded VF30 by NGC. It is estimated at $40,000+, but could go significantly higher.

There are two varieties of the African Head Connecticut copper, one relatively common, the other extremely rare. This piece is one of the rare variety, one of just two or three known. Its appearance at COINFEST is truly a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Keller bought most of his collection from leading dealers and auctioneers in the 1950s and 1960s, and this African Head copper has been in Keller’s collection, and thus off the market, since 1966.

Another anchor consignment of the auction is The Diotte Collection, which spans U.S. Mint history from some of the earliest issues to noted modern rarities. Its chief highlight is a 1797 half dollar, O-102 variety, graded Fine Details by NCS. It is estimated at $50,000+.

The half dollars of 1796-1797 are among the most prized U.S. type coins regardless of grade. Just four varieties were struck between the two years, all of them are very scarce to very rare, and the 1797 O-102 variety is the most elusive of them all.

In addition to colonials, pattern coinage is among the strengths of this auction. In a relatively small but impressive selection, the most prominent piece is an 1879 “Washlady” dollar struck in silver, Judd-1603 variety, graded PR66+ by NGC. It is estimated at $50,000+.

This design’s nickname was originally an insult. In 1891, just a dozen years after this pattern was struck, David Proskey called it the ‘Washlady,’ a negative reference to how Liberty’s hair appeared. Today, however, the ‘Washlady’ is considered one of the most beautiful patterns ever produced, and the very rare examples struck in silver are especially sought-after.

The 20th century has its share of highlights as well, led by a 1909 half eagle, graded PR67 by NGC. Like other gold proofs of that year, it has a distinct semi-bright finish sometimes called “Roman gold,” which tried to find a balance between the mirrored proofs of the 19th century and the dull-finished matte proofs that were popular in Europe but had received a disastrous reception among U.S. coin collectors. The “Roman gold” experiment failed, but survivors from the issue’s mintage of 78 half eagles are popular with modern numismatists. It is estimated at $55,000+.

A more conventional mirrored proof offered is a 1904 double eagle graded PR65 Cameo by PCGS. Just 98 proof $20s were struck in 1904, and most of them lack the contrast that was often seen on pre-1902 specimens. Thanks to its Cameo status and solid all-around preservation, it is one of the most important representatives of its issue. It is estimated at $60,000+.

Additional highlights include, but are not limited to:

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Coins Minted After 1934 tend to be Very Common, 1793 to 1933 is the Classic Era – Part 2

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #23-Part2

A continuation of a Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

Usually, this column is published each Wednesday morning and not at other times. I came to believe, however, that this week’s topic is of tremendous importance and warrants two parts. [Click Here to View Part One] My survey of sophisticated collectors and expert dealers, shockingly, indicated that, while most realized that 1933/34 is the traditional dividing line between classic and modern U.S. coinage, few remembered or ever knew the primary reason. U.S. coins minted before 1934 are much scarcer than U.S. coins minted after 1934. Indeed, though there are a few exceptions, regular issue U.S. coins minted after 1934 are common.

From the perspective of a collector, this is the most important and clearest dividing line in the whole history of U.S. coinage. As the basis for this dividing line is not well understood, I feel compelled to explain and prove its importance. I presented logical points and evidence in part 1, and I provide more evidence herein. I then discuss one major reason why it is imperative to emphasize this dividing line now; many people are spending substantial or even vast sums for very common coins, usually without really understanding the factors involved and the traditions of coin collecting in the U.S.

IV. Walking Liberty Half Dollars

As the somewhat recent sharp rises in the price of silver has affected the values of circulated Walking Liberty Half Dollars, it makes sense here to consider those that grade AU-50 or higher. As no Walkers were minted in Philadelphia that date from 1922 to 1933, it may not be suitable to analyze comparative values for Philadelphia Mint halves in terms of the 1933/34 dividing line. Therefore, I refer to Denver and San Francisco Mint halves. Of all the Denver Mint Walkers minted prior to 1934, the 1929-D is the least expensive and the least scarce.

In AU-50 grade, a 1929-D half is worth about three to more than ten times as much as any Denver Mint half dating from 1934 to 1945, with one exception, the 1938-D. The 1938-D is the only regular issue exception, of the half dollar denomination, to the 1933/34 dividing line between relatively scarce U.S. coins and relatively common coins. The 1938-D half is scarce, much more so than any other Denver Mint half dollar issue in the 1930s or later.

In regard to San Francisco Mint halves, there is no such exception. In AU-50 or higher grades, any pre-1934 S-Mint Walker is worth substantially more, usually from two to more than ten times as much, than any San Francisco Mint Walker from 1934-S to the last S-Mint Walking Liberty Half, 1946-S. In relative terms, pre-1934 San Francisco Mint halves are ‘very scarce’ and post-1934 San Francisco halves are quite common. (more…)

Gold Dominates Coin Market as Records Fall

By Steve Roach
First published in the Nov. 1, 2010, issue of Coin World

Gold is currently the engine that is driving the rare coin market.

It seems that Coin World’s Market Analysis of late has been alternating between gold one week and everything else the next week. However, an emphasis on gold is appropriate as the market has never seen gold hit the levels that it is currently hitting.

On Oct. 11, the price of gold hit a record London PM fix of $1,351 an ounce and at one point during the day hovered at $1,360.

On Oct. 12, the banking investment firm Goldman Sachs raised its gold price forecasts to $1,400, $1,525 and $1,650 for three-, six- and 12-month horizons, citing falling interest rates and a slowdown of the U.S. economic recovery.

Other investment firms are similarly bullish on the prospects of gold to continue rising in value.

Gold is up nearly 25 percent in 2010, and if trends continue, gold will be heading for its tenth consecutive annual gain.

The U.S. Mint’s release of Proof 2010-W American Eagle gold coins in early October has taken pressure off the secondary market for earlier 1-ounce issues.

At an issue price of $1,585, the 2010 1-ounce coins are trading at the same level as older issues in the wholesale markets, where several dealers are paying up to $1,600 an ounce for coins available for immediate shipment to fill orders from wholesalers who still have customers demanding these coins for inclusion in Individual Retirement Accounts.

As of Oct. 12, the Mint’s Web site posts an expected delivery date of Oct. 27 for new orders of Proof 2010-W gold American Eagles.

The recent announcement that the Mint will produce Proof 2010-W American Eagle silver coins has also cooled off the market for earlier coins tremendously.

Immediately after the news about the Proof 2010-W silver coins broke, market makers reduced their buy prices for Proof silver American Eagles from $55 to $45, in line with the Mint’s $45.95 price of the Proof 2010-W coins when they go on sale Nov. 19 at noon with a household limit of 100.

The Mint has not given any indication of how many Proof 2010-W American Eagles silver coins may be produced.

US Gold Coins: AU58 New Orleans Eagles – A Case Study

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

Take two 1842-O Liberty Head eagles in NGC AU58. One is worth $11,500 and gets multiple orders on my website within hours of being posted. The other sells in an auction for $6,325 and is a marginal value. Why is one coin worth nearly twice as much as the other despite the fact that they are the same date in the “same” grade?

The coin(s) in question is, as I stated above, an 1842-O eagle in AU58. A little background information on this issue is appropriate to help better understand the issue at hand. A total of 27,400 examples were produced. This issue saw extensive use in commerce and it is essentially the first available eagle from this mint given the rarity of the 1841-O (only 2,500 were produced). When available, the 1842-O tends to be in VF and EF grades and it is scarce in the lower AU grades. It becomes rare in properly graded AU55 and it is very rare in AU58. This issue is an extreme rarity in Mint State with just two or three known. The second finest of these, graded MS61 by PCGS, just brought $74,750 in the August 2010 Stack’s auction.

I bought the NGC AU58 example illustrated below at the recent Philadelphia coin show sponsored by Whitman and it was among my best purchases at the show. I paid a strong price for this coin but was happy to do so (and would do so again).

1842-O $10.00 NGC AU58

What makes this a special coin? I was really attracted top this coin by its originality. It has superb deep original coloration on the obverse and reverse which suggests that it has never been cleaned or dipped. Notice the depth of the color and how even it is on both sides. I also like how clean the surfaces are. This is an issue that is typically found with densely abraded surfaces and even the MS61 piece that I mentioned above had considerable marks on the surfaces. This example, however, was immaculate. The luster of this coin, while a bit subdued as a result of the intensity of the color, is undisturbed; a result of its not having been cleaned, dipped or processed. This coin has wonderful overall eye appeal and this sort of “look” is much appreciated by connoisseurs of U.S. gold coins. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Coins Minted After 1934 tend to be Very Common, 1793 to 1933 is the Classic Era – Part One

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #23

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

Last week’s column was about dealer recommendations for new collectors who seek coins valued at $250, more or less, with consideration of a few that are valued at more than $1000. Among the experts that I interviewed, no one suggested buying coins minted after 1934. This column is devoted to an exploration of the topic of the 1933 to 1935 time period being a dividing line between classic and modern U.S. coins. This is not my opinion; it is an objective reality. Conclusive evidence will be provided herein.

A review of coin related publications in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s would suggest this dividing line. Indeed, quite a few dealers in classic U.S. coins used to include a statement relating to the years ‘1793 to 1933’ in their ads and pricelists. Almost always, leading auction firms emphasized coins in the 1793 to 1933 time period and still do so.

Why discuss this dividing line now? I am concerned about the amounts paid for condition rarities of the post-1934 era. I do not have a problem with a collector paying a large sum of money for a condition rarity if the coin issue in general is at least moderately scarce. It is wonderful that someone paid $138,000 for the Duckor 1904-S half dollar, which is PCGS graded MS-67. (Please click to read my two part series on Dr. Duckor’s halves, part 1 or part 2.) A low grade 1904-S half could be obtained for less than one hundred dollars. The 1904-S date, though, is scarce in general. The PCGS and the NGC together have certified less than two hundred different 1904-S halves, and probably more than two thousand uncertified 1904-S halves exist. Certainly, there are fewer than five thousand in existence, in all grades. For post-1934 coins, however, people often spend vast amounts for superb gem quality coins when hundreds of thousands or literally millions exist of the same respective coin issue.

If millions of a coin issue exist overall or thousands in MS-65 grade, how much should a MS-67 or higher grade representative of the same coin issue be worth? There is not an easy answer to the question. Of course, supply and demand determine prices in relatively free markets. I am not challenging the truthfulness of current price levels for supergrade modern coins. I am wondering whether the buyers have thought carefully about their demands. I am also wondering whether many sellers of post-1934 coins are, sometimes implicitly, misleading buyers, or are ignorant themselves. Anyone who can afford an inventory may become a coin dealer. In any event, in order to understand the distinction between classic U.S. coins and modern issues, there is a need to learn about both and about the dividing line between classic coins and modern issues.

I. The 1793-1933 Tradition

Referring to U.S. coins minted from 1793 to 1933 as classic coin issues is not arbitrary and it is not an accidental tradition. When polling dealers and collectors, I became aware that everyone seemed to remember the tradition of referring to 1933 or 1934 as a dividing line, but no one recollected the origins or meaning of the tradition. The true reason is that pre-1934 coins (with few exceptions) are much scarcer than post-1934 coins. (more…)

Gold Coin Scam Victims: Where To Turn For Help

What do you do when a gold seller fails to deliver or the merchandise you received was not as described when you ordered it?  Who can you contact for help when you don’t receive payment for gold you’ve submitted to sell?

In two recent cases, “Howard” in Mississippi wired $20,000 several months ago to a California coin and bullion dealer to purchase gold coins, and “Richard” in Virginia sent $150,000 to the same dealer.  With the recent run-up in bullion prices they both would have made a nice profit, except they still have not received any gold from the dealer.  Howard laments, “All I’ve gotten is the run-around.”

“If you don’t know gold coins, you’d better know your gold coin dealer,” is the advice to collectors and investors from three nonprofit organizations: the American Numismatic Association (www.money.org), the Industry Council for Tangible Assets (www.ictaonline.org) and the Professional Numismatists Guild (www.pngdealers.com).

“There are many reputable, professional numismatists in the United States,” the three organizations emphasize.  “Before you make a purchase or offer something for sale, do your homework and check the dealer’s credentials.  For example, contact the Better Business Bureau to check the company’s BBB rating or if the company is even accredited by the BBB.”

A listing of Better Business Bureau accredited and rated companies nationwide can be found online at www.bbb.org.

The dealer that received the combined $170,000 in unfulfilled purchase orders from “Howard” and “Richard” had an “F” rating from the BBB.

Typically, dealers who are unresponsive to reasonable requests from customers seeking resolution of disputes are not involved in the mainstream of numismatics, but may advertise in prominent, mainstream news media.

Based on the experiences of the ANA, ICTA and PNG, and in consultation with law enforcement agencies, the three organizations suggest that buyers or sellers of gold coins who encounter problems consider taking these actions:

  • Make copies of all correspondence, receipts and transactions and if possible have copies of advertisements or the dates and times ads were broadcast.
  • Always contact the company directly to try to resolve the dispute.  Ask for the manager or company owner.
  • Take thorough notes of your conversation(s).

If the problem is still not resolved after a reasonable amount of time, contact the Customer Service and/or Advertising Departments of the news media organization(s) that published or broadcast the company’s advertisements and let them know about the problems.

The ANA, ICTA and PNG advise: “It’s your money, so do your homework before placing an order, and if there is a problem then don’t just sit back and wait.  Be persistent in your efforts to resolve the dispute. Follow up with the company you did business with and the agencies where you’ve filed a complaint.  You may also want to consult with an attorney.” (more…)

The Gold, Silver and Rare Coin Market Report

By Laura Sperber – Legend NumismaticsBelow is a portion of the most recent Legend Market Report

GOLD

This is hard for us to believe that gold spot went up, yet ALL Generic $20’s came down! That is the most ridiculous thing we have ever seen. We have been told that the market makers here are flooded with coins. Plus, there seems to be a huge flood of gold coming from Europe. We have even heard some grumblings that the quality of these new arrivals have been poor (more gradeflation?). So no one wants to step out and make bids.

At one point last week, the LARGEST market maker in MS65 Saints quoted us $2,000.00 as his “buy” on a day when gold went up $20.00 (MS65 BID did end the week at $2,200.00). In the meantime, we know dealers who badly need CAC MS 65 Saints and have open BIDS of $2,300.00-$2,400.00 per coin and are buying very few.The demand for NON CAC generics is obviously thin.

The demand for CAC coins is huge with many MAJOR Funds or financial advisers selling the coins easily. We know they cannot get enough, because we supply them and we haven’t bought squat. We will still buy ALL the PCGS /NGC W/M MS66 CAC we can get at $3,475.00 sight UNSEEN. We will pay $2,675.00 for NON CAC PCGS coins only on a SIGHT seen basis. BTW, for anyone who wants to cat call, the CAC market is NOT artificial, its as real and powerful as you get.

The CAC coins sell by demand, not dealers creating phony bids and trying to pump the market. With gold (especially generics) right now for sure there is a two tier market, and quality is what people want.

You know there is something seriously wrong when graded MS61 $20 Libs are priced at $100.00 OVER melt!

With $20’s, it also seems to us that the market feels they are too high (along with the price of gold). We doubt at the lower grade levels quality is the issue. Something has to give in that market. We believe there will be a correction in the price of gold sometime soon. But, its really the hedges who control the price of gold and it seems they want to take it up a little further.

Its totally bewildering to us why there are not stronger premiums since gold is climbing daily into record territory. Something is just not right with this picture.

Right now the BEST buys are $10 Indians and $5 Indians (no 09D) in MS64 and higher. You can not find them emass, and the grading seems to be OK. If you insist on playing the $20 generic market we still believe MS66’s are too cheap or, you can buy NICE MS61/62 $20 (if you can find them) for little over melt and hope one day the premiums expand. We still recommend building a Gold Type set. You can include ANY coin you want then.

SILVER

People are finally waking up to the fact silver is at its all time high. Here too, things like MS65 Morgans and Walkers have come down. That’s insane! How can such a huge market as coins show little demand for simple $100-$200.00 items that actually were popular? Where are all the collectors? (more…)

A Numismatically Significant 1859-D Quarter Eagle

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

I recently bought and sold a seemingly innocuous 1859-D quarter eagle that had a great degree of numismatic significance. Before I explain why, let me give you a little background on the specific coin and on this issue in general.

This 1859-D quarter eagle has been graded as Fine-15 by PCGS. It is the single lowest graded example of this date seen by either service. In looking back through my records, I have seen very few that grade below Extremely Fine and certainly can’t recall a non-damaged Fine example.

The example I sold is problem-free and actually quite attractive despite its extensive wear. It shows nice natural coloration and the obverse is a full Very Fine from the standpoint of detail.

This is the final quarter eagle produced at the Dahlonega mint. But, for all intents and purposes, the death knell for this denomination at the Dahlonega mint had been spelled as early as 1854 when mintages figures declined precipitously from the 1840’s. In 1856, only 874 were struck; making this the lowest mintage figure of any coin ever produced at this branch mint. In 1857-D, the mintage increased to 2,364 but no quarter eagles were made in 1858. 1859 saw a resumption of the denomination but only to the tune of 2,244 coins. None were struck in 1860 and when the mint closed in 1861, no further plans had been made to coin quarter eagles.

The 1857-D and 1859-D are interesting issues among the quarter eagles from this mint. The grade distribution is different for these issues than for nearly all other coins from Dahlonega. The coins from the 1840’s and early 1850’s have what I regard as a typical distribution of survivors: most are in the VF-EF range with AU coins being scarce to rare and Uncirculated coins being very rare to extremely rare.

But in 1857 and 1859, the distribution curve looks different. These two dates are almost never seen in grades below EF and are most often seen in About Uncirculated. Both are rare in Uncirculated but not as much so as their very low mintage figures would suggest. There are as many as ten Uncirculated 1859-D quarter eagles known as well as another four or five dozen in About Uncirculated. This doesn’t seem like a lot of coins but when you consider that there are only 150 or so known from the original mintage, the fact that nearly half grade AU or better suggests that this issue didn’t circulate as freely as the quarter eagles from the 1840’s.

I had long believed that the 1859-D was an issue that saw very little circulation. The existence of the coin shown above is proof that at least a few examples did circulate. I don’t believe that this Fine-15 example was a pocket piece as it shows all the hallmarks of extensive natural circulation. Ironically, it is more rare in this grade than it is in Uncirculated and, to my way of thinking, this is one of the neater Dahlonega quarter eagles to have come up for sale this year: a highly circulated example of a date that was hitherto believed to have never seen extensive circulation. Considering that this coin cost its new owner well under $2,000 I think it is an amazing piece of Southern gold history.

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Advice for beginning and intermediate collectors of U.S. coins

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #22

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

Until CoinFest occurs at the end of the month, there will not be a live event conducted by any of the four leading auction firms of rare U.S. coins. Plus, I am not aware of any private sales of newsworthy rarities over the last week. So, this is a good time to address another topic. Often, I hear about collectors who have decided to start acquiring U.S. coins and who are unsure as to how to proceed.

Sometimes, adults who collected coins as kids wish to return. In many other instances, people who have never before bought a rare or very scarce coin wish to get started. Further, people who collect paintings, sculptures, baseball cards, antique silver objects, or rare books, frequently find themselves drawn to coins. This week’s theme of suggestions for beginners will, I hope, be of interest to many intermediate collectors as well.

I. U.S. Coins valued from $250 to $1000

The focus here is on advice for a collector who seeks U.S. coins valued at over $250 each. Of course, I realize that not everyone can afford to pay $250 for a coin. I am not ignoring people who cannot. I strongly believe, though, that collectors who buy $10 to $100 coins may learn by reading this column. In order to understand the coins that a collector owns, the collector needs to understand coins that he (or she) cannot afford. It is important for all collectors to learn about the values and traditions relating to the coin collecting community. Besides, I will devote a future column or article to coins valued in the $10 to $100 range.

Advice and suggestions put forth here are geared towards a collector who is just starting, though may be of use to any collector who is willing and able to spend $250 or more per coin. Suppose he (or she) has decided to collect U.S. coins and thus will not be considering (at least not yet) colonials, territorials, patterns, or world coins. Also, further suppose this collector is not likely to will spend hours studying books on die pairings or other technical matters.

In general, the average collector spends a limited amount of time reading about coins, and is much more likely to read articles than books. Indeed, most collectors I know do not take the time to read entire books on coins, though I would recommend doing so.

Most collectors wish to have fun. It is true, however, that beginning collectors tend to enjoy coins more after they spend a few weeks or months learning.

So, herein, consider a collector who plans, over a period of years, to buy plenty of coins in the $250 to $1000 range, plus a few that cost more or less. Such a collector is flexible. On occasion, this collector may spend $1000 to $3000 per coin. The emphasis here, though, is on getting started collecting U.S. coins in the $250 to $500 range.

Rather than focus on my own advice, I have asked experts to provide their respective opinions. I selected experts who are knowledgeable about a wide variety of U.S. coins in copper, nickel, silver and gold, and have each played different roles in the coin business. Moreover, it is beneficial for collectors to be aware of the views of several experts, especially from highly qualified people that may not be available to most collectors. Below, please find recommendations from John Albanese, Kris Oyster, Nick van der Laan, and Andy Lustig.

Before putting forth detailed recommendations from these four, I relay Ira Goldberg‘s more general advice. Ira is a partner in the Goldbergs auction firm and he has been a leader in the coin auction business for decades. (more…)

What’s It Worth? How dealers determine the value of a Rare Coin.

By Vic Bozarth – Bozarth Rare Coin Market Report

How are rare coin prices determined? Often the question dealers will ask is: “I know what Greysheet (Coin Dealer Newsletter bid) is, but what can I ‘really’ get for it?”

In this month’s Rare Coin Market Report, I will explain how I determine the value of an individual coin. Most often I will use a variety of different pricing sources to determine the value of a coin.

The most utilized source of rare coin pricing information among dealers are the variety of Coin Dealer Newsletter publications including Greysheet, Bluesheet, Monthly Summary, and the Quarterly Supplements. Dealers also use CCE, which is the Certified Coin Exchange. Coin World Trends, Collectors Universe prices, Redbook, and Coin Prices are also utilized.

In the last several years auction prices realized have become one of the most useful and often misunderstood sources of pricing information. Let me explain a little bit about all of these different sources before I explain how I use them.

CDN’s multiple publications include the Greysheet, Bluesheet, Monthly Summary, and Quarterly price sheets.

The Greysheet and Bluesheet are weekly publications and list many of the most frequently traded U.S. rare coins, BUT the values they list vary significantly.

Basically Greysheet lists sight seen bids for attractive coins. Bluesheet lists sight unseen bids for coins that might not be that attractive although they are graded correctly. Because I am looking for attractive coins, I often have to pay Greysheet bid or more for an attractive coin. If someone offers me a coin I don’t particularly like I am going to check the ‘bid’ on Bluesheet to see what the ‘basal’ value really is.

Depending on the particular coin the difference between the Greysheet and Bluesheet can vary as much as 70%. Yes, 70%!

CDN Monthly Summary is published each month and includes more of the frequently traded U.S. rare coins by date and grade including the early twentieth century gold series and most of the classic twentieth century collector series.

One of the three different CDN Quarterly issues come out every month and the three include all the other U.S. rare coin series by date. The Quarterly One issue contains half cents through quarters. The Quarterly Two contains halves through $3 gold coins. The Quarterly Three contains prices for $5 Liberty through $20 Liberty Gold Coins.

All prices for the Monthly Summary and Quarterly price sheets are for sight seen coins. There is also a supplement included with each month’s Quarterly Supplement that has prices for Proof coins not listed in the Quarterly Supplements. (more…)

W. Philip Keller Collection of U.S. Colonials leads Heritage COINFEST Auction

Oct. 28-31 auction in Stamford, CT features one of the most important offerings of early American coinage in decades

DALLAS, TX — Locked in a Pennsylvania vault for 43 years, one of the most comprehensive collections of colonial and early American coins ever to reach public auction, The W. Philip Keller Collection of U.S. Colonials, is the principle highlight of the upcoming Heritage Auctions Rare U.S. Coin auction, Oct. 28–31 in conjunction with COINFEST in Stamford, CT.

Mr. Keller apparently stopped actively collecting around 1966, with intermittent purchases through the early 1970s, and stored his collection in a bank vault where it was discovered nearly a 40 years later by his surprised family after he died last year, who knew that Mr. Keller was a collector, but had no idea of the depth, or value, of his collection.

“This is Heritage’s first official auction with Coinfest, and we couldn’t be more thrilled,” said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage. “Fittingly enough, our debut at this New England venue is filled with a variety of colonial and early American coins, including dozens of different Connecticut coppers struck shortly after independence.”

One of those Connecticut coppers is a 1785 African Head Connecticut copper, the extremely rare Miller 4.2-F.6 variety, graded VF30 by NGC. It is estimated at $40,000+, but could go significantly higher.

“There are two varieties of the African Head Connecticut copper, one relatively common, the other extremely rare,” said Rohan. “This piece is one of the rare variety, one of just two or three known. Its appearance at COINFEST is truly a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Keller bought most of his collection  from leading dealers and auctioneers in the 1950s and 1960s, and this African Head copper has been in Keller’s collection, and thus off the market, since 1966.”

Another anchor consignment of the auction is The Diotte Collection, which spans U.S. Mint history from some of the earliest issues to noted modern rarities. Its chief highlight is a 1797 half dollar, O-102 variety, graded Fine Details by NCS. It is estimated at $50,000+.

“The half dollars of 1796-1797 are among the most prized U.S. type coins regardless of grade,” said Rohan. “Just four varieties were struck between the two years, all of them are very scarce to very rare, and the 1797 O-102 variety is the most elusive of them all.”

In addition to colonials, pattern coinage is among the strengths of this auction. In a relatively small but impressive selection, the most prominent piece is an 1879 “Washlady” dollar struck in silver, Judd-1603 variety, graded PR66+ by NGC. It is estimated at $50,000+.

“This design’s nickname was originally an insult,” said Rohan. “In 1891, just a dozen years after this pattern was struck, David Proskey called it the ‘Washlady,’ a negative reference to how Liberty’s hair appeared. Today, however, the ‘Washlady’ is considered one of the most beautiful patterns ever produced, and the very rare examples struck in silver are especially sought-after.”

The 20th century has its share of highlights as well, led by a 1909 half eagle, graded PR67 by NGC. Like other gold proofs of that year, it has a distinct semi-bright finish sometimes called “Roman gold,” which tried to find a balance between the mirrored proofs of the 19th century and the dull-finished matte proofs that were popular in Europe but had received a disastrous reception among U.S. coin collectors. The “Roman gold” experiment failed, but survivors from the issue’s mintage of 78 half eagles are popular with modern numismatists. It is estimated at $55,000+.

A more conventional mirrored proof offered is a 1904 double eagle graded PR65 Cameo by PCGS. Just 98 proof $20s were struck in 1904, and most of them lack the contrast that was often seen on pre-1902 specimens. Thanks to its Cameo status and solid all-around preservation, it is one of the most important representatives of its issue. It is estimated at $60,000+. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: 1796 quarter, San Francisco Liberty Seated Dimes, 1931 Denver Mint $20 gold coin

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #21

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

Last week’s column was devoted to cents and half cents. This week, I am writing about a few silver coins and a 1931-D Saint Gaudens Double Eagle ($20 gold coin). Though 1931-D Saints may be extremely rare or almost so, the 1796 quarter and San Francisco Mint Liberty Seated dimes that I mention below are condition rarities rather than being extremely rare in absolute terms.

Recently, I have written about coins that are extremely rare in all grades, thus in absolute terms. In my column of Sept. 22, I wrote about the NGC graded “EF-45+” 1856-O Double Eagle that Heritage sold in September. It realized $345,000, which is a very strong price. Last week, I wrote about the 1795 Reeded Edge cent that the Goldberg’s auctioned for $322,000, even though it does not merit a numerical grade and is in a PCGS genuine holder. Early in the summer, in my column of June 30th, I wrote about Great Rarities that were then to be auctioned in Boston. I followed up with ‘news’ regarding these same Great Rarities in later columns, including my column of Aug. 11. As few collectors may own extremely rare coins, condition rarities, especially of coins that are scarce in absolute terms, should receive a great deal of attention and news coverage.

I. Choice 1796 Quarter

I really liked the 1796 quarter in the most recent Stack’s auction, which was conducted a few days ago in Philadelphia. I would admit that I was more enthusiastic about the Norweb 1796 in the Heritage ANA Auction in Boston. This one, though, is livelier. (As always, clickable links are in blue.)

This 1796 quarter was formerly in the official auction of the Summer 1976 ANA Convention in New York, a convention that reportedly drew more than 25,000 people. At a later time, it was PCGS graded MS-63. I thought that it was undergraded. Yes, there are some very small, though of medium depth, contact marks in the field to the viewer’s right on the obverse (front of the coin). Further, there is a significant small scratch near the last star. Additionally, there are minor hairlines on the eagle on the reverse (tail of the coin). These, though, are imperfections that can be consistent with a 64 grade, especially for a coin that has a lot of eye appeal and other positive characteristics.

This 1796 quarter is very attractive and even more so when it is tilted under a light. It has full, naturally reflective surfaces. At some angles, this coin nearly dazzles. While it is not unusual for a 1796 quarter to be semi-prooflike and some are very prooflike, this one has more personality than most other uncirculated 1796 quarters.

Some experts wondered about the naturalness of the pinkish-russet, blue and green shades. I maintain that the toning is natural. This coin may have lived in several envelopes, cabinets and/or albums, since 1796. It may possibly have been dipped at some point in the middle of the 20th century. (more…)

Gold’s astounding ride

By Steve Roach – Rare Coin Market Report Blog
First published in the Oct. 18, 2010, issue of Coin World

Gold continues to astound as it broke the $1,300 ounce level for the first time on Sept. 28, closing in New York at $1,306.60 an ounce.

The next day, gold hit a high of $1,313.20 before closing at $1,308.50.

In a nice contrast to the previous week’s House Subcommittee hearings focused on fighting fraud in the sale of gold coins, the Sept. 29 Wall Street Journal featured a front-page story that was overwhelmingly positive about gold’s potential to top $1,500 next year.

It focused on investors’ growing desire to hold actual gold in the form of coins and bars.

Reports by numerous analysts and banks seem to share a bullish view for gold, evidenced by a Sept. 28 report by Deutsche Bank that stated that $1,600 an ounce gold would not be surprising for 2012 and that gold would not be in a “bubble” until hitting $2,000.

The recent bull run-up in gold prices has been attributed to many things: continued uncertainty in the real estate market; concern about the value of currencies, especially China’s; low consumer confidence in the United States; and general concern about large central banks’ ability to control the money supply adequately.

But to collectors, one thing is clear: gold coins are much more expensive than they were in 2000, in large part due to the price of gold rising 353 percent over that time.

The increased threat of intrusive federal regulations in the coin industry, such as the recently introduced Coin and Precious Metal Disclosure Act (H.R. 6149) have done little to dampen the public’s appetite for gold coins.

But dealers have responded vocally to fight multiple pieces of legislation that could affect the coin market, forming political action committees aimed at fostering better communication between the coin community and legislators.

Many dealers reported that gold was the lone bright spot in the market at the recently completed Long Beach Coin, Stamp & Collectables Expo, where several market-makers elected to stay home, instead budgeting to attend the Whitman Coin and Collectibles Philadelphia Expo, another major show, scheduled for the following weekend.

THE ZÜRICH COLLECTION TO ANCHOR BOWERS AND MERENA’S BALTIMORE AUCTION

Bowers and Merena will feature the important and extremely rare proof gold coins from the Zürich Collection in the Official auction of the November 2010 Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo.

“We are extremely honored to include the Zürich Collection among the anchor consignments in our upcoming November Baltimore Auction,” stated Bowers and Merena CEO Greg Roberts. “Assembled by a collector who is a connoisseur of rare classic proof gold coinage, the Zürich Collection was assembled over a period of many years. Our consignor spent a lot of time and effort acquiring these coins, passing on many other pieces that did not meet his strict standards for technical quality and eye appeal. The result is a collection replete with stunning examples of both proof Liberty gold coinage and 20th century proof gold rarities, many coins of which are among the finest certified for their respective issues.”

Continued Roberts: “The core of the Zürich Collection is a selection of proof Liberty Double Eagles dated 1878 through the series’ end in 1907. The stand-out highlight in this group is the 1878 Double Eagle certified Proof-64 Cameo by NGC. With a surviving population of only nine specimens from a tiny mintage of just 20 coins, the 1878 is one of the rarest and most underrated issues in the entire proof Liberty Double Eagle series. The issue is particularly underrated relative to the proof Type I and Type II Double Eagles of the late 1860s and 1870s, many issues of which are equally as rare as the 1878 yet priced much higher in today’s market. The proof 1878 in the Zürich Collection, therefore, represents a particularly important bidding opportunity for the astute collector.”

Roberts concluded: “Additional Proof Liberty Double Eagle rarities in the Zürich Collection include two Gem-quality examples of the 1892—a date that is also an important rarity in business strike format—one of the two finest-certified 1897 Twenties in NGC Proof-66 Ultra Cameo and several Cameo-finish specimens from the early 20th century including a 1902 and 1906, both of which are the finest certified for their respective issues. The Zürich Collection is also well represented in other classic proof gold series, and we note the presence of an elusive 1876 Gold Dollar in PCGS Proof-64 Deep Cameo, the finest-certified proof 1884 Liberty Half Eagle in NGC Proof-66 Ultra Cameo, a sandblast proof 1913 Indian Half Eagle in NGC Proof-67 and a 1908 Motto Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle in NGC Proof-66 that was struck with the characteristic dark matte finish of the issue. Finally, the Zürich Collection also features a complete set of business strike Indian Quarter Eagles in MS-64, centered around the key-date 1911-D certified by NGC.”

Highlights of the Zürich Collection include:

• 1911-D Indian Quarter Eagle, MS-64 (NGC)
• 1876 Gold Dollar, Proof-64 Deep Cameo (PCGS), PCGS Population: 2/1
• 1884 Liberty Half Eagle, Proof-66 Ultra Cameo (NGC), Combined PCGS and NGC Population: 1/0
• 1913 Indian Half Eagle, Proof-67 (NGC)
• 1878 Liberty Double Eagle, Proof-64 Cameo (NGC), One of Just Nine Examples Confirmed Extant from a Mintage of 20 Coins
• 1892 Liberty Double Eagle, Proof-66 Ultra Cameo (NGC), Combined PCGS and NGC Population: 6/0
• 1892 Liberty Double Eagle, Proof-65 Cameo (NGC)
• 1897 Liberty Double Eagle, Proof-66 Ultra Cameo (NGC), Combined PCGS and NGC Population: 2/0
• 1902 Liberty Double Eagle, Proof-66 Cameo (NGC), Combined PCGS and NGC Population: 1/0
• 1906 Liberty Double Eagle, Proof-66 Cameo (NGC), Combined PCGS and NGC Population: 2/0
• 1907 Liberty Double Eagle, Proof-64 Cameo (NGC)
• MCMVII (1907) Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, High Relief, Wire Rim, Proof-64 (NGC)
• 1908 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, Motto, Proof-66 (NGC) (more…)

Coin Market: Full Band Roosevelt Dimes

By Steve Roach – Rare Coin Market Report

The market for full bands Roosevelt dimes is one dominated by a handful of specialists who are willing to spend big for the right coin.

Numismatic Guaranty Corp. calls circulation-strike Roosevelt dimes with both the upper and lower pair of bands on the torch showing full separation, having a complete and unbroken line dividing the bands, “full torch” (abbreviated as FT), while Professional Coin Grading Service calls them “full bands” (FB).

Both services began to recognize the designation in 2003 and the popularity of registry sets has fueled four-figure prices for condition rarities.

For example, on Sept. 6, a 1953-S Roosevelt dime graded Mint State 68 full torch by NGC realized $2,600 during an auction conducted by Teletrade.

Earlier this year, a 1951-D Roosevelt dime graded MS-68 full bands by PCGS (pictured above) sold for a very strong $4,600 while a stunning and beautifully toned 1949-D PCGS MS-68 full bands from the same consignor realized $3,105 at a Heritage Auction Galleries sale.

The market for high-end Roosevelt dimes is not entirely dependent on a full bands/torch designation.

At a Sept. 9, 2009, Heritage auction, a 1963-D Roosevelt dime graded MS-68 (without a full bands designation) realized a whopping $5,175.

The market for full bands Roosevelt dimes is the most robust for the series’ silver issues, produced from 1949 to 1964, although the occasional copper-nickel clad issue can soar, such as a NGC MS-68 full torch 1965 dime that brought $805 at a March 25 Heritage auction.

In the PCGS Registry, 137 registered sets are listed, consisting of the 48 Roosevelt dime circulation strikes from 1949 to 1964, with the top four sets 100 percent complete.

Many of the issues are unknown in grades finer than MS-67 full bands and the current No. 1 set contains each issue in MS-67 full bands and finer, with several MS-67+ full bands and a single MS-68 FB.

The owner of the No. 1 set has posted pictures of all but two of the coins in his set, named “close to perfect,” online. Browsing through them gives an introduction to the many different looks that Mint State Roosevelt dimes can have.

A Look at Early U.S. Gold Coins

By Jim Fehr – The Winning Edge

Gold Strengthens

The gold market is hot. Bullion prices are rising and driving gold coin prices higher. Economic conditions over the last two years have investors seeking a heaven against rising money supply/inflation. The government printing presses are running over-time as the treasury departments prints trillions of dollars to try revive a weak economy. Keynesian economic practices and an explosion in the size of the U.S. government should keep gold at healthy levels as prices flirt with $1,310 + an ounce.

Early U.S. Gold

Not too long ago I wrote about Early U.S. silver coins. Like the Early silver type, I wanted to break down the Early U.S. gold pieces in this issue. Hope you enjoy it. Prices are an approximation of your actual past and present acquisition cost. PCGS and NGC populations are based on their respective censuses reports.

Draped Bust $2.5 1796 – 1807

The first U.S. coin to have the heraldic (large) eagle on the reverse which was then adopted for all U.S. gold and silver coins from 1798 to 1807. There are two major design varieties for the 1796; the “with stars” and “no stars” obverse. Both of which are extremely rare. The populations listed are for all dates combined. Prices are an approximation of your actual past and present acquisition cost and are for a type coin (not better dates) in the series.

PCGS Circ. population: 392; NGC: 298
PCGS Unc. population: 89; NGC: 163

Prices have steadily climbed since 2002 and are still strong today. This issue is somewhat overlooked like most smaller denomination coins, but less so recently. The prices listed are for type coins in the series. Better dates like the 1796 no stars bring more. I like the issue in all grades at the current levels and believe they will continue to perform well.

In the next two groups Liberty is facing left as is true with most all U.S. coins after 1807. For the single year of 1808 the design had no denticles and was of the large bust type. Then none were minted until 1821. The new design included smaller stars and bust. After 1827 they reduced the coins size and denticles, hence the Capped Bust small size. Prices are an approximation of your actual past and present acquisition cost and are for a type coin (not better dates) in the series.

Capped Bust $2.5 1808 – 1827 large size

PCGS Circ. population: 115; NGC: 87
PCGS Unc. population: 72; NGC: 75

(more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: 1943-D copper cent, 1795 Reeded Edge cent, 1811/0 cent, and half cent errors

News and Analysis on coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #20

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I had originally intended to write this week about a variety of coins that were offered in the recently concluded Southern California auctions by the Goldbergs and Heritage. News regarding auction results, however, has been superseded by a 1943-D copper cent selling privately for a reported price of “$1.7 million.” So, I will discuss this piece, some of the early copper in the Goldbergs auction, and the 1811/0 overdate large cent that Heritage sold. This column is devoted to copper.

I. 1943-Denver Mint Copper Cent

In 1943 only, in order to allocate more copper for purposes relating to World War II, U.S. cents were made of zinc coated steel and have a whitish-steely appearance. Probably by accident, a few were struck in copper, almost certainly on planchets (prepared blanks) that were leftover from 1942. Perhaps a few copper planchets were temporarily stuck in the hoppers and became loose over time. Likewise, some 1944 cents were accidentally struck on steel planchets dating from 1943.

I am very skeptical of claims that any of these off-metal strikings were intentionally made. It is possible that U.S. Mint employees may have discovered one or more such errors and intentionally released them from the premises. These are, though, probably true errors. In the 1940s, it would have been extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, for U.S. Mint employees to strike their own fantasy pieces.

Ten or eleven 1943 Philadelphia Mint copper cents and five to seven San Francisco Mint 1943 coppers are known. Curiously, only one 1943-Denver Mint copper cent is believed to exist. It is PCGS graded MS-64 and Laura Sperber sold it to a collector for “$1.7 million.”

Stewart Blay feels “the price has been inflated because the buyer seeking the coin is a billionaire. He loves coins. He wanted to own it and eventually paid what the owner was willing to accept.” Blay is the leading collector of Lincoln Cents and is a long-time participant in coin markets. Stewart also collects silver coins.

A price of “$1.7 million” is, by far, a record price for a Lincoln Cent and for a Mint Error of any kind. For the same collector, Sperber was responsible for the previous record of $373,750 that a 1944-S steel cent realized in the Summer 2008 ANA Auction, which was conducted by Heritage in Baltimore. Furthermore, a 1943-S copper cent was sold privately, a day or so earlier, at the Summer 2008 ANA Convention. I focus on both coins in a two part series that I wrote shortly after this convention ended (Part 1).

Sperber reveals that this “deal really was four years in the making. We agreed to terms in late July. The deal closed Sept 16th.” A total of $2 million, she says, was paid for three items, this 1943-D, a 1944 Philadelphia Mint steel cent and a 1942 pattern cent in “white metal.” This collector is “not seeking” patterns, Sperber relates, “the white metal pattern was just part of the deal.”

Sperber used to collect these off-metal strikings herself. The building of this set “started when” Laura sold this collector her “personal 1943-S PCGS AU-58” copper cent, “which he still has.” She and this collector “have been working on [a set of 43-PDS coppers and 44-PDS steels] for about five years.” Sperber maintains that “completing the 1944 [three piece steel] set was a very underrated piece of work.” I (this writer) point out that there are only two or three known 1944-S steel cents and Sperber acquired the finest 1944-S steel in 2008, as I then reported (in part 2).

Much background information regarding the rarity and importance of 1943 coppers and 1944 steel cents may be found in my two part series in 2008: part 1, part 2. I also discussed then the reasons why 1943 coppers and 1944 steel cents are extremely popular.

To save time and space, I usually refer to all coins, patterns, and errors that are at least 90% copper as being ‘copper.’ The distinction between copper and bronze, which is usually 95% copper, is beside all points put forth herein. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: 1943-D copper cent, 1795 Reeded Edge cent, 1811/0 cent, and half cent errors

News and Analysis on  coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #20

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I had originally intended to write this week about a variety of coins that were offered in the recently concluded Southern California auctions by the Goldbergs and Heritage. News regarding auction results, however, has been superseded by a 1943-D copper cent selling privately for a reported price of “$1.7 million.” So, I will discuss this piece, some of the early copper in the Goldbergs auction, and the 1811/0 overdate large cent that Heritage sold. This column is devoted to copper.

I. 1943-Denver Mint Copper Cent

In 1943 only, in order to allocate more copper for purposes relating to World War II, U.S. cents were made of zinc coated steel and have a whitish-steely appearance. Probably by accident, a few were struck in copper, almost certainly on planchets (prepared blanks) that were leftover from 1942. Perhaps a few copper planchets were temporarily stuck in the hoppers and became loose over time. Likewise, some 1944 cents were accidentally struck on steel planchets dating from 1943.

I am very skeptical of claims that any of these off-metal strikings were intentionally made. It is possible that U.S. Mint employees may have discovered one or more such errors and intentionally released them from the premises. These are, though, probably true errors. In the 1940s, it would have been extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, for U.S. Mint employees to strike their own fantasy pieces.

Ten or eleven 1943 Philadelphia Mint copper cents and five to seven San Francisco Mint 1943 coppers are known. Curiously, only one 1943-Denver Mint copper cent is believed to exist. It is PCGS graded MS-64 and Laura Sperber sold it to a collector for “$1.7 million.”

Stewart Blay feels “the price has been inflated because the buyer seeking the coin is a billionaire. He loves coins. He wanted to own it and eventually paid what the owner was willing to accept.” Blay is the leading collector of Lincoln Cents and is a long-time participant in coin markets. Stewart also collects silver coins.

A price of “$1.7 million” is, by far, a record price for a Lincoln Cent and for a Mint Error of any kind. For the same collector, Sperber was responsible for the previous record of $373,750 that a 1944-S steel cent realized in the Summer 2008 ANA Auction, which was conducted by Heritage in Baltimore. Furthermore, a 1943-S copper cent was sold privately, a day or so earlier, at the Summer 2008 ANA Convention. I focus on both coins in a two part series that I wrote shortly after this convention ended (Part 1).

Sperber reveals that this “deal really was four years in the making. We agreed to terms in late July. The deal closed Sept 16th.” A total of $2 million, she says, was paid for three items, this 1943-D, a 1944 Philadelphia Mint steel cent and a 1942 pattern cent in “white metal.” This collector is “not seeking” patterns, Sperber relates, “the white metal pattern was just part of the deal.”

Sperber used to collect these off-metal strikings herself. The building of this set “started when” Laura sold this collector her “personal 1943-S PCGS AU-58” copper cent, “which he still has.” She and this collector “have been working on [a set of 43-PDS coppers and 44-PDS steels] for about five years.” Sperber maintains that “completing the 1944 [three piece steel] set was a very underrated piece of work.” I (this writer) point out that there are only two or three known 1944-S steel cents and Sperber acquired the finest 1944-S steel in 2008, as I then reported (in part 2).

Much background information regarding the rarity and importance of 1943 coppers and 1944 steel cents may be found in my two part series in 2008: part 1, part 2.  I also discussed then the reasons why 1943 coppers and 1944 steel cents are extremely popular.

To save time and space, I usually refer to all coins, patterns, and errors that are at least 90% copper as being ‘copper.’ The distinction between copper and bronze, which is usually 95% copper, is beside all points put forth herein. (more…)