The Dr. Norman Jacobs Collection of Japanese and Korean coins,
auctioned Sept. 8 by Heritage Auction Galleries, realized $6.8 million
as part of the firm’s marathon of ancient and world coin auction
sessions during four days.
Leading the way was a Year 3 (1909) Korean Yung Hi gold 20 won
coin, which realized $632,500, including the 15 percent buyer’s fee
(all prices reflect the fee).
The coin is part of the only set of Year 3 (1909) Korean Yung Hi
gold 5-, 10- and 20-won coins available in private hands; the only
other known set is held in the Bank of Japan museum.
Numismatic Guaranty Corp. graded all three Korean Yung Hi coins in
the auction as Mint State 64, though the lot descriptions suggest they
would more correctly be described “as Proof, or Specimen, as [they
are] definitely not a normal circulation striking.”
Heritage considers the trio some “of the most important coins in
all Korean numismatics.”
The 5-won coin realized $460,000, while the 10-won coin realized $299,000.
This was the first auction appearance for each of the three gold
coins, according to Heritage, and the auction represented the largest
multi-consignor world coin auction ever presented in the United
States, the firm said.
High grade coins – especially those with a grade of MS-65 and
above – brought premiums “never before seen in the market, akin to
those that are usually associated with high grade U.S. coins,”
according to Cristiano Bierrenbach, executive vice president of
international numismatics at Heritage. “Just when we thought the world
coin market can’t get any better, this auction came along and happily
proved us wrong,” he said.
Twenty-two of the top 50 most valuable world coin lots sold by
Heritage are from the 366-lot Jacobs Collection, he said.
Jacobs’ interest in Asia was reportedly spurred by a worker at the
neighborhood Chinese laundry.
Dr. Norman Jacobs was a young boy in New York City when his
collecting took root, his interest fed by seeking and searching change
from one vendor to the next. After graduating high school at 15,
Jacobs graduated City College at 18 years old, his interest in Asian
studies ignited by the aforementioned neighborhood factotum.
After college Jacobs joined the Army, where he applied for
Japanese language school and was accepted, narrowly missing being
deployed with a unit that never came home.
Upon completing training Jacobs was sent to the Philippines, where
he translated intercepted documents and provided the initial
translation of the 1945 surrender document.
His collection grew while he served in Tokyo with occupation
forces, Jacobs spending hours sorting through all the coins and paper
money he could find, his education assisted by a Isao Gunji, curator
of the Bank of Japan’s coins and a friend of a friend of a fellow officer.
Jacobs was able, with other numismatic friends, to rescue some of
the Osaka Mint coins and patterns that would have otherwise been
melted by U.S. forces. He returned to the United States and earned his
doctorate in sociology at Harvard University.
Unable to secure a faculty position, Jacobs began working for
Robert Friedberg of Capitol Coin Co., using his specialized Asian
While there, Jacobs authored Japanese Coinage and
contributed to Friedberg’s opus, Gold Coins of the World,
expanding his collection with purchases that included the Meiji Year 3
gold 10-yen pattern from the famous 1954 Palace Collection auction of
deposed ruler King Farouk of Egypt.
Jacobs, with Cornelius Vermeule, in 1953 completed the first
English language book on Japanese coinage that covered both ancient
and modern coinage, and was the first to catalog the coins by date and type.
In 1955 Jacobs moved to Taiwan (where he met his wife) before
working in Washington, D.C., and later, for two years in Iran. His
Japanese language skills proved useful when the crown prince (now
Emperor Akihito) was visiting, as Jacobs was the only government
employee in Iran who spoke Japanese.
After returning to the United States, Jacobs entered academia, as
professor of Asian Sociology at the University of Kansas, followed by
the University of Illinois, before retiring in 1990.
Jacobs’ interest in numismatics never waned, and he remained
active in research and collecting until he died in 2004.
A part of the collection was sold in 2008 by Baldwin’s and Ma Tak
Wo, but Heritage appears to have access to the marquee lots. The
Baldwin’s/Ma Tak Wo portion of the collection realized $3,371,800 with
the 15 percent buyer’s fee.
A total of 365 lots (all but one) from the Jacobs Collection found
buyers. The figure for the Jacobs Collection does not include prices
for the non-Japanese and non-Korean coins the collection held but that
were offered in other Heritage sessions. The cumulative total for all
the Heritage ancient and world coin sessions, including an
Internet-only portion, topped $20.3 million.
For more details about the auction, visit Heritage Numismatic
Auctions online at www.ha.com, write
the firm at 3500 Maple Ave., 17th Floor, Dallas, TX 75219-3941, or
telephone Heritage either at 800-872-6467 or 214-528-3500.
Some additional highlights:
Japan, undated (1710) silver Chogin, Pre-Meiji period, Hoei Eiji,
Krause Mishler-Unlisted (
Standard Catalog of World Coins
by Chester Krause and Clifford Mishler), 122.3 grams,
Extremely Fine, $69,000.
Japan, undated (circa 1860 to 1862) gold oban, Manen, superb
Japan, Year 7 (1874) silver 50-sen coin, Meiji Period, KM-Y25,
perhaps four or five known, Numismatic Guaranty Corp. Proof
Japan, Year 9 (1876) silver 50-sen coin, Meiji Period, KM-Y25,
“the few known examples appear to be those struck for presentation
sets,” NGC Proof 65, $54,625.
Japan, Year 13 (1880) silver 50-sen coin, Meiji Period, KM-Y25,
perhaps five or six known, NGC Very Fine 35, $48,875.
Japan, Year 3 (1870) silver pattern 1-yen coin, Meiji Period,
KM-Pn16, “only a handful of examples extant,” NGC Proof 64,
Japan, Year 34 (1901) silver pattern 1-yen coin, reduced size,
Meiji Period, KM-Pn32, NGC Mint State 62, $80,500.
Japan, Year 7 (1874) trade silver dollar pattern, dragon with
beaded circle, Meiji Period, “design used to strike the
circulation issues of 1875, 1876, and 1877,” KM-Pn24, “if not
unique, there are very few known,” NGC Proof 65, $299,000.
Japan, Year 7 (1874) trade silver dollar pattern, dragon without
beaded circle, Meiji Period, KM-Pn25, “only a few pieces
survive,” NGC Proof 62, $207,000.
Japan, Year 13 (1880) gold 1-yen coin, reduced size, Meiji
Period, KM-Y9a, “mintage of only 112 pieces, all of which were
struck for presentation sets,” “we doubt that more than 4-5 pieces
survive,” NGC Proof 63, $97,750.
Japan, Year 13 (1880) gold 2-yen coin, Meiji Period, KM-Y10a,
“mintage of only 87 pieces ... only very few pieces known,”
NGC Proof 66, $161,000.
Japan, Year 3 (1870) gold 10-yen coin, Meiji Period, KM-Pn19, “we
know of only three examples,” NGC MS-64, $276,000.
Japan, Year 13 (1880) gold 10-yen coin, Meiji Period, KM-Y12a,
“probably no more than 4-5 pieces known,” NGC Proof 63, $253,000.
Japan, Year 13 (1880) gold 20-yen coin, Meiji Period, KM-Y13,
mintage of 103 pieces, NGC Proof 63, $230,000.
Japan, 1927 50-yen bank note specimen, emergency issue, Pick 37A (
Standard Catalog of World Paper Money,
edited by George Cuhaj), “a second but different type specimen
with Mi-hon overprinted,” Paper Money Guaranty Choice
Uncirculated 64 Exceptional Paper Quality, $74,750.
Korea, Year 497 (1888) silver 1-warn coin, Yi Hyong, KM-103,
NGC MS-62, $80,500.
Korea, Year 3 (1909) copper-nickel 5-chon coin, Yung Hi,
KM-1138, NGC MS-66, $138,000.
Korea, Year 6 (1902) copper 1-chon coin, Russian domination,
Kuang Mu, KM-1121, NGC MS-65 brown, $149,500.
Korea, Year 7 (1903) copper 10-won pattern, Russian domination,
Kuang Mu, KM-unlisted, NGC MS-64 brown, $103,500.
Korea, Year 6 (1902) copper 20-won pattern, Russian domination,
Kuang Mu, KM-Pn35, NGC MS-64 brown, $115,000. ■