Early gold coins at Regency 49 auction
- Published: Dec 2, 2021, 3 PM
Legend Rare Coin Auctions’ Regency 49 sale, set for Dec. 16 in Las Vegas, features the largest group of gold coins that the firm has yet offered, and Legend proclaims, “Early gold from the Naples and Big Cypress Collections will delight specialists and type collectors alike.”
Two of the top lots from the Naples consignment are 1796 gold coins struck during the first years of the Philadelphia Mint.
A 1796/5 Capped Bust, Small Eagle $5 half eagle graded Mint State 62 by Professional Coin Grading Service and bearing a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker carries a top estimate of $220,000.
Each 1796 Capped Bust $5 half eagle was struck from the same pair of dies which show a clear 5 under the 6 in the date’s final digit on the obverse. Legend explains, “Mint records show a total of 6,196 half eagles were struck in 1796, but the early records count the number of coins struck, and in the early days, the expense of preparing new dies was such that earlier dated dies continued to be used,” citing research by Q. David Bowers that suggests an unused 1795 die was revised to strike the 1796 half eagles.
The offered example has a particularly illustrious provenance that starts with Elmer S. Sears, who sold it to John H. Clapp in 1909. It went from the Clapp estate to the famed Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. Collection in 1942 and was offered in Bowers and Ruddy’s 1982 Eliasberg auction, passing through several owners before reaching the Legend sale. In the current offering, the cataloger praises it as being gorgeous and “totally original,” explaining, “fantastic original luster blooms vividly with a sensational, semi-reflective, nearly Prooflike texture.”
Two subtypes of Capped Bust gold $2.50 quarter eagles were struck in 1796: one with stars surrounding the obverse and the other without stars. A 1796 Capped Bust, Stars on Obverse quarter eagle graded PCGS About Uncirculated 55 has an estimate of $175,000 to $225,000. The Stars Obverse subtype’s entire mintage of 432 pieces was also struck from a single pair of dies. It is the rarer of the two subtypes.
The most ambitious estimates suggest that 50 exist today in all grades, and PCGS CoinFacts lists just six in all Uncirculated grades, including two that are in museum collections.
Legend writes, “Often lacking in eye appeal from mistreatment of one sort or another over the last two and a quarter centuries, this CHOICE AU example is wonderfully preserved, and offers a sensational look for the assigned grade,” further reporting, “Glossy lustrous surfaces offer a wealth of medium gold brilliance.”
1893-S Barber quarter
Beyond the gold offerings is a remarkable 1893-S Barber quarter dollar graded MS-67 by PCGS and bearing a green CAC sticker. The 1893-S Barber quarter dollar has a relatively low mintage of 1,454,535 — the lowest of the three Mints that produced quarters that year (the other two being Philadelphia and New Orleans).
Legend wrote that while grading it, “PCGS showed it no mercy,” writing, “Flawless surfaces don’t even offer any microscopic marks or lines. There is a strong luster glowing all over. An ‘old time’ mix of totally original olive/green/champagne/lavender/pale blue colors all swirl around evenly. Miss Liberty and the details are lightly frosted and have crisp sharp strikes. The eye appeal is fabulous!”
A look at the PCGS Population Report shows that it is the sole example in this grade, with one finer in MS-67+ that is currently in the #1 RSD Collection of Mint State Barber quarter dollars in the PCGS Set Registry. That example is “not coming out any time soon,” according to Legend.
The offered quarter dollar sold at last year’s Florida United Numismatists auction for $28,800, and before that was offered at Heritage’s October 2014 auction featuring selections from the Gene Gardner Collection where it realized $15,275.
Gardner shared his thoughts on the coin in that offering: “Hypnotically beautiful colors and blazing luster are the hallmarks of this coin. The eye appeal is so dominant that one tends to overlook the fine technical features — a strong strike, full radials on the stars, and no marks of any sort. Seemingly in a class by itself.”
Before that auction Heritage reports that it was part of its June 2001 Long Beach Signature auction, where it brought $19,550. Heritage stated in that appearance, “Not a single noticeable abrasion disturbs the coruscant mint frost. A richly colored and lively assemblage of golden-blue and reddish-lavender toning has gathered in a more or less even fashion over both sides.”
A comparison of photos from the various offerings indicates that subsequent owners have valued its rich coloring in the intervening decades, avoiding any temptation to “improve” its appearance.
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