US Coins

Heritage Bass II auction set for Jan. 5 at FUN in Orlando

More magnificent U.S. gold and pattern coins from the Harry W. Bass Jr. Collection will star at Heritage’s Jan. 5 Florida United Numismatists auction in Orlando.

The 103-coin offering follows Heritage’s Part I offering of the Bass Core Collection at a Sept. 29 session where 106 lots soared to $20,459,645.

The obvious star in the Orlando session is the unique 1870-S Indian Head gold $3 piece graded Specimen 50 by Professional Coin Grading Service, which notes on the insert that the numbers 893 are engraved on the reverse. Along with many of the coins on offer, it has been known to a generation of numismatists as a core part of the exhibit at the American Numismatic Association’s Edward C. Rochette Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado, since July 14, 2001. That display was dismantled this summer, and the proceeds will be used to fund philanthropic initiatives of the Harry W. Bass foundation. 

Many of the coins have been published in the book Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties, which Bass co-wrote with John Dannreuther. That book drew on Bass’s original notes as he studied his collection, and Dannreuther noted in its introduction that the book sought to continue Bass’s goal of creating a systematic treatise on the varieties and die states of early U.S. gold coins.

Included is a 1795 Capped Bust, Small Eagle gold $5 half eagle of the BD-5 variety graded About Uncirculated 58 by PCGS that is one of around 10 examples known of the “S over D” variety. Heritage writes, “Diagnostics for the variety include doubling on the tip of the 5 in the date, the tip of the 1 touching the lowest curl, and the final S in STATES punched over a clear underlying D.”

The BD-5 die pair represents the only use of this obverse die.

On the reverse, the last S in STATES initially punched as a D is a die-cutter’s error. The Bass-Dannreuther reference comments, “Today, one would think such an obvious error would have resulted in the die being discarded, but the tenuous state of the Mint precluded such action.”

Bass commented on his example, “lustre evident at date, stars, and Liberty, and throughout the legend on reverse,” while Heritage praised the bold strike and partly lustrous, yellow-gold surfaces. It was previously offered at Abe Kosoff’s August 1968 American Numismatic Association auction and has been off the market since that purchase.

Finest Proof 1843 $10 coin

An 1843 Coronet gold $10 eagle graded PCGS Proof 64+ Deep Cameo is the finest of six examples surviving today.

It came from a Proof set reportedly presented to President John Tyler. Its first auction appearance can be traced to Édouard Frossard’s 1880 offering of the Reverend T. Wilkinson Collection as part of a complete copper, silver and gold Proof set in its original velvet-lined, red leather case. The set sold for $100 at that sale, was subsequently broken up, and the subject coin was purchased by Bass in 1978 for $39,000.

Heritage’s provenance expands on Dannreuther’s 2018 book United States Proof Coins, Volume IV: Gold, and that author helped Heritage with the ownership histories of all six-known examples, noting, “Pedigrees of the 1843 gold proofs are notoriously difficult to compile.” Dannreuther adds that, with six examples known, the 1843 eagle is the most “common” date Proof gold eagle of the 1840s, though in the context of pre-1859 Proof gold coins, it is a rarity.

A Proof 1907 High Relief?

A favorite at the ANA’s exhibit was Bass’s high-grade 1907 Saint-Gaudens, High Relief, Wire Rim $20 double eagle, now graded Specimen 68 by PCGS. Heritage calls it “a Proof in all but name,” observing that Numismatic Guaranty Co. identifies as Proof the “High Reliefs” with these characteristics on the coin’s edge: a series of diagonal die lines that move upward from the left side of the collar segment between the S of PLURIBUS and the star, a recut B in PLURIBUS, showing an initial impression partially impressed north, and a notched upper serif in the U in PLURIBUS.

Among the visible characteristics from the obverse “Proof” die is a heavy die line that runs through the base of the Capitol dome, along with swirling die polish lines in the right obverse field that include a pair of lines resembling an upside-down V just below the bottom of the laurel branch. The “Proof” reverse features die lines within the raised portions of the sun’s rays and heavy die polish lines between the eagle’s wing and neck.

Dannreuther wrote in his book on Proof coins that PCGS does not recognize these 1907 High Reliefs as Proof strikes as the dies from which they were struck continued to be used for circulation strikes, observing that all High Relief double eagles were struck two, three, or more times, “so some numismatists note that they either all are Proofs or none are.” Additionally, both the “Proofs” and the circulation strike issues were struck on the same coining presses.

This one features a bold strike along with bright, thick satiny luster, while an oval-shaped alloy spot below the leg of the W in TWENTY on the reverse helps identify the Bass example for future owners.

Heritage ranks it third in the roster of important “Proof” 1907 High Relief twenties, led by one graded Proof 69 by NGC that sold for $660,000 at Heritage in 2020.

1804 silver $10 die trial

Beyond the gold, the Bass offering has some fascinating pattern issues, like an 1804 Capped Bust, Heraldic Eagle $10 eagle struck in silver, graded Proof 66 by PCGS and the finest of four examples of the Judd 34 pattern known.

These are called “die trials” and collected as patterns, struck from the same set of dies as was used to produce Proof 1804 Capped Bust, Plain 4 gold eagles for inclusion in diplomatic presentation sets in the 1830s, as distinguished from off-metal strikes made for collectors. David Stone and John Dale Beatty published their research on the coins in Coin World’s Nov. 14, 2014, issue, reinforcing Dannreuther’s research that established that the silver patterns were successive die trials struck when the Mint was polishing and reworking dies, “which had suffered considerable deterioration in their 30-odd years of storage.”

The offered piece served to illustrate the variety in the first seven editions of the Judd pattern book.

Heritage also notes its close adjacency to the famed 1804 Draped Bust dollar, the first examples of which were struck circa 1834 for the diplomatic gift sets.

The cataloger called it “an extraordinary early United States Mint pattern in every sense, closely linked to the production of two of the rarest and most storied issues in this country: the 1804 dollar and Plain 4 eagle in gold.”

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