US Coins

Rare patterns among highlights of Legend auction

An impressive group of unusual pattern coins leads the Regency Auction XVI by Legend Rare Coin Auctions LLC on Feb. 18 as part of the Professional Coin Grading Service Members Only show at the Venetian/The Palazzo hotel in Las Vegas. 

An oddity is a copper pattern from 1849, likely designed by Charles Bouvet and struck at the Paris Mint as a possible design for a gold $10 eagle. Graded Proof 64 red and brown by Professional Coin Grading Service with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker, the lot is estimated at $30,000 to $33,000 and has a reserve. 

The design, especially when compared to James B. Longacre’s Coronet design that was being used on the $10 denomination in 1849, is modest, with an obverse depicting Liberty with severe hair nearly in a skullcap and a reverse with an eagle that has been described as scrawny. 

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Doug Winter wrote an article in the May 1982 issue of the American Numismatic Association’s publication The Numismatist titled “What Might Have Been: The Story of the Bouvet Eagle of 1849” on the Bouvet patterns. Winter’s article suggests that then-Chief Coiner Franklin Peale and Mint Director Robert M. Patterson did not think Longacre was up to the task of producing attractive and workable designs. Winter wrote, “Mint Director Patterson had already decided that Longacre would never be able to perform this type of work, so he surreptitiously devised a plan that would get rid of Longacre once and for all. He would have Franklin Peale, on his scheduled trip to Europe in the summer of 1849, locate a suitable replacement for Longacre.” Patterson hoped that Longacre would fail and that someone else — perhaps Bouvet — would support a petition to remove Longacre as chief engraver. 

While seemingly few records survive that shed further light on this matter, the patterns serve as evidence that the experiment did not prove successful, with Winter observing, “One thing that Peale failed to realize was that he had pressured Bouvet into executing his designs far too quickly. Although Bouvet was a legitimately fine engraver, his designs for the pattern eagle are sloppy. They show all the marks of an artist rushed by a bureaucrat. The eagle looks conspicuously malnourished while the portrait of Liberty is far too sedate. This coin was certainly not going to be the impetus behind Longacre’s removal from office.”

Edge marks on the resulting patterns are marked with CUIVRE — the French word for copper — and show a Paris Mint edge mark that was used from 1845 to 1860. Today the resulting patterns are rare and just a handful are known. 

The present example is listed as Judd C-1849-1 in the appendix of the standard reference to the series, and Legend records this as the finest of perhaps three known, but does not provide additional information on the pedigree. Legend adds that the rare pattern is missing from most of the important collections of pattern coins ever assembled including the Lenox Lohr Collection, the Garrett Collection, the Eliasberg Collection, the Judd Collection, the Queller-Lemus Collection, and the Bob Simpson Collection. 

A different example, graded MS-61 brown by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., sold for $25,300 when offered at a 2011 Heritage sale. That example had an impressive provenance that included Col. E.H.R. Green and the Palace Collections of Egypt’s King Farouk, which were offered at Sotheby’s in March 1954.

Copper Pan-Pac half

Another unusual pattern is a Panama-Pacific International Exposition commemorative half dollar struck in copper graded PCGS Proof 67 red and brown. It was struck at the Philadelphia Mint before the dies were sent to the San Francisco Mint, so the design on the pattern is identical to the regular production except for a missing S Mint mark. It is the finest graded. 

For reference, a different example graded Proof 66+ red and brown by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. with an NGC ? was offered as part of the Eric P. Newman Collection in 2013 at Heritage’s Central States Numismatic Society auction, where it sold for $199,750. Legend records that example as being in the collection of Texas businessman Bob Simpson, adding that it “will be off the market for a long time.” Another example graded Proof 66 by NGC sold for $111,625 at Heritage’s 2015 Florida United Numismatists auction. 

For the Newman auction, Heritage wrote about the issue classified as Judd 1792/1962 and Pollock-2320, “It is possible that the copper pieces were die trials, but most numismatists believe they were all struck clandestinely as fantasy pieces. Walter Breen reported a quote from Farran Zerbe stating the coins ‘may have been struck as trial pieces at the Philadelphia Mint by the instructions of the Secretary of the Treasury (W.G. McAdoo), who was a coin collector.’?” 

The unusual copper half dollar offered at Legend also has a reserve and carries an estimate of $120,000 to $135,000. 

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