An eight-coin 1876 Proof set containing silver and minor coinage,
buried by its owner in the backyard of his Chicago home more than two
decades ago, was brought for authentication and grading April 27 to
States Numismatic Society convention in Schaumburg, Illinois, by
the late owner’s son.
The set was certified by ANACS. The coins were housed in an acrylic plastic holder.
The unusual story has a tragic element. The late collector, who died
in 1994 at age 84, suffered with Alzheimer’s disease the last five
years of his life, according to his son. The son said there’s a
possibility that his father may have buried his entire extensive
collection of United States coins. The coins, which have been off the
market for more than 50 years, were primarily silver and gold issues.
In a May 3 interview with
World, the son, who requested anonymity, indicated his father
collected a lot of U.S. gold coins, focusing on his birth year of
1915. Asked how many coins he had dug up from his father’s backyard,
the son indicated he didn’t have a firm count but he had weighed them
all, and combined they weighed “in the pounds.”
The son said he dug up the 1876 Proof set not long after his
father’s passing and had stored it in a closet in his own home.
The son said he finally decided to find out the true value of the
coins in the set only after seeing CSNS advertisements promoting the
convention. Since his own expertise is in Byzantine gold coins, not
U.S. issues, the son believed the coins might be worth a few hundred
dollars each, rather than the likely thousands of dollars each that
Paul DeFelice, ANACS’s vice president of marketing and client
relations, informed him of when evaluating the set.
ANACS grader Brian Kent said the high points of each coin in the
1876 Proof set were purple in color, which was determined to be
contamination from some sort of ink product. Kent said each coin was
conserved to remove the ink and other contaminants without damaging
the surfaces of any of the Proof coins.
The set contains:
➤ An 1876 Indian Head bronze cent, that was graded and encapsulated
after conservation as Proof 64 Brown by ANACS.
➤ An 1876 Liberty Head copper-nickel 3-cent coin graded Proof 64
➤ An 1876 Shield copper-nickel 5-cent coin Proof 67 Cameo.
➤ An 1876 Seated Liberty silver dime graded Proof 62.
➤ An 1876 Seated Liberty silver 20-cent coin graded Proof 65.
➤ An 1876 Seated Liberty silver quarter dollar graded Proof 64 Cameo.
➤ An 1876 Seated Liberty silver half dollar graded Proof 62.
➤ An 1876 Trade dollar silver graded Proof 62 Cameo.
The Philadelphia Mint struck 1,150 Proof versions of each coin
contained in the set.
The son said he has purchased a metal detector to help better
pinpoint where else on his father’s property other coins may have been buried.
The son said his father told him some time before his death that, if
something happened to him, to be sure to look under the home’s front
porch. After his father passed, the son said, he did just that, and
discovered three metal coffee cans housing Morgan silver dollars that
were also wrapped in plastic bags. Although he has never executed a
complete inventory of his discoveries to date, he said there are
examples of Morgan dollars from the Philadelphia, Denver, San
Francisco, New Orleans and Carson City Mints.
More than 150 silver dollars were in that find alone, the son said.
He said he has also discovered parts of the collection in the
fireplace of his father’s home.
Going through the residence and searching the property has also
yielded a quantity of pre-1929 large-size United States paper money,
including 19th century issues, that were housed in protective currency sleeves.
The son says he plans to eventually liquidate all of his father’s
collection that he can find, either by private sale or public auction,
and use the proceeds to expand his own collection of ancient gold coins.