By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for CoinWeek …….
The Stack’s Bowers Collectors Choice Online Auction series enters its third month with 586 lots covering the gamut of copper, silver, and gold U.S. coins from the early Federal era to the modern period. Stack’s Bowers Collectors Choice Online Auction events have grown both in size since the first monthly auction (which had 178 lots) was held in May 2016.
These Collectors Choice auctions feature popular U.S. coin series as well as a variety of obscure early coins, commemoratives, and other pieces. All lots start at $1 and many are offered with no reserves. Once registered with the Stack’s Bowers site, users can conveniently place their bids on the firm’s main website or via the Stack’s Bowers Galleries iPhone and iPad apps.
The July 2016 Collectors Choice auction, which opened on June 29 and closes at 10 AM Pacific Time on July 13, offers something for just about everyone. However, there are five standout lots that deserve an extra moment under the numismatic spotlight. Here are five top picks for this month’s auction:
Lot 90022: 1885 Indian Head Cent, PCGS MS-64 Red-Brown
First up is this gorgeous 1885 Indian Head Cent graded MS-64 by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). While the coin is labeled with a Red-Brown grading designation, vibrant shades of reddish orange dominate the glimpses of tan and brown hues that caress the edges of the devices and lettering. The auction house’s photographs of the sharply-struck cent indicate splashes of steel blue and pink radiating from the cheek of Miss Liberty upward into pockets of rich luster in the LIBERTY inscription and into the base of the feather headdress.
The reverse appears just as vibrant, with deep reddish-orange hues in the upper portions of the wreath near the shield as well as toward the field within the arrows and bow at the base of the wreath. Pinks and blues add visual pop across the center of the reverse, with the deepest pinks displayed in wreath details such as the leaves, bow, and arrows.
Pinks and blues also mottle the words ONE CENT.
Of an original mintage of 11,761,594, it is estimated there are a few hundred Red-Brown survivors in the uncirculated grades; population totals from both PCGS and the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) bear this out. PCGS reports a population of 190 pieces in RB MS-64, with 90 graded higher by PCGS up to MS-66. NGC meanwhile reports 114 in a grade of MS-64 with 104 grading higher, with two in a top grade of MS-67.
Auction results for Red-Brown 1885 MS-64 cents vary a bit. Among PCGS-graded examples, prices range from $153 to $494 for those auctioned in the past year, while NGC specimens have a lower average but more consistent hammer prices clustered in the $250 to $374 range.
Current Bid: US$260
Lot 90191: 1945-D Walking Liberty half dollar PCGS MS-67
This flashy white beauty radiates luster across both its obverse and reverse surfaces with particularly rich flow lines evident within virtually all areas of the devices of the reverse. This 1945-D Walking Liberty half dollar, which has a mintage of 9,966,800, is absolutely white traces of other colors evident in the Stack’s Bowers photographs of the coin.
Among PCGS-graded 1945-D Walking Liberty half dollars, MS-67 represents the top base numerical grade for this issue, though NGC reports two pieces have achieved a grade of MS-68. Combining figures from PCGS and NGC, the current population of 1945-D Walking Liberty half dollars is 424 pieces, with only the two aforementioned NGC MS-68s grading higher.
Auction results are all over the board for PCGS-graded MS-67 1945-D Walking Liberty halves. A final bid of $588 posted in a June 2016 Heritage Auction sale purchased an MS-67 1945-D Walking Liberty half dollar exhibiting scattered traces of russet and rose mottling. Meanwhile, a flashy white specimen more closely resembling the example up for bids in the Stack’s Bowers Collectors Choice Auction went for $1,116 in January 2016.
Current Bid: US$340
Lot 90218: 1879-CC Morgan Silver Dollar PCGS MS-64 DMPL
Morgan dollars are one of the most popular coin series among United States coins, and this 1879-CC MS-64 with Deep Mirror Proof Like (DMPL) surfaces is a handsome representative of the beloved collector favorite. This specimen scores extra points for being a Carson City silver dollar – CC dollars are, in the general sense, decidedly among the rarest of the Morgan dollar clan.
This 1879-CC dollar is a lovely example to boot, boasting frosty, cameo-like devices contrasting against deep fields. The only significant detractions apparent on this MS-64 beauty are a few light marks across Miss Liberty’s cheek, with one deep cut across the front side of her jawline and one lighter cut toward the back of her lower jaw.
Of course, Miss Liberty’s cheek is the most vulnerable area of the design. Scarcely will one find a Morgan dollar that is absent contact marks on this area of the coin–no doubt the primary reason only a tiny handful of Morgan dollars have ever graded MS-69.
Perhaps the jaw cuts are the only mitigating factors as to why this dollar, housed in a PCGS Old Green Holder (OGH), hasn’t been cracked out for resubmission to achieve a potentially higher grade. Then again, this coin rides on many other strong points, including russet and steel blue toning which predominate on the right side of the obverse and across the right side of the reverse.
This CC dollar is a “Clear CC” example, as opposed to the “CC over CC” variety. The overall mintage figure for both the 1879 Clear CC and CC over CC die varieties is 756,000 pieces. Certainly, any issue with a mintage of less than one million pieces is considerably scarce within the context of the widely-collected Morgan dollar series.
PCGS population reports show 19 examples of the DMPL 1879-CC Morgan dollars have achieved a grade of MS-64, with only two listed higher, while NGC states similar data: 18 DMPLs with just two higher. Auction results vary for specimens sold in the past year or so, with an example trading hands for $15,275 in another Stack’s Bowers auction in August 2015; earlier, a few months earlier, a piece sold at a Heritage Auctions event for $19,975.
Current Bid: US$11,000 (Reserve of $12,000 Not Met)
Lot 90473: 1889 Indian Princess Large Head Gold Dollar, PCGS MS-66
1889 marked the last year of the gold one-dollar denomination, which was first struck by the United States Mint during the height of the California Gold Rush in 1849. This PCGS-certified example is graded MS-66, which is a well-represented grade for the issue; PCGS tallies 382 pieces in MS-66 while NGC states a population of 287 in that same grade against a total mintage of 28,950 pieces. Combining current PCGS and NGC population reports, 441 grade higher up to MS-68.
Still, nothing can take away from the lustrous radiance borne across the obverse and reverse surfaces, which bear a warm yellowish-orange patina.
The only notable detraction on this coin is a slight weakness at the top of the second “8” in the 1889 date on the reverse of the coin. Such weaknesses are usually forgiven on 19th-century gold coins. Interestingly, many gold dollars, especially those from the last several years of the Large Head Indian Princess Head series (of which this specimen is a member), survive in higher grades. This is largely due to the popularity of these coins in their day among collectors and, perhaps to a greater degree of significance in terms of the coin’s survival, the fact that many of these coins were purchased as holiday gifts.
PCGS- and NGC-graded specimens of the 1889 MS-66 Indian Princess Large Head gold dollar show relatively consistent auction results. In sum, auction prices posted from Stack’s Bowers and Heritage Auctions from the last two years indicate a price range of $1,175 to $1,400.
Current Bid: US$1,000
Lot 90539: 1927 Saint-Gaudens $20 Gold Double Eagle; PCGS MS-66+
This rundown of the top picks in the July 2016 Stack’s Bowers Collectors Choice Auction wraps up with a coin that many claim to be among the most beautiful in the world: the Saint-Gaudens $20 gold double eagle.
A beautiful MS-66+ PCGS-graded 1927 double eagle makes the grade for the purposes of this preview. 1927 double eagles aren’t particularly scarce in the context of Saint-Gaudens $20 gold coins; 2,946,750 were minted and PCGS’s survival estimates suggest 850,000 examples of the date survive today, with 137,500 grading MS-65 or better.
What makes this piece special then? In a word, radiance.
While photographs don’t often do a high-grade coin much justice, the luster of this 1927 beauty spills across the Stack’s Bowers images posted for the lot. Both the obverse and reverse appear deep and rich, and the rich flow lines are further accentuated by an overall strong strike.
The only issues that appear to keep this coin grading higher than its already lofty MS-66+ grade are one very light mark connecting the right side of Liberty’s head to just shy of the base of the R of “LIBERTY” and a few minor marks scattered across the obverse and reverse. A combined population of 8,598 MS-66 pieces is reported by PCGS and NGC, with 76 grading MS-67; this piece, recall, is graded MS-66+, so it’s considered among the very best for its grade.
For many of the 1927 MS-66 Saint-Gaudens double eagles sold in major auctions over the past two years, prices settle in the range of $1,998 to $2,301, according to reports by Stack’s Bowers, David Lawrence Rare Coins, and Heritage Auctions. Among the lots referenced in the auction results above, a couple pieces that appear similar to the 1927 $20 Saint-Gaudens gold coin offered in the July Stack’s Bowers Collectors Choice Auction traded hands for around $2,200.
Current Bid: US$2,000