US Coins

Toned Morgan dollars star at Legends sale

An 1892-S Morgan dollar graded Mint State 64 by Professional Coin Grading Service with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker led bidding at Legend Rare Coin Auctions’s Regency XXII auction in Las Vegas, bringing a massive $293,750 on July 13.

The 1892-S dollar is less famous than the next year’s production from the San Francisco’s Mint — the famed 1893-S Morgan dollar — but in top grades the 1892-S dollar is comparable in rarity to the series key. The Legend cataloger wrote that while the subject coin has claims to a higher grade with clean and smooth surfaces, “We think all that keeps this coin from grading higher is the ‘old time’ totally original toning. The toning clearly is topical and is a mix of deep original white/faded golden brown color.”

Exploring art, monuments, and coins”Connecting coins, the arts, and American monuments: Another column in the August 7 monthly issue of Coin World continues with the art theme, as the artists who’ve designed our most gorgeous pieces of paper currency are profiled.

With a mintage of 1.2 million, 1892-S Morgan dollars are common in lower grades, but since most were put into circulation near the time of issue and virtually none were saved in Mint bags, few remain in Mint State for collectors today. Only in the mid-20th century did Mint State survivors become recognized as rarities in the series. Few examples finer than the subject coin have sold in recent years to provide a pricing benchmark, but in the past year a few MS-63 examples have traded at auction for $64,625 and $76,375. The last time an MS-65 example crossed the block at a major auction was back in 2010 when Heritage sold a somewhat heavily toned example graded PCGS MS-65 for $115,000.

Peacocks get jealous

As seen in prior Legend auctions, toned Morgan dollars continued to reach new heights. Part five of the Northern Lights Collection featuring rainbow-toned Morgan dollars illustrated the strength in the market for these colorful dollars, as an 1880-S Morgan dollar with crazy colors and graded MS-68+ by PCGS, also bearing a CAC sticker, sold for $61,687.50. As the post-auction sales release pointed out, it has been considered one of the most beautiful toned Morgan dollars for decades, with Legend concluding, “This is a true trophy coin for any specialist in monster toned dollars, and it now resides in another world-class collection.”

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When it was offered at Legend’s 2014 offering of the Sunnywood collection — where it brought $35,250 — it was described as follows: “an extraordinary and record-setting example of an otherwise common date; this technically superb monster features an intensely toned obverse with blues, pinks, and true gold, miraculously paired with lustrous classic vertically banded rainbow toning on the reverse. The left-to-right toning progression on both sides corresponds perfectly directionally, indicating that the two-sided toning likely formed simultaneously during decades of Mint bag storage. The obverse occupies a narrower band of the color progression than the reverse, showing that the air flow characteristic across the surface was different for the two sides. Perhaps the reverse lay facing up in the Mint bag, but the coin was propped up at the rim, thus allowing limited air flow across the obverse as well.” The description articulates both the aesthetics and the process of this type of rich toning.

That the dollar has the same color as seen on this same coin in a 1983 RARCOA auction is viewed as evidence of its originality (and stability). On its importance, Legend, in the firm’s typically understated language, called it “THE ULTIMATE TONED MORGAN -EVER.” 

Another bright spot among the colorful dollars from the Northern Lights collection was a 1904-O Morgan dollar graded PCGS MS-67 and bearing a green CAC sticker that realized $39,950. Called “Jelly Beans,” it displays unusual colors for a New Orleans Mint dollar, described as: “Out of this world shades of neon like violet/pearl green/gold/blue swirl all over the obverse. The reverse has a crescent of gold and some blue. When Peacocks see this coin, they [go] nuts and attack as they are so insanely jealous.”

The catalog concluded, “When we saw the coin our jaws dropped and locked. When you see this monster, you will see why it is one of the Northern Lights Collectors favorites.”

The 1904-O Morgan dollar is common in grades up to MS-66, and while it is scarce in MS-67, examples in this grade can be found with some searching at the $3,000 to $3,500 level. Toned examples rarely show the “monster” colors seen on this example, and bidders responded accordingly.

Another top lot went to an overseas buyer. A Roman Finish Proof 1909 Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagle graded Proof 66 by PCGS with a green CAC sticker sold for $193,875. After the sale, Legend Rare Coin Auctions’ principal Laura Sperber said, “This is the second auction in a row that a star of the sale went to an overseas buyer. The market for superior US coinage is not limited any more — worldwide collectors crave these coins and crave true quality.” Sperber concluded, “Hundreds of NEW numismatists participated in this sale as bidders, and did they ever bid!”

An upcoming treat

Legend’s next Regency auction is set for Oct. 26 as part of the PCGS Members Only Show. The star of Regency XXIII in Philadelphia will be the Vermeule/Coronet example of the 1893-S Morgan dollar that is graded MS-67 by PCGS with a green CAC sticker. 

It is considered the finest example of this key date and is characterized by beautiful toning on both sides. It was formerly owned by Cornelius Clarkson Vermeule III, a curator of classical art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and author of Numismatic Art in America. The coin is recognized for its beauty and originality. It was previously offered in a March 2005 American Numismatic Rarities auction where it did not meet its reserve and later traded hands for more than $1 million when it was placed in the Coronet Collection in 2008. It will be offered with an estimate of $1,250,000 to $1,500,000. 

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