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Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Rarities Night, Part 3, Dimes and Some Coppers

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds
News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #102….
Last week, I wrote about the half dollars in the Stack’s-Bowers Rarities Night event that was conducted on Thurs., March 22, in Baltimore. The week before, my preview of this event was published. This week, I cover a few copper pieces and all the dimes.

It is never my intention to summarize the contents of a major auction. Readers can, and are encouraged to, browse the listings at the respective websites of auction firms. Moreover, it does not make sense to list the coins that realized the highest prices. If I did so, I would just be writing about extreme rarities, high quality-better date gold coins, and an occasional condition rarity. It is my aim to cover a variety of coins, particularly those that are of interest to many collectors and/or those that are especially distinctive. I also direct to attention to coins that serve some kind of educational purpose, either in terms of their respective characteristics and/or in terms of how they fared at auction.

As this is a review of coins in a Rarities Night event, the coins discussed are relatively expensive. In some auction reviews, I have covered coins that are much less expensive. It is best, though, to focus upon inexpensive coins in other contexts. I have written many pieces relating to inexpensive items, especially my articles for beginners and my columns devoted to particular series. Besides, collectors may learn about the coins they have by reading about coins that they cannot afford.

For simplicity, I refer to any coin or pattern that is at least 90% copper as being ‘copper.’ The copper pieces discussed herein are important and special, in my view. As I said, I cover all the dimes that were offered in this Rarities Night event.

I. New Hampshire Copper

One of the most curious of all coin related items from the pre-Federal era is the New Hampshire Copper. There is ample documentation that the New Hampshire House of Representatives authorized the minting of copper coins in 1776. Few details are known. I am not aware of any evidence that these actually circulated. A very small number of New Hampshire Coppers survive. There is nowhere near unanimous agreement regarding the authenticity of these.

The one that Stack’s-Bowers just auctioned was previously in the Garrett Family Collection and had been in the Garrett Family for many decades. In Oct. 1980, it was auctioned by the firm of Bowers & Ruddy, for $13,000. This firm conducted four auctions of the Garrett Family Collection. Many coins and patterns from the Garrett collection are now worth multiples of the prices that these realized in 1979 or 1980.

Earlier this year, I wrote about the Garrett 1829 ‘Large Date’ Half Eagle ($5 gold coin), which realized $1.38 million in January. It sold for $165,000 on Nov. 29, 1979 in the first of the four Garrett sales by Bowers & Ruddy.

The Garrett New Hampshire Copper is PCGS graded ‘Very Good-10,’ which is a bit generous. On early copper items, a little corrosion is often ignored by the grading services. Much of the coin, however, has color that is considered proper for an 18th century copper coin to exhibit now.

Many early copper pieces have been artificially colored, very harmfully cleaned, heavily discolored by accidental environmental damage, or treated with acid. The color of this item, for the most part, is both more ‘original’ and more appealing than I expected it to be. A 19th century copper in this same state of preservation, though, would probably be judged as being ungradable by the PCGS and the NGC. Nonetheless, the Garrett New Hampshire Copper looks better in actuality than it does in the catalogue images, and it is of higher quality than I thought it would be.

On March 22, 2012, the Garrett New Hampshire Copper sold for $172,500, which I contend is a very strong price. Yes, it is extremely rare. Given the corrosion on this coin and the questions that surround all surviving New Hampshire Coppers, this is a substantial sum to spend on one. I am aware that some collectors of colonials and other pre-Federal items are wealthy and dedicated. A price of $85,000 would not have been surprising.

II. Two Cent Pieces

“The three Two Cent Pieces were the nicest three coins” of one denominations in this SBG Rarities Night event, declares Matt Kleinsteuber. Matt is the lead trader and grader for NFC coins and is an expert in Two Cent Pieces. In my pre-auction review, I mentioned the three Two Cent pieces to which Matt refers. A follow-up discussion is warranted, for an analysis of the auctioning of these three is educational, in my view.

The PCGS certified ‘Proof-65 RB,’ 1864 ‘Small Motto’ Two Cent Piece, which I discussed at length two weeks ago, sold for $112,125. It was formerly in the W. L. Carson Collection, which Stack’s auctioned in Nov. 2010. Matt points out that it was undergraded by the PCGS in 2010, as ‘Proof-64 RB.’ On March 22, it brought 97% more than its 2010 result. A one increment increase in its certified grade led to a dramatic increase in its value.

On March 22, when this auction occurred, the PCGS price guide figure for a Proof-64RB was $50,000, for a Proof-65RB 1864 ‘Small Motto,’ $65,000, and $80,000 for a Proof-66RB coin of this date. Even if this coin upgrades, again, to 66, the $112,125 result is very strong.

“I graded it five-red-brown then” in 2010, Kleinsteuber reveals. “It is not a six,” in Matt’s view, though “it’s all there as a gem, red and brown 65.” David Schweitz agrees, “it is a middle of the road 65-red-brown. [David] was the underbidder in 2010.”

While “it is beautiful,” Kleinsteuber declares, “I was surprised by the price. I wanted to pay more like $85,000. It is a classic rarity. While the price is strong, this is a truly rare coin that is very desirable. The price guides are too low for these,” Kleinsteuber concludes. The PCGS has since raised the price guide values for Proof-65RB to $85,000 and, for Proof-66RB, to $110,000, yet this PCGS certified ‘Proof-65RB” sold for $112,125 on March 22nd.

Mark Feld also very much likes this 1864 ‘Small Motto’ Two Cent Piece. Feld was a full-time grader for the NGC during much of the 1990s. “It is a very pleasing coin,” Mark says. “My $57,500 bid was just to stock the coin, and I had thought I might be raising this bid on behalf of a client. But, he decided not to bid on it,” Feld reveals. “I was surprised that the coin brought that much,” Mark exclaims. “I would have guessed approximately $70,000.”

John Brush was also surprised by the result. “I thought that this coin was gorgeous,” John remarks. “The record price realized was far higher than I expected, but it is just an example of how aggressive the bidding has become on high quality, rare CAC-certified coins.” Brush is Vice President of David Lawrence Rare Coins.

Kleinsteuber, Feld and Schweitz all really liked the Proof 1871 Two Cent Piece in this auction and both agreed that “the reserve was too high.” This coin is PCGS certified ‘Proof-67 Red, Cameo’ and a bid of at least $61,525 would have been required to buy it in this auction.

I discuss the physical characteristics of this coin my column two weeks ago. Kleinsteuber and David Schweitz disagree with my interpretation that the coin is not full red. “There is no brown,” Schweitz argues. “The full red designation is accurate. It has toned down a little, but not enough to call it red-brown.”

In my view, the green, orange-russet and magenta areas altogether indicate that it does not have the ‘full red’ look that buyers expect when they acquire a copper coin that is PCGS designated ‘[full] RD’! My guess is that this coin in its current holder would not be CAC approved. I also maintain that coins that are orange, magenta and green, rather than full red, should often be valued higher than full red coins. I never agreed with the prevailing paradigm that a full red copper coin is necessarily superior to a ‘red & brown’ coin of the same numerical grade.

This 1871 is “one of the best Proof Two Cent coins in existence,” Kleinsteuber declares, “stone cold seven red, almost deep cameo. Every time this coin comes up, I love it,” Matt adds. “Over-reserved for the marketplace, in my opinion, it is worth much closer to $40,000 than $60,000,” Kleinsteuber states.

Matt also raves about the PCGS graded MS-65+ 1872, which has a CAC sticker, “very high end, much better than the 66 red that sold back in 2011.” While I like this coin, I am not quite as enthusiastic as Matt is about it. Dave, however, is even more enthusiastic about it than is Matt.

“It is the nicest 1872 Two Cent Piece [that] I have ever seen,” Schweitz states boldly. “I have seen two PCGS [certified] 66 Red 1872s and this one is better than both” of those, Dave asserts.

This PCGS graded MS-65+ 1872 did not sell. A bid of more than $40,000 would have been needed to buy it. Kleinsteuber suggests that it might have sold for around $40,000 had it been offered without reserve. “A big problem with this auction is that consignors were too aggressive with their reserves,” Matt asserts.

After the auction, Schweitz spoke to the consignor, a Southern dealer. Dave then bought this 1872 for “$34,000.”

III. Franklin Cent

There was an exceptional mint error in this sale. This Franklin copper is NGC certified ‘MS-67 RB.’ Neat blue toning blends well with original mint red.

A prepared blank (planchet) for a cent (penny) somehow ‘ended up’ in a coining press for Franklin Half Dollars. An already minted 1963 Franklin Half Dollar was resting on the reverse die inside the press and a blank cent planchet landed on top of this 1963 Franklin Half Dollar.

An obverse (‘top’) die for a Franklin Half then impressed a partial image of a Franklin Half obverse (front of the coin) on this cent planchet, which was resting on the obverse of an already minted half. The planchet, which was hot, was thus pounded onto the obverse (front) of the already minted coin beneath it. So, a mirror (inverse) image of a Franklin Half obverse was impressed on the reverse (back) of this error. This piece is both an off-metal error and a brockage. (As before, clickable links are in blue.)

How rare is this error? “There are probably two to three dozen Franklin Half Dollars on cent planchets or over [already] struck cents,” Saul Teichman estimates.

I asked Fred Weinberg if there are one hundred errors from the 1960s that are now worth $10,000 or more. “No, I would say there are not one hundred coin errors from the 60’s worth $10,000 or more,” Weinberg declares. “Roughly, maybe three or four dozen,” Fred estimates.

“As for the Franklin brockage, there are at least three of these known,” Saul states. “The Conway Bolt collection had two of these, a 1954 that went to M. Cohen and is illustrated in the fixed price list of that collection, and a 1963 which is probably the coin Stack’s-Bowers just sold,” Teichman says.

The firm of Numismatics Ltd. offered the Conway Bolt Collection of errors in a fixed price list during the 1970s. Fred Weinberg was then manager of the coin department and handled this offering.

A third Franklin on cent brockage was auctioned by Heritage in 2001. That copper error is (or was) accompanied by the Franklin Half Dollar on which the cent planchet lay. The indented Franklin Half is (or was) PCGS graded MS-62 and the copper error is PCGS graded MS-66. It was also dated 1963 and sold for $20,125, though this price is for a pair of mated errors. It is extremely unusual for two separate error pieces that were struck against each other to remain together.

The price of $12,075 for the ‘Franklin Cent’ error in this auction was, in my view, very strong. Saul Teichman collects such items. He “estimated $7500 to $8500, which is about double the price a normal Franklin on cent would bring.” So, Saul suggests that a gem quality, Franklin on cent planchet, with elements of a Franklin obverse and of a Franklin reverse, and thus not a brockage, would be worth between $3750 and $4250, more or less.

“Some error collectors just want the error itself in nice condition,” Fred Weinberg says, “others want only the ‘best’ condition they can find.” Indeed, “as with normal coin collectors,” some error collectors “want the best,” Weinberg points out. Therefore, the 67 grade, and the eye appeal of this piece, may have greatly contributed to the $12,075 result.

IV. Dimes

There were two Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Dimes in this event. An NGC graded MS-63 1805 dime did not sell. A bid of $10,350 would have been required to buy it. This is an aggressive reserve.

An 1805 dime that grades in the middle of the MS-63 range would certainly be worth $10,350, though a consignor should not count upon this level being reached in a public auction. This coin’s grade, however, is not in the middle of the 63 range.

The 1807 dime in this auction is NGC graded MS-65. It brought $21,850. This is a moderate to strong price for this specific coin.

Jim McGuigan notes that “1807 dimes are hard to sell because of weak strikes.” In the catalogue, though, Q. David Bowers fairly points out that this coin is much better struck than most 1807 dimes. I agree. Its other U.S. Mint caused imperfections, however, are distracting.

In addition to a very uneven strike; this coin is characterized by clash marks and planchet issues (relating to the blank before striking). Moreover, this coin was moderately to heavily dipped somewhat recently. It may have been dipped multiple times.

In my view, this 1807 just does not have the minimum eye appeal that is needed for a MS-65 grade. It should be noted, though, that it has hardly any contact marks and I do not remember any hairlines. Perhaps, in accordance with prevailing grading standards, its grade is in the middle of the 64 range. The $21,850 result is a little higher than I expected.

The 1846 was one of the more important coins in this auction. No, I do not believe that the importance of a coin is determined by its price. People often spend more than $10,000 each for non-rare Morgan Dollars.

Recently, I wrote about The Unrecognized Importance of 1846 Dimes, in which I mentioned this exact coin, though I had then not yet seen it. It is PCGS graded AU-50 and has a CAC sticker.

There are a few small gashes in the obverse right field. This coin otherwise is technically acceptable. It was evenly worn. Its sharpness is perhaps at the AU-53 level and the AU-50 assignment was, to a minor extent, a compromise grade. Furthermore, it is well struck. Moreover, I like its blend of green and gray tones. The obverse and reverse inner fields are more green than gray. Much of the coin has naturally toned a consistent gray-green mix. This is an attractive coin overall, significantly more so than most AU-50 grade Liberty Seated Dimes of any date.

I estimate that there are only 335 1846 dimes in existence. Collectors just do not focus upon 1846 dimes as often as logic would dictate, if logic was a living force.

This 1846 dime failed to sell. Bidding did not reach $9600, and a level above $9600 was needed. In my opinion, this is a poorly reasoned reserve. While the level in the PCGS price guide is $9000, the Numismedia retail value is just $3540.

Heritage auctioned a PCGS graded AU-50 1846 in 2005 for $3220. Even if that coin would bring 150% more today, $8050, and even if this one is better, then a reserve of $9600 would still be steep.

Indeed, Heritage auctioned NGC graded AU-53 1846 dimes for $7475 in Sept. 2010, for $5750 in Jan. 2011, and for $5750 again in May 2011. It is true, however, that the CAC has approved just this one 1846 dime at the AU-50 level, zero at the AU-53 level and only two at higher levels.

I would not have been startled had bidding climbed to $9600 or higher, though perhaps $8000 would be a strong price for this coin. It may be relevant that ANR auctioned a PCGS graded AU-53 1846 dime for $10,925 in Nov. 2004. This was probably a very strong, or even an extremely strong, price in 2004. It would even be a strong price now. Besides, for this issue, an AU-53 grade coin would probably be worth at least 50% more than an AU-50 1846.

While it is not as important as an 1846 dime, I like the toning on the Proof 1856 Liberty Seated Dime in this auction. It is NGC certified ‘Proof-66 Cameo.’ I grade it as 66.2 or 66.3.

Before even carefully inspecting this coin, I note a nice russet central design element on the obverse and neat green obverse outer fields. When this coin is tilted under a light, much wonderful blue color shines, along with a few neat orange-russet areas.

The toning on the reverse is even better. Green and reddish-russet hues become apparent along with blue and orange-russet, when this coin is tilted.

This 1856 is very attractive plus. The hairlines are factored into my 66.3 grade. The price realized of $12,650 is weak, a good deal. This exact same coin was auctioned in Jan. 2009 for a much higher amount.

Unlike 1846 dimes, Carson City Mint dimes of the 1871 to 1874 period are famous rarities. These are popular with both collectors of Liberty Seated Dimes and collectors of Carson City coins. In addition, throughout the history of coin collecting in the U.S., there have been many collectors who have been fascinated with coins of the early 1870s.

The 1871-CC is an extremely rare coin and collectors are often happy to own one in any grade, even a damaged coin. The one in this auction is PCGS graded “AU-50.” In my view, it just has too many problems to merit this grade. Given the characteristics of this specific coin, the price realized of $18,400 is very strong. Yes, different PCGS graded AU-50 1871-CC dimes have sold at auction for higher amounts. It is likely, though, that those are of much higher quality than this one.

The 1872-CC in this auction did not receive a numerical grade from the NGC. It is in a holder that refers to it as having “AU Details” and having been ‘Improperly Cleaned.’ It is not much worse than the just mentioned 1871-CC.

This 1872-CC did not sell, as no one was willing to bid $9775. In Jan. 2009, Heritage auctioned a different 1872-CC with the same NGC designation, ‘AU Details – Improperly Cleaned,’ for $4887.50. For this 1872-CC, the consignor was requiring the buyer, if there was a buyer, to pay an amount equivalent to the retail price for a gradable EF-40 1872-CC. The consignor may have figured that some bidders would be willing to gamble that the PCGS or the NGC may eventually grade this coin, perhaps after modifications.

The last Liberty Seated Dime in this auction was an 1885 that is NGC certified ‘Proof-68* Cameo.’ The ‘*’ was added by NGC graders to refer to special or additional eye appeal. In my view, this coin is not that great. The price realized of $6900 was appropriate, perhaps even a little strong.

There were zero Barber Dimes and two Mercury Dimes in this Rarities Night event. A 1919-D is PCGS certified ‘MS-65 Full Bands.’ The $17,250 result is a moderate price, neither strong nor weak, in my view.

The 1919-D is a “very tough date to find with nice reverse bands,” John Brush emphasizes. “I thought that this piece was pleasing for the grade. It is not premium quality or CAC-worthy, but the coin would certainly be nice enough for most collections. The price realized was an increment or two higher than I expected,” Brush adds.

As for the 1931-S in this auction, it is NGC certified ‘MS-67 Full Bands’ and it went for $6,900. I did not examine this 1931-S. John Brush states that “it is not really a piece that I personally found to be pleasing.” John suggests that “the price realized reflects” the lack of enthusiasm of bidders for this 1931-S, as $6900 “lags behind comparable auction records for Mercury Dimes of equal rarity.”

In sum, I have mentioned every single dime in this Rarities Night event. Furthermore, I honestly believe that those three Two Cent Pieces are so important that they deserve the extended coverage that I have given them. Moreover, the Garrett New Hampshire Copper is one of the most curious items in American numismatics. The ‘Franklin Cent’ brockage, in this auction, is inexplicably cool. I enjoyed writing about these.

©2012 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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