John Feigenbaum of David Lawrence Rare Coins spent years seeking to
purchase the 1894-S Barber dime he has just acquired, but he is
already working to place the rarity with a new owner, although reluctantly.
“I paid a lot more for this coin than I ever wanted to, but in
this market, rarities hold their value,” Feigenbaum said April 22. “I
wanted that coin.”
Several weeks ago, Feigenbaum said, he received a telephone call
from the owner with an offer to sell the coin for a non-negotiable
price. Feigenbaum said he quickly accepted the offer in April on
behalf of his Virginia Beach, Va., firm, not wanting to lose another
opportunity to purchase a coin that he missed out on acquiring at
auction six years ago.
Yet Feigenbaum is already poised to resell the coin to a new owner.
“If I could own it forever I would, but I have to make the best
use of my capital flow,” Feigenbaum said April 22. “You can be a
collector or a dealer, but it’s hard to be both.” Feigenbaum says he
gets the same level of enjoyment from the coin whether he sells it
immediately or owns it forever.
Feigenbaum said April 22 that, if he sells it now, he hopes he has
the opportunity to sell it again in the future.
Feigenbaum did not disclose what he believes the coin is worth,
but said interested buyers may contact him directly for the proposed
asking price for the coin.
The coin is graded Proof 64 by Professional Coin Grading Service
and stickered by Certified Acceptance Corp. for its quality.
“From an eye appeal perspective, it is my favorite of all the
known 1894-S dimes, despite the fact that two other examples have
higher grade values,” Feigenbaum said.
Familiarity with 1894-S dimes
The dime purchased in April is one of three 1894-S Barber dimes
that John Feigenbaum and David Lawrence Rare Coins have acquired. The
firm’s familiarity with the coins has led it to maintain its own
pedigree listings for the known examples. The newly purchased piece is
listed as the Daggett-Parker-Lawrence coin, or Lawrence 4, in the
Lawrence numbering system.
“Daggett” is a reference to John Daggett, the former San Francisco
Mint superintendent who was responsible for the production of the
1894-S Barber dimes. Parker is California dealer Earl Parker, who
handled the sale of more than one 1894-S dime. Lawrence, of course,
refers to DLRC.
Feigenbaum said he grew up filling Whitman coin folders and always
wondered as a young collector why the Barber dime folder indicated the
1894-S piece was unattainable. He wanted one. He’s handled more than
Handling three examples
In addition to the piece just acquired, the others are the James
Stack-Richmond specimen, Lawrence 3, graded PCGS Proof 66 with a CAC
sticker, and the PCGS Proof 66 Daggett-Lawrence specimen, Lawrence 5.
DLRC has sold the Stack-Richmond or Lawrence 3 coin three times,
first by private treaty to a collector in December 1998, for $825,000.
In 2005, DLRC Auctions auctioned the coin as part of the Richmond
Collection for $1,332,000, which included a 15 percent buyer’s fee.
Two years later, in July 2007, Feigenbaum sold the coin again, this
time to CAC founder John Albanese by private treaty for $1.9 million.
That coin has not traded hands since, according to Feigenbaum.
The Lawrence 5 coin, certified Proof 66 by Numismatic Guaranty
Corp., was purchased for an undisclosed sum from an unnamed buyer in
October 2002 by David Lawrence Rare Coins and David Schweitz Rare
Coins, according to the DLRC website. Legend Numismatics acquired the
coin in a Heritage Auctions sale in January 2005, where it realized
$1,035,000. The coin was eventually placed in a private collection.
David Lawrence Rare Coins was an underbidder on the Lawrence 4
coin in the Oct. 16 to 17, 2007, Stack’s auction, in which it was offered.
“Jack Lee and I both fell in love with this coin at first sight
during the lot viewing of this sale,” Feigenbaum said. “He and I were
very good friends and I still consider him a personal mentor. We
decided to bid together as partners to acquire this coin in that sale,
but we were outbid during the auction.” The coin sold then for
$1,552,500, which included a 15 percent buyer’s fee.
Feigenbaum’s years of diligence and perseverance subsequent to
being outbid finally paid off.
“Ever since then [the 2007 auction], I have been in contact with
the buyer and was finally given an opportunity to acquire the coin
earlier this month,” Feigenbaum said April 18. “It took me exactly
five seconds to agree to the price. There was no way I would let this
coin slip through my fingers.”
Inheriting a passion for history
John Feigenbaum seems to have inherited his interest in 1894-S
Barber dimes. His father, David Lawrence Feigenbaum, who died in May
2002, published his registry of known examples of the 1894-S Barber
dime in his 1991 book, The Complete Guide to Barber Dimes.
“My father had an incessant passion for the mystery of the 1894-S
dime and I grew up with a unique passion and love for the 1894-S
dime,” John Feigenbaum said.
John Feigenbaum has updated the 1894-S Barber dime’s history and
pedigrees, all of which can
be found online at www.davidlawrence.com/raredime.cfm.
A number of conflicting stories have arisen about the 1894-S
Barber dimes and their production at the San Francisco Mint.
Feigenbaum cited the generally accepted legend, which states that
John Daggett, San Francisco Mint superintendent, needed presentation
gifts for seven distinguished guests visiting the San Francisco Mint
early in 1894. According to the legend, since the Philadelphia Mint
had already sent dies to the San Francisco Mint for the dime of that
year, Daggett decided to prepare 24 dimes: three for each guest, and
three for himself.
“It is assumed that he fully expected orders later in the year to
make a full production mintage of dimes, which would explain his
special ‘Proof’ preparation of the dies,” Feigenbaum said, citing the
legend. “Even though 2.6 million quarters and 4 million halves were
produced in San Francisco that year, nobody knows why the Mint didn’t
order the usual 1 million+ dimes for production; an event which
naturally precipitated one of numismatics’ great rarities.”
Feigenbaum noted that “records of their production are included in
the annual Mint director’s report.”
According to legend, Feigenbaum said, Daggett proceeded to give
his three dimes to his daughter, Hallie, who is described in the
legend as a young girl then who frivolously spent one of the dimes.
This specimen is now affectionately known as the “Ice Cream Specimen”
and is very low grade, possibly Good 4, with a reverse scratch through
“She wisely held on to her other two dimes,” Feigenbaum said. “The
Lawrence 4 specimen, just acquired by DLRC, is thought to be one of
these two Daggett coins.”
Feigenbaum said he’s now hoping to one day handle that “Ice Cream Specimen.”
Contemporary news accounts cite a somewhat different reason for
the production of the coins. Nancy Oliver and Richard Kelly, a wife
and husband team of researchers from California, wrote in the Feb. 27,
2006, issue of Coin World that they had found an October 1895 article
about the 1894-S Barber dime in the San Francisco Bulletin that was
subsequently published in other newspapers.
In October 1895, the 1894-S Barber dime was already selling for
$5, and Robert Barnett, chief clerk of the San Francisco Mint related,
in the Bulletin article, that the Mint had received numerous letters
from collectors seeking an example of the dime, which had already been
dispersed. The requests prompted Barnett to look into the
circumstances regarding the production of the coins.
The newspaper article cited Barnett as stating that after all of
the silver recovered from older coins melted at the facility had been
used, a small amount of the metal remained available. Barnett related
that “we found on our hands a quantity that would coin to advantage
only into dimes, and into dimes it was coined, making just twenty-four
Oliver and Kelly agree that Daggett kept three of the dimes, which
he passed along to daughter Hallie. The researchers note that Hallie
was 15 years old at the time and thus not a “little girl” as in the
legend surrounding the coin.
Most legitimate rarity
No matter the circumstances under which the coins were struck,
Feigenbaum believes the 1894-S dimes represent the most legitimate of
the major U.S. coin rarities. He referenced several great U.S. coin
rarities that each carry a well-known, interesting and sometimes
controversial background. Among these other great rarities are the
1804 Draped Bust dollars, the first of which were struck in 1834
rather the year the coin is dated. The five 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent
coins were unofficially struck, notes Feigenbaum, who added that the
1884 and 1885 Trade dollars were similarly produced without official documentation.
Contact Feigenbaum at 800-776-0560. Images and information,
including pedigrees, are available on the DLRC website, www.davidlawrence.com. ■