Occasionally, rare coins turn up in the oddest places.
Such seemed to be the case with an 1870-S Indian Head gold $3 coin
that was widely promoted in a May 16 press release for a June 2
auction at Four Seasons Auction Gallery in Alpharetta, Ga. Four
Seasons is not well-known for its coin auctions, so the offering of
this legendary rarity — which carried an estimate of $2 million to $4
million and had a hefty reserve — received some attention. It was to
be the star of an otherwise modest sale.
It seemed odd to many that a great rarity would be offered at a
small auction house not known for its numismatic expertise and would
not be authenticated prior to being offered for sale. When Coin
World called Steve White of Four Seasons, he said that interested
buyers could bring their own expert to evaluate the piece and said
that the consignor’s prior efforts to receive third-party
authentication were unsuccessful “because it was repaired.” He further
said that matters of authenticity are subjective and that even experts differ.
The item had a fun backstory. It was allegedly found in a
Victorian-era souvenir book at a San Francisco book store in the 1990s
by a European tourist.
The issue is steeped in mystery, so it would not be impossible that
another example would show up.
However, side-by-side photographic comparison of the discovery piece
with the example that is currently in the Harry Bass Jr. Research
Foundation’s collection revealed that they are dissimilar in many
details. The Bass example is the only one known to collectors today,
although a second example was reportedly placed in the cornerstone of
the San Francisco Mint in 1870. Various experts shared their thoughts
that the new coin was not authentic.
The coin was subsequently withdrawn from the auction.
Rare coins do sometimes turn up at smaller sales. On May 12,
Chicago-area dealer Fox Valley Coins auctioned an uncertified Proof
1844 Seated Liberty dollar — one of just 15 minted — that sold to a
collector for $14,950.
Marlon Mathre of Fox Valley said that the winning bidder is a
collector and added that while the firm had independently verified the
authenticity of the coin with several experts, that the winner is
covered under the firm’s policies that provide a guarantee that the
coin is a Proof 1844 Seated Liberty dollar. ■