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Classic Coin Auctions – Half Cents to Quarters Feature at Rarities Night in Baltimore


Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #324

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds
On Thursday, March 31, at the Baltimore Convention Center, Stack’s-Bowers will conduct a Rarities Night event. This will be one session in a large and varied official auction of a coin convention. The general public is welcome from March 31 to April 3, though offerings and activities are limited on Sunday.

Many of the more impressive coins in this Rarities Night event are of denominations below a half dollar. An assortment of half cents, cents, five cent nickels, dimes and quarters are discussed herein. It is not implied that the coins discussed here represent an accurate sampling of the contents of this Rarities Night event, which includes more than 250 coins. It is not practical or enjoyable to cover all of them.

The coins selected for discussion are believed to be fairly certified and/or otherwise appealing. Even so, this is an auction preview, not a list of recommendations.

Although I have personally examined all the coins mentioned herein, I am not endorsing all of them. As always, I strongly recommend that each bidder hire an expert to inspect coins to be auctioned and to provide advice. It is best to hire someone who is not connected to any auction firm and who discloses any involvement with consignments.

In most major coin auctions, many coins are consigned by dealers or are parts of consignments that were negotiated by dealers. There is no substitute for having a knowledgeable, relatively impartial expert explain the characteristics of coins. It is hoped that remarks here will serve educational purposes, including stimulating thought and encouraging collectors to learn more about rare coins.

stacksbaltimoresale2016Half Cents

Half cents were first minted in 1793 and 1793 half cents are a one-year type. So, a 1793 half cent is often demanded for a type set.

The ‘Very Fine details’ 1793 in this sale is above-average for a non-gradable early half cent. While indentations are a little annoying, and the surfaces are somewhat awkward, it is a pleasing coin overall.

Some collectors are unable or unwilling to spend the $9,000 to $22,500 that a certainly gradable VF-20 to -35 1793 half cent might command in a retail setting. For such a collector, this coin could be a sound selection. It would be enjoyable to own a 1793 half cent, which is famous and historically important. A complete type set of all U.S. copper series would be cool and would not cost a fortune.

Although not as rare as the ‘No Pole,’ the 1796 ‘With Pole’ is a famous rarity. All 1796 half cents are very rare. Though non-gradable, the 1796 ‘With Pole’ in this sale is entirely discernible and is appealing. The toning is mostly natural, certainly natural enough. The corrosion is not terrible. The design elements on the obverse (front) are fairly clear.

This coin will sell for a fraction as much as a 1796 half cent that certainly merits a VG-10 numerical grade. It could be a good deal for someone who is collecting half cents ‘by date’ and does not wish to spend more than $25,000 for a truly gradable coin with detail that is, more or less, equivalent to this one.

Besides, some of the early copper coins that have received numerical grades probably should not have received them. Coins, such as this one, in ‘details’ or ‘genuine’ holders are often good values.

Not all non-gradable coins are tolerable. The 1802/0 half cent in this sale is just awful. The problems are too severe for many people to consider this coin to to be collectible.

Naftzger 1839 ‘Silly Head’ Large Cent

Though not rare, the ‘Silly Head’ is a very popular variety of the design type of large cents that dates from 1835 to 1839. This design type is still in need of a name. These are ‘Middle Date’ cents that are not ‘Matron Head’ cents. They are not similar to the Braided Hair type of 1839 to 1857, so called ‘Late Dates.’

The ‘Silly Head’ 1839 is a semi-famous variety of an overlooked and often mis-understood design type. It would be silly to discuss why it is called a ‘Silly Head.’

As a ‘Silly Head’ or as a type coin, this Naftzger 1839 is a terrific piece. A connoisseur could spend considerable time observing this coin without becoming bored.

This ‘Silly Head’ is more than very attractive and far more original than most gem, pre-1840 coppers. The imperfections are consistent with the assigned MS-66 mainstream grade, which cannot be controversial.

Some red color has blended with soft to medium brown tones. The luster is soft and dynamic. The overall appearance is mellow, though this coin becomes animated when rotated under a lamp. It glistens without being very brilliant. Overall, the coin is exceptionally soothing.

At the Goldberg’s sale of Naftzger’s Middle Date cents in February 2009, a startling number of high quality, ‘Silly Head’ large cents were offered. There were also gem representatives of truly rare ‘Middle Date’ large cents in the same sale. After all, Ted Naftzger formed the all-time greatest collection of large cents, with many amazing ‘Middle Dates.’ This coin was sort of ‘lost in the crowd’ in February 2009. She is now the princess of copper in this auction.

Bright Red 1853 Large Cent

The queen of copper in this auction is the Halpern-Koshkarian 1853. This ‘Late Date’ is PCGS certified as ‘MS-66-Red’ and CAC approved. It beams bright red color, really! I recollect a Naftzger 1853 that also exhibits much, bright mint red color.

This 1853 is superior to that Naftzger 1853 and to the “Thomas”-Cardinal 1853. The Cardinal 1853 cent is also PCGS certified as ‘MS-66-RD’ and realized $7,637.50 in January 2013. This Halpern-Koshkarian 1853 could wonderfully highlight a type set.

Small Cents

The 1877 Indian cent in this sale is a splendid representative of the key date in the series of 95% copper Indian cents. As the term ‘bronze’ is very ambiguous, 95% copper coins should be explicitly noted as such or just referred to as copper coins.

This 1877 cent is PCGS certified as ‘MS-64+ Red & Brown’ and is CAC approved. The tones are natural and attractive. They blend well with much original luster. After considering that this coin may realize just half as much as a PCGS certified ‘MS-64+ Red’ 1877, it may be a sound choice from a logical perspective. It is more attractive than some certified “MS-65” 1877 Indian cents.

This 1877 really must be seen to be appreciated. Some ‘Red & Brown’ coins are much more attractive than others of the same date. This really neat coin is “From the Revtyak Collection,” a multi-generational assemblage which is explained in the SBG catalogue.

The 1909-S VDB Lincoln continues to be one of the most popular of all coins. In this auction, from a private consignment, there is a light and bright, PCGS certified ‘MS-66-Red’ coin with a CAC sticker.

Undoubtedly, there are tens of thousands of collectors who would like this 1909-S VDB. The other Lincolns in this Rarities Night are different matters. Collectors should consult experts before considering the 1914-D and 1926-S cents in this session. Red color is not always original or natural.


There are some very appealing, 19th century five cent nickels in this Rarities Night event. While appealing might not be the best term to describe the PCGS graded MS-64 1866, the ‘repunched date’ is extremely interesting. An extra 6, to the right of the last six, announces itself with much fanfare. The ‘repunched date’ overall is very curious and is a variety that commands much more attention than most die varieties. The overall coin itself is a little dull; collector demand for this variety may propel bidding.

A Proof ‘With Rays’ 1867 Shield nickel is a rarity. PCGS and NGC considered together have certified thirty-seven with a ‘Cameo’ designation and fifty-one without such a designation. This total of eighty-eight probably amounts to fifty to sixty different coins. The PCGS certified ‘Proof-65 Cameo’ coin in this sale is very brilliant, has pleasant toning and is very attractive overall.

The 1878 in this sale is PCGS certified as ‘Proof-66 Deep Cameo’ and is CAC approved. It is said to be “From the Monument Hill Collection.”

Though traditionally regarded as a Proof-only date, some 1878 Shield nickels do not have powerful Proof characteristics and seem to have business strike mint luster. The 1878 in this sale is not one of those. This 1878 is a traditional Proof, full mirrors, cameo contrast, refined border elements, some squaring of design elements, and clearly double-struck. A lover of Proofs who is aiming to complete a set of Shield nickels may wish to consider this coin, assuming that he or she is willing to pay a significant premium for the “Deep Cameo” designation by PCGS.

The 1885 is the key business strike issue in the series of Liberty Head nickels. The one in this auction is PCGS graded as “MS-65+” and CAC approved. While many uncirculated Liberty nickels have been dipped repeatedly and aggressively, this coin was only light dipped long ago and has naturally retoned in an especially pleasing manner. The light to medium brown-russet shades are normal and attractive, as are light gray hues. There is also much luster. (Words in blue may be clicked to access relevant past articles.)

If not for light abrasions on the face, this 1885 nickel would qualify for a MS-66 grade. It is an exceptional coin. It will probably turn out to be a much better value than many 1885 nickels that are certified at higher grade levels.

The 1918/7-D overdate is a key date in the series of Buffalo nickels. The PCGS graded AU-58 coin in this sale is respectable, mostly original and neat.

Rare ‘Curl Bottom 2’ Dime

The 1829 dime variety with a “Curl Bottom 2” or ‘Curl Base 2’ is sometimes regarded as having the status of being a distinct ‘date.’ The curled bottom ‘2’ in the date distinguishes this variety from the much less scarce 1829 “square” or “flat base 2” dime.

Some collectors of Capped Bust Dimes ‘by date’ demand two 1829 dimes for their respective sets. If this was widely regarded as a distinct date, it would be the rarest date in the Capped Bust Dime series, much rarer than the 1822. The guide does not list it, though does list the ‘1828 Large Date, Curl 2’ and the 1830/29 overdate.

PCGS has graded twenty-nine of these. While NGC reports just eight, experts at NGC have graded a few more in the past without designating them as such. PCGS and NGC together have probably graded twenty-five different 1829 ‘Curl Bottom 2’ dimes.

As for the additional ones in very low grades that have reportedly ‘showed up’ in recent years, I hope that these have been or will be carefully analyzed. Artificially-circulated forgeries of many U.S. coins have emerged from China. I wonder if there are as many as thirty-five genuine 1829 ‘Curl Bottom 2’ dimes in existence?

In any event, the PCGS graded VG-10 coin in this auction is desirable. Some of the lines on the coin are mint-caused rather than scratches that came about during circulation. Most of the survivors of this issue have very noticeable problems and this one is decent.

The collecting of bust dimes by die variety has been very popular over the past thirty years. The collector known as Easton has been an inspiring leader in that field. The recent publication of a handbook by Winston Zack and other prominent collectors may spur additional interest in collecting bust dimes by variety.

Pristine Gem Barber Dimes

There has been a substantial quantity of pristine gem, better date, Barber dimes in coin auctions over the last two years. This sale continues the trend. The “Fossil Creek Collection” 1894-O seems fresh. Surely, it is not one of the Simpson, Lily Nicole or Gene Gardner 1894-O dimes.

This 1894-O is PCGS graded as MS-66 and CAC approved. It was lightly dipped in the past and has retoned wonderfully, with green, blue, orange and russet shades. Indeed, the tones blend together in an enticing manner.

Last November, I wrote about the PCGS graded MS-67+, ‘Lily Nicole’ 1905-O. It re-appears in this session. The obverse of the “Lily Nicole” 1905-O is marvelous. The pretty shades of green in the obverse outer fields contrast well with the light brown-russet head of Liberty. There is brilliant cartwheel luster on both sides. It is unlikely that this coin was ever cleaned or dipped.

The obverse of the “Lily Nicole” 1905-O is more attractive than that of the Simpson 1905-O, which is also PCGS graded as “MS-67+” and CAC approved. The reverse of the Simpson coin, however, is much more attractive than the reverse of the Nicole 1905-O. The Nicole 1905-O, which is in the current auction, scores a little higher in the technical category.

The Nicole, Simpson and Duckor 1905-O dimes are likely to be the three finest of this date. The Hugon 1905-O dime is not quite in the same league.

The PCGS graded “MS-67+,” Simpson 1907-D re-appears next week as well. I also covered it in November. The Simpson 1907-D has incredible eye appeal.

The PCGS graded MS-67 1908 was in an auction on October 1, 2015. Earlier, it was in the Gene Gardner Collection. In October 2014, it was in an NGC holder when it realized $5,581.25

I grade this Gardner 1908 as MS-66. My interpretation, however, may be in the minority, as experts at PCGS, NGC and CAC have now all graded it as MS-67. Although this 1908 is very much original and is a great coin, imperfections on the obverse and blotchy toning prevent me from assigning a 67 grade, which I reserve for spectacular coins, like the Lily Nicole and Simpson 1905-O dimes. The already mentioned “Fossil Creek” 1894-O may be of higher quality than this 1908. Indisputably, however, there are some pristine gem Barber dimes in this Rarities Night session of March 31st.

Mercury Dimes

An original roll of 1935-D Mercury dimes is certainly newsworthy. Original rolls of Mercs no longer appear very often. I have not inspected the whole roll. These are all PCGS graded, from MS-64 to -67. They perhaps provide a lesson in some russet and orange natural tones relating to normal and proper storage.

The Pittman 1942/1 overdate is noteworthy. It is PCGS graded as “MS-65” and does not have a CAC sticker. Earlier, it was auctioned by the firm of David Akers in October 1997. Though not close to being the finest known, this coin may cost much less than those that are more highly certified, some of which have been dipped to the point of being very much artificially bright. This coin features neat green, orange-russet, apricot and brown-russet tones.

Proof 1845 Quarter

An 1845 quarter is PCGS certified as “Proof-64+” and CAC approved. This same coin was sold in the August 2015 ANA auction by Heritage. It then had yet to be resubmitted to PCGS with the idea of maybe receiving a ‘+’ grade. Plus or no plus, this is an indisputable Proof with really neat russet, green, and tan tones. The $25,850 result in August was not strong. Although markets overall have fallen since August 2015, it is certainly plausible that this coin could bring substantially more this month.

Cataloguers at Heritage definitively trace just seven Proof 1845 quarters, one of which is in the Smithsonian. Assuming that all seven really are Proofs, this one is clearly better than two and could possibly rank second or third. CAC has not approved an 1845 quarter at a level above Proof-64.

This is a coin that must be inspected in actuality to be even slightly understood. Published pictures do not reveal most of the cool aspects of this coin.

Pittman-Blay-Gardner 1888-S Quarter

Though not rare in absolute terms, 1888-S quarters are condition rarities in gem grades. The Pittman-Gardner 1888-S in this sale is likely to be one of the three finest known. It is NGC graded MS-66 and CAC approved.

This 1888-S exhibits very entertaining, orange-russet and blue colors, along with some grays. It is an exciting coin. In both the current SBG catalogue and the Heritage Gardner IV catalogue, the name of the collector who sold this coin to Gene Gardner, Stewart Blay, is misspelled.

In October 2015, this coin realized $6462.50. The corresponding PCGS price guide and Numismedia-CAC values are the same, “$10,000.” The NGC price guide values this piece at “$11,000.” These approximations are too high. In March 2016, a fair retail price might be around $8150. The Pittman and Gardner pedigrees are important in the context of the history of coin collecting.

While coins from epic collections are fun to discuss and learn about, there are thousands of more affordable coins and other numismatic items in the Stack’s-Bowers auction at the upcoming convention in Baltimore. Many lots will not be very expensive.

People with limited budgets can enjoy collecting coins. Indeed, I wrote a series on collecting classic U.S. coins for less than $500 each and a recent article on classic U.S. coins for less than $100 each.

©2016 Greg Reynolds


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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