Quality and rarity ruled as more than 1,800 coins from legendary
numismatist Eric P. Newman’s collection brought more than $23 million
at a Nov. 15 to 16 Heritage auction in New York City.
The total exceeded the firm’s pre-sale estimate of $15 million,
and multiple records for individual issues were broken.
The catalog stated that the collection “is the greatest collection
of early silver United States coins ever seen,” warning bidders,
“Never again in our lifetimes will there be as well matched an
assemblage of early U.S. silver type coins.” Bidders seemed to have
agreed, as many coins sold for multiples of what recent market
comparables would suggest.
Perhaps what’s most amazing is that the collection was acquired
for around $7,500 decades ago. More than half in the offering,
including most of the top lots, were obtained by Newman in the 1930s
and early 1940s from the estate of Col. E.H.R. Green, who had died in
1936. Green was the son of Hetty Green, who was known as “The Witch of
Crazy, wild, colorful coins
One of the hallmarks of the silver coins in the Newman Collection
was that many displayed extraordinary colors. These hues were the
result of long-term storage in Wayte Raymond paperboard holders.
In the foreword to the Heritage catalog, Maureen and Stuart Levine
wrote, “While forming his collection, Eric and his father, a doctor,
meticulously modified wooden cigar boxes to hold a single row of
coins; each coin within, often wrapped in thin paper, had been
carefully placed in an annotated envelope.” The combination of the
wrapping, envelopes, boxes, boards, drawers and cabinets provided a
storage environment that encouraged the production of rich colors on
the silver coins.
The top lot of the auction exhibited the magnificent rainbow
toning that characterized many of the top lots: a 1796 Draped Bust
quarter dollar graded Mint State 67+ ★ by Numismatic Guaranty Corp.,
with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker indicating quality
within the grade, that realized $1,527,500. The cataloger called it
“the most beautiful American silver coin that exists today,” and that
sentiment has been echoed by numerous leading numismatists.
Many of the coins, including this one, accompanied their original
paper envelopes noting the original cost — in this case, just $100.
The seven-figure auction price established a record for the
denomination and the piece was the second coin from the Newman
Collection to sell recently for more than $1 million at auction. On
April 25, at Heritage’s first auction of Newman’s collection, an 1852
Humbert pioneer gold $10 coin graded NGC MS-68 brought $1,057,500. It
was among 159 coins, primarily U.S. patterns, that brought more than
$4 million total in the April auction.
NGC certified all of the coins in both Newman auctions and created
a special identifying label. After the sale, NGC chairman Mark
Salzberg said, “Mr. Newman had an amazing eye for rarity and quality
that was far ahead of his time.”
Dozens of six-figure prices
As a testament to the quality of the collection, 46 coins crossed
the six-figure mark. At $910,625, a visually distinctive 1795 Draped
Bust dollar in MS-66+ ★ with a green CAC sticker was the second-most
expensive lot of the night. It was traced back to an 1891 auction and
was purchased by Newman for $75 as part of the Green estate. The
coin’s appearance was distinctive in that it was brilliant but for a
patch of color in the right obverse field.
Few coins in the collection were more dramatic than an 1807 Draped
Bust quarter dollar in MS-66 ★, with a green CAC sticker, that brought
$411,250. It was cataloged as having surfaces with “a gorgeous blend
of orange and gold at the center, within a ring of rich blue and
turquoise toning. The reverse has attractive cobalt-blue and turquoise
peripheries, with the central areas exhibiting a beautiful blend of
orange and gold toning.” The stunner was originally purchased from the
Green collection for $40.
Besides magnificent type coins, the collection had numerous
rarities, like an 1818 Capped Bust quarter dollar in Proof 67. It is
well-known to collectors as the plate coin for several key reference
works and was originally sold by Samuel Hudson and Henry Chapman in
December 1890 as part of the Thomas Cleneay Collection where it was
described simply as “Proof. Sharp, beautiful impression.” Newman
purchased it for $20 as part of the Green estate. The coin — the
finest known of the date and the only available Proof 1818 quarter
dollar — brought $381,875.
Topping the varied Seated Liberty offerings was an 1840-O Seated
Liberty, No Drapery quarter dollar in MS-67 ★, with a green CAC
sticker, that sold for $329,000. Like other pieces in the Newman
Collection, the sharp and vibrantly colored, pristine coin was the
finest-graded by a substantial margin and carried the Green provenance.
A strong $188,000 took home a magnificently toned 1861 Seated
Liberty quarter dollar in Proof 68 ★ Cameo. Although it’s not a rare
issue on its own — a solid PCGS Proof 65 Cameo with a green CAC
sticker brought $9,200 at an April 18, 2012, auction — bidders
considered it among the finest Proofs of the entire type and bid
accordingly. For comparative purposes, it sold for more than 10 times
more than any other Proof 1861 quarter dollar at auction.
Not just for the well-heeled
While dozens of six-figure rarities captured the headlines,
hundreds of coins that were affordable to nearly all collectors sold,
including 24 coins selling for less than $100 each. The least
expensive coin in the offering was a Proof 65 1953 Washington quarter
dollar that brought $53. Type collectors could buy an Extremely Fine
40 1865 copper-nickel 3-cent coin for $56 and an MS-62 1935 Indian
Head 5-cent piece, with a green CAC sticker, for $62.
In fact, nearly a quarter of the lots offered brought less than
Collectors of 20th century issues had their choice of substantial,
high-quality runs of 1913 Indian Head 5-cent pieces and 1916 Winged
Liberty Head (“Mercury”) dimes.
An MS-64 1916 Winged Liberty Head dime with a green CAC sticker
brought $94. It was the least expensive of 32 separate examples
offered of this first-year issue, the most expensive being a
beautifully toned dime in MS-67 ★ full bands, with a green CAC
sticker, that brought $4,112.50.
Proceeds of the sale will be used exclusively for supplementing
the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society’s museum operations
and scholarly research efforts and for the benefit of other
not-for-profit institutions selected by the Eric P. Newman Numismatic
Education Society for public purposes. Newman Part III, which focuses
on world coins, will be sold by Heritage at its New York office, Jan.
14 to 16, 2014. ■