US Coins

First offerings of Bass collection at Sept. 29 Heritage sale

Heritage will present the first of multiple offerings of the Harry W. Bass Jr. Foundation’s collection including classic U.S. gold coins and patterns at a Sept. 29 auction featuring selections from the Bass Core Collection.

The collection was on long-term loan to the American Numismatic Association Money Museum where the coins were on display for two decades.

They will be offered at auction to raise funds to benefit Dallas-area charities.

All of the coins are certified by Professional Coin Grading Service, including the unique 1870-S Indian Head gold $3 piece, now certified Specimen 50 by PCGS with the modifier “893 Engraved” noted on the label, acknowledging the post-Mint engraving on the reverse. Bass’s 1907 Saint-Gaudens, Ultra High Relief, Inverted Edge Letters gold $20 coin is graded Proof 69. Both are set for future Heritage offerings.

Todd Imhof, executive vice president of Heritage Auctions, stressed the depth of the Bass holdings, sharing, “We are not just talking about ultra-rarities like the 1870-S $3, but a virtually complete collection of all known die varieties of early United States gold coins, a complete collection of gold type coins from 1795 through 1933, and many rare U.S. pattern coins. It’s unfathomable, really, what this collection offers.”

Among the offerings in the Sept. 29 session are an 1854 Coronet gold dollar in Proof 65 Deep Cameo with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker that is the only example of this issue struck as a Proof. Heritage writes, “Its absolute rarity invites comparison with other, more famous issues, like the unique 1870-S three dollar gold piece.”

Heritage states: “This delightful Gem proof exhibits sharply detailed design elements throughout, with bold dots on Liberty’s tiara and fine detail in her hair. Some faint vertical die file marks are evident on the lower left obverse, from the rim into the field, near stars 2 through 4. On the reverse, a slanting die file mark shows above the E in STATES. Evidence of die rust is visible on both sides. The well-preserved yellow-gold surfaces show deep orange highlights around the devices. Overall eye appeal is terrific and the high quality within the grade is confirmed by CAC.”

According to the Heritage catalog, “In his United States Proof Coins, Volume IV: Gold, John Dannreuther notes it is unlikely that any gold proof coins of any denominations were struck in the 1851-1853 time frame. Proof mintages began again in 1854, but they were extremely small. Dannreuther estimates no more than two proof 1854 Type 1 [Coronet] gold dollars were struck in 1854, and possibly 5 more proofs of the Type 2 [Indian Head, Small Head] design.”

The offered example surfaced at a 1985 Stack’s auction — its first time at auction — where it was graded “Choice Brilliant Proof. Sharply struck, with glittering surfaces” in an era just before widespread third-party grading. It realized $68,750 there. Numismatist Dannreuther predicted in 2009, “If this 1854 Type 1 Proof is sold in the future, it undoubtedly will best the price record for a Proof gold dollar of this date.”

Sole Prooflike 1798 $2.50

Another visual standout is an 1798 Capped Bust gold $2.50 quarter eagle graded MS-64 Prooflike by PCGS and bearing a green CAC sticker that is the only certified “PL” example at PCGS.

Heritage writes: “Walter Breen declared the present coin was a ‘prooflike presentation piece,’ and he was half right —it is unquestionably Prooflike, as certified by PCGS with CAC endorsement.”

The catalog continues, “The sharp strike and high-contrast surfaces support Breen’s assertion, but apparently Breen’s vote did not sway the PCGS graders. With such a small mintage, most 1798 quarter eagle survivors are partially prooflike, although the near-Gem Uncirculated condition is what makes this coin truly impressive.”

Just 1,094 quarter eagles were struck in 1798 from two obverse and two reverse dies. The offered coin is the BD-1 Close Date, Four Berries variety while the BD-2 variety has five berries on the branch that is held in the eagle’s claw and more spread-out numerals in the date. 

Heritage ranks the Bass coin as the second finest, behind a PCGS MS-65 example that sold for $763,750 at Stack’s Bowers Galleries and Sotheby’s May 2015 D. Brent Pogue auction.

The firm says: “This BD-1 coin may the most visually stunning early quarter eagle we have seen in recent memory. Only a small rough patch (as struck) above M in AMERICA needs mention, and the deeply mirrored fields are superlative.”

Beautiful pattern coins

Beyond gold is an exceptional group of pattern issues, like a Judd 1608 1879 silver dollar with what is known as the “Schoolgirl” design by George T. Morgan, graded Proof 67 Cameo by PCGS and bearing a green CAC sticker.

Liberty’s combed back hair is tied with a ribbon, her headband inscribed LIBERTY is higher back, and she wears an elegant string of pearls. Heritage writes, “Morgan’s Schoolgirl dollar pattern is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful coinage proposals ever produced in this country.”

Today just 15 examples of the famed silver pattern are known, of which this is the finest.

Heritage describes the coin in its catalog description: “Pristine Cameo surfaces feature tremendous contrast between the mirrored fields and frosted devices. A hint of golden patina covers each side, deepening to orange around the borders. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to pick up the best-preserved example of one of the legendary issues in the American pattern series.”

Morgan’s artistry is also seen on an 1882 Shield Earring half dollar, listed as Judd 1700, and featuring a prominent shield earring near the center of the coin. Just 11 are confirmed in silver. “One of them resides in the Smithsonian Institution’s collection, forever out of the
reach of private collectors,” Heritage writes.

The example in the Heritage auction is now graded Proof 67 Deep Cameo by PCGS and bears a green CAC sticker. It is the finest graded at PCGS.

The designs were created as potential substitutes for the Seated Liberty design then in use on the silver coinage. “Quarter dollar, half dollar, and dollar patterns were struck in both silver and copper in 1882 featuring this George Morgan design, ...” Heritage writes. “A youthful Liberty faces right wearing a band with the usual inscription, the band compressing the back portion of the hair. Liberty wears a shield-shaped earring, with stars six left, seven right, date 1882 below. On the reverse a perched, defiant eagle occupies the center. ...”

Heritage notes: “This Harry Bass Core Collection coin has been unavailable since 1970. It is the sole finest example at PCGS, the only one with Deep Cameo contrast, and it stands alone atop the Condition Census for the 1882 Shield Earring half dollars in silver. A thin veil of golden color blankets deeply contrasted surfaces. Strike definition is essentially complete throughout.”

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