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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…)