Many coins are uniformly considered beautiful by U.S. coin collectors.
Rainbow toned Morgan dollars, magnificent 1907 Saint-Gaudens, High
Relief gold $20 double eagles, perhaps a Gem Proof Seated Liberty
dollar with frosty, untoned devices and deep, virtually black mirrors
— all of these will elicit oohs and aahs from collectors and
Then there are some coins that require a bit more connoisseurship,
with a beauty that isn’t as obvious.
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Heritage’s Jan. 5 Florida United Numismatists Platinum Night auction
offered a double-struck 1652 Willow Tree shilling graded Mint State 62
by Professional Coin Grading Service with a green Certified Acceptance
Corp. sticker indicating quality within the grade that realized $170,375.
It is listed as Noe 1-A and illustrated in The New England and
Willow Tree Coinages of Massachusetts by Sydney Philip Noe and
is the sole Mint State survivor certified by PCGS.
Each Willow Tree shilling was individually hammered — often multiple
times — and, afterward, while it met the technical weight
requirements, its designs had often suffered. On this example the
central willow tree design on the obverse is not particularly legible,
nor is the date on the reverse, and it is oval rather than round.
Yet this one appeared recently at Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ sale of
the Henry P. Kendall Foundation Collection in March 2015 where it sold
for $164,500. There it was described as “a fascinating, beautiful, and
all-but-unworn specimen of this rare coinage.” The description added,
“Like most Noe 1-A Willow Tree shillings, the striking is messy, with
several impressions poorly lined up, summing into a coin that bears
nearly all of the design, but with little rhyme or reason. The tree
itself resembles a bramble bush.” It concluded, “calling a Willow Tree
‘Double Struck’ on a certification label is as unnecessary as it is
self-evident; all Willows are.”
This example was collected by Salem, Mass., collector Matthew
Stickney before his death in 1894, though it was likely acquired
decades prior, and its recent sale in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for more
than it achieved at auction less than two years earlier proves that
beauty is not necessarily a prerequisite for a rare coin to achieve a