US Coins

Big August auctions after ANA show offer rare gold, silver

Gold coins led the way in Heritage’s and Stack’s Bowers Galleries August auctions at their headquarters in Dallas and Costa Mesa, California, respectively.

Their big August auctions were the equivalent of what, in the past, would have been the two firms’ official auctions of the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money, but the contracts between the firms and the ANA expired at the conclusion of the 2021 World’s Fair of Money auctions. Stack’s Bowers and Heritage were termed Auctioneer Partners at the 2022 ANA convention, and their major sales were presented the week after the event in Rosemont, Illinois.

A 1927-D Saint-Gaudens gold double eagle graded Mint State 66 by Professional Coin Grading Service sold for $4.44 million on Aug. 22, at Heritage’s presentation of Important Selections from the Bob R. Simpson Collection, Part IV session.

Heritage counts 14 survivors of the issue, from an original mintage of 180,000, of which nearly all were melted. The price in Dallas was an improvement on the $1.65 million it sold for in a 2005 private transaction as reported by Heritage in its provenance listing. It is tied with two other PCGS-graded MS-66 examples in the census, with two finer.

Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth called it “the rarest regular-issue gold coin of any denomination of the 20th century,” in their Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins 1795–1933, summarizing its appeal as “truly the king of all 20th century gold coins.”

Leading Stack’s Bowers’ Aug. 25 Rarities Night session was an 1825/4/1 Capped Head gold $5 half eagle graded Proof 67 Cameo by PCGS with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker that sold for $4.08 million. The finest of just three-known examples, it has been off the market for half a century with a provenance that traces back to the Civil War and stints in the Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. and King Farouk of Egypt’s collections. The cataloger concluded, “It is a rarity of the first order that will be perfect for inclusion in another world class cabinet,” and bidders agreed.

Early Philadelphia issues

Beyond gold, bidders competed for the earliest issues of the Philadelphia Mint, with a 1792 pattern disme struck in copper listed as Judd 10 and Pollock 11 in the pattern references, graded Mint State 62 brown by PCGS with a green CAC sticker realizing $900,000 at the Aug. 25 Rarities Night session. The price bested the $587,500 that it sold for at Heritage in October 2012, then in a Proof 62 brown Numismatic Guaranty Corp. holder.

The subject offering noted: “Both sides are uncommonly smooth for the assigned numeric grade with only a few trivial marks scattered about, none of which are particularly noteworthy. Accuracy does compel us to mention a small patch of ancient corrosion within Liberty’s lower hair curls, as well as another dull reddish patch inside the obverse border at 10 o’clock.” Pete Smith, Joel J. Orosz and Leonard Augsburger considered it the second-finest of the Judd variety in their 2017 book 1792: Birth of a Nation’s Coinage.

Andrew W. Pollock III wrote in his 1994 book United States Patterns and Related Issues, “The obverse design clearly appears to have been inspired by Augustin Dupre’s Libertas Americana medal, but what is more remarkable is that the Liberty head on the dismes appears to be almost identical to that on the 1793 half cents, except that the hair is arranged in a somewhat different manner.”

Visual comparison is made easy since Heritage offered a prime example of the 1793 Flowing Hair half cent of the Breen 3, Cohen 3 variety, graded MS-66 brown by PCGS with a green CAC sticker, at its Aug. 22 session featuring the James R. McGuigan half cent collection, that sold for $1,005,000.

The finest-known example of the disme variety, the consignor noted of the surfaces: “Superb lustrous light brown with faded mint red in the protected areas around the devices and lettering. The reverse was struck from a die showing extensive rust in the center.” Heritage called it “nearly flawless,” observing a “tiny rim bruise over the F in OF and a dark spot outside the beaded border over the I in UNITED will serve as pedigree markers.”

Gorgeous 1880s Proof coins

Proof coins struck at the Philadelphia Mint in the 1880s and 1890s are among the finest representatives of the coiner’s art and collectors love examples with deeply mirrored fields that contrast against frosted devices. Stack’s Bowers presented an exceptional 1887 Coronet gold $20 double eagle graded Proof 65 Deep Cameo by PCGS with a green CAC sticker at its Aug. 25 Rarities Night session from the Mocatta Collection. The absence of circulation strike 1887 double eagles places extra pressure on the Proof examples, from a mintage of 121 though even optimistic estimates extend to only 40 survivors. This one offers a bold strike, and Stack’s Bowers notes “both sides are further enhanced by gorgeous medium gold color with tinges of orange.” It realized $420,000.

Heritage’s Aug. 22 offering of the Simpson Collection included the finest of 20 estimated to exist from a mintage of 60 Proof 1886 Coronet gold $10 eagles. Grading Proof 66+ Deep Cameo by PCGS with a green CAC sticker, it is used as the plate coin for John Dannreuther’s recent publication United States Proof Coins, Volume IV: Gold, Part II, who called it “a spectacular example with heavy frost accenting the mirrored fields.” Dannreuther related it to the “black and white” Proof coins for the extreme contrast between the fields and devices seen on silver coins, writing, “Terms in numismatics may seem strange to the uninitiated, but veteran coin aficionados immediately know what is meant by such statements.”

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