US Coins

Bob Simpson’s patterns offered in Nov. 19 Heritage auction

Heritage is continuing its auctions featuring some spectacular pattern coins from the collection of Texas Rangers co-owner Bob Simpson on Nov. 19. The auction plans to build on the success of Heritage’s first Simpson offering on Sept. 17, which totaled $14.6 million.

A lot in the second auction is a 1794 Flowing Hair half dime struck in copper and graded About Uncirculated 50 by Professional Coin Grading Service. Cataloged in the pattern reference as Judd 16, it is a unique example of the Valentine 2, Logan-McCloskey 2 die pairing with a plain edge. While several other 1794 copper half dime patterns have reeded edges, this example is unique. Heritage suspects that these 1794 copper half dimes were die trials; copper examples survive for three of the four known die pairings for the date.

Heritage cites Russell Logan and John McCloskey’s research in their book Federal Half Dimes 1792–1837 that indicates all regular-strike issue 1794 silver half dimes were delivered on March 30, 1795. “They were the first of the new silver denomination to actually be struck within the confines of the U.S. Mint buildings, as the 1792-dated half dismes were struck on the premises of sawyer John Harper, of Philadelphia, before the official Mint facilities were completed,” Heritage points out, noting that the subject copper pattern may have been struck as early as 1794.

Another unique offering, listed as Judd 74 Restrike in J. Hewitt Judd’s reference to the pattern series, is an 1838 Liberty Head half dollar struck in copper, graded Proof 66 brown by PCGS. The obverse design by William Kneass — which Judd attributed as the final work by him, completed before a stroke in 1835 left him debilitated — depicting Liberty, “showing an expansive bustline, wearing a coronet reading LIBERTY, 13 stars separated seven and six around the rim, the date 1838 below,” as Heritage notes.

The presence of die cracks and die rust on both sides suggests this was a late-state restrike that dates to as late as 1870s, sometimes called a “fantasy piece,” that was intended to serve the whims of collectors. Heritage observes that the dies have a long and fascinating history, explaining, “Although ‘originals’ (Judd-73, silver, reeded edge) are supposedly known, none survive with no die cracks. Such coins would weigh the statutory standard for 1838 of 206 grains, and would likely have been placed in the Mint Cabinet, formed in that same year — yet none are there.” The reverse die would be used on several other pattern coins.

The offered example has a rich provenance that begins with New York Coin & Stamp’s April 1892 offering of the Woodside Collection.

George Morgan’s ‘Schoolgirl’ dollar

George T. Morgan’s 1879 “Schoolgirl” pattern for the silver dollar denomination is among the most beautiful issues in the pattern series. Simpson’s Judd 1608 example to be offered in Dallas is graded Proof 65+ by PCGS and carries a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker indicating quality within the grade.

The cataloger observes that each side has a different visual appeal, writing, “The obverse shows spotted multicolored toning with deeper shades of rose and blue around the margin. The reverse is mostly cobalt-blue with brighter yellow-rose around the periphery and a bit of reddish patina in the center.”

It was sold privately by W. Elliott Woodward to T. Harrison Garrett in 1883 and was offered in Bowers and Ruddy’s March 1980 sale of Part II of the Garrett Collection, and more recently was offered by Ira and Larry Goldberg in the Benson Collection, Part III, where it was graded Proof 65 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and realized $97,750.

The Schoolgirl design shows a Liberty with a profile not unlike the Morgan dollar, first struck in 1878, but Liberty’s hair is combed back and falls past her shoulders, tied by a ribbon, wearing a hair band inscribed LIBERTY, a string of pearls around her neck.

Karen M. Lee’s 2013 book The Private Sketchbook of George T. Morgan shows several sketches of this profile. Lee writes, “preliminary sketches show us a little of what the artist was thinking as he conceptualized his now-famous Schoolgirl Liberty.”

It is one of perhaps 15 known examples. The Smithsonian Institution writes that this pattern, “while no more successful than any of his other designs, stands in marked contrast to them. Because of the youthful appearance of the Liberty head, this pattern was dubbed the ‘Schoolgirl’ dollar, perhaps as early as the 1890s,” adding, “Interestingly, the reverse design was resurrected nearly four decades later, placed on the quarter eagle commemorative coin struck for the Panama-Pacific Exposition.”

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