US Coins

Featured selections from Heritage’s Towers Collection sale

Heritage offered the single-owner session titled “Selections from the Towers Collection” on May 8, following lot viewing at the Central States Numismatic Society convention and at its Dallas world headquarters.

The collector’s interest in coins started when he was 12, guided by a “Red Book” (A Guide Book of United States Coins) and some Whitman albums. He shared, “As with most young coin enthusiasts, life gets in the way of collecting,” remembering, “I never put numismatics on hold.” As his children graduated from college, the collector found more time to pursue his hobby (and more disposable income), to allow him the resources to focus on building his collection.

He said, “This collection reflects my strong bias for coins with superior eye appeal, particularly those with abundant luster and attractive toning,” adding, “I have a fussy aversion to coins with spots.”

Leading bidding was a 1792 Flowing Hair half disme, listed as Judd-7 in the pattern reference and graded Fine 15 by Professional Coin Grading Service, that sold for $102,000.

The issue is widely-collected as the first federal coinage, with ties to Thomas Jefferson who deposited $75 in silver on July 11, 1792, for the issuance of 1,500 examples of the new coins, which he received two days later. The three authors of 1792: Birth of a Nation’s Coinage (Pete Smith, Joel J. Orosz, and Leonard Augsburger) have determined that the year’s half dismes were struck in three different periods — second batch was produced in October 1792, followed by a third batch at a later unknown date. Today, around 250 examples have survived from a mintage of perhaps as many as 2,000 half dismes.

The collection’s offering was a tough-to-find problem-free example that Heritage characterizes as “most attractive,” noting, “The lightly abraded surfaces are toned in elegant shades of antique-gray, with darker accents around the devices and lettering.”

Another impressive example of the small denomination that preceded the nickel 5-cent piece was an 1846 Seated Liberty half dime graded About Uncirculated 58 by Numismatic Guaranty Co. that sold for $15,000. In this low mintage issue of just 27,000 pieces, unquestioned Mint State survivors are rare, making choice “sliders” like the sale’s offering particularly coveted.

Heritage called it “a quite attractive, blatantly original near-Mint example of this key low-mintage issue,” observing, “Substantial luster remains in the fields, giving the impression of reflectivity at certain angles,” before noting its rich toning in rose-gold, mint green, lavender and pale blue hues.

First year type coins

The Towers Collection offered two examples of the 1796 Draped Bust, Small Eagle quarter dollar, an issue coveted as a one-year type as well as being the first year of the quarter dollar denomination.

Two die pairs struck the entire 6,146-coin mintage, and both examples offered represent the more common Browning-2 variety, with a high 6 in the date. The finer of the two, graded Extremely Fine 40 by PCGS, featured a nicely centered strike and was, “golden-brown at the centers, within a frame of deep gold and blue-steel peripheral toning.” It realized $51,600.

Both saw demand from type collectors and early quarter dollar fans, and the second brought an exceptionally strong price, $45,600, a result of its fantastic eye appeal. Graded Fine 12 by PCGS, it showed strong rims and even wear. Heritage writes, “Deep-gray fields surround light-gray motifs for a pleasing circulation cameo look.” 

A duo of small-sized cents representing the first-year of their respective designs included an 1856 Flying Eagle cent graded Proof 64 by NGC that realized $17,400 and a 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent graded MS-66 red and brown by PCGS that sold for $6,060.

The 1856 Flying Eagle cent is well-loved as the first small cent, though whether typical examples should be considered patterns remains debated. The offered example was the more common Snow-9 variety, with series specialist Rick Snow explaining that these were, “probably struck during a long period starting in late 1857 and continuing until 1860.” This one is satiny, with moderate reflectivity and a sharp strike.

The 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent is famous for Victor David Brenner’s initials prominently hugging the bottom of the reverse rim. Lots were saved at the time of issue, but it remains a key date and always popular. The collection’s example was fully struck, with an absence of carbon spots, something that the consignor appreciated, and it seemed bidders did as well.

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