US Coins

Stack’s Bowers June 18 to 19 auction offers Seated Liberty treasures

The “Dazzling Rarities Collection,” which includes many high-end Seated Liberty silver coins, stars at Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ June 18 to 19 Auction at its Santa Ana, California, offices. The sale replaces the firm’s Baltimore auctions at the Whitman Expo, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the most fascinating pieces in the sale is an 1860-O Seated Liberty half dollar graded Specimen 66 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. The cataloger observes, “Brilliant surfaces are deeply mirrored and highly reflective in the fields,” adding, “The strike is superior for a New Orleans Mint issue, with the devices fully defined throughout and displaying a delicate satin texture.”

No contemporary documents record that there were special strikings at the New Orleans Mint in 1860, so the quality of the coin must speak for itself. Stack’s Bowers concludes, “The physical attributes and eye appeal of this lovely example are proof enough of its special status.”

NGC explains, “The dies for this coin were polished to a brilliant finish, partially eradicating the support for Liberty’s foot in the process. Though an argument may be made for calling this piece a proof, NGC opted to label it as a Specimen strike,” noting that it is not at the same standard as normal Philadelphia Mint Proof issues of the period. The grading service has certified two Specimen examples of this issue. The other, graded Specimen 64, went unsold at Stack’s Bowers’ 2016 American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money auction when it did not meet its reserve of $65,000.

Approaching perfection

Proof Seated Liberty issues in the 1880s were particularly well-produced, as seen in this 1883 quarter dollar graded Proof 68 Cameo by Professional Coin Grading Service with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker indicating quality within the grade. The Philadelphia Mint produced few quarter dollars for circulation in the 1880s — 1883 saw just 14,400 circulation strikes — as production focused on minting Morgan dollars. Of the 1,039 Proof quarter dollars, this is among the finest at PCGS. The cataloger writes, “The strike is impeccable on both sides, with sharp cameo contrast between the field and richly frosted devices.”

A PCGS Proof 68 1889 Seated Liberty quarter with “violet and sapphire iridescence across both sides” also carries a green CAC sticker. When it was offered in 2015 at Heritage’s auction of the Eugene Gardner Collection it was graded Proof 68 by NGC with a green CAC sticker and realized $15,275. It then was crossed over to a PCGS holder and offered in two Legend auctions, bringing $15,862.50 in September 2015 and then selling for a bit less when offered in May 2017. Just 12,000 circulation strike and 711 Proof quarter dollars were produced in 1889, with no branch Mint production. Stack’s Bowers writes, “Given the low mintage and key date status of the year’s related circulation strike quarter, this top-pop Ultra Gem Proof represents an important bidding opportunity for specialists or Registry Set collectors.”

Rare Mint State 1845 dollar

With its low mintage of 24,500, the 1845 Seated Liberty silver dollar is a tough issue in all grades, and is particularly rare in Mint State. Q. David Bowers has noted, “In Mint State the 1845 is the rarest of all Liberty Seated dollars of the 1840s and may well be the rarest Philadelphia Mint Liberty Seated dollar, period (this comment includes the famous 1851 and 1852).”

The offered coin is one of three graded MS-63 at PCGS with just one finer, with the description adding, “The definition is razor sharp to full throughout the design and the surfaces have a satiny texture overlaid in slightly mottled sandy-olive and antique silver patina.” Stack’s Bowers offered the subject coin at its November 2016 and March 2017 Baltimore auctions where it went unsold both times at reserves of $19,000 and $17,000, respectively. Heritage offered a different PCGS MS-63 example with a green CAC sticker at its May 2015 Gardner auction, where it realized $31,725.

Brian Kendrella, president of Stack’s Bowers, said recently, “As the world closely monitors the impact of the Covid-19 virus and the resulting cancellation of numerous public events, we have made the strategic decision to host our June auction in our home offices in the same manner as we recently conducted our record setting March event.” He added, “With over $38 million in numismatic items sold in our March auctions, many at new world record prices, Stack’s Bowers Galleries has demonstrated a superior ability to connect bidders with desirable coins and achieve tremendous prices realized for our consignors, even in the face of unanticipated global uncertainty.”

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