Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #252

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

186720

The most important Newman Collection gold coin that was auctioned on Nov. 14th was a gem quality, Liberty Head double eagle ($20 gold coin) of the second design type, an 1867 that is NGC graded MS-66 and CAC approved. Newman’s early quarter eagles were particularly noteworthy, the best group among his U.S. gold coins and these may be the topic of another discussion. This 1867 Double Eagle is one of very few gem quality coins that survive from a whole, popular design type that lasted for more than ten years. One of the fascinating untold stories is the condition rarity of Type Two double eagles in grades above MS-63! Gems, those that grade MS-65 or higher, are incredibly rare.

It was a little startling that Newman had a Type Two double eagle of such tremendous quality, which is also the finest known, by multiple grade increments, of the 1867 Philadelphia Mint double eagle issue. It was not startling that Newman had the important and newsworthy, pre-1793 patterns that were in this same auction as Newman’s U.S. gold coins, which was conducted by Heritage on Friday, Nov. 14th at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York.

It was widely understood, indeed, that Newman had collected pre-1793 patterns of the tremendous rarity, magnitude and historical importance of those that have been auctioned so far. Earlier, on May 15, a more extensive selection of pre-1793 coins, patterns and tokens from the Newman Collection was auctioned. (Clickable links are in blue.) The most surprising aspect of this auction event was the emergence of Newman’s U.S. gold coins.

Although not one of the all-time greatest assemblages of U.S. gold coins, few people knew that Newman had a substantial and extensive collection of U.S. gold coins, or even that he had any! In the past, Eric Newman had demonstrated knowledge of the private and territorial gold items of California and otherwise did not communicate publicly about gold coins.

1852humbert10In the first offering of items from Newman’s Collection, on April 25, 2013, an 1852 territorial $10 gold coin sold for more than $1 million, an astonishing amount for such a coin. It, though, was NGC graded MS-68 and CAC approved. Pioneer gold coins, however, dovetail with Newman’s penchant for historical research and his interest in unusual items, those outside the mainstream of the collecting of classic U.S. coins. Newman never seemed to express much enthusiasm for U.S. gold coins or other federal coins that have traditionally appealed to most collectors in the U.S.

Last year, the coin collecting community was shocked by the incredible quality, depth, and pizzazz, of Newman’s holding of early U.S. silver coins. I covered, in detail, the offering of Newman’s U.S. silver coins dating from 1796 to the 1840s, including amazing Draped Bust quarters, high grade 1796 half dollars, and gem quality, early silver dollars. On the whole, Newman’s U.S. gold coins are nowhere near as important or as exciting as his U.S. silver coins, though Newman did have some really neat gold pieces.

Curiously, early copper specialists knew about Newman’s large cents, which were also auctioned on Nov. 14, and Newman’s half cents, which were placed in the Tettenhorst Collection long ago. W. David Perkins, the foremost researcher of die varieties of early silver dollars, had, in the past, examined Newman’s early silver dollars and viewed Newman’s early quarters. Others had seen some of Newman’s half dollars. Therefore, it was somewhat widely known that Newman collected pre-1840 copper and silver U.S. coins.

It was not widely known that he had U.S. gold coins, including several important pre-1840 pieces. One of the best was an NGC graded and CAC approved, AU-58 grade, 1796 ‘With Stars’ quarter eagle that realized $223,250, a strong price.

The pre-1840 U.S. gold coins in this auction tended to fare better than the Liberty Head gold coins. The “CAC stickered early gold coins definitely went strong,”  John Albanese declares. “I was outbid by several increment levels on all of them!” Albanese is the founder and president of CAC. Albanese was the successful bidder for a few Liberty Head and Indian Head U.S. gold coins.

A small number of Liberty Head gold coins in the Newman Collection were very special; others were slightly above average and some were terrible. The early 20th century gold coins in this event were not particularly consequential. The three dollar gold pieces and one dollar gold pieces offered were nice collections of these denominations, though not really newsworthy.

The most ‘talked about’ U.S. gold coin that Newman owned is this 1867 Liberty Head double eagle. Though by far the finest known of this date, 1867 is not a rare date. Crucially, this coin is one of the five finest known of an entire design type that lasted for more than ten years! Millions of Type Two Liberty Head double eagles were minted.

I. Gems of Other Types of Double Eagles

Although a significant number of people collect Liberty Head double eagles ‘by date’ (and U.S. Mint location), a far greater number of people collect Double Eagles ‘by design type.’ Only six double eagles ($20 gold coins) are needed for a complete type set: 1) ‘No Motto’ – Liberty Head (1850-66), 2) ‘With Motto’ – Liberty Head (1866-76), 3) ‘With Motto & ‘Dollars Spelled Out’ – Liberty Head (1877-1907) , 4) High Relief Saint (1907), 5) ‘No Motto’ Saint (1907-08), 6) ‘With Motto’ Saint (1908-33).

A “Saint,” in this context, is a Saint Gaudens double eagle ($20 gold coin). Augustus Saint Gaudens is the most famous sculptor in the history of the United States and he was asked by President Theodore Roosevelt to contribute designs for U.S. coinage.

Newman had two High Relief Saints in this auction. A CAC approved MS-63 grade piece brought $25,850, a slightly strong price. An NGC graded MS-65 High Relief, without a CAC sticker, sold for $38,187.50, a moderate price, perhaps.

1907uhrUltra High Relief Saints are patterns. The 1861 double eagles with a Paquet reverse are major varieties and certainly do not constitute a separate design type. (Clickable links continue to be in blue.)

In 1866, the motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ was added to the reverse designs of double eagles, eagles ($10 gold coins), half eagles ($5 gold coins), silver dollars, half dollars and quarters. In 1907, this motto did not appear on new designs of gold coins because President Roosevelt was offended by such a “motto” on coins. In 1908, this motto was restored on coins because of public demand and legislation.

Before the 1990s, it was difficult to find a gem quality (65 or higher grade) representative of the first type, ‘No Motto’ Liberty double eagles. There were less than a dozen known. Ira Goldberg, who has been in the coin auction business for most of the last forty years, saw “very few” around before 1990, maybe “some 1854-S Gems from the Anticapa Hoard” and “a piece or two” from the Philadelphia Mint issues of the period from 1851 to 1854.

Albanese recollects seeing a few “gem Type One Twenties in pre-shipwreck days, mostly 1861 double eagles.” John, however, does “not remember seeing even one gem Type Two Twenty until after CAC was founded in 2007.”

After the excavations of the shipwrecks of  the S.S. Central America, the S.S. Republic, and the S.S. Brother Jonathan, more than 1250 Type One double eagles, 1were PCGS or NGC graded as MS-65 or higher. Before the finding of the Brother Jonathan, there probably existed from zero to three 1865-S double eagles that would now qualify for a MS-65 grade from PCGS or NGC. Afterwards, there were more than a dozen graded as MS-65 and PCGS graded two 1865-S double eagles from the Brother Jonathan shipwreck as MS-66!

As for Type Three double eagles, Liberty Head on the obverse with the word ‘Dollars’ spelled out on the reverse (back), it is easy to find one that is PCGS or NGC graded MS-65. PCGS has graded more than 4000 1904 double eagles as MS-65 and more than 150 as MS-66! Since Oct. 2007, CAC has approved 383 1904 double eagles as MS-65 and 30 as MS-66. Further, there are more than 100 gem 1900 double eagles, including 17 approved by CAC.

Many gems of some other dates of the third type survive as well. In this auction, Newman had an NGC graded and CAC approved MS-66, 1907-D Liberty Head double eagle that brought $25,850. I did get around to viewing this coin.

Although several dates in the series of Saint Gaudens double eagles (1907-33) are very rare, it is easy find gem quality representatives of the ‘No Motto’ and ‘With Motto’ types; there are literally thousands of gems of each type available. Indeed, there probably survive more than 10,000 gem quality 1908 ‘No Motto’ Saints, after taking into consideration that population data includes multiple submissions of some of the same coins and that some “MS-65” graded coins have been doctored or otherwise overgraded.

By any serious standard, there survive more than 12,500 ‘With Motto’ Saints that grade MS-65 or higher, most of which date 1924 or 1928. Newman had a 1928 Saint that is NGC graded MS-65 and CAC approved. It went for $2585, a strong price.

As for the High Relief 1907 business strikes, there are at least 225 that most relevant experts would grade as MS-65 or higher, possibly more than 400! So, for those seeking gem quality double eagles, the main challenge is to find a Type Two coin. These date from 1866 to 1876.

II. Rarity of Gem Type Two Double Eagles ($20 gold coins)

Only a very small number of Type Two double eagles are PCGS or NGC graded as MS-65 or higher. One of the most famous is an 1869 that is PCGS graded MS-65. It was in the “Gold Rush Gallery Collection” that Heritage auctioned on Jan. 12, 2005. Despite the awkward “Gold Rush’ name, this was an incredible type set of gold coins. This 1869 then sold for $218,500. In Jan. 2008, this same 1869 double eagle was auctioned as part of the Madison Collection, one of the all-time greatest type sets, and sold for $299,000.

1869ms6520I wonder if this 1869 has ever been sent to CAC? It is not an easy coin to grade. The reverse is nearly flawless and certainly grades at least in the middle of the 67 range, by itself. Nevertheless, there are noticeable abrasions on Miss Liberty’s face. The overall grade of the coin, though, reaches the MS-65 range. I would, though, have to view the coin again in order to put forth a firm opinion.

An NGC graded “MS-65+” 1873 (of the ‘Open 3’ variety) was in the Jan. 2011 FUN auction. That coin brought the oddly weak price of $112,125. Markets for rare gold coins were faring well in Jan. 2011.

It must be true that most relevant bidders did not regard its grade as being in the ‘high end’ of the 65 range. Some thought of this 1873 double eagle as grading just 64.

It is likely that the just mentioned Madison-‘Gold Rush’ 1869 is a higher quality coin than the NGC graded “MS-65+” 1873.  I did not see this 1873. PCGS has also graded an 1873, with an ‘open’ numeral 3 in the date, as MS-65, probably a different coin.

There is an 1875 that is NGC graded MS-66 and is CAC approved. John Albanese is “pretty sure” that he bought it “last year.”

As best as I can recollect, I have never seen the NGC graded MS-66 1875. I wonder if it is the then non-certified coin that Christie’s/Spink auctioned in June 1996 for $66,000, which was a large amount for an 1875 double eagle in 1996. Also, I never saw an 1875-S that is PCGS or NGC graded as MS-67.

PCGS and NGC have each graded an 1875-S as MS-67. Albanese “is positive that they are the same coin.” He saw this 1875-S when the CAC approved it, “in 2007 or 2008,” and also remembers seeing this same coin in “the late 1980s.”

This MS-67 grade 1875-S is now in a type set of gem quality U.S. coins. The owner wishes to remain anonymous, for now.

PCGS has graded one 1876-S as MS-65 and NGC has graded two. These three might not amount to three different coins.

The PCGS graded MS-65 1876-S is CAC approved and was auctioned by Heritage at the Jan. 2010 FUN Convention for $207,000. John Albanese was the buyer. At the time, Matt Kleinsteuber remarked, “very cool, great color, definite gem, one of the better Type Two twenties I have ever seen, if not the best”! Matt is the lead grader and trader for NFC coins.

III. The Newman MS-66 grade 1867 Double Eagle

As for the presently discussed Newman 1867, $258,500 is a weak price. This 1867 could be the second or third finest known of an entire type and Liberty Head double eagles are pursued by thousands of coin buyers. The fact that 65 grade pieces of this type are hardly existent relates to the value of this 66 grade coin.

newman186720Even so, this coin was not as exciting as I expected it to be. I had heard so much about it. I acknowledge that its grade makes it into the middle of the 66 range, 66.3 or 66.4. I was hoping, though, for a livelier coin, one that beams, glistens, or radiates. This coin’s grade reaches the middle of the 66 range largely because the grade of the reverse, by itself, is in the low to middle of the 67 range. For a business strike double eagle, the reverse is amazingly devoid of imperfections. The obverse has a few tics and hairlines here and there, including on the face, though these are extremely minor. It lacks the slicing hairlines and/or deep contact marks that tend to characterize 19th century double eagles. Indeed, there are no digs, gashes or significant hits, just slight abrasions.

Personally, I find the originality of this coin to be gratifying. Many gem double eagles have been dipped over the past twenty or thirty years. This one has naturally toned in an even, pleasing manner. It is a very soothing coin. I was just hoping it had a little more personality. Though if it did, it would grade even higher in the 66 range, for sure!

It is odd that this MS-66 grade Newman 1867 realized just $258,500, while the Madison Type Set, PCGS graded MS-65 (without a CAC sticker) 1869 realized $299,000, in Jan. 2008. That same Madison-‘Gold Rush’ 1869 sold for $218,500 back on Jan. 12, 2005. The $299,000 price in 2008 could be thought of as strong and markets for rare coins were very heated in Jan. 2008.

Certainly, the “MS-65” grade, Madison piece has a retail value of more than $235,000 now, possibly much more. I would have expected the Newman piece to have a retail value of at least $65,000 above that of Madison piece, thus at least $300,000. A moderate price at this auction would have been $275,000 or so.

The fact that CAC has approved only four gems for a whole design type, of a major series, is an important point. If there are two or three others that would be or should be CAC approved, then a pertinent total would be just six or seven.

Thousands of people assemble type sets of Liberty Head gold coins or of double eagles in particular. Indeed, type sets of U.S. Gold coin series dating from 1866 to the early 20th century are frequently collected and are often advocated by telemarketing firms. Regarding U.S. gold coins, the assembling of such type sets is one of the most popular collecting activities.

©2014 Greg Reynolds

This article was edited, to a minor extent, and updated at 8:27 PM Eastern Time.

Greg Reynolds is available for private consultations: insightful10 gmail.com

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