By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek …..
The Stack’s Bowers November 2017 Baltimore Auction, like all other Stack’s Bowers sales at the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Expo, are a great source of fresh coins for collectors looking for rarities, type material and numismatic items a little off of the beaten path.
When the first session kicks off on the evening of November 8, expect to see a loaded lineup of certified U.S. coins, tokens, patterns, medals, and paper money – including perennial favorites like the $4 Stella and some coins that only come to market once in a generation.
We have broken down our preview of the sale into two categories–Modern and Classic US Coins–and so we present these Lots You Need to Know in two installments. For part one covering some highly unusual and or conditionally rare modern lots, click here.
A rundown of all the sessions and handy links to Stack’s Bowers’ online auction platform are featured at the bottom of this article.
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For their Rarities Night showcase sessions, Stack’s Bowers assembles the most important and valuable coins from a major auction into one special event. The fall 2017 Baltimore Auction is no exception, of course, with selections from the Cardinal Collection (Stack’s Bowers sold the record-holding Cardinal 1794 dollar, the finest-known of its type, for over $10 million in January 2013), the Alexander Collection, the Lux Family Collection, the Murray Hill Collection, and the Catherine E. Bullowa Estate Collection, among others.
From the Cardinal Collection comes several early coppers – of which the opening lot of the night is one of the finest.
“Post-Colonial” issues are medals, tokens and “coins” struck and circulated after the end of the Colonial period of U.S. history (considered to be either the beginning of the Revolutionary War or the signing of the Declaration of Independence) and before the United States Mint in Philadelphia began operations in 1792. Intriguingly, many were manufactured in England.
One subset of post-colonial issues consists of coppers featuring a portrait of George Washington. The aptly named “Washington Portrait Pieces” are dated from the 1780s and ’90s but were probably made in the 1820s or even later. A large number of these were made in England for the American market, which perhaps explains why the pieces often feature Washington in classical or military garb – or why they feature Washington at all, since regular issue United States federal coinage did not portray presidents or other historical figures until 1909.
A series of 1792-dated Washington Portrait pieces were struck in multiple metals and multiple varieties, including the “Born Virginia” type, so-named because of the legend on the obverse commemorating the date of his birth (“GEO.WASHINGTON BORN VIRGINIA FEB.11.1732”). The other portrait pieces say “GEO.WASHINGTON PRESIDENT 1792”. This was the year of the second-ever presidential election; Washington was inaugurated for a second term on March 4, 1793.
The current piece is an important example of the type. Stack’s Bowers traces the pedigree back to the collection of Waldo Newcomer (1867-1934). In 2008, this piece was one of many highlights of the rather well-rounded Rich Uhrich Collection [A catalog worth owning and studying, by the way. —CoinWeek]. At that sale, the piece, then graded SP 67, brought great interest and sold for $172,500 USD. The medal has since crossed over to MS66+BN in a PCGS Secure Plus holder, though it still retains its status of finest known.
Current Bid: $32,000
When Sylvester S. Crosby published his landmark reference The Early Coins of America in 1875, only three examples of the “Silver Centre Cent” were known: one was impounded in the cabinet of the United States Mint in Philadelphia, and the other two were in the cabinets of Massachusetts collectors William Sumner Appleton (who paid $45.67 for the piece) and Lorin G. Parmelee.
Now, with 14 pieces known, the pattern coin’s import to collectors of early federal issues has only grown. The Coinage Act of 1792 was signed into law in April of that year, establishing a Mint in Philadelphia. Numerous patterns were made leading up to the start of official coinage in 1793, and the pieces that survive provide important clues to the United States’ first attempts at a national circulating coinage.
The 1792 cent shows a more upright variant of the frightful Liberty head that appeared on the 1793 “Chain Cent”. The coin’s obverse inscription LIBERTY PARENT OF SCIENCE & INDUST[RY] was abandoned in favor of the familiar and much simpler LIBERTY. The reverse features a vegetal wreath wrapping around the denomination of ONE CENT, with the coin’s fractional relationship to a dollar detailed in the exergue; UNITED STATES OF AMERICA wraps around the wreath. This motif should be instantly recognizable to any one who has seen a large cent. The fraction 1/100 was used until the 1808 redesign and the wreath / one cent motif was used until the introduction of the Lincoln “Wheat” cent in 1909, which replaced the wreath with two stalks of wheat and UNITED STATES of AMERICA was placed below ONE CENT.
Because of this issue’s rarity and importance, expect this piece to bring a significant hammer price, probably in excess of $1 million.
In April 19, 2012, Heritage sold this exact piece for $1,150,000 at the Central States Numismatic Society Convention in Schaumburg, Illinois. CoinWeek was on hand to film the sale.
Current Bid: $550,000 USD
Quarter dollar production didn’t return to pre-Civil War levels until 1875. And while the 1868, with its mintage of 29,400, would raise eyebrows if it were a 20th-century coin (consider the 1916-D dime, with its mintage of 264,000), among Seated quarters of the period its low mintage is buttressed by a sufficient number of surviving examples in circulated grades up to Mint State to satisfy current demand.
Of course, this is the way one would analyze the market for a milquetoast specimen. The present coin by any reasonable metric qualifies as a masterpiece for the issue, quite possibly the finest example existent.
This is the third time that this particular coin has come to market this decade. Collector Eugene Gardner, who spent more than 20 years in the dogged pursuit of the finest U.S. silver coins from the 19th and early 20th centuries purchased the coin at a 2010 Heritage Auction at the January FUN show. He paid $69,000 for it.
In 2014, as part of the $53 million sale of the Gardner Collection, this piece brought $61,687.50, a loss of a little more than 10%.
For comparison’s sake, a CAC-certified example with dark rim toning in MS66 brought $52,876 at a 2015 Heritage Auction, while a year later a non-CAC example, sold twice in 2016: the first time for $18,800 and the second time for $14,687.50. It is presently offered on eBay for $25,800.
So what does the market think about the Gardner coin, now in an MS66+ CAC holder? With a current bid of $41,000, it is clear that the Gardner pedigree and Gardner’s opinion that this is the best of the issue matters to the potential buyers as much, if not more, than the grade, which has earned a PLUS since we last saw it offered. Comparing the three coins based on the available high-resolution images online, and having seen the Gardner coin personally, we can’t say we disagree. Nor would the Rational Collector.
Current Bid: $41,000 USD
“Choice Uncirculated 1804 Half Eagle; Small 8 Variety”
You know what you never hear anybody say? I wish all this early American gold wasn’t always flooding the market.
Even as rare coin prices took a double-digit beating during the most recent market “correction”, early gold held its own or made gains.
After the first Pogue session, CoinWeek got Scott Travers to give his usual pithy soundbite, which went something along the lines of “All that glitters is gold…”
But he had a point. On a night where a number of important rarities crossed the (multi-)million dollar threshold, the Pogue early gold quarter eagles brought strong prices. The present piece (in NGC MS64) ties the grade that the Pogue specimen brought. The Pogue coin hammered at $55,812.50 at the Pogue II sale (against a $30,000 to $40,000 pre-sale estimate, mind you). David Akers helped the Pogue’s select their coin, and his opinion on early gold is one you can pretty much take to the bank and that coin certainly had “the look” that one would want for an issue of the type.
Stack’s Bowers provides no provenance information on this piece and a search through the Stack’s Bowers, Heritage and Goldberg’s catalogs revealed nothing. We spent about half an hour trying to sort through the Newman auction archives, but that proved tedious and unfruitful as well.
The issue’s 30,475 mintage is typical for the type, but rare in absolute standards. Survivors in Mint State typically fall in the lower tier of Mint State grades. Neither NGC or PCGS has certified any examples in Mint State 65; however, NGC counts one in MS64+ among those in its census. The current bid is clearly a placeholder, as we expect the hammer price to advance up to $32,500 to $35,000.
Current Bid: $14,000
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“Brilliant Gem 1807 Quarter; Discovered in London in the Early 1990s”
“The Rare 1822 25/50 C. Quarter in Extraordinary Proof Format; Randall-Garrett-Pogue Specimen; Famous Blundered Reverse Die”
“Finest Known 1794 O-105 Half Dollar”
Lot 10206: 1858-O Liberty Head Gold $20 NGC MS-63
SS Republic shipwreck coin. Finest example known at either service for a challenging but important series.
Lot 10214: 1886 Liberty Head Gold $20 NGC PF-66+*
A whisper away from PF-67 Ultra Cameo. 19th century $20 gold coins do not usually come nicer than this.
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Stack’s Bowers’ Official Sale of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Expo in Baltimore, Maryland
NOVEMBER 8, 2017 • 5 PM EST • BALTIMORE CONVENTION CENTER • ROOM 308
Session 1 – U.S. Coins Part I: Numismatic Americana. The live auction session begins at 5:00PM ET on Wednesday, November 8 in Room 308.
NOVEMBER 9, 2017 • 10 AM EST • BALTIMORE CONVENTION CENTER • ROOM 308
Session 2 – U.S. Coins Part II: Half Cents-Quarters. The live auction session begins at 10:00AM ET on Thursday, November 9 in Room 308.
NOV 9, 2017 • 5 PM EST • BALTIMORE CONVENTION CENTER • ROOM 309
Session 3 – U.S. Currency. The live auction session begins at 5:00PM ET on Thursday, November 9 in Room 309.
NOV 9, 2017 • 5 PM EST • BALTIMORE CONVENTION CENTER • ROOM 308
Session 4 – Rarities Night. The live auction session begins at 5:00PM ET on Thursday, November 9 in Room 308.
NOV 9, 2017 • 6 PM EST • BALTIMORE CONVENTION CENTER • ROOM 308
Session 5 – U.S. Coins Part III: Gold Coinage. The live auction session begins immediately following the conclusion of Rarities Session 4 on Thursday, November 9 in Room 308.
November 2017 Baltimore – Session 6 – U.S. Coins Part IV: Half Dollars-Commemoratives, Miscellaneous – Lots 3001-3772
NOV 10, 2017 • 10 AM EST • BALTIMORE CONVENTION CENTER • ROOM 308
Session 6 – U.S. Coins Part IV: Half Dollars-Commemoratives, Miscellaneous. The live auction session begins at 10:00AM ET on Friday, November 10 in Room 308.
NOV 10, 2017 • 6 PM EST • BALTIMORE CONVENTION CENTER • ROOM 308
Session 7 – Early American Coins. The live auction session begins at 6:00PM ET on Friday, November 10 in Room 308.
NOV 13, 2017 • 9 AM PST • INTERNET ONLY
Session 8 – Internet Only – U.S. Currency. The live auction session begins at 9:00AM PT on Monday, November 13.
NOV 13, 2017 • 9 AM PST • INTERNET ONLY
Session 9 – Internet Only – U.S. Coins – Part 1. The live auction session begins at 9:00AM PT on Monday, November 13.
NOV 14, 2017 • 9 AM PST • INTERNET ONLY
Session 10 – Internet Only – U.S. Coins – Part 2. The live auction session begins at 9:00AM PT on Tuesday, November 14.