Pennsylvania collector Eugene H. Gardner Sr., 78, has spent more
than two decades assembling what some numismatists regard as one of
the finest ever collections of American silver coins.
Now, he says, it’s time to relinquish ownership of his more than
3,000 coins to a new collecting generation, in four auctions in New
York in 2014 and 2015. The auctions are to be staged by Heritage
Auctions from Dallas. Gardner’s coins are being offered without reserves.
“I see these auctions as the culmination of a gratifying and
absorbing collecting career,” Gardner said. “It allows me to introduce
my largely-completed collection to the numismatic fraternity, which is
very exciting to me. I love the thought of sharing the auction
experience with my family. We’ve really all been in this together. In
fact, my grandchildren know how to get my attention by just saying,
‘Opa, what new coins do you have?’ ”
The first auction is scheduled to take place June 23, 2014, with
the second scheduled for sometime in October.
Among the highlights in Gardner’s collection:
➤ A 1796 Draped Bust, Small Eagle dime, JR-1 (Early United States
Dimes 1796-1837 by Jules Reiver, David J. Davis, Russell J. Logan,
Allen F. Lovejoy, John W. McCloskey and William L. Subjack),
Professional Coin Grading Service Mint State 66.
➤ A unique in Proof 1823/2 Capped Bust quarter dollar, Browning 1
(Early Quarter Dollars of the United States Mint by Rory Rea, Dr.
Glenn Peterson, Bradley S. Karoleff and John J. Kovach Jr.),
Numismatic Guaranty Corp. Proof 64.
➤ A PCGS Extremely Fine 40 1870-S Seated Liberty dollar.
The collection also features complete sets of all Seated Liberty
and Barber coin series.
1796 Draped Bust dime
Gardner’s 1796 Draped Bust dime was once part of the Jimmy Hayes
Collection of United States Silver Coins that Stack’s sold Oct. 22, 1985.
While PCGS has certified the coin MS-66, the lot description for
the coin when it was part of the Hayes collection identified its
condition as “Gem Brilliant Proof.”
The Hayes sale lot description also added, “Undoubtedly struck for
presentation. Deep mirror surface, fully struck stars and devices.”
Mark Borckardt, a senior cataloger for Heritage Auctions, said
Feb. 5 that the reason for PCGS’s grading the piece as a Mint State
coin and not Proof, is because “PCGS does not recognize the Proof
format for coins dated prior to 1817.”
“I believe that a strong case exists to call this piece a
‘Specimen,’ ” Borckardt said.
Numismatist John Dannreuther, a specialist in early U.S. coins and
coinage production and a PCGS co-founder and consultant, said Feb. 5
that the coin could be considered by PCGS as SP, designating a
Dannreuther said the coin would have to be sent back to PCGS for
re-examination to be considered for Specimen status.
Heritage catalogers identify Gardner’s 1796 JR-1 dime as “one of
three or four known examples without the obverse die break” at the
first star left of the date.
Proof 1823/2 quarter dollar
The 1823/2 Capped Bust quarter dollar overdate issue is known by a
single obverse and reverse die pairing.
U.S. Mint records indicate that 117,800 pieces were struck of this
year, yet it is one of the two rarest dates in the entire quarter
Aside from the essentially noncollectible 1827, the 1823/2 is
considered the key date to the Capped Bust quarter dollar series.
On the obverse, the 3 in the date is punched over an underlying 2.
On the reverse, the lowest arrowhead, closest to the C. in the
denomination, is missing its lower left corner, and the upper arrow
shaft is broken. Both of these Mint-made diagnostics are primary
attribution points for the 1823/2 quarter dollar.
It is widely believed that the majority of the 1823 production was
melted and the bullion converted for production into other silver denominations.
Early Quarter Dollars of the United States Mint illustrates and
provides provenance for 30 examples, ranging in condition from Good 4
to NGC 61+ Prooflike, topped by Gardner’s NGC Proof 64, the only
1823/2 Capped Bust quarter dollar certified as a Proof.
1870-S Seated Liberty $1
Gardner’s 1870-S Seated Liberty dollar is considered the fourth
finest among nine confirmed examples extant.
The piece is identified by catalogers as the Bolender-Ostheimer
coin, having been owned, at different times, by M.H. Bolender, author
of United States Early Silver Dollars from 1794 to 1803, and by Alfred
and Jackie Ostheimer.
According to Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United
States by Q. David Bowers, with Borckardt, the mintage of 1870-S
dollars from the San Francisco Mint is unknown, although possibly
fewer than 200 are believed to have been struck.
No official record of its mintage has ever been located.
The 1870-S Seated Liberty dollar is listed as No. 47 in the third
edition of Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth’s tome, 100 Greatest U.S. Coins.
The 1870-S dollar is considered to be the rarest regular-issue
silver dollar ever struck at a U.S. Mint production facility.
In numismatic research published in 2005, authors Richard Kelly
and Nancy Oliver uncovered evidence in Mint archives that production
of the 1870-S silver dollar was tied to the construction of the second
San Francisco Mint and the laying of its cornerstone on May 25, 1870.
No silver dollars had been produced in San Francisco since 1859
and would not have been, had it not been for plans to include a
complete denomination set of U.S. coins in the cornerstone time capsule.
The requirement for inclusion of the silver dollar was apparently
overlooked by San Francisco Mint Superintendent A.H. LaGrange.
LaGrange had requested dies for the 1870 coinage in the fall of
1869, and the requested 1870 coinage dies were received from the
Philadelphia Mint in December 1869. Silver dollar dies were excluded
from the order.
According to Kelly and Oliver’s research, however, LaGrange
noticed that the gold dollar dies and $3 gold coin dies lacked the S
Mint mark and requested corrected dies from the Philadelphia Mint.
Because silver dollars were not being contemplated for production
in 1870, LaGrange did not specify in his request that the corrected
reverse dies for the dollar denomination were to be for gold coins.
The Philadelphia Mint, unaware what coins were intended, sent
reverse dies both for silver dollars and for the gold coins.
The San Francisco facility, as a result, had dies for the silver
dollar reverse, but no Seated Liberty obverse die dated 1870 was shipped.
Kelly and Oliver believe that LaGrange’s close working
relationship with Carson City Mint Superintendent Abraham Curry
resulted in Curry supplying the San Francisco Mint with an unused 1870
Seated Liberty silver dollar obverse die.
Kelly and Oliver theorize that the 1870-S silver dollars were
struck most likely for presentation purposes.
For more details about the Gardner auctions, visit Heritage
Numismatic Auctions online at www.ha.com; write the firm at 3500 Maple
Ave., 17th Floor, Dallas, TX 75219-3941; or telephone Heritage either
at 800-872-6467 or 214-528-3500. ■