US Coins

For some collectors, gorgeous toning on a coin enhances value

Toning: Some collectors love it, while others hate it. Heritage is set to offer some gorgeous, rainbow-hued coins at its Oct. 17 to 19 U.S. Coins Signature Auction in Dallas that might not be to everyone’s tastes, but will certainly appeal to many. 

The 1892 to 1954 classic U.S. commemorative coin series ended with the Booker T. Washington half dollars, issued from 1946 to 1951, and the Washington-Carver half dollar series, struck between 1951 and 1954. Both types honored prominent African-American men, with the former issue seeking “to perpetuate the ideals and teachings of Booker T. Washington, and to raise funds to purchase, construct, and maintain memorials to his memory.” The authorizing act allowed the Booker T. Washington halves to be struck at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints for a five-year period.

Many examples, especially of the high-mintage 1946 issues, show light wear that is first seen on the cheekbone of Washington. Heritage will present at the Dallas auction a stunning 1946-D Booker T. Washington half dollar graded Mint State 67 with a Numismatic Guaranty Corp. Star, and a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker. The firm writes, “This sharply struck BTW boasts splendid, deep cherry-red, violet, and gold hues over both sides — an astonishing and vivid two-sided color palette, certainly unequalled among other Superb Gems.” Although NGC has graded several finer examples, few match the eye appeal of this one. 

The George Washington Carver-Booker T. Washington commemoratives were first issued in 1951, again from all three Mint facilities. Carver is today best-remembered for his scientific work as an agricultural scientist and inventor. The issue was authorized by an Act of Sept. 21, 1951, that allowed the unused authorized mintage of 3,415,631 un-coined and melted 1946 to 1951 Booker T. Washington commemoratives to be applied to a new design. These too are often found lightly circulated 

One of the prettiest to survive is this 1952 Washington-Carver half dollar graded MS-67 by PCGS. It sold for $16,100 when offered 12 years ago at Heritage’s 2007 Florida United Numismatists auction, where Heritage noted that it had dynamic luster and a strong strike, enhanced by “breathtakingly beautiful emerald-green, purple-rose, and yellow-golden iridescence.” At that time just four were graded MS-67 by PCGS with none finer. The population has since grown to 33 in MS-67, eight in MS-67+ (Plus grading was not in the marketplace in 2007), and one in MS-68 that is the finest. 

Unusual toning on gold

Gold coins are infrequently seen with bold rainbow colors since regular issue U.S. gold coins are typically 90 percent gold and 10 percent copper. Occasionally that bit of copper can lead to gorgeous color, as seen on this 1912 Indian Head $5 half eagle graded MS-65 by NGC, housed in a special NGC slab with a label signed by “Red Book” editor Ken Bressett. 

The issue is challenging in higher Mint State grades, and gold specialist David Akers noted in 1988, “In MS-64, the 1912 coin is seldom available and true gems are very rare and almost never seen.”

Heritage explained, “We cannot recall having previously handled a 1912 Gem half eagle with this spectacular [degree] of color,” observing, “Fire-orange is the dominant hue, but it is clustered in the centers for the most part by peripheral rose and mint-green toning. Delicate silvery slivers appear when rotated beneath a light, and the whole palette is backlit by vibrant bands of cartwheel luster.” 

NGC has graded just 43 in this grade, with only three finer. The cataloger concluded, “This is a 1912 half eagle worth getting excited about, even if Indian gold coinage is not normally a part of one’s collection.”


Connect with Coin World:  

Sign up for our free eNewsletter
Access our Dealer Directory  
Like us on Facebook  
Follow us on Twitter


Community Comments