By John Kraljevich – Stack’s Bowers Galleries ……
Our second offering of coins from the D. Brent Pogue Collection is a diverse one, a harmony of chords that are both familiar and exotic, arranged together to play a tune that could only emerge from a cabinet of this exquisite quality. The Capped Bust half dollar series is among the most beloved among all United States coins. John Reich’s design is familiar to all American coin collectors, readily collected and fairly commonplace in circulated grades. The specimens included here share their iconic design, their pleasing heft, and their silvery hue with coins that can be found in thousands of collections, large and small. Coined with the same dies, struck on the same presses, the D. Brent Pogue Capped Bust half dollars, familiar though they may be, are a world apart. Collected with a connoisseur’s taste, each represents the very finest specimen that could be found. In the case of the legendary 1817/4 half dollar, a rarity most collectors would walk a mile to even see, most numismatists could not dream of owning any specimen, let alone one of this quality.
The silver dollars included in the second installment of the Pogue Collection strum the same tune. The story of the 1794 dollar is well known, even though specimens are only found in advanced collections. Numismatists cherish history, and perhaps no coin better embodies American history that the first dollar struck at the United States Mint. From humble beginnings, a mighty dollar-based economy grew. The 1794 dollar, the symbol of those beginnings, is an artifact of global interest. The D. Brent Pogue specimen, however, is shrouded in romance and mystique unlike any other 1794 dollar in existence. David Tripp has advanced the story of the Lord St. Oswald Collection with logic and facts, giving the most romantic story in American numismatics a name and a face. Tripp’s research, never before published, should ensure a place for this catalogue on the shelf of every numismatist.
For decades, the numismatic world has awaited the offering of the gold coins from the D. Brent Pogue Collection. The old tenor quarter eagles, each a rarity in any grade, represent perhaps the finest quality group ever assembled, anchored by the extraordinary Parmelee-Mills-Clapp-Eliasberg 1821 quarter eagle. Magnificent quality Classic Head quarter eagles follow, including one very special example from each of the Southern mints. The early half eagles from 1795 to 1807 represent the heart of the collection, coins of extraordinary quality, encompassing every date in the series and most major varieties. It took 35 years to bring these 22 coins together, a project that would not have been possible but for the fortunate appearance of the Garrett and Eliasberg collections at auction in our lifetime. After building relationships with well-known dealers, other fine half eagles were coaxed from the shadows, puzzle pieces that enabled the formation of a cabinet that future collectors may never be able to surpass. The early eagles appear to be a simple series, struck over the course of nine years. The inclusion of several major varieties ratchets the level of difficulty up an order of magnitude. Few collectors have ever attempted such a feat, regardless of grade. The Pogue Collection challenge was not just to find these coins, but to find them in the absolute best quality. Most numismatists have seen a 1795 eagle, offered at a major convention or depicted in an auction catalogue. Unless you were at the 1980 Garrett sale, you have never seen one that glows like the Pogue specimen. Its level of quality is absolutely foreign to most collectors. So too, as it turns out, is its provenance.
The word quality may appear in this catalogue more than any other noun, so it deserves an explanatory note. Quality does not always find itself in perfect alignment with grade. Today’s grading system is a construct of William Sheldon’s experiments in defining the relationship between quality and price. It is a numerical shorthand way of expressing quality that is not the same as quality itself. Quality encompasses multitudes: surface quality, striking sharpness, level of (or, the case of most D. Brent Pogue coins, absence of) wear, color, originality, aesthetic appeal and more. Some might add provenance, the history of a coin since it was first appreciated as something more than a medium of exchange. The historic provenances attached to many of the D. Brent Pogue coins are stamps of approval from connoisseurs most of us never knew, but whose names are legendary. Collectors like Parmelee, Woodin, Earle, Clapp, Boyd, Garrett, Eliasberg, Norweb, and Pittman were renowned among their contemporaries for their eye for quality. The attitude of selectivity they employed when building their cabinets continues to inform collectors today. In the present, there is no better lesson on quality than taking the opportunity to study the coins of the D. Brent Pogue Collection hands-on at lot viewing.
Coins struck at the first United States Mint were produced under circumstances that made a perfect product an unlikely accident, not an expectation. Coins that approached perfection the day they were minted were unusual. Coins of that era that have remained nearly perfect are a miracle. Yet, the D. Brent Pogue Collection is full of coins of that calibre, to the exclusion of nearly all others. Satisfying oneself with only coins whose level of quality approaches perfection is not the easiest path to building a cabinet. It’s slow-going, requiring patience and the willpower to pass on coins some other collectors would do anything to own. Most numismatists collect because they enjoy buying coins, not because they enjoy resisting that temptation. Bringing powerful resources — financial, interpersonal, and mental — to bear over the course of decades, D. Brent Pogue has been able to gather what will stand as one of the ultimate collections of United States coins ever assembled. The hard part, finding all these wonderful coins and bringing them to one place, has been done for prospective bidders. The tasks of research and description accomplished by myself and the Stacks’ Bowers Galleries team, with impressive levels of assistance from a wide range of numismatists, were done out of a love of these coins and an appreciation of their place in numismatic history. Now that the coins have been brought together, and each has been meticulously described, buying them becomes the easy part.
Originally posted on Stack’s Bowers’ blog.