CoinWeek Auction Analysis …..
Led by the Fred Iskra Collection of Large Cents, copper coins made up more than 600 of the 2,600 lots offered by Goldberg Auctioneers in their September 4-7 Pre-Long Beach Auction.
With prices realized ranging from strong to superior, the results are yet another indicator of what CoinWeek’s price analysts have sensed for a while now: the rare coin market has shed the uncertainty and weakness that marred the second half of 2014 and most of 2015 – a period that saw coins in a number of collecting areas lose upwards of 20 to 25 per cent of their value.
Laura Sperber in her Legend Numismatics Pre-Long Beach Expo Market Report provides an insight that the “Chickens Little” who counted the rare coin market out over the course of the past 16-18 months should take to heart: “the generational turnover is done.” Gardner, Newman, and Pogue are out (although we did see Pogue the younger walking the bourse at the ANA World’s Fair of Money), and now it’s the next generation of collector stepping up and stepping into our most important coins.
Of course, it will be up to the industry to cultivate and sustain interest in rare coins for the long term (it’s worth noting that we’re due for generational turnover in the dealer ranks), but for now we must observe enthusiastic bidding at major auctions, strong dealer-to-dealer business at major coin shows, and the continued viability of high-quality coins, major rarities, and perennially popular specialist areas in the numismatic market.
With that said, let’s take a quick look at the Goldberg Sale’s four highest hammers for early copper.
Lot 483: 1801 S-221 R2 Corrected Denominator 100 over 000, PCGS AU58
Price realized: $54,050 USD
The Sheldon 221 1801-dated cent has a number of compelling features. On the obverse, the “18” is punched lower than the “01” and note the short I in LIBERTY. This is the same obverse die used on S-116, but the reverse is unique to this Sheldon number. It features a corrected denominator, showing a naked-eye-visible 100 over 000.
The faintest bit of rub on the coin’s high points renders it About Uncirculated. PCGS, leaning towards its high appeal, puts the grade at AU58 (Population 1, none finer of the variety). The Goldbergs describe the coin as an AU50+ but are upbeat about the quality of the piece, noting that the “only mark is a fine scratch at ST in STATES”.
From the Tom Reynolds Collection, Goldberg Auctions’ pre-sale estimate had this coin valued at $4,000 and up. One wonders whether this estimate was a typographical goof that got past the editor as Walter Husak’s PCGS AU55 brought three times that in 2008 and Noyes knocked that piece down to an XF40!
- Goldberg’s Pre-Sale Estimated Value: $4,000+
- Goldberg’s Pedigree: Ex George Rogers-Chris Young 7/2006-Tom Reynolds Collection
Lot 199: 1849 N-25 R7, PCGS MS63 Brown
Price realized: $41,125
So much for a down market.
In a week where Heritage Auctions stacked the deck to the tune of $105 million in coin sales at the rare coin market’s two early season bellwether shows, it was the Dallas, Texas-based firm’s offering of the coins of the Adam Mervis Collection of early American coppers that stand as one of the year’s true highlights. Mervis assembled an impressive 900-coin-deep collection by working in close consultation with copper dealer Greg Hannigan.
Over the course of five years, the two worked to assemble a collection of great depth and breadth. It was a collaborate effort that led to the building of what CoinWeek’s Greg Reynolds wrote in 2014 was “one of the most complete collections of large cents that has ever been assembled.”
When describing that collection, it’s hard to know where to start. Mervis had the million-dollar 1795 Liberty cap, Reeded Edge cent. He also had not one but two 1793 Flowing Hair, Strawberry cents. Mervis had accumulated more than 300 non-collectible Sheldon varieties. Suffice it to say, the Mervis Catalog remains essential reading and is a recommended secondary market purchase.
For those that care only about headline stories in the numismatic market, Heritage’s Lot 2329 (the Present Goldberg’s Lot 199) likely would have escaped attention. The coin brought a respectable $28,200, but was by no means a lead story in anyone’s numismatic news ticker. Such is the fate of late date coppers, sorry to say.
But this is an intriguing and important piece. Newcomb’s N-25 die marriage has been controversial from the start; it was de-listed by Jules Reiver and revived only after more careful study. This specific example was the discovery piece and claims a pedigree of Newcomb, Naftzger, Mervis, and Iskra. No one will ever suggest that the N-25 dies are of the finest technical quality for the type or date, but the present example is the consensus finest known of the variety, and a hint of friction on the coin’s highest points may partially explain a divergence in grading opinion on the piece. Noyes says AU55, while Grellman calls it an AU58+. PCGS, operating outside of the structure of EAC grading, proffers the grade MS63 Brown.
Hammer price was 64.5% over pre-sale estimate.
- Goldberg’s Pre-Sale Estimate: $25,000+
- Goldberg’s Pedigree: Ex Howard R. Newcomb-Floyd T. Starr, Stack’s 6/13/1984:625-R. E. Naftzger, Jr., McCawley & Grellman Auctions/Goldbergs 9/7/2009:958 (via Greg Hannigan)-Adam Mervis, Heritage 1/10/2014:2329-Chris McCawley-J. R. Grellman 11/2014-Fred Iskra Collection (includes the Mervis lot ticket)
Lot 470: 1798 S-179 R2 Small 8, Style II Hair, PCGS MS64 Brown
Price Realized: $25,850
A specialty area of noted large cent collector Tom Reynolds, the large cent dated 1798 offers early date copper enthusiasts challenge and variety. With more than 40 die marriages, the issue offers a number of intriguing naked-eye visible Sheldon numbers to seek out and obtain.
The present piece, an uncirculated Sheldon S-179, rates #5 on the Noyes census, grading MS60 by his standard. That grading opinion is shared by Goldberg’s auction cataloger. PCGS, which does not adhere to EAC standards, has rendered the grade MS64 Brown. Neither standard is absolutely right or wrong, they’re simply different (CoinWeek recommends the Grading Guide for Early American Copper Coins (2014) for collectors who might want to learn more about the EAC’s standards. PCGS’ informative coin grading video series can be seen here).
Adding to the coin’s appeal is a pedigree that traces ownership back to the collection of attorney John G. Mills, a prominent 19th-century collector whose holdings were offered by the Chapman Brothers in April 1904. Since that time, the coin has passed through the hands of George Earle, Jr., Louis Eliasberg, Sr., and the aforementioned Tom Reynolds.
- Goldberg’s Pre-sale estimate: $15,000+
- Golberg’s Pedigree: Ex John G. Mills, S. H. & H. Chapman 4/1904:1257-George H. Earle, Jr., Henry Chapman 6/1912:3410-John H. Clapp 2/6/1942-Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr., Bowers & Merena 5/1996:508-Tom Reynolds Collection (includes the Eliasberg lot ticket)
Lot 45: 1843 N-17 R5 Mature Head, Large Letters PCGS MS64 Red & Brown, CAC Approved
Price Realized: $19,094
So much for a down market, redux.
The last time this rare N-17 die marriage 1843 cent was offered at auction was in 2014, when the coin realized $9,987.50. Heritage Auctions had the honors and described the ex: Naftzger Braided Hair cent in pleasing detail. Much of the particulars of that write up carried over to the Goldberg’s lot description, with a slight improvement in the color fidelity of the image. To our eye, however, the PCGS TrueView offers a significant upgrade to both images (hat tip to Phil Arnold).
Heritage gave the coin an EAC grade of MS65, a point higher than Goldberg’s more conservative 64. Both firms’ taste and eye for copper coins is exceptional.
So, too, is this example, which would please any collector of late-date copper.
PCGS assigns the coin its MS64RB grade.
Since its 2014 sale, the coin has been to CAC and earned John Albanese’s green sticker, representing that the coin is strong for the grade.
In terms of RB, the coin is more “R” than “B” and virtually every expert whose experience and counsel should matter to the collector has endorsed this coin. Its $19,094 hammer price is indicative of a healthy market in quality, scarce material.
- Goldberg’s Pre-Sale Estimate: $15,000+
- Goldberg’s Pedigree: Ex Glen Wallace-Ace Reiswig 5/1974-Robert E. Vail (via J. R. Grellman 4/1991)-R. E. Naftzger, Jr., McCawley & Grellman Auctions/Goldbergs 9/7/2009:670-(via Greg Hannigan) Adam Mervis, Heritage 1/10/2014:2254-Chris McCawley-J. R. Grellman 6/2014-Fred Iskra Collection (Mervis lot ticket included).