First Pogue Collection auction an appetizer for the coins to come

Screen shot shows one of the coins in the D. Brent Pogue Collection being auctioned by Stack's Bowers Galleries with the cooperation of Sotheby's.

Image courtesy of Stack's Bowers Galleries.

?If the first auction of U.S. coins from the D. Brent Pogue Collection on May 19 served as an appetizer for the rest of the collection, which will be presented in six more auctions through 2017, the strong prices bidders paid for the 128 coins clearly indicate that numismatists are hungry for these rarities.

How did Stack’s Bowers Galleries' and Sotheby’s auction stack up? The total prices realized for Pogue I exceeded $25 million with an average price per lot of nearly $200,000. Just a single coin sold for under $5,000: a Professional Coin Grading Service Mint State 66 1834 Capped Bust half dime that sold for a bid of $4,250 (or just under $5,000 when the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee was added).

When Stack’s Bowers Galleries founder Q. David Bowers took the podium to introduce the Pogue auction, Bowers said that the first Pogue sale would be one of those auctions that will be remembered 50 years from now. As usual, Bowers was right. 

Pogue purchased his coins from both dealers and at auction, so for many of the pieces, we have a public price history to look at. While most of his coins far exceeded what they realized on their last trip to the podium, a few did not. These exceptions serve as a reminder that even the finest collections accompanied with the best marketing need to be judged on their whole and that individual coins only tell part of the story.

But what amazing individual lots! Take the sale’s first coin to crack the $1 million barrier: a 1796 Draped Bust quarter dollar graded PCGS MS-66. It was a typical Pogue coin (if any can be called typical) in that it had a rich ownership history that traced back nearly a century, gorgeous color and was of exceptional quality. That it is a popular one-year type, and the first year of the denomination, adds to the demand. It sold for $1,527,500, well above the pre-sale estimate of $750,000 to $1 million. A gorgeous 1797 Draped Bust, Small Eagle half dollar also graded MS-66 sold for the same amount.

A single coin topped the $2 million mark: a stunning 1808 Capped Draped Bust gold $2.50 quarter eagle in PCGS MS-65 that brought a bid of$2 million (selling with buyer’s fee for $2,350,000).

What’s incredible is that this is the first of seven planned auctions continuing through 2017 and this sale didn’t even have what’s considered the cream of the crop, including a Proof 68 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar that some believe will become the most expensive coin ever sold at public auction. If it does it will break the record established in 2013 when Stack’s Bowers sold a PCGS Specimen 66 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar from the Cardinal Collection for just over $10 million.

Those in the room were privileged to watch the sale, although physically attending the sale at Sotheby’s showrooms on New York’s Upper East Side wasn’t necessary to get a feel for the room thanks to the streaming video available online at the Stack’s Bowers website. While nothing takes the place of actually being in an auction room, these simulcasts are helpful in documenting bidding increments and winning bidders (at least their bidder numbers) and help viewers get a sense of the overall pace and vibe of a sale.

Just as looking at a photograph of a coin is an imperfect substitute for actually examining and handling a coin, so is watching an auction online. Yet, the live video of major auctions helps democratize the sale of great collections for those who may not have the resources (both in terms of money and time) to participate, either through bidding or attending the sale in person.