US Coins

Classic gold commems at CSNS sale

Heritage Auctions is set to offer the Paul Denby Collection of U.S. gold commemorative coins at its auctions held during the Central States Numismatic Society convention in Schaumburg, Ill., April 27 to 30. 

Denby’s collection is the number one Current and All-Time Finest Gold Commemoratives Professional Coin Grading Service Registry Set in circulation strike format. Eight of the 13 coins in the core set are the finest-known examples, with three others bested by a single certified example. 

Denby spent more than a decade putting the set together, starting in 2003, guided by a simple core philosophy: “If the coin looked right, I’d buy it,” he said. 

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Perhaps the highlight is his set of gold issues struck in 1915 at the San Francisco Mint commemorating the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. His octagonal 1915-S Panama-Pacific $50 piece grades PCGS MS-65 with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker while his round 1915-S $50 coin grades PCGS MS-64. 

The octagonal pieces were exciting to buyers at the time and outsold the round ones, though the extraordinary cost of the issue kept sales low; just 645 of the octagonal coins and 483 of the round ones sold. Both were massive with over 2 ounces of gold, but the octagonal version had slightly smaller central designs with dolphins surrounding the edges on both sides. Both of Denby’s are among the finest known. 

The collection’s 1915-S Panama-Pacific gold $2.50 quarter eagle grades PCGS MS-67 CAC while his 1915-S gold dollar is PCGS MS-67. 

Holders and ephemera

Five different original holders for 1915-S Panama-Pacific coins will be offered as a single lot, showcasing the variations used in marketing these coins. Most familiar to collectors today is the Shreve & Co. copper and glass frame that would hold each of the five different issues. Heritage notes that the subject frame is one of about 30 known today and is in exceptional condition with its inserts, glass, screws and velvet interior intact. 

The lot also includes black leatherette cases with rich purple velvet-covered interiors, with a five-slot case for all five coin types; a four-slot case with slots for the half dollar, gold dollar, quarter eagle and octagonal $50; a three-slot holder for the half dollar, gold dollar and quarter eagle; and a case for a single Panama-Pacific International Exposition octagonal $50 piece. 

Among the ephemera offered are four receipts for delivery of Panama-Pacific International Exposition commemorative coins from the Anglo-California Trust Company in San Francisco. The firm acted as agents of the event’s department of official coins and medals. The papers document the receipt of various Panama-Pacific coins from the San Francisco Mint and each is signed with the WLS monogram of Louis Sutton, assistant cashier of the Anglo-California Trust Company.

The quantities of coins that these papers document is extraordinary. A July 10, 1915, receipt for Delivery No. 1 of round $50 pieces acknowledges the delivery of “4 drafts” (four sacks) of 1915-S Panama-Pacific round $50 gold pieces. Three sacks contained 100 pieces, then-valued at $5,000 per sack, while the fourth sack contained nine pieces, then-valued at $450, for a total of $15,450. As Heritage points out, this group of 309 round $50 Panama-Pacific commemorative coins accounts for the lion’s share of the 483 pieces sold.

Also included is a June 22, 1915, receipt for Delivery No. 1 of “4 drafts” of 1915-S Panama-Pacific gold quarter eagles. Each sack contained 1,000 pieces, valued at $2,500 per sack, for a total of $10,000, or 4,000 Panama-Pacific quarter eagles. Two other receipts, each dated May 28, 1915, acknowledge the delivery of 4,000 Panama-Pacific gold dollars and 12,000 Panama-Pacific silver half dollars.

Rare proof gold 

Beyond the Mint State strikes that form the core of his set, Denby collected Proof commemorative gold including the finest of four PCGS certified 1916 McKinley Birthplace Memorial gold dollars, graded Proof 64 Cameo by PCGS with a green CAC sticker. 

Heritage observes that on this example, “The rims are high and squared off, a wire rim effect as would be expected, and the impeccably sharp strike produces ‘full steps’ on the McKinley Memorial building as well as throughout the design on both sides,” before concluding, “This may be one of the smallest coins in this marvelous consignment of commemorative gold — but it is also among the most important.” Heritage suspects that it was once part of a three-piece set that was offered at a RARCOA auction in 1989 alongside a business strike and a nickel pattern trial piece. 

Other Proofs include two Proof 1903 Louisiana Purchase Exposition commemorative gold dollars representing both design types, one depicting the recently assassinated President William McKinley and the other with Thomas Jefferson. Denby’s McKinley type grades PCGS Proof 66+ CAC and his Jefferson type is graded Proof 66 Cameo by PCGS. 

Both dollar types were struck to celebrate the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, then known as the St. Louis World’s Fair. As Heritage notes the two types “were the brain children of numismatic entrepreneur-promoter (or shameless profiteer, depending on whether one made or lost money) Farran Zerbe.” Around 100 Proofs each of the Jefferson and McKinley types were struck and most were kept well-preserved. 

The collection’s Mint State examples of the 1903 gold commemorative dollars grade MS-67+ CAC for the Jefferson and MS-68 for the McKinley type. 

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