Finest-known 1894-S Barber dime realizes nearly $2 million in FUN sale

Rarity tops bidding at Heritage's Platinum Night auction
By , Coin World
Published : 01/08/16
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The finest known 1894-S Barber dime topped Heritage’s Jan. 7 Platinum Night auction held during the Florida United Numismatists convention. Realizing just under $2 million, the Branch Mint Proof, graded Proof 66 by Professional Coin Grading Service with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker, sold for a bid of $1.7 million. With the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee, the total price realized came to $1,997,500.

At the auction podium, auctioneer Bob Merrill said that seven bids for the dime were in excess of $1 million. Heritage president Greg Rohan was on the phone with the winning bidder during the sale, although the bidder placed the bid online the night before. After the auction Rohan said that the bidder had stepped away from dinner from his family to call Rohan during the auction to make sure that he won the lot and at the conclusion of the bidding, Rohan said, “Mr. $1.7 million is very happy.” To that, Merrill said to an audience member, “If you would have bid $1.8 million he may not have bought it.” 

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Rohan said that the winning bidder purchased the coin because it had a trifecta of positive qualities: the client loved the pedigree, which included Louis E. Eliasberg Sr., along with the coin’s fully original surfaces and the fact that it is the finest known. Rohan said that the client bid on a number of coins at Heritage’s Platinum Night auction and that the 1894-S dime will reside in his collection alongside other “trophy coins.” 

Dollars and dismes

Other top lots included an 1849-C Coronet, Open Wreath gold dollar graded Mint State 62 by PCGS that sold for $528,750. It too is the finest known example and it is considered the rarest gold dollar issue. As expert Doug Winter wrote in his 2008 book Gold Coins of the Charlotte Mint, “The 1849-C Open Wreath gold dollar is the rarest coin ever produced by the Charlotte Mint. It is the rarest gold dollar from any mint and it also ranks as one of the rarest gold coins made as a business strike issue,” adding, “Among Charlotte collectors, it has assumed near-mythic proportions.”

In the catalog Heritage lists five known examples, with the next-finest being an About Uncirculated 58 coin. The example in the Platinum Night auction was offered in 2004 at David Lawrence’s sale of the Richmond Collection. Then-graded MS-63 Prooflike by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., it realized $690,000 and established a record price for a gold dollar sold at auction. It later sold privately to a private collector for “a sum reportedly close to $1 million.” It last sold publicly last year at Heritage’s Central States Numismatic Society auction for $493,500. 

One of several rare patterns from the first year of the Philadelphia Mint, a 1792 pattern disme on a thin planchet, listed as Judd 9 and Pollock 10 in the references to the series and graded Fine 15 by NGC, sold for $329,000. In a night that saw many cut bids — where the auctioneer allows a bidder to place a bid in between two standard increments — the bidding started at $250,000 and then went to $260,000 and then $280,000. When Merrill asked the audience for a cut bid, which would allow a bid of $290,000 versus the standard increment that would lead to a bid of $300,000, he said that he could afford to be patient — “after all, this isn’t like selling a Morgan dollar.” He then suggested to a possible bidder on the phone who might bid at the $290,000 level, “Close the door and don’t let your wife know what you’re doing.” His comments, which met laughter from the audience, weren’t enough to raise the bid for the rare piece from the collection of Texas businessman Bob Simpson.

A different example of this pattern, graded AU-50 by NGC, sold for just under a million dollars at Heritage’s sale of the Donald Groves Partrick Collection at last year’s FUN convention. The present example shows evidence of smoothing and polishing on the surfaces, along with remnants of an old inscription that were present as early as 1864. As Heritage observed, “Glimpses of old graffiti remain within the raised elements on both sides, adding to the charm of this historic pattern disme.”

After-auction buys

Several of the top lots did not make their reserves, or the minimum prices set by consignors. A well-traveled 1870-S Seated Liberty silver dollar graded Extremely Fine 40 by PCGS was available after that auction for $499,375. Considered the rarest regular-issue silver dollar it is one of nine confirmed examples and was last sold at Heritage’s May 2015 auction of the Gene Gardner Collection, Part III, where it sold for $505,250. Gardner had purchased it from the January 2014 FUN auction for a hearty $763,750. Before that it had sold at an August 2010 Bowers and Merena auction for $632,500 and a year before sold at Heritage’s May 2009 Central States Numismatic Society auction for $503,125. It had also previously sold at David Lawrence’s Richmond Sale in 2004 for $414,000. Heritage notes that the present example is probably the fourth-finest known representative of the rare issue. 

Another silver dollar that failed to find a buyer at the sale was a 1901 Morgan dollar graded MS-65 by NGC that was available after the auction for $305,500. Among the finest known for the issue, the description showed that it had last sold at auction at Superior’s July 2005 auction where it realized $95,450. The rarity in this grade is a combination of poor production and the fact that most were apparently released in circulation and, unlike with many other Morgan dollars, a significant portion was not saved at the time of issue. Many more may have been melted. 

The finest known example graded MS-66 by PCGS sold for $587,500 at the recent sale of the Coronet Collection by Legend Rare Coin Auctions. 

1894-S Barber dime leads FUN Platinum Night auction

In case you didn't believe us about that $1.7 million dime that sold last night...

Posted by Coin World on Friday, January 8, 2016
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