US Coins

Pogue collection auction totals more than $25 million

The first of seven planned auctions of Dallas numismatist D. Brent Pogue’s now legendary collection kicked off in New York City on May 19. 

The Pogue Collection sale totaled more than $25 million with all of the 128 coins selling. The top seller in the auction, an 1808 Capped Draped Bust gold quarter eagle, accounted for nearly 10 percent of the total when it realized $2.35 million. 

The auction, held by Stack’s Bowers Galleries in conjunction with Sotheby’s and titled “Masterpieces of United States Coinage: Part 1,” took place at Sotheby’s headquarters on the Upper East Side. 

In a panel discussion conducted prior to the auction, with Q. David Bowers, David Tripp and Lawrence Stack, moderator Christine Karstedt of Stack’s Bowers asked just what makes the Pogue Collection so special. 

Desire for quality

Stack said that while Pogue was a student of numismatics and had the resources to buy exceptional coins, he also took advantage of opportunities in the marketplace. 

Tripp praised Pogue’s “uncompromising quality standard” and his collecting endurance, remembering a young Pogue bidding at the 1982 auction featuring gold coins from Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. Collection, where Pogue purchased his 1822 Capped Bust $5 half eagle for $687,500. Tripp then said that Pogue should be etched into a Mount Rushmore of great collectors.

Immediately before the sale, Bowers took the podium and told the audience that 50 years from now people will continue to ask, what was it like to be at the first Pogue sale? 

The collection in total is estimated to bring more than $200 million, and many of the greatest rarities — including two 1804 Draped Bust silver dollars and the only example of 1822 Capped Bust $5 gold half eagle in private hands — will be in future sales.

That’s not to say that this sale lacked marquee rarities. 

Precious half dimes

The first lot of the 128 coins offered was a 1792 Flowing Hair half disme graded Mint State 64 by Professional Coin Grading Service. The catalog provenance notes that it was offered in two previous auctions within the last decade: a July 2005 Heritage auction (then housed in a Numismatic Guaranty Corp. Mint State 63 holder) where it sold for $316,250 and then at a January 2008 Heritage sale where it was offered as part of the Madison Collection (in a PCGS MS-63 holder) and brought $503,125. Pogue purchased the coin from dealer Larry Hanks on Aug. 11, 2010. 

On May 19 it sold for a bid of $375,000; with the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee the total came to $440,625, comfortably exceeding the pre-sale estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. 

The next lot, a gorgeous 1794 Flowing Hair half dime graded Specimen 67 by PCGS, was last offered publicly as part of Heritage’s October 2012 sale of the Greensboro Collection where it brought $367,775. As Stack’s Bowers notes, the coin carries several layers of significance as “a first-year half dime of the Flowing Hair type that represents the birth of the denomination and the design type as coined within the Philadelphia Mint.”

It is the only example to have been recognized as a Specimen striking by PCGS. The description explains, “While many early strikes show some level of reflectivity, this coin displays purposeful polishing of the planchet that reflects both planning and a high level of interest of this particular specimen’s aesthetics from before the die faces met its surfaces.” Carrying an estimate of $350,000 to $450,000, the handsome half dime opened at a bid of $240,000 and sold to a floor bid of $260,000 for a total price of $305,000. 

The most affordable coins in the collection were also half dimes, and a few coins sold for less than $10,000. One of these was an 1834 Capped Bust half dime graded PCGS MS-66 that opened at $4,000 and moved up just one increment to $4,250 where the hammer dropped. With buyer’s fee it sold for just under $5,000, which was at the high end of the $3,000 to $5,000 estimate. 

Top 18th century coins dominated the sale, including an illustrious 1797 Draped Bust, Small Eagle half dollar graded PCGS MS-66 that sold for $1,527,500 and a beautiful 1796 Draped Bust quarter dollar, also in PCGS MS-66 that sold for the same amount. The price for the half dollar established a record for a U.S. half dollar at auction, according to Sotheby’s. 

A strong, golden finish

The overall prices were strong, especially for the handful of gold coins at the end of the sale. The final lot, presented nearly two and a half hours into the auction, was an 1808 Capped Bust gold $2.50 quarter eagle graded PCGS MS-65. The lot opened at a bid of $1 million and then continued in $100,000 increments until stalling at $1.9 million. After a bidder placed a cut bid of $1.95 million another bidder swooped in with a bid of $2 million, thus closing the sale by paying $2.35 million for this coin and making it the most expensive coin in the auction. 

Transcends market cycles

At the pre-sale discussion, Q. David Bowers commented that great coins like those in the Pogue Collection can transcend market cycles. Bowers stated, “People that know what they want and want quality don’t necessarily follow cycles.” 

He then cited Abe Kosoff who wrote in Coin World after the Garrett Collection auctions more than 30 year ago that the prices achieved in those auctions were unrealistic. Bowers said that he’d gladly write a check for the entire Garrett Collection at those prices and concluded that the breadth of the coin market, including the number of collectors willing to spend a six-figure amount on a coin, bodes well for the future of the high-end coin market.

When asked why he is electing to sell the collection now, Pogue has said, “Some of these coins have been off the market for 35 or 40 years. It’s time to share them with the numismatic community.” 

The next auction is scheduled for Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 in New York City with additional sales to continue through 2017. Or, as the Sotheby’s auctioneer who called the sale pointed out, the Pogue Collection is like “the wonderful sale that never ends.” 

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