As part of its continuing series of offerings from the exceptional Stewart Blay Collection, GreatCollections will be presenting Blay’s selection of Barber dimes over two separate online auction sessions: the first on Sunday, November 12, and the second on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023.
A New York sculptor and coin collector, Stewart Blay was one of the most significant “quality” collectors of his era. His coins represent an unquinchable thirst for the “best-of-the-best” that took Blay all around the country throughout five decades of collecting.
The Blay Collection of Lincoln cents, considered one of the finest ever assembled, was sold by GreatCollections in January 2023. It set several new price records on its way to garnering over $7.7 million USD and immediately became an important landmark in the history of the Lincoln cent market.
The sale of the Stewart Blay Collection of Barber dimes will certainly achieve impressive results, as well. Below are CoinWeek’s top five highlights from the upcoming auctions.
1893-O Barber Dime (PCGS MS-68 PL CAC; Toned)
From a mintage of 1,760,000, PCGS has certified only three examples as Prooflike. The designation “Prooflike” refers to the presence of reflective mirror-like surfaces sometimes found on a circulation strike coin. Of the three, this example is the finest. Both Blay and GreatCollections’ Ian Russell were taken by the clarity of the strike and its perfectly preserved surfaces, with the latter remarking that the coin had the look of a Proof or a Specimen strike. This date offers sophisticated collectors a smattering of ultra-high-end coins – no more than five or six in the Superb Gem grand range. This example bests the impressive Prooflike Eliasberg/Simpson coin by one full point.
1899 Barber Dime (PCGS Proof-68 CAC; Toned)
The United States Mint sold 846 Proof Sets in 1899. By modern standards, the total number of coins produced for collectors at the close of the 19th century would be nothing more than a rounding error. And while most of the 1899 Proof Barber dimes have survived, more than a century of mishandling has resulted in most available examples having some degree of impairment.
This coin, certified PR68 by PCGS and approved by CAC as strong for the grade, ranks as one of the five finest known for the issue – taking into account similarly graded coins with Cameo and Deep Cameo attributions.
Under light, this example boasts a vividly toned obverse with Cerulean blue wrapping bordering the rims and the center field bathed in orange, red, and purple. The coloration on the coin’s reverse shows a gradient of gold and orange. We expect this specimen to exceed the $14,100 price it realized in a May 2018 auction appearance.
1907 Barber Dime (PCGS Proof-68 CAC; Toned, OGH)
After peaking in the 1880s, collector interest in Proof coinage began to decline. By the end of the first decade of the 20th century, this interest had sunk to a level where a typical year’s Proof mintage would fall in the 550 to 700 coin range. The 1907 Proof dime was the first issue in the series to have a mintage of under 600 pieces. In terms of the series, it’s one of the scarcer dates, but is by no means rare. As is the case with all early 20th-century Proofs, unimpaired examples with high eye appeal are the exception to the rule. PCGS has certified no more than 20 examples in Superb Gem Proof and this is the only one certified at the PR68 level.
This is the same coin sold in July 1997 for $5,290. At the time, it was the only PR68 recorded in the PCGS Census. Nearly 30 years later, this distinction remains true. Current bid is $10,500.
1898-O Barber Dime (PCGS MS-67+ CAC; Toned)
Blay’s 1898-O Barber Dime is the current lead plate coin on PCGS CoinFacts. It is a shimmering champagne-colored dime with peach-colored toning around the coin’s periphery. A smattering of peach rings above and below the denomination serve as key pickup points for pedigree tracing. We’ve tracked this example to the Larry H. Miller Collection, where it sold for $31,200 in December 2020. Miller, a prominent Utah businessman, was an accomplished collector in his own right. In that collection, the coin was housed in an early generation NGC MS68 holder. Now it is offered as a freshly-graded PCGS MS67+ with CAC approval.
1905-O Barber Dime Micro O (PCGS MS-66+ CAC)
In our opinion, early 20th-century New Orleans issues are underrated and will certainly prove formidable to collect as the market for 20th-century American silver and gold coins continues to mature in the coming years. The 1905-O Barber dime was struck in numbers typical for the branch mint at the time. What makes this issue stand out, however, is the existence of the scarce “Micro O” mintmark variety. In a side-by-side comparison, the O mintmark is considerably shorter than the one found on the majority of the dimes struck that year. Strangely, the Micro O mintmark punch was intended to be used on a larger coin – the quarter dollar.
1905-O Barber dimes with the Micro O mintmark are scarce in Mint State and rare in Gem. This example is the finest known.
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GreatCollections will also be offering duplicates from the Blay Collection in November. For more information, call 1-800-442-6467 or visit their website at www.greatcollections.com.
To search through GreatCollection’s archive of over 600,000 certified coins the company has sold over the past eight years, please visit the GreatCollections Auction Archives.