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British, Russian & Dutch Coins Lead Stack’s Bowers Auction in NY

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, markets, and coin collecting #367

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds …..
During the evenings of January 13 and 14, Stack’s-Bowers Galleries (SBG) conducted one of the official auctions of the New York International Numismatic Convention (NYINC) at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan. A tremendous variety of ancient, medieval, vintage and modern coins were included, far too many to cover in one discussion. Many of the most newsworthy or exciting coins in this auction were from Britain, Russia and The Netherlands.

Russian Coins

The decline of the Russian Ruble and the recent increase in the value of the U.S. dollar notwithstanding, results in this auction suggest that Russian rarities continue to maintain their astronomical values in U.S. dollars, multiples of the values of the same coins just a dozen years ago. (Although ruble is sometimes spelled ‘rouble’ by coin enthusiasts in Europe, most people in the U.S. are accustomed to the spelling without an ‘o.’)

A PCGS-graded “AU-55” Peter I ducat from 1716 brought $117,500 USD. As explained in a past discussion, the ducat was a standard monetary unit in much of Europe for centuries. A ducat was typically specified to weigh 3.5 grams and to be more than 98% gold in content.

A PCGS-graded “AU-58” 1753 ducat featured Empress Elizabeth, who ruled from 1741 to 1762. Elizabeth’s parents were Peter I and Peter’s second wife who later became Empress Catherine I.

This Empress Elizabeth ducat really has just slight friction on the high points. The disproportionate amount of friction in the fields rather than on the high points might possibly explain an AU-58 grade assignment rather than a MS-61 or MS-62 grade. This is an attraction coin, and vintage rarities with a little friction are often PCGS- or NGC-certified as MS-62. With wear in the fields, the AU-58 assignment is likely to be acceptable to most graders here in the United States. In Europe, this coin would be graded very differently.

As with the just mentioned Peter I ducat, the $64,625 result for this Empress Elizabeth ducat is consistent with a theory that markets for Russian rarities, even in U.S. dollars, are continuing to march vigorously. Much research would be needed, though, to substantiate such a theory. It is clear that Russian pieces fared very well in this auction.

Though not as expensive as the just-mentioned Russian rarities, a 1779 10 ruble piece from the era of Empress Catherine II is one of the highlights of this sale. She was also known as ‘Catherine the Great’!

Although connoisseurs of U.S. gold coins may find plenty of imperfections on this coin, this piece is actually one of the better survivors of a rare and popular issue. This Empress Catherine II 10 ruble coin is PCGS-graded AU-55 and is of higher quality than the PCGS-graded AU-55 1792 five ruble piece in the following lot, which did not sell.

Although this 1779 10 ruble piece has its share of minuscule contact marks and faint crisscrossing hairlines from long ago cleanings, it remains mostly original and has very appealing color. Moreover, it was relatively well struck. It is likable overall. The $21,150 result is substantial, though unsurprising, perhaps a better deal than some of the other Russian pieces in this auction.

Among Russian coins in this sale, one of the best buys was an NGC-graded MS-63, silver 1798 Half-Ruble (‘poltina’) from the era of Emperor Paul I, who reigned from 1796 to 1801. This coin’s natural toning is stable and notably attractive.

While an NGC-graded MS-63 1801 Half-Ruble of the same design type was auctioned for around half as much in 2016, it does not make sense to rely upon certifications, auction records, and rarity estimates. Additional factors should be taken into consideration when analyzing coins and their respective market values.

This 1798 poltina has a very pleasing overall appearance. The $7,050 result is a fair retail price.


The New York International each January continues to be an excellent venue for the offering of British coins, in auctions and on the bourse floor. There was an extensive assortment overall. This auction contained some neat items.

As I devoted a whole article to the Gold Nobles of Edward III, with emphasis upon their historical importance, the piece in this auction will not be analyzed in depth here. It was NGC-graded AU-58 and realized $4,230. In terms of surface quality, it is superior to the average survivor.

A PCGS-graded AU-50 Half-Sovereign of Henry VIII is suitable for a type set or to be collected as a stand alone historical artifact. The likeness of the king is believed to be fairly realistic. This coin is more appealing in actuality than it appears to be in published images. The $5,170 result was slightly strong. Quite a few commensurable representatives of this type survive.

Regarding English coins, this auction will be best remembered for pieces relating to Oliver Cromwell who led the parliamentarians to victory in a civil war that lasted approximately from 1642 to 1651. King Charles I was executed in 1649 and the regime was overthrown. Royalists continued to fight until a final battle in September 1651. Later, the monarchy was restored and Charles II became king in 1660.

Although the Cromwell coin fantasies made outside of the British Royal Mint during the 1700s are interesting and of tremendous importance to some collectors, these are being ignored here because they require long explanations. It would be confusing to cite auction results for ‘restrikes’ or fantasies along with similar Cromwell pieces that were minted during the 1650s.

“The Cromwell pieces, originals and later strikings, in this auction brought very strong prices,” exclaims Steve Hill, an expert in British milled coinage. Hill served for years as a cataloguer and ‘in-house’ expert for a major coin auction firm in London before leaving to join a boutique coin firm last year.

A 1658 Cromwell Sixpence in silver is or was listed as a regular issue in the standard Spink reference (#3229). Other experts regard it as a pattern and it is certified by NGC as such. Are the dates and circumstances of the strikings of these understood now?

Fewer than a dozen are known. This NGC-graded Fine-12 Cromwell Sixpence in this auction realized $44,650, a very strong price.

The highlight of this auction was a British 1839 Proof set. Another such set and the five pound ‘Una & The Lion’ gold coin in general were discussed in a review of NYINC offerings two years ago. It suffices to say now that the 1839 is the most famous Proof set in the history of the British Isles.

The ‘Una & The Lion’ in this set is NGC-certified as ‘Proof-63 Cameo.’ I have probably seen more than 15 of these and this is one of the five best. More so than most other Proof British gold coins, it is similar in format and texture to a U.S. Proof gold coin from the 1840s or even from the 1860s, an era characterized by excellent workmanship regarding Proof gold in the U.S.

On this ‘Una & The Lion’ five pound coin, the beige-gold design elements contrast wonderfully with green-brown-russet fields. Mirrors are full. Hairlines, which are typical for these, kept it from being assigned a higher grade. Even so, this coin is certainly beautiful.

An 1839 British Proof set has 15 pieces: three in gold, nine in silver and three in copper. Although some original sets have been dismantled so that the ‘Una & The Lion’ coin may be sold separately, there are still many sets extant. As they honor the coronation of Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901, these sets have particular historical significance.

In this set, the Shilling and Sixpence coins are the most attractive silver coins. Although the Shilling is NGC-certified as ‘Proof-66 Cameo,’ it probably did not receive a 67 grade just because of some minor hairlines. The queen’s yellow toned head is surrounded by blue and russet areas, with green and red tints.

The toning on the reverse is especially well balanced. At the periphery and in the outer fields, there are multiple shades of green that blend nicely into a mostly blue wreath. Brown-russet and orange-russet hues near the center are normal and enticing. This 1839 Shilling is captivating overall.

Toning on Proofs was often influenced by the plush cases, with wood exteriors, that typically housed Proof sets in the 19th century. Cases then used in the U.S., Britain and Central Europe are remarkably similar. When offered in the same auctions as 19th-century or early 20th-century Proof sets, I carefully examine the cases.

The toning on the Sixpence is even cooler than that on the Shilling in this 1839 set. This coin is much prettier in actuality than it appears to be in photos. Victoria’s hair toned a bright blonde color, which contrasts with a light green forehead and a pink neck. Moreover, this coin exhibits interesting and intense die finishing lines, in addition to fully reflective surfaces and excellent detail. This is one of the most enticing coins to be offered during the whole week in New York.

Many of the other coins in the set have attractive toning, too. It is not practical to discuss all of them here.

The $376,000 result was strong, though not very. This result is consistent with sales, both public and private, of 1839 Proof sets over the past half-dozen years, with overall quality taken into consideration. This is one of the better sets extant, though in my opinion not among the three best.

A more modestly priced British coin that may be of interest to collectors of U.S. coins was an 1896-B trade dollar in this auction. It would nicely complement a set of U.S. trade dollars.

This British trade dollar is NGC-graded as MS-63. It has notable mottled russet toning and exhibits considerable luster. This pleasing coin brought $1,762.50, a moderate to strong price.

Dutch Silver

For simplicity, coins of the Netherlands are referred to as Dutch coins. The history of the geographical region that now includes the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and parts of France is extremely complicated in terms of boundaries, names and regimes.

Though not among the rarest and not one of the three most valuable, an 1820 three gulden silver coin was perhaps the most demanded Dutch coin in this auction in terms of the number of people who would be seriously interested in adding it to their respective collections. Indeed, there are many people who collect the large silver coins of Europe or of the whole world.

This 1820 is NGC-graded MS-65 and has a sticker of approval from WINGS, an entity that is independent of PCGS and NGC. Moreover, this piece is from the famous Richard Lissner Collection, which was auctioned by a coalition of firms in Rosemont, Illinois prior to the ANA Convention in 2014. The quality of this coin is very impressive.

The Lissner 1820 three gulden coin brought $7,050, a little less than the price that this same coin in the same holder realized in August 2014.

Market levels were then higher than they are now. The $7,050 result is a solid retail price for an important coin, which is the finest of its design type that I have ever seen.

An 1840 one gulden is NGC-certified as Proof-63. Even if it were not certified, it would be easily identified as a Proof, and is extremely rare as such. This piece sold for $4,935.

Dutch Gold

The 1739 “six stuivers” gold piece from Holland in this auction is amazing.

Although it was struck from a pair of dies for a silver denomination, this piece is really a two ducat coin. According to the Krause Standard Catalog, “six stuivers” gold coins of this design were specified to each weigh seven grams and be of 0.968 fineness, the exact specification for pertinent two ducat coins.

The obverse has strong mirrors and this coin is very prooflike overall. There is a semi-cameo contrast. The russet and green tones are especially appealing. The border imperfections are all mint-caused, I determined. This is one of the coolest pieces in this sale.

This 1739 gold piece is NGC-graded as MS-65. As for the $8,225 price realized, there is a need to see this coin to understand the price.

The 1749 14 gulden coin from Holland in this auction is not as amazing, though it does attract attention. It is super-frosty and has few contact marks. This 1794 14 gulden is PCGS-graded as MS-63 and went for $3,290, a strong price for sure.

The 1818 10 gulden gold piece is a rare date and the first year of a design type. Most of the survivors of this denomination date from 1875 to 1917.

A 64 grade is possibly a balancing of gem-level eye appeal and a technical rating of MS-63. Certainly, this is one of the finest known of this date. Although it is one of just two that are NGC-certified, at least a dozen others of this date, which have never been certified, exist in Europe.

Even considering the positive aspects of this coin, the $14,687.50 result was very strong. There are not a large number of people who are assembling sets of Netherlands 10 Gulden coins, a series that spans from 1818 to 1933. For a type set, there are many dates of this type that are much less expensive than an 1818, including 1824-B, 1832 and 1840.

The Proof 1850 10 gulden in this same auction is of the first year of a two-year type, and is a Proof-only date. From a technical and structural perspective, it is extremely impressive. The Dutch mintmasters were certainly skilled at producing Proof coins.

This 1850 is conservatively graded 65 by NGC and the “cameo” designation is obviously fair. The $15,862.50 result was one of the better values in this auction.

An NGC-graded MS-64 1895/1 is an extremely important 10 gulden issue. Queen Wilhelmina reigned from 1890 until 1948. Though not a Proof, as it has dynamic luster, this coin does have an extraordinary finish and may possibly be some kind of special striking.

Experts at NGC must have considered this coin’s excellent eye appeal when deciding upon a 64 grade. It is hard to interpret the Queen Wilhelmina$15,275 result. Are there finer 1895/1 10 gulden coins?

An NGC-certified ‘Proof-65 Cameo’ 1911 10 gulden is important as well. As a Proof, a 1911 10 gulden is extremely rare and business strikes are not common. The $7,637.50 realization is a modest retail price.

There were additional importance Dutch and related pieces in this auction, really a major offering of coins from this region. A 1746 Utrecht two ducat piece merits its own discussion.

“Austrian Netherlands”

Although the “Austrian Netherlands” of the past is distinct from the current Kingdom of The Netherlands, there is historical overlap. Luxembourg, which is now an independent nation, was part of the Austrian Netherlands and was later part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands.

Although it is a stretch to categorize coins of the Austrian Netherlands along with those of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a Brussels Mint 1790 14 Florins gold piece was definitely a star of this auction. This 14 Florins coin may be thought of as a 14 gulden gold coin. This coin is NGC-graded as MS-65.

Although it has a few hairlines and very light scratches, this coin is extremely frosty and is more than very attractive overall. Furthermore, the artistry of the design is exceptional. On the whole, this coin commands attention.

The $16,450 suction result is considerable for an overlooked issue from a relatively obscure political entity. Even so, it seems to be the kind of coin that would be a delightful addition to a collection of 18th-century gold coins from elsewhere, as a very appealing curiosity.

© 2017 Greg Reynolds

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For More about Gold & Silver English Coins by Greg Reynolds:

Silver Groats of Henry VIII | Gold Rose Ryals of James I | Gold Sovereign of Mary I | Gold Sovereign of Henry VIII | Gold Sovereigns of Henry VII | Gold Nobles of Edward III

Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds has carefully examined a majority of the greatest U.S. coins and most of the finest classic U.S. type coins. He personally attended sales of the Eliasberg, Pittman, Newman, and Gardner Collections, among other landmark events. Greg has also covered major auctions of world coins, including the sale of the Millennia Collection. In addition to more than four hundred analytical columns for CoinWeek and at least 50 articles for CoinLink, Reynolds has contributed hundreds of articles to Numismatic News newspaper and related publications. Greg is also a multi-year winner of the ‘Best All-Around Portfolio’ award from the NLG, as well as awards for individual articles, a series of articles on the Eric Newman Collection, and for best column published on a web site.

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