The finest known 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar, which some
numismatic experts believe is the first U.S. silver dollar struck,
brought a record $10,016,875 at public auction Jan. 24.
Legend Numismatics, Lincroft, N.J., placed the winning bid during
the Stack’s Bowers Galleries New York Americana Sale. The price
eclipses the $7.59 million paid in the July 30, 2002, single-coin
auction by Sotheby’s, in conjunction with Stack’s, for the purported
King Farouk example of a 1933 Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagle.
The final price for the 1794 dollar includes a 17.5 percent
buyer’s fee. The buyer’s fee for the 1933 double eagle was 15 percent.
According to Christine Karstedt, executive vice president of
consignments for Stack’s Bowers, bidding for the 1794 Flowing Hair
dollar opened at $2.2 million. She said two bidders were in the
auction room and two more bidders were on the phone.
After bidding reached $5.5 million with increasing bidding
increments, Laura Sperber, a principal of Legend Numismatics and
present in the auction room, raised the hammer price to $8.525 million
in a single increment, knocking out all other bidding competition.
“We wanted to make sure we had the coin,” Sperber told Coin
World on Jan. 25.
Adding the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee brought the final price
realized to $10,016,875.
Sperber said Legend, which also includes principal Bruce Morelan,
was willing to go higher with its bidding.
The firm has no plans to sell the 1794 dollar in the near future,
Sperber told Coin World.
“This coin is a $10 million coin and deserves its place in
numismatic history,” Sperber said. “It’s an iconic coin and what
numismatics is all about — rarity, quality and pedigree.
“It’s the ultimate rare coin.”
Q. David Bowers, chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers, said that
one lot before the 1794 dollar was offered, a break in bidding was
taken for the checking of cameras and telephone connections. During
this break, “I gave a perhaps 10 minute talk on the sale,” he said,
and stated “that history might likely be made.”
“There was a great deal of pre-sale interest and anticipation and
an aura of excitement all week,” Bowers said.
Certified as Specimen 66 by Professional Coin Grading Service and
wearing a green sticker from Certified Acceptance Corp., the 1794
Flowing Hair silver dollar was part of the Cardinal Collection. It is
the only 1794 silver dollar with a silver plug among some 140 to 150
examples of the 1794 dollar known to exist, according to Martin
Logies, who built the collection. Logies is a numismatic researcher,
early dollar specialist and author of The Flowing Hair Silver Dollars
The silver plug was added to the underweight planchet at the U.S.
Mint in Philadelphia to bring the planchet up to standard weight.
In total, 1,758 silver dollars, all struck on a hand-turned screw
press at the Philadelphia Mint facility on Oct. 15, 1794, were
delivered after the only day of production for dollars that year.
The 1794 Flowing Hair dollar was purchased in a private
transaction on May 14, 2010, by the Cardinal Collection Educational
Foundation from Stephen L. Contursi, president of Rare Coin
Wholesalers, Irvine, Calif., for a reported $7.85 million.
The Cardinal Collection, assembled and overseen by Logies, is
ever-changing. The Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation, based
in Sunnyvale, Calif., was established in 1999 with private donations
as a nonprofit entity to foster numismatic education via online and
print media as well as public displays.
Other rarities sell
Among other top highlights from the Cardinal Collection featured
in the auction were:
➤ The finest known 1792 half disme, graded Mint State 68 by
Numismatic Guaranty Corp., $1,145,625.
➤ A 1793 Flowing Hair, Chain, AMERICA, No Periods cent, Sheldon 2
(Penny Whimsy by William H. Sheldon), graded PCGS MS-65
brown and stickered by CAC, $998,750. Sperber said Legend purchased
the coin on behalf of a U.S. coin collector in Asia.
➤ A 1793 Flowing Hair, Wreath, Vine and Bars cent, S-9, graded
PCGS MS-69 brown, $558,125.
➤ A 1794 Liberty Cap, Head of 1793 cent, S-18b, PCGS MS-64 brown, $881,250.
The 1792 half disme is the finest example certified by either PCGS
or NGC. It is attributed as Judd 7 in United States Pattern Coins,
Experimental & Trial Pieces by J. Hewitt Judd, edited by Q.
The example sold is believed to have a provenance beginning with
ownership by David Rittenhouse, the first director of the U.S. Mint.
Some 1,500 examples were reportedly struck.
A PCGS Specimen 67 1792 half disme sold at public auction Jan. 10
during Heritage Auctions’ sale at the Florida United Numismatists
convention for $1.41 million.
For more information about the New York Americana Sale, contact
Stack’s Bowers Galleries at www.stacksbowers.com. ■