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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:

Fast Profits Not Guaranteed At Auction

By Steve Roach – Rare Coin Market Report

While many dealers continue to grumble about weak bourse action at the recently finished back-to-back Long Beach, Calif., and Philadelphia coin shows, in which a review of the dealer bourse lists seem to show a clear bifurcation between West and East coast dealers, the market continues to be robust in the auction sector.

In the official Heritage Auction Galleries Long Beach sale, the top lot was an Extremely Fine 45+ 1856-O Coronet gold $20 double eagle that surfaced in Ohio and was the cover story of the July 26 Coin World. It brought $345,000.

The Heritage auction realized $13.4 million total.

The next two top lots were large gold ingots; further evidence for the market’s insatiable appetite for gold.

Heritage has had a curious auction history in the last two years with 1856-O double eagles, with five auction appearances in the past two years. The recent auction price seems to break what has been a downward trajectory for the issue in auction results.

In January 2009, an EF-45 example sold for $276,000 and the same coin sold again in July 2009, for $253,000. In October 2008, an AU-58 example sold for $576,150 and that same example brought $460,000 in July 2009.

Perhaps too many auction appearances skewed bidders’ sense of its rarity. Heritage estimates that fewer than 20 are available for collectors and the most recently offered example, held by a family in Ohio for nearly 100 years, was as “fresh-to-market” as they get.

For top rarities, the perception of rarity can be almost as important as actual rarity to justify six- and seven-figure prices.

The next week, Stack’s Philadelphia Americana sale realized a very healthy $9,676,867.

One of the highlights, a Proof 65 Cameo 1887 Coronet gold $5 half eagle, brought $97,750, a bit less than it realized at auction in January 2007 where it brought $103,500 when offered as part of the Robert J. Loewinger Collection (pictured above, left).

Results like this serve as a cautionary tale that even at the top-end of the market with coins of superlative quality and absolute rarity, quick profits are not a guarantee

First published in the October 25, 2010, issue of Coin World

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…)

Sedwick Auction To Feature Shipwreck Treasure, Gold Cobs and World Coins

Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC announces the release of their Treasure and World Coin Auction #8, scheduled for October 21-23, 2010, comprising 2789 lots, by far their largest sale to date. For the first time Sedwick has incorporated “World Coins” into the title, as the auction features almost 1000 lots of general world coins.
As usual the auction will start with Gold Cobs, more than 50 of them this time (mostly from shipwrecks), including several of the finest known 1715-Fleet specimens: a full-date and exceptionally struck Mexican 8 escudos 1714 and 4 escudos 1715; a near-perfect Lima 2 escudos and probably the finest known Lima cob 1 escudo, both dated 1710 and encapsulated PCGS, the latter MS-64. Also there are no less than nine Fleet “bogeys” (Bogotá 2 escudos) in this sale.

The next section, World Gold Coins, contains over 300 lots, most of them Spanish Colonial “busts,” including: the finest known Mexican 1 escudo 1733/2, recovered by Marty Meylach from the 1733 Fleet and the inspiration for his book Diving to a Flash of Gold; a unique Santiago, Chile, 1 escudo, 1755/4, from the famous Eliasberg collection; and well over 100 Spanish colonial bust 8 escudos by date, most of them starting below melt value.

The Ingots section features a collection of large, natural gold nuggets, as well as several important 16th-century ingots (including “tumbaga”) and a unique silver “piña” ingot from the Atocha (1622).

“This is not just a treasure auction–it is also a world coin auction, our first big offering of gold and silver coins from countries all over the world.
Daniel Frank Sedwick

In Shipwreck Silver Coins bidders will find hundreds of Atocha (1622) silver coins, both rarities and wholesale lots, in addition to coins from dozens of shipwrecks around the world assembled by two different collectors.

The Silver Cobs sections for Mexico, Lima and Potosí contain no less than four Royals (round presentation specimens) in various denominations. The Lima listings are dominated by the collection of Robert Mastalir, including a nearly complete date-run of 1R that contains several unlisted overdates. Featured in Other Cobs is a Santo Domingo 4 reales of Charles-Joanna (one of very few ever offered at auction), as well as a large collection of dated cobs from mainland Spanish mints.

Following a short but varied Ancient Coins offering (the first for Sedwick), the expanded World Silver Coins section comprises over 600 lots, with particular emphasis on Colombia (featuring Part II of the Herman Blanton collection) and the British Isles (Great Britain, Ireland and Scotland). There is also a large collection of British Admiral Vernon medals.

“Our most important items are in shipwreck artifacts, however,” says Sedwick’s assistant Agustin “Augi” Garcia, whose new book The “Tumbaga” Saga about some conquest-period silver bars is being released at the same time. “Of particular significance is a unique Tarascan (Mexican) silver rodela (plate) from the “Tumbaga wreck” (ca. 1528), featured in my new book and the important link for figuring out what the silver ingots of that time were made of.”

The Shipwreck Artifacts section also features a large gold-and-emerald pendant and a gold religious medallion and chain from the 1715 Fleet, followed by many lots of small artifacts from the 1733 Fleet, the collection of Marty Meylach himself. Non-shipwreck Artifacts include a large selection of colonial-era weapons, mainly flintlocks and swords, as well as several natural history items like fossils and scrimshaw.

The auction is rounded out by Documents and Media (books and catalogs), ending with a special, full-color, hardbound, limited edition #1 of 50 copy of Augi’s much-anticipated book The “Tumbaga” Saga, which the author will personally inscribe to the winning bidder. (more…)

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 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…)

Ponterio & Associates to Auction the Wa She Wong Collection of Chinese and other Asian Coins

Ponterio & Associates, a division of Bowers and Merena Auctions, is pleased to present the Wa She Wong Collection of Chinese and Asian coins as well as other fine properties in its December Hong Kong Auction held Dec. 3-4, 2010 at the Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel and Towers. The Wa She Wong collection represents one of the most important offerings of Chinese and Asian coins to ever be held.

“The Wa She Wong Collection contains rarities that are an honor to view, let alone bid upon,” said Rick Ponterio, executive vice president of Bowers and Merena. “We are extremely proud to have been entrusted with its sale as it is one of the most memorable collections I have had the pleasure of preparing for auction. Bidders from around the world have begun to make reservations to attend the highly anticipated Hong Kong Auction in December for a chance to bid on the lots firsthand.”

The Wa She Wong collection is a masterfully gathered assortment of rare coins of China, including many rarities which are coveted by the most important collectors of Chinese numismatics as well as many scarce pattern coins, which are coins of proposed designs and strikes of that were never released into the general circulation. An extremely unique coin in the collection is the Szechuan 30 Cash Struck in Copper, 1904, HSU-289, CCC-Unlisted. Considered one of the 100 greatest Chinese coins, there was believed to have been only three known in existence until the fourth was unearthed in the Wa She Wong Collection after being hidden away for 30 years.

“It is not frequent that a rarity, like the ‘Flying Dragon’ Szechuan 30 Cash Struck in Copper, is unearthed such as the case with the Wa She Wong Collection,” Sun Hao, Chinese coinage expert and author. “This specific example features a profile or ‘Flying Dragon’, while the others depict a frontal view or ‘Facing Dragon’. The opportunity to bid on this coin is a chance of a lifetime.”

The fine Wa She Wong collection features coinage that has rarely appeared on public markets and others that are missing from most major collections. Some other highlights of the auction include:

· Kwangtung Specimen set, 1890 (5 coins). K-21/25. ($1, 50¢, 20¢, 10¢, 5¢)
· Shensi Specimen Set, 1898 (4 coins). K-53,54,56,&57 (50¢, 20¢, 10¢, 5¢)
· Kiangnan. Pattern dollar, 1897. Plain edge Proof. K-66.
· Kwangtung Specimen set, 1890 (5 coins). K-16/20. ($1, 50¢, 20¢, 10¢, 5¢)
· Pattern dollar, 1911. L&M-29. (Ex: Kann Collection)

The auction is further bolstered by Asian coins and bank notes from other consignors and is highlighted by an 1868 Hong Kong Five Piece Silver Proof Set. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The Sept. Goldbergs Coin Auction in Southern California

News and Analysis on scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin community #18

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

For decades, the Long Beach (CA) Coin, Stamp and Collectible Expo has been a major event for coin collectors. The third Long Beach Expo of 2010 will start on Sept. 23 and end on Sep. 25. As usual, Heritage will conduct the official auction. Earlier, in Los Angles County, the firms of Bonhams and of the Goldbergs will also conduct auctions. The Goldbergs will offer a very wide variety of coins on Sept. 19th, 20th and 21st at the Beverly Hills Crowne Plaza.

I. Eliasberg 1893-S $5 Gold Coin

At the ANA Convention in Boston, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to closely examine some of the coins in the upcoming Goldbergs auction. One of my favorites is an 1893-S Half Eagle ($5 gold coin) that was formerly in the Louis Eliasberg collection, which is the greatest collection of U.S. coins that was ever formed.

Many gold coins with an Eliasberg pedigree are of tremendous quality, and this 1893-S is one of them. It is PCGS graded MS-66, and was certified at some point in the mid 1990s. I grade it as 66+. Furthermore, it has a sticker of approval from the CAC, which indicates that experts at the CAC determined that its grade is at least in the middle of the 66 range.

This 1893-S Half Eagle has great luster and an excellent strike. It is wonderfully brilliant. This coin has almost no contact marks or hairlines. The inner fields exhibit some pleasant, natural light green toning.

The 1893-S Half Eagle is somewhat common in grades up to MS-62, in which range it is valued only slightly higher than the most common Liberty Head ‘With Motto’ Half Eagles. In MS-63 and MS-64 grades, an 1893-S Half Eagle commands a substantial premium. In MS-65 and higher grades, it is an extreme condition rarity. At most, one half dozen true gems exist, and probably not even that many. This Eliasberg 1893-S is the only 1893-S that is graded MS-66 by the PCGS or the NGC, and none have been certified as grading higher than MS-66. There is certainly a good chance that it is the finest known.

In MS-66 grade, the PCGS price guide values this 1893-S at $22,500 and very common dates at $7500. A rival price guide at Numismedia.com values a MS-66 grade 1893-S, which must be this one, at $20,150. An old green PCGS label, an Eliasberg pedigree, and a CAC sticker all have the potential to bring about a price that is higher than would otherwise be realized. This coin, though, speaks for itself. It is exceptionally attractive and a delight to view.

II. Carter 1797 ‘small eagle’ $10 Gold Coin

In the upcoming Goldbergs auction, the re-appearance of the NGC graded MS-63 1797 ‘Small Eagle’ Eagle is newsworthy. Gold coins were first struck at the U.S. Mint in 1795. The major varieties of the first type of Eagles that are collected as if they were distinct dates are: the 1795 with thirteen leaves on the branch, the 1795 with nine leaves on the branch, the 1796, and the 1797 ‘small eagle’. This first type has a bust of Miss Liberty on the obverse (front) and a relatively small eagle on the reverse (back). The second type of Eagles, which date from 1797 to 1804, have the same general obverse (front) design along with a much different reverse (back) design. The new reverse features a large or heraldic eagle. It is not just the size of the eagle that is different; the style of the eagle and other reverse design devices are also different. (more…)

Baldwin’s Ancient and World Coin Auction 67 & 68: The Official COINEX Auction

September 2010 brings with it “Coinex”, one of the most exciting events of the numismatic calendar and the largest Numismatic coin show in the UK. This year Baldwin’s are proud sponsors of the occasion and, as hosts of the official Coinex auction, a spectacular event awaits.

Baldwin’s two day auction is to be held over the 28 th and 29 th September and begins with the third part of the Michael Hall Collection of Renaissance and later medals, of which, parts one and two were sold earlier this year through Baldwin’s.

New York based collector and art expert Michael Hall spent over fifty years putting together an awe-inspiring collection and this, the final part, offers an array of choice pieces. Lot 2090, a 1671 Louis XIV Damascened Medal (estimate £800-1,000) by Jean Warin II is a beautifully crafted piece by arguably the best and most powerful French engraver of coin dies of the 17 th Century.

Warin (or Varin) came from a family of artists and distinguished himself primarily as a painter and sculptor. He was one of the first engravers to use the power of the medallic form for propaganda purposes in France. Carrying the title of controleur general Warin imposed strict controls over artists that they were allowed no artistic license, but were instead forced to reproduce official designs that commemorated the magnificence of the state.

This lot is a prime example of the effectiveness of his creations to this end. Lot 2614, a Gustav II Adolf Silver medal of 6-Riksdalers by medallist Sebastian Dadler, estimate £1,200 – 1,500, is another one of the stand out pieces of the sale and distinguished by the intricacy of the artwork on both the obverse and reverse of the medal. Dadler was one of the leading medallists of the 17 th Century, working widely throughout the courts of Germany and princely houses of Europe, amassing an array of high profile supporters at the time.

The Hall Collection is immediately followed by a diverse selection of commemorative medals and a section of Orders, Decorations and Medals. The extensive Commemorative medal section includes lot 3005, a fantastic 1666 Dutch silver Medal (estimate £1,500 – 2,000) depicting the “Four Days” Naval fight on the obverse and crafted by medallist Jerian Pool. The medal commemorates the famous action and carries a poem on the reverse by the Dutch writer and playwright, Joost van Vondel, which appears to have been written especially for the medal.

Commemorative and historical medals have become a feature of Baldwin’s flagship London auctions and the variety on offer in this sale is testament to the accurate cataloguing and historical referencing that assure Baldwin’s achieve the highest possible prices.

A small collection of military medals and decorations from the Seddon-Brown family are some of the most interesting pieces in the sale, most notably lot 3196, The Order of the Nile group of awards to Lieutenant Colonel Seddon-Brown J.P.O.N. the lots includes three attractive copied pictures, one of which portrays Sir Winston Churchill, with whom he worked closely and was personal friends with through his role as chairman of the Conservative party in the North East. (more…)

Warren Tucker Named VP of Heritage World Coins

Following on the heels of a $8.57 million World Coin auction at the Boston ANA World’s Fair of Money, Heritage Auctions has announced the promotion of Warren Tucker to Vice President of the World Coins division.

“Warren is one of the best known numismatists in the business and his reputation is second to none,” said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage Auctions. “Under his careful watch, the World Coins category at Heritage has grown by leaps and bounds, as clearly evidenced by the recent showing in Boston. This promotion is in recognition of his tireless promotion of World Coins at Heritage.”

Tucker became a full-time coin dealer in 1964. In 1968 he joined Jack Boozer and Doug Weaver in business in Waco, Texas, where he first met Steve Ivy. After moving back to Georgia, Warren became a partner with John Hamrick at WorldWide Coin Investments of Atlanta.

In the 1970s, he began more extensive travel throughout Europe and Asia to buy coins before joining forces with Steve Ivy, in 1979, and opening an office in Atlanta. Associations with noted numismatists Richard Nelson and Ronald J. Gillio followed thereafter. From 1985 TO 1995 spent a great deal of time in the Orient, with extended stays in Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines. Tucker moved to Dallas in 1999, where he lives today, working at Heritage headquarters.

“Working with Warren on a daily basis is like getting free tuition at ‘Numismatic University,'” said Cristiano Bierrenbach, Vice President of International Numismatics at Heritage. “There are but a handful of numismatists worldwide with his experience and knowledge of world coins. He’s also one of the most well-liked and respected coin professionals in the market.”

During his tenure at Heritage, Warren has been instrumental in the consignment and subsequent auction of numerous International numismatic rarities and collections that have realized World Record prices. He is a lifetime member of PNG.

With Tucker as the primary world coin expert since the World Coin Department’s inception as a separate entity at Heritage in 2000, Heritage has grown to be one of the worldwide leaders in world coin sales.

“I’m fortunate to be able to work every day in a field that I love, for a company that I’m dedicated to and with colleagues that I very much respect,” said Tucker. “I look forward to continuing my work at Heritage in keeping it the World’s premier rare coin auctioneer.”

Stack’s Pens Three Year Deal with the ANA to be Official Coin Show Auctioneer

Stack’s will be the official auctioneer for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money, ANA Executive Director Larry Shepherd has announced.

“I’m very pleased to have received multiple strong bids for these prestigious auctions,” Shepherd said. “This reflects a renewed confidence auction companies have that the ANA can host high-quality auctions with exceptional potential.”

Shepherd was also pleased that Stack’s bid included a commitment to support the Association’s educational programs and seminars at the World’s Fair of Money and in New York City, where Stack’s is headquartered. “In a very competitive bidding process, Stack’s commitment to ANA educational programs was an important consideration,” Shepherd said.

“We believe strongly in the educational mission of the ANA,” said Stack’s President Christine Karstedt. “This is a great opportunity for Stack’s to deliver first-rate auctions in association with the hobby’s premier membership organization. We look forward to holding extraordinary auctions in Chicago and Philadelphia.”

Live auctions will be held during the 2011 Chicago World’s Fair of Money, Aug. 16-20; the 2012 Philadelphia show, Aug. 7-11; and the 2013 Chicago show, Aug. 13-17.

Stack’s, founded in 1935 by Joseph B. and Morton Stack, is holding its 75th Anniversary Auction in Baltimore this November. No other numismatic auction company has ever had such an anniversary. For more information, visit www.stacks.com.

Heritage’s Upcoming Long Beach Coin Auction Highlights

The recently discovered Bullock specimen of the 1856-O double eagle, graded XF45+ by NGC, has already generating buzz in the numismatic community as the principal draw at the upcoming Heritage Auction’s U.S. Coin Auction, to be held Sept. 23-26 in Long Beach, CA.

The Bullock 1856-O double eagle is an incredible coin with an even more incredible story. After it was pulled from circulation by James Bullock, a Kentucky farmer, it spent more than 80 years in an Ohio family’s holdings. It was utterly unknown to collectors until John W. McCloskey was asked to examine it earlier this year. McCloskey went through an extensive verification process to reassure himself that this was a genuine 1856-O double eagle, the rarest and most famous gold coin struck at New Orleans. Fewer than two dozen examples are available to collectors, even after the discovery of the Bullock specimen. It is estimated at $300,000+. This is the first time it will be offered at auction.

Another golden treasure from the Old West is expected to bring $60,000+ and is the most important coin in The Dr. Mani and Kay Ehteshami Collection: The Single finest 1891-CC eagle.

“Even in the 21st century, the allure of the Old West remains powerful, and coins from the Carson City Mint are among the most evocative of that time,” said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage. “The Carson City Mint started striking coins in 1870, just six years after Nevada achieved statehood. It was effectively a frontier operation, and keeping it open was a constant struggle. Its minting operations were shut down from 1885 to 1889 and closed for good in 1893.”

The Carson City Mint struck silver and gold coinage. It is most famous for its largest coins, such as silver dollars and ten dollar and twenty dollar gold pieces, otherwise known as “eagles” and “double eagles.”

“Carson City had its highest production of $10 gold pieces in 1891, when just more than 100,000 pieces were struck,” said Rohan. “It never had a six-figure mintage for that denomination before or after. Many examples have survived, including a number of Mint State coins, but at MS65, the Ehteshami example is the best-preserved of all.”

Not only is the Ehteshami example the single finest example of the 1891-CC $10 issue, it is one of just three Carson City $10 coins graded MS65 or better, regardless of date. The others are dated 1874-CC and 1882-CC. While a high mintage or survival rate can create a supply of Mint State coins, the existence of a superior Mint State coin, such as an MS65, is far more random. The rough conditions of Carson City at the time make such a coin’s existence all the more remarkable.

“Careful preservation and the purest chance made the Ehteshami example what it is, and the world of Carson City coin collecting is the better for it,” said Rohan. “Our cataloger called it ‘the 1891-CC eagle that all others wish they could be.’ More than that, it is the 1891-CC eagle that all Carson City collectors wish they could own, but there can be only one winning bidder.” (more…)

Arthur Blumenthal appointed Senior Numismatist at Heritage Auctions, New York

Heritage Auctions has announced that Arthur Blumenthal has been appointed Senior Numismatist by the company, working out of Heritage’s recently opened New York offices at 445 Park Avenue (at 57th Street).

“Arthur brings a tremendous amount of experience to his position with Heritage,” said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage. “His expertise encompasses the numismatic, currency and gold markets as well as the New York market, easily one of the most important in the entire business.”

Blumenthal, a New York native, graduated from C.W. Post College with a B.A. in History Education, teaching school for a few years before going to work in the coin department at Gimbels in New York.

Arthur then made his way to Galerie des Monnaies of Geneva, also in New York, where he spent more than a decade as head trader. From there he spent almost 15 years with Stacks, where he focused his talents on all aspects of the coin business, from buying important collections, consigning great collections for auction and helping to develop the currently high powered bullion market.

“I’m thrilled to be part of Heritage’s expansion into New York,” said Blumenthal. “This is an important move for Heritage and I look forward to establishing the company’s presence in the financial center of the world. As the planet’s biggest numismatic dealer, this is the exactly where we need to be.”

Blumenthal has been interviewed by CNN, USA TODAY, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Observer, among many publications, and has been a frequent guest on the FOX Business Channel with Stuart Varney, where he has established himself as an authoritative voice on the role of gold, U.S. numismatics and currency in world financial markets.

Heritage Auctions, headed by Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin and Greg Rohan, is the world’s third largest auction house, with annual sales more than $600 million, and 500,000+ registered online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com.

Heritage Auctions New York City Gallery opens Sept. 1

445 Park Avenue (at 57th Street) location features eye-opening “Heritage Window on Park Avenue” of upcoming auction treasures

NEW YORK – The eagerly-awaited new Manhattan gallery and offices of Heritage Auction Galleries will open at 445 Park Avenue (at 57th Street) on Wednesday, September 1, 2010.

The expansion of Heritage, the world’s third largest auction house, into the New York City market comes at a time when many major auction firms are contracting. The Dallas-based firm also opened a Beverly Hills, California gallery and salesroom earlier this year.

“The New York City area is home to many of the top collectors and collections, and the center of the art and antique market,” said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage. “It’s a perfect fit with our increasingly expanding services, and the best possible place for us to serve the art and high-end collectible needs of our clients. I can think of nowhere else we’d rather be opening a new gallery right now than right in the heart of Manhattan’s auction district.”

“Heritage is distinguished by its superb sales catalogs, unequalled online resources for buyers and sellers and transparency in how we do business. We have a non-stop auction rotation that features the very best across 30 categories including rare coins, collectibles, fine art, jewelry, comics, movie posters, rare wine, sports memorabilia and much more,” explained Rohan.

The first auction to take place under the auspices of Heritage Auctions New York City will be the company’s Oct. 16 Signature® Illustration Art Auction at the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion (The Ukrainian Institute), 2 East 79th Street. It will feature some of the very best illustration pieces Heritage has ever offered, including works by Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell, Gil Elvgren, J.C. Leyendecker and one of the most iconic pieces of illustration art pieces to come on the market anywhere in years, Garth Williams’ original graphite and ink on paper drawing for the cover of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, 1952.

One of the most talked about features of Heritage’s new Manhattan venue will be the Heritage Window on Park Avenue, which will feature a continually rotating selection from upcoming Heritage auctions, across all of the firm’s categories.

Highlights from the inaugural Heritage Window on Park Avenue will include, but are not limited to: Thomas Moran’s oil on canvas Venice, Grand Canal, 1903; Howard Terpning’s A Winter Trail, 1975; Birger Sandzen’s Rock Mountain Landscape, circa 1920; a very rare copy of a 1939 Detective Comics #27, CGC 7.0, the first appearance of “The Batman,” and Garth Williams’ aforementioned Charlotte’s Web original cover art.

“We expect the Window to become a regular attraction for both collectors and everyday New Yorkers alike,” said Rohan.

The offices on Park Avenue at 57th will be open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Chinese Gold Leads World & Ancient Coins section of Heritage Boston Sale

Trio of ‘Lucky Number 8’ Lunar Kilo 10,000 Yuan gold pieces top $480,000 combined prices realized in Heritage event

International coin rarities continued to assert their growing numismatic strength during the Aug. 11-16 Heritage Auctions Boston ANA World’s Fair of Money trio of auctions, realizing more than $8.6 million in Heritage Signature® World Coin Auction, part of the overall $46+ million total of the combined auction events.

More than 2,860 collectors were on hand – whether on the auction floor or online via Heritage LIVE!™ – to bid on the more than 3200 offerings assembled for the auction, which translated into a sell-through rate of more than 94% by value.

“This auction offered one of the strongest groupings of any World Coins event we’ve held yet,” said Warren Tucker, Vice President of Heritage World Coin Auctions, “and international collectors, I think, recognized that. As a result we saw excellent prices across the board, especially where British rarities were concerned; the Highlands Park Collection brought more than 30%-40% than our pre-auction estimates.”

The trio of Chinese 10,000 Yuan Lunar Kilo coins that took the top three spots in the auction showed that Chinese collectors are asserting their willingness to claim their nation’s numismatic treasures. It was an extremely rare Lucky Number 8 Year of the Dog 2006 Lunar Kilo 10,000 Yuan, Gem Ultra Cameo Proof, that led the pack with a final price realized of $162,627. That coin was very closely tailed by a Lucky Number 8 Year of the Horse Lunar Kilo 10,000 Yuan 2002, Gem Ultra Cameo Proof and a Lucky Number 8 Year of the Rooster Lunar Kilo 10,000 Yuan 2005, both of which brought $161,000. All prices include 15% Buyer’s Premium.

“The number 8 is widely regarded as a universally lucky number in Chinese culture,” said Cristiano Bierrenbach, Vice President of International Numismatics at Heritage, “and it proved very fortunate for Heritage in this auction, as well. We’re currently in a 20 Year cycle of the number 8, which began in the lunar year of 2004 and runs through 2024. All 15 of the Chinese Kilo Lunar issues are rare, but there is only one number 8 for each issue, hence the heated competition to acquire these beauties.”

Chinese rarities were not the only coins bringing seriously high bids, as the rest of the auction’s Top 10 lots show, with the top seven lots all breaking the $100,000 threshold. As closely bunched as the prices of the top three lots were, they were again followed closely on the heels by a previously unknown 1928 George V Specimen Sixpence, KM16.1 for type but an unlisted date, SP63 NGC, Reeded Edge, struck in .925 (sterling) silver, which saw spirited bidding between several collectors before finishing at $155,250.

Russian rarities proved popular in the Heritage Boston ANA World Coin auction, led by a spectacular Nicholas II Proof gold 25 Roubles (2 1/2 Imperials) 1896, Bit 312 (R2), Fr-171, Proof 61 NGC, which brought $149,500. This coin was thought to be a special commemorative issue for the Coronation of Nicholas II and was issued in a tiny mintage of 301 pieces, of which very few examples are known to survive.

The Edward Roehrs Collection of U.S. Regulated Gold proved to be one of the most exciting highlights of the auction, one of the most hotly contested groupings, as collectors seriously went after the important offerings in it, including an historically important Myer Myers regulated Half Joe marked by New York’s most famous Jewish goldsmith, perhaps unique, Brazil. Jose I 6400 Reis 1771-R, Rio mint, KM172.2. EF-45, which brought $92,000, while a Chilean Carlos III 8 Escudos 1775 DA. Santiago mint. EB in oval for Ephraim Brasher, KM27, VF, coin of great historicity and collectible appeal – a genuine Brasher doubloon – realized $80,500. (more…)

New Coin Discovery: 1856-O Double Eagle Discovered in Ohio to Be Offered At Long Beach

This recently discovered coin made front-page news in the July 26, 2010 Coin World, with a headline proclaiming “1856-O gold double eagle surfaces in Ohio.” The double-decker headline added, “Rarest New Orleans Mint gold coin in family holdings.” Numismatic researcher John W. McCloskey relates in detail how this rare coin–one of about 20 to 30 1856-O twenties known–was turned over to him for evaluation as part of a “small accumulation of gold coins held by a family in Ohio for nearly 100 years.” The coin has now been authenticated, encapsulated, and certified XF45+ by NGC.

Gold coin specialist Doug Winter calls the 1856-O double eagle issue “the rarest New Orleans double eagle and the rarest gold coin struck at the New Orleans mint.”

The Discovery

McCloskey’s Coin World article describes how an Ohio resident asked him to evaluate the family holdings:

“He indicated that ownership of the coins could be traced back to James Bullock, a gentleman who owned a farm near the city of Livermore, KY., during the early years of the 20th century.

“When Bullock died on June 26, 1923, his estate included a collection of gold coins that were passed down to his heirs as treasured family heirlooms. These coins have passed through three generations of family descendents over the years since his death and are now spread out among several family members.”

The Realization

The Coin World story relates the owner’s gradual realization of how fabulous and rare the 1856-O twenty is:

“After my evaluation session with the new owner I went home and checked the June 2010 issue of Coin World’s Coin Values and realized that I had just stumbled upon a great rarity that was completely unknown to the numismatic community. I then called the owner and told him that the 1856-O double eagle was listed at $220,000 in an Extremely Fine grade and that the piece might bring considerably more than that at auction considering its beautiful original surfaces and minimal field marks. I don’t think that the family really believed my estimate of the coin’s value but it began to sink in after I showed them the price listing in my copy of Coin Values.”

The Authentication

McCloskey goes into great depth over how, after they realized that “we had a treasure on our hands,” he studied the present piece under a microscope and identified various surface diagnostics that helped in its authentication as a genuine 1856-O double eagle. His descriptions of those obverse and reverse criteria, as quoted from Coin World, follow: (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Great Coins at the ANA Convention in Boston

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #14

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

When people talk about an ANA Convention, they tend to emphasize the coins that they bought or sold, rather than about the overall impact of the event. At any first or second tier coin show, collectors with modest budgets can find appealing coins. Collectors can also socialize with other collectors at a wide variety of coin related events. The Winter FUN Convention, the Summer ANA Convention, and very few other first tier events, are special for other reasons. Of course, educational programs and the meetings of specialty clubs are among these reasons. Multiple mammoth auctions, during a six to ten day period, in the same neighborhood, offer material of a tremendous variety and of startling depth in particular areas. While I will put forth some remarks regarding bourse and auction activity, I focus here, however, on the great coins that were present at this year’s ANA Convention and in the accompanying auctions in Boston.

Yes, readers of this column are aware that, for weeks, I have been writing about rarities that were offered in Boston at the B&M, Stack’s and Heritage auctions. In last week’s column, I covered some of the prices realized for famous rarities in the B&M auction. As I will discuss below, the Boyd-Cardinal 1794 dollar traded again.

In my column of July 28, I wrote about the Simpson Proof 1804 Eagle, a Kellogg $50 gold coin, the two Half Unions in the B&M sale, and an 1854-S Quarter Eagle in the Heritage auction. In my column of July 21, I covered the Platinum Night offerings of the collections of Dr. Claude Davis and Dr. Brandon Smith. In earlier columns, I analyzed the offerings in these Boston auctions of one-year type coins and Great Rarities. Before I provide further coinage of coins in auctions, I wish to emphasize that there was an impressive assortment of important rarities on the floor of the ANA Convention, many of which could have been easily viewed by all those who attended.

I. Rarities in Boston for Everyone to See

There is a need for collectors to understand and appreciate coins that they cannot afford. To comprehend the coins that a collector owns, he (or she) has to have some understanding, often subconsciously, of the values and traditions of coin collecting in the United States. Furthermore, to fully enjoy coin collecting, there is a need to learn about Great Rarities, famous coins in general, supergrade representatives of non-rare issues, and/or beautiful classic coins. These are central to the culture of coin collecting. Would it make sense for an art enthusiast to only view paintings that he (or she) can afford to buy?

Many (though not all) dealers in sophisticated material are delighted to show rarities to collectors who cannot afford to buy them. I realize that there are non-affluent collectors who feel too embarrassed to ask dealers to show expensive coins.

There were many great coins for all to see at this ANA Convention in Boston. The Smithsonian Institution had the incomparable 1849 Double Eagle and other rarities on display. Further, a collector allowed for the public display of the finest of two known 1861 Philadelphia Mint Double Eagles with the distinctive reverse (back) that was designed by Anthony Paquet. Additionally, the NGC had the Simpson collection Proof 1804 Eagle ($10 gold coin) on display, along with an 1804 Eagle ‘pattern’ that was struck in silver! (Please see my column of July 28.)

At the PCGS tables, there was a simply astounding display of the Peter Miller collection of Proof Half Cents and Proof Large Cents. I spent some time viewing Miller’s early Proof Large Cents. Though I am very tempted to write about them here, the characteristics of these are just too complicated to discuss in a weekly column. Someday, I will write a series on Proof Large Cents. All collectors, however, may see images of Miller’s copper coins in the PCGS registry, which is available online. Before actually purchasing such coins, however, I would strongly recommend consulting an expert in 19th century Proof coins, rather than an expert in die varieties of half cents and large cents, though I would not rule out the possibility that someone could be an expert in both areas.

The ‘Ship of Gold’ exhibit contained numerous historical items relating to the shipwreck of the S.S. Central America. The largest known gold bar from the era of the California gold rush was featured. Years ago, Adam Crum sold it for a reported price of “$8,000,000.” Other than the private sale of the ‘King of Siam’ Proof set in 2005, a numismatic item has not sold for more than $8,000,000.

To anyone who expressed an interest, the staff at Legacy Rare Coins was delighted to show Prooflike 1857-S Double Eagles ($20 gold coins) that were recovered from the wreck of the S.S. Central America. For more information about the shipwreck and these coins, please see my recent article on Prooflike 1857-S Double Eagles. I admit that I was very curious about these Prooflike San Francisco Mint Double Eagles, which I had never thoroughly examined before, and that Legacy Rare Coins supported my research in this area. (more…)

Over $22 Million in Coins Changes Hands in Boston Platinum Night Auction

The results are in from Platinum Night at the Boston Worlds’ Fair of Money! Nearly $22.4 million of high quality rare coins changed in our Platinum Night festivities, with strong bidding being seen throughout.

Overall, Heritage’s three Boston auctions are expected to realize over $40 million for thier happy consignors. (They may change this number; and actually wind up at $43-45mm total because they’re at $39.4mm now)

Leading the way in Platinum Night was the Eliasberg specimen of the 1851 Humbert $50 Lettered Edge slug, a coin that appeared on the catalog cover when that legendary collection was auctioned in 1996. Graded MS63, this standout coin, which sold for $40,700 in 1996, realized $546,250 in Platinum Night.

Two significant 20th century pattern gold rarities from The Jarosi Collection also lit up the podium in Boston. A Panama-Pacific Half Dollar struck in gold without a mintmark (3742), one of two known, sold for $460,000, with a unique 1907 Plain Edge Indian eagle with wire rim (3561) bringing in $359,375.

Additional highlights included:
* New England Shilling AU50 PCGS. CAC. From Dwight Manley’s NE Silver Collection. Sold for: $416,875.
* 1931 $20 MS67 PCGS. From The Dr. Brandon Smith Collection. Sold for: $322,000.
* 1796 25C MS65 PCGS. Ex: Norweb. Sold for: $322,000.
* 1797 50C AU58 PCGS. CAC. O-101a. From The Dr. and Mrs. Claude Davis Collection. Sold for: $253,000.
* 1652 Willow Tree Shilling VF35 PCGS. CAC. From Dwight Manley’s NE Silver Collection. Sold for: $230,000.
* 1797 $5 Small Eagle, 15 Stars MS60 NGC. Sold for: $218,500.
* 1817/4 50C VF20 PCGS. O-102a. From The Witham Collection of Capped Bust Half Dollars. Sold for: $184,000.
* 1836 Gobrecht Dollar struck in copper, Name Below Base, Judd-59 Restrike, PR64 Brown NGC. Sold for: $184,000.
* 1876 $20 PR65 Ultra Cameo NGC. From The Bob Simpson Collection. Sold for: $184,000.
* 1796 $2 1/2 No Stars AU58 PCGS. From The Dr. and Mrs. Claude Davis Collection. Sold for: $161,000.
* 1652 Oak Tree Shilling MS66 PCGS. CAC. From Dwight Manley’s NE Silver Collection. Sold for: $161,000.
* 1920-S $20 MS64+ PCGS Secure. CAC. From The Bob Simpson Collection. Sold for: $161,000.

More reviews and analysis of all the Heritage Auctions will be posted next week on CoinLink

Bowers and Merena’s Boston Coin Rarities Auction Exceeds $9.3 Million in Sales

Bowers and Merena Auctions realized an impressive $9.3 million at its Boston Rarities Sale on Aug. 7. The sale, conducted in two sessions with 1,750 lots, featured the rare condition census #4 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar, certified MS-64 by NGC, that sold for $1.2 million.

The prominent attraction at the Boston Rarities Sale was lot 1005, the historic and extremely rare Virgil Brand-F.C.C. Boyd-Cardinal Specimen of the 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar. Bidding opened at $750,000 and escalated due to intense competition between floor bidders then ended with the winning bid placed by a telephone bidder. The piece sold for a remarkable $1,207,500 – the highest price ever paid at auction for a 1794 Silver Dollar.

“We are extremely pleased about the results of the Boston Rarities Sale which saw spirited bidding in all areas of U.S. coinage,” said Greg Roberts, CEO of Bowers and Merena Auctions. “We had tremendous bidder interest with an outpour of praise about our catalog and offering, long lines that formed outside the lot viewing room, and most importantly, active participation in the auction room. The market as a whole is very ‘quality conscious’ these day, and Bowers and Merena was proud to offer an impressive array of coins that enticed fierce competition between bidders.”

Along with the 1794 Silver Dollar, the Boston Rarities Sale included several prominent collections including the Ostheimer Specimen of the 1870-S Seated Liberty Silver Dollar, Platinum Star PCGS Registry Set of Two-Cent Pieces and Fontaine Collection. The Ostheimer Specimen of the 1870-S Seated Liberty Silver Dollar, the fourth-finest of only nine coins in existence, realized $632,500. With record prices for many of the pieces, The Platinum Star PCGS Registry Set of Two-Cent Pieces featured coin was an 1873 Two-Cent Piece, closed 3, proof-67 red in a PCGS secure holder that realized $52,900.

Rare 19th century U.S. gold coinage also performed well at the Boston Rarities Sale. Many of these offerings were pedigreed to the Horseshoe Collection. Highlights of this collection include lot 1543 and lot 1828. Lot 1543, an elusive proof-only 1863 Quarter Eagle in NGC/CAC Proof-63 Cameo, changed hands for $54,625. Lot 1828, a very rare 1858-O Liberty Double Eagle with a unique MS-61 PL grade from NGC went to the winning bidder for $57,500.

The Fontaine Collection, which had opening bids totaling $82,000, brought more than three times that amount with final prices realized of more than $265,000. All 25 coins in this collection were PCGS certified in first-generation holders and CAC approved. The star of the collection was lot 1430, the Eliasberg Specimen of the 1850 Gold Dollar, sold for $54,625 in PCGS/CAC MS-67. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: 1794 Silver Dollar sells for $1,207,500, and More Auction News

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #13

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

Herein, I comment upon the prices realized for three rarities in the August 2010 B&M auction that I discussed in recent columns. Also, I mention that, in September, the Goldbergs will be offering a 1795 Reeded Edge cent in a PCGS “Genuine” holder, and it is not yet clear whether this is a new discovery a re-appearance of one of the six and a half that I have discussed in three writings over the past year, mostly recently in my column of June 23rd.

Yes, the Heritage Platinum Event is being held tonight and I have already covered, in many recent columns, coins that will be offered. Moreover, I recently wrote a two-part series on Dr. Steven Duckor’s Barber Halves. (Please click to read part 1 and part 2. As usual, clickable links are in blue.) Duckor’s set is the greatest set of business strike Barber Halves that has ever been assembled. It is the main attraction of tonight’s auction, though many other terrific coins are included. The collection of Dr. and Mrs. Claude Davis is particularly noteworthy, and was covered in my column of July 21st. Also, one-year type coins in the Heritage auction that belong to Davis and other consignors are analyzed in my column of July 7th.

I. Boyd-Cardinal 1794 Silver Dollar

It has already been widely reported that the Boyd-Cardinal 1794 sold, on Saturday, Aug. 7, for $1,207,500, at a hotel in Boston. Please click to see my discussion of this coin in my column of June 23rd. Since I wrote about the consignor, the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation, and its curator, Martin Logies, in my June 23rd column, and will do so again, my remarks today will be limited to the price, especially since I have not learned anything about the buyer.

Although the B&M auction went really well, and other coins brought very strong prices, I was not impressed by the result for this 1794 silver dollar. Firstly, in May, the finest known 1794 dollar sold for a reported price of “$7.85 million” and this point was very widely published in a large number of news forums throughout the nation and even in various parts of the world. Secondly, this very same 1794 dollar was auctioned by ANR for $1,150,000 on June 30, 2005. Although rare coin price levels are not near the peaks reached in the first seven or eight months of 2008, current rare coin prices, in most areas, are substantially higher than those that prevailed in the middle of 2005.

Third, in his cataloguing of this coin for Bowers & Merena, Jeff Ambio studiously reveals that the 1794 dollars that are of higher quality than this one are unlikely to be available in the near future. I am not sure that Ambio should have employed the term “impounded” to refer to each of these. The Stellar-Rogers 1794 is probably the second finest known 1794 dollar, and other coins from the Stellar Type Set have been sold recently. Please see my inaugural column. Even so, I agree with Jeff’s point that it is unlikely that the Stellar-Rogers 1794 dollar will be sold soon. Furthermore, Ambio is being fair in asserting that the Jimmy Hayes 1794, which is likely to be the third finest known, will probably not be sold for a very long time. Ambio’s remarks regarding the Oswald-Norweb 1794 were revealing to me. While I guessed that it is the 1794 dollar that is PCGS graded MS-64, I was not certain. I had no idea that the owner of the Oswald-Norweb 1794 almost sold it recently and then decided to keep it in his family for the foreseeable future.

Although it has been years since I saw the Oswald-Norweb 1794, I suggest that there is a good chance that it is of higher quality than the Boyd-Cardinal 1794. A leading collector, who refers to himself as “TradeDollarNut”, has publicly asserted that the Oswald-Norweb 1794 is a full grade-increment above the Boyd-Cardinal 1794. My hunch is that the difference is more on the level of a third or a half a grade. It is true that the Oswald-Norweb piece has mint caused imperfections on the obverse (front) that are quite noticeable and a little bothersome. I remember being very impressed with the originality of the Oswald-Norweb 1794. I hope that it remains as original as it was when I examined it. A high degree of originality is not a priority, however, for many silver dollar collectors, and I am certain that a large number of silver dollar collectors would prefer the Boyd-Cardinal 1794 to the Oswald-Norweb 1794, which might not be available for a long time, anyway. The Boyd-Cardinal 1794 reflects light in livelier manner, as I remember. (more…)

All-Time Greatest Collection of Barber Half Dollars to be Auctioned in Boston, Part 2

by Greg Reynolds

In part 1, I introduced Dr. Duckor’s set of Barber Halves, mentioned the last two coins that he added, focused on his 1904-S half, and discussed the building of his set of Barber halves. Here in part 2, the historical and cultural importance of this set will be analyzed, with references to other landmark sets of Barber Halves. In my last weekly column, on Wed. Aug 4th, I discussed two other halves in Dr. Duckor’s set, both of which were previously in the Thaine Price collection, his 1893-O and 1895-S. (As usual, clickable links are in blue.)

IV. Gem Sets of Business Strike Barbers

Only a small number of collectors have attempted to assemble a set of gem quality Barber Half Dollars. These were minted from 1892 to 1915. Barber Dimes and Quarters were also first minted in 1892, though these continued until 1916. In low grades, Good-04 to Fine-12, a set of Barber Halves is easy to complete. Without consideration of the 1892 Micro O variety, Numismedia.com suggests that a whole set, in Good-04 grade, could be assembled for around $2500.

Generally, many collectors choose Barber Halves over Barber Quarters because a set of Barber Halves is easier to complete. An 1896-S quarter may cost as much as $1000 in Good condition, while a 1901-S quarter could easily cost more than $5000. So, kids and other beginners are often discouraged from Barber Quarters because they are concerned that they will never be able to complete a set. In grades of MS-65 and higher, though, Barber Halves are much more expensive than the quarters overall.

In many instances, when a collector becomes wealthy, he (or she) returns to some of the series that he collected when he had far less money, often to coin types that he collected as a kid or as a relatively young adult. As sets of circulated Barber Halves have been completed by so many collectors, I am surprised that so few advanced, wealthy collectors have sought to complete sets of gem quality Barber Halves. Such a quest may be very exciting.

Yes, gem quality Barber Halves have been worth significant sums of money since the late 1980s. From then to the present, however, it has often been type coin collectors and speculators that have demanded gem quality Barber Halves. Over the last century, there have been very few collectors, who strongly focused upon completing sets of gem quality, business strike Barber coins.

A perusal of catalogues of auctions of especially great collections from the 1940s to the 1970s demonstrates that minimal attention was given to Barber Halves. It seems that, in decades past, collectors of half dollars felt an obligation to include Barber Halves because traditional rules stipulate that a collection of classic half dollars should include all the dates that the respective collector could afford. In the traditions of coin collecting in the U.S., completion is a value of a high order.

Only in rare instances was a collection of business strike Barber Halves a focus. In addition to being the foremost researcher of U.S. Patterns, Saul Teichman has engaged in a tremendous amount of general research regarding great collections. “One point to remember is that Barber Halves were no big deal in the 1960s and early 1970s,” Teichman remarks, “many of these were under $100 in gem grade back then.”

Several of those who built the greatest U.S. coin collections of all time did, in fact, very much appreciate Barber Halves. Their respective collections featured numerous gem quality Barber Halves. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Specimen 1853-O Eagle, Duckor-Price 1893-O and 1895-S Barber Half Dollars

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #12

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

After covering rarities in the upcoming Boston auctions for weeks, I saved the most awestriking collection for last. Dr. Steven Duckor’s collection of Barber Halves is the greatest of all time for this series. Please read the two part series that I wrote about the importance and depth of this set. Click here to see Part 1, which was published yesterday. Part 2 will be posted soon. As those articles deal with the collection as a whole, with discussion of only a few specific coins, I will mention some additional Barber Halves in the Duckor collection in my columns, including commentary on the 1893-O and 1895-S below.

Just recently, I noticed that one of the most interesting Liberty Head U.S. gold coins will be in the upcoming Stack’s auction, which will be held on Sunday, Aug. 8 at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. It is an 1853-O Eagle that is NGC certified as ‘Specimen-61.’

I. Specially Struck 1853-O $10 Gold Coin

This 1853-O Eagle (U.S. $10 gold coin) is incredibly interesting. I very much enjoyed examining it. I have never seen another coin that very much resembles the texture and other characteristics of this 1853-O Eagle. I wish to thank Adam Crum of Monaco Rare Coins for enabling me to spend considerable time viewing this coin in 2008. It is one of five or so 19th century gold coins that has received a Specimen designation from the NGC, and the only Liberty Head Eagle to be so designated.

As far as I know, the only other Branch Mint gold coin that has received a Specimen designation by the NGC is the 1856-O Double Eagle that has been certified as SP-63 by both the PCGS and the NGC, and has a CAC sticker of approval. It sold privately for $1.8 million in March, as I reported in my inaugural column. It is important to point out, though, that 1856-O Double Eagles are Great Rarities overall, and any 1856-O Double Eagle is worth more than $150,000.

There is a unique Proof 1844-O Eagle, though that coin merits a separate discussion. Earlier this year, I wrote an article about the Proof 1907-D Double Eagle.

The late researcher Breen strongly believed that this 1853-O Eagle is a ‘Branch Mint Proof.’ Breen is probably the foremost U.S. coin expert of all time. In my view, however, it is not a Proof, but is fairly termed a “Specimen” striking.

Breen declared that this 1853-O Eagle is a Proof in two different books, which appeared more than ten years apart. In 1977, is encyclopedia of Proof coins was published, and, in 1988, a giant book was published that covered Proofs and business strikes, and other strikings, of all U.S. coins plus many colonial and territorial issues. Many of the coins that are listed as Proofs in 1977 are not listed as such in 1988. Breen never saw a good number of the coins that he listed as Proofs in 1977. Later, he changed his view of the status of some of these when he actually saw them or when he heard more about them from reliable sources. Moreover, between 1977 and 1988, he may have changed his mind about the Proof status of some coins that he had seen before 1977. Breen certainly did not change his mind about this 1853-O Eagle. He was certain that it is a Proof.

It is true that most experts now have come to believe that some of the coins that Breen labeled as Proofs in 1977 are really just Prooflike. Coins that are clearly not Proofs yet have mirrored surfaces are often termed ‘Prooflike,’ especially if such coins are well struck and/or have extra-smooth fields.

Prooflike coins are usually early business strikes from new dies or later business strikes that were struck from worn dies after they were extensively polished. Even though this 1853-O Eagle clearly has reflective surfaces, Prooflike would not be a correct attribution for it. The dies employed to strike it were not just polished; they were prepared much differently from the ways in which dies were prepared for routine strikings.

This 1853-O is very sharply struck. Quite a few other New Orleans Mint Eagles of the period are sharply struck as well. The characteristics of the design elements of this 1853-O, however, go beyond being sharply struck. Many of the design elements are in relatively higher relief than the corresponding design elements on business strikes. (more…)

2,500 year-old Greek coin anchors ancient offerings in Heritage Boston ANA auction

Coin originated in Rhegion region – modern day Reggio, Italy – was struck between 415 and 387 BC; offered as part of Heritage ANA World Coin event

A nearly 2,500-year old silver coin of Rhegion, an ancient Greek city located in would become Italy, is expected to bring upwards of $25,000 at the Heritage Signature® Auction of Ancient and World Coins at the ANA World’s Fair of Money in Boston, Thursday, Aug. 12, starting at 6 p.m..

The silver tetradrachm – lot number 20007 – a coin about the diameter of a quarter but much thicker and heavier, depicts the stylized head of a lion on the obverse and a profile portrait of Apollo, Greek god of wisdom and enlightenment, on the reverse. It was struck between 415 and 387 BC, a time when the Greek cities of Italy and Sicily were competing with each other and with Carthage in North Africa for control of the western Mediterranean.

“Simply stated, this piece is an artistic masterwork,” said David S. Michaels, director of Ancient Coins for Heritage. “The artist who engraved the dies was a supremely talented individual who employed a host of sophisticated techniques in creating an image of unique power and beauty.”

The lion’s head on the obverse uses foreshortening and compression to create an illusion of extreme depth, while his piercing gaze is shifted slightly to the left, as though zeroing in on his prey. The image of Apollo on the reverse is also created with such lifelike distinction that, were he to walk into a room, he would be instantly recognizable from his image on the coin.

Rhegion, modern Reggio, Italy, also called Regium, is located on the “toe” of Italy, just across the Straits of Messina from the island of Sicily. The second-oldest city in Italy, it was founded by Greek colonists from two cities on mainland Greece, Chalkis and Messenia. According to legend, the Chalkidians set forth after a famine in their homeland. The citizens appealed to the god Apollo for help, who replied through an oracle that a large body of colonists should seek a fresh start in fertile southern Italy.

Rhegion (meaning “it breaks away”) prospered and built a temple dedicated to Apollo, who appears prominently on the city’s coinage. The Messenian component worshipped the demigod Herakles. The lion on the obverse likely refers to the Nemean Lion slain by Herakles as one of his Twelve Labors.

Rhegion grew rich and powerful by controlling trade through the Straits of Messina.

“During its heyday in the fifth century BC, Rhegion produced coins as beautiful as those of the great contemporary Greek cities of Sicily, including Syracuse, Akragas, and Messana,” said Michaels. “There seemed to be a competition among these cities to produce the most attractive coins in commerce. Now it’s one of the highlights of one of our best-ever offerings of ancient coins.” (more…)

The Most Important Coin I’ve Ever Handled

By Mark Borckardt

During 30 years as a full time professional numismatist, I have had the opportunity to examine and handle many of the most important rarities in the American series, including two Brasher doubloons, all five 1913 Liberty nickels, two 1894-S dimes, and four 1804 silver dollars. I have handled 80 of the 100 greatest U.S. coins according to the study published by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth.

Last week I had the pleasure of examining and researching a coin that I believe carries more numismatic and historical importance than any of those coins mentioned above, or any other coin that I have ever handled. It is the 1907 Wire Rim Indian eagle with a plain edge. Only two plain edge specimens were struck, and they were the first Indian eagles ever created, to fulfill the wish of a dying man.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens was near death in the middle of July 1907. Dies for the Indian eagles had already been created, but the collar containing 46 stars was not completed. For that reason, the two plain edge coins were minted, one was sent to President Theodore Roosevelt, and the other was sent to Saint-Gaudens. The sculptor passed away a couple weeks later on August 3.

Roger W. Burdette has traced the issue in his reference Renaissance of American Coinage 1905-1908 (Seneca Mill Press, LLC, 2006), and Michael F. Moran has also examined the issue in his 2008 reference Striking Change — The Great Collaboration of Theodore Roosevelt and Augustus Saint-Gaudens. In a July 28, 2008 Coin World article, P. Scott Rubin writes: “I received an important e-mail from Roger W. Burdette … that this coin was ‘…one of two plain edge pattern pieces struck in July 1907.’ Just as important, he informed me that one of the specimens went to Secretary of the Treasury Cortelyou and the other went to Augustus Saint-Gaudens… I learned that this was the only coin similar to those issued to the public designed by Saint-Gaudens that the artist saw before his death.” While we are unable to say with certainty that the present piece was the coin sent to Saint-Gaudens, it almost certainly is. The coin that went to Cortelyou was forwarded to President Roosevelt who returned it to the Mint. In all likelihood, the Cortelyou-Roosevelt coin was melted, as it does not appear among coins at the Smithsonian Institution.

It is thought that President Roosevelt returned the coin he received, and it is also believed that the coin sent to Saint-Gaudens was retained by the artist. It is my belief that the coin I handled is the exact coin that Saint-Gaudens received. Since all other Indian eagles and all double eagles of his design were minted after his death, this single coin seems to be the only coin of his own design that Saint-Gaudens ever saw in person.

This plain edge 1907 Wire Rim Indian eagle will be offered for sale as lot 3561 in the Platinum Night session of Heritage’s 2010 ANA auction in Boston. The Platinum Night session is scheduled for 6:00 PM EST on Wednesday, August 11. I hope to see many of you there, and hope that those unable to attend will be watching this historic offering on HA.com/live.

Champion Hong Kong Auction to Feature Tibet’s First Gold Coin

Tibet’s first gold coin has a very unique trait: it weighs 6.53g. While this legendary gold coin shares the same weight as the Chinese Kuping 1 Mace, it is not a common weight for Tibet. An absolute rarity, only six silver examples from the same dies have been found and, as of today, there are no known Tibetan gold coins struck to the same standard. For this reason, many believe it was struck for presentation purposes.

On August 23 this extremely rare gold coin, rated AU with an estimated price range US $30,000 – 60,000, will be one the Champion Auction 11 headliners at the Hyatt Regency Hotel Ballroom I, 18 Hanoi Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong.

It is well known that during the 17-18 centuries, no coins were struck in Tibet, but Nepalese coins circulated widely in the urban areas. On several occasions, the Tibetan authorities, rather than strike silver coins of their own, sent bullion to Nepal and received Nepalese coins in exchange. The exchange was made on a weight for weight basis, but as the Nepalese coins were only between 50% and 67% fine, the Nepalese were able to make significant profit.

In about 1750AD, the situation changed when Prithvi Narayan, the king of Gorkha, started to besiege the Kathmandu Valley. He closed the pages, and stopped any trading between the Newar kingdoms of the Valley and the outside world, including Tibet. As a result, the supply of coins in Tibet stagnated, but the demand did not stop increasing. Seeking to stem a potential economic crisis, the Tibetan authorities, for the first time, started striking their own coins.

Chinese reports from the time claim that the Demo Regent issued the first Tibetan struck coins in 1763 or 1764, and again in 1785 AD when the Dailai Lama issued coins, before a more regular coinage began in 1791 AD. It had been widely held that all Tibetan coins from this period were silver, in varying degrees of fineness. However, we now have tangible proof of a rare gold coin struck from uncommon dies.

The diameter of the gold coin is measured at 28mm with the previously noted weight of 6.53g, A. Lissanevitsch Collection. The obverse legend, “Sri Mangalam”, means auspicious, lucky or fortunate in Sanskrit and may have a similar significance to the Eight Lucky Signs (Asta Mangalam in Sanskrit) which appear on so many later Tibetan coin. The legends were designed four compartments arranged in a cross. The reverse legend, “dGa-ldan phyod-las rnam-par rgyal-ba” is Sanskrit for completely victorious in all directions, designed with eight petals around a wheel. The dGa-ldan palace, located in the Drepung monastery near Lhasa, was the traditional residence of the Dalai Lama. The mention of “dGa-ldan” leads many to believe that this coin was struck by the 8th Dalai Lama around 1785. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Proof 1804 Eagle, Kellogg $50 gold coin, Half Unions, and an 1854-S Quarter Eagle

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, markets, and the collecting community #11

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

After discussing the Proof 1804 Eagle that has repeatedly sold privately for startling sums, I will discuss a few famous rarities that will be offered in Boston. Indeed, I have discussed other coins in these auctions in a few past columns. There are, though, a startling array of rarities in the upcoming auctions, and I have not yet covered the offerings of a “Proof-60” Kellogg $50 gold coin, two gold-plated Half Unions, and the worst known (though still attractive) 1854-S Quarter Eagle.

I. Proof 1804 $10 Gold Coin

As I have been writing extensively about famous rarities for years, I could hardly resist writing about the Proof 1804 Eagle ($10 gold coin) that was just sold by Laura Sperber to Bob Simpson, who is the leading collector of patterns and has landmark collections in other areas as well. Although the sale price has not been disclosed, it may be fair to assume that the price is between $2.5 million and $7.5 million.

There probably exist four Proof 1804 Eagles, and this one is NGC certified ‘Proof-65 Ultra Cameo.’ Further, this coin has been approved by the CAC. John Albanese, the founder of the CAC, and earlier of the NGC, was involved in enabling Simpson to acquire this coin. In 2007, a coin firm in upstate New York arranged for one of their clients to sell this coin to another one of their clients, for a reported price of “$5 million.” Coincidentally, the owner of this firm is also named Albanese, though he is not related to John.

This same upstate New York Albanese coin firm sold this same exact Proof 1804 Eagle earlier, in 2005, for a price that they reported to be “$2,274,000.” A famous collector, who refers to himself as “TradeDollarNut,” has publicly stated that he was offered this same coin, in 2001, for “$587,500.”

The value of many gold rarities has multiplied since 2001; a five to ten times increase in value is not unprecedented. Consider, as examples, the post-2005 values of many gold rarities that were included in the auctions, in 1999 and 2000, of the Harry Bass collection. It is not unusual for a Bass rarity to be worth multiples now of the price it then realized.

It is also true that this same 1804 Eagle was NGC certified ‘Proof-64 Cameo’ in 2001, or earlier, and remained so certified in 2003 and maybe later than 2003. At some point, it was PCGS graded “Proof-64.” Certainly by 2007, the NGC upgraded it to “Proof-65” with an “Ultra Cameo” designation.

How rare are Proof 1804 Eagles? It seems that there exist four, though it has been argued that there are only three. The Bass-Dannreuther book (Whitman, 2006) states “3 known,” but also indicates that the issue is “R-7+,” which means an estimate of four to six in existence. The “3” may have been a typographical error. The tenth edition of the Judd book (Whitman, 2009), which is the leading text on patterns and related pieces, lists this issue as Rarity-“8,” which means two or three or thought to exist. This same section, however, lists an auction result for a Proof 1804 Eagle that is incorrect. Oddly, the Judd book values a gold Proof 1804 Eagle at “$1,500,000.”

If there are just three, it would have impossible, in 2009 or 2010, for someone to purchase one for $1,500,000. The Eliasberg-Bass Proof 1804 Eagle is impounded in the Harry Bass Core Collection, for at least a long time, maybe forever. The ‘King of Siam’ 1804 Eagle remains in the ‘King of Siam’ Set, as far as I know. If the current owner were to dismantle the set, then the current owner would ask millions for the ‘King of Siam’ Proof 1804 Eagle.

As I just became aware of Legend’s sale of a Proof 1804 Eagle on Tuesday morning, I have not had time to research this issue before this column was posted. I am almost certain, however, that the Baldenhofer Proof 1804 Eagle exists and is different from the Eliasberg-Bass coin.
(more…)

Unique Plain Edge 1907 $10 pattern – believed the only Saint-Gaudens coin actually seen by the artist – at Boston ANA auction

Historic pattern struck just before the artist’s death for his approval

The only known Plain Edge 1907 ten dollar coin with Wire Rim, designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens – and likely the only example of his coinage that he ever saw – is among the most historically important pieces in Heritage’s upcoming U.S. Coin auction. It will be offered on Aug. 11, as part of the Official Auction of the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money in Boston, MA.

“At the turn of the 20th century, Augustus Saint-Gaudens was one of America’s most prominent artists,” said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage. “In 1905, during Theodore Roosevelt’s second term, Roosevelt convinced Saint-Gaudens to redesign the two largest American gold coins: the ten dollar, or eagle, and the twenty dollar, or double eagle. The results made Saint-Gaudens one of the most famous American coinage artists and secured his lasting fame.”

The coinage designs would be the artist’s final masterpieces. In July 1907, when Saint-Gaudens was going through the last stage of his terminal cancer, two early examples of the ten dollar coin were struck. The edges of these two coins were plain; later Wire Rim 1907 ten dollar coins have an edge design of 46 stars.

“The two Plain Edge coins were patterns, made to see how the coins looked,” said Rohan. “They were the coinage equivalent of an artist’s proof. After the two Plain Edge coins were struck at the Philadelphia Mint, they were split up.”

One was sent to Treasury Secretary George B. Cortelyou, who forwarded it to the President, while the other was sent to Saint-Gaudens at his studio in New Hampshire. This was the only time Saint-Gaudens would see his work in coin form. He died on August 3, 1907, before further work could be done on either denomination.

Archived letters show that the coin Roosevelt saw was eventually sent back to the Mint, while the Saint-Gaudens coin disappears from the record. This coin’s history is largely unknown, and it is impossible to say with certainty whether it was sent to Roosevelt or Saint-Gaudens, but it is a coin of tremendous importance regardless of the answer. Either it was sent to President Roosevelt, whose dedication to coinage redesign had been vital to the whole project; or it went to Saint-Gaudens, the artist who had spent more than two years bringing the President’s ambition to life. (more…)

1796 Bust Quarter from the Norweb Collection in Heritage Coin Auction

In his 1796 Mint report, dated November 29, Elias Boudinot discussed some of the problems that faced the fledgling Mint in Philadelphia: “He has seen, with regret, an opinion generally prevailing, that the establishment is unnecessarily expensive, and less productive than was rationally expected by its advocates and friends.” Among the problems was free coinage, meaning that the government paid the cost of refining silver and gold deposits, including the cost of copper that was necessary for alloy purposes. Boudinot continued: “not only the original cost of the works, and the salaries of the stated officers, fall on the public, but also the whole amount of the workmanship, with the alloy, wastage, and contingent losses.”

During the period from July 18, 1794 to November 12, 1796, a total of 39 deposits of silver were brought to the Mint. Among those were five deposits in August 1794 that were the exact fineness of standard silver (89.24% pure). Only seven of the remaining 34 deposits were lower-purity than standard silver, but those seven deposits totaled 98,556 gross ounces of silver, or nearly 25% of all the silver deposited during that 29-month period. The result was a necessity for the Mint to supply more than 2,100 pounds of copper to bring the silver deposits up to standard. At the prevailing rates, the cost of that copper alone was approximately $560. Copper collectors will be quick to point out that the cost of the alloy was equal to a little over 70,000 additional large cents that could have been minted.

The 5,894 quarter dollars minted in the second quarter of 1796 were included among the silver coins minted at the time. Attempts to correlate silver deposit data from the 1796 Mint Report to coinage delivery records have failed, but research continues. Comparing those records does indicate an approximate delay of three months, suggesting that the silver contained in the coins was deposited around the first of the year.

The 1796 quarters were the first of their kind, featuring the Draped Bust obverse modeled from the work of Gilbert Stuart, and the Small Eagle reverse that would soon be replaced with a Heraldic Eagle design. These are one-year type coins, the first quarter dollars ever minted, and a low-mintage issue. Total production included the 5,894 coins struck in 1796, and 252 additional pieces coined in February 1797. Modern research into die states shows that the Browning-2 quarters, with the High 6 date position, were the first coined, adding to the importance of this coin.

More than a dozen Gem Mint State 1796 quarters still exist, although few of them have the strike of this example. On nearly all known examples, the eagle’s head and neck are flat and indistinct, with the leaves above showing no detail. Although minor adjustment marks affect the strike on the present coin, the head still shows nearly full design definition. Breen claimed in his Proof Encyclopedia that “The weakness at eagle’s head is characteristic of the design and is not to be attributed to imperfect striking.” The mere existence of sharp heads on pieces such as the Norweb specimen clearly show that Breen was incorrect. However, the vast majority of pieces have poorly defined head and neck details on the reverse. Finding an example with full details at that location is a rare numismatic event.

This boldly defined Gem is one of the finest existing 1796 quarters. Steel, russet, and sea-green toning enhances the underlying deep golden appearance. The fields are fully and obviously prooflike. Besides the bold definition on the head, the wing feathers are sharp, and the rock below the eagle has full detail. The border dentils, especially on the obverse, are bold and wide, providing a wonderful frame for the design elements. An early die state example, the Norweb Gem is struck from perfect dies, adding credence to the idea that it is a special presentation strike. A few light adjustment marks on the reverse are visible, but they hardly affect the incredible beauty of this piece. The cataloger for the Norweb Collection suggested that this is a special piece: “This is quite possibly a presentation coin, of the type which years ago used to be called Proof, struck, as Walter Breen suggests, at the beginning of coinage of the denomination on April 9, 1796.” The combined attributes of this incredible coin from the Norweb Collection ensure that it will delight collectors for generations to come. (more…)