US Coins

Legend to offer top early dollars at fall Las Vegas auction

Two great American rarities will return to auction in October: the finest-known 1794 Flowing Hair dollar and the Dexter 1804 Draped Bust dollar.

Images courtesy of Stack’s Bowers Galleries.

Repeat sales of a coin at auction can be a useful barometer of the market’s health. On June 15, Legend Rare Coin Auctions announced that it will present Bruce Morelan’s collection of “the finest set of early Mint State dollars ever assembled” in October as part of its auctions at the Professional Coin Grading Service Members’ Only show in Las Vegas.

All eyes will be on a 1794 Flowing Hair dollar graded Specimen 66 by PCGS with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker and on the PCGS Proof 65 Dexter 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar.

The Dexter dollar is unique for a small D that was punched in one of the clouds on the reverse, though the punch is now attributed not to James V. Dexter, who owned it in the late 19th century, but to William Forrester Dunham, a Chicago collector who owned this coin between 1904 and 1939. Most recently, this Class I Original dollar, one of eight known that were struck in 1834 as presentation gifts for foreign dignitaries, sold in 2017 at Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ D. Brent Pogue auction, Part V, realizing $3,290,000. Legend expects it to bring $4,000,000 in Las Vegas.

The Specimen 66 1794 dollar set a record for a coin at auction in January 2019 when it realized $10,016,875 in a Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction. The winning bidders were Legend Numismatics principal Laura Sperber and Morelan, who released a statement after the sale saying, “We felt in our heart that this would be the very first coin to exceed the $10,000,000 barrier in auction and were in fact prepared to bid much higher in order to acquire this unique piece of history.”

Some believe that it was the first American dollar coin struck, since it has a silver plug in the center and was struck with obvious care from the earliest state of the dies for the 1,758 1794 dollars issued.

Sperber said on Morelan’s unusual bidding strategy, “When it came up to auction, he made a ‘blow out’ bid to scare off other bidders and ensure the coin was his.” Sperber and Morelan jumped the bid from $5.5 million to $8,525,000. Sperber said, “We firmly believe we took control of the bidding at that point and made a powerful statement about what it will take to beat us.”

Repeat sales are used to measure the health of the art market in Sotheby’s Mei Moses Indices, which look at more than 60,000 repeat auction sales over time. By using the same objects, the indices control for differences in levels of quality, size, color, maker, and aesthetics of a work of art. For example, if an item is bought at auction in 2009 and sold at auction in 2019, then it can be considered a repeat sale since there are two auction sales to compare. The time between the two sales is a holding period that can be used to calculate a return rate, and these individual repeat sales can be looked at to form broader market conclusions.

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