The third auction of the D. Brent Pogue Collection, titled “Masterpieces of United States Coinage Part III,” may have lacked the singular seven-figure rarities that were highlights of the first two auctions, but the sale, a joint venture with Stack’s Bowers Galleries, still brought $17,135,612.50.
The third auction took place Feb. 9 at Sotheby’s headquarters in New York City.
With the $25.3 million from the May 19, 2015, Pogue I auction and the $26.1 million from Pogue II on Sept. 30, 2015, the total for the three Pogue auctions now stands at $68,577,182, with more to come. The next installment of the Pogue Collection auctions will take place in May.
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To many, the most significant coin in the auction was the finest known 1815 Capped Head $5 gold half eagle, graded MS-65 by Professional Coin Grading Service. As the catalog entry began, “An American numismatic treasure, this gem 1815 half eagle would be the single star of the D. Brent Pogue Collection were it not for the presence of the only collectible 1822 half eagle.” It carried an estimate of $750,000 to $1 million and ultimately sold for $822,500.
It has long been considered a key landmark issue in U.S. coins. As Bill Eckberg noted in the February 2015 monthly issue of Coin World, “The entire mintage of 635 coins was struck, probably in less than an hour, on Nov. 3, 1815, for Thomas Parker, Charles Kalkman, and the Bank of Pennsylvania, who deposited the gold bullion.”
At the time, the Philadelphia Mint struck gold and silver coins only for depositors and in the denominations the depositors requested. As Eckberg explained, “if someone deposited $50 worth of silver, he could expect to receive exactly $50 in any silver denomination he chose. Gold deposits were paid out in gold coin.”
In 1815, in the aftermath of the War of 1812, just four denominations were coined: cents, quarter dollars, half dollars, and half eagles, though none of the 1815 cents carry the date 1815 and were likely dated 1814 using leftover dies.
At the start of the 20th century, just six or so 1815 half eagles were known, and over the next several decades a few more were discovered. Today, David Stone and Mark Van Winkle record 10 examples in their 2012 book The 1815 Half Eagle: New Discoveries, removing from the roster of examples a piece at the Connecticut State Library that was actually an altered 1813 half eagle.
Beyond the half eagle’s rarity, it is also beautiful, described by cataloger John Kraljevich as follows: “Coppery orange highlights are scattered across the richly original deep yellow surfaces, fairly subtle on the obverse but quite bold on the reverse, where this deeper color dominates the lower periphery. The luster is thorough and complete, blanketing both sides with a depth few specimens of any date of this type could match. The strike is complete and the surfaces are free of significant defects.”