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Classic U.S. Coins: The Rarity of 1843-O Liberty Seated Dimes

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #244

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds…

In a discussion in 2012, I noted that people do not often think about the rarity of 1846 Liberty Seated Dimes. The 1843-O is a little more recognized than the 1846, though most collectors do not realize that the 1843-O is truly very rare. Plus, it is an early New Orleans Mint rarity that many collectors can afford.

Some rarities are relatively affordable because they are not (yet) famous. The Draped Bust, Small Eagle Dimes of 1796-97 constitute the first type of U.S. Dimes and are extremely popular. Heraldic Eagle Dimes of 1804, and Capped Bust Dimes of 1822 are the most famous dimes of the early 19th century. The unique 1873-CC ‘No Arrows’ dime gained considerable fame after it re-appeared in the Eliasberg ’96 sale and was auctioned again in 1999, 2004 and 2012. Of course, the most famous of all dimes is the 1894-S.

Liberty Seated Dimes were minted from 1837 to 1891. There are five types (or subtypes).

Even among Liberty Seated Dimes, many others are much more famous than the 1846 or the 1843-O. There are several San Francisco Mint issues from the 1850s and 1860s that are on the ‘want lists’ of hundreds of collectors. Carson City Mint issues dating from 1871 to 1874, including the just mentioned 1873-CC ‘No Arrows’ coin, are the most coveted of all Liberty Seated Dimes.

The 1860-O is the most famous New Orleans Mint issue. The 1845-O receives more attention than the 1843-O. Does the 1843-O deserve more respect?

I. The Rarity of the 1843-O 

1843ofeatureBack in March 2012, I hypothesized that there exist around 335 1846 dimes, in all grades, including those that do not qualify for numerical grades in accordance with the criteria employed by PCGS or NGC. The PCGS CoinFacts estimate that 500 survive is unlikely to be true. Also, the 1843-O is even rarer than the 1846.

A total of less than 140 1843-O Liberty Seated Dimes have been graded by PCGS and/or NGC, which probably amounts to 90 to 110 different coins. It is true that 1843-O dimes have not been prime targets for ‘crack out artists,’ who seek to upgrade coins by re-submitting them after ‘cracking them out’ of their respective PCGS or NGC holders. Few 1843-O dimes grade above AU-55 and the differences in value that correspond to sub-60 grade increments are not high, from the perspective of ‘crack out artists.’ A majority of the ‘crack outs’ of PCGS or NGC certified 1843-O dimes were performed by collectors, or by dealers at the request of collectors.

Indeed, collectors of sub-45 grade, circulated Liberty Seated coins generally came to accept independent certification and encapsulation grudgingly, mostly over the past dozen years. In the 1990s, some such collectors would buy certified coins, ‘crack them out,’ and then throw the printed labels (‘inserts’) in the garbage. They collected coins in ‘raw’ form.  Many collectors of large cents did this as well. More than a few still do so.

There are probably 50 to 75 1843-O dimes that are non-gradable because of serious problems. Another 10 to 20 would be graded, if submitted to PCGS or NGC in 2014. This total of 10 to 20 mostly includes non-certified Liberty Seated Dimes that grade from Fair-02 to Fine-12, several of which have been sold to collectors over the last twenty-five years.

In sum, there survive 150 to 195 1843-O dimes, 175 is a fair estimate. So, these are truly very rare. A coin is rare if fewer than 500 survive, of all varieties, and very rare if fewer than 250 survive.

II. 1843-O Dime ‘In the News’!

On Friday, Oct. 10, Stack’s-Bowers will auction an 1843-O in New York at the Millennium Broadway Hotel, 145 West 44 St, between Avenue of the Americas (6th) and Seventh Ave. A coin show will be open to the public on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

This 1843-O has been judged to be non-gradable by experts at PCGS because of serious problems. This 1843-O, though, has the ‘details’ of an Almost Uncirculated (AU) grade coin and is much more appealing than most other non-gradable coins from the first half of the 19th century. A commitment to pay at least $2350 is required to purchase this coin during this auction.

Collectors often prefer a non-gradable coin, which is almost decent, with the details of an AU grade to a coin that merits a numerical grade from Fair-02 to VF-20. Tastes and preferences vary among collectors. Not so wealthy, knowledgeable collectors of Liberty Seated Dimes are often glad to obtain any 1843-O!

III. Auctions of Gradable Coins

Most of the PCGS or NGC graded 1843-O dimes that appear at auction range from VF-20 to EF-40. During the infrequent instances that these are offered, Fine-12 to -15 graded coins tend to bring from $300 to $600. In July 2012, a PCGS graded VG-08 1843-O realized $287.50

In July 2013, Heritage auctioned a PCGS graded and CAC approved VF-20 coin for $1175. In April 2013, Teletrade, which is now part of Stack’s-Bowers, sold a PCGS graded VF-20 1843-O, without a CAC sticker, for $882.50. In Aug. 2012, Heritage sold another PCGS and CAC graded VF-20 1843-O for $781.38

1843oIn June 2011, Heritage auctioned a PCGS graded VF-25 1843-O, with a CAC sticker, for $1265. In Nov. 2012, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned an NGC graded VF-25 1843-O, without a CAC sticker, for $969.38. Earlier that year, in Jan., Stack’s-Bowers sold a PCGS graded VF-25 coin, “from the Rolette Collection,” for $862.50

In July 2014, a PCGS graded VF-30 1843-O brought $1057.50. Three months earlier, Heritage auctioned a PCGS graded VF-30 coin with a CAC sticker for $1292.50.

In July 2012, a PCGS and CAC graded VF-35 1843-O sold for $1610. Another PCGS graded VF-35 coin, though without a CAC sticker, is being auctioned in New York by Heritage today.

In Aug. 2011, Heritage auctioned a PCGS graded EF-40 1843-O for $2185. Back in Feb. 2008, Stack’s auctioned a different PCGS graded EF-40 1843-O for $2990. That coin may have been in the comprehensive consignment of Rich Uhrich, a specialist in circulated Liberty Seated coins. In Feb. 2011, a PCGS and CAC graded EF-45 1843-O brought $3680.

IV. Non-Gradable Coins

A wide range of non-gradable 1843-O dimes have been offered over the past ten years. Prices varied considerably, depending upon the level of detail, technical factors, severity of each coin’s respective problems, and eye appeal. Non-gradable 1843-O dimes may sell for amounts from $50 to $4000.

In June, a “corroded” 1843-O sold for $352.50. In April a “damaged” coin in a PCGS ‘Genuine’ holder sold for this same price. In April 2013, another “damaged” 1843-O, this one in an NGC holder, brought $381.88. All three were said to have the the details of an Extremely Fine grade coin.

In Jan. 2013, an 1843-O that is said by experts at NGC to have the details of a “Good” grade coin sold for $105.75. It is also said that the obverse (front) has been “scratched.”

Finding an 1843-O dime for less than $200 would not be too hard. One could probably be acquired, eventually, for less than $125. The standard price guides, though, tend to understate market values for 1843-O dimes. Indeed, leading price guides suggest that a gradable, Good-04 1845-O could be acquired for less than $85, possibly for less than $60. This is very unlikely.

V. Highest Graded

Coins of this date that grade above EF-45 are extreme condition rarities. One has been PCGS graded MS-65, which is probably the coin that was formerly in the collection of Louis Eliasberg. If so, it is certainly not overgraded, assuming that the appearance of the Eliasberg 1843-O has not changed since it was auctioned by Bowers & Merena in May 1996. It was one of the highlights of that epic sale.

The finest 1843-O Liberty Seated Dime to be available in recent years is Eugene Gardner’s 1843-O, which is PCGS graded and CAC approved as MS-62. In June 2014, it brought $141,000. Not everyone is completely comfortable with the assigned “MS-62” grade. This coin was formerly in the collection of David Queller and was auctioned by Stack’s (New York) in 2005. At that time, it was graded as “Brilliant Uncirculated” and realized $16,100, less than one-eighth of the $141,000 price realized this year.

gardner1843oIn June 2010, Heritage auctioned a PCGS graded AU-53 1843-O for $14,950. This coin is now in the registry collection of Jason Feldman.

The second of two PCGS graded AU-53 1843-O dimes is in Gerry Fortin’s PCGS registry set, which is the highest ranked. I do not know which 1843-O is in the collection of Tom Bender, who has formed an excellent set of Liberty Seated Dimes.

In my view, Very Fine-20 to -30 grade 1843-O dimes, with pleasant natural toning and few imperfections, are excellent price values. Non-gradable pieces that have naturally retoned after being corroded or deliberately mis-treated may be good values for budget-minded collectors. These are truly very rare coins that should be more famous.

©2014 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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