US Coins

18th century coin marvels in Legend’s Bruce Morelan Collection auction

Beyond the finest-known 1794 Flowing Hair dollar and a legendary 1804 Draped Bust dollar from the Bruce Morelan Collection, which are sure to lead Legend’s Oct. 8 Regency 41 auction in Las Vegas, several other impressive 18th century coins with rich histories also stud the offerings.

A 1795 Capped Bust, Small Eagle gold $5 half eagle from the Morelan Collection graded Mint State 64 by Professional Coin Grading Service and bearing a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker is ranked among the finest-known of the issue. Listed as Bass-Dannreuther 3 in Early U.S. Gold Coin Die Varieties by John W. Dannreuther and Harry W. Bass Jr., this is a later die state, showing a linear engraver’s mark on the reverse, connecting the E in UNITED to the dentil.

It sold at Heritage’s April 2014 sale of the Eric P. Newman Collection — then graded MS-64 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and bearing a green CAC sticker — where it realized $336,000. Heritage described the BD-3 die marriage as the most plentiful of the 12 Capped Bust, Small Eagle varieties. It also identified diagnostics for the marriage: “Two of the most prominent diagnostics are the close spacing of stars 11 and 12 next to the Y, and on the reverse, the wreath branches meeting equidistantly between the S and O.”

Newman acquired it in February 1944 through Stack’s in New York, part of his acquisition of the “Colonel” E.H.R. Green estate, where his inventory records note a price of $225 for it, and where it was graded Perfect Brilliant Uncirculated in an era before precise Mint State numerical grades were the norm.

In the upcoming offering, Legend observes: “Rich reddish-orange gold toning blankets both sides of this highly lustrous and sharply struck early half eagle,” adding, “The fields clearly have a bold, lustrous flash as you rotate the coin in a light source. The richness of the color comes out as the surfaces gleam.”

As the first year of the denomination, examples have long been in demand from type collectors and specialists in the series, leading Legend to conclude, “It is a numismatic ‘blue chip’ of the first order!”

It carries an estimate of $400,000 to $450,000.

Stunning 1795 dollar

Two obverse types of silver dollars were struck at the Philadelphia Mint in 1795: the Flowing Hair type, which was a continuation of the design used on the first dollars of 1794, and the Draped Bust design, which would continue until 1804.

Among the highlights from the Morelan Collection is a 1795 Draped Bust, Off-Center Bust dollar graded PCGS MS-66 and bearing a green CAC sticker, and once graded MS-67 by NGC. The piece is perhaps the finest-known of the Bowers-Borckardt 51 variety.

When offered in Bowers and Merena’s April 1997 sale of the Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. Collection it was graded by the auctioneer as MS-67 Prooflike, with the catalog stating, “Superbly, indeed, incredibly sharply struck, the very definition of the design. Brilliant surfaces with just a whisper of golden toning. This piece is certainly one of the very finest in existence of any issue in the entire Draped Bust series.”

More recently it was presented at Stack’s Bowers Galleries and Sotheby’s May 2016 D. Brent Pogue auction where it brought $763,750 and Legend calls it, “One of the GREATEST early dollars that has EVER been offered.”

It is estimated at $600,000 to $750,000.

Overdate early dime

While silver dollars will get much of the attention at Legend’s Regency 41 auction, another former Newman coin — a 1798/7 Draped Bust, 16 Stars Reverse dime graded PCGS MS-65+ and possessing a green CAC sticker is a little gem with tremendous eye appeal.

Legend writes, “Both sides are boldly lustrous with a vibrant, thick, frosty satin luster that blooms all over. Beautifully toned with bold concentric rings of rose-gold, vivid blue, and warm violet toning frame both sides, yielding to the brilliant, silver centers.”

Today it is considered the finest-known of the JR-1 variety.

When Heritage offered it at its November 2013 Newman sale, it was graded MS-65 Star by NGC, with a green CAC sticker, and sold for $88,125. There Heritage wrote, “There appears to be a slight planchet clip at 2 o’clock on this impressive Gem,” also noting that both sides show light clash marks, often seen on smaller-sized coins of the period.

Legend comments on the resourcefulness of the U.S. Mint at the time in adapting dies from previous years. It notes that the reverse die was originally used to strike 1797 Capped Bust $2.50 quarter eagles. The obverse die clearly shows an 8 punched over 7 in the date.

Legend estimates it to sell for $100,000 to $120,000.

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