US Coins

Gold coins kept in vault for over 100 years come to market

Coins housed in envelopes from Philadelphia dealer Henry Chapman have been kept in a vault for over 100 years.

Image courtesy of Matador Rare Coins.

A previously unreported, nearly complete date set of 19th-century United States gold dollar coins assembled by legendary Philadelphia dealer Henry Chapman has been revealed by Matador Rare Coins in New York City.

Stored until recently in a Philadelphia bank vault and safe-deposit boxes for more than a century, the formerly hidden collection has 51 Coronet and Indian Head gold dollar coins struck between 1849 and 1889, as well as eight U.S. commemorative gold dollars struck in the first decades of the 20th-century.

The set, now described as The Henry Chapman Collection of $1 Gold, was owned and securely stored for generations by a Philadelphia area family. The current owners thought their ancestors’ coins might be worth about $50,000, but they are now insured for $2 million, according to Luis Martinez, founder and president of Matador Rare Coins. He is working with the set’s owners who want to remain anonymous.

“Chapman personally began assembling this collection for a banking family in 1899, and the coins have remained in the family’s possession continuously for generations. The set includes several coins among the finest known examples of their kind today,” said Martinez.

“When I received the coins, I carefully reviewed each example. Housed in the original envelopes from Henry Chapman’s shop in Philadelphia, a number of the coins carried exuberant eye appeal. I was truly in awe as I reviewed each coin one at a time. I knew then that this collection could truly be a national treasure,” stated Martinez.

All the coins are now certified by Professional Coin Grading Service with the Chapman pedigree indicated on the encapsulated insert label.

“PCGS is proud to have been able to unite these coins with their impressive pedigree at the September 2023 Long Beach Expo,” said PCGS President Stephanie Sabin. “This historic collection boasts not only magnificent rarities and grades, but also hails from the cabinets of renowned collector Henry Chapman. Preserving the coins themselves and their history is an honor.”

“The grading results were beyond my expectations, with a number of the coins reaching the finest known tier,” said Martinez. “When I shared the results with the owners, they were astonished and filled with disbelief. A collection they would have sold for about $50,000 could now potentially bring in well over seven figures at auction!”

Among the highlights are an 1863 Indian Head gold dollar graded PCGS MS-68, stickered by Certified Acceptance Corp. and tied for finest known; an 1881 Indian Head coin graded PCGS Proof 66 Deep Cameo and tied for finest known among the remaining survivors of only 87 Proof examples struck; an 1884 Indian Head coin graded PCGS Proof 67+ Cameo, stickered by CAC, tied with one other for finest known; and an 1887 Indian Head gold dollar graded PCGS MS-67+, stickered by CAC. An example of the 1875 Indian Head gold dollar — with a small mintage of only 400 pieces — is graded PCGS AU-58, approved by CAC.

“The U.S. began making $1 gold pieces in 1849, a year after the start of the California Gold Rush. A little smaller than a modern U.S. dime, the gold dollars were struck over the years with three different designs — Liberty Head [also known as the Coronet design] from 1849 to 1854; Indian Princess [also known as Indian Head] Small Head from 1854 to 1856; and the Indian Princess Large Head type from 1856 to 1889,” explained Martinez.

Over the years and at various times, five Mints were involved in striking gold dollar coins: The Mint facilities in Charlotte, North Carolina and Dahlonega, Georgia, as well as New Orleans, Philadelphia, and San Francisco produced the coins.

The commemorative gold dollars in the collection include a 1903 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, McKinley coin graded PCGS MS-68 and tied for finest known; a 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition gold dollar graded PCGS MS-67; a 1915-S Panama-Pacific Exposition dollar graded PCGS MS-67; a 1917 McKinley Memorial gold dollar graded PCGS MS-67; and a 1922 Grant Memorial, With Star gold dollar graded PCGS MS-67+, with CAC sticker.

Additional, specific information about each of the coins in The Henry Chapman Collection of $1 Gold will be released soon, according to Martinez.

John Albanese, founder of CAC, was surprised to learn about the long-concealed gold dollars and then view them in person: “I’ve been around the numismatic block a few times since the 1970s and thought we’ve seen probably everything there is to see in great collections. I almost fell off the chair when these coins came in. It’s nice to know there are still great coins out there. It gives us hope.”

Henry Chapman and his brother Samuel Hudson (S.H.) Chapman were well-known late 19th and early 20th-century Philadelphia coin dealers and auctioneers. Numismatic bibliographer Pete Smith describes the Chapman brothers as “the first career coin dealers in the United States” and “innovative with the use of photographic plates to illustrate their catalogs.”

For additional information about the set, contact Matador Rare Coins at 877-757-3665 or visit www.MatadorRareCoins.com.

Information provided by Donn Pearlman.

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