While lacking a million-dollar rarity, the official American
Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money auctions by Stack’s
Bowers Galleries had dozens of stunners.
On Aug. 15, the company sold the key 1889-CC Morgan dollar, graded
Mint State 68 by Professional Coin Grading Service, for $881,250.
Stack’s Bowers was certainly confident in the coin’s ability to
dazzle, writing at the start of the lot description, “All bets will be
off, the room will be up for grabs and the sky will be the limit when
this crosses the auction block!”
To put this condition rarity into perspective, the next finest PCGS
graded example is “just” MS-65. When the now MS-68 coin was offered as
part of Bowers and Merena’s April 1997 auction of the Louis E.
Eliasberg collection, it was uncertified and assigned a grade of MS-66
in the catalog. At that time it sold for $462,000.
At a 2001 Bowers and Merena auction where it was offered again, it
brought $529,000. It went unsold at Heritage’s 2005 auction of the
Jack Lee Collection, but in January 2009 when Heritage offered it as
part of the estate of Jack Lee, it sold for $531,875.
One could convincingly argue that the market for top rarities has
increased substantially since 2009, and the catalog entry warned that
the dollar “is likely to disappear from the marketplace and not return
for a long period of time once its next steward adds his or her name
to the pedigree chain of this well-known and highly desirable rarity.”
The dollar represented a top price, but its various auction
appearances over the years also document the challenges in accurately
photographing toned coins.
In looking at the coin as photographed in four separate auctions,
the character of the surfaces change substantially in each photograph.
The variances serve as a reminder that photos are merely an
approximation of a coin’s true appearance. Also, a fact of our hobby
is that coins are often photographed in slabs and these slabs can
acquire scratches that, when photographed, can misrepresent the
quality of the coin.
Since its 2009 offering, the 1889-CC dollar’s slab has acquired a
few scratches, and for that reason the current images depict scratches
on the holder that are not on the coin itself. That did not seem to
matter much to bidders! ■