An 1861 Confederate half dollar topped bidding at Heritage’s Nov. 1
auction featuring Part IX of the legendary Eric P. Newman Collection,
selling for $960,000 and setting a record for a Confederate half
dollar at auction.
At the completion of the second session of the Newman IX auction on
Nov. 3, total sales for the St. Louis numismatist’s collection are
approaching $60 million. The collection is being sold to support the
Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society’s museum operations to
fund scholarly numismatic research efforts.
Brockage or contact mark? Mike Diamond explains.
Also in our Nov. 20 issue, a reader found a fascinating Barber
dime that’s over a century old; John Wexler profiled what makes it different.
The sale catalog’s introduction cites a 1959 article by Newman
where he discussed the opportunities inherent in numismatics, writing,
“Needles in a haystack can be found, particularly with the magnetism
of numismatics.” The more than 400 lots offered in Newman IX were a
solid representative of the depth and diversity of Newman’s collecting interests.
Heritage’s offering of Newman’s 1861 Confederate half dollar —
graded Proof 40 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. with a green Certified
Acceptance Sticker noting quality within the grade — was its first
public appearance at auction, as it had been off the market since
Newman purchased it for $4,000 from the estate of Col. E.H.R. Green
nearly 80 years ago.
It is one of just four half dollars struck in April 1861 at the New
Orleans Mint while the Branch Mint was under the physical control of
the Confederacy. Heritage writes, “The 1861 Original Confederate half
dollar is one of the rarest and most enigmatic issues in the history
of American coinage.”
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These four half dollars are the only coins specifically designed and
produced by the Confederate States of America, leading Heritage to
recognize, “As such, their appeal extends far beyond conventional
numismatics, and the individual coins have been owned at various times
by government officials, soldiers, and millionaire businessmen, as
well as some of the greatest coin collectors of all time.”
Of the four, Newman’s was the second example to come to market, with
its first verifiable private sale taking place more than a century
ago. Another example resides in the collection of the American
Numismatic Society, and two additional examples sold in 2015: one
graded NGC Proof 40 brought $646,250 in March 2015 as part of Stack’s
Bowers Galleries’ sale of the Kendall Foundation Collection, and
another, graded Proof 30, brought $881,250 at Heritage’s offering of
the Donald Groves Partrick Collection at the 2015 January Florida
United Numismatists convention auction.
1861 Confederate cent
Another noteworthy Confederate offering was an 1861 Confederate
States of America cent graded Proof 63+ by NGC, also with a green CAC
sticker, that realized $186,000.
The circumstances of the 16 Confederate cents produced remain a bit
murky in that there is no official documentation on the striking of
these cents. They were obviously struck with special care —
Professional Coin Grading Service calls examples Specimen while NGC
identifies them as Proofs. Philadelphia die sinker Robert Lovett
struck the coins, likely for demonstration purposes, in the early part
Heritage writes, “The bust is from the same punch used on a store
card Lovett issued the year before, making it easy for contemporary
numismatists to identify the design as Lovett’s work.” Lovett’s cent
never went into widespread production. Heritage explains one theory
about the coins, “As hostilities deepened, Lovett grew increasingly
anxious about the propriety of producing coins for the Confederacy.
President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation making it illegal for
Northern businessmen to engage in commerce with the Confederacy on
July 13, 1861, making his fears of imprisonment even more concrete.”
The first Confederate cent emerged more than a decade after they
were struck, which tradition suggests was likely spent by Lovett
accidentally during a visit to his favorite saloon. A dealer soon
approached Lovett and purchased his remaining 15 Confederate cents.
Restrikes also exist, differentiated from the originals in that the
restrikes are struck in coin turn — with the obverse and reverse in
opposite directions — while originals are struck in medallic
alignment. Newman’s Confederate cent was also purchased by Newman from
the Green estate, costing Newman just $100.