US Coins

Gardner Collection of United States silver coins among finest

The Eugene H. Gardner Collection contains, among other items, what some numismatists regard as one of the finest collections of American silver coins. 

Gardner, 78, a collector from Pennsylvania, spent more than two decades assembling the overall collection. Now, he’s relinquishing ownership of his more than 3,000 coins to a new collecting generation, in four auctions in New York in 2014 and 2015.

Heritage Auctions’ June 23 sale in New York City is the first of those auctions, with nearly 640 lots to be offered. The second auction is to be set in October.

Following are some highlights:

1842 Seated Liberty, Small Date, Small Letters half dollar

One of the focal points of Gardner’s collection is Seated Liberty coins, with an emphasis on quality and completeness. His collection of circulation-strike Seated Liberty half dollars, for example, is considered the “all-time greatest,” notes Heritage.

The scope of Gardner’s collection is exemplified by such pieces as the 1842 Seated Liberty, Small Date, Small Letters half dollar, a pairing of design obverse and reverse subtypes known by just four examples.

The type was unknown until 18 years after the 1993 publication of Complete Guide to Liberty Seated Half Dollars by Randy Wiley and Bill Bugert. Heritage reported the identification of the type on April 4, 2001, with three more examples discovered since.

The type pairs the Small Date obverse with the Small Letters reverse design, also known as the “Reverse of 1839.” The Small Letters reverse was used from 1839 through 1842.

The example that became part of the Gardner Collection was discovered by New York dealer Anthony Terranova, unattributed, in an unnamed auction, according to the Heritage lot description.

Gardner purchased the coin from Terranova in December 2005.

1793 Flowing Hair, Chain cent

Seated Liberty coinage is not Gardner’s only focus, however. The collection features an example of the first coin struck for circulation at the fledgling Philadelphia Mint in 1793.

The 1793 Flowing Hair, Chain, AMERI. cent in the Gardner Collection is the plate coin from Dr. William H. Sheldon’s Early American Cents, later renamed Penny Whimsy.

The first United States large cents struck at the Philadelphia Mint for general circulation were 1793 Flowing Hair, Chain cents, of which a number of varieties were produced that are attributed by Sheldon numbers. They were struck from Feb. 27 to March 12, 1793.

Graded PCGS MS-63, the Sheldon 1 large cent variety is recognizable by the inscription AMERICA being abbreviated to AMERI. on the reverse. The die engraver failed to properly space the letters of the inscription on this initial effort at engraving. Later strikes had AMERICA fully spelled out as the engraver better mastered the art of engraving. 

1822 Capped Bust dime

Gardner’s collection includes some silver coins issued prior to the introduction of the Seated Liberty series. A highlight of the auction is a Proof 1822 Capped Bust dime, known by just two examples.

The Gardner example is graded PCGS Proof 66 Cameo and stickered by CAC.

The coin is identified as the JR-1 variety, as attributed in Early United States Dimes 1796-1837 by David J. Davis, Russell J. Logan, Allen F. Lovejoy, John W. McCloskey and William L. Subjack.

Only one pair of dies, or one die marriage, is known for the 1822 dime.

“The upper serif on the 1 in the denomination is defective, as seen on circulation strikes,” according to the Heritage Auction lot description. “The existence of a single die pair known for the year reinforces the belief that much of the 1822 mintage was actually dated 1821 — a year for which 10 die marriages are known.”

The Gardner coin’s earliest known auction appearance identified by Heritage is Numismatic Gallery’s May 1945 sale of the World’s Greatest Collection.

The coin counts among its previous owners renowned collectors F.C.C. Boyd and James A. Stack.

1863/2 3-cent silver

Among the collection are 19th century silver coins not part of the Seated Liberty design, including the silver 3-cent coin. Among this series’ highlights is the 1863/2 silver 3-cent coin, known to have been struck in Proof only.

Garner’s coin is graded PCGS Proof 66 Cameo and stickered by Certified Acceptance Corp.

The 14-millimeter silver 3-cent pieces were designed by Chief U.S. Mint Engraver James B. Longacre. They were struck between 1851 and 1873 at the Philadelphia Mint with three different design subtypes.

Subtype I, struck in .750 fine silver, and weighing 0.80 gram, was struck between 1851 and 1853. The obverse bears no outline or frame around the central star device.

Subtype II, struck in .900 fine silver from 1854 to 1858, maintains the same diameter as Subtype I, but the weight is less, at 0.75 gram. A raised border was added to the obverse star, with two line frames around it, bringing the line total to three. An olive branch was placed above the denomination numerals III on the reverse, with a bundle of arrows below.

Subtype III, of which the 1863/2 Gardner coin is an example, maintains the diameter, weight and silver fineness specifications of Subtype II, as well as retaining the reverse motifs. The Subtype III obverse has just two lines around the star. Subtype III was struck from 1859 through 1873, the year the denomination was discontinued in silver.

1892-O Barber, Micro O half dollar

The Barber series of dimes, quarter dollars and half dollars provided another focal area for Gardner. The Barber Liberty Head designs replaced the Seated Liberty designs on the three denominations.

Gardner’s collection contains such pieces as his favorite coin — a 1901-S quarter dollar — and another classic rarity, from the half dollar denomination.

The O Mint mark of the New Orleans Mint intended to have been struck on 1892-O Barber dimes and quarter dollars was inadvertently punched into a single Barber half dollar reverse die.

The result is the much coveted 1892-O Barber, Micro O half dollar. 

Notes Heritage in its lot description, “In its Auction ’81 appearance, this half dollar was described as ‘the first high grade example we have seen. Possibly a candidate for Finest Known.’ ”

Heritage noted that the coin next appeared in the George “Buddy” Byers Collection by Stack’s in 2006. Heritage commented on that appearance: “A quarter-century later, it again appeared at auction, and was cataloged as ‘very rare in any grade, and extremely rare at or above the condition offered here. In face, there are in all likelihood no more than 8 to 10 examples of this variety in all Mint State grade levels. The outstanding coin offered here, therefore, is not only of the utmost importance to collectors of Barber half dollars, it is also a candidate for the condition census!’ ”

Gardner’s example is graded PCGS MS-63.

Heritage adds, “Given the absolute rarity of the Micro O, it is curious that a relatively high number have survived in Mint State. ... However, the variety has been known to be rare since Augustus Heaton discussed it in his famous treatise ‘Mint Marks.’ ”

1839 Seated Liberty, No Drapery half dollar

Another highlight is from Gardner’s Seated Liberty half dollar collection.

Only five examples of the 1839 Seated Liberty half dollar are known to have been struck in Proof.

Four of those Proofs are the No Drapery design, attributed as Wiley-Bugert 101 in the Complete Guide to Liberty Seated Half Dollars by Randy Wiley and Bill Bugert.

Gardner’s coin is one of the WB-101 varieties.

Gardner’s 1839 Seated Liberty, No Drapery half dollar is graded PCGS Proof 64.

According to Heritage’s auction lot description, Proof examples of the 1839 Seated Liberty half dollar were purportedly struck on Aug., 13, 1839, at the Philadelphia Mint.

All are struck from a reverse die showing an extensive die crack on the lower part of the reverse. Some exhibit a second, bisecting crack by the lowest olive leaf, extending into the R in AMERICA.

The Gardner example is believed to be the only example from the five identified Proofs from 1839 that does not exhibit the second, bisecting die crack.

The June 23 sale of the Eugene Gardner Collection is scheduled at the Ukrainian Institute of America at the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion, 2 E. 79th St., in New York City.

For more information, visit the Heritage Auctions website.

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