News and Analysis on scarce coins, markets, and the coin community #58

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

Last week, I wrote about copper and silver U.S. coins in the Stack’s-Bowers auction event that just ended. It was conducted from June 14th to June 18th at the Baltimore Convention Center. The current topics are U.S. gold coins and patterns in this same auction. “The Jarapendo Collection” of U.S. Patterns is very fresh and very exciting. There were numerous gold coins from a wide array of consignors. I discuss a selection of them herein.

Among gold coins, the sales of Half Eagles ($5 coins) in this auction were more newsworthy and interesting, on the whole, than the sales of any of the other gold denominations. So, I focus on Half Eagles, though I mention a very appealing Proof Eagle as well. Before doing so, I discuss patterns in the “Jarapendo Collection.”

I. The Jarapendo Collection

The “Jarapendo Collection” was comprised of about twenty patterns and around one hundred U.S. copper, nickel, silver or gold coins. While desirable, the “Jarapendo” coins are not nearly as important as the “Jarapendo” patterns.

The Jarapendo 1879 Gold Dollar is PCGS graded “MS-64” and sold for $7475. This collection’s 1886 Half Eagle is PCGS graded “AU-58” and sold for $402.50. The Jarapendo 1804 Half Cent and 1811 Half Cent were each PCGS graded Fine-12 and realized $316 and $1380, respectively. This collection contained numerous pre-1825 large cents and a half dozen Flying Eagle Cents.

To an extent, Proof Indian Cents were collected ‘by date,’ while Two Cent, Three Cent Nickel and many 19th century silver denominations were collected ‘by type.’ Furthermore, the Jarapendo collection featured a 1794 half dime, numerous Draped Bust Quarters, Half Dollars and Silver Dollars, plus some Capped Bust Halves. The only Jarapendo pieces that are really newsworthy, as individuals, are the patterns, though I am sure many of the other items are collectible and appealing.

Greg Cohen, a staff expert at Stack’s-Bowers New York office, handled the consignment of the “Jarapendo Collection,” with the assistance of Andrew Bowers. “The Jarapendo Collection is a wonderful assortment of coins and patterns that were put away by our consignor’s father,” states Cohen. “According to our consignor, his father was an active collector [from] the late 1930s to the early 1960s, and the coins have been off the market since,” Cohen reveals.

Members of the consignor’s family “came in on a Saturday morning in February; they knew about Stack’s, as the father had bought coins from Stack’s in the 50s and 60s. The family is from the New York metro area. The entire Jarapendo Collection [was] in the June sale. Jarapendo is the name the family came up with, which is a combination of the family members’ initials. [These initials were] rearranged into [the code name] Jarapendo,” Cohen explains.

II. 1869 nickel Eagle

After not having been seen since the 1950s, there appeared the unique 1869 $10 gold denomination pattern that was struck in nickel. According to Saul Teichman, only three $10 gold patterns struck in nickel are known.

All three nickel Eagle patterns were originally each part of a set that included several non-nickel denominations that were struck in nickel. The three are an 1869, an 1870 and an 1871. These were struck from regular dies that were used, or would probably otherwise have been used, to produce business strike $10 gold coins (Eagles). All three nickel Eagles were in the collection of King Farouk of Egypt and were auctioned by Sotheby’s in Cairo in 1954. Have the 1870 or 1871 nickel Eagles been publicly offered in recent years?

The “Jarapendo Collection” featured the 1869 in nickel, referenced as variety #783 in the Judd-QDB-Teichman guide to U.S. Patterns (Whitman Publishing, 10th edition, 2009). This 1869 nickel Eagle is NGC certified “Proof-62” and the King Farouk pedigree is indicated on the NGC holder. While the “62” grade is a little generous, it is an attractive and distinctive piece that commands attention. It sold for $48,875, a result that is difficult to interpret.

III. 1865 Indian Cent Experiment

The strongest result in the whole auction was $31,625 for a pattern 1865 Indian Cent (Judd-403A), which was struck from regular dies for 1865 Indian Cents. “The underrated J403A brought an incredible price,” Teichman declares. This pattern “needs to be in a holder which would better show the edge reeding,” Saul suggests. For decades, Saul Teichman has been the leading researcher of U.S. Patterns.

The term ‘pattern,’ broadly defined, refers to a wide variety of coinlike items: samples of designs that were considered but never adopted, representations of denominations struck in irregular alloys, pieces that were struck before regular issues of the same design were minted, trials of regular or alternate dies in metals that would not have been used for corresponding regular issues, experimental pieces, and an assortment of other items that cannot be summarized here, including some that can never be fully explained. This 1865 cent, however, perhaps can be explained.

While regular issue 1865 Indian cents are composed of an alloy that is 95% copper, this piece is more than 95% copper, perhaps about 100%. In my opinion, it does not make that much difference whether a coin is 95% copper or 99+% copper. The most important characteristic of this pattern is its reeded edge. Regular issue U.S. copper or bronze coins have never had a reeded edge.

Yes, there is a variety of 1795 large cents where each has a reeded edge. These are nearly 100% copper. (Trace metals find there way into planchets, in the nearby atmosphere prior to striking, and/or on dies.) There are fewer than ten genuine, reeded edge 1795 cents known. I have written about 1795 reeded edge cents on several occasions. In my view, these are experimental pieces. Note that 1795 reeded edge cents are listed in the Judd-QDB-Teichman guide, where these are referenced as variety Judd-20.

Although the notion of a reeded edge Indian Cent is entertaining, proposals for edge reeding on Indian Cents probably did not receive much support. The motive for shaving the edges of silver and gold coins, before spending them, is obvious. Small shavings of copper, in contrast, have much less value, then and now. In 1865, however, there was some concern regarding future prices of copper.

The $31,625 price is astonishing for a relatively obscure pattern, which looks very similar to the corresponding regular issue. Collectors are more likely to spend tens of thousands of dollars for patterns that look dramatically different from regular coinage, like Amazonian Quarters, Helmet Head Half Dollars, Schoolgirl Dollars or Shield Earring silver denominations. Besides, Teichman reports having seen three different J-403A reeded edge cents and suggests that there may be one or two others. There are quite a few varieties of patterns, for which only one or two are known,

IV. Indian Princess Copper Dollars

Longacre’s Indian Princess obverse (front) design is found on a substantial number of pattern varieties dating from 1871 and 1872. There are plenty of variations. If, in the abstract, all dollar-size Indian Princess patterns were regarded as being of the same ‘type,’ loosely defined, there exist well over one hundred Indian Princess Dollars, including both silver dollar patterns and Trade Dollar patterns. These were stuck in silver, copper or aluminum, sometimes with a plain edge and, other times, with a reeded edge. A few varieties are each unique.

The “Jarapendo Collection” contained an excellent representative of the J-1148 variety, which was struck in copper. The Indian Princess obverse on the J-1148 patterns features stars in the outer fields and the reverse (back) was struck from a regular Liberty Seated Dollar die. The J-1148 variety has a plain edge, while the otherwise identical J-1147 variety has a reeded edge. There are more than ten pieces known of each. In the realm of patterns, these two varieties are thus relatively common.

“My favorite pattern from the Jarapendo collection was the Judd-1148,” exclaims Saul Teichman. “This was the nicest copper Longacre dollar I have seen in a long time and it brought what I believe is a record price for a copper of this type J1147-48.”

I agree that this pattern is terrific. The attractiveness of the Jarapendo J-1148 Indian Princess Dollar cannot be fully appreciated from viewing the pictures in the catalogue. It has stunning natural toning, with shades of tan, blue and green. When this piece is tilted under a light, full strong mirrors are enticing and the Jarapendo J-1148 pattern looks beautiful.

This J-1148 Indian Princess Dollar, in copper, is PCGS certified ‘Proof-66 Red & Brown.’ I do not regard the price realized of $21,850 to be high, though this price was more than Teichman expected.

The “Jarapendo Collection” also contained an 1872 Indian Princess Dollar in copper (J-1217). This is a pattern “commercial” or Trade Dollar. The reverse (back) design of this piece is very different from the reverse of the U.S. Trade Dollar or the reverse of any regular issue U.S. silver dollar. According to the 10th edition of the Judd-QDB-Teichman guide, the obverse (front) is a product of “William Barber’s adaptation of James B. Longacre’s Indian Princess design (Whitman, 2009, p. 175).

This “Jarapendo” J-1217 1872 Indian Princess is PCGS certified ‘Proof-64+ Red & Brown,’ and is very much red! Indeed, the red color is rich and somewhat bright. It went for $28,750.

“The Judd-1217 did not bring a strong price even though it is probably the finest known,” Teichman states. “It got hurt by being the third one offered in a four year time span,” Saul suggests. Including this one, three of the four known have been offered at auction since the spring of 2007.

I find the price realized of $28,750 to be moderately strong. In June 2010, B&M auctioned another, which is PCGS certified ‘Proof-64 Red & Brown,’ for $25,875. At that time, the bidders were under the impression that just three were known to exist. The emergence of the “Jarapendo” J-1217 pattern increases the number known from three to four, a rather large increase for such an item. Plus, the identical J-1216 variety, also struck in copper though with a reeded edge, is not nearly as rare and tends to be considerably less expensive. Most interested collectors would be happy to own a J-1216 or a J-1217 pattern, rather than feeling a need to have both.

V. Liberty Seated Copper Dollar

The most colorful pattern in the “Jarapendo Collection” was not struck in silver. It is a copper striking with regular dies for an 1871 Liberty Seated silver dollar. These are also known to have been struck in aluminum and nickel. A few copper strikings are known. This one, J-1151, is PCGS certified ‘Proof-66 Red & Brown.’

The colors on this coin are just too rich to describe. The russet, green, yellow and blue shades are extraordinary. “All” the coins and patterns in the Jarapendo Collection “were housed in old 2×2 paper envelopes and individually wrapped in tissue paper. The coins are overall wonderfully original,” Greg Cohen exclaims.

It was a common practice early in the 20th century for coins to be wrapped in tissue paper. Indeed, when the U.S. Mint sold Proof coins to the general public ‘by mail order’ in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the coins were wrapped in colored tissue paper. I do not know how often collectors in the 1940s and 1950s wrapped their respective coins in tissue paper. Such use of tissue paper had, though, a long tradition in coin collecting in the U.S. and was certainly regarded as a proper practice for storage. The 2×2 envelopes and/or the tissue paper probably contributed, in large part, to the colorful toning on many of the items in the Jarapendo Collection, especially on patterns and Proof Indian Cents.

This super-colorful Liberty Seated Dollar in copper brought the startling amount of $115,000. “The J-1151 is gorgeous,” Andy Lustig says, “but the price was beyond what [Andy] could have imagined.” Lustig wonders if “the spectacular toning of the [Jarapendo] J-1151, combined with a bit of auction fever, caused this dollar pattern to bring about five times what it otherwise would have brought.” Lustig is a specialist in U.S. and world patterns.

Andy and Saul both note that the Jarapendo J-1151 brought much more than the Magnolia J-1152 pattern recently realized. “I do not believe the Jarapendo J-1151 was worth almost double the [value of the] Magnolia J-1152,” Teichman states. In May, Spink-Smythe auctioned the Magnolia Collection, which included an 1871 J-1152 Liberty Seated Dollar in aluminum. Matt Orsini, the cataloguer of the Magnolia collection, suggests that just one or two of these are known.

The report of another 1871 Liberty Seated Dollar, in aluminum, having been auctioned in 1989 could be a mistake, Orsini wonders. The Magnolia J-1152 is PCGS certified ‘Proof-67 Cameo’ and it sold for $60,475. Maybe it is true that one or two collectors eagerly demanded the Jarapendo copper J-1151 and they did not want the Magnolia aluminum J-1152? It could also be true that some bidders were mesmerized by the toning on the Jarapendo J-1151 copper Liberty Seated Dollar. It is a pattern that I may never forget.

VI. Morgan Half Dollar

Though not part of the “Jarapendo Collection,” the appearance of an 1877 Morgan Half Dollar (J-1516) in this auction is noteworthy for more than one reason. It was formerly in the Simpson Collection and, if I remember correctly, the ‘Simpson’ name is noted on the PCGS holder. This Morgan Half Dollar pattern is certified ‘Proof-65 Cameo.’

It is extremely apparent that this 1877 Morgan Half has been dipped, though not in 2011. While it has started to naturally retone, dip-bluish fields are bothersome. I am aware, however, that some buyers like silver halves with ‘dip-blue’ tinted fields.

“The Simpson J-1516 is the former Garrett coin which HAD lovely toning,” Teichman finds. Saul identifies this Morgan Half as having been in the “Bowers & Merena November 1997 sale. Regrettably, the coin has since been dipped. Had it still had its original toning, it might have brought its $34,000 reserve,” Teichman suggests.

The Garrett family coin collection is known for having contained coins and patterns with tremendous natural toning, which developed while the coins were properly stored for decades in Baltimore. The collection was bequeathed to Johns Hopkins University in 1942 by John Garrett, whose grandfather had been a close friend of Johns Hopkins, according to the Winter 2006 issue of the ANS magazine.

Most of the coins in the Garrett family collection were auctioned by the firm of Bowers & Ruddy in 1979 and 1980. If Teichman had not been skilled and knowledgeable in the fields of patterns and pedigree research, the connection of this Morgan Half Dollar pattern to the Garrett Collection might have been lost. Whoever dipped it destroyed some of the history and character of this pattern.

Although this auction will be best remembered for the patterns in the Jarapendo Collection, an important run of Half Eagles ($5 gold coins) did sell at this event. The selection of Bust Left Half Eagles is especially noteworthy.

VII. Bust Left Half Eagles

The Bust Left Half Eagle type dates from 1807 to 1812. These are not nearly as rare, for the most part, as the Capped Head type that follows, dating from 1813 to 1834. Of all series of U.S. coins that lasted for more than two years, Capped Head Half Eagles are the most difficult to even 80% complete. Excluding some varieties relating to the characteristics of the digits, a set of Bust Left Half Eagles is not too difficult to assemble; such a quest could be completed in a relatively short period of time.

The 1809/8 Half Eagle in this auction is one of two that are currently graded “MS-64+” by the PCGS. The other recently sold in a Spink-Smythe auction on May 3rd. That one, which sold for $71,975, was very much superior to this one, which realized $52,037.50. Given the characteristics of this “64+” 1809/8 Half Eagle, the $52+k price is strong.

This coin is clearly not the same as the NGC graded MS-64 1809/8 that Heritage auctioned in December 2010 for $40,250. My hunch is that this “MS-64+” 1809/8 is better than the “MS-64” 1809/8 that sold in December.

I am almost certain that this “MS-64+” is exactly the same as the PCGS graded MS-64 1809/8 that Heritage auctioned in Boston in August 2010, at which time it sold for $69,000. It was then in an old PCGS holder with a green label.

Someone lost money on this 1809/8 Half Eagle. When dealers gamble on upgrades, they often lose. I am not sure, though, who lost money on this particular piece; it may or may not have been the consignor to the Stack’s-Bowers June 2011 auction.

An 1810 Half Eagle that is PCGS graded MS-63 sold for $26,450. I did not see it. This seems to be a strong result, certainly a retail-level price.

An 1812 Half Eagle is PCGS graded “MS-64” and brought $34,500. This is a fair to strong price for this coin. It grades in the ‘low end’ of the 64 range. In Sept. 2009, when coin markets were weaker, Heritage auctioned an NGC graded MS-64 of this same type and date for $27,600. It is usually illuminating, though, to see the actual coins before comparing prices realized.

In Jan. 2011, Heritage sold the Henry Miller 1812 for $46,000. The Miller 1812 Half Eagle is NGC graded MS-64 and has a CAC sticker. It is, though, dramatically superior to the 1812 that Stack’s-Bowers just auctioned. Jim McGuigan likes the “dark coppery original toning” on the “medium gold” Miller 1812 Half Eagle. Please see my two pieces relating to the Miller collection, the first was published on Dec. 22, 2010, and the second on Jan. 26th.

A price of $34,500 in Baltimore for this 1812 is a successful auction result, despite the Jan. 2011 price realized of $46,000 for the Miller 1812, which is a much more desirable coin and is from a famous collection. A coin that is very fresh, has mostly to fully original surfaces with natural toning, is from a recognized collection, and grades in the middle to high end of the range of its certified grade, is generally worth more than a coin of the same date and certified grade that lacks these characteristics. I did not expect the PCGS graded MS-64 1812 Half Eagle in this auction to realize as much as $34,500.

An 1812 Half Eagle that was judged by experts at the NGC to be ungradable went for $2875. The NGC holder indicates that it has the “details” of an almost uncirculated grade. The damage does not seem to be that bad. While this is a healthy auction result for an ungradable 1812, it may also be a pleasing purchase for a collector who does not wish to spend much more for a gradable 1812 Half Eagle that has an equal amount of detail.

VIII. 1831 Capped Head Half Eagle

This auction featured an 1831 Half Eagle that is NGC graded “AU-58.” Even though it is not choice for a certified “AU-58” grade, any 1831 Half Eagle is important and this is a desirable almost uncirculated coin. I grade it as AU-53, after considering both surface quality and the degree of wear. The amount of $46,000 that it realized is, in my view, appropriate for an AU-53 1831 Half Eagle.

It is now generally believed that previous estimates of there being thirty-five to fifty 1831 Half Eagles in existence are high. There may be fewer than thirty!

There have not been many 1831 Half Eagles ‘on the market’ over the past dozen years. A PCGS graded “AU-58” coin realized $80,500 in the Jan. 2006 FUN Platinum Night event. That coin, however, is extremely likely to be of much higher quality than this 1831 Half Eagle.

This same 1831 Half Eagle was offered in the Heritage July 2008 Platinum Night event in Baltimore and in the Stack’s (New York) auction of Jan. 2011. Curiously, it did not sell on both occasions. I do not, though, know the reserves. It is important to keep in mind, though, my point that fresh material, on average, fares much better at auction. (Please read part one of my review of the March 2011 Stack’s-Bowers auction.)

IX. 1863-S Half Eagle

Each 1863-S Half Eagle is more important than many collectors and dealers realize. These are truly, extremely rare coins that may be undervalued in a logical sense. There just could not be more than sixty-five of them in existence, maybe just forty-five or so, if that many?

In this auction, an NGC graded “AU-58+” 1863-S sold for $25,875, a true retail price that is a strong auction result. At, an AU-58 1863-S is valued at $19,380 and an “MS-60,” if there is an MS-60 grade 1863-S, is valued at $37,500. These values seem accurate.

The Numismedia value for a Very Fine-20 grade 1863-S is $1630. I suggest that $1750 to $1900 may be needed to acquire a decent to nice VF 1863-S, and such a purchase may be a good value, from a logical perspective.

“Usually in low grades,” 1863-S Half Eagles are “prohibitively rare in EF,” said researcher Breen in 1988. “The 1863-S,” write Jeff Garrett & Ron Guth, “is very rare in any condition” (Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins, Whitman, 2006). Undoubtedly, the NGC graded “AU-58+” 1863-S was one of the gold highlights of this auction.

X. Proof 1912 Eagle

While this auction will not be remembered for Eagles ($10 gold coins), I thought this particular Proof Indian Head Eagle was extraordinarily pleasant. It is PCGS certified Proof-64 and it has a sticker of approval from the CAC. I am not suggesting that it should grade 65, though, except for a few minute marks, it almost has the appearance of a solid 65 grade coin. I am referring to its especially pleasing look. The sharp strike, relief of the devices, and rich surfaces, along with a fair amount of glitter, captured my attention. The price realized of $37,375 is moderately to very strong, yet is clearly sensible.

©2011 Greg Reynolds