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Coin Rarities & Related Topics: 1794 Silver Dollar, 1795 Reeded Edge Large Cent, and selected coins in the Summer FUN Auction

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #6

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

Herein, I discuss an assortment of rarities ‘in the news,’ the NGC graded “MS-64” 1794 dollar, a newly re-emergent 1795 Reeded Edge Cent, an 1882 $20 gold coin, 1865 $2½ coins, and 1865 quarters. The 1795 Reeded Edge Cent is certainly much rarer than most collectors realize and many have forgotten that the finest known Holmes-Naftzger 1795 Reeded Edge set an auction record for a copper coin or pattern, and is the only copper to sell for more than $1 million at auction. Another representative of this issue was just encapsulated by the NGC.

Today’s primary item is the ‘news’ that the Boyd-Cardinal 1794 dollar has been consigned to the B&M pre-ANA Boston auction. Additionally, I will discuss a few coins that will be sold as part of an upcoming Heritage auction, which will be held in conjunction with the Summer FUN Convention in Orlando, July 8th to 10th. Though it would make far more sense to hold it in Fort Lauderdale or in West Palm Beach, where it has been since its inception in 2007, I expect the Summer FUN Convention to be a success.

My comments about a handful of coins are not meant to constitute an analysis of this sizeable Heritage auction, which includes desirable U.S. coins of almost all types. The offerings are particularly strong in so-called small denomination coins, Indian Cents, Lincoln Cents, Two Cent pieces, Three Cent Silvers, Three Cent Nickels, and Five Cent Nickels. Further, this auction contains a large number of early 20th century gold commemoratives. Additionally, there are numerous better-date gold coins of several denominations. Also, the Kallenberg collection of Proof Washington Quarters is the first “All-time Finest” in the PCGS registry in the category of a “Basic Set” that covers Proofs from 1936 to the present.

II. Boyd-Cardinal 1794 Silver Dollar

I have been informed by Martin Logies that the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation has consigned the Boyd-Cardinal 1794 dollar to the B&M August auction. This coin is graded “MS-64” by the NGC. When it was last auctioned, on June 30, 2005, it was so graded. This coin is widely regarded as the fourth or fifth finest 1794 silver dollar.

Logies is the director of the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation. Recently, in May, he was prominent ‘in the news’ when this foundation acquired the finest known 1794 dollar from Steve Contursi for a reported price of “$7,850,000”! The Carter-Contursi-Cardinal 1794 is certified as Specimen-66 by the PCGS. It was specially prepared.

The second finest known 1794 dollar may be the Lelan Rogers coin, which has been in the ‘Stellar’ collection for years. (Click here to read, in my first weekly column, about coins that recently departed from the Stellar collection.) The Rogers-Stellar 1794 has been graded MS -66 by both the PCGS and the NGC, as has the Jimmy Hayes 1794, which is in a private collection in the Southwest.

The Norweb 1794 is usually rated as being slightly inferior to the Boyd 1794, though this is debatable. In the mid-1990s, when the Boyd 1794 was PCGS graded MS-63, the Norweb 1794 was already PCGS graded MS-62. Later, the PCGS upgraded the Norweb piece to MS-63. The French family 1794 is currently PCGS graded MS-62, according to Logies. It was previously graded MS-61 by both the PCGS and the NGC. The Murdoch-Earle-Bass 1794 is NGC graded MS-62, and I understand how pictures might suggest that it is if higher quality than the French coin. An inspection of the coins themselves, though, demonstrates that the French piece is more likely to be uncirculated.

F.C.C. Boyd was one of the most famous collectors of the first half of the 20th century and he is one of the most accomplished coin collectors of all time. Most (though not nearly all) of Boyd’s coins were auctioned by the Numismatic Gallery (Kosoff & Kreisberg) in 1945 and 1946 under the awkward, though somewhat honest, title, “The World’s Greatest Collection.”

I examined the Boyd 1794 dollar. It is more than attractive. It has a wonderful strike for a 1794 dollar. Further, the Boyd 1794 has very few contact marks. Additionally, it exhibits neat cartwheel luster. While it has been lightly dipped and lightly cleaned, the overall look of the coin is appealing.

As to why the Boyd 1794 is being sold, Logies explains that, although “both” the Carter-Contursi and Boyd “coins are outstanding, the foundation is not in the position to accumulate multiple 1794 dollars. The foundation can redeploy capital more productively from the standpoint of the Cardinal Educational Foundation’s goals and missions.”

In addition to the Boyd 1794 dollar, this foundation consigned a type set of 1794 dated coins. “The other [consigned] 1794 coins were elements of an early type set, in copper, silver and gold, that was completed in 2007. That collection has run its course. A type set is not one of the foundation’s current objectives,” Logies makes clear.

The type set of five 1794 dated coins that the foundation consigned to the B&M Boston auction is NGC graded. Previously, all five were in one NGC holder. (See the photo.) As particular 1794 coins will appeal to different bidders, Logies requested that the NGC reholder each in standard one-coin NGC holders.

The Cardinal 1794 half dollar is graded MS-62 and the half dime is graded MS-67! Both the cent and the half cent are graded MS-65. According to Logies, the half cent was formerly in the collection of George Earle, which was auctioned in 1912. I (this writer) regard the Earle collection as one of the ten best of all time, for U.S. coins, maybe even one of the top five!

The Cardinal Educational Foundation owned this same 1794 dollar in an earlier era. When the foundation’s collection of bust dollars was auctioned by ANR in 2005, this coin realized $1,150,000. Jim Halperin then competed for it with a last bid of over one million. A Southern California dealer was the successful bidder, and he told me that he was representing someone who was buying type coins. According to Logies, later, after the firm of “Catherine Bullowa auctioned a 1795 [not 1794] silver dollar for more than a million dollars, the owner of the Boyd 1794 was told that he could make a profit by selling” it and he agreed to do so. “The foundation acquired it [again] at the end of 2006,” Logies reports. It will be interesting to see how these epic 1794 dated coins fare on the auction block.

III. 1795 Reeded Edge Cent

The NGC recently authenticated and encapsulated a 1795 Reeded Edge cent that has not been publicly seen, as far as I know, since it was offered at auction in 1977. It has problems that are too serious for it to merit a numerical grade. It is said to have the level of detail of a “Fine” grade coin and to suffer from “corrosion.”

Large cent specialists determined, a long time ago, that it has a net grade of Good-05 or so, in accordance with the grading criteria employed by leading collectors and dealers of die varieties of large cents. To them, the 1795 Reeded Edge issue is known as the Sheldon-79 die variety.

Among U.S. coins that are typically listed, logically or illogically, in standard reference guides as distinct dates, the 1795 Reeded Edge cent is one of the rarest of all. A variety that is collected ‘as if’ it is a distinct, separate date is thought of as being far more than just a die variety. Date-collectors, and die variety collectors, demand it.

The finest known 1795 Reeded Edge was auctioned by the Goldbergs in Sept. 2009 for a startling $1,265,000. Greg Hannigan was the successful bidder. He was acting on behalf of a collector. (Please click here to see my preview article on Dan Holmes collection of early date large cents.) This result is an auction record for a copper coin (or copper pattern) of any kind.

The known ½ of a 1795 Reeded Edge cent, in the McCawley tally that I cited last year, is a brockage that lacks a reverse (back). In Sept. 2009, I stated that this reported brockage had not been seen in decades and that I did not know anyone who has seen it. After publication of that article, Dan Holmes communicated to me that he has seen this brockage. Moreover, Denis Loring told me that he formerly owned it. Loring is one of the most experienced, sophisticated and accomplished collectors of large cents. Loring is also a former owner of the 1795 Reeded Edge that the NGC encapsulated within the last week or so.

Loring “sold [his] entire collection of early cent varieties,” which was “complete” in terms of Sheldon numbers, to a fellow collector, Bob. S., “in May of 1974. The S-79 [1795 Reeded Edge] was part of the transaction” Loring reveals. Later in the same year, Loring acquired the brockage, which has been holed. “In November of 1974,” Loring traded with Alan B., “a VG-08 Jefferson Head S-80 [cent] and a VF-20 1803” cent of the rare S-264 variety “for the holed brockage.” Curiously, Loring and Alan B. “reversed the trade in January of 1975.”

Also, in 2009, a large cent that I am told grades Poor-01, at most, surfaced and it is said to be another 1795 Reeded Edge cent. I have never seen it. Loring declares that it is “definitely authentic”!

I was suspicious that this supposed new discovery emerged during the same year that the finest known Naftzger-Holmes 1795 Reeded Edge was receiving publicity. Consider that the Sept. 2009 Holmes early date large cent auction was announced in 2008. Loring believes, however, that “the proximity [in time] to the Holmes [sale] is sheer coincidence.” In addition, Bob Grellman implies, in the Holmes early date catalogue, that Grellman believes that this new discovery is genuine. It thus seems that there are 6½ 1795 Reeded Edge (S-79) cents known to exist. Reports of others are not convincing.

In Nov. 2008, B&M auctioned a PCGS graded Good-04 1795 Reeded Edge for $402,500. I graded it as AG-03. It is important, though, that it does not have any serious problems and is thus superior, in important ways, to most of the others.

Jeff Ambio, the B&M cataloguer, suggests that the reeding may be indicative of the change in the weight standard for large cents, which were lightened in 1796 from 208 grains to 168 grains. The difference is quite a loss of weight. Ambio draws an analogy to the use of arrows on Liberty Seated coins in 1853, which certainly indicated a substantial reduction in weight.

Even though this theory is brilliant, I disagree. According to Breen and others, three other 1795 Liberty Cap cent varieties were struck on the new, lighter planchets (prepared blanks) and these were not reeded. If there were a need to indicate the weight change on large cents, something could have been punched into the dies. Edge reeding was not then practical and may have confused people.

My belief is that 1795 Reeded Edge cents are experimental pieces, not coins. Indeed, this issue is listed in both major references on patterns, die trials and experimental pieces. For reasons that may never be known, U.S. Mint officials experimented with reeding on large cents and then abandoned the idea.

IV. 1882 Double Eagle

In July, Heritage will auction a business strike 1882 Double Eagle ($20 gold coin). It is PCGS graded AU-53. The total of business strikes and Proofs of 1882 Double Eagles is certainly less than fifty and possibly in the neighborhood of thirty. It is an extremely rare coin and is not often publicly recognized as such. Indeed, there are likely to be less than twenty-two business strikes in existence.

I believe that many of the auction sales are repeat appearances of some of the same 1882 Double Eagles. From the late 1980s until 2003 or so, there was not that much interest in circulated rare-date gold coins; many of the same rarities were repeatedly consigned to auctions. From 2003 until the middle of 2008, there was intense demand for gold rarities and prices increased considerably along the way. It is true that standard price guides do value this issue highly. In the Numismedia price guide, the 1882 is the most valuable Type 3 business strike Double Eagle in any grade! Among Type 2 (1866-1876) business strike Double Eagles, only the 1870-CC is more valuable than the 1882. (Click here to see my article on 1870-CC Double Eagles.)

Recently, in Feb. 2010, Heritage sold a PCGS graded EF-45 1882 for $57,500, and at the January 2007 FUN auction event, a PCGS graded MS-60 1882 $20 gold coin realized $138,000. Perhaps an auction result that is more directly related to this PCGS graded AU-53 Double Eagle is the $77,625 that a PCGS graded AU-50 1882 Double Eagle realized in July 2006. Considering the current popularity of Double Eagles and the extreme rarity of this date, market values for 1882s seem reasonable, from a logical perspective.

V. 1865 $2½ Gold Coin

Another Philadelphia Mint 19th century gold coin that is extremely rare and not talked about very much is the 1865 Quarter Eagle ($2½ gold coin). Indeed, it is hardly discussed at all. In July, Heritage will offer one that is PCGS graded AU-50.

For this issue, in his 1988 encyclopedia, Breen lists mintages of 1520 business strikes and twenty-five Proofs, and he asserts, probably in error, that business strikes are “rarer than Proofs” [Coin #6266, p. 500]. I (this writer) suggest that there are eighteen to twenty-eight business strikes and around seventeen Proofs in existence.

VI. 1865 Liberty Seated Quarters

Though not nearly as rare as an 1865 Quarter Eagle, business strike 1865 Quarter Dollars are relatively scarce and this issue is a condition rarity in ‘Mint State’ grades. In the Summer FUN auction, the lone PCGS graded MS-66 1865 Quarter Dollar will be offered. This quarter is in an ‘old green label holder’ (OGH) and it has a CAC sticker of approval. (Please see last week’s column for some information about and references relating to the CAC.)

While price guides indicate that 1882 Double Eagles and 1865 Quarter Eagles are extremely rare and are worth substantial premiums over pertinent moderately rare dates, the scarcity overall and condition rarity in the gem range of business strike 1865 quarters is not really recognized. I estimate that there are fourteen to seventeen 1865 quarters that grade MS-63 or higher, and just four to six of those merits a grade of MS-65 or higher.

There is just one PCGS graded MS-67 1865 quarter. It does not have a CAC sticker, though I do not know if it was ever submitted to the CAC. It was last sold at auction in Jan. 1999, in a Heritage FUN event. It then realized $11,155, which may be an auction record for this date. I wonder if a higher auction result, for an 1865 quarter, was realized from 1988 to 1990, during which time coin markets roller-coasted to startling peaks. Quite a few gem quality, pre-1934 silver coins set auction records that still stand, during that period. In trading volume and in price increases, Liberty Seated coins lagged behind most other U.S. coin series during the 2002 to 2008 ‘bull market’! Indeed, there was much more trading activity in Buffalo Nickels, Mercury Dimes, almost all better-date gold coins, bust silver coins, and early copper.

In grades of 60 and above, Proof 1865 quarters are not nearly as rare as corresponding business strikes, though these Proofs are very desirable as type coins. After all, 1865 quarters are the last of the ‘No Motto’ design type (except the possibly unique 1866 ‘No Motto’ quarter, which is a separate topic). In my view, this Proof issue is considerably rarer than the estimates on PCGSCoinFacts purportedly show. I assert that there are perhaps 275 Proof 1865 quarters in existence, including maybe twenty-three that are truly of gem quality, from my perspective.

There are three Proof 1865 quarters in the Heritage Summer FUN auction. All are PCGS certified, the first as Proof-63, the second as ‘Proof-64 Deep Cameo,’ and the third as ‘Proof-65 Deep Cameo.’ The second has a sticker of approval from the CAC. I repeat my viewpoint that so-called Cameo features should not always command premiums. Often a coin with less of a cameo contrast, or without one, may be more attractive than an otherwise very similar coin with a ‘Deep Cameo’ look. Besides, Proof coins are often dipped in acidic solutions to unnaturally enhance cameo contrasts. Most sophisticated collectors, in the past and present, prefer coins with natural toning. (Please see my three part series on ‘The Basis for Collecting Naturally Toned Coins: Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3.)

©2010 Greg Reynolds

About the Author

Greg Reynolds is a numismatic writer, researcher and analyst. Greg has examined almost all of the greatest U.S. coins and most of the finest type coins and patterns, He has extensively researched the pedigrees of important numismatic properties, and he has written about and analyzed numerous auctions, private sales and collections.

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  1. Lester C. Bell | Jun 24, 2010 | Reply

    Dear Greg,
    I have been collecting coins since childhood but have only now; at the age of 65, have I begun to learn about coins & study them in detail.
    Thanks to the wonderful invention of the Computer & good souls like you, that anybody can get all the information required to become an educated collector.
    I have been through, mostly all your articles & find them to be profound & highly informative.
    Thanks a million.
    Lester C. Bell

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