By Charles Morgan for CoinWeek …..
A diverse mixture of U.S. coins, tokens, patterns, and medals will be on offer when Stack’s Bowers kicks off its Official Sale of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Expo in Baltimore, Maryland on June 21-23, and 26 & 27. More than 3,000 items will be offered for sale, with expected hammer prices from a hundred dollars to $100,000+.
Beyond the catalog’s deep reservoir of classic U.S. coinage are a number of important modern issues that will be on the radar of serious collectors of 20th-century coinage. Here are three modern coin lots that you need to know about.
The 1955 Doubled Die Lincoln Cent is the most significant 20th-century die error in the U.S. series. Unlike some modern era die errors that are detectible only with a strong magnifying glass, the doubling on the 1955 doubled die is dramatic and obvious even to one not deeply steeped in numismatic study. It’s no wonder why this unusual error was an immediate marketing hit for James Ruddy, when he–along with Stack’s Bowers cofounder Q. David Bowers)–popularized the issue when they were doing business under the moniker of the Empire Coin Company. According to the lot description published in the print catalog and available online at www.stacksbowers.com, the 1955 doubled die sold for $7.95 a piece within a few years of the coin’s release. CoinWeek’s research show the coin bringing upwards of $250 by the start of the 1980s.
Prices for the issue rose dramatically when third-party certification reformed the industry, reaching a peak price of nearly $60,000 USD when a particularly strong MS65RD example was offered at a Heritage Auction in 2001. This was a considerable sum over the high end of the prevailing price range, and one might assume that this result represents the belief on the part of numerous bidders that the coin might upgrade to MS66. If the current PCGS population report is any indicator, those upgrade dreams were never realized. It’s worth noting, however, that if that coin retains the same look it had 16 years ago, it is certainly worth a shot at an upgrade (although, given today’s pricing levels, beating $60,000 plus over a decade’s worth of inflation and missed opportunities is unlikely. Recent prices realized for an MS65RD typically fall between the $25,000 and $35,000 depending on eye appeal (true gem pure red 1955 doubled dies are exceptionally rare).
PCGS notes 4,747 grading events for the 1955 Doubled Die in their population report. Of that number, a mere 265 were marked full red.
The example that Stack’s Bowers is offering in their upcoming June Baltimore auction (Lot 9304) is one of eight in MS64+ with a mere 21 finer. A single MS65+ is the current finest. The current coin is one of just 26 at the MS64 level to earn a CAC sticker (CAC does not differentiate between solid and plus grades), with three coins earning a CAC sticker at MS65.
The piece compares favorably to many of the examples currently plated on PCGS CoinFacts. Of all of the coins imaged on the site in the grade MS64, only two examples (cert numbers 25233210 and 05375475) are CAC-approved. In my opinion, the present piece sits firmly in-between these two examples, offering a full red appearance with just a faint spray of naturally occurring discoloration.
In MS64RD, the recent market value range for the 1955 double die is between $6,000 and $7,500. There are a few outliers; a fully red an example from the collection of coin dealer Dave Akers and his wife Sharon brought $25,800 at a January 2014 Heritage auction, while a coin pedigreed to the Monument Hill Collection, graded MS64RD in a PCGS Old Green Holder brought a healthy premium, hammering at $22,325 at a Stack’s Bowers auction in 2016. Both coins had CAC stickers.
The price differential for these two pieces can most likely be explained by the bidders’ belief that these two specimens might upgrade and sell for more money on a quick flip. In fact, the second of these coins did upgrade to MS64+ and did reacquire a CAC sticker on its way back to auction last October, where it brought $19,975 – a loss of a few thousand dollars.
In MS64+ (the presently offered piece’s grade), a wide variance in recent prices realized may murky the water for the inexperienced. A blemished example twice brought +/- $9,500 at auctions in 2013 and 2015. The previously discussed Monument Hill piece brought $19,975. This coin is maxed out at MS64+ and likely has no hope in upgrading. A slightly improved example brought $27,025.
We expect the presently offered example to get close scrutiny by bidders prior to the sale. If the price of this coin jumps to the mid-20s, then the consensus is probably in place that this example is strong for its present grade.
Current bid sits at $3,500 at the time of publication.
Lot 10287: 1916-D Winged Liberty Dime PCGS MS65+FB CAC
A key subsection of Stack’s Bowers’ June Baltimore auction is their offering of Part II of the Blue Moon Collection. The firm offered Part I of the collection, anchored by the R.L. Miles, Jr. example of the 1794 dollar (a super slider that PCGS graded AU58+). That coin, which had been off the market for more than 40 years, brought spirited bids and sold for $910,625. It was one of many noteworthy classic coins in the collection.
What is also notable about the Blue Moon Collection was its penchant for ultra-high-end modern (we imply 1900+) U.S. coins as well. Blue Moon, Part I featured a PR66RB CAC 1909 V.D.B. Lincoln cent, a 1913 in MS67+RD, and a noteworthy smattering of issues that should make serious quality-minded 20th-century collectors take note.
Part II continues that trend, blending noteworthy classic and modern material. If your tastes focus your attention to the modern period, one coin that deserves significant consideration is the Blue Moon 1916-D Winged Liberty Dime, graded MS65+FB CAC by PCGS.
The origin story of the 1916-D is the stuff of the numismatic pulps. I will rinse and repeat what has already been covered sufficiently elsewhere. The 1916-D’s paltry mintage of 264,000 pieces was dwarfed by the combined 32 million plus coins struck at the mints in Philadelphia and San Francisco. Although Treasury Secretary William Gibbs McAdoo announced on May 30, 1916, that the United States had adopted new designs for the dime, quarter, and half dollar (ending the century-long “Reign of Bland” that was the Barber era), the new French-inspired designs did not enter into circulation until later in the year.
The editors of The Numismatist, essentially the coin hobby’s troll army of the period, greeted Weinman’s dime design by calling it “the greatest dirt-collecting coin ever placed in circulation” (February 1917, p. 87). Collectors, on the other hand, have treated Weinman’s designs of 1916 with great reverence. The ’16-D stands firmly as the series’ true key date, a coin that for generations has been coveted in all grades from AG-03 to Mint State.
It’s of interest to note that while most first-year issues are hoarded by collectors, speculators and the general public, the 1916-D slipped into the bloodstream of the American economy without much notice. While Augustus Goodyear Heaton’s A Treatise on the Coinage of the United States Branch Mints, published in 1893, helped popularize the collecting of coins by mint mark, the sheer number of collectors in the Denver Mint’s service area was so scant that today, fewer than 600 Mint State examples have been registered to the combined population reports of NGC and PCGS.
The 1916-D, like the 1916-S, has some issues with firmness of strike. But although the 1916-S is sharper, it’s no match for the stellar 1916 plain, which features lots of luster and often has Full Split Bands. Uncirculated examples of the 1916-D break down to about 85% with strike softness and 15% qualifying for FSB.
The Blue Moon Collection example, Lot 10287, was graded MS65+FSB by PCGS and earned a CAC sticker. It is the sole MS65+FSB currently accounted for in the PCGS population report, with 32 examples graded finer (seven in MS67). It is one of seven in MS65 to earn a CAC sticker (CAC ignores plus grades), with 10 CAC-approved coins grading higher (three at the 67 level).
The coin is attractive, with clean fields and devices and scarcely a noteworthy mark anywhere. That the piece is antiqued underneath a layer of gold, orange, and aqua color adds to the appeal.
In the current market, prices for desirable key date coins have begun to tick up. In recent years, the price spread between MS65 and MS66 FSB 1916-D dimes has been about $20,000. In 2015, a significant outlier auction had a peripheral toned 1916-D graded MS66FB in a rattler (with a green CAC sticker) brought $94,000 at a Heritage Auction.
Clearly, the bidders thought the coin would upgrade, but failed to consider that gold CAC stickers on rattler Mercury dimes are fairly common as grading standards for this issue have significantly “developed” over the years. A green CAC sticker on a key date Merc is no sure thing.
To date, the upgrade game has failed to work on this coin. The coin is currently imaged on PCGS CoinFacts in MS66FB but with a new cert number (#25204718 for those OCD enough to keep tabs).
The going rate for a MS66FB these days is about $62,000.
As for the Blue Moon coin, I like it. Even if the coin hits the $50,000 to $55,000 range, there is still value to be had. For the issue, it’s a high eye appeal example that has a shot 66 look to it. It also has pleasing color and plenty of flash. It’s impossible to predict auction outcomes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it brings 66 money.
Current bid sits at $15,000 at the time of publication.
Finally, I wanted to point out a lot that might not get the attention it deserves, but one that I consider to be a solid long-term play. That is, the Complete Set of XXVI Olympiad Commemorative Coins, 1995-1996. Offered uncertified in its original wooden collector box as issued from the United States Mint.
Our Congress and their eager accomplices at the Mint have gone out of their way to make the modern commemorative coin program even more of an abomination than the scandal-plagued classic one, which spanned from 1892-1954.
And of all the terrible commemorative coins that have come our way since the program was reimagined in 1982, none reached the height of folly achieved in the voluminous coin program conceived for the 1995-1996 Olympic Games.
Not even Armand Hammer, the petroleum magnate who tried to commandeer the L.A. Olympics coin program in 1983, could have dreamed of such an ill-conceived coin program. With 16 coins struck over a two year period in clad, silver, and gold in both BU and Proof finishes, the program boasted a cavalcade of cookie cutter designs, some moderately tolerable, others ripped from the pages of a high school art class sketchbook. The program’s shared reverses may have cut down the Mint’s production costs but only compounded the misery.
Needless to say, the coins were, for the most part, met with apathy. A few of the silver dollar issues in BU sold less than 15,000 pieces. Few collectors went out of their way to buy the complete set of 32 coins.
That’s why an intact Complete Set of coins issued in a deluxe wooden box with both uncirculated and Proof examples of each issue is scarcer than people think.
Stack’s Bowers placed a pre-sale estimate of $4,000 on the set, but one sold on eBay in March for $4,700. The two presently listed on that online auction site are fixed price listings with $6,500 asks. One wonders what collectors will think of these prices 20 years from now. Wanna take a shot at this set and find out? You might want to.
Current bid sits at $460 at the time of publication.
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Stack’s Bowers’ Official Sale of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Expo in Baltimore, Maryland
JUNE 21, 2017 • 4 PM EDT • BALTIMORE CONVENTION CENTER • ROOM 308
Session 1 – U.S. Coins Part I – Numismatic Americana, Colonial Coins & Related, Half Cents through Two-Cent Pieces. The live auction session begins at 4:00PM ET on Wednesday, June 21.
JUNE 22, 2017 • 5 PM EDT • BALTIMORE CONVENTION CENTER • ROOM 308
Session 2 – The Blue Moon Collection Part II. The live auction session begins at 5:00PM ET on Thursday, June 22.
JUNE 23, 2017 • 5 PM EDT • BALTIMORE CONVENTION CENTER • ROOM 308
Session 3 – U.S. Coins Part II – Silver Three-Cent Pieces to End. The live auction session begins at 5:00PM ET on Friday, June 23.
JUNE 26, 2017 • 9 AM PDT • INTERNET ONLY
Session 4 – Internet Only – U.S. Coins Part I. The live auction session begins at 9:00AM PT on Monday, June 26.
JUNE 27, 2017 • 9 AM PDT • INTERNET ONLY
Session 5 – Internet Only – U.S. Coins Part II. The live auction session begins at 9:00AM PT on Tuesday, June 27.