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The most interesting collection to be auctioned at the 2008 ANA Convention: The Dimes & $2½ gold coins of Ed Price

by Greg Reynolds for CoinLink

1796 10C MS67 NGCThe consignment from Ed Price is one of a dozen very impressive collections that are included in the official auction that will be conducted by Heritage at the Summer 2008 ANA annual convention in Baltimore. The Stephen Stokely collection of Saint Gaudens Double Eagles ($20 gold coins) is more valuable. The Bayside collection of half dollars might appeal to a larger number of collectors. The “University Drive” collection of Buffalo Nickels is more understandable to collectors of 20th century coins, and especially to connoisseurs of nickels. It contains a few six figure Buffalo Nickels, which will astound many enthusiasts. The Ed Price collection, however, is exceptionally engrossing.

Collectors have been eagerly waiting, for many years, to bid on Ed Prices’ early dimes and $2½ gold coins (Quarter Eagles). In terms of minting varieties of Draped Bust dimes (1796-1807), Price’s collection is certainly the most complete of all time, and the most fascinating.Unique 1796 dime variety in Ed Price Collection

Consider that one of his 1796 dimes, to be sold as lot #1414, is the only known coin of a particular variety, which was just discovered in 2002. An 1802 dime, formerly in the Allen Lovejoy collection, is also unique as the sole representative of a particular die variety. See lot #1429.

Though Price was focused on varieties rather than on gem type coins, he did acquire some very high quality dimes. One of his 1796 dimes is NGC graded MS-67. It was earlier in the James A. Stack collection of dimes, which is the all-time best collection of classic dimes, those minted from 1796 to 1916.

Another gem dime in the Price collection is an 1807. It is PCGS graded MS-66, and the CAC has determined that its grade is a “solid” MS-66. Additionally, it seems that the blank piece of metal, before it was struck into a coin, was clipped. It is not completely round, and thus is clearly distinctive. Though I have not yet seen the coin, the online images suggest that it may have appealing luster and natural light, brownish-russet toning.

Ed Price’s 1798 ‘Small 8’ dime is NGC graded MS-66. It was earlier owned by Louis Eliasberg, who formed the greatest collection of U.S. coins, of all time.

While Price is one of dozens of people who collect bust dimes ‘by die variety,’ not as many people collect early Quarter Eagles ($2½ gold coins) in this way. It is widely known that 1796 is the first year that Quarter Eagles were minted and that the 1796 ‘No Stars’ issue is a very rare or extremely rare one-year type. Most U.S. coin collectors do not know that there are two die varieties of 1796 ‘No Stars’ Quarter Eagles, and that there are fewer than nine known of the rarer first variety. For the first time this decade, a first variety 1796 ‘No Stars’ Quarter Eagle will be offered at auction. It is PCGS graded EF-40 and has a CAC sticker. Ed Price purchased it from Gary Parietti in 1992, at a coin show.

1796 No Stars Quarter Eagle Reverse varieties

Of the relatively less rare second variety of 1796 ‘No Stars’ Quarter Eagles, Heritage auctioned a PCGS graded EF-40 coin for $115,000 at the January 2008 FUN Convention auction. How much of a premium is the first variety worth? How many people collect Bust Right Quarter Eagles ‘by die variety’? Even collectors who do not buy Quarter Eagles are curious about how much this coin will bring.

Price’s 1804 Quarter Eagle with the 13-star reverse will gather even more attention. There are fewer than eleven known. The Ed Price 1804 13-Star reverse is NGC graded AU-55.

It is notable that it was once in the George Earle collection, which was auctioned in 1912. Earle had one of the all-time greatest collections of U.S. silver and gold coins, including many coins that are among the finest known of their respective types and dates.

This 1804 13-star Quarter Eagle variety is sometimes collected as a separate date, and is listed as such in several leading price guides. Indeed, Numismatic News’ Coin Market, the Numismedia guide and the PCGS population report all list it along with the rest of the ‘dates’ of the 1796-1807 ‘With Stars’ Quarter Eagle design type. One has not sold at auction since January 2004 when a PCGS graded AU-50 coin realized $92,000.

If the 1804 with 13-star reverse has the status of a separate date, then it is needed for a complete set ‘by date’ (not by variety) of Bust (facing) Right Quarter Eagles, and it is a Great Rarity! This Price 1804 Quarter Eagle, with 13 stars, could thus be worth more than $150,000, maybe even far more, depending upon the physical characteristics of this specific coin. Of the many early U.S. gold coins that are NGC graded AU-55, some are much more appealing than others. I have never seen this specific 1804 Quarter Eagle.

Among the coins in the Ed Price collection that I have seen is the 1797 dime with thirteen stars. All 1797 dimes are scarce. This one is exemplary. Assuming that its appearance has not changed since I last saw it, this 1797 dime is deservedly graded MS-65 by the NGC, and has really neat natural toning. Indeed, it has a very pleasing look overall. Only one 1797 dime immediately comes to mind, of any variety, that is substantially finer than this Lovejoy-Price 1797. It is the James A. Stack piece, which was PCGS graded MS-66 back in 1990. It was later placed by Jay Parrino in the Knoxville collection, which is the all-time best type set of U.S. silver coins.

These high-grade dimes from the 1790s will attract a large number of potential buyers. Many of the rarer varieties of dimes and Quarter Eagles in the Price collection, though, are of interest to a relatively small, though dedicated group of specialists. For the present discussion, I selected coins that many thousands of collectors will find to be very interesting.

1797 10C 13 Stars MS65 NGCOne of the most curious dimes in the Price collection is an 1801 that has a “Double-Struck reverse” and the “two strikes are rotated about 180 degrees,” according to the Heritage cataloguer. (The obverse is the front of the coin and the reverse is the back or tail.)

This 1801 dime is PCGS graded AG-03 and it has a CAC sticker. The CAC has determined that this coin does not have any serious problems and its grade is a “solid” AG-03. My guess is that a very large percentage of the submissions to the CAC are of coins that grade 63 or higher. Seeing a picture of a ’03’ grade coin with a CAC sticker is curious, though logical, as low-grade early U.S. coins often do have serious technical problems.

The cataloguer does not comment as to how this “error” came about. My guess is that something probably went wrong with the initial striking. Maybe a piece of foreign matter found itself between the obverse die and the blank the first time and thus the obverse was faintly struck or not struck at all. Another possibility is that the coinage press was not properly set up the first time and/or it mechanically malfunctioned while this coin was first struck. For whatever reason, there was probably a need to strike this coin again in order for both sides to be adequate in appearance.

While I found curious that this 1801 dime, which is PCGS graded AG-03, had a CAC sticker, it is even more curious that another very low-grade dime in the Ed Price collection, an 1802, also has a CAC sticker on its PCGS holder. It is graded Fair-02! Is this the lowest graded coin to have been approved by the CAC?

It is doubly intriguing that this Fair-02 grade 1802 dime has been determined by the cataloguer and by Ed Price to also be a double-struck “mint error.” It seems that there are two ‘double-struck’ early dimes in this one collection? “Evidence of the double strike is clearly visible on both sides,” asserts the cataloguer. There are high-resolution images on the Heritage website.

Collectors do not need to learn the details of die varieties in order to appreciate many of the really neat early dimes and Quarter Eagles in the Price collection. It is very beneficial to view coins and ask questions of experts. Any collector, though, can learn a lot by carefully reading the auction catalogues of major firms.

Heritage auctions at the Summer ANA and Winter FUN Conventions are typically characterized by a ‘Platinum Night’ event that is filled with tremendous coins. This year’s Summer ‘Platinum Night’ will be on Thursday, July 31, and Ed Price’s collection will leadoff.

©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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