US Coins

Newman IV auction: Examining 3 rarities sold at the $50,000 level

Heritage Auction’s fourth sale of the varied numismatic collections of St. Louis numismatist Eric P. Newman took place in New York City on May 16 and May 17. In total, the two days of auctions realized more than $11 million.

Coin World has shared the story of many of the top lots in our pre- and post-auction coverage, and last week this Market Analysis column looked at three pieces at the $100, $500 and $1,000 levels. 

In an auction where more than a dozen coins sell for more than $150,000, coins at the mid-five figure range often don’t get discussed in post-sale recaps.

Here are three fascinating pieces from Newman IV that each sold around the $50,000 level.

1652 Pine Tree shilling, Large Planchet, Mint State 63, $47,000 

Massachusetts Pine Tree shillings are among the textbook Early American coins. 

This Mint State 63 example is of “superlative quality” as noted by Heritage, which adds, “The irregularly shaped planchet displays a crisp and well-centered strike, with the majority of the designs present and exhibiting strong definition. Beautifully toned, with hues of champagne, gold, blue-green, pink, sea-green, and lavender.”

The design is uncommonly beautiful for the series with asymmetrical tree branches. 

Though carrying the date of 1652 on the reverse, Pine Tree shillings on large planchets (ranging from 27 to 31 millimeters in diameter, as opposed to small planchets of 22 to 26 millimeters in diameter) were struck circa 1667 to 1682. 

The large planchet was utilized to put the Massachusetts pieces in line with contemporary English coins, but the weight was kept at a standard 72 grains. At 73.8 grains, this Mint State example weighs slightly more than that.

1694 Carolina Elephant token, Extremely Fine 45, $47,000

Collectors really enjoy 17th century Elephant tokens. 

London Elephant tokens were struck around 1672 to 1694, probably weren’t intended to circulate in the colonies, and are available in well-worn Very Good condition for around $300. 

Similar tokens dated 1694 with a reverse reading GOD PRESERVE CAROLINA AND THE LORDS PROPRIETORS were likely struck in England and were possibly intended to heighten interest in the Carolina Plantation in the American colonies. 

A third variant (the rarest) states GOD PRESERVE NEW ENGLAND on the reverse; it is also dated 1694. 

The Carolina Elephant token has two distinct reverse types, one with the correct spelling of proprietors and another with the misspelling PROPRIETERS. Heritage adds, “Although described in most references as different dies, the placement and shape of all lettering is nearly identical, suggesting that a single reverse die was corrected after a small production of the misspelled pieces.”

The majority of the known Carolina Elephant tokens are well-worn, grading Very Good to Very Fine. Extremely Fine and finer examples are rare. This EF-45 piece sold for $47,000.

1739 Higley copper, Good 4, $54,343.75

Higley coppers are mysterious in that numismatists are unsure who struck them. They are named after Dr. Samuel Higley, who owned a copper mine in Connecticut; he died at sea in May 1737 while delivering a load of copper ore to England. Tokens of the type carrying a date of 1737 and 1739 are known, and many are well-worn.

This example is one of just seven pieces known of the specific variety, characterized by the presence of the date — 1739 — just below the blade of the axe on the reverse. 

In total seven obverse and four reverse dies were used to strike Higley coppers. The coppers generally either provide a value of three pence or invite users, “value me as you please.” If people who would use the coin in contemporary commerce had any doubts, some examples carry the reverse legend I AM GOOD COPPER. 

This particular example has the VALUE ME AS YOU PLEASE obverse while the reverse has a broad axe with the error legend J CUT MY WAY THROUGH. 

Higley coppers often have some damage. This piece, graded Good 4 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., brought $54,343.75.

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