Classic early rarities and a gold $4 Stella pattern captured the
top bids at Heritage Auctions’ Platinum Night sale on Jan. 10, as part
of the Florida United Numismatists convention in Orlando, Fla.
The top lot was a 1792 half disme graded Specimen 67 by
Professional Coin Grading Service that realized $1.41 million.
As of Jan. 10 when online bidding closed, the half disme had an
online bid of $1 million and carried no reserve, meaning that a price
of at least $1.175 million was guaranteed with the 17.5 percent
buyer’s fee considered. When it crossed the auction block, it sold to
a floor bidder for a final bid of $1.2 million, or $1.41 million with
the buyer’s fee. The final price was not that much more than the
$1,322,500 that the same coin brought when last offered at a Heritage
auction in 2006, but a big price nonetheless.
The coin’s importance was well established by the lengthy catalog
entry that featured a quote from PCGS founder David Hall. Hall stated:
“The coin is so exceptional that I believe it could very well be the
first 1792 half disme struck, and thereby the first U.S. coin ever
struck. It is certainly one of the most important coins PCGS has ever handled.”
Well-heeled collectors who missed the opportunity to purchase this
example will be presented with a rare opportunity to purchase the
highest numerically graded example of this scarce issue when the only
example graded Mint State 68 crosses the block on Jan. 24 as part of
Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ Rarities Night auction in New York.
Another example of the 1792 half disme in the Heritage auction
graded MS-64 had not met its $400,000 reserve (or $470,000 with the
fee) in the online pre-sale bidding, but ultimately realized $528,750,
selling to a floor bidder. Multiple examples of the one-year issue
were offered in the auction, including an example in About
Uncirculated 58 that brought $152,750, a Very Good 10 coin that sold
for $58,750 and one graded Fine Details, Bent, that realized $18,212.50.
Rarity fuels top bids
The second highest priced lot was another classic early rarity: an
1803 Draped Bust dollar graded Proof 66 by PCGS. The lot description
noted that it was only the second auction appearance of this example
of just four examples known. It further stated, “It would be no
surprise if this higher-graded 1803 specimen exceeds the $1 million
barrier that its 1802 counterparts have flirted with in recent years.”
That statement was perhaps optimistic as Internet bidding closed at a
bit short of that, at a bid of $700,000 ($822,500 with buyer’s fee),
but a floor bid of $725,000 was offered and the dollar sold for
$851,875 (with fee).
Grabbing the bronze medal for the third-highest price was an
1838-O Capped Bust half dollar graded Branch Mint Proof 64 by PCGS. It
is one of just nine examples traced and was the subject of a recently
published monograph, “The Surprising History of the 1838-O Half Dollar.”
The coin in the auction had a rich ownership history back to Col.
E.H.R. Green (who once owned all five 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent pieces)
and last sold at public auction in 2008 when it realized $632,500.
Bidding opened at $600,000 and like the 1803 Draped Bust dollar, a
split increment on the floor was accepted and it was sold for a bid of
$625,000 for a final price of $734,375.
It seems that today no big auction is complete without at least
one exceptional $4 Stella pattern, and this sale featured two, graded
by NGC. An 1880 Flowing Hair $4 piece graded Proof 66 realized
$440,625 while an 1879 Flowing Hair $4 piece graded Proof 67 Cameo
with a Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker signifying exceptional
quality for the grade went unsold and was available after the auction
The catalogers characterized the Stella’s lasting appeal aptly,
writing: “Some coins just naturally stand out from the crowd, even in
a well-dressed bunch such as the many memorable coins populating this
Platinum Night offering. Not to diminish any other lots in this
session, but the Stellas are at the top of many collectors’ ‘dream
lists,’ even if they never even put them on their ‘wish lists’ due to
The complete 16-piece pattern aluminum 1868 Proof set that was
featured in an article in the Dec. 17 issue of Coin World
Several other top lots failed to find new homes during the floor
auction and remain available for purchase as of the morning of Jan.
11, including a 1793 Flowing Hair, Wreath cent graded MS-66 brown with
a post-auction buy price of $329,000. Two rare silver dollars were
both available at $293,750: an 1893-S Morgan dollar in MS-64 and a
1794 Flowing Hair dollar graded Extremely Fine 45. ■