US Coins

Gold offered at Heritage’s Sept. 14 Signature auction

Heritage’s Sept. 14 to 17 Long Beach Expo U.S. Coins Signature Auction has not one, but two examples of the 1854-D Indian Head gold $3 coin, the only $3 pieces struck at the Dahlonega Mint.

Just 1,120 were minted, and Heritage estimates that around 160 survive in all grades, with PCGS CoinFacts providing a more optimistic estimate of 300 in all grades, with around a dozen in all Mint State grades. The issue predates the interest in collecting coins by Mint marks, and most entered the channels of commerce, placing added pressure on nice About Uncirculated examples like the one graded AU-55 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. that will be offered on Sept. 14.

The large D Mint mark on the reverse tilts slightly leftward, with gold specialist Doug Winter opining that the same Mint mark punch was also used on one of the 1854-D Coronet $5 half eagle varieties.

James Snowden observed in his 1855 Report of the Director of the Mint that demand for the $3 denomination was modest, writing, “The demand for it has not been great, owing, perhaps, to the fact that it does not harmonize with the decimal system, or the division by halves and quarters, to which the people have been so long accustomed.”

The second example on offer is higher graded, in an AU-58 NGC slab, and was presented at Heritage’s January 2006 Florida United Numismatists convention where it realized $46,000. Heritage calls it “a totally problem-free example that has no obvious surface blemishes, just the usual die clashing on each side,” pointing out, “modest wear on the high points of the design, and a small number of wispy hairlines over the surfaces are the only signs of brief circulation.”

For reference, another comparably graded NGC example brought $93,000 in June at Heritage.

Proof 1870 gold $20

A visually dazzling example of the Philadelphia Mint’s skills is an 1870 Coronet $20 double eagle graded Proof 65 Ultra Cameo by NGC and bearing a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker recognizing quality within the grade.

Mint records show that 35 were produced, delivered in two batches, 25 on Feb. 3 and another 10 on June 1. John Dannreuther estimates nine to 11 survivors in his recent volume on Proof gold coins, but with several housed in museums, only five or six are actually collectible.

The high face value meant that many were spent over the years. Dannreuther writes, “a collector of the era in distress would spend the highest denomination Proof coins before the lower ones,” as Proof $10 eagles and $20 double eagles are rarer than lower denominations for nearly every date.

Heritage calls its quality “unbelievable,” writing, “This glittering, deeply mirrored proof displays heavy mint frost over the devices, giving the coin a stark cameo contrast on both sides. The design elements exhibit razor-sharp definition throughout and no mentionable distractions are evident on the pristine orange-gold surfaces.” Dannreuther notes that the quality of Proof gold coins was very good this year, with typically hard mirrors.

Heritage traces the offered example to a possible offering in a 1907 S.H. Chapman auction where it was part of a complete gold Proof set, and it would later enter the Harry W. Bass Jr. Collection, where it was offered by Bowers and Merena in its 1999 auction of selections of the Bass holdings. More recently it sold for $345,000 and $336,000 at Heritage auctions in 2011 and 2018, respectively. The third-finest, graded Proof 64 Deep Cameo by Professional Coin Grading Service, realized $360,000 at Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ April 2022 Rarities Night sale.

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