Market Analysis from the February 2017 monthly issue of Coin World:
Major auctions like Heritage’s January Florida United Numismatists
convention sales are useful for the broad indicators they provide for
the rare coin market, along with the many individual stories and
lessons that single lots provide.
The most expensive coin in Heritage’s various FUN auctions was a
1792 half disme pattern, listed as Judd 7 in Dr. J. Hewitt Judd’s
reference to the series, that brought $493,500. The classic pattern
issue, considered the first coin struck under the auspices of the U.S.
Mint and the first to circulate as a national coinage, was housed in a
recent Professional Coin Grading Service slab where it was graded Mint
As Heritage wrote in its lot description, “It is not a stretch to
say that the 1792 half disme is probably the single most important
American coin issue, if not the most famed or celebrated.”
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Often-repeated rumors that Liberty was modeled after Martha
Washington and that the mintage, a reported 1,500 pieces, was struck
from silver from George Washington’s silverware have been disproved by
researchers. Thankfully for collectors today, a decent number were
saved at the time of issue and estimates of examples that remain range
from 200 to 300 coins. Of these, the offered example is one of the
Yet, missing from the lengthy catalog description was the coin’s
provenance — a curious omission, because it was one of the top lots in
the auction and the patterns of 1792 are a well-studied series.
Turns out, it was formerly in an older, green-label PCGS MS-65 slab
and had been sold three years earlier at Heritage’s 2014 FUN auction
where it realized $528,750 as part of The Klamath Mountain Collection,
The PCGS slab that the coin was formerly housed in had a pale green
perforated insert of a type that was used in late 1989. That the coin
was since upgraded is not surprising, because in the first years of
third-party grading, graders were particularly conservative with early
U.S. issues. The hobby’s understanding of these 18th century U.S.
coins has increased in the past few decades, and market grading
standards have shifted accordingly.
Still, that a coin could move up in grade and then move down in
price is a reminder that the rare coin market is smart, and even
though the 2017 lot description left out the coin’s provenance, it is
easily traced online.
The availability of high quality numismatic resources online with
digital images makes it easy for collectors to do due diligence.
Tobias Meyer, formerly head of Sotheby’s contemporary art
department, once said, “The best art is the most expensive because the
market is so smart.” As the curious sale of the 1792 half disme shows,
the coin market is similarly smart.