The official auctions of the American Numismatic Association World’s
Fair of Money — held Aug. 1 to 5 in Denver — offered something for
virtually every collector.
Perhaps more than any sales held during the year, the summer ANA
auctions present a mix of carefully assembled collections and
individual delicacies. Two of these collections offered represent the
spectrum of offerings at the 2017 ANA auctions, where fascinating
items don’t necessarily need to be the most expensive. Highlights from
one collection are reviewed here.
The fallout from the Enhanced Uncirculated Coin
Another column in the August 21 weekly issue of Coin World reveals
that while forms of numismatic literature like fixed-price lists
were meant to be fleeting, they can actually be quite useful.
Heritage offered the Don Willis Collection of U.S. Colonial Coinage
as part of its Platinum Night sale on Aug. 2. Willis is president of
Professional Coin Grading Service and the offered set was the current
#2 Registry Set in the category of “Finest Early American Coins and
Tokens Complete Design Set (1916-1820).”
Willis said, “When I started collecting Colonials I bought the
highest grade I could find. Then I realized that an uncirculated
Colonial did not represent what really intrigued me. I wanted coins
that may have been handled up to a quarter century ago.” His shift in
interest led him to sell his Uncirculated coins to focus on choice,
original About Uncirculated coins.
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Leading off the auction of Willis’s collection was an undated (1652)
New England shilling graded Extremely Fine 45 by PCGS and bearing a
green Certified Acceptance Corporation sticker. The design, shared by
three denominations, is primitive, or alternately, minimalist,
depending on one’s aesthetic viewpoint. One side is punched NE while
the denomination — either III (threepence), VI (sixpence) or XII
(shilling) — is punched on the other side. The two design elements are
positioned at the top of one side and the bottom of the other side so
the punches wouldn’t interfere with one another.
While the exact numbers struck are unknown, these early
Massachusetts silver issues were produced in some quantity.
Six distinct die varieties are known of the shilling, with three NE
punches and three XII punches used. The offered example — listed as
Noe 1-A in the series reference — is the most common of the varieties.
As Heritage reports, “Nearly half of the existing population of Noe
1-A New England shillings will be found in museums, including three
examples in the British Museum, and one each in the Hunterian Museum
(Glasgow), the Smithsonian Institution, the American Numismatic
Society, and the Colonial Williamsburg Collection.”
The $164,500 that the Willis coin brought on Aug. 2 is a bit more
than the $152,750 that it sold for when offered as part of Stack’s
Bowers’ offering of the Henry P. Kendall Foundation’s collection in
2015 where it was described as “a picturesque piece of ancient Americana.”
More unusual was a 1783 Georgivs Triumpho token graded EF-45 and
bearing a green CAC sticker that sold for $1,762.50. It shows a
vertical die crack on the reverse — consistent with most known
examples. The token also has a reverse motif that has defied exact explanation.
Walter Breen believed the box on the reverse depicts a weaving frame
while other research connects the issue with the launch of the first
hot air balloon in France in September 1783. That balloon successfully
hoisted a sheep, duck and rooster for less than 15 minutes before it
crashed to the ground. The idea that the seated figure might depict a
seated Britannia in a hot air balloon basket is certainly whimsical,
though like many elements of early American numismatics, the exact
story is likely lost to history.
These tokens saw circulation in Virginia, Georgia and South
Carolina, and, in contrast to most George Washington tokens dated in
the 1780s, these were actually struck during that decade, and many
were later used as host planchets for New Jersey coppers. As Heritage
once noted in a description for a comparable example, “The portrait
resembles Washington less than another famous George from the era,
King George III, perhaps because a bust or painting of Washington was
not available to the engraver.”