US Coins

Morgans, Stellas highlights of Bonhams auction

Bonhams will host one of the final coin auctions in 2015 with its Dec. 14 auction in New York City of coins, medals and paper money. The sale boasts a wide range of coins from ancient to modern. 

Consistent with the firm’s top numismatic offerings of the past few years, Stella $4 pattern pieces are some of the top lots, as are high-end collectible Morgan dollars and Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagles. 

Morgan dollars

The sale includes five uncertified 1889-CC Morgan dollars as single lots. The first of these, lot 131, is graded by the firm as Brilliant Uncirculated, prooflike, and is described as follows: “Uncommonly well preserved, this minimally abraded example is free of individually distracting bagmarks. Both sides present a pleasing pastel-gold appearance with reflective fields supporting sharply impressed devices. The latter features are very softly frosted in texture with the result that modest cameo contrast is evident at a few angles. For future identification, a circular toning spot is in the upper left obverse field and an ‘S-shaped’ (as struck) lintmark is below Liberty’s ear.” It is estimated at $20,000 to $25,000.

The 1889-CC Morgan dollar is considered the rarest Carson City Mint Morgan dollar with a low mintage of just 350,000 pieces. 

Most today survive in circulated grades and the description puts the issue in its historical context: “The election of Benjamin Harrison as President in 1888 was a boon to the powerful Silver Lobby. A pro-silver Republican, Harrison allowed the Carson City Mint to resume coinage operations in 1889. Although the facility officially reopened its doors on July 1 of that year, the first Morgan dollars were not delivered until October.” 

The next lot in the sale is another 1889-CC Morgan dollar, this one graded Choice Uncirculated, toned, that carries the same estimate. It too is uncertified, described by Bonhams as having, “thin, satiny mint luster,” noting “some deep, even gray-golden toning over each side, perhaps a bit lighter on the reverse. The striking details are well above average, especially at the central regions, and there are no reportable abrasions on either side.”

For those looking for an instant set of Morgan dollars, the auction offers a set of Morgan dollars from 1878 to 1921, sold as a set in four red Capital Plastic holders. The coins have been each graded by Bonhams in the catalog, with common issues such as the 1879-S in solid Mint State grades like MS-64 prooflike, and with rarities like the 1893-S Morgan dollar grading About Uncirculated, cleaned. On this series key, the description notes: “The surfaces reveal light polishing on the highpoints as the telltale sign of a past cleaning, although this is not terribly obvious. Scattered signs of contact, including tiny marks and other abrasions appear on Liberty’s cheek and in other areas although, again, they are inconspicuous.”

The 1889-CC Morgan dollar is graded by Bonhams as MS-63 and has “frosty silver-white surfaces that are gently enhanced with traces of natural patina.” 

The set will be sold in its entirety as a single lot. One coin in the set is particularly interesting: an 1892-S Morgan dollar with an added San Francisco Mint mark. The lot description concludes, “We recommend a personal examination as there is no return privilege.” The lot is estimated at $80,000 to $100,000. 

Golden surprises

Over the past few years, Bonhams’ auctions have included some top-quality pattern $4 Stella gold coins. This sale includes several gilt copper examples of this always-popular pattern that is collected alongside regular issue coins. One is an 1880 $4 Coiled Hair Stella graded Proof 62 by Professional Coin Grading Service with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker. 

Gold examples of this pattern issue are rare, with perhaps 15 to 20 known. More affordable are the copper examples that have been gilt. The gilt copper 1880 Coiled Hair Stella in the auction is classified as Judd 1661a and Pollock 1861 in the standard references to the series. 

The description concludes, “Most collectors can only dream of owning a gold 1880 Coiled Hair Stella, but a gilt copper specimen is well within reach of many collectors,” and it is estimated at $80,000 to $90,000.

Also included is an 1879 Coiled Hair Stella gilt copper pattern, Judd 1639a and Pollock 1839, graded Proof 64 by PCGS with a green CAC sticker and estimated at $85,000 to $95,000. An 1880 Flowing Hair Stella gilt copper pattern, Judd 1658a and Pollock 1858, graded PCGS Proof 63, is estimated at $65,000 to $75,000. 

Among the gold pieces, top lots include a 1907 Saint-Gaudens, High Relief, Wire Rim gold $20 double eagle graded PCGS MS-64 and another that is graded by Bonhams as About Uncirculated. 

A 1922-S Saint-Gaudens double eagle graded MS-65+ by PCGS has an estimate of $70,000 to $80,000. It is one of the finest known and although 2,658,000 were minted, most were melted. Today it is a scarce issue in the series in grades through MS-64. In MS-65 it is a series rarity with PCGS certifying a single MS-66+ as the finest known. 

The auction takes place at the firm’s New York headquarters at 580 Madison Ave. For more information visit or contact Paul Song, the firm’s specialist in coins and medals at 323-436-5455. 

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