Finest U.S. silver coin collection on the block

Heritage Auctions plans 2014, 2015 sales in NYC
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Published : 02/10/14
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Pennsylvania collector Eugene H. Gardner Sr., 78, has spent more than two decades assembling what some numismatists regard as one of the finest ever collections of American silver coins.

Now, he says, it’s time to relinquish ownership of his more than 3,000 coins to a new collecting generation, in four auctions in New York in 2014 and 2015. The auctions are to be staged by Heritage Auctions from Dallas. Gardner’s coins are being offered without reserves.

“I see these auctions as the culmination of a gratifying and absorbing collecting career,” Gardner said. “It allows me to introduce my largely-completed collection to the numismatic fraternity, which is very exciting to me. I love the thought of sharing the auction experience with my family. We’ve really all been in this together. In fact, my grandchildren know how to get my attention by just saying, ‘Opa, what new coins do you have?’ ”

The first auction is scheduled to take place June 23, 2014, with the second scheduled for sometime in October.

Among the highlights in Gardner’s collection:

➤ A 1796 Draped Bust, Small Eagle dime, JR-1 (Early United States Dimes 1796-1837 by Jules Reiver, David J. Davis, Russell J. Logan, Allen F. Lovejoy, John W. McCloskey and William L. Subjack), Professional Coin Grading Service Mint State 66.

➤ A unique in Proof 1823/2 Capped Bust quarter dollar, Browning 1 (Early Quarter Dollars of the United States Mint by Rory Rea, Dr. Glenn Peterson, Bradley S. Karoleff and John J. Kovach Jr.), Numismatic Guaranty Corp. Proof 64.

➤ A PCGS Extremely Fine 40 1870-S Seated Liberty dollar.

The collection also features complete sets of all Seated Liberty and Barber coin series.

1796 Draped Bust dime

Gardner’s 1796 Draped Bust dime was once part of the Jimmy Hayes Collection of United States Silver Coins that Stack’s sold Oct. 22, 1985.

While PCGS has certified the coin MS-66, the lot description for the coin when it was part of the Hayes collection identified its condition as “Gem Brilliant Proof.”

The Hayes sale lot description also added, “Undoubtedly struck for presentation. Deep mirror surface, fully struck stars and devices.”

Mark Borckardt, a senior cataloger for Heritage Auctions, said Feb. 5 that the reason for PCGS’s grading the piece as a Mint State coin and not Proof, is because “PCGS does not recognize the Proof format for coins dated prior to 1817.”

“I believe that a strong case exists to call this piece a ‘Specimen,’ ” Borckardt said.

Numismatist John Dannreuther, a specialist in early U.S. coins and coinage production and a PCGS co-founder and consultant, said Feb. 5 that the coin could be considered by PCGS as SP, designating a Specimen strike.

Dannreuther said the coin would have to be sent back to PCGS for re-examination to be considered for Specimen status.

Heritage catalogers identify Gardner’s 1796 JR-1 dime as “one of three or four known examples without the obverse die break” at the first star left of the date.

Proof 1823/2 quarter dollar

The 1823/2 Capped Bust quarter dollar overdate issue is known by a single obverse and reverse die pairing.

U.S. Mint records indicate that 117,800 pieces were struck of this year, yet it is one of the two rarest dates in the entire quarter dollar series.

Aside from the essentially noncollectible 1827, the 1823/2 is considered the key date to the Capped Bust quarter dollar series.

On the obverse, the 3 in the date is punched over an underlying 2.

On the reverse, the lowest arrowhead, closest to the C. in the denomination, is missing its lower left corner, and the upper arrow shaft is broken. Both of these Mint-made diagnostics are primary attribution points for the 1823/2 quarter dollar.

It is widely believed that the majority of the 1823 production was melted and the bullion converted for production into other silver denominations.

Early Quarter Dollars of the United States Mint illustrates and provides provenance for 30 examples, ranging in condition from Good 4 to NGC 61+ Prooflike, topped by Gardner’s NGC Proof 64, the only 1823/2 Capped Bust quarter dollar certified as a Proof.

1870-S Seated Liberty $1

Gardner’s 1870-S Seated Liberty dollar is considered the fourth finest among nine confirmed examples extant.

The piece is identified by catalogers as the Bolender-Ostheimer coin, having been owned, at different times, by M.H. Bolender, author of United States Early Silver Dollars from 1794 to 1803, and by Alfred and Jackie Ostheimer.

According to Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States by Q. David Bowers, with Borckardt, the mintage of 1870-S dollars from the San Francisco Mint is unknown, although possibly fewer than 200 are believed to have been struck.

No official record of its mintage has ever been located.

The 1870-S Seated Liberty dollar is listed as No. 47 in the third edition of Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth’s tome, 100 Greatest U.S. Coins.

The 1870-S dollar is considered to be the rarest regular-issue silver dollar ever struck at a U.S. Mint production facility.

In numismatic research published in 2005, authors Richard Kelly and Nancy Oliver uncovered evidence in Mint archives that production of the 1870-S silver dollar was tied to the construction of the second San Francisco Mint and the laying of its cornerstone on May 25, 1870.

No silver dollars had been produced in San Francisco since 1859 and would not have been, had it not been for plans to include a complete denomination set of U.S. coins in the cornerstone time capsule.

The requirement for inclusion of the silver dollar was apparently overlooked by San Francisco Mint Superintendent A.H. LaGrange.

LaGrange had requested dies for the 1870 coinage in the fall of 1869, and the requested 1870 coinage dies were received from the Philadelphia Mint in December 1869. Silver dollar dies were excluded from the order.

According to Kelly and Oliver’s research, however, LaGrange noticed that the gold dollar dies and $3 gold coin dies lacked the S Mint mark and requested corrected dies from the Philadelphia Mint.

Because silver dollars were not being contemplated for production in 1870, LaGrange did not specify in his request that the corrected reverse dies for the dollar denomination were to be for gold coins.

The Philadelphia Mint, unaware what coins were intended, sent reverse dies both for silver dollars and for the gold coins.

The San Francisco facility, as a result, had dies for the silver dollar reverse, but no Seated Liberty obverse die dated 1870 was shipped.

Kelly and Oliver believe that LaGrange’s close working relationship with Carson City Mint Superintendent Abraham Curry resulted in Curry supplying the San Francisco Mint with an unused 1870 Seated Liberty silver dollar obverse die.

Kelly and Oliver theorize that the 1870-S silver dollars were struck most likely for presentation purposes.

For more details about the Gardner auctions, 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. ■

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