The CSNS Coin Show and Coin Auction included amazing American numismatic treasures that predate the US Mint
By Jim Bisognani for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) ……
Although not an exact science, it is sometimes easy for me to gauge when a major coin show is going on without the benefit of referring to a calendar. Take the annual CSNS convention for example. All I have to do is look out one of my New Hampshire office windows and I can make a fairly accurate deduction when the Schaumburg, Illinois-based convention is getting underway.
My readers may inquire: How? My response: Copious buds on my red maple tree and tiger lily flower blooms emerging in the front of my house are dead giveaways. Amazingly, considering the otherwise-unpredictable weather patterns here in New England; this has been the case for the previous four installments of Central States.
This year, I was a bit concerned as Mother Nature’s timing was lagging a bit, yet right on cue, a trio of bright sunny days followed by significant April showers on the 25th were the catalyst to produce the necessary visual effect. Just like clockwork!
Yet that is as far as it goes; there is not any prognostication as to the degree of success of any given show when gazing out my window (although, as always, it is a safe wager CSNS will continue to be a collector and dealer favorite).
Many hobbyists enjoy Central States very much; I count myself among those who always had a great time there. Several factors contribute to this being such a popular show. One is the geography: The venue is an easy flight for most and is within driving distance for many collectors who reside in the heartland of America.
Also, the timing comes into play, as usually the weather is more conducive to extended travel this time of year. For dealers this is a must, as most professionals are obviously looking to revitalize inventories as well as to catch up on market trends during this bellwether show.
Refocusing on Colonials
One collector I spoke to – Robbie, from the neighboring Hoosier state, Indiana – has made the trip to CSNS 10 times since the new millennium.
Per Robbie: “It’s always a great show for me. I bring my family along, my wife Vicky tolerates it, and my two my sons are interested in coins because of me, and my daughter is into the shiny prooflike silver rounds and the crown-sized art and character coins and the like. Well, it’s a start.”
This Indiana collector is quite fastidious and considers himself a true numismatist.
“First and foremost, I am a series collector. I’ve completed all 20th-century minor sets: everything from Lincoln Cents through Walking Liberty Halves. Conditions vary, but most coins are AU and better. I am pretty proud of my accomplishment.”
However, at this CSNS, he is changing his modus operandi.
“I am looking to build a type set of early federal coins: Half Cent, Large Cent and Flowing Hair Half Dimes this time around. I really love the history and the early copper is especially fascinating to me … I am also looking to put together a few Colonial coppers: Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut, to start with. I will be walking the bourse and checking in on the auction [Heritage CSNS signature sale].”
Sounds like an exciting battle plan to me!
CSNS Auction Results from Illinois
The always-important Heritage CSNS US Coins Signature auction that Robbie alluded to featured many coins in his wheelhouse. Truly a tour de force of numismatic treasures: captivating Colonials, early federal rarities, a solid array of US gold issues and some stunningly preserved proof coins. In total, when the gavel fell silent, nearly $21 million was realized. Many coins in the low- to mid-four-figure range did surprisingly well, and some records were set. Below are several noteworthy lots just passing the auction block.
An 1880 Morgan Dollar, graded NGC PF 68 Cameo, realized $40,800: a new record price for the grade! A truly awe-inspiring example of the famed Morgan Dollar, flashy boldly struck devices and deep fluid mirrors place this coin on the cusp of perfection. Although a single coin grades numerically higher in the NGC Census, I can’t conceive her being superior in eye appeal!
I think it’s fair to assume that nearly all numismatists are also history buffs. This is why the otherwise-esoteric but very important Colonial segment of the numismatic market is growing. There has always been demand when quality Colonial antiquities come to the marketplace. Yet the fervor generated by the series of sales of John J. Ford Jr. rare early Americana beginning in October of 2003 through September 2013 was a boon for this market. Thousands of early American coins, showcased in some two dozen sales bearing his name, captivated collectors and was responsible for bringing many more enthusiasts to the table.
I can still harken back to all the excitement generated!
While this 1652 Pine Tree Shilling (Noe-4), graded NGC MS 65, claimed $52,800 in April 2018, this fabulous large-planchet reversed N Colonial’s first modern debut was as a part of the phenomenal John J Ford Jr. collection Part XII in October 2005 conducted by Stack’s. I recall the sometimes not-so-friendly competition back then served to fuel prices in select areas to heights that were unheard-of at that time. This coin was raw and graded as uncirculated and realized a solid $34,500 at the time. Amazingly, the 147 lots that comprise that 2005 Ford Sale “Collection of Silver Colonial Coinage of Massachusetts” realized $6.56 million! That averaged out to just under $45,000 per coin!
To be sure, the Ford sales opened and pushed the envelope. This still-obscure segment of the rare coin market was thriving. And each subsequent Ford Jr. sale pulled in veteran and new hobbyists, each wanting to obtain the finest and rarest Colonial issues. I recall that along with this phenomenal high-grade Massachusetts 1652 Pine Tree Shilling was the enigmatic and rarest of the rare: the 1652 Willow Tree Three Pence, one of just three known examples. As the only example that will ever be available to collectors (graded raw VF), it roared to $632,500!
Quite amazingly, superb early Colonials such as this 1652 Pine Tree Shilling always have a waiting home. For reference, this NGC MS 65 Pine Tree Shilling example has appeared on the auction block once each year since 2015 and has managed to achieve a modest advancement with each subsequent appearance!
Another enormously enticing Colonial was this 1787 Massachusetts Horned Eagle Cent (Ryder 2-A), graded NGC MS 66 BN, capturing $21,600. This finest-known of this variety previously appeared in the Partrick Collection at the Heritage Winter FUN sale in 2015, when this ultra-Gem realized $21,150. A truly remarkable Colonial copper, it’s a variety that I’ve always admired!
The Libertas Americana medal (1781) is a true American ambassador! At the direction of the Continental Congress, Benjamin Franklin was authorized to produce medals as voted for by our governing body. As our able-bodied ambassador to France, the wise senior statesman was well aware that our greatest European benefactor would be a superb choice to design and strike this medal. What was initially to be a commemoration of the revolutionary forces’ victories at Yorktown and Saratoga instead became a celebration of American independence as the date 4 July 1776 at the base of Ms. Liberty boldly proclaims on the obverse. The reverse symbolically recognizes the American forces’ pair of defining victories in October: October 17, 1777 at Saratoga and October 19, 1781, the deciding battle at Yorktown.
Stylish and powerful, these medals were minted in France and struck in gold, silver and this bronzed copper. While the whereabouts of the gold versions is unknown, a few dozen of the silver medals still exist, and estimates for this more affordable copper version are assessed in the neighborhood of 125 examples. This enticing lovely gem, graded NGC MS 65 BN, one of the finest known, raced to $50,400.
For me, it was the history of the Colonial and post-revolutionary means of exchange that drew me to the hobby in the first place. And as long as there are faithful collectors like Robbie and his family, the thrill of acquisition, history and romance of our republic will be enjoyed and preserved for the next generation of numismatists!
Until next time, happy collecting!
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Jim Bisognani is an NGC Price Guide Analyst having previously served for many years as an analyst and writer for another major price guide. He has written extensively on US coin market trends and values.