US Coins

Kagin’s hosts 2019 Pittsburgh ANA sale

Kagin’s will host the official auctions of the 2019 American Numismatic Association National Money Show in Pittsburgh, featuring U.S. coins on March 28, followed by world and U.S. paper money on March 29, and an online-only session ending on April 1. 

The handsome cover image depicts one of the highlights of the sale, an 1877 $50 half union pattern rendered in colored pencils by artist Chris Costello. 


Inside Coin World 1866 Shield 5-cent coinInside Coin World: The two 1866 5-cent coins with different alloys: Two different 1866 5-cent coins and Arkansas paper money that was redeemable in bacon, among other things, are among the subjects of columns in the March 25 Coin World.


The offered pattern is graded Proof 63 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker and last sold at Heritage’s 2011 U.S. Coins Signature Auction — coincidentally in Pittsburgh as well, when the ANA hosted a fall convention in the city — where it brought $184,000. 

Copper gilt plated gold

Listed as Judd 1547 and Pollock 1720 in the two major references to the pattern series, it is struck in copper with a reeded edge and has been gilt, so it closely resembles a gold coin. 

While official records for patterns of this era are scarce, perhaps 10 are known today. It was among the many delicacies struck at the Philadelphia Mint in the late 1870s at the request of Mint Director Henry R. Linderman, who was a coin collector and created extensive patterns without any documented need. 

Two design types of the 1877 half union pattern were produced: Small Head and Large Head types. The Large Head pieces, including the offered one, show the point of Liberty’s coronet positioned between stars 5 and 6. Also, on Large Head examples, the neck truncation is much closer to the date, and the lowest hair curls end in a point. The Small Head pieces show the coronet tip close to star 6, the truncation distant from the date, and the lowest curls are rounded.

William Barber’s design was used on these pattern $50 coins, which were the only U.S. Mint issues of the denomination until the commemorative 1915-S octagonal and round Panama-Pacific International Exposition commemorative issues. 

The Kagin’s cataloger identifies “lively deep yellow-gold with deeper highlights across both sides, particularly in the protected shield lines on the reverse,” noting, “A faint obverse line runs crescent-like from the back of Liberty’s hair to a point near star 12, forever marking this particular specimen and probably keeping it always in the Choice Proof category.” 

New Clark, Gruber & Co. piece

The top estimate in the sale accompanies a newly discovered 1860 Clark, Gruber & Co. Pikes Peak $20 pioneer gold piece graded PCGS Genuine, About Uncirculated Detail, Graffiti by Professional Coin Grading Service. Kagin’s president Don Kagin describes the coin as “fresh and original but since it has a tiny graffiti mark, may be much more affordable than others.” 

The description explains, “As for the PCGS qualifier, we detect faint scratching above the reverse eagle that could signify graffiti, and a small raised cross in the field just behind the eagle’s neck. Otherwise, the present piece is wholly acceptable, especially when one considers the absence of numerous pieces in the marketplace.” 

Kagin’s advised bidders, “You may wish to pass on this specimen, but you also will need to be possessed of tremendous patience if you desire one of these — they just don’t come along every day!”

Clark, Gruber & Co. was a private minting firm in Denver that struck pioneer gold coins in the $2.50, $5, $10 and $20 denominations dated 1860 and 1861. The total output of Clark, Gruber & Co. was $594,305. Of these, collectors gravitate towards the 1860 $20 coins with their isolated depiction of a mountain. 

The coins were well-received with contemporary audiences who relied on accurate coin. Kagin’s added, “Throughout their time in the minting business the firm’s coins always circulated at par and were known for their accurate gold content, and complaints were almost nonexistent when compared to some of the other firms that made their own coins over the years from 1848 to the 1860s.”

Initially, Kagin’s writes, “Clark, Gruber & Company were heavy buyers of gold dust and would ship the gold to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia to be melted and coined into money. This process was quite costly due to shipping costs and insurance and often took as long as three months. Eventually senior partner, Milton Clark ordered coining equipment from Philadelphia and New York and established their own private mint in Denver in August, 1860.”

As Heritage observed when offering an exceptional example graded Mint State 64 by NGC at its January Florida United Numismatists auction in 2006, “The obverse has an idealistic view of Pikes Peak, appearing as if several mounds of dirt were piled on top of each other in a pyramid fashion. This looks nothing at all like the real mountain. The base of the mountain is lined with trees and shrubs.” That spectacular example brought $690,000. The one offered at the Kagin’s ANA auction has a starting bid of $125,000.

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