US Coins

Finest known 1859 gold $10 eagle among family heirlooms

An 1859 Coronet gold $10 eagle passed down for generations in a Pennsylvania Dutch family since the coin’s direct acquisition from a local bank is certified as the finest known example by Numismatic Guaranty Corp.

The coin, now graded and encapsulated Mint State 64 by NGC, is the highest graded example from fewer than 12 Mint State examples known. 

Before the recent certification by NGC, the  highest graded 1859 eagle was one certified MS-63 by NGC. Professional Coin Grading Service also has submissions recorded in MS-63, but the two services may have graded separate submissions of the same coin, according to Jeff Garrett, owner of Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries in Lexington, Kentucky. Garrett is also co-author with Ron Guth of the Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins 1795-1933.

An NGC MS-63 1859 eagle realized $66,000 in a Feb. 22, 2018, sale by Heritage Auctions.

Garrett helped broker the sale of the 1859 eagle and other coins from their owners to Les Stevenson of Les Stevenson Rare Coins, Asheville, North Carolina, where the coin’s owners brought in a leather pouch containing 24 U.S. gold coins, all from the 1850s, along with a single commemorative half dollar.

Garrett said he plans to display the MS-64 1859 Coronet eagle at the Whitman Baltimore Expo in November.

The Philadelphia Mint struck a reported mintage of 16,013 of the 1859 Coronet $10 eagle.

Stevenson said the family with the coin pouch comprises two sisters and a brother, all in their 70s, with no offspring among them to whom they could leave the coins.

Originally from Pennsylvania, they now reside in North Carolina, Stevenson said.

Stevenson said he had the siblings, who wish to remain anonymous, write a synopsis of the pedigree of the pouched coins. 

“The 1859 $10 US gold piece recently graded by NGC MS-64 is from a group of coins handed down in our family over several generations,” according to the sibling’s narrative. “The 1859 $10 gold coin was saved at the time it was minted. The family goes back to the early 1700s and lived in Berks County, PA.

“Being Pennsylvania Dutch, things of value, either actual or sentimental, were kept and passed down to the next generation. The house our father grew up in was in his family for over 100 years and it grew in size with each generation.

“So there was plenty of room to keep things. When our grandfather, who was a Lutheran minister and scholar in ancient languages, passed away, the house was sold and our father brought what we had room for to our house.

“In going through our father’s safety deposit box when he passed away, we found the coins in a leather pouch. Not having any children to leave the coins to, as would be the tradition, Les Stevenson, owner of Stevenson Rare Coins, has purchased the coins and pouch they were found in from us; we hope they find a good home with someone who will appreciate them.”

The pouch held 16 gold dollars, mostly from the 1850s and from the Philadelphia Mint except for one AU-55 1851-C Coronet gold dollar struck at the Charlotte Mint; four gold $2.50 quarter eagles; one Indian Head gold $3 coin; one gold $5 half eagle; the lone $10 eagle; a single gold $20 double eagle; and a 1924 Huguenot-Walloon Tercentenary silver half dollar.

The 1854 Indian Head $3 coin was graded and encapsulated NGC MS-65; and the 1851 Coronet double eagle was graded NGC MS-62+.

Stevenson said the sibling owners of the coins have currently retained the $3 coin and are not selling it at this time. 

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