US Coins

Arrows reflect change in silver content by law

Two silver coins from the early 1870s are highlights in Bonhams’ Dec. 13 Coins and Medals auction in New York City.

The 1870s was a decade of experimentation at the U.S. Mint, characterized by a rich variety of patterns struck, along with new laws that altered the silver content of circulating coins.

Set within this framework is an 1873-CC Seated Liberty, Arrows at Date dime graded About Uncirculated 53 by Professional Coin Grading Service. As the description notes, the issue is “One of the great rarities of the Seated dime series and a date that is just so hard to find nice as the few survivors are so often found with surface problems or damage.”

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The subject example has luster in the protected areas and some light golden toning seen on both sides. It carries an estimate of $40,000 to $45,000.

While 18,791 pieces are recorded as minted, most have disappeared and the survival rate is low. Bonhams points out that just 128 examples have been certified in all grades by PCGS and Numismatic Guaranty Corp., before advising potential bidders, “That number is undoubtedly high as some coins may have been submitted more than once between both grading services.”

The Condition Census at PCGS CoinFacts records the piece in the auction as the third-finest known example and only two Mint State examples are recorded.

The Coinage Act of Feb. 12, 1873, ordered a slight increase in weight for the dime, quarter dollar and half dollar. Arrowheads were added to either side of the date on the heavier versions of the three denominations to give them a distinctive difference in appearance from the lighter pieces.

The issue is often considered to be overshadowed by the unique 1873-CC Seated Liberty, No Arrows dime that sold for $1.84 million at Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ auction of the Battle Born Collection at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia on Aug. 9, 2012.

The Carson City Mint delivered 12,400 1873-CC Seated Liberty, No Arrows dimes. Five of those were sent to the Philadelphia Mint in compliance with the annual Assay Commission provision. According to Carson City Mint researcher Goe, of Reno, Nev., “It is believed that the only 1873-CC Seated Liberty, Without Arrows dime known to exist survived from that five-piece parcel sent” to the Philadelphia Mint.

Rare Amazonian

Another highlight in the Bonhams auction is an 1872 Amazonian pattern silver dollar, listed as Judd 1205 in the reference to the series, graded Proof 58 by PCGS.

The design by Mint Chief En­graver William Barber is among the most popular in the pattern series. Fewer than 10 are believed to exist in silver; however,  examples of the design exist in copper and aluminum. The popular design was recently revisited by Jared Grove’s Grove Minting Co. in a commemorative silver medallion in 2014.

Barber created two sets of patterns, one for gold denominations and the other for silver, with common reverse designs, but different obverses. The gold pieces do not bear the Amazonian obverse, but bear instead a Liberty Head portrait. 

The Amazonian nickname (which references the Amazons, warrior women in Greek mythology) stems from Liberty’s exposed breast, and her sword, on the obverse of the silver pieces.

The lot description states, “The surfaces are bright and essentially untoned; the fields still retain hints of the original reflective proof surfaces. A few small handling marks are scattered over each side with the most obvious being a small cluster above the eagle’s head on the reverse, this providing an obvious pedigree identifier.” The unusual pattern has an estimate of $48,000 to $55,000. 

The pedigree markers on the offered dollar are consistent with an example, then-graded Proof 58 by NGC, that sold for $20,700 at a May 2003 Heritage auction of the Frank O. Fredericks Collection. That example was formerly in the Leon Goodman Collection offered by Herb L. Melnick in 1982. It was later reoffered at Heritage’s 2013 ANA auctions where it did not meet its reserve.  

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