By CoinWeek Staff Reports …..
Hits and Misses from the Morelan Collection
On Thursday, October 8, 2020, Legend Rare Coin Auctions held Regency Auction 41 in conjunction with the PCGS Members Only Show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. The sale will most be known for the first 30 lots, devoted to the United States Early Type and the United States Early Silver Dollar Collections of Legend Numismatics partner Bruce Morelan. The Silver Dollar Collection includes an example of every date and type of dollar struck from 1794 to 1803, plus one of the best-preserved Class I 1804 dollars, the Dexter Specimen.
What makes the Morelan collection stand out is the fact that, over the years, Morelan has established a reputation as being a collector par excellence of connoisseur-quality coins. That quality was evident throughout the catalog as each coin was either the finest known or on a shortlist of competitors for that moniker.
The only analog to the Morelan offerings that we’ve seen in recent years was the Stack’s Bowers sale of the D. Brent Pogue Family Collection. And while the Pogues assembled arguably the finest collection of early United States coins by date, Morelan competed with them for material, edging the Pogues out on a number of coins and then adding a number of Pogue coins to his own collection when they came to market.
Among the 30 Morelan Collection offerings were four million-dollar coins. The most publicized of them was the 1794 Flowing Hair Dollar graded PCGS SP66 CAC that Morelan purchased in January 2013 for a record sum of $10,016,875, which surpassed the previous record for the only legal-to-own 1933 double eagle by $2.4 million. The Dexter-Morelan 1804 dollar–one of two in the Pogue Collection but the only one to sell–realized $3,290,000 when it was offered in March 2017. Morelan purchased the coin for an undisclosed amount immediately after the sale through Legend’s Laura Sperber, acting as his agent. The other million-dollar coins offered were a 1796 Small Date, Small Letters dollar graded PCGS MS65 CAC, which Legend had given a presale estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,200,000, and a 1795 13 Leaves $10 gold coin graded PCGS MS64+ CAC, which carried a presale estimate of $800,000 to $1,000,000.
As the auction unfolded, the Morelan coins consistently missed their presale targets, resulting in a disappointing early showing.
Of the four million-dollar coins, only one sold: the 1796 Small Date, Small Letters dollar, purchased for a bargain price of $705,000 with the 17.5% buyer’s premium added to the final hammer. This coin sold to a prominent East Coast dealer. Three other coins, the 1795 2 Leaves dollar in PCGS MS64+ CAC, 1801 in PCGS MS65 CAC, and 1802 Narrow Date in PCGS MS65 CAC, were purchased by John Brush of David Lawrence Rare Coins, acting as an agent of collector Del Loy Hansen. Of these three coins, the final price realized of two fell within the estimate range, leaving only the third coin, the 1801, selling for any kind of discount.
John Brush told CoinWeek that his team competed for a number of coins and that he felt that the prices realized overall were representative of where the market is for this material at the moment. This was a sentiment shared by the purchaser of the 1796 Small Date, Small Letters dollar as well.
While it is easy to look at the hammer prices and fashion a narrative that the sale missed its mark, it is important to consider the timing of the sale–right before a contentious election in the midst of national economic uncertainty–and the highly illiquid nature of the upper echelon of the rare coin market at any given time. When Morelan fashioned this collection, he was competing fiercely against collectors with seemingly unlimited budgets. With an unprecedented number of six- and seven-figure coins on the market at the moment, perhaps there will be a better opportunity to sell Morelan’s three remaining million-dollar coins.
In total, the Morelan section brought nearly $5.8 million dollars, a total that was within 10% of the low estimate for the coins that sold.
Signs of Market Strength Abound
As the auction continued, a second narrative emerged.
The middle-upper tier of the rare coin market has been battered for much of the past 10 years, but within the past eight-to-12 months, we’ve seen a surprising uptick in auction results and collector enthusiasm for coins in the $7,500 to $50,000 range. Dealers Scott Travers, John Brush, John Albanese, Russel Augustin, and David McCarthy all confirmed to CoinWeek that this segment of the market is showing real strength at the moment.
Of the 103 lots offered in the general portion of the catalog with presale estimates over $10,000, 71% surpassed the high estimate. By this measurement, Regency 41 continued this trend and must be viewed as a successful sale as the remaining coins touched upon a wide scope of the certified numismatic market and demonstrated that collector enthusiasm for premium coins remains strong.
Among the strongest prices of the night was the $27,025 realized for a PQ gem 1854 With Arrows quarter (PCGS MS66 CAC), the $30,550 that a monster-toned 1896 Morgan dollar (PCGS MS68 CAC) from the Roadrunner Collection brought, and the $28,200 paid for a virtually flawless 1879-S Morgan dollar (PCGS MS68+ CAC).
A sample of other strong performers in the $10,000 and up category:
- 1892 Barber quarter (PCGS MS68 CAC) $31,725
- 1846-O Medium Date half dollar (PCGS MS65+ CAC) $27,025
- 1946-D Walking Liberty half dollar (PCGS MS67+ CAC) $15,862.50
- 1875-S Trade dollar (PCGS MS66 CAC) $22,325
- 1889-CC Morgan dollar (PCGS MS62) $28,200
- 1884 Complete Proof Set (PCGS Various, CAC) $25,850
- 1834 Classic Head, Plain 4 half eagle (PCGS MS64+ CAC) $37,600
With Regency 41 over, it is time to turn our attention to the Stack’s Bowers November 2020 Auctions. Featured at the sale will be the Larry Ness Collection of Indian Peace Medals, sections of the collection of former Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller, and other important properties.
The Stack’s Bowers November 2020 auction kicks off on November 11 and runs through November 17. Visit www.stacksbowers.com to preview the sale and place your bids.