US Coins

2023 coin auction calendar winds down with Heritage sale

Heritage’s Dec. 14 to 17 U.S. Coin Signature Auction is one of the last major sales of the calendar year, and while it lacks the high-powered rarities that will be seen in the firm’s Florida United Numismatists auctions in January 2024, it still has some fascinating offerings.

A Scott Restrike of the 1861 Confederate States of America half dollar graded Mint State 61 by Professional Coin Grading Service carries a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker. Only four original 1861 Confederate half dollars were struck on a hand press at the New Orleans Mint after the Confederate government took charge of the facility. In 1879, Philadelphia collector Charles E. Mason Jr. bought the New Orleans Mint chief coiner’s example of an original 1861 Confederate half dollar, along with the special die used to strike it (the reverse was a regular 1861 Seated Liberty obverse die). Mason sold the coin and die to J.W. Scott in New York, who created his own “Confederate” half dollars by planing the reverses of 500 genuine 1861 Seated Liberty half dollars and stamping the freshly blank reverse with his newly purchased Confederate die.

The resulting process flattened the Seated Liberty design and created what are known as “Scott Restrikes.” Since the Seated Liberty design was flattened during the restrike, grading services grade largely based on the Confederate side.

About the MS-61 example Heritage wrote, “Otherwise, the coin is normal as can be with pale golden luster, a few streaks of darker toning at the margins of the Liberty side, and no wear on the Confederate devices.”

It last sold in 2011 for $10,350 and on Jan. 11 another graded MS-61 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. realized $10,500.

Also in the sale is a Scott Restrike Confederate half dollar graded About Uncirculated 55 by PCGS, which shows a touch of wear at the high points of the Confederate side, with the dated, Seated Liberty, side showing circulating wear and flattening from the one-sided Scott impression.

Another similarly graded PCGS AU-55 example sold for $9,600 back in 2020.

PCGS in both cases displayed the CSA reverse as the obverse in the slab. Researchers generally consider the Confederate side the obverse and the Seated Liberty side the reverse.

Scott also struck medals in white metal using the Confederate reverse die and a specially made, text-focused obverse die.

Gold and gilt patterns

Pattern U.S. coins struck in gold are rare, and the 1852 gold dollar, struck in gold and listed as Judd 145 in Judd’s pattern reference is perhaps the most affordable. Heritage offers two certified by Numismatic Guaranty Co.: one graded Proof 62 and the other in Proof 64.

It is called an annular pattern in that it was designed with a  wide opening, to allow the gold coin to have a larger diameter without more gold weight. This donut shape results in little room for typical design elements, and only the date, denomination and country name is present, with minimal decoration on the dated side and a grain wreath on the reverse that carries the denomination.

Silver coins were hoarded at the time, making smaller-denomination gold coins a viable option, but the then-circulating gold dollars were especially small and hard to use in daily commerce.

More typically seen in the second half of the 19th century are gilt patterns, meant to look like gold coins without being as expensive to produce. A Judd 189 1857 pattern for a $2.50 quarter eagle is graded Proof 60 and labeled as Gilt by NGC and is also the plate coin in the Judd pattern coin reference, according to Heritage. The obverse is familiar to U.S. coin collectors as the profile of Liberty that would be used starting in 1865 with the copper-nickel 3-cent coin, while the reverse depicts a small, spread-wing eagle.

Pattern specialist Saul Teichman traces this example back to a March 1981 Paramount auction, and it was in separate Stack’s and American Numismatic Rarities 2003 auctions, where he notes the scratch through the D in the denomination as an identifying marker. It’s offered in the current auction as part of the estate of Charles W. Montgomery.

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