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All Posts Tagged With: "Proof Coins"

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The Fun Has Begun

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

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

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

I. B&M Pre-FUN Auction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early U.S. coins, classic proofs headline Houston Auction

Early U.S. coinage and classic proofs, including one of the finest known 1895 Morgan dollars, are the twin strengths of the Heritage Auction Galleries December 2010 U.S. Coin Auction, to be held in conjunction with the Money Show of the Southwest in Houston, TX. Floor sessions are Dec. 2-3.

With Featured Collections such as The W. Philip Keller Collection of U.S. Colonials and The Eagle Harbor Collection, Part Two lined up, we knew this auction was going to be heavy on early U.S. coinage. The many great proof coins we’re going to offer were more of a surprise, though definitely a welcome one.

Perhaps the most surprising lot of them all is an 1895 Morgan dollar graded PR68 Ultra Cameo by NGC. This example from what is arguably the most famous Morgan dollar issue combines great condition with immense popular demand. It is estimated at $90,000+.

For many years, collectors believed that there were business strike 1895 Morgan dollars out there waiting to be discovered, and in the meantime, they collected proof examples to fill the gap. Today, there is growing acceptance that the business strikes may never be found, but this has hardly dampened enthusiasm for the proofs.

Just 880 proof Morgan dollars were struck in 1895 for inclusion in the year’s silver proof sets. Perhaps half that number survive today, but only a handful of those coins are in a condition approaching the PR68 Ultra Cameo level.


On the early coinage side, the most prestigious pedigree belongs to a 1793 Wreath cent with Vine and Bars edge, S-5, B-6, graded MS61 Brown by PCGS. It is estimated at $50,000+.

This coin has been well-recognized and important to collectors for more than a century. It was first highlighted in the auction catalog for the Dr. Charles Clay Collection, sold all the way back in 1871. After that, it passed through a series of famous hands, including W. Eliot Woodward, Lorin G. Parmelee, and Wayte Raymond. We expect another name with plenty of future appeal to add this prestigious and carefully preserved coin to his or her collection. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Stack’s auction of the W. L. Carson Collection of Proof Coins

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins and coin markets #26

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

The current topic is the W. L. Carson collection, which features Proof U.S. coins. It was auctioned by Stack’s in Baltimore last week. B&M also conducted a major auction in Baltimore, which included the Malibu Collection. Next week, I will discuss the Malibu Collection. This ‘Malibu’ collector formed one of the all-time best collections of Standing Liberty Quarters. He also had an excellent run of Liberty Seated Halves, as well as some important Liberty Seated silver dollars.

Some may wonder why I am focusing on collections rather than on the most expensive coins in these two auctions. I write about a wide variety of coins, not just expensive ones. For discussions of modestly priced coins, please see some of my recent columns: Advice for Beginning Collectors, The 1933/34 dividing line and Collecting Modern Coins.

Importantly, the most expensive coins in an auction are sometimes consigned by dealers or non-collecting speculators. In the grand scheme of the history of coin collecting, consignments from collectors (or the beneficiaries of deceased collectors) have much more significance than dealer-consignments. Moreover, collector-consignments tend to realize higher prices at auction, especially in instances where the coins consigned have been ‘off the market’ for seven years or more, and thus constitute ‘fresh material.’ Bidders become more enthusiastic about coins in very good collections than about coins that are consigned by dealers or entirely unknown parties. Noteworthy collections are central to the culture of coin collecting.

I. W. L. Carson Collection

Most (or all) of the coins in the W. L Carson collection have been ‘off the market’ for decades. This collection contained more than six hundred coins, including, but not limited to, early copper, circulated key-date Lincolns, and choice vintage commemoratives. The core of the collection, however, is Carson’s Proof sets dating from 1856 to 1915.

As best as I can tell, all of the pre-1916 Proofs in the Carson collection are PCGS certified. Most are PCGS graded and a large number have stickers of approval from the CAC, which approves or rejects coins that have already been graded by the PCGS or the NGC.

I hypothesize that Carson aimed to assemble Proof sets, from 1856 onwards, in copper, nickel and silver. Three of his sets included gold, 1888, 1906 and 1913.

Unfortunately, Carson’s level of knowledge was not great, at least not when he started buying Proof coins, and he bought some problematic coins, including non-Proofs that were probably represented to him as Proofs. I further hypothesize that he learned a good deal, received advice from an expert advisor and/or purchased many coins from honest, knowledgeable dealers, as he did obtain a large number of choice or gem Proof coins dating from the 1860s to 1915. Though Carson also had Proof sets dating from 1936 to 1942, and from 1950 to 1964, these are beside my discussion of the core of his collection. At the center of the core is a complete 1888 Proof Set.

II. 1888 Proof Set

Yes, W. L. Carson had a complete 1888 Proof Set, with copper, nickel, silver and gold coins. The Indian Cent is in a PCGS Genuine Holder. Carson probably did not know that it had problems when he acquired it. After all, other coins in the set are choice. (Coins that grade 63 or higher are termed ‘Choice.’ Coins that grade 65 or higher are gems.) (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: 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…)

Original 1867 Rays Gem Cameo Proof Shield Nickel to be offered at Heritage’s Summer FUN Coin Auction

The 1867 Rays Shield nickel business strikes are conditionally rare coins in the highest Mint State grades, but they are generally obtainable for a price. The 1867 Rays Shield nickel proof coins, however, are celebrated rarities, well-known to series specialists and advanced numismatists.

John Dannreuther, director of research at PCGS, has delved extensively into the die diagnostics and Mint history surrounding the 1867 With Rays and No Rays proof issues–and reissues. Much of what follows is from the summation in the Bowers Shield and Liberty Head nickels Guide Book and from Dannreuther’s PCGS article, published in the June 2007 PCGS Rare Coin Market Report and reprinted on www.shieldnickels.net, titled “Third Obverse Die Identified for Proof 1867 Rays Nickel.”

Three Different Obverse Dies Used

Dannreuther has established that three different obverse dies were used for the 1867 Rays proofs, which were restruck at various times, all paired with a single reverse die that was lapped on each reuse. The first obverse used, Dannreuther-1, shows the characteristics below:

–The left base of the 1 in the date is over the right side of a dentil.

Dannreuther writes concerning the first use of this obverse that it likely was used to produce 10 to 15 1867 With Rays proofs earlier than previously believed. Earlier research by R.W. Julian had indicated that, when the order was given on January 21, 1867, to suspend coinage of the With Rays design, chief coiner Archibald Louden Snowden had so far supposedly “refused” to make any 1867 With Rays proofs for sets. However, Dannreuther believes that is likely untrue since, based on the die emission sequence and die state information he has established, Dannreuther-1 is the earliest known stage of this obverse die. Dannreuther writes:

“Most likely, the 25 Proofs reported delivered on February 5, 1867 are the ones with the Pattern reverse, as determined by specialist Douglas Kurz. These No Rays Pattern reverse Proofs have a very slightly different (but later) stage of State a, indicating that some With Rays proofs were probably struck in January or early February right before the No Rays Proofs with the Judd-507 Pattern reverse.”

The appearance of “hollow” leaves, a lump or dot at the lower-left forepart of the fletchings, the absence of visible recutting on the 7, etc. would indicate later die states and presumably coincide with a lesser degree of the marked field-device contrast also evident on this coin.
(more…)

Modern Coins – No-S Proof Coin Set to be offered by Heritage at CSNS


The period 1965 to 1967 was an interesting time in US numismatic history. The price of silver had risen to the point where it made no sense to make higher denomination coins out of silver. In addition, there was a widely reported coin shortage, despite record production levels.

As the mint scrambled to adjust, a number of emergency measures were taken. Production of 1964-dated coinage continued well into 1965 until the new clad planchets were ready. Then, to make sure that there was enough of the new coinage to go around, the mint decided both to cease production of proof coinage and to do away with mintmarks. The only concession of any kind made to coin collectors were the Special Mint Sets of 1965-67, not true proof coins, but high quality circulation strike coins similar in some ways to the satin finish coins in mint sets today.

In 1968, the mint resumed the use of mintmarks and the production of proof coinage, but with a new twist. Proof coins, like the prior Special Mint Set coins, were now made in San Francisco, and the S mintmark reappeared after a 12 year hiatus. Initially, the San Francisco Mint also manufactured some circulation strike cents and nickels, but their dimes, quarters, and halves were strictly proofs. The mint would eventually also make Susan B. Anthony dollars for circulation, as well as silver-clad Ike dollars and bicentennial coinage for collectors.

During the first year of S-mint proof set production, an unexpected hitch occurred. In a few sets full of S-mint coins, the dimes had no trace of a mintmark! This came about because at that time all coinage dies were prepared with no mintmark, which would be added only upon arrival at the branch mint. On one die, that didn’t happen, and an instant rarity was made.

Walter Breen opined that about six examples of the 1968 no S dime were known. If that is true, then Heritage has sold each of these coins an average of at least three times apiece. Nevertheless, the 1968 no S dime is clearly an extremely rare coin, likely R.6 or low R.7, surpassed in rarity among 20th century dimes by only one coin.

Heritage’s upcoming 2010 April-May Milwaukee, WI CSNS US Coin Auction includes a rather unique proof set: one each of the five collectible missing mintmark proof coins. Along with the 1968 no S dime, the set includes the 1970 no S dime, the 1971 no S nickel, the 1983 no S dime, and the 1990 no S cent. While none of these coins is as rare as the 1968 S-less dime, each is highly desirable, and a key to its respective proof series. All of the coins in the set grade Proof-68 or 69, and show the eye appeal expected of latter-day US Mint products.

Incidentally, the sole 20th century dime that is rarer than the 1968 no S proof dime is also an S-less proof. A mere two examples are known of the 1975 no S dime, and neither Heritage nor the major grading services has ever handled one!