US Coins

Creating a $10 million coin

The sale of a 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar for $10,016,875 at Stack’s Bowers Galleries Americana sale established a record for any coin sold at public auction.

How it got to that level is a rather curious story.

There was no doubt that when the coin crossed the auction block it would be expensive. Although it had sold privately in 2010 for a reported $7.85 million, consensus prior to the auction seemed to be that there was a possibility it could sell for less.

During the auction, it almost seemed that it would sell for less, as bidding for the coin stalled at the $5.5 million level. Then, Legend Numismatics’ Laura Sperber invoked (in her words) “shock and awe” when she elected to jump the bid to $8,525,000.

Jumping the bid refers to placing a bid higher than standard bidding increments.

She wrote on her blog, “We firmly believe we took control of the bidding at that point and made a powerful statement about what it will take to beat us.”

The bid also had a symbolic element to it.

Sperber wrote that her firm “knew that $10 million would create a huge buzz for the entire coin market and ‘change the game’” before declaring, “A new era in the rare coin market has been created.” She went on to predict the possibility of a $25 million coin in the next decade.

While that prediction may be the subject of some debate in coin circles, there is no doubt that this coin will bring positive attention to the rare coin market and the market for great rarities should improve as a result.

One upcoming rarity has already benefited from this increased attention.

In the last week dozens of mainstream news outlets have covered Heritage’s upcoming offering of the Walton example of the 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent piece as part of its Platinum Night auction at the Central States Numismatic Society’s annual convention in Schaumburg, Ill.

Executives at Heritage initially expected that the coin would realize in excess of $2.5 million.

Now, with the broad media attention that the record-setting 1794 dollar sale has attracted, that estimate may prove conservative.

Yet, reasonably set expectations are often better than unattainable ones, and the mainstream attention may bring new eyes — and money — into the coin field. ¦

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