Over the course of 50 years, dealer and collector Tom Reynolds put together one of the finest collections of large cents ever assembled and when it came time to auction them, the sale of 332 cents and two deluxe editions of the catalog brought $6,469,520.63 with the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee.
The auction — the first of two planned with the next one scheduled for Sept. 4 — was held Jan. 31 in Los Angeles by Ira and Larry Goldberg Coins and Collectibles Inc., in association with Kenneth Goldman Inc., and cataloged by Bob Grellman from McCawley & Grellman, The Copper Specialists.
Reynolds decided to sell his collection — valued in the neighborhood of $10 million — to help shepherd the coins to new homes and to stay involved as the coins move to a new generation of collectors. When asked why he decided on selling now, he said: “I don’t want to leave it as a burden to my family. I’d like to see them sell in person.”
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As the collector shared in the introduction to the catalog, Reynolds was a boy in Des Moines, Iowa, in the summer of 1953, and like many people first encountering coin collecting, decided to buy some blue Whitman albums. His summer was spent filling those Lincoln cent books.
He then moved on to other series, but like many collectors, he recalled, “During high school and college, my collections gathered dust in the back of my closet.”
Reynolds was a casual collector through the 1960s and, in 1970, joined the Early American Coppers, where he learned about the various large cent series and began to cherry-pick rare varieties from dealer inventories, including two rare 1798 Draped Bust cent varieties. “Since I had the two rarest varieties of 1798, I decided to specialize in 1798’s and get the balance of the 46 varieties,” he said. In 1980 he began to set up as a coin dealer while working full time in the insurance industry, and by 1986 his weekend activity became the full-time job.
1793 large cents
The first lot in the auction was a 1793 Flowing Hair, Chain cent graded About Uncirculated by Professional Coin Grading Service and carrying a Certified Acceptance Corp. green sticker. Cataloged as Sheldon 2 in William H. Sheldon’s book Penny Whimsy, initially titled Early American Cents, the variety has a full spelling of AMERICA on the reverse. It sold for $141,000, flying past the initial estimate of $60,000 and up, providing a strong start for the auction.
The next seven lots were 1793 Flowing Hair, Wreath cents. The top lot of those was lot 3, an S-9 1793 Vine and Bars Edge cent graded MS-65+ brown by PCGS with a green CAC sticker. It carried an estimate of $150,000 and up, and realized $193,875.