The record $431,250 paid at public auction Nov. 16 for a 1652 New England sixpence is more than 12 times what the coin initially brought in 1991, a year after the coin’s discovery in a Long Island, N.Y., potato field.
Just eight pieces are known of all the die marriages that created the coin, and four of the pieces are impounded in museum collections.
The coin was offered most recently during Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ Early American Coin session held in cooperation with Colonial Coin Collectors Club, conducted during the Whitman Baltimore Coin and Collectibles Expo. A phone bidder, whom Stack’s Bowers officials decline to identify, purchased the coin.
The $431,250, which includes the 15 percent buyer’s fee, was well above the price the coin brought when it was first sold at auction Nov. 21, 1991, by Sotheby’s for $35,200. The coin was later acquired for an undisclosed sum by John “Jack” Royse through private treaty with Stack’s. Royse consigned the sixpence to the Nov. 16 Rarities Night auction.
The 1991 Sotheby’s auction was the first time since 1983 that any example of the New England sixpence in private hands had been sold at public auction.
The coin just sold is cataloged as being from the Noe 1-A die marriage in The Silver Coins of Massachusetts by Sydney P. Noe.
The sixpence is certified by Professional Coin Grading Service as Very Fine Details — Damage or Tooling. The piece is quickly identifiable by a large, deep diagonal scratch extending across most of the obverse, beginning at approximately the 10 o’clock position. The scratch was possibly imparted by farm equipment used in the potato field or the ice pick used as a probing tool to locate the coin.
The price for the coin broke the record set Oct. 1, 2005, when a Very Fine piece, of another die marriage, sold for $184,000 in the John J. Ford Jr. Collection auction, Part 12, by Stack’s. The Ford coin was, at the time of the 2005 auction, cataloged as Noe 2-B and is the plate coin for the variety in Noe’s reference.
However, the Ford coin was subsequently determined to be a contemporary counterfeit. When it was offered at auction again three years later in Stack’s Jan. 15 to 16, 2008, sale, now cataloged as Noe 4 (from 2-B dies), it sold at well below its 2005 price, for $13,800.
The Royse sixpence, the eighth discovered of the known examples, was discovered in February 1990 by metal detectorist Lillian Rade as she combed through a frozen potato field in East Hampton, N.Y., on the southeastern tip of Long Island.