US Coins

Long Beach auction: Not all rarities in top grades, price brackets

Heritage Auctions’ June 4 to 8 auctions held during the Long Beach Expo brought more than $16 million. 

As is often the case with these major auctions, a gold double eagle led the bidding. An 1854-O Coronet $20 double eagle graded AU-55 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. brought $381,875. Heritage’s roster lists 21 known examples and this one is among the finest known. 

In an auction that offers more than 6,000 lots, many other scarce coins are offered that, while not the finest known, still provide solid values for buyers.

1892-O Barber, Micro O half dollar, Good 4, $3,525

Mint marks were punched individually into the dies used to strike coins at the U.S. Mint during the late 19th century. The “Micro O” on this 1892-O Barber half dollar is the result of a New Orleans Mint mark punch for a quarter dollar being used, in place of the larger half dollar Mint mark punch that was supposed to be used on half dollar dies. 

Heritage estimates that fewer than 100 pieces are known and cites Professional Coin Grading Service and NGC as grading just 66 examples in all grades. 

This variety has gained popularity in the past two decades, in large part because the distinction is easy to see without magnification. Its recognition has grown to the point that Heritage writes, “This variety is essential for the completion of a Barber half collection.”

Graded Good 4 by PCGS, it sold for $3,525. Another example in the same auction graded Good 6 by PCGS realized $4,406.25.

1804 Draped Bust quarter dollar, Poor 1, $881.25

When a coin is graded Poor 1, you know that it has some stories to share. This 1804 Draped Bust quarter dollar represents an unusual example in that the date is full, even though almost everything else — including virtually the entire reverse — is gone. It’s also unusual in that it doesn’t have major problems beyond a lot of wear.

The Draped Bust quarter dollar was first issued for circulation in 1796 with the Small Eagle reverse design. No quarter dollars were struck from early 1797 until 1804 when the Heraldic Eagle type began and continued to 1807. 

By 1804, the Heraldic Eagle reverse design appeared on all of the silver denominations: half dimes, dimes, quarter dollars, half dollars and dollars. 

PCGS estimates that perhaps 400, or so, examples of the 1804 quarter remain from an original mintage of 6,738 pieces. This is the only example the firm has graded Poor 1. At $881.25, it is one of the least expensive 1804 Draped Bust quarter dollars to sell in recent years.

1871-CC Coronet gold $5 half eagle, About Good Details, Scratched, $763.75

This 1871-CC Coronet gold $5 half eagle represents a grading challenge. The obverse has solid rims all the way around and by obverse alone it would easily grade Good or finer. 

The reverse is where things get tricky, in that it is well-worn with weak-to-absent rims. Some scratches also appear on the reverse, which NGC notes in giving the coin a details grade. However, the Mint mark is full and the eagle has some nice details remaining.

The 1871-CC half eagle is a tough issue in any grade with a low mintage of 20,770 pieces. Examples priced below $1,000 are rarely seen. Almost all known examples are well-worn, and this one brought $763.75, presenting a rare opportunity for a value-minded collector to buy an 1870s Carson City Mint half eagle for less than $1,000.

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