US Coins

Rainbow toned 1795 silver dollar headlines auction

A beautifully toned 1795 Draped Bust silver dollar will highlight The Regency Auction XIV by Legend Rare Coin Auctions in Las Vegas, Nev., at The Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino on Dec. 15. 

On the colorful dollar Legend writes, “Its first traced auction appearance was in 1956, and since then, only the most elegant ‘numisprose’ has been used to explain the outright gorgeous nature, its technical quality, and physical attributes. 

Draped Bust dollar

Draped Bust dollar: Pick up one of the nation's first silver dollars – whether it bears the Flowing Hair or Draped Bust design – and take measure of its heft: This is a substantial coin! It's big (39.5 millimeters in diameter) and heavy (26.956 grams). How much are Draped Bust dollars worth?

In that 1956 New Netherlands auction, where it was offered as part of the collection of T. James Clark, it was described as follows: “Called ‘Unc. Gem’ and the ‘Finest Known’ by Mr. Clarke, this piece is the closest to it. Fully struck up at hair, and almost so at eagle’s breast, less so on left leg. A sharp, neatly impressed coin; free from rubbing or friction, but close inspection reveals microscopic signs of mishandling, particularly two minute border nicks at the lower l. Reverse. Magnificent blue, pink, lavender and gold toning; both sides somewhat mirror-like. Obtained from B.G. Johnson, and undoubtedly a Brand item. Worth a generous bid!”

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Today, with 1 to 70 numerical grading replacing adjectival grading, the dollar is still considered “Gem” and has been graded Mint State 65 by Professional Coin Grading Service and also bears a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker. Though not numerically the finest-known, it remains among the top. 

Legend characterized the New Netherlands’ description as perhaps a bit harsh, since the two border nicks are not visible, and concludes, “The semi-prooflike luster, especially on the reverse makes this exceptionally sharp coin really pop out. The look is dramatic and memorable. Easily one of the most eye arresting early dollars in existence.” 

Is listed as BB-51 in the book Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia, by Q. David Bowers, with Mark Borckardt and is often called the “Off-Center Bust” since later dies feature the bust of Liberty shifted slightly to the right to be more centered. 

A sexy trophy coin

The dollar was consigned by Bruce Morelan, who is selling this as a duplicate from his collections, since he recently purchased the finest known example of the BB-51 dollar, graded Specimen 66. That dollar brought $1,057,500 at Stack’s Bowers Galleries and Sotheby’s May 2016 auction of selections from the collection of D. Brent Pogue. As that lot entry noted, “Judging from the population of surviving specimens, the attractive and distinctive 1795 Draped Bust dollars were popular souvenirs. More choice Mint State 1795 Draped Bust dollars have survived than those of any other date. This ratio does not make them common, however, and gems remain extremely rare.”

Legend concludes, “Type collectors, early dollar specialists, or anyone wanting to own a sexy trophy coin will be contesting this GEM,” before placing an estimate of $450,000 to $550,000 on the colorful dollar. According to Legend, it previously sold at auction in 2005 at a Bowers and Merena auction, then-graded MS-66 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., for $327,750. 

Doubled Die Rarity

The sale is also noteworthy for its offering of high quality Indian Head 5-cent pieces including a 1916 Indian Head, Doubled Die Obverse 5-cent coin graded PCGS MS-64 with CAC sticker. It is one of three like-graded examples at PCGS and neither PCGS nor NGC has graded any finer. 

Indian Head 5-cent coin

Indian Head 5-cent coin: The so-called "Buffalo nickel," which features the design work of renowned sculptor James Earle Fraser, is arguably the most "American" of all United States coins and is a collector favorite. How much are Indian Head 5-cent coins worth?

As Legend observes, “The clean, smooth surfaces have a moderate satin frost that really shows off the delicate lavender, olive, tan, gold, and powder blue patina.”

The variety was little-recognized until the 1960s. That relatively late discovery means that none were specifically saved at the time of issue and most examples known today are circulated. 

The obverse is strongly doubled, with a strong spread on the date, the ribbon ties, the feather tips, the braid, the neck, the nose, the lips, and the chin. The Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America listing categorizes it as a Class V doubled die, or a pivot doubled die. 

Coin World columnist John Wexler explains the doubled die error in plain language on his website, writing, “A frequent misconception about doubled dies is that they are produced when coins are struck twice by the dies. This is definitely not the case.” He explains, “For a doubled die coin to be produced, the doubled image must be on the die itself, hence the term ‘doubled die.’ Doubled dies occur when there are mishaps in making the dies that will be used to strike the coins.”

The auctioneer estimates it at $230,000 to $250,000, using its 2013 auction of a different PCGS MS-64 example for $253,0000 as a pricing comparable. It concludes, “The addition of this near-Gem to any set will automatically catapult you to near-Legendary status.” 

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