IRVINE, Calif. –The finest-graded specimen of America’s “most beautiful coin,” the MCMVII (1907) Proof Ultra High Relief double eagle graded Proof-69 by PCGS, crossed the auction block on the evening of Friday, June 29, 2012, and with the fall of the hammer a price of $2,760,000 had been won at the Stack’s Bowers Galleries Official Auction of the Whitman Coin and Collectibles Expo in Baltimore, Md. Stack’s Bowers Galleries is a subsidiary of Spectrum Group International, Inc. (SPGZ.PK) (“SGI”).
The coin, minted in 1907, has the date expressed in Roman numerals as MCMVII. It is one of about 20 coins with Ultra High Relief or sculptured detail. The story goes back to President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905 when he employed Augustus Saint-Gaudens, America’s most famous sculptor, to redesign the coinage. The artist, working in his studio in Cornish, N.H. (now a National Historic Site), began with the $20 gold double eagle, the largest denomination gold coin.
For the obverse he created a bold image of Miss Liberty in the figure of Victory, striding forward holding a torch and palm branch with the U.S. Capitol in the distance. For the reverse, an eagle in flight was sculpted. In early 1907 about 20 coins were struck at the Philadelphia Mint and given to the president and dignitaries. Later in the year the same design was modified to lower relief and 12,367 were struck.
Today, several of the MCMVII Ultra High Relief coins are in museums including one on display at the Smithsonian, and time and again surveys among numismatists have rated this as America’s most beautiful coin design. Only rarely is one available at auction. The coin auctioned today opened at $2,125,000 and the room enjoyed excited bidding competition. This coin is considered one of the great icons of American numismatics, the example is the finest graded specimen known.
Steve Contursi, president of Rare Coin Wholesalers from Irvine, Calif., purchased the coin via phone participation. He is in 50/50 percent partnership on the coin with Don Kagin, president and owner of Kagin’s Inc. Contursi and Kagin are no strangers to purchasing the finest, rarest and most valuable coins in the world. Seven years ago they partnered on the unique 1787 Brasher Doubloon, America’s first gold coin, which was sold December 2012 for $7.4 million.
“This coin now ranks as No. 7 in the top 10 prices realized at auction,” said Chris Napolitano, president of Stack’s Bowers Galleries. “The all-time record for a coin sold at auction is $7.59 million when we partnered with Sotheby’s to sell the only 1933-dated $20 Saint-Gaudens double eagle ever to be auctioned.”
“We are extremely excited about owning this finest graded specimen of one of America’s most desirable coins,” stated the new owners. “It combines all the elements of rarity, desirability, artistic design and historical importance. President Theodore Roosevelt wanted to emulate the beautiful high relief of the ancient Greek coiners by bringing in the world renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and he achieved just that.”
The next auction for Stack’s Bowers Galleries is currently estimated at $40 million plus as the Official Auctioneer of the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia from August 2 through August 12. Highlights from this event will be exhibited to the public at the Stack’s Bowers gallery in Manhattan and in the Irvine, Calif., corporate headquarters during the last weeks of July. For more information on this and previews of upcoming auctions, please visit www.stacksbowers.com.
About Stack’s Bowers Galleries
Stack’s Bowers Galleries, a division of Fortune 500 Company Spectrum Group International Inc. (SPGZ.PK), was launched in January 2011, combining the extraordinary histories of Stack’s, the oldest rare coin auction and retail company in America, with Bowers and Merena Auctions, one of the world’s pre-eminent auctioneers of rare coins and paper money. The two companies unite to share a combined legacy that spans more than 100 years, and includes the cataloging and sale of many of the most valuable collections to ever cross an auction block – the John. J. Ford, Jr. and Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr., collections, the Harry W. Bass, Jr., Collection, and the Norweb Collection, to name just a few. Topping off this amazing numismatic history is the inclusion of the world record for the highest price ever realized at auction for a rare coin, the legendary 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle that realized an astounding $7.59 million (sold in partnership with Sotheby’s). The company is headquartered in Irvine, California, with offices in New York, New Hampshire and Hong Kong. Stack’s Bowers Galleries is the Official Auctioneer for several important numismatic conventions, including the ANA World’s Fair of Money and ANA/PNG Pre-Show auctions, and the Whitman Coin and Collectibles Expos in Baltimore, three times yearly, and also Philadelphia.