The following post is pulled from Coin World editor Steve
Roach’s Market Analysis column in the June 23 issue.
International auctioneer Bonhams continues to have success with its rare
coin auctions. Its most recent in Los Angeles on June 2 brought nearly
$1.2 million with nearly 90 percent of the 368 lots finding
The auction was notable for its selection of
gold U.S. coins including two Proof $20 double eagles, one detailed
below, that both broke the $200,000 mark.
coin: 1859 Coronet double eagle, Proof 62+ Cameo, $210,600
The story: This is a rather mysterious issue in that the number
of Proof Coronet double eagles minted in 1859 is unrecorded in Mint
records. Researcher Walter Breen suggested that as many as 50 to 70
could have been produced, but many of these were probably melted.
Likely fewer than 10 survive today, since the high face value of the
double eagle kept all but the wealthiest collectors from obtaining —
and keeping — them.
Bonhams believes that seven or eight Proof examples may survive. Two
are in the permanent collections of museums: one in the American
Numismatic Society and another in the National Numismatic Collection
at the Smithsonian Institution, placing additional price pressure on
the examples in the marketplace.
The description captures the excitement of this sort of coin,
writing, “This is the kind of rare gold coin that makes history-minded
numismatists marvel, to think of all the hardships and economic
challenges this coin’s owners must have endured for this piece to
survive in such a well preserved condition.”
Several are known in complete 1859 Proof sets, although the 1859
Proof set from the Royal Mint Museum collection offered at a March
2013 Morton and Eden auction was lacking the Proof double eagle.
The coin is one of 24 coins from the Kernochan
Family Collection of U.S. gold coins. According to Bonhams, the
Kernochans were an Irish immigrant family who first worked as colliers
and teamsters, then made a fortune in dry goods in the 19th century.
The coins were uncovered in the bank vault of John Marshall Kernochan
(1919 to 2007), an early 20th century patriarch of the family.
Likely resting in the middle of the condition census of known
survivors and graded Proof 62+ Cameo by Professional Coin Grading
Service, it sold for $210,600.
More from Steve Roach's latest Market Analysis column: