US Coins

Four coins top $1M at second Harry Bass Collection sale

The unique 1870-S Indian Head gold $3 coin, graded Specimen 50 by Professional Coin Grading Service, sold for $5.52 million at Heritage’s Jan. 5 sale of the Harry W. Bass Jr. Foundation Core Collection.

Easily identified by the 893 engraved on the reverse, it was one of four coins to top the seven-figure threshold in the session that realized $24,022,741 across 103 lots. Part I reached $20,459,645 on Sept. 29, 2022, and two more Bass sales are scheduled. Proceeds from the auction will benefit the dozens of Dallas-based nonprofits supported by the foundation, with a particular emphasis on early childhood education and literacy in Dallas.

The Bass collection is known for its exceptionally high quality gold, as seen in the offered 1795 Capped Bust, Small Eagle gold $10 eagle graded Mint State 64 by PCGS that brought $2.1 million. It is listed as BD-3 in the Bass-Dannreuther reference book and features the 9 Leaves reverse. Author John Dannreuther calls it “the King of the Small Eagle type.” The year 1795 represents the first year for gold coin production at the Philadelphia Mint.

The die pair was used to strike between 210 and 500 examples of the BD-3 variety, based on U.S. Mint records, with perhaps two dozen remaining today in all grades.

Dannreuther explains, “It is not known whether the 9 leaves on the branch indicate an experiment or a die cutting error, but the fact that the reverse was changed to 11 leaves for 1796 and 1797 indicates it was an intentional experiment. Perhaps the arrangement of 13 leaves was considered too crowded and grouping of 9 leaves was too sparse, leading to the introduction of 11 leaves on the branch in 1796.”

Heritage calls the offered example delightful, praising its bold strike, observing a touch of typical softness at the centers. It was sold privately to Bass in 1971 and, like all the coins in the offering, had been off the market since its purchase by Bass.

Another standout of the $10 denomination was a 1798/7 Capped Bust, Heraldic Eagle gold eagle with the 7 by 6 obverse star arrangement, struck from the BD-2 die pair. The obverse die features a clear 7 under the 8 in the date, and the reverse die was used the prior year.

Dannreuther estimates that as many as 842 examples were struck of the BD-2 die marriage, based on the number of eagles reported in a Feb. 28, 1798, delivery that fits the emission sequence that researchers have proposed. Heritage’s roster has included 17 examples of the variety, of which the Bass example is positioned as tied with another for the third-finest-known. Heritage notes full luster, tinges of pale orange toning and yellow-gold surfaces. Graded MS-62 by PCGS, it realized $1,110,000.

Rare Proof 1835 gold $2.50

Also in the million-dollar club in Orlando was an 1835 Classic Head gold $2.50 quarter eagle listed as HM-1 and JD-1 in the references to the series and to Proof coins, respectively. Graded Proof 67 Deep Cameo by PCGS, it sold for $1.2 million and is the finest, by far, of three confirmed examples listed by Heritage.

When it was offered at Bowers and Merena’s 1982 auction of the Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. Collection — where it was purchased by Bass for $30,800 — it was described in an era right before third-party grading as “Choice Brilliant Proof-65,” with that cataloger observing a “tiny lint mark as made in the field to the right of F in OF on the reverse.”

Heritage adds, “The central obverse and reverse design elements are weakly defined on this piece, as they are on most examples of the type.”

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