By Jim Bisognani for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation ……
Mintmarked gold hot in Stack’s Bowers sale; Collector on prowl for Gem DPL CC Morgans
As we ushered in November, fresh to their temporary digs in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, dealers and some collectors were busy setting up shop in their respective hotel rooms. As always, many of the circuit professionals took part in this ritualistic pre-convention discourse of early-bird bartering from room to room. Anything to get a leg up on the competition, and also a time for market talk and to scope out fresh deals, etc.
Yet even the most ardent coindexters turned their numismatic weary eyes from shiny slabs to take in the memorable game seven of the World Series between the Cubs and the Indians. It’s still hard for me to fathom that the deciding game was played in Cleveland, Ohio, on November 2 and the game-time temperature was 70 degrees. It’s so wrong for baseball in November yet the gods bequeathed a balmy night for the Boys of Summer to revel in. History was made in 10 innings as the team from the land of Lincoln was victorious for the first time since 1908! Congratulations to the Cubbies. The last time the Cubs won the World Series two of the most popular US gold coins, the Indian quarter and half eagle, were just being released into circulation. In fact all denominations of then-current US gold coins were readily available at local banks. What a sweet thought!
Now fresh from the Old Line State, both collectors and dealers at the Whitman Baltimore Winter Expo shared positive reviews of this dealer and family-friendly venue. Activity on the cavernous convention floor was described as busy to heavy. As we all know floor traffic equates to sales, trades and, of course, new customers. Chatter on the bourse covered baseball, politics, metal prices and, oh yes, coins!
John, who hails from the Philadelphia area and was a first-timer in Baltimore, was emphatic as to his numismatic preference: “I am a collector of Morgan silver dollars that is it period. I’ve collected them since I was a kid some 35 years ago.”
The Morgan aficionado told me that he has two complete sets including the 1895 Proof only issue. So I asked John what he is looking for with his Morgans: to update or assemble VAMs?
“Actually I have a passion for Carson City coins within the series. I really get a thrill getting coins with that “CC” mark ever since I was given an 1878-CC Morgan to add to my three-coin collection when I was 10! It was a Christmas gift; the dollar was about MS 63. I never got the coin slabbed as it was my first Carson City coin. My mission in Baltimore is to pick up some nice DPL common date CCs—the 1882, ’83 and ’84. At this point in my collecting I want to delve into the DPLs. I like them better in many instances to proof coins that are available because these are the business strikes; the very first of the business strikes that received the nearly proof surfaces. It is next to impossible for many dates and very pricey so I am going to stick with easier and less costly ones in the under $2,500 range.”
I concur with John that high-grade Morgan DPLs are gorgeous and very scarce especially in MS 65 DPL or better. A quick scan of the NGC Census reveals that of the nearly 3.1 million Morgan dollars graded, a minuscule 3,199 examples reside as MS 65 DPLs compared to 405,047 designated as regular MS 65!
An outstanding multi-session auction by Stack’s Bowers offered up top-tier rarities as well as collector friendly coins from all standard US series along with Colonial coins, script medals and currency. As always, top-grade US gold rarities (especially some New Orleans issues) were met with strong competition and, in many instances, garnered record prices.
As we go to press the online only sessions are still underway. In my opinion, the following is a quartet of stupendous NGC-certified results from the Stack’s Bowers Baltimore sale:
1861-S Liberty Seated Quarter NGC XF 40 $4,935
As is the case with most of the early San Francisco Mint quarters, high-grade examples are extremely difficult to come by. In many instances, as is the case with this issue, Mint State examples are unknown. For reference, there are only eight coins graded numerically higher than this wonderfully original example. The last NGC XF 40 1861-S that sold at public auction was at the GreatCollections sale in July 2014 where the like graded coin brought $3,355.
1911-D Indian Half Eagle NGC AU 58 $6,463
The ever-popular Indian Head half eagle has an enormous collecting base for type coins as well as those with designs on completing the series. Aside from the high profile and elevated price tag following the key 1909-O and the last year of issue 1929, the 1911-D has the second lowest mintage of the entire series. While low end circulated coins can be bought for little more than type prices, those coins approaching Mint State and beyond command significant collector attention and premiums. According to the NGC Census, 36% of those coins or the majority graded reside in the AU 58 designation! However, this coin is far from average and was worthy of the record price received for the grade.
1856-O Liberty Eagle NGC MS 60 $47,000
This is (was) an underrated rarity. This coin had a scant mintage of 14,500 pieces but due to extensive demand for the denomination, most entered circulation and stayed there. With few collectors anxious to acquire mintmarked gold in this era, the 1856-O is a true rarity. In all grades approximately 150 coins exist. In Mint State only four coins appear as MS 60 on the NGC Census and none graded higher. The last public auction appearance for a like graded NGC MS 60 coin was in February 2009 as a part of the Heritage Long Beach sale. This similar example pedigreed to the Grand Lake Collection realized $15,588. Now 7 1/2 years later a new and deserving record price.
1880-O Liberty Eagle NGC MS 60 $17,625
Another record price realized for an extremely tough New Orleans coin to locate in Mint State. From a paltry original delivery of 9,200 coins it is estimated around 200 or so remain in all grades for collectors. Only nine coins appear as Mint State according to the NGC Census. The last NGC MS 60 1880-O Eagle to appear at public sale was at the Goldberg’s Pre-Long Beach sale in September 2010 where she realized a then record $6,325.
November has already been very busy, exciting and historic. We have had a Baseball World Series for the ages, a fabulous coin show and a presidential election and we are just a third of the way through the month! What a triple header!
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.