US Coins

Tom Bender’s 1876-CC coin rarities in August auction

One of the marquee consignments of Heritage’s Aug. 22 to 28 auctions is the Tom Bender Collection featuring some incredible coins from the Carson City Mint.

Like many collectors, Bender’s interest in coin collecting started young. “My father collected, and had a few in a safety deposit box. I looked through the box and saw some of the coins, and I called my brothers, and we all wanted to keep some of his coins. That really rekindled my interest,” he said.

Heritage’s sessions will also present his collections of the finest complete certified Proof Indian Head gold $3 coin set ever assembled, alongside top Indian Head and Lincoln cent sets.

Among the rarest of Bender’s Carson City Mint coins is an 1876-CC Seated Liberty 20-cent piece graded Mint State 65 by Professional Coin Grading Service. Heritage lists just 16 known examples and writes, “Traditionally, the 1876-CC has been considered a numismatic prize of the first order, in the same rarity class as the famous 1804 [Draped Bust] dollar, 1838-O [Capped Bust] half dollar or the 1894-S [Barber] dime.”

Most of the 10,000 1876-CC Seated Liberty 20-cent coins  minted were not needed for commerce, so, many were melted alongside many leftover 1875-CC 20-cent coins.

The certified populations of PCGS and Numismatic Guaranty Co. indicate 23 submissions, which include duplicates. Rusty Goe’s book The Confident Carson City Collector lists 17 distinct examples, of which Heritage believes that two are actually the same coin.

The auction house suspects that the offered coin came from the Maryland Hoard, a handful of Mint State examples discovered in the 1950s in a Maryland estate.

This one is lightly toned with “softly frosted mint luster” and Heritage observes, “No mentionable distractions are evident on either side.” It was last offered at a Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction in August 2018 where it realized $456,000.

Finest CC Mint gold coin?

1876 issues are widely popular as centennial issues, minted in the same year that America celebrated its centennial of independence. The 1876-CC Coronet gold $5 half eagle is another low-mintage rarity, and the Bender Collection offers the sole finest-known example graded MS-66 by PCGS with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker attesting to its tremendous quality. Most of the production at the Carson City Mint in 1876 focused on smaller-denomination silver coins, while its gold production emphasized the large $20 double eagles.

From a mintage of 6,887 pieces, Goe estimates that up to 140 survive today — a higher survival rate than many other Carson City Mint issues. This is attributed to the popularity of the centennial year and, as Heritage points out, “that the coins were released just in time for use as Christmas gifts also probably contributed to their popularity.”

The offered marvel has a provenance that traces back to 1893, when it was sold in a private transaction between prominent Philadelphia coin dealers S.H. and H. Chapman and Washington, D.C., collector John M. Clapp. This was the same year Augustus Heaton published his book A Treatise on Coinage of the United States Branch Mints, which popularized collecting by Mint mark.

It would later spend a generation in the collection of Louis E. Eliasberg Sr., who purchased Clapp’s collection, and it would sell at the Louis E. Eliasberg Jr. auction in 1982 for $26,400. It traded hands quite a bit in the 1990s before a prominent offering in Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ presentation of the Battle Born Collection in 2012, where it realized $477,250.

Goe writes, “Gold coin experts recognize this one-of-a-kind 1876-CC half eagle as not just the finest example known for this date, and not just the finest known half eagle of any of the nineteen dates issued at Carson City; but as the finest surviving gold coin of any denomination from that mint. Period.”

Heritage points out sharp details and vibrant satiny mint luster, and notes that “a few hints of prooflike reflectivity are evident in the fields and around the devices.”

Another finest-known centennial year issue in the Bender Collection is an 1876-CC Coronet gold $10 eagle graded About Uncirculated 58 by PCGS with a green CAC sticker, a coin that was also previously in the Battle Born Collection. At that 2012 auction it brought $57,500, and when Heritage offered it a decade later at the firm’s Florida United Numismatists auctions, it sold for $192,000.

It also comes from a low mintage of 4,696 pieces delivered in two batches in February and May of that year, and it seems that contemporary collectors had little interest in preserving these. PCGS has graded three in AU-58 with none finer, and Goe calls the offered coin “undeniably the finest known survivor.”

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