US Coins

Knowing a coin’s provenance can add value

While the four gold coins from the Wesson 1910 Proof set realized high prices, the 1910 Liberty Head 5-cent coin and several other pieces in the set realized prices of less than $1,000.

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Coin collectors love knowing the provenance — or the ownership history — of the coins in their collection.
An original Proof set offered at the Sept. 8 to 9 Heritage auction at the Long Beach Coin, Stamp and Collectibles Expo in California provided collectors a rare chance to acquire pieces from a nine-coin set that was purchased from the Philadelphia Mint in 1910 and passed down in the same family through the generations.
According to Heritage, the set was purchased by a Mint employee with the last name Wesson, who left the set to his grandchildren. These coins were passed down to the consignor who offered the coins as individual lots, each graded by Numismatic Guaranty Corp.
For a Proof set including gold coins to stay intact for more than a century in generally high grades is rare, and the set offered something for collectors of more modest budgets as well as coins appealing to the monied set.
Three pieces sold for less than $500 each: a Proof 65 1910 Liberty Head 5-cent coin and a 1910 Barber quarter dollar graded Proof, Environmental Damage, each sold for $460, while a Proof 63 Barber dime sold for $488.75.
The noted “environmental damage” on the quarter dollar is perhaps a consequence of the set’s original storage method — a paper envelope likely high in sulfur that reacted with the silver over the years. 
A Matte Proof 1910 Lincoln cent graded Proof 64 Red and Brown brought $862.50 and a Proof 64 Barber half dollar sold for $1,322.50.
It was the gold coins that made the set special, and their “freshness” to the market, combined with their quality and documented ownership history, produced very high prices for these four admittedly rare issues. 
A Proof 67 1910 Saint-Gaudens $20 double eagle realized $161,000, a 1910 Proof 67 Indian Head $10 eagle brought $138,000, a 1910 Proof 66+ Indian Head $5 half eagle brought $77,625 and a Proof 64+ Indian Head $2.50 half eagle sold for $27,600.
Collectors now covet “Roman Finish” Proofs of 1909 to 1910, as they mediate between the dull Matte Proof finish of the prior several years and the brilliant reflective Proofs of the 19th century. These “Roman gold” coins demand connoisseurship from today’s collectors and they have been called an acquired taste. Contemporary audiences were resistant to purchase Roman Finish Proofs from the Mint, and the Mint melted many of the examples it struck. While the Proof 1910 double eagle has a published mintage of 167 examples, many were melted, and today, less than half of the original mintage is available for collectors to purchase. 

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