US Coins

Famed collector's silver patterns crossing the block

Legend Rare Coin Auctions will offer 85 Standard Silver patterns consigned by Texas businessman Bob Simpson, in what Legend is calling the most complete set of Standard Silver patterns ever assembled, on Jan. 26 as part of its Regency Auction XX in Las Vegas, Nev.

Simpson is well-known for his pattern collection, which — prior to the current offering — contained nearly 1,800 of the 2,000 patterns listed in the most recent edition of United States Pattern Coins by J. Hewitt Judd, edited by Q. David Bowers.

To build his holdings, Simpson purchased several key pattern collections in bulk, including the Southern Collection of patterns that he purchased for $36 million in 2008.

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In her Nov. 18, 2016, Market Report, Legend principal Laura Sperber stressed that these are not mere duplicates, but rather are part of the core Simpson collection of patterns.

She explained, “Our good friend and long-time exclusive customer Bob Simpson is cleaning house again. Before anyone gasps, he is NOT out of the market and is NOT a net seller. He had been a crazy strong buyer of anything neat for well over a decade.”

She added that the sale was the result of Simpson refining his collections. “He bought so many collections and groups of coins year after year, he never really stopped to look at his holdings. He was having too much fun. So if he sells a group of coins worth $1-$2 million, that is not even 2% of his holdings. Yes, folks, he is in a very rarefied orbit,” Sperber wrote.

On Simpson’s involvement with the Standard Silver series, Sperber explained, “For a while he was adding to the set, but he struggled to maintain his interest. In the end, he just was not a fan.” She added, “Apparently, he finally found the time to go through them and do what he likes to do when a coin has worn out its stay: ‘fire it.’ We assure you, this is his entire Standard Pattern Collection, he kept NONE.”

Rare, yet affordable

Despite Simpson’s lack of excitement for the series, Legend observes in the catalog introduction that the Standard Silver issues are ripe for discovery, writing, “There are some extremely rare, yet affordable coins in that series. We think that in the manner in which we have presented the collection, it will inspire some of you to become pattern collectors yourself.”

The auction house concluded, “Compared to so many other series, the value of these coins are still in their infancy.”

The Standard Silver patterns were part of a proposal to support the redemption of fractional currency notes by producing coins with less silver than contemporary circulating coins. The net result would be coins that would be worth less than their face value. More than 280 patterns were produced in the Standard Silver series, primarily in silver, copper and aluminum, and many of these were made available to contemporary collectors to purchase directly from the U.S. Mint.

Legend points out that the vast number of issues in the series provides collectors with many different collecting challenges, noting, “While not every collector can be as ambitious as Mr. Simpson, and try to collect every issue, there are various subsets that can be fun and challenging to complete, and will not cost a fortune for great looking coins.”

Variations of Barber’s design

The Simpson consignment focuses on the dimes, quarter dollars and half dollars designed by Charles Barber and dated 1869 and 1870.

On each coin Liberty’s face fights with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA around the bust and IN GOD WE TRUST in a ribbon below.

Within this primary design type are five major subtypes.

??Liberty with a cap and three stars, LIBERTY on ribbon.

??Liberty with a cap and three stars, LIBERTY not on ribbon.

??Liberty with a cap and two stars.

??Liberty with a coronet or tiara and no stars.

??Liberty with a headband and one star.

Even though Barber’s various designs were intended to be used on silver coins, many examples were struck in copper.

One of the most attractive is a copper 1869 Standard Silver pattern half dollar, Judd 744, graded Proof 67 brown by Professional Coin Grading Service that carries an estimate of $5,500 to $6,500.

In its description Legend exclaims, “WOW and WILD,” adding, “The mirrors are also crystal clear, are exceedingly clean, and are ‘in your face’ intensely reflective. When you twirl this coin all you see are GEM brown/blue/violet colors [that] explode like neon lights against the killer mirrors.”

Barber signed the die with a small B that can be seen directly above the L in LIBERTY on the obverse — a design attribute unique to the half dollars since the smaller denominations did not have sufficient space. As is typical, the stars are weakly struck.

On a silver 1870 Standard Silver dime, Judd 855, Legend writes, “COWABUNGA! This coin has AMAZING toning! First, the mirrors are deep and do beam from all over,” further articulating, “The highlight of this coin is monster totally original royal blue/gold/lime/tangerine/violet colors that circle the obverse.” The colorful and well-struck silver dime carries an estimate of $3,000 to $3,500.

An 1870 Standard Silver pattern half dollar struck in copper, Judd 959, offers a different take on Liberty, and the example in the Simpson collection is graded PCGS Proof 66+ brown. Like with other copper coins in the collection, the color description “brown” does not accurately reflect the electric green, purple, magenta shades seen on this half dollar with an estimate of $8,000 to $9,000.

While aluminum was an expensive medal in the mid-19th century, patterns of many types including the Standard Silver series were struck in the sturdy metal. An 1870 Standard Silver quarter dollar, Judd 898, graded PCGS Proof 67 Cameo, serves as a handsome representative of an aluminum Standard Silver pattern.

Legend reports that Simpson acquired this coin as part of the record-setting 2008 purchase of the Southern Collection and estimates it at $15,000 to $17,500, revealing, “At the time, this coin was figured at $16,500. With quality and rarity like it has, you’d think it would be worth closer to $25,000!”

The auction will be held at The Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino as part of the PCGS Member’s Only show.

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