US Coins

‘Big Three’ rarities sell on Thanksgiving

Three of the most famous U.S. coins — an 1804 Draped Bust dollar, an 1894-S Barber dime and a 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin — were sold as a group in a private transaction brokered on Nov. 25 at a price of $13.35 million.

The coins were owned by collector Bruce Morelan, a partner in Laura Sperber’s Legend Numismatics, who acquired them individually over the past four years. GreatCollections, a California-based online auction firm, acquired the three coins from Legend in a deal that was concluded on Thanksgiving Day.

Further, Ian Russell, president of GreatCollections, in a Dec. 2 email said, “We instantly had one of the coins sold. We now have the second coin sold, and we’re working on the third as I type this to you ...”

The bill of sale provided to Coin World by GreatCollections to document its transaction with Legend did not provide individual prices for the coins, but Russell noted in the Dec. 2 email, “if you refer to what the individual records were for the three, the $13,350,000 far exceeds those previous records for each coin.”

The Dexter example of the 1804 Draped Bust dollar was offered in Legend Rare Coin Auctions’ October 2020 sale of the Morelan collection on an estimate of $4.0 million to $4.4 million, after realizing $3.29 million in 2017, in the fifth of Stack’s Bowers Galleries and Sotheby’s D. Brent Pogue auctions.

The Morelan 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin last traded at auction for $4.56 million in 2018.

The 1894-S Barber dime last previously sold for $1,440,000, in a Dec. 17, 2020, auction by Stack’s Bowers Galleries.

The 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin is the finest graded, at Professional Coin Grading Service Mint State 66 and bearing a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker. The coin is “one of the most famous and coveted rarities in American numismatics with only five examples known,” GreatCollections notes, adding “Two are permanently ensconced in museum collections including the Smithsonian, leaving just three for the public to own.”

It was previously a centerpiece of the Louis E. Eliasberg Collection.

The 1894-S Barber dime is one of only nine coins known of this issue, and also hails from the Eliasberg Collection. Numerically, at PCGS Proof 65, it is the third finest known, although its eye appeal is considered far superior to its rivals.

GreatCollections’ announcement quotes CAC founder John Albanese as stating: “Of the 1894-S dimes that I have seen or handled over the years, the Eliasberg specimen is my favorite. Although not the highest graded example of this famous rarity, it has the strongest, most collector-friendly eye appeal.” The coin has a green CAC sticker.

The third coin GreatCollections acquired in the transaction, the James Dexter example of the 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar, was once part of the D. Brent Pogue Collection. Described in 1885 as the “King of Coins,” 15 1804 dollars are known in three classes. The Dexter-Pogue-Morelan coin ranks as tied for third finest according to the Proof 65 grade assigned by PCGS.

Regarding its transaction with Legend, GreatCollections writes, “Of the most famous U.S. coin rarities, these are widely considered to be the top three and have been referred to as the ‘Big Three’ and ‘Holy Trinity’ for decades. Only a few collectors over the past century have owned all three, including Louis Eliasberg, Col. E.H.R. Green, Dr. Jerry Buss and Morelan.”

Russell said, “This record-breaking deal was consummated in less than 24 hours, after a 10-minute conversation with Laura on the day before Thanksgiving. The coin market is continuing to build on the momentum of the past year, similar to other collectibles, and this transaction is further proof of the depth and liquidity of 7-figure numismatic rarities.”

Sperber, founder of Legend Numismatics said, “While I’m sad to see the ‘Big Three’ leave the Legend family, I know they are in good hands with Ian. I still remember the first time we handled the Eliasberg 1913 Nickel in 2005, when I bought it for $4.15 million — at the time, the second highest price ever paid for a coin.”

Russell noted that “this year has been a record year for GreatCollections with total sales during 2021 expected to exceed $225 million.”

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