By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for CoinWeek….
The Legend Rare Coins Regency Auction XIII, taking place on September 3, 2015 during the PCGS Members Only Show, was a dazzling event well-suited to its glamorous host city. The coin auction, which saw 356 lots trade hands at the famous Venetian resort in Las Vegas, attracted more than 100 winning bidders who placed over 1,000 bids. The sale featured a wide range of coins–including a 1918-D Mercury dime PCGS MS-67 Full Bands that sold for US$182,125 and ranks as one of the finest known examples in the series.
While all of the 356 lots sold during Regency Auction XIII were incredible coins on their own merit, the highlight of the event was the sale of the exquisite Simpson-Hall $10 Liberty Collection. The Simpson-Hall Collection, named for Texas Rangers baseball club co-chairman Bob R. Simpson and Professional Coin Grading Services founder David Hall, includes some of the scarcest and finest gold eagles in existence. The 59 Liberty $10 gold eagles offered at Regency Auction XIII realized more than $700,000 altogether, with several specimens crossing well into five-digit price territory.
Perhaps most intriguing about the Simpson-Hall Collection is that while all of the 59 pieces sold during the September 3 auction are certainly choice coins, some sold for relatively affordable prices. For example, an 1878-S in AU-58 had a final bid of $3,407.50, and an 1881-S grading MS-63 was bought for just $1,586.25. Still, many of the top prizes for the evening were heavy hitters in terms of pricing, and here’s a look at five such coins that wowed the crowds at Regency Auction XIII:
#1 – 1879-O $10 Liberty Head Eagle, PCGS AU-58 CAC Designation – $49,937.50
Boasting prooflike mirrored fields, this 1879-O $10 gold eagle is one of the finest known, with only a single MS-61 to top it. While this 1879-O is graded AU-58 by PCGS, there is no apparent wear on the coin when viewed by the naked eye. What stands out on this gorgeous coin are the colors, which range from pale purple to deep gold.
With an original mintage of 1,500 pieces, the number of survivors is extremely small today, and only 14 have been certified at AU-58 by PCGS and NGC. Just two have CAC designations. The last time a PCGS AU-58 1879-O $10 Liberty went for sale at auction was in 2006, when it sold at a Heritage Auctions sale for $20,700.00. Five years earlier, a specimen sold at another Heritage event for $13,225.00, showing a strong overall increase in value over the course of the last 15 years.
#2 – 1842-O $10 Liberty Head Eagle, PCGS AU-58 – $18,800.00
This early New Orleans Mint eagle is one of the few survivors that escaped heavy circulation. As numismatists will surmise, 10 dollars represented a large sum of cash in 1842. To be precise, $10 in the year 1842 is worth approximately $250 today, given inflation. $10 eagles therefore were seldom saved in better grades, and that’s one reason these early New Orleans eagles are so difficult to find today. Of the 27,400 struck, perhaps 200 remain today–with just three in Mint State grades.
This particular AU-58 is among the best 1842-O eagles in existence. PCGS reports only five in this grade, while 26 have passed through NGC. Though at 31 pieces known, this AU-58 1842-O still is a very scarce coin. So scarce, in fact, that the most recent previous auction listing for a PCGS-graded AU-58 dates back to 2006, when Heritage sold one for $15,065. Another PCGS 1842-O in AU-58 traded hands at a 2004 Heritage sale for $9,200.
#3 – 1857-S $10 Liberty Head Eagle, PCGS AU-58 – $4,700.00
There’s an interesting story behind the 1857-S $10 Liberty Head coin.
While the issue is considerably common (with 26,000 made at the San Francisco Mint during the height of the Gold Rush era), the numismatic community went decades without knowing of any Mint State specimens. That is, until the discovery of the wreckage of the SS Central America, which went down in 1857 in the Atlantic with 30,000 tons of gold and 425 passengers.
A tiny handful of Mint State specimens surfaced during recovery efforts at the wreck site in the late 1980s, though the known population of 1857-S $10 Liberty coins remains small, with approximately 100 known specimens across the grading spectrum, and only two graded by PCGS in AU-58. Two prior auction records exist for PCGS-slabbed specimens, with one selling for $8,225 in July 2014 and another transaction by GreatCollections in April of that year, when a specimen sold for $11,275.00.
#4 – 1872 $10 Liberty Head Eagle, PCGS AU-55 – $12,925.00
The 1872 eagle represents an especially challenging coin, as it’s one of the scarcest in any grade within the long-running $10 Liberty Head series. Only 1,620 were originally made, and just 40 to 50 are known to exist today. While this 1872 AU-55 specimen is not the finest known for the issue (PCGS lists five higher, including one in MS-64), this particular issue does have a certain claim to numismatic fame – it is the plate coin shown on the PCGS Coinfacts site representing the issue.
This 1872 Liberty Head eagle does show some scant signs of wear, and a few surface nicks are evident against the mirror-like fields, but it is a beautiful coin with bright gold overtones and coppery hues toward the periphery.
PCGS specimens in AU-55 sold twice in 2015, both in Heritage sales, and bringing $16,450.00 each time. They also traded hands at another Heritage Auctions event in February 2014 for $13,513. During a Bowers & Merena sale in 1999, a specimen sold for $8,337.00.
#5 – 1878-CC $10 Liberty Head Eagle, PCGS AU-55 – $37,600.00
This brief look at a few of the highlights from the Simpson-Hall $10 Liberty Collection wraps up with an 1878-CC $10 Liberty – a coin that represents the rarest Carson City eagle. A mere 3,244 pieces were struck, and, as is the case with virtually all Carson City gold coins, most were lost to circulation, melting, and sheer time. Today, approximately 75 pieces are known to survive, and only a rare few are known to exist in the better grades.
This 1878-CC $10 eagle is not the finest known – that honor goes to a specimen certified by NGC that grades MS-61. However, population figures for this issue are downright miniscule. Between PCGS and NGC, only 13 pieces have been graded at AU-55, and a total of only four between the two leading certification companies boast a grade of AU-58.
As for PCGS, one issue previously sold at a Stack’s sale in August 2007 for $41,400, representing a marked increase in price from two prior sales in the 1990s. In 1999, the coin fetched $27,600 at a Bowers & Merena auction, and in 1995 it sold for $25,300 during a Heritage Auctions sale.
Auction records for NGC-graded specimens indicate this coin has traded for similar prices in recent years. An August 2012 listing shows a final bid of $25,850 for an NGC AU-55 specimen and at a more recent sale in March 2014, a similarly graded 1878-CC in NGC plastic received a final bid of $28,200.
Ultimately, the successful results of the Simpson-Hall $10 Liberty Collection at Regency Auction XIII reflect the continued interest in pre-1933 U.S. gold coins, not to mention other beloved classics. Much like the Morgan dollar, Mercury dime, Lincoln cent, Seated Liberty coinage, and early U.S. type coins – all of which also performed very well at Regency Auction XIII – Liberty Head $10 gold coins capture the interests of novice and seasoned numismatists alike, and they thrive in a market that perennially relishes high-end, classic coins.