January has been a bellwether month for the Colonial Americana
market, with two major auction houses offering collections that have
long been regarded by specialists as among the best of their kind. At
the Florida United Numismatists convention, Heritage Auctions offered
the French and Indian War medal collection of John W. Adams, formed
over a four-decade period during which Adams was one of the best known
scholars in the field.
Stack’s Bowers Galleries continued the long Stack’s tradition of a
January Americana sale, offered during New York’s famous Americana
Week of auctions and antique shows. Highlighting the offering was a
collection of state coppers, particularly Connecticut pieces, formed
by the highly regarded dealer Stephen Tanenbaum.
The Adams offering was a relatively small one, composed of just
over 50 medals, all of which revolved around the French and Indian War
of 1754 to 1763. The highlights were four rare medals struck in gold,
struck to commemorate British victories of the war and a treaty of
peace signed in Germany after the war. The highest individual
realization was the 1758 Louisbourg Taken medal, one of perhaps a half
dozen known in gold, which sold for $92,000. In an interesting
happenstance, every one of the Adams medals was purchased by one
collector, bidding via the Internet.
The prices were generally as high or higher than other recent
offerings, with significant bidding on both the floor and via absentee options.
The Americana sale was a bittersweet occasion, with many of
Tanenbaum’s friends and colleagues competing for coins the late
The Connecticut coppers were the focus, with nearly 300 varieties
up for grabs, most showing nice surfaces or good pedigrees. Steve was
a careful buyer of the series, snapping up rarities at auctions of
famous collections and seeking out many others through private transactions.
The individual highlight, sold after a lengthy floor battle, was
the extremely rare variety of 1787 “Muttonhead” Connecticut copper,
Miller 1.2-mm (State Coinage of Connecticut by Henry Miller),
which brought $109,250.
The top-selling New Jersey copper was a 1786 Maris 9-G, a rare No
Coulter variety. It brought $48,875. Aside from the ex-Tanenbaum lots
(billed as Collection SLT in the catalog), the top early American
seller was a Colombian 1-escudo cob regulated by famed Philadelphia
silversmith Philip Syng, best known for making the silver inkwell used
by the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The newly
discovered gold piece sold for $87,400, a record sum for a
John Kraljevich Jr. is an independent professional numismatist and
researcher specializing in early American coinage.