HomeAuctionsClassic U.S. Silver Coins in Winthrop’s Type Set Fare Well at Coin...

Classic U.S. Silver Coins in Winthrop’s Type Set Fare Well at Coin Auction

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #265

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds ……….

On Friday, Feb. 6, in New York, Stack’s-Bowers sold Stephen Winthrop’s collection, as part of an annual “Americana Auction” that featured a wide variety of coins, medals, tokens and related items. Information about Winthrop himself and the 1900-O Barber quarter in this set may be found in my pre-auction discussion two weeks ago. (Clickable links are in blue.) Now, the auction results for the classic U.S. silver coins in Winthrop’s collection are being reviewed.

Winthrop’s extended type set, commemoratives and mint errors altogether realized more than $1.4 million. Stack’s-Bowers “donated in excess of $75,000 from its fee” and, “over $1.3 million,” almost all of the “proceeds, will be given to the Stephen VanR. Winthrop ALS Fund at Harvard University,” according to a public statement by the auction firm on Feb. 10.


In every major auction, some coins well sell for strong prices and others will sell for weak prices; many will sell for moderate prices. On the whole, the sale of Winthrop’s collection went well.

It is not practical to discuss every single coin in the collection here. Although he had a few important gold rarities, the classic U.S. silver coins were the most distinctive component of the collection. Besides, Winthrop had made more progress in terms of completing a type set of 19th and 20th century classic U.S. silver coins than he did in the realms of copper and gold.

Three Cent Silvers

During an era when dimes each contained almost ten cents of silver bullion, Three Cent Silvers each contained almost three cents worth. These are not large coins.

The $1028.13 price realized for Winthrop’s PCGS graded MS-66 and CAC approved 1853 Three Cent Silver was surprisingly weak. Many of Winthrop’s silver coins realized strong prices in this auction and the whole event was successful. I was particularly puzzled by this result. Over the last six months, three PCGS graded MS-66 1853 Three Cent Silvers have each realized more than $1400!

Before I saw the label or the sticker, I graded it as 66.4. (I am not implying that anyone can consistently grade coins to the tenth of a point in all circumstances. I am emphasizing gradations within grade increments for educational purposes and to shed light upon prices realized at auctions.)

I was impressed by the originality of this 1853 Three Cent Silver and I like the mottled natural toning. A moderate price would have been $1300. This was a good deal for the buyer.

The following Three Cent Silver might not have been a good deal for the buyer. That 1862 was PCGS graded MS-66 and CAC approved. Certainly, its grade is in the middle of the 66 range, though it is not a spectacular coin. It brought $3055, an amount well above the retail range for a 66 grade 1862. Although I would not be shocked if this coin upgraded to 67, I would hope that it does not so upgrade. This is a strong to very strong price.

There was a second 1862 Three Cent Silver in the Winthrop Collection. It was PCGS graded MS-62 and CAC approved. The $258.50 result was strong, a retail price.

Half Dimes

‘No Stars’ Liberty Seated half dimes were minted for just two years, 1837 and 1838. Winthrop’s 1837 is very original and very attractive, one of the more appealing coins in his collection. This 1837 was PCGS graded MS-64 during the 1980s and, no doubt, qualifies for a 65 grade in the present. The $2115 price realized was a moderate result for a 65 grade coin of this type, and, theoretically, a very strong result for a 64 grade 1837, though this coin is clearly undergraded in the context of current criteria and standards.

It is unfortunate that Winthrop did not seem to have a half dime of the type with stars on obverse (front of the coin), 1840 to 1859, as these are not particularly elusive and are inexpensive. In any event, he had a Liberty Seated half dime with the legend, United States of America, on the obverse. An 1860, the first year of this type, was PCGS graded MS-67 and CAC approved. The $2585 result was moderate to strong.


Winthrop’s Capped Bust dime was one of the more popular coins in his collection. This 1836 was and still is PCGS graded MS-65 and CAC approved. This coin is well struck, is technically excellent, and has appealing orange-russet and blue-gray natural toning, with green and russet tints. It is a pristine gem that should be graded as MS-66.

The price realized of $28,200 is certainly consistent with a 66 grade representative of this design type. For a 66 grade 1836, this result is mildly strong, though deservedly so, as this coin really captures the attention of sophisticated collectors.

1874 With Arrows Seated Dime

Indeed, this 1836 dime was purchased at the sale by an avid collector who has decades of very active collecting experience. He is the owner of the Easton Collection, the top ranked set of Capped Bust dimes in the PCGS registry.

This Winthrop-Easton 1836 dime was formerly in the collection of Harold Bareford, who assembled extensive sets of classic U.S. coins. Bareford also owned the Dexter-Dunham 1804 dollar, which is now part of the Pogue family collection and will be offered by Stack’s-Bowers at some point during the next two years.

Winthrop was missing representatives of three of the five types of Liberty Seated dimes. He did have a highly certified 1874 ‘with arrows,’ which was PCGS graded MS-67. The presence of numerous contact marks in the upper left obverse field casts some doubt on the assigned 67 grade, though this coin does have terrific eye appeal. Although an 1874 dime with a grade that is in middle of the 67 range would probably have realized more, the $15,275 result was moderate to strong for this specific coin, a higher price than I would have expected.

Winthrop’s 1877 Philadelphia Mint dime was PCGS graded MS-62 in a holder from the 1980s and was recently CAC approved. It brought $235, a moderate price. I wonder, if it was not so very apparently dipped, would it have brought more? For a coin that is certified as grading 62, it does not seem to have very many imperfections.

Winthrop’s 1877 Carson City Mint dime is especially appealing. It is very original and has naturally toned in a colorful manner. Despite some light contact marks in the obverse outer fields, there is no doubt about it meriting a 66 grade. It was NGC graded MS-66 and CAC approved. The $4112.50 result is neither strong nor weak, a moderate price.

Why does the Winthrop set not contain a Barber dime? Four of Winthrop’s five Mercury dimes were purchased from David Hall’s firm during a period from 1984 to 1990. It would be interesting to study the prices paid.

Winthrop’s 1929-S Mercury dime was PCGS certified ‘MS-64-Full Bands’ and has a retail value of maybe $225. It did not have a CAC sticker, and, in my view, is not an exceptional coin. It realized $881.25, an extremely strong price. Was someone captivated by it?

Winthrop’s 1934 dime was PCGS certified ‘MS-66-Full Bands.’ It was just another, heavily dipped, unnaturally bright white, common Merc, though the bands are truly full. Presumably, the two leading bidders felt confident that the coin could be upgraded to 67, as $646.25 would me a mammoth amount for a 1934 that grades 66.

The 1937-D likewise has the same certification as the just mentioned 1934 dime, yet brought a MS-67 level price for a 1937-D, $352.50. Even if the Winthrop 1937-D was already PCGS certified as ‘MS-67-FB,’ this would be a strong auction result

Although Winthrop’s first three Mercs brought strong to extremely strong prices, the fourth, a PCGS certified Proof-65 1941 garnered a slightly strong price, $176.26, and was a good deal. Although I spent just a few seconds viewing it, I do not recollect having any concerns.

Proof Mercs, in general, are neat type coins and are perhaps better values than many of the business strikes in the series. In my recent article on Mercury dimes that cost less than $500 each, John Albanese is cited as recommending Proof Mercs.

It is rather unusual for a type set to contain a 1942/1-D overdate, a variety that I discussed in that recent article. Winthrop’s set, though, was curiously enhanced by this piece, a relatively scarce and subtle variety. His was PCGS certified ‘MS-65-FB’ and has a CAC sticker. It is one of only seven that are CAC approved at the MS-65 level. With ‘full bands’ designations, just thirty-six 1942/1-D dimes are CAC approved in total. Winthrop’s 1942/1-D went for $25,850, a strong price.

Stephen Winthrop’s Twenty Cent piece was an 1875 Carson City Mint issue that was PCGS graded MS-65, in a holder with an old green label, and CAC approved. It realized $23,500, a very strong price.


Proof 1874 With Arrows Quarter

Winthrop’s oldest quarter was dated 1861, and thus his collection lacked a Capped Bust quarter, an 1838-39 ‘No Drapery’ Liberty Seated issue, an 1853 Arrows & Rays one-year type coin, and an 1854-55 ‘With Arrows – No Motto’ coin. Apparently, Winthrop started instead with a typical ‘No Motto’ Liberty Seated quarter. Perhaps he had planned to obtain earlier quarters at a later time.

Winthrop’s 1861 was PCGS graded MS-66 and CAC approved. My guess is that, at some point, during the last forty years, someone dipped a group of these, as I am aware of a few of dipped-white, certified 65 to 66 grade 1861 quarters, with similar light abrasions. Indeed, one that is like this one, also in a PCGS holder with a green label and a CAC sticker, was auctioned by Heritage (HA) in Sept. 2010 for $6325.

In April 2014, HA sold a different PCGS graded MS-66 1861 for $4529.38. Granted, the Winthrop 1861 might be a little better than these two, maybe, and a price realized of $6700 would not have been surprising. The $8812.50 result for the Winthrop piece was very strong.

Winthrop had a Proof ‘No Motto’ quarter, too, an 1863, which was PCGS certified ‘Proof-66’ during the 1980s and recently CAC approved. This coin is very original, has great natural toning, and is very attractive overall. Although $8812.50 was a high price for the just mentioned 1861, this amount was a moderate price for Winthrop’s Proof 1863.

Winthrop’s Proof ‘With Motto’ quarter was an 1868 in a PCGS holder from the 1980s. It was certified as Proof-65. Although Winthrop’s 1868 has numerous hairlines, this coin has neat natural toning and is more than very attractive overall. There is a good chance that NGC would certify it as Proof-66. In any event, it realized $3290, a strong price that is very much understandable.

Winthrop had two Liberty Seated quarters of the 1873-74 ‘With Arrows’ type, a Proof and a business strike. The Proof 1874 was PCGS graded 65 and CAC approved. The price realized, $14,100, reflects the reality that it was undergraded. Personally, I graded it as 66, not 67. I theorize that at least one leading bidder was figuring that it would likely, if re-submitted, be certified as ‘Proof-66 Cameo,’ in which case the $14,100 result would be accurate in a financial sense. Another conceivable outcome is an NGC grade of 67, without a cameo designation, though I contend that it should not be so graded. In any event, this is a high price for an 1874 quarter in a holder that indicates ‘Proof-65’!

Winthrop’s 1874-S was PCGS graded MS-66 and CAC approved. When this coin is tilted at various angles, contact marks and hairlines become apparent that are not visible at first. Since 2010, PCGS or NGC graded MS-66 representatives of this date have tended to sell at auction for less than $5000, except for one that Stack’s-Bowers auctioned in Sept. 2013 for $7637.50. The $8225 result for the Winthrop 1874-S was very strong.

Winthrop’s Carson City Mint quarter enhances his type set. After all, Carson City Mint items tend to excite collectors. This 1876-CC quarter was PCGS graded MS-65. Most experts would figure its grade in the low end of the 65 range or the high end of the 64 range. The $3231.25 result is a moderate price for ‘the holder.’

Winthrop also had an 1879 quarter. Although of the common ‘with motto’ type, the 1879 is relatively scarce in grades below 64 and circulated pieces command considerable premiums over the least scarce dates of the design type.

Winthrop’s 1879 was PCGS graded MS-61 and CAC approved. I graded it as 62 and the $705 result did not surprise me.

I already devoted a discussion to Winthrop’s 1900-O, which was PCGS graded MS-66 and CAC approved. It brought $14,100, strong for sure.

Winthrop also had a 1914-D Barber quarter, which was PCGS graded MS-66. I did not find its grade to be a solid 66. It brought $1645, a price for ‘the holder.’

1916 Standing Liberty Quarter

The 1916 is a key date in the series of Standing Liberty quarters. Winthrop’s 1916 was PCGS certified ‘MS-65-Full Head’ and CAC approved. The price realized, $42,593,75, was moderate to strong. I have seen more than a few 1916 SLQs with sharper head and chest detail.

Winthrop had a 1917 of the same design type as the 1916. The Winthrop 1917 is much better struck than the Winthrop 1916. Though it was in a PCGS holder that indicated a MS-64 grade, relevant experts at the auction were not surprised that this coin brought a MS-66 level price, $2232.50. It is likely to upgrade by two full increments, though it would be a little risky to assume that it will.

Winthrop’s 1929 quarter is another that is due for an upgrade, because of grade-inflation. It was PCGS graded MS-64 in the past and would probably be graded MS-65 in the present. It thus brought a MS-65 level price, $440.63.

Winthrop’s Washington quarter is a better date, a 1938-S that was PCGS graded MS-66 and CAC approved. It is hardly a rarity and does not have much eye appeal. The $558.13 result was very strong and is surprising. More attractive PCGS or NGC graded MS-66 1938-S quarters have sold for less than $325 each in many auctions.

Half Dollars

The Norweb-Winthrop 1806 half dollar went for $52,900 when ANR auctioned it in March 2005. It was PCGS graded MS-64 before March 2005 and was recently CAC approved. On Feb. 6, 2015, this Draped Bust half sold for $82,250, a strong price.

Winthrop had two Capped Bust halves, neither of which have a CAC sticker. His 1819 was NGC graded MS-64. Actually, 1819 halves are important condition rarities in grades above MS-63. If this coin really merited a grade of 64, it would probably have realized an amount between $5500 and $8500 at this auction. It sold for $4406.25, which is more than I would have recommended that anyone pay for it.

Winthrop’s 1826 half was PCGS graded MS-65. The $10,450 result was strong.

The Norweb-Winthrop 1806 half dollar

Winthrop did not have an 1839 ‘No Drapery’ Liberty Seated half, a one-year type. He did have an 1840 ‘Small Letters’ (Reverse of 1839) to represent the ‘No Motto’ type. Despite the fact that this coin is certified as grading MS-66, it is possible that most relevant experts would grade it as MS-65. Because of a gash near the third star and some hairlines underneath the toning, among other reasons, it should not have been graded MS-66, in my view. The price realized, $14,100, is very much appropriate for a coin of this issue that grades in the middle of the MS-65 range, despite being certified as grading “66.” It has pleasing, natural toning and is very attractive overall.

Winthrop’s 1841 is not being discussed here. Curiously, Winthrop had an 1846 half of an unusual variety, with a numeral 6 over a horizontal 6, due to a mis-punching of an obverse die. This variety is often collected as if it was a distinct date, though this is the first time I ever saw one in a type set.

This Winthrop 1846-horizontal 6 was PCGS graded MS-62, which seems more than fair. I do not know why this coin does not have a CAC sticker. There are some small imperfections, which are on par with a 62 grade. The attractive, natural toning is noteworthy, with shades of blue, violet, gray and orange-russet, if I remember correctly. The $5434.38 result was weak.

On Winthrop’s 1855-O ‘With Arrows’ half, significant imperfections that have been covered, especially in the obverse fields. The $5581.25 price realized suggests that at least two bidders liked this coin much more than I did. Did they carefully examine it in actuality?

Winthrop’s 1859-S half was PCGS graded MS-66 and CAC approved. This is one of the finest known representatives of this date. It is not easy to interpret the auction result, $19,975

Although I very much like this 1859-S, I did not rate it quite as highly as the experts at CAC, though they may be right. In my view, its grade is around the border between 65 and 66. The $19,975 result is more of a moderate to strong price for a ‘65+’ grade 1859-S, rather than a weak price for a MS-66 grade 1859-S. Although two or more NGC graded MS-65 1859-S halves been auctioned, in recent years, for less than $5000 each, my tentative impression is that most experts grade those as MS-64 at most.

I figure that the auction range for 1859-S halves that most relevant experts grade as MS-65 would be from $10,000 to $20,000. A moderate auction result for a solid MS-66 grade 1859-S, if one exists, would be around $27,500 and a retail price might be as high as $35,000. In any event, whether this coin grades 65.8, 66.4, or some point in between, the 1859-S is very rare in all grades and this 1859-S was one of the most important coins in Winthrop’s collection.

Seated Liberty Half Dollar

Winthrop had two ‘With Motto’ Liberty Seated halves, both of which are products of the San Francisco Mint, an 1870-S and an 1871-S. The 1870-S was NGC graded MS-63 and CAC approved. Although I just glanced at this coin, I could not find a reason to question the 63 grade. Indeed, the grade of this coin may be in the high end of the 63 range. Moreover, not only is the 1870-S a condition rarity in grades above 62, this date may be rare in all grades. The $3525 result was weak, surprisingly so.

The Winthrop 1870-S is relatively more original than the Winthrop 1871-S, which awkwardly recovered from a heavy dipping in the past. This 1871-S was PCGS graded MS-64 grade, which it might truly merit, maybe. The Winthrop 1871-S, however, brought a strong price, $4406.26, much higher than I was expecting. I would like to see this coin again before drawing a conclusion about it. I doubt, though, that it would be CAC approved, if submitted.

Winthrop’s Barber Half Dollar was a PCGS graded MS-64 1908-D, which sold for $1645. He had several common Walkers and Franklins, some of which were grouped together in multi-coin auction lots. I did not evaluate them.

Winthrop’s type set ‘in progress’ will not be remembered for silver dollars, which tended to be represented by relatively common issues that are easily found in many settings. His 1799, though, is newsworthy.

Winthrop’s 1799 silver dollar was PCGS graded MS-64. Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle dollars that grade above MS-62 are sold infrequently. It is hard to figure market levels. For this specific coin, the price realized, $111,625, is strong. The estimates in some leading price guides are clearly wrong. This auction result is a retail price.

Most of the other silver dollars in Winthrop’s collection were either mediocre or not newsworthy. It is not practical to report upon public sales of individual, very common coins, though I am aware that many collectors enjoy acquiring them.

Winthrop had two Trade Dollars, a business strike and a Proof. An 1878-S was PCGS graded MS-65 and CAC approved. It has a large number of significant gashes and other contact marks, particularly in the obverse field, not far from Miss Liberty’s knee. The $15,275 result for this coin was very strong.

The 1882 is PCGS certified as Proof-63 and CAC approved. I like it. This coin naturally and nicely retoned after being dipped and is appealing now. Although not designated on the holder, which is old, this coin does exhibit considerable cameo contrast. Further, it is very apparently undergraded. Even so, the $8812.50 result was strong. If the buyer is a dealer, I would not be surprised if he incurs a loss.

On the whole, Winthrop’s type set was neat and enjoyable to view. A type set does not have to be complete in any sense to command attention. Also, enhancing a type set with better dates or an occasional unusual variety, may add to the enjoyment of collecting.

©2015 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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