US Coins

Heritage ‘FUN’ Platinum Night sale features standouts

Heritage’s traditional Platinum Night session — originally set for the now-canceled Florida United Numismatists auction — is reset for Jan. 21, joining single-owner Platinum Sessions of the Bob R. Simpson and Donald Groves Partrick collections on Jan. 20 and 21, respectively.

As is usual for the multi-consignor session, it has plenty of fascinating lots.

An 1894-O Barber half dollar graded Mint State 67 Prooflike by Professional Coin Grading Service and given a green sticker by Certified Acceptance Corp. is an enigmatic special issue from the New Orleans Mint. These have sometimes been called Proof or Specimen strikes, and were obviously struck with great care.

The collection of Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. included several of these “Branch Mint Proof” Barber half dollars, which were likely purchased directly from the U.S. Mint by well-connected individuals. Last offered at Bowers and Merena’s 1996 auction of the James Bennett Pryor Collection for $24,200, it was Pryor’s favorite coin in his varied collection of Flowing Hair through Franklin half dollars.

Heritage writes, “The strike is a trifle soft in places, especially noted at the arrow fletchings and the right (facing) claw,” and cites Q. David Bowers’ cataloging of the Pryor Collection, where he wrote, “quite possibly struck as a presentation piece or even a proof.”

With a lack of documentation that firmly establishes that it was struck as a Proof, the coin’s merits must speak for themselves. This coin “borders on Deep Mirror Prooflike,” in its contrast between fields and devices. 

Top 1915 Proof gold $20

Another stunning group in the sale is an original Proof set of 1915 coins, from the Lincoln cent to a PCGS Proof 65+ Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagle.

The minor coins are offered together in a separate lot as a five-piece Proof set, while the Proof 1915 Indian Head gold $2.50 quarter eagle and $5 half eagle, along with the Proof 1915 Indian Head gold $10 eagle and Saint-Gaudens $20 double eagle are offered as single lots.

The year 1915 marked the final one of Proof gold coins of these types, with just 50 double eagles struck. The following year saw Proof production of only the Lincoln cent and Indian Head 5-cent coin at the Philadelphia Mint. Proof coin production would resume on a widespread scale in 1936, with some one-off Proof issues in between.

The finish seen on the Matte Proof Saint-Gaudens $20 double eagles varies by year. Heritage writes, “A heavier sand grain was used on 1915 proof twenties, resulting in the coarser surface seen on this piece,” further observing, “Every minute strike detail is completely brought up on both sides.” PCGS has graded just two 1915 double eagles in Proof 65+, including the subject offering, which are tied for the finest-graded at the service.

Matte Proof 1922 dollar

Contrasted with the Morgan dollars which enjoyed regular Proof production from 1878 to 1904, and the distinct Zerbe and Chapman-style Proofs in 1921, Proof production of the Peace dollar was much more limited. A High Relief 1922 Peace dollar graded Matte Proof 64 by PCGS has a green CAC sticker; the Proof dollars of this year are a particularly varied group.

Heritage has identified three obverse and four reverse subtypes, struck in five different combinations, explaining, “The high relief matte proofs are significant for their formidable rarity (PCGS estimates five to eight pieces are known) and their exceptional high relief design detail. But they also represent a different design subtype, and may merit classification as a pattern, along with the high relief satin proofs.”

This one has “distributed minute tan freckles, and a tiny tick on the base of Liberty’s neck provides another identifier,” but the surfaces are otherwise stone-gray, “and under strong magnification exhibit the finely-grained texture characteristic of matte proof production of the era.”

Anthony de Francisci’s design was struck for circulation in high relief in 1921 only, so the few 1922 Peace, High Relief dollars are especially important as a distinct type in the series.

Presented to a president

A handful of issues from the classic commemorative coin series of 1892 to 1954 are available as Proofs; some were clandestine issues of the U.S. Mint. In contrast, for the 1928 Hawaii Discovery Sesquicentennial half dollar, 50 documented Proofs were produced for presentation purposes. Among those who received the special Sandblast Proof half dollars, as published in The Numismatist, were the Hawaiian Historical Society, the British Museum, Great Britain’s King George V, the American Numismatic Association and the American Numismatic Society, along with President Calvin Coolidge, the recipient of the offered coin.

Coolidge’s coin descended to John Coolidge, the president’s son, and was subsequently sold in 1973, afterward residing in several collections. It was most recently auctioned in 2002 at Heritage’s FUN sale where it realized $33,350.

Heritage writes on the PCGS Proof 64 graded example with a green CAC sticker, “The Coolidge specimen offered here is not only just the second sandblast proof to appear at auction since 2008, it is, to our knowledge, the first sandblast proof offered with CAC endorsement.”

The firm recognizes that the Coolidge provenance — documentation is included in the lot — makes it especially fascinating.

Heritage observes that these sandblast Proof issues have two distinct categories: those with a traceable provenance to the original recipient and those without. “The history of a specific coin and the person to whom it was originally presented are monumental considerations when determining a coin’s numismatic and historical significance,” the cataloger notes, before concluding, “There are few numismatic properties that have been sold in the past fifty years that have a more solid, interesting, and historic pedigree than this sandblast proof Hawaiian half.”

Heavy metal (gold medal)

Another impressive lot comes from Heritage’s continued offerings from numismatist Alan V. Weinberg, a 27-ounce Cyrus W. Field congressional gold medal measuring 102.2 millimeters in diameter and 9.5 millimeters thick, containing just under 25 troy ounces of gold. The congressional resolution to award Field — an American businessman who laid the first transatlantic cable — was approved in 1867, and according to NGC, who graded the medal MS-62, it was struck in 1868.

Robert W. Julian reports that just two were produced. After the first was temporarily misplaced, a second was struck for Field. When the first was discovered, it was purchased by Field for the price of its gold content. Julian’s research suggests that the offered medal was the second one produced, and as such, was the one presented to Field. The dies were also employed to strike aluminum and bronze examples, and an example of the latter is offered in an accompanying Signature session.

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