US Coins

Hawaiian coin jewelry in Rainbow Falls Collection

Though Stack’s Bowers Galleries had the top lot of the ANA auctions when the Lord St. Oswald-Norweb 1794 Flowing Hair dollar, graded Mint State 64, brought $2.82 million during the Aug. 3 Rarities Night sale, the various other sessions had a host of fascinating collections with more modest price tags. One that stood out was the Rainbow Falls Collection of scarce and fascinating Hawaiian numismatic items.

Coins from Hawaii are widely collected today, starting with a cent issued by King Kamehameha III in 1847 that was not particularly popular with merchants, but was well-suited as a souvenir.

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In 1883 silver coins were struck for the Kingdom of Hawaii, designed by Charles Barber and struck at the San Francisco Mint. Dimes, quarter dollars, half dollars and dollars were issued with a distinguished portrait of Hawaii’s King Kalakaua on the obverse and the kingdom’s coat of arms on the three largest coins (the dime shows a wreath). The coins enjoyed local circulation for several decades, but in 1904 they lost their legal tender status and by 1907 most had been exchanged for silver at the San Francisco Mint.

Many of the remaining Hawaiian coins were used to create jewelry and were used as keepsakes of the Kingdom of Hawaii, with enameled coins, pins, watch fobs, belts, hat pins and other decorative items being fashioned for sale to tourists.

Lessons learned from Enhanced Uncirculated Coin set release”The fallout from the Enhanced Uncirculated Coin set release: Another column in the August 21 weekly issue of Coin World reveals that while forms of numismatic literature like fixed-price lists were meant to be fleeting, they can actually be quite useful.

The Rainbow Falls Collection included several pieces of Hawaiian coins fashioned into jewelry, including a woman’s belt crafted using 24 1883 Hawaiian coins — 21 quarter dollars, a single half dollar and two dollars — that measures 27.5 inches long and sold for $646.25. The coins are each attached to one another by four loops and a single link of silver chain, with the buckle fashioned from two dollars. Several of the coins are enameled to highlight the Hawaiian coat of arms. The description noted that the coins were of high quality and that the belt was still functional.

Also offered was a napkin ring made from five 1847 Hawaiian cents that were soldered together at their edges to form a ring measuring just over 40 millimeters in diameter that sold for $493.50.

Rounding out the collection were five enameled 1883 Hawaiian dollars that sold from $111.63 to $329 each and several impressive antique silver coin spoons with enameled Hawaiian coins in the dish of the spoon. The most expensive of the spoons was a 136-millimeter-long spoon weighing 26.3 grams with a stem topped by a full length uniface image of King Kamehameha I facing half left. The bowl featured a richly enameled 1883 Hawaii half dollar with the inscription UNIVERSITY CLUB / FEBRUARY – 2 – 1906 around the coin. The curious decorative spoon sold for $446.50.

While coins representing the highest grades of the grading service registry sets often capture headlines, there’s also a healthy market for “lowball” sets of problem-free Poor 1 coins. An 1883 Hawaiian dollar graded Poor 1 by Professional COin Grading Service from the Rainbow Falls Collection sold for $376 — comparable to what problem-free Very Fine pieces sell for — and as the catalog noted, it was almost certainly carried for years as a pocket piece.

From high-end rarities to enameled coins to “lowball” grade rarities, the ANA sales have something for everyone (and at nearly all budgets). 

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