US Coins

Pogue collection sales total now tops $106.6 million

The fifth and final session of Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ and Sotheby’s auctions of rare coins from the D. Brent Pogue Collection realized $21,374,013.75 in Baltimore on March 31.

The Pogue Collection’s total of $106,692,232.25 makes it the most valuable coin collection ever sold and Stack’s Bowers believes it may be the most expensive collection among collectibles in any field. 

Leading bidding was the Dexter specimen of the 1804 Draped Bust dollar, which brought just under $3.3 million, but as with the prior four Pogue sales, the individual results beyond the marquee rarities show a surprising depth to the rare coin market. 

Connect with Coin World:  

Sign up for our free eNewsletter
Like us on Facebook  
Follow us on Twitter

With 232 lots, Pogue V was the largest of the five Pogue sales, and early half cents and large cents — many purchased recently from several well-known collections — made up the bulk of the lots. In a post-sale press release the auctioneer wrote, “The total face value of the cents in the sale, the highest quality group of early United States cents ever sold in a single auction, was $1.42. They brought a total of $12,026,653.75, nearly 8.5 million times their value as pocket change.”

Another hectic release for the U.S. MintCollectors crave variety in their coins: Inside Coin World: While 20th and 21st century coin varieties share very few characteristics of older varieties, collectors have a wide range of coins to choose from..

The finest known 1811 Classic Head half cent sold for just under $1 million — bringing $998,750. The Mint State 66 red and brown cent has long been a superstar among early American copper enthusiasts. As the catalog entry observed: “Most specialists in the half cent series would be overjoyed to own any 1811 with a modicum of visual appeal. Most are well worn, and few among them are beautiful.” 

This example is differentiated from normal 1811 half cents with its overall remarkable eye appeal, combining impressive luster, a bold strike, and overall absence of notable marks. As the lot entry states, “Were this coin a common date of this design type, its visual appeal and near perfect preservation would still amaze.” 

Of course, it’s not a common coin. With a low mintage of 63,140 and just two varieties for the date, it has long been considered a key to the series. When Pogue’s example was last offered as part of the Missouri Cabinet — well known as belonging to Eric P. Newman and R. Tettenhorst — at Ira and Larry Goldberg’s 2014 auction of that collection, it sold for a robust $1,121,250. The cataloger at that sale wrote, “The status of this piece as a proof, presentation, or specimen strike is subject to debate, but the fantastic eye appeal is not at issue,” and at that offering the slab had a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker. (Coins offered at the Pogue sales were all regraded and reholdered by PCGS and not submitted for CAC approval at the time of sale, though many have since received CAC stickers.)

Early Date large cents

The Sheldon 13 1793 Liberty Cap cent graded About Uncirculated 58 by PCGS is a remarkable representative of one of three distinct design types struck at the Philadelphia Mint that year. As a pedigree marker, a dark halo around the 1 in the date appears today, just as it did when it was photographed in 1949 in Early American Cents by William H. Sheldon and described in 1943 as a “1793 U.S. Cent. Liberty cap. Unc., purplish, slight spot on figure one of date.” 

It last sold at public auction nearly a decade ago in 2008 at Heritage’s offering of the Walter Husak Collection where — then graded AU-55 by PCGS — it sold for $632,500. Prior to that it sold at a 1998 Superior auction for $90,750. At the Pogue V auction it was estimated at $400,000 to $450,000, and brought more than twice the high estimate to sell at $940,000. Stack’s Bowers said post-sale that it is the most valuable circulated cent ever sold. 

Amazingly, the Pogue V auction offered two more top-graded examples of the 1793 Liberty Cap cent: a Sheldon 13 cent graded AU-55 by PCGS that sold for $376,000 and a Sheldon 14 example in AU-53+ that realized $235,000. The latter example was a particularly disappointing result since it previously sold at the Goldberg’s September 2009 sale of the Dan Holmes Collection for $506,000. 

Another standout among the early large cents was the finest-known 1796 Liberty Cap cent graded MS-66+ red and brown that displayed nearly full original, fiery Mint red color. The Sheldon-84 cent is well-known for its beautiful die work, with the catalog stating, “Liberty’s portrait on the Liberty Cap cents of 1796, open-lipped and looking skyward, is considered by many to be the most attractive of the early renditions of Liberty; she is beautifully presented here.” None of the 11 total die marriages of the 1796 Liberty Cap cent are particularly rare in lower grades, but in top grades, as Stack’s Bowers says, they are “profoundly rare.” Pogue’s coin has been offered just three times at auction since 1923, most recently at the Goldbergs’ auction of the Naftzger collection in September 2008, where it did not have a plus grade and realized $690,000 against a very modest presale estimate of $80,000 to $100,000. At Pogue V it did just a bit better, realizing $705,000. 

Middle Date Large Cents

A later, Middle Date large cent that combined beauty and rarity — along with price appreciation — was a Proof 65 brown 1821 Matron Head cent that sold for $99,875. Its appearance today is much the same as when it was described in Thomas Elder’s September 1910 sale of the Peter Mougey Collection: “Magnificent iridescent steel colored proof, perfectly centered and boldly struck up in every particular. The finest known 1821!” 

While the color is described by PCGS as brown — owing to its absence of Mint red color — it displays a broad range of colors. The catalog observes, “Lovely deep chocolate brown dominates the surfaces while close inspection reveals gentle olive and chestnut undertones,” adding, “Turning the coin in the light brings accents of pale blue and subtle violet iridescence to the fore, these being accentuated by the glitter of the smooth Proof fields.”

Today perhaps 15 Newcomb 1 Proof 1821 Matron Head cents are known and this is among the finest known. When last offered at the Goldberg’s February 2009 Naftzger auction it realized $48,875. 

Silver coins

Beyond the early large and half cents was a selection of Capped Bust and Seated Liberty silver coins, and a few of these sold at accessible prices — especially when compared to the typical five-figure and six-figure coins that dominate the Pogue Collection. One of these more reasonable coins was an 1858 Seated Liberty dime graded MS-65 with rich blue, gold and amber colors that did extremely well against its presale $1,500 to $2,000 estimate, selling for $6,462.50. 

Proof 2017 American Liberty silver medalDexter specimen of 1804 dollar tops Pogue V: The Class I coin once owned by James Dexter realized $3.29 million in the fifth Pogue auction.

Among the small but select group of early American silver dollars was a 1799 Draped Bust dollar graded MS-65+ that was discovered in London in the 1990s. It carried unusually strong luster that was perhaps more reminiscent of a Morgan dollar than an 18th century Draped Bust dollar, with the catalog observing, “With brilliance and lustrous cartwheel that suggest a silver dollar from a much later epoch, this gem stands out even against the backdrop of the Pogue Collection.” Its discovery in London is part of a long tradition of choice U.S. coins traveling abroad and returning home. It is also counted among the finest known of the common variety, listed as Bowers-Borckardt 157 in the reference to the series, with its strong eye appeal making it perfect for a type coin. It brought $164,500 in the Pogue V auction.

Community Comments