1885 5-cent coin sells for record $170,000

Price said to be highest for circulation strike in series
Published : 04/04/12
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A Pennsylvania collector has completed his 15-year quest toward assembling the finest collection of circulation-strike Liberty Head 5-cent coins certified by Professional Coin Grading Service, with the acquisition of one of the two finest-known key date 1885 pieces.

The $170,000 the collector paid is the highest purchase price for any Mint State Liberty Head 5-cent coin, according to Washington State dealer Brian Wagner. Wagner brokered the deal March 22 between the Pennsylvania buyer and the Pennsylvania seller during the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo. (The five 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coins, which bring prices in the millions of dollars, are classified as Proof strikes.)

Wagner and the coin’s buyer both provided Coin World with documentation confirming the transaction.

With the acquisition of the PCGS Mint State 67 1885 Liberty Head 5-cent coin, the Pennsylvania buyer’s collection — identified on the PCGS Set Registry as the Greenbrier River Collection — surpasses the Carnton Collection as the “#1 All-Time Finest” assemblage of Mint State Liberty Head 5-cent coins, 1883 to 1912.

The Greenbrier River Collection already had an 1885 Liberty Head 5-cent coin in it, but that piece was certified PCGS MS-66.

According to Wagner, the Carnton Collection contains the only other 1885 Liberty Head 5-cent coin certified MS-67 by PCGS.

The Greenbrier River Collection has a PCGS Set Registry weighted grade rating of 66.07, while the rating for the Carnton Collection is 66.02. The highest possible set rating, according to the PCGS Set Registry, is 66.355.

The Greenbrier River Collection’s owner has all of the 33 coins in his collection housed in personalized PCGS holders containing grading inserts imprinted with the pedigree to the collection.

The 1885 Liberty Head 5-cent coin’s reported mintage of 1,472,700 coins at the Philadelphia Mint is the second lowest in the series. The lowest mintage is the San Francisco Mint’s output of 238,000 1912-S Liberty 5-cent coins.

Luck and coincidence

Acquisition of the PCGS MS-67 1885 Liberty Head 5-cent coin for the Greenbrier River Collection came with a lot of coincidence and a little bit of luck.

Wagner said he has acquired on previous occasions coins of different series for both the buyer and seller of the 1885 coin.

Wagner said while he was working on brokering a deal for the sale of some of the seller’s certified Indian Head cents, the seller disclosed he had the PCGS MS-67 1885 Liberty 5-cent coin in his type set of U.S. coins.

When he heard that, Wagner informed the seller that he had a potential buyer for the 1885 coin and asked at what price he would be willing to part with his type set coin. The discussion involving all of the parties continued until a price was agreed upon and the transaction executed, Wagner said.

The coin last sold at public auction in March 2006 in an American Numismatic Rarities sale where it was sold for $75,000. It had since traded hands several times in private transactions, Wagner said.

Collector ecstatic

The owner of the Greenbrier River Collection (who wishes to remain unnamed) says his acquisition of one the MS-67 1885 5-cent coins represents the pinnacle of a 15-year numismatic odyssey.

The collector says he never thought he’d be able to acquire either of the two PCGS MS-67 1885 5-cent coins, since one was in the Carnton Collection and the other had not come to auction since 2006.

Collecting for 51 years since the age of 9, the Greenbrier River Collection’s owner said that 15 years ago, he purchased a certified Shield 5-cent coin and realized he was able to buy finest known examples in a series for only several hundred dollars each.

The collector eventually expanded his collecting interests to the Liberty Head 5-cent coin series.

The collector said March 27 that he did not learn of the possible availability of the MS-67 1885 coin until Wagner telephoned him three weeks earlier. The sale was consummated at the Baltimore expo.

While the $170,000 price tag is the highest price he has paid for any coin, the owner of the Greenbrier River Collection says the coin came at a price above the purchase price.

He said he also had to part with a PCGS Proof 65 1867 Shield, With Rays 5-cent coin, which he sold for $66,000 to the seller of the 1885 coin.

The 1867 Shield 5-cent coin is one of as few as 15 original such pieces determined by numismatic researcher John Dannreuther to have been struck during the initial striking of 1867 Shield, With Rays 5-cent coins, based on die states.

The Greenbrier River Collection’s owner believes the Liberty Head 5-cent coin series is undervalued, but seems to be coming to life.

In the meantime, he plans to savor his position as the owner of the No. 1 Registry set of PCGS-certified circulation-strike Liberty Head 5-cent coins. ■

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