A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds
News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #118 ……
On Thursday, Aug. 9, at the Pennsylvania Convention center in Philadelphia, Stack’s-Bowers will conduct their third Rarities Night event. Two weeks ago, I wrote about the unique 1873-CC ‘No Arrows’ dime that will be offered. (As before, clickable links are in blue.) Back in February, I discussed the finest known Carson City Mint gold coin, an 1876-CC Half Eagle ($5 coin) that will also be auctioned during this Rarities Night. Columns about the meaning and importance of individual coins, however, are distinct from articles about collections, groups, or series of coins being offered in the auction. Now, regarding this Rarities Night event, I aim to select collections, series of coins, and/or offerings of coins of specific denominations, that are newsworthy and/or particularly interesting.
Certainly, I will write more about the coins being offered, especially about the “Battle Born Collection” of Carson City, Nevada Mint coins. The purpose, here in part 1, is to discuss Standing Liberty Quarters, a few 1796 dated coins, and various cents.
The ‘Just Having Fun’ collection and some other consigned Standing Liberty Quarters (SLQs) are extraordinary, as are a few U.S. Mint items relating to the production of SLQs. The Werner Family collection of 1796 coins is noteworthy. Large cents, small cents and cent patterns are well represented in this event. In addition to Carson City Mint issues of all types, the category of coins for which the Aug. 9th Rarities Night will be best remembered is Standing Liberty Quarters.
I. Standing Liberty Quarters
Standing Liberty Quarters (SLQs) were minted from 1916 to 1930. Stack’s-Bowers will auction the ‘Just Having Fun’ (JHF) set, which is billed as the “The Number One Finest Set of All Time” in the PCGS set registry in the category of SLQs that have FH (‘Full Head’) designations. For reasons that are not currently known, many SLQs were manufactured with poorly formed heads. As I pointed out last week, an SLQ with a FH designation that is PCGS graded MS-64 may often be worth more than an SLQ of the same date, without such a designation, which is PCGS graded MS-66. A FH designation is typically worth a tremendous premium.
Most of the SLQs in the JHF set have an FH designation. The JHF set is also the highest ranked set in the PCGS registry category of “Standing Liberty Quarters Basic Set, Circulation Strikes,” where “No bonus points are given for Full Head (FH)” designations.
The collector who built this set refers to himself as ‘Just Having Fun’ (JHF). He also assembled the “Land of Smiles” set of Liberty Nickels, which is the “All-Time Finest” in its PCGS registry set category. Stack’s-Bowers just auctioned these Liberty Nickels in Baltimore at the end of June. Furthermore, in March 2005, this collector was the successful bidder, through an agent, for the Richmond-James A. Stack 1894-S dime, the finest known. In addition, the JHF set of Roosevelt Dimes was auctioned by Superior Galleries in Jan. 2008 in Orlando. Plus, he has assembled other sets. His set of SLQs, though, is his greatest achievement, of which I am aware.
The 1916 is the key SLQ. The JHF 1916 is one of three that the PCGS has certified as ‘MS-67 FH.’ One of the three was in the Malibu Collection, which is number two on the “All-Time” list in the same PCGS registry category, with ‘FH’ designations. The Malibu 1916 sold for $115,000 in 2010.
There also exists a 1916 SLQ that is PCGS certified MS-67+ FH. It was in the same Nov. 2010 auction by Spectrum-B&M that featured the Malibu set of SLQs. It brought $195,500.
An important condition rarity is the highly certified 1917 San Francisco Mint representative of the first type of SLQs. It is one of just two that are PCGS certified “MS-67+ FH,” and these two are currently the mostly highly certified by the PCGS.
SLQs of the first type were minted during just two years, 1916 and 1917. These have an appearance that is markedly different from SLQs of the second type. The clothes worn by Miss Liberty are especially different. The 1917-S is perhaps scarce in all grades, not just in gem grades. There is a good chance that there are fewer than 2500 in existence.
In addition to the 1916, the keys to the overall series are the 1918/7-S overdate and the 1927-S. The JHF 1918/7-S is certified MS-64+ FH, and is thus the highest graded FH SLQ of this overdate by the PCGS.
The JHF 1927-S is PCGS graded MS-67+ and it does not have a FH designation. Its head is more than two-thirds full. If it had a FH designation, the PCGS retail price guide value for it would probably be more than $400,000. The guide value for a MS-66 FH 1927-S is $295,000! Without a FH, PCGS price guide value for a PCGS graded MS-67+ 1927-S is $35,000. From a logical perspective, this coin may possibly turn out to be one of the best values in the sale. It has a sticker of approval from the CAC. Although I do not draw positive conclusions from images, the online images of this coin suggest that the JHF 1927-S has pleasant, moderate, natural toning, and has not been dipped in a long time, if ever. I wonder how much I will like this coin when I see it. Affluent SLQ collectors will certainly consider it.
The 1918-D, 1918-S, 1919-D, 1919-S, 1920-D, 1920-S, 1921, 1923-S, 1926-D, 1926-S, 1928-D and 1929-D are better dates overall and are certification rarities in high grades with FH designations. The JHF 1918-D, 1919-D, 1919-S, and 1921 are each PCGS certified MS-67 FH.
I would especially like to see the JHF 1923-S. I like golden, purple-blue and russet toning. It is PCGS certified MS-67+ FH and is CAC approved.
The JHF 1920-D is the highest graded 1920-D by the PCGS with a FH designation. It is PCGS graded “MS-68+” and it has a sticker of approval from the CAC. It is important to remember, however, that experts at the CAC ignore the plus aspects of ‘plus’ grades assigned by the PCGS or the NGC.
In another words, this 1920-D quarter would have received CAC approval if it was PCGS graded MS-68 rather than 68+. A CAC sticker indicates that CAC experts found its grade to be in the middle OR high end of the range relating to the numerical grade that has already been assigned by the PCGS or the NGC. Therefore, experts at the PCGS have determined that the grade of this 1920-D is in the ‘high end’ of the 68 range, while experts at the CAC will not reveal whether they determined that its grade to be in the middle or high end of the 68 range.
There is no doubt about its ‘Full Head’ status. The ‘head’ detail is excellent, and the shield is exceptionally sharp. I certainly look forward to viewing this 1920-D.
The head and shield detail on the JHF 1921 are exceptional as well. This 1921 is PCGS certified MS-67 FH and it has a CAC sticker. It was part of the North Shore Registry Set of SLQs that Heritage auctioned in Feb. 2012.
This Aug 9th Rarities Night event also includes some models and bronze casts relating to the production of SLQs. The most significant of which is in the JHF collection. It is described as a bronze cast of the designer’s “approved” obverse (front) design. The design depicted on this cast is much different from the adopted obverse design and is extremely interesting. When Stack’s auctioned this same piece in May 2008, it sold for $120,750.
This auction contains other interesting items that relate to production processes of SLQs, including plaster models. These were “consigned by descendants of [the designer’s] second wife,” according to the Stack’s-Bowers catalogue.
From an unnamed consignor came a 1916 SLQ pattern. All SLQ patterns are extremely rare. Only one of this variety is known to be privately owned, this piece. While the obverse of this pattern differs just slightly from the adopted design, the reverse is markedly different. I note the absence of stars and presence of branches. It was formerly in the respective collections of King Farouk and Abe Kosoff. It has been graded “50” by the PCGS. I have never seen it.
Also from unnamed consignors, there are some other highly certified SLQs. A 1917-D of the first type is NGC certified MS-68* FH and is CAC approved.
It is especially newsworthy that, in this one auction, there are two 1918-S quarters that were each struck 10% off-center, a PCGS certified MS-64 FH and an NGC certified MS-63 FH. There are probably fewer than eight off-center 1918-S quarters in existence.
“Off-center standing liberty quarters, especially in uncirculated [MS] grades are very popular with not only error collectors but with SLQ collectors as well as they usually have good head detail in addition to being really neat looking,” Saul Teichman says. In addition to being the mastermind behind the USpatterns.com site, Teichman is a collector and researcher of U.S. Mint errors.
Though it cannot be part of the JHF PCGS registry set while in an NGC holder, the JHF Collection contains a 1919 that is NGC graded “MS-69.” I have not seen it. While I am generally skeptical of 69 grades, the images make clear that it has much more of a head than some SLQs that are designated as FH. Moreover, the shield is exceptionally struck. Plus, the toning may be really neat. This is a coin that will attract much attention.
In May 2005, Spectrum-B&M auctioned a 1919 that is NGC graded MS-68, which is clearly a different coin. It was from “the Robert Moreno Collection.” It realized $17,825. This NGC graded MS-69 1919 should bring much more.
A Mint error that is cooler than the already mentioned off-center 1918-S is a broadstruck 1919. Either a collar was not used when a broadstruck coin is made, or a collar was spaced far from the prepared blank (planchet), and the resulting coin has abnormally broad, thin borders and an inappropriately large diameter. This broadstruck 1919 is NGC certified MS-67 FH and there is no doubt about its FH status. According to Saul Teichman, this same broadstruck 1919 “sold for $26,450 in the Bowers & Merena January 2001 sale.” After a collector has seen hundreds of SLQs, viewing this error may be refreshing and unusually entertaining.
While 1924 SLQs are not rare, any SLQ is a condition rarity in MS-67 or higher grades. The JHF Collection contains a PCGS certified MS-67 FH 1924, which is in the JHF FH PCGS registry set, and a 1924 that is PCGS graded MS-68+ with CAC approval. The depth of the offering of superb SLQs in this auction is phenomenal.
II. Werner 1796 Coins
On May 4, 1999, Stack’s (New York) auctioned the John Whitney Collection of 1796 coinage. That remains the all-time greatest collection of U.S. coins of this date. The Werners were not as ambitious as Whitney. Evidently, they did not seek all die varieties and their set of 1796 coinage seems to be a ‘work in progress.’ The “Werner Family,” though, consigned several 1796 coins to this Rarities Night event, which are particularly important.
Collectors sometimes focus on this year as all denominations of the era were minted in 1796. Dimes, quarters and Quarter Eagles ($2½ gold coins) were first struck in 1796.
The Werner 1796 ‘With Pole’ half cent is PCGS graded MS-64 and is CAC approved. While the 1796 ‘With Pole’ is not nearly as rare as the ‘No Pole’ issue, it is very rare. This is probably one of the ten finest known representatives.
The Werner 1796 Liberty Cap Large Cent is PCGS graded MS-65. The Werner 1796 Draped Bust Large Cent is PCGS graded MS-64 and is CAC approved. Both these Werner 1796 cents were formerly owned by the late Ted Naftzger, who assembled the all-time greatest collection of large cents.
The Werner 1796 half dime, dime and ‘Small Date, Small Letters’ Silver Dollar are each PCGS graded AU-58 and CAC approved. These may be sound choices for type sets. The Werner ‘Large Date’ silver dollar is PCGS graded AU-55 and is also CAC approved.
The star of the Werner Family set may be the 1796 ‘No Stars’ Quarter Eagle ($2½ gold coin). This is the first issue of Quarter Eagles and is a one-year type coin.
In 2007, before the PCGS CoinFacts site emerged, I declared that seventy to ninety, perhaps eighty, 1796 ‘No Stars’ Quarter Eagles survive. (Please click to read.) The 1796 ‘No Stars’ Quarter Eagle issue is thus the rarest of all U.S. type coins, unless the 1907 ‘Rolled Edge’ Eagle ($10 coin) is considered to be a distinct type and a definite regular issue.
The Werner 1796 ‘No Stars’ Quarter Eagle is PCGS graded MS-61 and it has a gold CAC sticker, which indicates that experts at the CAC found it to have been undergraded by experts at the PCGS. The 1796 ‘With Stars’ Quarter Eagle issue is even rarer than the 1796 ‘No Stars’ issue, though it is not nearly as important. It is one issue of a design type that spanned from 1796 to 1807.
The Werner 1796 ‘With Stars’ Quarter Eagle is PCGS graded Fine-15 and is CAC approved. I have always thought that circulated, early gold coins do not receive the respect that they deserve, if they have considerably original surfaces. Indeed, relatively original, circulated early gold coins often sell for fractions of the prices of corresponding coins that are certified as grading MS-60 or higher and often have problems.
III. Hoosier Flyer Collection of Cent Patterns
A very interesting consignment to this auction is the “Hoosier Flyer Collection” of cent patterns. These are not coins, yet are U.S. Mint products relating to cents. Some feature designs that were considered and not adopted. Others vary just slightly from corresponding regular issues. There is no way to effectively summarize this collection.
The 1850 and 1851 ring cent patterns are unusual. These were struck with holes, in the sense that donuts have holes. Further, these are billon, an alloy of mostly copper with some silver. If billon had been used for cents for circulation, billon cents would have been much lighter than the copper or bronze cents that were struck in the 19th century. For various reasons, though, the weights of patterns vary.
Some patterns were intended to showcase alternate designs rather than alternative technical specifications. Other patterns, broadly defined, were struck with dies intended for regular issues, in metals or in alloys that are different from those used in corresponding regular issues.
Personally, I like the 1853 cent patterns that were stuck with an obverse (front) die that was originally intended for Quarter Eagles of the time period or is very similar to the obverse dies of regular issue Quarter Eagles. In my view, a cent pattern with the obverse (front) design of a regular issue gold coin is entertaining. Besides, I like Liberty Head Quarter Eagles and it would be nice to have a cent pattern that looks like one.
This “Hoosier Flyer Collection” 1853 cent was struck in a nickel alloy, is PCGS certified ‘Proof-62,’ and is CAC approved. I am intrigued by 1854 Liberty Seated Cent patterns. These are not beautiful, though they are curiously appealing. The one in this collection is PCGS graded “64.”
The “Hoosier Flyer Collection” contains numerous Flying Eagle Cent and Indian Cent patterns. Those who collect regular Flying Eagle Cents may wish to add an 1858 Flying Eagle Cent pattern that features an eagle that is notably different from the eagle in the adopted design.
The various Indian Cent patterns in this offering are of interest to those who collect patterns or wish to complement sets of varieties of regular issue Indian Cents. The “Hoosier Flyer Collection” contains several Indian Cent patterns that I find to be sort of boring. There are, though, many Indian Cent enthusiasts.
There are also high quality, better date, regular issue Indian Cents in this auction. An 1872 is PCGS certified ‘MS-65 Red.’ I have not seen it. An 1872 that has true, full, original Mint red color is rare.
Indian Cent enthusiasts will eagerly bid on an 1873 cent in this auction, which is of the elusive variety with the letters of “LIBERTY” doubled. This coin is PCGS certified ‘MS-63 Red & Brown.’
IV. Large Cents
Chain Cents and Wreath Cents are one-year type coins that were minted only in 1793. Wreath Cents, though, are not nearly as scarce, nor as famous, as Chain Cents.
The NGC certified ‘MS-66 Brown’ Chain Cent in this auction is very important. As I am engaging in further research regarding this coin, I am postponing my discussion of it til latter this week.
There are two Wreath Cents in this Rarities Night event. One is PCGS graded Very Fine-35 and has a ‘Vine and Bars Edge’ (S-11A ).The other was formerly in the collection of the Norweb Family, one of the greatest collections of all time. It is PCGS graded Extremely Fine-45. It has a ‘Lettered Edge’ and is of the S-11B variety. There is some discussion of the varieties of Chain Cents and Wreath Cents in my article on Denis Loring’s Collection of 1793 cents.
The rarest of the three design types of 1793 cents is the Liberty Cap issue. In 2008, I explained this issue when I discussed Walter Husak’s, PCGS graded AU-55 1793 Liberty Cap Cent. (Remember that clickable links are in blue.) These are rare in all grades. In this auction, there is a 1793 Liberty Cap Cent that is PCGS graded Fine-12.
Though I have never seen it, a 1794 Liberty Cap Cent in this auction seems like it may be a neat type coin. It is PCGS graded AU-58 and CAC approved.
Specialists in die varieties of large cents are excited about the “Jefferson Head” 1795 cent in this sale. This issue requires a considerable amount of explanation. Furthermore, most of the surviving “Jefferson Head” pieces, including this one, have serious technical issues. Collectors who are interested in this piece should consult an expert in die varieties of large cents.
A 1797 Draped Bust Large Cent in this sale is highly certified. It is PCGS graded “MS-65+.” A 1798 Draped Bust cent is PCGS certified ‘MS-63 Brown.’
All large cents of 1799 are rare. There are 1799 cents with ‘normal numerals’ and 1799/8 overdate cents. The 1799/8 cent in this Rarities Night is not gradable, though the NGC has certified it as being genuine with the “details” of an Extremely Fine grade coin. It is perhaps better than some of the other 1799/8 cents that I have seen.
The 1823/2 is one of the key dates of the Matron Head type, a queen of the ‘Middle Dates.’ The 1823/2 in this auction is PCGS graded AU-58. I discuss key ‘Middle Dates’ in my coverage in 2009 of the Goldbergs-McCawley-Grellman auction of Naftzger’s ‘Middle Dates.’
There are also significant Braided Hair large cents and Proof large cents in this sale. I wish that it was practical to write about all the important rarities in this auction.
©2012 Greg Reynolds