Though Stack’s Bowers Galleries had the top lot of the ANA auctions
when the Lord St. Oswald-Norweb 1794 Flowing Hair dollar, graded Mint
State 64, brought $2.82 million during the Aug. 3 Rarities Night sale,
the various other sessions had a host of fascinating collections with
more modest price tags. One that stood out was the Rainbow Falls
Collection of scarce and fascinating Hawaiian numismatic items.
Coins from Hawaii are widely collected today, starting with a cent
issued by King Kamehameha III in 1847 that was not particularly
popular with merchants, but was well-suited as a souvenir.
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In 1883 silver coins were struck for the Kingdom of Hawaii, designed
by Charles Barber and struck at the San Francisco Mint. Dimes, quarter
dollars, half dollars and dollars were issued with a distinguished
portrait of Hawaii’s King Kalākaua on the obverse and the kingdom’s
coat of arms on the three largest coins (the dime shows a wreath). The
coins enjoyed local circulation for several decades, but in 1904 they
lost their legal tender status and by 1907 most had been exchanged for
silver at the San Francisco Mint.
Many of the remaining Hawaiian coins were used to create jewelry and
were used as keepsakes of the Kingdom of Hawaii, with enameled coins,
pins, watch fobs, belts, hat pins and other decorative items being
fashioned for sale to tourists.
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.
The Rainbow Falls Collection included several pieces of Hawaiian
coins fashioned into jewelry, including a woman’s belt crafted using
24 1883 Hawaiian coins — 21 quarter dollars, a single half dollar and
two dollars — that measures 27.5 inches long and sold for $646.25. The
coins are each attached to one another by four loops and a single link
of silver chain, with the buckle fashioned from two dollars. Several
of the coins are enameled to highlight the Hawaiian coat of arms. The
description noted that the coins were of high quality and that the
belt was still functional.
Also offered was a napkin ring made from five 1847 Hawaiian cents
that were soldered together at their edges to form a ring measuring
just over 40 millimeters in diameter that sold for $493.50.
Rounding out the collection were five enameled 1883 Hawaiian dollars
that sold from $111.63 to $329 each and several impressive antique
silver coin spoons with enameled Hawaiian coins in the dish of the
spoon. The most expensive of the spoons was a 136-millimeter-long
spoon weighing 26.3 grams with a stem topped by a full length uniface
image of King Kamehameha I facing half left. The bowl featured a
richly enameled 1883 Hawaii half dollar with the inscription
UNIVERSITY CLUB / FEBRUARY – 2 – 1906 around the coin. The curious
decorative spoon sold for $446.50.
While coins representing the highest grades of the grading service
registry sets often capture headlines, there’s also a healthy market
for “lowball” sets of problem-free Poor 1 coins. An 1883 Hawaiian
dollar graded Poor 1 by Professional COin Grading Service from the
Rainbow Falls Collection sold for $376 — comparable to what
problem-free Very Fine pieces sell for — and as the catalog noted, it
was almost certainly carried for years as a pocket piece.
From high-end rarities to enameled coins to “lowball” grade
rarities, the ANA sales have something for everyone (and at nearly all budgets).