US Coins

Long Beach Expo auctions kick off strong autumn

The summer doldrums for the rare coin market broke in a big way with the auctions held before, during, and after the final Long Beach Expo of 2016.

Heritage hosted a massive suite of auctions including U.S. coins, U.S. paper money and world coins and paper money  between Sept. 7 and 13. Leading its offering of the Jon Alan Boka Collection of 1794 Liberty Cap cents was a Sheldon 49 Starred Reverse variety, graded Very Fine 35 by Professional Coin Grading Service, that sold for $258,500.

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The curious variety is unique in that the reverse border has 94 small stars within the border dentils. Heritage explained the historic nature of the variety: “According to numismatic lore, the Chapman Brothers were examining large cents in 1877 while Dr. Edward Maris observed. Henry stated: ‘Here is a die with minute stars around the reverse.’ Maris confirmed that the variety was previously unknown. The present example from the Boka Collection is the very same cent that Henry Chapman held in his hands when he discovered the variety.”

Many were talking about Heritage’s auction of a more modern rarity — a 1964 Kennedy half dollar with Special Mint set finish graded MS-67 by PCGS that sold for $47,000. This is one of a dozen or so examples of the 1964 Kennedy silver half dollar struck with a quasi-Proof finish that are sometimes considered as tests for the 1965 to 1967 Special Mint sets, though Heritage writes, “extensive evidence of die preparation and the existence of multiply struck examples of each denomination suggest that these coins were intended from the beginning as something more.”

Ira and Larry Goldberg Auctioneers began the week with its Pre-Long Beach auctions Sept. 4 to 7, leading with the Fred Iskra Collection of Braided Hair cents, 1840 to 1857. These Late Date cents generally don’t reach the highs of earlier issues, though Iskra’s 1849 Braided Hair cent of the Newcomb 25 marriage, graded PCGS MS-63 brown, realized $41,125. Its provenance included a stint in Howard R. Newcomb’s collection and the auctioneer wrote, “it is one of the most significant cents in the entire series of late date large cents.”

Bonhams held its coins and medals auction in Los Angeles on Sept. 6, with a few standouts, most notably a five-coin 1915-S Panama Pacific International Exhibition commemorative coin set in its original purple velvet-lined case of issue that brought $222,300. The total number of sets that can exist is limited by the coin with the smallest mintage, the impressive round 1915-S gold $50 piece, of which just 483 were sold. The five coins were housed in older green label PCGS holders with grades of MS-65 for the gold dollar and $2.50 quarter eagle, MS-63 for the half dollar and MS-62 for the round and octagonal $50 coins. Bonhams commented, “Close examination reveals the two $50 coins appear to be somewhat finer than their assigned (conservative) grades at the time.”

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