US Coins

'1776 Continental dollar' and more in Legend’s Regency 50 auction

Big-money gold surpassed expectations at the Legend Rare Coin Auctions Jan. 27 Regency Auction 50 as part of the Professional Coin Grading Service Member’s Only Show in Las Vegas.

Two coins designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens from the Half Dome Collection led bidding.

A 1907 Indian Head, Rolled Edge gold $10 eagle graded Mint State 65+ by PCGS and bearing a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker sold for $587,500 on an estimate of $500,000 to $550,000. Runner-up was a 1927-S Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagle graded PCGS MS-65, also bearing a green CAC sticker, that realized $246,750 on an estimate of $200,000 to $225,000.

1776 Continental pewter 'dollar'

The first lot in the offering was the sale’s earliest date piece: a 1776 Continental pewter dollar with CURRENCY and EG FECIT inscriptions, graded MS-64 by PCGS and bearing a green CAC sticker, that sold for $146,875, just shy of the top estimate of $150,000.

The price was a slight improvement on the $132,000 it brought at Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ Dec. 17, 2020, auction of the Larry Miller Collection, Part Two. That lot entry provided a useful summary of the ongoing research on this issue that has long been collected alongside the coins of Colonial America, but remains mysterious. The designs are similar to the Continental Currency notes that were issued by Congress, but there’s an absence of records on the production of silver, brass or pewter coins authorized by the Continental Congress. The first clear mention of these in print was in a German book published in 1783. Erik Goldstein and David McCarthy’s 2018 two-part article in The Numismatist titled “The Myth of the Continental Dollar” reviewed the dearth of contemporary records by those who likely would have been involved in its production, including silversmith Paul Revere who contradicted a report that called the Continental “dollar” an American coin.

Though, as Stack’s Bowers concludes, revelation “that the Continental ‘dollar’ was intended as a medal and not a coin, and that it was struck in London in 1783 instead of an unknown American location in 1776, changes very little in the scheme of things.” The market for these has remained robust.

Legend observed of the piece in the auction, “This essentially GEM quality example has a rich, original pewter-gray coloration over semi-reflective, flashy luster,” adding, “The striking definition is quite sharp with bold, crisp reliefs on both sides.”

The broad appeal of these issues was captured in the 2020 offering, where that cataloger called it, “a piece that all of us grew up looking at and wanting to own, just as every generation of American collector since 1823 has,” ending, “Indeed, the inclusion of a high grade and attractive Continental ‘dollar,’ as here, will continue to help define the difference between an average and outstanding collection of early American types.”

1880 Shield 5-cent coin

One of the finest-graded 1880 Shield 5-cent coins generated excitement, realizing $99,875 against an estimate of $90,000 to $120,000. Only 16,000 were struck for circulation along with 3,955 Proof strikes. The offered piece was one of only two graded MS-66 by PCGS with none finer at that service, and was a highlight of the Gerald R. Forsythe Collection.

Since Proof and circulation strikes look similar, Legend offered this diagnostic: “Circulation strikes are identifiable by the die chip on the reverse under the second T in STATES and a little projection that comes off the dentils between NT in CENTS.”

Previously, neither of the two PCGS MS-66 examples was offered at auction. The top auction price was for one graded MS-65 by PCGS and possessing a green CAC sticker that realized $91,093 in a September 2015 Legend auction.

For the subject coin, Legend praised its eye appeal, writing, “This PREMIUM GEM boasts a bold, radiating mint brilliance across nearly pristine surfaces. A strong glass reveals a few tiny ticks and lines from under a delicate dusting of iridescent pastel golden tone. The devices are crisply embossed and boldly rendered with full devices on both sides.”

Legend said after the auction, “The attendance in person at the sale showed that collectors are back to attending shows and auctions again, and the in-person bidding was as strong as any Regency Auction prior to the pandemic.”

Its next sale will be part of the Central States Numismatic Society’s convention in metropolitan Chicago in April.

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