Learning about notable coins and medals of the ANA World’s Fair of Money auctions

Official co-auctioneers Stack’s Bowers Galleries and Heritage prepare massive auctions
By , Coin World
Published : 07/23/16
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Stack’s Bowers Galleries and Heritage Auctions are again sharing official auctioneer duties at the upcoming American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Anaheim, Aug. 9 to 13. Both firms will be offering a wide range of coins and paper money from the United States and the world. 

Stack’s Bowers says: “This year’s sale will be monumental, with a staggering 52 percent increase in the number of live auction lots versus the 2015 ANA sale held in Chicago. Clearly, the market continues to endorse Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ recent technological advancements, including the roll out of the firm’s Auction Mobility platform earlier in 2016.”

Among the firm’s U.S. coin highlights is a handsome 1796 Draped Bust quarter dollar graded Mint State 63 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. The issue is desirable as a one-year type and as the first regular issue quarter dollar produced at the Philadelphia Mint. 

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The firm writes, “Both sides of this piece are beautifully toned in iridescent magenta, reddish-gold, powder blue and olive-copper — a real treat to the eye. Modestly reflective with simply outstanding technical quality and eye appeal.” 

The entire mintage of 6,146 quarter dollars comes from just two obverse dies and a single reverse die. This example, classified as Bolender 1, is the scarcer of the two die marriages. It is one of the finest known and is the plate coin for the B-1 dies in the 2008 book Early United States Quarters: 1796-1838 by Steve M. Tompkins where it ranked third on the Condition Census for the variety. 

As the auctioneer concludes, “This coin represents an ideal example — the very best that most collectors could realistically hope for in a 1796 quarter.”

The auction will also feature a Libertas Americana medal in silver graded MS-62 by NGC. It is one of fewer than 30 silver strikings of this medal — dated 1781 but likely struck in 1782 — known. The obverse’s depiction of Liberty by Augustin Dupré is a well-known precedent for the flowing hair designs favored by the Philadelphia Mint’s early artists and this piece is regularly coveted by collectors of American coins. 

This medal was ranked number one — by a significant margin — in the book 100 Greatest American Medals and Tokens by Q. David Bowers and Katherine Jaeger. In the book the authors said, “[The beauty of this medal], its rich history, and its inspiration for federal Liberty Cap coinage combine to make this an object of desire for many numismatists.” 

In his description, Bowers presented this lot, and medals more generally, as a possible value, observing, “The lure is that medals often cost tiny fractions of the prices of even medium-scarce federal coins. For the cost of an MS-65 1893-S Morgan dollar, if you could find one, you could build a wonderful collection of hundreds of different American medals, each with a fascinating story.” He concluded, “Possession of a Libertas Americana medal in silver is a mark of great accomplishment in the field of numismatics.”

Meanwhile, two 1794 dollars will be available from Heritage

Heritage will also be hosting extensive auctions during the ANA show, with a wide range of material that is also particularly rich in items stuck during the first decade of the Philadelphia Mint. 

The firm’s 2016 ANA auction features two 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollars. It is a rare and desirable issue as the first regular issue U.S. silver dollar struck for circulation and just 150, or so, are left from a delivered mintage of 1,758 pieces. 

Most have problems such as cleaning or repairs, as seen in the 2010 book The Flowing Hair Silver Dollars of 1794 by Martin Logies, which documented all then-known examples. 

One of the two is graded Extremely Fine Details, Altered Surfaces, by Professional Coin Grading Service. Known as the Westchester example since it was offered in a 1987 Bowers and Merena auction as part of the Westchester Collection, it was then-graded Extremely Fine 40/40 by ANACS with a certificate dated Oct. 17, 1986. 

Before the widespread growth of third-party certification and encapsulation in the late 1980s, individually dated ANACS paper certificates would often provide grades for both the obverse and reverse separately. 

The dollar was described in that sale as follows: “An attractive specimen of one of America’s great numismatic classics, albeit with the usually seen peripheral weakness (at lower left of the obverse and corresponding part of the reverse) and mint-caused adjustment marks. The centers are well struck, especially so, with the hair detail, eye, lips, nose, ear, and other features of Miss Liberty bold.” 

On the PCGS assessment of Altered Surfaces, Heritage writes, “There are no overt signs of surface alteration other than a silver-gray patina that is perhaps overly light for a 1794 dollar. Some faint hairlines indicate an old cleaning, but they are barely visible on the coin.”

Providing an interesting contrast is another 1794 Flowing Hair dollar, this one graded Extremely Fine Details, Obverse Repaired, by NGC. It has a long ownership history that traces back to the Michael Moore Collection, offered by Edward Cogan, May 1 to 2, 1879. 

On the damage, Heritage observes, “This particular coin is whizzed, and stars 13 to 15 are affected by a repair. A planchet flaw near star 8 has been wiped, and a second (and lesser) planchet flaw is concealed within the lower hair curls.”

Yet, the rarity and desirability of this issue means that collectors are willing to look past these types of defects and pay near six-figure amounts for even problematic examples. 

The latter 1794 dollar recently sold for $85,187.50 earlier this year at Heritage’s Florida United Numismatists January auction, so its quick return to market is a bit surprising. 

For those less willing to compromise in quality, Heritage is offering a 1795 Flowing Hair, Small Eagle, Three Leaves silver dollar graded PCGS MS-61 that is one of the finest known examples. Heritage notes bold luster and an absence of planchet adjustment marks, but also assorted small marks that limit the grade. 

This dollar was previously offered at Bowers and Merena’s November 1991 Frontenac Sale where it was graded About Uncirculated 58 by PCGS, its upgrade the result of changes in the market’s understanding of what constitutes wear on these early U.S. coins. 

U.S. coins mentioned in this article:

1796 Draped Bust quarter dollar

  • — Coin Values estimates (as of July 25, 2016): AG-3 - $7,500; AU-55 - $65,000; MS-65 - $400,000
  • — Although the quarter dollar was authorized under the Mint Act of April 2, 1792, the denomination was not issued until four years later with the release of the Draped Bust, Small Eagle quarter dollar. Read more.

1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar

  • — Coin Values estimates (as of July 25, 2016): AG-3 - $40,000; AU-50 - $450,000; MS-60 - $675,000
  • — The first 1794 Flowing Hair dollars were struck on Oct. 15. The coins were the first precious metal coins struck within the walls of the new Philadelphia Mint. A total of 1,758 1794 dollars were delivered by the coiner, the total mintage of the coin for the year. Read more.
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