US Coins

Choice early U.S. coins at Heritage Long Beach sale

A pair of coins from the early years of the U.S. Mint await bidders in Heritage’s Feb. 21 to 26 auctions held in conjunction with the Feb. 22 to 24 Long Beach Coin, Currency, Stamp & Sports Collectible Show in Southern California.

One noteworthy offering is the Elder example of the 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar, graded Very Fine 35 by PCGS. Its first recorded offering is in a Sept. 3, 1910, Thomas Elder auction where it was photographed as part of the Peter Mougey Collection and described simply as, “Head of Liberty undraped. Standing eagle. About Fine. Extremely rare” and it realized a then-robust $150. Of course, grading standards were different in the early 20th century and numismatists know much more today about the production characteristics of the issue. 

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The Elder dollar crossed the auction block nearly a century later at Heritage’s January 2007 Platinum Night auction at the Florida United Numismatists convention where it sold for $207,000. It is distinguished by a small planchet flaw between the eighth star and the 1 in the date on the obverse, and a long, thin scratch from the top of OF to the top of AM on the reverse. A few light scratches are seen on each side along with faint adjustment marks near the obverse rims, but Heritage concludes, “This is a highly attractive example of a midgrade, moderately circulated 1794 dollar.” 

1794 Flowing Hair dollars are in demand as representing the first year that silver dollars were struck at the Philadelphia Mint, and it is estimated that perhaps 150 survive from an original delivered mintage of 1,758. The 2010 book by Martin Logies of the Cardinal Collection Education Foundation, The Flowing Hair Silver Dollars of 1794: An Historical and Population Census Study, records 134 distinct examples. The issue holds the #20 ranking in the book 100 Greatest U.S. Coins by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth, and many of the known examples have significant problems, like heavy cleaning, repairs or edge damage. 

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A 1799 Capped Bust, Heraldic Eagle gold $10 eagle graded MS-64 by PCGS is a particularly lustrous and handsome example. Listed as the BD-7 variety of the date in the Bass-Dannreuther reference, it is the more common 1799 with Small Obverse Stars type, as distinguished in the “Red Book” from the 1799 Large Obverse Stars gold eagle. 

Heritage calls it “extraordinary,” recording, “The pristine surfaces of this brilliant lemon-yellow example have trivial, microscopic marks of no consequence, with delicate peripheral rose patina that enhances the eye appeal.” 

Heritage also writes that it represents an advanced die state — meaning that the coin was struck toward the end of the life of the dies — with multiple die cracks in the stars on the obverse and a faint crack that joins the date digits at their bases. The reverse also has a short die crack. Light die clash marks are seen on both sides. 

Heritage concludes that with its blend of eye appeal and technical interest, this 1799 Capped Bust gold $10 is “a true prize for the connoisseur of early gold coinage.” 

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