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Legend Numismatics Sells The Sunnywood Toned Morgan Dollar Coin Collection

Legend Numismatics, a coin dealer specializing in high-quality, rare U.S. coinage, announced the sale of the entire Sunnywood “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” Toned Morgan Dollar Collection to a private collector who wishes to remain anonymous. Financial details were not released, but Legend spokesperson Laura Sperber acknowledged that it was a “multi-million dollar transaction” and that the collection was sold intact.

DouglasKurz_120909The Sunnywood Collection (Circulation Strikes from 1878-1921 including three important varieties) was painstakingly assembled over a period of several years by Douglas Kurz, a long-time collector who is a successful businessman and former concert pianist. Bucking the market trend of preference for “white” Morgan Dollars, he decided to put together a complete set of Morgans with “attractive, original color, at least on the obverse.”

Prominently featured in the PCGS Set RegistrySM (, the Sunnywood Collection, consisting exclusively of PCGS-graded coins, gained additional notoriety at the January 2009 FUN Show, the February and May 2009 Long Beach Expos, and in advertisements in Coin World and other numismatic publications.

One interesting point is that the most attractive pieces in terms of color and eye appeal are not necessarily the highest-graded pieces. Sunnywood strikes a balance between color and technical grade, so Set Registry ranking has sometimes been sacrificed for the sake of overall eye appeal.

Many collectors consider the Sunnywood Collection to be the finest set of toned Morgans ever assembled.

The collection includes many early common dates (between 1878 and 1888) and some later dates (such as 1896, 1899-O and 1904-O) that can be found with dramatic and vibrant multi-colored mint-bag toning. There are many dates, however, that simply do not exist with colorful toning. Those dates were sought instead with attractive original patination (the 1900-S and 1901-S are good examples).

Laura Sperber Comments:

In my mind, this is one collection that should not even exist. When Doug originally approached me about building the set with him, I did not think an all-colored Morgan set that nice was even possible to build. Point blank, I told him not to do it.

As time went on, I watched Doug work on the project. He was gracious enough to let Legend help him add a coin or two to this magnificent set.

Finally, we were blown away when we saw the set on display at the Long Beach Expo. Doug definitely did the impossible. His drive, determination and his eye were more intense than I had ever seen from just about ANY collector. He set goals that I thought were unrealistic – and he succeeded in a dramatic way!

Over a casual conversation about this set, I jumped on it instantly. This is the type of set Legend buys. We made one call, and the collection has been placed with a long-time Morgan collector who did not want to own an all-white set (obviously, there’s nothing wrong with all-white, it’s just not his cup of tea. Or Doug’s). The collector told me “you hit my soft spot.” His thrill is not only owning some of the finest colored Morgans, but also owning a classic like the 1893-S Eliasberg PCGS MS65, a killer specimen that’s the second-finest known.

We’re especially gratified to have been able to keep this incredible collection intact. We do that whenever possible (this summer we bought and sold all the Law Collection sets, which included the finest MS+PR 3CS, MS Bust Half Dimes, MS Seated Half Dimes, MS+PR Barber Dimes all intact). While it can be argued that a collection like this should be broken up to give other collectors opportunity, I strongly believe that a once-in-a-lifetime creation like Sunnywood should remain intact. While our customer hopes to add a coin or two to the set, we doubt there are coins that can be improved!

As Doug acknowledges, we have always lived by the credo: “buy the best you can afford.” When the quality and eye appeal are all there, there is always a strong market. We never doubted that the Sunnywood Collection would find a new home – intact.

Douglas Kurz Comments on the Sunnywood Collection:

Every collector would love to be able to keep all their collections forever. But eventually, some sets get so valuable that it’s hard to justify keeping them, especially with today’s economic realities.

It was a difficult decision to part with my toned Morgan set, but all things have their time and place. I loved building the set, and I greatly enjoyed owning it. Legend acted as the intermediary on the deal, and placed the entire collection, including most of the duplicates, with their client. The collector who bought this collection has greater resources than I, as you might imagine, and can better afford to keep it for many years to come.

In any case, I am gratified that over the years most of my various sets been sold intact, and have ended up in some of the most important collections in the U.S. It is particularly nice to know that a set that took so much effort to build is now in the hands of another collector who enjoys and appreciates it, and who will keep the coins together for years to come. Legend made the transaction very easy.

The toned dollar project was partly inspired by the PCGS Registry. I knew a set like that would be unique and visually compelling. The possibility of putting up images and descriptions of all those colorful coins meant there would be a lasting record of the collection online, and therefore many collectors from all over could enjoy the set. Even with the coins locked up in a bank vault (or now relocated into a truly great private collection), there is a lasting record on the Registry for me and for others to enjoy forever.

The displays of the collection organized by PCGS at the 2009 FUN Show and the February 2009 Long Beach Show were the highlight of the whole project for me. I took immense pride in seeing the coins so beautifully displayed in an important public venue where so many collectors could see them. I credit PCGS with making the project possible, from their grading and encapsulation services, to the Registry program and the wonderful displays at shows. When I first had the idea of doing the toned Morgan set, I ran it past David Hall. He thought it was a great idea, and that was all I needed to get started.

Legend Numismatics often advises their clients, “Buy the best quality you can afford.” This set is a great demonstration of that principle. I knew the kind of coins I wanted: high grade, high quality, strong luster and strike, great obverse color and tremendous eye appeal. I went out of my way to buy these coins at auction, from dealers, and most importantly, from other committed collectors.

In order to get the coins I wanted, I often paid tremendous premiums. Many folks (including me) were sure that I was buried deeply in these coins, and that I would never recoup the strong prices I paid. Still, I charged ahead and continued buying the very best coins I could find, paying whatever was necessary to get the coins – whether it was a spectacular example of a common date, or a great rarity like the Eliasberg 1893-S dollar (which I decided to buy within approximately 0.2 seconds of seeing it, without even knowing the price).

In the end, I had a great collection, but at a very high cost. But quality always holds its value, and I am happy to report that I not only recovered my investment, I even came out ahead – a testament to the benefit of buying quality even at a very strong price, and a testament to the value of being a tirelessly dedicated collector.

At present I have no plans to start a new collecting project, but I have been interested in U.S. coins since I was quite young, and I’m sure that it’s only a matter of time before I take up the great fun of set building once again. I have had tremendous fun with the hobby.

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