Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #278
A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds….
Although most of the coins in the Pogue I sale were from the first third or so of the 19th century, 18th century rarities were the leaders in the first of seven planned auctions of the Pogue Family Collection by Stack’s-Bowers “in association with Sotheby’s.” This first sale was conducted on May 19, at Sotheby’s headquarters in New York. The preliminary total is around $25 million
During this Pogue I sale, there were sold Flowing Hair and bust half dimes, Draped Bust dimes, bust quarters of all four types, Flowing Hair and Draped Bust half dollars, plus bust quarter eagles ($2.50 gold coins). Since it’s impractical to cover every coin in a review the day after the auction, the focus here is on selected 18th-century coins. I am now ignoring pre-1800 half dimes as the several of these in this sale require lengthy explanations in order for the prices realized to be understood.
Pre-1800 coins have a special aura, as the U.S. Mint began minting coins in 1793, and the U.S. was a struggling young nation during a crucial period of development. Additionally, for many collectors, coins minted in the 1700s have more emotional impact than those dated in the early 1800s.
For 18th-century and 19th-century silver coins, the auction results were very much mixed. A large number of coins brought strong prices, more went for moderate prices, while others went for weak prices realized. The results did not shed much light on the current states of markets for rarities. Regarding the strength or weakness of auction results for specific coins, there are sometimes logical and/or cultural explanations. It is unusual for the results of any one auction, even an epic one, to provide much evidence regarding directions of market prices for rarities. There is a need to analyze several successive auctions to detect patterns.
“Stack’s-Bowers conducted a respectable auction,” remarks Scott Travers. I agree. The auction was smoothly handled and generally successful.
“All that glittered in this sale was gold,” Travers declares. I disagree. There were many glamorous silver coins that brought very strong prices, and others that were subject to serious and eager bidding even if prices realized were not very strong. Besides, although the bidding was intense for bust quarter eagles, the quality of the coins varied widely and the depth of demand for quarter eagles at levels near the prices realized is not clear.
Although Travers may be right regarding his thesis that markets for early gold coins are currently healthier and more dynamic than markets for early silver coins, I am not aware of convincing evidence that this is so. A small number of people competing for a dozen bust quarter eagles in this sale does not provide much indication of the larger market for pre-1840 U.S. gold coins of all denominations. It will be interesting to attend future Pogue sales, which will contain incredible offerings of pre-1840 gold coins. Undoubtedly, Scott will participate.
Travers, an award-winning author and coin expert active in the general media, also says that “there were silver coins that fell through the cracks, good opportunities for astute buyers.” I agree and a few of the coins that brought weak prices are mentioned herein, though most of the more newsworthy coins tended to bring moderate or strong prices.
“From half dimes to the halves, some things were a little strong, other coins were a little weak, a nice sale overall,” John Albanese remarks. There was tremendous enthusiasm among veteran collectors for coins in this collection. I have not discerned many new entrants. Brian Kendrella, the president of Stack’s-Bowers, suggests that particular Sotheby’s clients are likely to become more of a factor in future Pogue sales where especially famous Great Rarities are offered, like 1804 silver dollars.
As for the silver coins in this sale, I found many of them to be fascinating and/or amazingly original. Capped Bust quarters of the 1820s, especially those designated as Proofs, are among the most interesting and appealing of all U.S. coin series. I had a wonderful opportunity to research coins that I will refer to in articles and other written works in future years. The many Eliasberg, Norweb, James A. Stack, or Garrett collection silver coins in the Pogue Collection provide lessons in natural toning. When analyzing auction results, it is not always logical to compare relatively original coins with important pedigrees to the values of processed, anonymous coins that may have the exact same certifications.
To understand market values and auction results for rarities, there are more factors to take into consideration than price guides, past auction results and certified grades. Individual coins must be interpreted. A coin in a MS-66 holder may justifiably realize a MS-65 price or vice versa. Premiums for originality, attractive natural toning, dynamic luster and past pedigrees are pertinent as well.
There is no doubt, however, about the strength of the prices for the bust quarter eagles. Even the quarter eagles that had problems brought very strong prices. Serious bidders were extremely eager to acquire these.
Albanese, too, emphasizes that “the quarter eagles brought exceptionally strong prices. The 1798 quarter eagle was one of my favorite coins in this sale. I did not expect it to bring nearly as much as it did, $763,750. It is the prettiest bust quarter eagle that I have ever seen,” John continues. Albanese is the president and founder of CAC.
Gem 1798 $2½ Gold Coin
This PCGS graded MS-65 1798 is one of very few, gem quality, bust quarter eagles in existence. It is the finest that I have ever seen of any ‘with stars’ on obverse. I remember when Jay Parrino owned it during the 1990s. I was then stunned by it.
The Pogue 1798 has the technical characteristics of a 64 grade coin and the eye appeal of a 66 grade coin. After also considering that it scores highly in the category of originality, a 65 grade overall becomes compelling. If just a few hairlines magically disappeared, this coin would grade 66.
It is one of the coolest early gold coins that survive. Die finishing lines resulted in wonderful arrays on the surfaces that truly dazzle. Natural blue toning on the design elements contrast well with orange areas.
Although the PCGS price guide value before the sale was “$350,000“ and one major wholesaler was willing to pay around $400,000 for his inventory, these numbers are just moderate levels for this coin, in my view. Travers valued it at a much higher level. Scott was willing to pay more than $625,000 to acquire this 1798 for one of his clients. There is a good chance that the buyer was a collector assembling a type set, as $763,750 is a retail level amount and those who collect pre-1820 types‘by date’ or variety do not typically seek gem quality coins.
1808 $2½ Gold Coin Brings $2,350,000
Although the Pogue Collection 1808 quarter eagle is not an 18th-century coin, the result is especially newsworthy and thus is discussed here. This is widely accepted as the finest known of a one-year only design type. The Pogue 1808 is PCGS graded MS-65.
Scott Travers, Richard Burdick and I agree that the catalogue estimate for the 1808 quarter eagle was significantly low. Travers was “predicting” more than $2 million. I would have regarded $1.9 million as a moderate price that is almost strong. The $2.35 million result is clearly strong.
Richard was figuring that the price might be even higher than $2.35 million. “Where could you find another great coin of this type,” Richard asks to make a point. The second finest that Richard and I have ever seen is the Jung 1808. That coin is PCGS graded MS-63 and CAC approved, and was auctioned by Stack’s for $517,500 in November 2008. On July 23, 2004, ANR sold the Jung 1808 for $322,000, as part of the epic type set of Oliver Jung. Some information regarding Oliver Jung’s type set was recently provided in the second of this series on the Pogue Family Collection. (Clickable links are in blue.)
The Pogue 1808 quarter eagle had not been auctioned since 1989. In addition to being the highest certified, it is a very bright, dynamic coin. This 1808 commands attention.
“There was a good old fashioned bidding war, and this is a tremendous coin that deserved that kind of competition,” Richard Burdick declares. “The Pogue and Oliver Jung coins are the only two 1808 quarter eagles that I have ever seen that are truly uncirculated and have nice surfaces. The others that got ‘mint state’ grades have inferior surface quality,” Burdick maintains. He has been examining these for decades and has been attending major auctions since 1969. “The Pogue 1808 is worth the kind of money it brought, or more,” Richard adds.
1796-97 Half Dollars
Among silver coins, the Pogue Collection will certainly be well remembered for 1796 and 1797 half dollars. Draped Bust, Small Eagle halves were minted for just these two years and these constitute the rarest design type of U.S. silver coins. As I explained in a detailed discussion in part 1, the Pogue Collection contained the finest known of the entire design type, the Rogers-Foxfire-Pogue 1797, and probably third finest known of the whole type, the Rogers-Whitney-Pogue 1796.
These were both earlier in the collection of Lelan Rogers and were both auctioned by Stack’s (NY) in November 1995. The 1797 then realized $517,000 and the Rogers 1796 sold for $330,000, so the Rogers 1797 half then brought 56.57% more than the Rogers 1796. It is fascinating that they both became members of the Pogue Collection by 2004.
In 1995, those involved in the bidding for the two Rogers halves tended to think that the difference in prices realized would be even larger. It is puzzling that both coins have since received the same PCGS grade, “MS-66.” I do not know any expert, outside of PCGS, who maintains that these two halves should each have received the same certified grade.
On May 19, 2015, the Rogers-Foxfire-Pogue 1797 brought $1,527,500, 85.7% more than the Rogers-Whitney-Pogue 1796, which sold for $822,500. I honestly believe that the auction results provide circumstantial evidence that my analysis of 1796-97 halves is very much accurate and the identical PCGS grades are misleading.
Almost all prospective bidders for such Draped Bust, Small Eagle halves regard them as type coins and would be likely to treat 1796 and 1797 halves equally. The 1797 brought 85.7% more because it is of much higher quality than this 1796, which is an excellent coin.
I witnessed two dealers ‘in the room’ seriously bidding on this 1796, including a New York-area wholesaler. I tend to regard the $822,500 result as just around the border between the wholesale and retail ranges for a ‘low end’ MS-65 grade coin in a holder that indicates “MS-66.”
For the 1797, I figured that $1.4 million would be a weak price, $1.6 million would be moderate, and $1.8 million would be strong. John Albanese’s evaluation is somewhat consistent with my own. Richard’s numbers are a little higher than mine. We all conclude that the $1,527,500 result is not very strong. The new owner should be thrilled. The Rogers-Foxfire-Pogue 1797 is one of the greatest and most important of all U.S. coins.
To the best of my recollection, the previous auction record for a half dollar was the $1,380,000 price realized when the Norweb 1797, the second finest known, was sold by Stack’s in a pre-ANA sale in July 2008, around the time that markets for rarities were peaking. While I very much like the Norweb coin, which is currently PCGS graded MS-65+, the Rogers-Pogue 1797 is much more spectacular.
The Rogers-Whitney-Pogue 1796 has 16 stars on the obverse (front) design. There were also two 1796 halves of the other major variety, with 15 stars, in this collection. The 1796 called “SP-63” has been modified since it left the U.S. Mint and the certification is controversial.
If it really merited a SP-63 certification, in the minds of experts who I know, would it have sold for more than $1,000,000 in this auction? Special Strikings tend to be worth multiples of the value of corresponding business strikes and a true ‘63’’ grade usually refers to a choice coin.
The $587,500 result was a weak price for ‘the holder,’ though a very strong price for the coin. I was shocked when this same coin sold for $460,000 on May 4, 1999.
The colorful PCGS graded MS-62 1796 half was previously NGC graded MS-63. It realized $373,750 on February 14, 2008 in a Long Beach sale. It is unlikely that it would receive CAC approval at the MS-63 or even MS-62 level, if submitted to CAC. Even so, this coin is attractive and neat. The dominant russet and green tones are vibrant and the blue patches are especially appealing. In terms of surface quality, this is a choice coin; friction on the highpoints keeps it from being much more valuable. The $258,500 result on May 19, 2015, is moderate and perhaps a good deal, from a logical perspective.
The first U.S. quarters are dated 1796 and these are of a one-year type, Draped Bust obverse, Small Eagle reverse. Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle quarters were minted from 1804 to 1807.
The LA-Pogue 1796 quarter is PCGS graded MS-66 and CAC approved. “It is beautiful,” John Albanese remarks. It was NGC graded MS-66 soon after it was sold by Stack’s in October 1990 as part of the L.A. type set. Eric Streiner was then the successful bidder.
It may very well be the third-finest-known 1796 quarter, though I am not asserting that it is so. It is among the top four of any I have ever seen or learned about from clear sources.
Certainly, the Pogue 1796 is of higher quality than the Eliasberg 1796 quarter that is unfortunately certified as ‘SP-66.’ The Eliasberg piece brought $881,250 in August 2014. If the SP-66 certification was widely accepted, it would have probably sold for more than $1.35 million. If it was recognized as a MS-65-minus grade coin, it would have sold for around $400,000. The auction result in August 2014 was about midway between two such hypothetical alternatives.
The PCGS graded MS-67, Norman-Knoxville 1796 is the finest known and the NGC graded MS-67+ Newman coin is the second finest. In November 2013, the Newman 1796 brought $1,527,500. On Tuesday night, the Pogue 1796 realized this exact same price!
Though both are exquisite coins, the Newman 1796 is a full grade increment above the LA-Pogue 1796, in my view. Richard Burdick disagrees and suggests that there is “not that much of a difference in quality between the two. The Pogue 1796 is very close to the quality of the Newman coin, ” Burdick asserts. Richard did not find the $1,527,500 result to be extremely strong or surprising.
Scott Travers finds that the Pogue “1796 quarter is accurately graded, is a very nice coin, and brought a strong price.” I agree and I was surprised by the strength of the price. A $1 million result would have been strong.
When the Newman 1796 was auctioned in November 2013, the previous auction record for a 1796 quarter was $322,000 and the auction record for any quarter was $519,000. The $1,527,500 result for the Newman coin was strong; the same result for the Pogue 1796 quarter was extremely strong.
This was an astonishing offering of early dimes. While Ed Price collected all die varieties of bust dimes, the Pogue Family focused on major varieties, primarily those listed in standard price guides, rather than representatives of all die pairings. Heritage auctioned Price’s set of dimes on July 31, 2008, when overall markets for rare coins reached the highest level of the last quarter-century.
A few of Price’s dimes were acquired by the Pogues on July 31, 2008. The Pogue Collection, however, contained a superior 1796, in my view, and, indisputably, the finest known 1797 dime of any variety.
The Foxfire-Pogue 1796 is PCGS graded as MS-66+ and is CAC approved. Although experts at CAC ignore the plus aspect of ‘plus grades’ assigned by PCGS or NGC, I am asserting that most pertinent experts would place the grade of this coin in the high end of the 66 range, at least. It is a fabulous coin that is markedly superior to others that have been graded MS-66 and to at least one that has been certified as grading “MS-67.”
The $235,000 result was weak to moderate. The PCGS price guide value, before the auction,” $300,000,” was a little too high. A price of $265,000 would have been strong.
The Parmelee-Knoxville 1797 was PCGS graded MS-66 shortly after it was auctioned by Stack’s (NY) in January 1990, as part of the James A. Stack collection of dimes, one of the three all-time greatest collections of classic U.S. dimes. Before I saw the current Pogue I catalogue, I was unaware that this 1797 had been in the Parmelee collection, which was auctioned in 1890, one hundred years before the sale of the JAS dimes.
A Parmelee pedigree is important. Pedigrees from epics sales of the past relate to the history and cultural significance of coins in the present. John Kraljevich has discovered a significant number of previously unrecognized pedigrees for coins in the Pogue Collection. JK solved some mysteries and added markedly to the knowledge base regarding rarities.
The Parmelee-Knoxville 1797 was recently approved by CAC. In my view, its grade is in or very near the high end of the 66 range. Draped Bust, Small Eagle dimes, like the corresponding half dollars, were minted for just two years.
As 1797 dimes, of all varieties, are rare in all grades, especially in ‘Mint State’ grades, this is one of the most important U.S. dimes. The $199,750 result was weak. A 1796 dime, which is much less scarce, of the same quality would probably have a similar or higher market value. This was one of the best values in the Pogue I sale.
The just mentioned Parmelee-Knoxville-Pogue 1797 has sixteen stars in the obverse design. The Cleanay-Lovejoy-Price-Pogue 1797, with 13 stars, is PCGS graded MS-64. When it was auctioned as part of the Price Collection, it was inexplicably NGC graded MS-65, and it sold for $402,500. Over the years, I have examined this coin on multiple occasions and its appearance has changed.
The present $176,250 result should not be directly compared to the previous $402,500 result for the exact same coin, as the culture of coin collecting has evolved in the interim. More buyers are seeking expert opinions about coins that interest them. Buyers of rarities are relying to a much lesser extent on grading services.
Moreover, there is often maniacal buying around a time that coin markets peak, and, arguably, markets for rarities peaked on July 31, 2008, the same night that Ed Price’s set of dimes was auctioned. Given the realities of coin markets since 2010, and the true quality of this specific coin, this $176,250 result is strong.
As for dimes of the year 1798, there are four major varieties. These are: 1798/7 overdate with sixteen stars on the reverse (auction lot #1037), 1798/7 with 13 stars on the reverse (#1038), 1798 normal numerals with relatively small numeral 8 (#1039), and 1798 with “large 8” (#1040).
The Pogue 1798/7-‘Sixteen Stars’ is PCGS graded MS-65. Before the auction, I was figuring that $49,000 would be moderate and $59,000 would be strong. I researched past auction records and I reflected carefully about the quality of this specific coin. In another setting, I could explain my reasoning at length. The $52,875 result is fair enough. There exist a few that are of equal or higher quality.
The Newman 1798/7-Sixteen is NGC graded MS-65 and sold for $88,125 in November 2013. That result is commensurate with the reality that most relevant experts, in my estimation, would agree that the Newman coin is of higher quality than the Pogue coin.
The Boyd-Price-Pogue 1798/7-Thirteen has been PCGS graded MS-63 and CAC approved since before July 2008. I am not here expressing an opinion as to this coin’s grade. The $103,500 result was then considered very strong, even as market levels overall were peaking. Ed Price determined that this is the finest known of the 1798/7-Thirteen Star reverse variety, which is particularly rare. The $199,750 auction price on May 19, 2015, is extremely strong.
The Eliasberg-Price-Pogue 1798-‘Small 8’ dime is famous, too. This coin was NGC graded as MS-66 when it was sold in July 2008 for $253,000. It is now PCGS graded as MS-65 and was never approved by CAC. Though not my favorite coin in this sale, I could not find a reason to not grade it as MS-65. The $141,000 result was weak.
The Price-Pogue 1798- ‘Large 8’ dime is the least scarce of the major varieties of the year 1798. It is curious that this collection did not contain a higher grade representative. The grade of this coin is solidly in the MS-64 range. CAC approval could not have been surprising. It brought $37,375 on July 31, 2008. The realization of $82,250 during Tuesday night was very strong and a little puzzling.
1796 ‘No Stars’ $2½ Gold
Quarter Eagles ($2½ gold coins) were first minted in 1796. The type with no stars on the obverse was minted for just part of the year before being replaced by the type with stars on the obverse. The 1796 ‘No Stars’ is thus a one-year type coin that is needed for a type set of gold coins or just of quarter eagles.
The Whitney-Pogue 1796 ‘No Stars’ is extremely likely to be one of the five finest of the design type, possibly one of the three finest. This is a strictly uncirculated coin, which is important as many PCGS or NGC graded MS-62 coins have noticeable friction on the highpoints. The pricks and hairlines are not terrible.
Furthermore, the mint-caused imperfections are not severe and are not particularly bothersome. The orange color from a light dipping is more appealing than the colors of the vast majority of pre-1800 quarter eagles. Overall, this is an attractive coin that is mostly original and soothing. I remember being drawn to it when it was last auctioned in 1999.
In July 2008, Stack’s auctioned the PCGS graded MS-62, Swan-Jung coin for $488,750. It has since been upgraded to “62+.” As I pointed out in the context of Ed Price’s dimes, markets for rarities were peaking at the end of July 2008.
A moderate result for the Whitney-Pogue coin would have been $565,000, and Travers reveals that he was prepared to pay around this amount on behalf of a client. This coin sold for $822,500, one of the strongest prices in this auction. Indeed, $620,000 would have been a strong price.
There were dozens of wonderful and/or extremely important coins in the Pogue I sale. At least some 19th-century quarters will be discussed in the near future. Pogue Collection, Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Halves are especially noteworthy as well, and I hope to have a chance to write about them in detail.
© 2015 Greg Reynolds