Roswell Mill Collection Contains a Distinctive Mix
by Greg Reynolds
A splendid collection featuring very rare U.S. coins was built, over a period of around six years, by a collector from Roswell, Georgia. Indeed, it contains Great Rarities, classic rarities, and rarities that are not famous, plus complete sets of several series. This collector feels an emotional attachment to the historic Old Roswell Mill site and he decided to name his collection after it, “The Old Roswell Mill Collection.” As he does not wish for his true name to be revealed, it makes sense to refer to him as ‘Roswell.’ He was guided by veteran dealer John Hamrick, who is now offering the Roswell coins individually.
Quarter Eagles ($2½ gold coins) dated 1841 and 1854-S are both Great Rarities and are among the stars of the Old Roswell Mill collection, as is an 1875 Eagle ($10 gold coin). An 1876-CC Twenty Cent piece is extremely rare and extremely famous. Almost all the Roswell coins are certified by the Numismatic Guaranty Corp. (NGC) or the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS).
Roswell collected coins when he was a kid. In December 2001, “around Christmas time,” Hamrick recollects that Roswell walked into Hamrick’s office and said that he “wanted to collect coins again.” Roswell then specifically demanded a 1909-S VDB Lincoln, as he had strongly desired this issue when he was a kid. Roswell soon sought many of the dates and types that he had, or wanted, as a kid. He put together sets of Indian Cents, Two Cent pieces, Three Cent Nickels Shield Nickels, Liberty Nickels, and Washington Quarters. As Roswell remembers childhood desires for an 1877 Indian Cent, and an 1877 Three Cent Nickel, both key dates, he decided in 2002 to assemble a ‘Mint Set’ of all 1877 coins in copper, nickel, silver and gold.
Hamrick refers to Roswell as “a collector at heart,” and reveals that “he cannot now sell all his coins.” In 2001, Roswell thought of coin collecting as just a hobby. Hamrick explains that Roswell “did a lot of research on his own,” however, and he decided to “invest in coins.” He asked Hamrick to “find classic rarities for him. Over the years, he would pick out rarities he wanted,” and Hamrick “would suggest others to him.”
Hamrick “put together an 1875 gold set for him.” Roswell was intrigued by the low mintages of 1875 gold coins. In 2002, Hamrick acquired both an 1875 Eagle ($10 gold coin) and an 1875 Half Eagle ($5 gold coin) from Jeff Garrett. The Roswell 1875 Eagle is NGC graded AU-53. Hamrick is asking $150,000 for it.
The 1875 Quarter Eagle ($2½ gold coin) is not nearly as rare as the 1875 Eagle, but it is not common. It is certainly among the ten rarest dates in a series that was minted from 1840 to 1907. The Roswell 1875 Quarter Eagle is NGC graded AU-58 and is priced at $23,500.
Quarter Eagles were first minted in 1796 and last minted in 1929; the 1854-S is the rarest. There are ten to twelve known. The Roswell 1854-S was previously in the Richmond collection. When DLRC auctioned it in July 2004, Steve Contursi was the successful bidder. In 2005, Hamrick acquired it from Contursi and sold it to Roswell. It is currently PCGS graded Very Fine-35. According to Ron Guth, it was first PCGS certified VF-35 in 1995 or earlier. It received the same grade from NGC in the interim.
The second rarest Quarter Eagle is the 1841, which is also a Great Rarity. The Roswell piece is NGC certified Proof-55, and Hamrick is asking $172,500 for it.
I devoted a past CoinLink article to the most famous date in the $3 gold series, the 1854-D. Hamrick refers to the Roswell 1854-D, PCGS graded AU-55, as “nice” and “original” and as a “great coin” overall, and he is offering it for $51,000. While this is a reasonable for an especially nice 1854-D, there are many coins in the Roswell collection that cost a lot less.
Numerous coins in the Old Roswell Mill collection are priced under $2000. A 1921-D Morgan, PCGS graded MS-63, is priced at $60. Several certified “Proof-66” Three Cent Nickels, of different dates, are priced at $1275 each. Likewise, several “Proof-66” grade Shield Nickels are available for $1525 each. An 1877-S Quarter Eagle, NGC graded MS-61, is priced at $975, and a Double Eagle ($20 gold) of the same date and grade is being offered for $1700.
Of the more than two hundred and fifty coins in the Roswell collection, more than twenty are valued at above $100,000 each and around seventy-five are priced under $5000. The mix of coins in this collection is enjoyable to interpret.
My analysis suggests that Roswell had six collecting objectives, in terms of U.S. coins. Some Roswell coins fall into more than one category. His objects were Great Rarities, classic rarities, rarities that are not famous, key dates of series, Dahlonega (Georgia) Mint gold coins, and coins that were acquired to complete sets of popular series. He also collected regional and territorial items including coins of Hawaii, a Massachusetts Pine Tree shilling, and Confederate cent patterns.
Roswell had all three key dates of the popular Barber Quarter series (1892-1916). None of the three are extremely rare overall, but all are extremely popular. Moreover, these are rare in high grades. The Roswell 1896-S Barber Quarter is PCGS graded MS-64 and is priced at $34,500. The 1913-S is NGC graded MS-64 and Hamrick is asking $20,700. The queen of Barber quarters is the 1901-S and Roswell obtained one that is PCGS graded MS-66. It is now priced at $165,000.
Roswell did not acquire any other Barber Quarters; he just sought the three keys. Likewise, the 1804 is the key date of the Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle type (1800-07). The Roswell 1804 quarter is NGC graded EF-40. Hamrick is offering it for $41,400.
The 1864 ‘Small Motto’ Two Cent piece is a key date and a coin that Roswell acquired to complete a set of Two Cent pieces. The Proof ‘Small Motto’ issue is much rarer than the business strike and is the rarest Two Cent piece. Roswell acquired both a business strike, NGC certified “MS-66 RB” (Red & Brown color), and a Proof, PCGS certified “PR-65 RB,” of the 1864 ‘Small Motto’ issue. Hamrick priced the Proof at $95,000 and the business strike at $8850.
Roswell did research to identify rarities that most collectors do not know about or do not think about very often. He found that 1860-S quarters are both rare and not well recognized. In my estimation, the PCGS and the NGC together have probably only certified sixteen to eighteen DIFFERENT 1860-S quarters. Undoubtedly, there are at least another twenty that have never been submitted or would not qualify for a numerical grade from PCGS or NGC. Among coins that are truly distinct dates, not just die varieties, it may be the second or third rarest business strike Liberty Seated Quarter! Roswell and Hamrick believe that accepted price guides seriously understate the value of this rarity. The Roswell 1860-S is NGC graded AU-50, and is priced at $29,500.
Roswell also found that 1822 Capped Bust dimes are rare and are not talked about very much. Other than the “1829 Curl Base 2,” the PCGS values the 1822 much higher than any other business strike in the Capped Bust dime series. Is it debatable as to whether the “1829 Curl Base 2” is a ‘date’ that is distinct from the 1829 with the typical flat base 2. Most collectors would agree that multiple 1829s are not needed for a set of Capped Bust dimes, and finding a high grade 1829 of one of the least rare die varieties is not difficult. Finding an attractive, high grade 1822, however, is a challenge. The Roswell 1822 is NGC graded MS-63 and is priced at $33,500.
In his comprehensive encyclopedia, published in 1988, Walter Breen clearly stated that the 1860-O dime is rare, and Roswell believes it to be undervalued in 2008. In Feb., Heritage auctioned a PCGS graded EF-40 1860-O for $6325 and, in May 2007, a PCGS graded EF-45 1860-O for $9200. Back in Nov. 2004, ANR auctioned the “Frog Run Farm” 1860-O, PCGS AU-53, for $9775. Only three uncirculated 1860-O dimes have been certified, and these might constitute only two different coins. The finest known, the Allen Lovejoy 1860-O, was last auctioned in 1996, and realized $64,900. The Roswell 1860-O, NGC graded AU-55, is priced at $13,000.
While it is now indisputable that the 1860-O dime is rare, it is not famous enough to be a classic rarity, at least not yet. There are, though, plenty of classic rarities in the Roswell collection, including silver dollars of 1851, 1852 and 1895. A 1796 half cent is among the most classic of rarities, as is the 1861-Dahlonega gold dollar. The Roswell 1796 half cent is NGC graded AU-55. The 1861-D is NGC graded MS-64 and is priced at $112,500.
Certainly, an 1870-CC Half Eagle ($5 gold) is a classic rarity. Among Half Eagles, it is one of the rarest post-1865 dates. It is demanded by those who collect ‘No Motto’ Liberty Half Eagles (1866-1907) ‘by date’ and by the many collectors of Carson City gold coins of all denominations. The Roswell collection 1870-CC is NGC graded AU-58.
For many coin types, Roswell had only one to four coins, often classic rarities or key dates. Roswell had, however, intended to complete a set of Proof Half Cents. He acquired fifteen of them, including an 1831 that is NGC certified Proof-66 RB (Red & Brown).
This incomplete set of half cents and some other parts of the Old Roswell Mill Collection were works in progress. Soon after the New Year began, Hamrick told Roswell that “many of your coins have doubled, tripled or possibly quadrupled in value. After discussing it with him for about two months,” Hamrick relates that Roswell agreed to sell most of his collection to Hamrick for “approximately seven million dollars.” Most of the coins retained by Roswell are not very rare. He is keeping some sets of popular series, among other items. The logical mix of Great Rarities, classic rarities, unheralded rarities, key dates and sets, reflects the structure and personality of the Old Roswell Mill collection. It is distinctive and will have a noteworthy place in the history of coin collecting.
©2008 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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