US Coins

Pogue IV to offer 1804 dollar and 1822 half eagle

The two hallmark coins of the D. Brent Pogue Collection — the finest known 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar and the only privately held 1822 Capped Head gold $5 half eagle — will be offered at Stack’s Bowers Galleries and Sotheby’s Pogue IV auction in New York City on May 25. 

As Stack’s Bowers noted in a Feb. 24 press release, “Although both were once included in the famous Virgil M. Brand Collection, never before in auction history have these two rarities appeared at auction together. And, these two masterpieces will be accompanied by a similarly unparalleled group of some of the finest and rarest coins produced in the United States in the first part of the 19th century.”

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The first three Pogue auctions have been landmark events in numismatics. The Pogue III auction on Feb. 9 brought $17,135,612.50. When added to the $25.3 million from the May 19, 2015, Pogue I auction and the $26.1 million from the Pogue II sale on Sept. 30, 2015, the total for the three auctions now stands at $68,577,182, establishing a record for a single collection sold at auction. A fifth Pogue sale is scheduled for later in 2016.

Sultan of Muscat 1804 $1

The Sultan of Muscat-Childs-Pogue 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar is graded Proof 68 by Professional Coin Grading Service and is the finest example of the 15 1804 dollars — the issue long called the “King of American coins” — currently known. It was a diplomatic gift from the United States to Said bin Sultan Al-Said, the Sultan of Muscat and Oman, in 1835. It made headlines on Aug. 30, 1999, when offered as part of the Walter H. Childs Collection auction by Bowers and Merena, when the Pogue family purchased it at $4,140,000. That sale established a world record price for any coin sold at auction, broken in 2002 when the sole 1933 Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagle available for private ownership brought $7,590,020.

When PCGS certified it in 1999, John Dannreuther, a founder of PCGS, declared the coin “an amazing specimen. A 100% original coin, as perfect an early Proof coin as one could imagine.”

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Coin World was there at the 1999 Bowers and Merena auction, writing, “The packed auction room at the Park Lane Hotel in New York City was filled with hundreds of onlookers and numerous television cameras from local and national broadcast media. Dealers who normally sit along the back wall of the room, their usual location during a ‘normal’ auction, moved to stand on their chairs in order to see over the television crews so that they might follow the bidding on the dollar more closely. A number of cellular phones, whose operation is normally forbidden during an auction, were in use at a number of places in the room so that those present could deliver blow-by-blow descriptions to a friend or spouse unable to attend the auction.” 

Then, Q. David Bowers took the podium as the auctioneer. Someone called an opening bid of $1.5 million from the audience. Coin World recalled, “Any number of hands flew into the air at $2 million, including that of Greg Roberts of Spectrum Numismatics, owner of the then record-holding Eliasberg 1804 dollar. However, $2 million was just the beginning.

“As the coin passed through the $2 million mark, audience members found it difficult to ascertain precisely whose bid the auctioneer was acknowledging but by $2.5 million, coin broker Scott Travers dropped out of the race, as did dealer Michael Fey at $2.8 million.

“It came down to two bidders, dealers Jay Parrino and David Akers, and with each advancing $100,000 increment, the excitement in the room escalated. Parrino held his bidder card aloft at $3.5 million and was acknowledged by Bowers. Calmly, Akers, sitting the whole time and looking nonplussed, raised his card at $3.6 million. An advance to $3.7 million was asked for a number of times with no takers.”

From opening bid to hammer, the whole sequence took less than two minutes and with the 15 percent buyer’s fee added, the total came to a record-setting $4,140,000. Akers said that he placed the bid for a businessman from the southwestern region of the United States who wished to remain anonymous. Akers’ bidder was later identified as A. Mack Pogue. Coin World wrote: “The son of this businessman attended as well. He had previously been noted as a buyer acting on his own behalf at the Pittman auctions, which were conducted by Akers.” The son: D. Brent Pogue. 

The Rarest coin

Equally noteworthy is Pogue’s 1822 Capped Head half eagle, which was purchased by the Pogue family from Bowers and Merena’s auction of the Louis E. Eliasberg Sr., Collection — marketed as the anonymous “The United States Gold Collection” though Eliasberg’s ownership was well known — in 1982 where it brought $687,500. Then graded “Choice Very Fine-30 with claims to Extremely Fine-40,” the coin was subsequently graded EF-40 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. It currently is graded by PCGS as About Uncirculated 50. 

The two other examples known of the issue both reside in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Numismatic Collection, and the offering on May 25 of the Pogue example will mark just the second time in a century that this coin has appeared at auction. 

The Pogue 1822 Capped Head gold half eagle is the subject of a book by Q. David Bowers titled The 1822 Gold Half Eagle: Story of a Rarity that uses the coin “as a focal point to create an absorbing narrative covering much of numismatics of the past century and a half—fascinating stories of collectors, dealers, events, surprises—many never published in book form before!” The coin has long held a particular fascination with dealers, with B. Max Mehl proclaiming in 1941 that it is “Probably the rarest coin in the world,” and Akers writing in 1979, “The legendary 1822 half eagle is the most famous and most desirable United States gold coin.”

On his coin, Brent Pogue wrote, “It is remarkable to think that when the 1822 half eagle was purchased from the Eliasberg Collection in 1982, it was the first sale at auction of that coin since 1906! Now, 1982 is almost 35 years ago.” 

Though 17,796 half eagles were recorded in Mint records as being struck in 1822, just three are known today. One was part of the Mint’s Cabinet that is housed in the Smithsonian and another was acquired by the Smithsonian from the Josiah K. Lilly Collection. 

In United States Gold Coins: An Illustrated History, Bowers suggests that some of the half eagles included in the 1822 mintage came from earlier dated dies. He suggests that most of the actual mintage of 1822 half eagles were melted for their bullion value since in the 1830s the price of gold rose.  

Collectors who formed otherwise superlative collections were unable to acquire a coveted 1822 half eagle. An often shared story is that Boston baked bean baron Lorin G. Parmelee searched for years before adding what he thought was a genuine 1822 Capped Head half eagle to his legendary collection of U.S. coins. When he finally consigned his collection for auction in 1890, the half eagle was found to be a fake.

Other highlights in Pogue IV include a Specimen 1838-O Capped Bust half dollar and a 1795 Draped Bust, Small Eagle dollar graded Specimen 66 by PCGS. 

As D. Brent Pogue wrote in the Pogue III sale, “The sale of my collection has been bittersweet. I have had so much enjoyment putting Her together. Some may say I succeeded. Some may say I’m a pretty good numismatist. I do not know any of that. However, I will put my custodianship up against anyone’s. It has been a privilege to take care of Her.” 

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