Top patterns hold steady in Heritage's Long Beach Expo auction

Pricey problem coins also drew attention at September sale
By , Coin World
Published : 09/25/15
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Two rare pattern coins held steady in price while they led Heritage’s Sept. 17 to 20 U.S. coin auctions held during and immediately after the Long Beach Expo in southern California. 

Heritage’s U.S. coin sales realized $11,635,140 as of Sept. 22. The addition of the firm’s world and currency auctions raises Heritage’s auction total to more than $23 million at the final Long Beach Expo of 2015. 

Leading the U.S. coin portion was a copper 1792 pattern disme, listed as Judd 10 and Pollock 11 in the standard reference books to the series and graded Extremely Fine 40 by Professional Coin Grading Service. The rare piece — one of approximately 20 known and included in a 1914 American Numismatic Society exhibit in New York — sold for $211,500. Incidentally, that was the exact same price that it had sold for earlier this year when offered at Heritage’s sale of the Donald G. Partrick Collection at the Florida United Numismatists auctions in January. 

In terms of quality, it is listed in the middle of the known examples ranked in Heritage’s census and both the obverse and reverse show some surface irregularities. Heritage notes, “Brighter color in the same area suggests that something may have rested on the coin for many years,” adding, “The reverse exhibits light corrosion in the northeast quadrant, again suggesting that something may have rested on the coin for an extended period of time.”

An Impressive Pattern

One of the most visually impressive pieces offered at the sale was an 1877 $50 pattern, measuring two inches in diameter and listed as Judd 1549 and Pollock 1722. Graded Proof 63+ by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and housed in an oversized slab, it brought $176,250. 

Two types of $50 patterns, nicknamed half unions, were produced in 1877: one with a Large Head design and another with a Small Head design. The example offered at Long Beach was of the Small Head type and is composed of gilt copper, although it’s unclear if the gold was added at the Mint or after it left the Mint. Regardless, the overall appearance is akin to a gold coin. 

The production of these patterns was more the result of the desire of then-Mint Director Richard Linderman than any actual need. Heritage notes, “He had many patterns struck for unofficial reasons during his later terms as Mint Director and formed a spectacular collection of his own, mostly of pattern and restrike issues,” before suggesting that these coins were a sort of “pet project.” 

The offered gilt copper example can be traced to a 1948 B. Max Mehl sale where the famed Texas dealer wrote: “Only about fifteen specimens minted in all. Of highest historical interest and, of course, excessively rare. I doubt if more than two specimens have been offered at auction in the past more than thirty years. A beautiful and thrilling coin to own.” It was purchased for the collection of Egypt’s King Farouk and then sold to U.S. collector Robert Schermerhorn, who Heritage notes was “one of the few Americans to attend the sale in Cairo.” 

It too brought the same price as it did on its last trip to the auction block, when it sold at Heritage’s Sept. 6, 2014, Long Beach Expo sale for $176,250. 

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