US Coins

Rarities served up at Heritage’s Long Beach Expo auction

Multiple rarities highlight Heritage’s auctions held during the Long Beach Expo, Sept. 4 to 6. The U.S. coin sessions, including a Premier Session with nearly 600 items, include more than 4,400 lots overall. Additional auction sessions feature paper money and world coins.  

One of the largest items offered is an 1877 gilt copper $50 pattern, nicknamed a “half union.” Two design types exist, and one of each design was struck in gold. Others were struck in copper and some were gilt, although it is unclear whether the gold plating was done at the U.S. Mint at the time of production or later elsewhere. 

Inspired by California slugs

The inspiration for the $50 patterns came from gold $50 “slugs” produced in California in the 1850s, and Mint Superintendent Henry Linderman (an avid coin collector) likely produced this issue as a pet project. The two gold “half unions” are housed at the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution where they are a collection highlight. 

The offered piece is numbered Judd-1549a in United States Pattern Coins, Experimental and Trial Pieces and is graded Proof 63 by Professional Coin Grading Service. 

Heritage notes that this specific example’s early history is unknown, but it appeared in a 1948 B. Max Mehl sale and later was in the massive collections of Egypt’s King Farouk. 

For reference, a different example graded Proof 64+ Cameo by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. brought $282,000 at Heritage’s Jan. 10, 2013, Florida United Numismatists auction. 

1796 Draped Bust quarter

The first-year-of-issue 1796 Draped Bust quarter dollars have received substantial attention in the marketplace since Eric P. Newman’s superlative example graded Mint State 67+ with an NGC ? brought $1,527,500 at a Nov. 15, 2013, Heritage auction.

1796 represented the first year of the quarter dollar denomination, and the Draped Bust obverse combined with the Small Eagle reverse would constitute a one-year type, as the denomination would not be issued again until 1804, then with a Heraldic Eagle reverse. 

The present example offered is graded MS-65 by PCGS and it, too, has an illustrious provenance. It was once in the collection of the Norweb family and sold at Bowers and Merena’s 1988 auction of the Norweb Collection. 

It is one of the finest existing 1796 quarter dollars and Heritage defines the fields as “fully and obviously prooflike,” further noting, “Steel, russet, and sea-green toning enhances the underlying deep golden appearance.”

When previously offered at Heritage’s Aug. 11, 2010, American Numismatic Association auctions it sold for $322,000. 

Other highlights of the auction include:

  • 1792 Silver Center cent pattern, Judd 1, NGC MS-61+ brown.
  • 1907 Indian Head, Wire Rim gold $10 eagle, PCGS MS-66, CAC.
  • 1930-S Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagle, PCGS MS-65.
  • 1907 Saint-Gaudens, High Relief, Roman Numerals gold $20 double eagle, NGC Proof 68 ?.
  • 1915-S Panama-Pacific International Exposition gold $50 commemorative coin, round version, PCGS MS-65.

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