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Gold Coins Take Center Stage at Heritage Auctions 2024 Winter FUN Sale

January 2024 Heritage Auctions US Coins Signature Auction

Heritage Auctions kicks off the 2024 numismatic auction season with their 2024 Winter FUN U.S. Coins Signature Auction. On offer are 2,625 lots, with a robust selection of classic and modern coins for collectors at all levels. The auction kicks off on January 10 at 12PM CT and continues through January 14. The first of two Heritage Auctions’ Platinum Night sessions gets underway on January 11 at 1 PM CT.

In addition to the 2001-D Lincoln cent mule error and the 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse (DDO) Lincoln cent that we covered in previous articles, the following six gold coin lots are highlights that CoinWeek likes in this month’s sale.

1853 Gold Dollar – PCGS MS69 CAC

1853 Gold Dollar. Image: Heritage Auctions.
1853 Gold Dollar. Image: Heritage Auctions.

Lot 4299 is one of the finest known 1853 gold dollars. Graded PCGS MS69 CAC, this piece pedigreed to David Akers and Bob Simpson is one of three coins graded at this level and stands at the apex of quality for any issue of the denomination.

The January 1848 discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in California occurred just one month before Mexico ceded the territory to the United States through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. At the time, the discovery was not widely known, and neither the Mexican nor the U.S. Government understood the magnitude of the transfer. The Mexicans, defeated in a war they didn’t start, would hand over valuable territory and gold reserves in such a quantity that it would establish the United States as a leading global industrial power.

As the gold findings in the California placer fields became better understood, a crush of people raced for the western frontier. This great migration radically transformed the nation’s interior, and new towns, cities, businesses, and infrastructure sprang up.

With a constant flow of gold bullion heading East, the U.S. Congress established two new gold coin denominations to handle the material. The first to enter production was a gold dollar, and the second was a large $20 gold coin – officially called the Double Eagle.

The gold dollar debuted in 1849 and was struck at the Philadelphia, Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans branches of the United States Mint. In total, the Mint produced 4,076,051 gold dollars in 1853 using metal transported from California. In uncirculated grades, this coin survives in quantity and is considered a type coin. But that “type coin” status falls to the side when one considers the superlative quality of this piece. In total, PCGS counts five MS69 gold dollars in its condition census; three of those come from this date. Of the three 1853 gold dollars graded PCGS MS69, this is the only example to earn the CAC sticker.

  • Current Bid: $105,000

1864 Liberty Head Quarter Eagle – PCGS PR66+ DCAM CAC

1864 Proof Liberty Head Quarter Eagle PCGS PR66+DCAM CAC. Image: PCGS.
1864 Proof Liberty Head Quarter Eagle PCGS PR66+DCAM CAC. Image: PCGS.

Lot 4308 is a Gem-quality 1864 Proof Liberty Head quarter eagle gold coin that exhibits a razor-sharp strike and an evenly applied deep cameo frost. This example is offered as part of the Bob R. Simpson Collection. Simpson famously worked with Laura Sperber and Legend Numismatics to build one of the finest coin collections ever assembled. Quality and originality were two of the Simpson Collection hallmarks, and this coin is clearly the finest of three graded at the PR66+ level.

The United States Mint produced 50 Proof Quarter Eagles in 1864. These were delivered to the Mint’s cash office on February 11 and sold to collectors. Per the Heritage lot description, citing Jon Dannreuther’s recent scholarship, between 14 and 16 coins survive, two of which are permanently impounded in the collections of the American Numismatic Society and the National Numismatic Collection.

This lot offering presents a rare chance for the advanced collector to acquire the ultimate example of this Civil War-era gold piece.

  • Current Bid: $61,000

1928 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle – PCGS MS67+ CAC

1928 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle. PCGS MS67. Image: Heritage Auctions.
1928 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle. PCGS MS67. Image: Heritage Auctions.

The 1928 Saint-Gaudens double eagle was the final issue of the series to be distributed in sufficient quantities to survive the gold confiscation and remain affordable in Mint State. Heritage’s Lot 4417 is a superior example of the date, with a strong pedigree that ties it to the impressive Rollo Fox and Perfection collections.

This example was graded PCGS MS67+ CAC and is one of 13 coins assigned this grade by PCGS, with none graded finer. With 13 possible coins to choose from, collectors and dealers will form their own opinions as to which coins are better than others. The copper spots present on the obverse and reverse of this piece are typical for the issue and present on other high-end examples.

  • Current Bid: $38,001

1860 $5 Large Planchet Half Eagle Pattern (Judd-271) – PCGS PR64+ DCAM

1860 Pattern Five Dollar Gold Coin. Image: Heritage Auctions.
1860 Pattern Five Dollar Gold Coin. Image: Heritage Auctions.

Lot 4235 is unquestionably the most exciting pattern coin offered in Heritage Auctions’ January 2024 FUN sale. This Large Planchet Half Eagle pattern features a beautiful Liberty head, modeled by Mint Chief Engraver James Barton Longacre, is loosely based on Thomas Crawford’s Liberty head on the Statue of Freedom.

Longacre faced many challenges during his tenure as Chief Engraver but one constant issue was the scourge of counterfeit coins. To eliminate the practice of unscrupulous people slicing gold coins in half to remove gold content inside of the coin and replacing it with platinum(!), the Mint experimented with a concept proposed by Dr. J.T. Barclay of Mint employ, whereby the Mint would produce thinner coins that would make such an alteration immediately detectable.

This lot is one such pattern. Thinner than a production half eagle, this half eagle pattern measures 27mm in diameter and is thereby roughly the size of the $10 eagle gold coin denomination. The thinner coin proved to be impractical after this pattern was produced in 1860.

This example, the finest of two known, is pedigreed to some of the most important coin collections of all time. Tracing a chain of collectors dating back to the 19th century, this example was part of collections of Robert Coulton Davis, George Woodside, and M.A. Brown. It’s 20th- and 21st-century rosters count Virgil Brand, F.C.C. Boyd, Ed Trompeter, and Bob R. Simpson as collectors who have enjoyed its beauty and rarity.

  • Current Bid: $140,000

1855 Kellogg and Co. Fifty Dollar Gold Coins – PCGS PR64 CAM CAC

1855 Kellog & Company $50 Gold Piece. Image: Heritage Auctions.
1855 Kellog & Company $50 Gold Piece. Image: Heritage Auctions.

1855 heralded the end of an chaotic and opportunistic period of American coinage. The San Francisco Mint began coining operations in 1854 and soon begins to meet the needs of local depositors. Private coiners, whose products were good enough during the early years of the California Gold Rush, found their services no longer necessary.

This Kellogg & Company fifty dollar gold coin, along with the scarce $20 piece of the same year, served as that firm’s swan song. Struck to the standards of a Proof issue, the 1855 Kellogg & Company fifty is considered a Proof issue by PCGS.

The present example is plated in Don Kagin and David McCarthy’s America’s Gold Age: Private & Pioneer Gold Coins of the United States 1786-1862 (2023), is the finest known of 13 pieces, and is pedigreed to Humbert, Zabriskie, Ellsworth, and Garrett.

It is an historically significant piece bound for a top-end Pioneer Gold set. It may cross the auction block at a cool million dollars.

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Charles Morgan
Charles Morgan
Charles Morgan is an award-winning numismatic author and the editor and publisher of CoinWeek.com. Along with co-author Hubert Walker, he has written for CoinWeek since 2012, as well as the "Market Whimsy" column for The Numismatist and the book 100 Greatest Modern World Coins (2020) for Whitman Publishing. From 2021-2023, Charles served as Governor of the American Numismatic Association (ANA), where he was bestowed the Glenn Smedley Award. Charles is a member of numerous numismatic organizations, including the American Numismatic Society (ANS) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG).

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