By Ron Guth …..
On November 1, 2020, Heritage Auctions sold the Connecticut Copper collection assembled by Donald G. Partrick. This was a highly anticipated event because many of Mr. Partrick’s coins had been off the market since the 1980s and earlier. Mr. Partrick was known as a strong buyer of top-quality and rare Colonial coins. Whenever he competed at auction, he usually won, leaving his competitors out in the cold. The contents of his collection of Connecticut Copper coins have already been summarized to great effect by Heritage and can be viewed here.
The purpose of this article is to examine some of the highlights of Mr. Partrick’s Connecticut Copper Collection and the present state of the market, especially when one of its strongest buyers was no longer participating. For this article, the author focused on the actual obverse/reverse die varieties and ignored the brockage errors that represented only one die.
Prices in this sale ranged from a low of $74 to a high of $38,400 USD, with a mean of $1,440. Twenty-one coins sold for over $10,000; 63 coins sold for over $5,000; and 310 coins sold for over $1,000.
The most expensive coin in the sale was Lot 44446 at $38,400. This was a 1788 Miller 3-B.1, a Rarity 5 variety in NGC MS64BN. The price realized for this lot was somewhat less than the $48,875 paid for the Tanenbaum example in 2012 (then a raw MS63BN, now in a PCGS MS65BN holder).
The second-most-valuable coin in the Partrick Collection was Lot 44042 at $36,000. This was the enigmatic 1786 “Bungtown” Connecticut Copper, variously identified as Miller 2.3-T in the Ford Collection and “Similar to Miller 2.3-T” in the Partrick catalog. Regardless of the designation, this exact coin sold for $92,000 in the 2005 Ford sale. The buyer this time around seems to have gotten a real bargain.
In third place was Lot 44291 at $28,800. This unique 1787 Miller 33.22-II was also from the 2005 Ford sale, where it realized $92,000. Yes, that’s right… $92,000. The new price of $28,800 sounds awfully inexpensive for a unique Connecticut variety.
The next biggest sellers were mostly Mint State Connecticut Coppers, indicating strong demand for quality examples.
In fourth place was Lot 44466 at $26,400. This was a 1788 Miller 9-E in NGC MS63BN. This is not a particularly rare variety, but this example is believed to be the finest known. To illustrate how much value is placed on quality, Robert Martin’s PCGS MS61BN sold for only $1,680 less than a year ago.
Fifth place honors went to Lot 44159, a Rarity 5 1787 Miller 28-m that sold for $24,000. This is believed to be the finest example of the variety and purchased by Mr. Partrick at the 1980 Garrett sale for $7,200. It should be noted that Mr. Partrick also had an MS62BN example of this same variety that realized only $12,600. It’s amazing what a two-point difference can make.
The sixth-most-valuable Connecticut Copper in the Partrick Collection was Lot 44034, a Mint State example of the Rarity 6 1785 Miller 6.5-M that sold for $22,800. This was down from the $27,600 it sold for in the 2005 Ford sale, but the price still seems strong without Mr. Patrick as a competitor.
In seventh place was Lot 44369 at $20,400. This was an NGC MS63BN 1787 Miller 34-ff.1 (one of the ETLIR varieties). This is definitely a tougher variety and this was a new record. The next best example of which the author is aware is the Raw Mint State example from the 2005 Ford sale (Lot 432) that sold for $9,775.
In eighth position was another likely finest known Connecticut Copper. Lot 44026 was an NGC MS63BN 1785 Miller 6.3-G.1, believed to be the only Mint State example known, at $19,200. This piece also enjoys a pedigree that goes back to the collection of Dr. Thomas Hall, one of the pioneer collectors of Connecticut Coppers.
In ninth place was Lot 44382, the unique 1787 Miller 37.4-RR.1, at $18,000. This sounds soooo cheap for a unique variety, especially one that was delisted because many researchers doubted its existence. It sounds even cheaper knowing that it sold for $97,750 in the 2005 Ford sale. This may be a case where today’s collectors really regret not having bid on this ultra-rare variety.
Finally, in 10th place comes Lot 44082 – another top-quality Connecticut Copper, the NGC MS62BN 1787 Miller 1.2-C. Known as the “Muttonhead”, this variety is fairly common but difficult to find nice. This is believed to be the finest known example and the only one known in Mint State. At $15,600, it sold for five times the price of Robert Martin’s PCGS AU58.
Although this is just a small sampling of the nearly 500 Connecticut Coppers from Heritage’s sale of the Patrick Collection, it seems that quality was more important to collectors than rarity, at least in the higher price ranges.
Another factor that has affected Connecticut Copper pricing in recent years is whether or not a variety is listed in the Guidebook of U.S. Coins (Redbook). As more and more collectors are priced out of the variety market, they become type buyers and focus their attention on a smaller group of coins. This increased demand often means that more common varieties in high grade can sell for more than similarly graded rarities of a more common type.
It may be some time before a group of Connecticut Coppers of the quality and breadth of the Patrick Collection appears on the market again. The author recalls when the Frederick Taylor Collection of Connecticut Copper was sold in 1987. At the time, many collectors were overwhelmed by prices that they perceived as being outrageously high, only to view them as bargains in later years. The same may be true of the Partrick Connecticut Coppers years from now.
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About Ron Guth
Ron Guth is the Chief Investigator at the Numismatic Detective Agency (www.numismaticdetectives.com). He has been active in numismatics for 55 years as a collector, researcher, auctioneer, and professional dealer. He is the author or co-author of several best-selling numismatic books, including Coin Collecting For Dummies, The 100 Greatest U.S. Coins, and The Encyclopedia of United States Gold Coins. In 1999, he created CoinFacts (now PCGS CoinFacts). In 2014, he was named the American Numismatic Association (ANA) Numismatist of the Year.