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The Incredible Gene Gardner Collection, part 4: Second Coin Auction on Monday, Oct. 27

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds ………….

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #247…….

In addition to a very impressive collection of Capped Bust silver coins, some important Draped Bust silver coins, the all-time greatest collection of Barber Quarters, and highly ranked sets of Barber Dimes and Barber Halves, Gene Gardner had the most incredible collection of Liberty Seated coins that anyone thought possible. Many of these stirred the emotions of bidders on Monday Oct. 27, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, during the second of four planned auctions of Gene Gardner’s collection.

The total on Monday was $13.7 million, though such a total does not reveal the importance or quality of the coins included. Although demand for rare coins has slipped a little over the last six weeks, the results of this auction suggest that markets for rarities and for gem quality, 19th century copper, nickel and silver coins are very healthy. Although Gardner’s focus and my focus herein is on silver coins, Gardner did acquire many significant copper and nickel coins. These are not as newsworthy as the silver coins in the second Gardner auction.

During the process of examining coins at lot viewing sessions for three afternoons and attending the auction, I immersed myself ‘in’ the coins and environment of this sale. I discussed many of these coins with collectors and dealers. Some of the people who examined coins chose to bid over the Internet or through agents rather than attend ‘in person.’

Herein, I report upon famous coins in this sale, not necessarily those of the highest quality or rarity. It should not be assumed that I am agreeing with all cited certified grades.

I mention only two quarters herein, with the idea that I will devote more attention to Gene Gardner’s quarters in the future. I repeat that he assembled the all-time greatest collections of Liberty Seated and Barber Quarters, and these warrant extensive discussions. His Liberty Seated and Barber Half Dollars are tremendous, too. I will cover many half dollars in this sale in my next installment on Friday.

I. Background

A Gardner pedigree commands attention and respect. The Gardner Collection will be a reference, especially for Liberty Seated and Barber coins, for decades to come.

gr_102914_1801-aIn part 1 of this series on the Gene Gardner Collection, I emphasized that ‘incredible’ is the right word to describe this collection. Indeed, while all large, epic collections contain a few horrid coins and dozens of irritants, in terms of quality, rarity, and completeness, with bonus points for Proofs, it may be true that Gene Gardner formed the all-time greatest collection of Liberty Seated and Barber coins, along with exceptional collections of many other types of coins. In this auction, an NGC graded MS-61, 1796 ‘With Pole’ Half Cent sold for $129,250 and a PCGS certified and CAC approved ‘MS-65FH’ 1927-S Standing Liberty Quarter brought $176,250.

For 19th century U.S. silver coin series in general, Gardner’s collection is certainly one of the ten all-time greatest, along with those of Louis Eliasberg, the Norweb family, J.A. Stack, George Earle, Virgil Brand, Waldo Newcomer, and Col. Green. For such comparisons here, 19th century silver coins are being analytically separated from larger collections. All these collectors, Gardner included, had additional coins in their collections, not just silver coins.

To thoughtfully rank such collections, weights would have to be assigned to multiple factors: quality, rarity, pedigrees, and other important aspects of individual coins. For now, reflecting upon auction results and individual coins in the Gardner Collection sheds light upon the culture of coin collecting, in addition to providing insights about current market values. Besides, learning about coins that are very rare and/or very beautiful is fun.

Also, there are many relatively less costly coins in the Gardner auctions, some for less than $1000 each. Though these may be cherished additions to collections and are often excellent values, I am reporting here on coins and results that are particularly newsworthy.

The topic of part 2, was famous coins that sold in the first Gardner sale, on June 23rd. In part 3 of this series, spectacular coins in that first sale, which were not necessarily famous, were analyzed. Here in part 4, some famous coins in this second sale are discussed.

II. Two Famous Quarters

The highest certified, non-Proof 1823/2 quarter was a highlight of the sale. It had not been publicly seen in a long time. All “1823“ quarters are 1823/2 overdates and fewer than forty survive in all grades. I thank a Heritage cataloguer for citing my analysis in 2009 of the offering of the “Joseph Thomas Collection,” about 1823/2 quarters. “The 1823/2 quarter is definitely an extreme rarity and is probably under-appreciated,” I said. In regards to the reasons why 1823/2 quarters had not brought six figure prices until the offering of Gene’s collection, the Heritage cataloguer (Mark Borckardt?) points out that 1823/2 quarters “are seen at auction so seldom in high grade.” Even appearances of 1823/2 quarters that grade above VF-20 are extremely rare.

Since I put forth my argument regarding the relative values of 1823/2 quarters in April 2009, these have become more famous. “Joseph Thomas,” not his real name, owned two, one of which was the NGC graded VF-30 1823/2 that was earlier in the Garrett Family Collection. Additional 1823/2 quarters have traded among bust quarter enthusiasts during the last five years. FQu18232o1urthermore, a widely acclaimed book on bust quarters was published in 2011. Of course, the unique Proof 1823/2 quarter was the star of the first Gardner sale in June.

This NGC graded MS-61 and CAC approved 1823/2 was probably the most talked about coin among those who attended the second Gardner sale. It is more attractive than expected, semi-prooflike, with neat blue fields and some russet-brown tinted design elements. A collector from the Midwest bought it for $188,000.

Another very famous quarter is the Eliasberg-Gardner, Philadelphia Mint 1842 ‘Small Date’ Liberty Seated Quarter. These exist only in Proof format; there are no known business strikes. Estimates of the number that survive have ranged from five to eight. There is not an immediate reason to question the roster of seven in the Heritage catalogue, which is apparently thorough.

The Eliasberg-Gardner piece is PCGS certified Proof-65 and would not, I suggest, qualify for a CAC sticker. It is, though, vibrant and attractive. At this auction, this Eliasberg-Gardner 1842 ‘Small Date’ brought $282,000, a very strong price, even more than the $258,500 price this exact same coin realized on Aug. 9, 2013, during a time when pertinent market levels were higher.

III.  Silver Dollars

While there were some very important silver dollars in this sale, this auction will be best remembered for coins of other silver denominations. The 1838 Gobrecht Silver Dollar merits attention, and the Gardner 1870-CC was the most famous silver dollar in this auction.

The Gardner 1870-CC is one of the two highest certified of this rare and famous date. It is NGC graded MS-64 and is very similar to the Battle Born Collection, PCGS graded MS-64 coin that Stack’s-Bowers auctioned in Aug. 2012 for $126,500. Declines in demand since then could easily account for the fact that the Gardner price brought slightly less, $117,500. Also, it should not be assumed that either is the finest known. Some collectors should spend less time reading PCGS and NGC data and more time discussing the physical characteristics of coins with experts.

Although the 1872-CC is not as rare as the 1870-CC, the Queller-Gardner 1872-CC is one of the five highest certified 1872-CC silver dollars, which are rare in all grades. Although it is NGC graded MS-64, I doubt that it would qualify for a CAC sticker and I would be surprised if experts at PCGS would also assign a grade of MS-64 to it. The $111,625 result is very strong. Although the exact same coin realized more in April 2008, market conditions have changed. Besides, although its certified grade is controversial as well, the ‘JAS- Battle Born,’ NGC graded MS-64+ 1872-CC is substantially superior to this Gardner 1872-CC and that piece brought $80,500 in Aug. 2012.

The Proof Liberty Seated Dollars in the Gardner Collection were more impressive than the business strikes, though there were some exceptional business strikes. Indeed, in my view, there were many other Liberty Seated Dollars in this auction that are more desirable than the 1870-CC and 1872-CC. Here, I am putting my own opinions aside, and reporting on the two silver dollars in this sale that are the most newsworthy.

A neat 1838 Gobrecht Dollar added spice to this auction. Gobrecht Dollars should not be expected to be particularly brilliant. Many of these were not very brilliant when they were struck. Gobrecht Dollars often have or had mellow, subtly reflective surfaces. Cloudy, deep blue toning tends to develop, with brown-russet areas. This Gardner Gobrecht has that kind of terrific ‘original look.’ It is NGC graded 65, which seems more than fair for a coin that scores highly in the categories of eye appeal, technical factors and originality.

This Gardner-Gobrecht 1838 brought $94,000. When markets for rare U.S. coins were booming in April 2008, this same piece sold for $149,500. That price then may have been a little strong and the current result was a little weak. On Monday, a $110,000 result would have been a moderate price for this coin.

IV. Half Dimes

One of the legendary coins in the Gardner Collection is the 1801 half dime that is NGC graded MS-67. These are very rare in all grades.

In theory, an 1801 in Good-04 grade could be purchased for less than $1000, though it might be difficult to find a certified, Good-04 or -06 grade 1801 half dime. In grades above MS-62, the 1801 half dime is an extreme condition rarity. PCGS had graded one as MS-64 and one as MS-66. NGC has graded zero from MS-63 to MS-66 and the Gardner coin as MS-67.

In August 1998, B&M (New Hampshire) auctioned this same 1801 half dime for $112,500. The PCGS price guide values the PCGS graded MS-66 coin at $120,000 and the NGC price guide values this specific coin at $150,000.HalfDime1801Reverse

This coin is not brilliant and not dynamic, though is more than very attractive in its own ways. Miss Liberty is tinted blue and the outer obverse (front of the coin) has natural orange-russet hues. Furthermore, there are various blue shades about the coin. The reverse (back of the coin) is russet-tan in and around the center, with blue and orange-russet tones in the outer fields. Though it has not been CAC approved, I could not find anything wrong with this 1801 half dime. Under five-times magnification, hardly any hairlines or contact marks are apparent. It seems to score highly in the technical category.

The $164,500 result is strong, clearly in the retail range. A price of $130,000 would have been moderate.

Another great Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Half Dime in this sale is an 1803 ‘Large Date.’ Although it has not received the attention of the Gardner 1801, the 1803 is a recognized rarity in all grades and this specific 1803 is widely recognized as an extreme condition rarity.

HalfDime03obvUnlike the just mentioned 1801, this 1803 has some slight abrasions on Miss Liberty’s face. It is otherwise excellent. Besides, no one is suggesting that this 1803 grades MS-67. It is PCGS graded MS-65 and CAC approved. A 66 grade might be fair.

The russet toned Miss Liberty and the green outer fields are just charming. On the reverse, tan-russet, brown-russet and green hues all neatly blend together. Plus, the reverse is nearly flawless, from a technical standpoint.

Both the 1801 and the 1803 mentioned here show no signs of having been dipped or cleaned, at least not in more than a century! With some exceptions, relatively original, naturally toned coins tended to fare better in the Gardner sale than those that are not as original, though this is true in most major auctions of classic U.S. silver coins, except in instances where Morgans or Walkers are emphasized. The $88,125 result was strong to very strong, well into the retail range, though somehow this coin is worth a premium. It really has to be seen in actuality to be appreciated.HalfDi1837obv

While collectors often assemble one or more series of bust half dimes ‘by date,’ Liberty Seated Half Dimes are more often collected ‘by type’ than ‘by date.’ As the first year of a two-year type, and the first year of the series of Liberty Seated Half Dimes in general, the 1837 ‘No Stars’ is known to hundreds of thousands of coin collectors. As a kid, I was intrigued by the existence of half dimes, and thought this issue appeared odd without design elements in the outer fields of the obverse.

The Gardner 1837 Liberty Seated Half Dime in this auction is NGC graded MS-67 and CAC approved. There is no doubt about it meriting a 67 grade and its grade is in the middle of the MS-67 range, ‘a mid-range seven’ in coin collecting jargon. It has terrific, natural green and russet toning. The $12,925 result was a little weak. A moderate price would have been in th range from $13,500 to $14,000.

V. 1804 Dimes

The 1804 is the rarest date in the series of bust dimes, 1796 to 1837, though some die varieties of other dates are rarer. Moreover, 1804 dimes are rarer than any Liberty Seated Dimes minted before 1870. There are two major varieties of 1804 dimes, those with thirteen stars on the reverse (back) and those with fourteen stars. Standard references tend to list these as if they are two distinct dates. In my view, one 1804 is sufficient for a complete set of Draped Bust Dimes

In total, 1804 dimes are very rare, though perhaps not extremely rare. Back in 2009, Jim McGuigan emphasized that “there are a lot of 1804 dimes that are damaged or heavily porous, and would not receive grades from PCGS or NGC. There are probably less than one hundred 1804 dimes that are gradable.”

This Gardner sale contained two 1804 dimes, including representatives of both major varieties. Although the Gardner thirteen stars reverse is PCGS graded AU-53, it really should not have received a numerical grade. Grading services tend to be much more flexible when grading classic rarities, especially those minted prior to 1840. If a less rare coin from a different era had the same physical characteristics as this 1804 dime, it would probably have not received a numerical grade from PCGS.

This coin sold for $52,875 at the auction on Monday. Though apparently a weak price, this result is not really weak. Indeed, the $52,875 price is a strong price for a a non-gradable 1804-thirteen star reverse dime with the details of an AU grade. If relevant bidders were really under the impression that it merited a 53 grade, it would have sold for at least $75,000, perhaps more than $100,000.

In Jan. 2005, ANR auctioned the other PCGS graded AU-53 1804-thirteen stars, the Pittman piece, for $97,750. Although demand for these has fallen slightly in 2014, demand for 1804 dimes is not lower now than demand was in Jan. 2005. The current PCGS price guide value, for a 53 grade 1804-thirteen stars, is “$100,000“ and the Numismedia retail price, which also relates to NGC certified coins, is $76,880. On July 31, 2008, the NGC graded AU-55, Ed Price Collection 1804-thirteen stars was auctioned for $149,500.

The 1804-fourteen stars is rarer than the 1804-thirteen stars. Gene Gardner’s coin is great, much better than his 1804 Thirteen Stars Dime. This Gardner 1804 is PCGS graded AU-50 and seems to be clearly gradable. This 1804-fourteen stars dime has nice natural toning, mellow green-gray with blue and russet tints.

There is an area on the left that is weakly struck and could be mis-interpreted as being a problem. Most Draped Bust Half Dimes, however, are weakly struck in some areas, very much so in some cases.

The Gardner 1804-fourteen stars brought $70,500, a price which is a little weak, though fair enough. The PCGS graded EF-45 1804 that brought $88,125 in April 2013 has a CAC sticker and relevant market levels were then a little higher. I do not understand, though, why this coin does not have a CAC sticker. Also, the PCGS graded VF-35 coin that Heritage sold in April 2014 brought less than half as much as this Gardner 1804, $32,900.

VI. Proof 1838 ‘No Drapery’

The Kaufman-Greensboro-Gardner Proof 1838 ‘No Drapery’ Liberty Seated Dime has held its value, despite decreases in demand since 2008 for pre-1860, Proof silver coins. Although it is unnaturally bright and milk-white in color from conservation, it is definitely a Proof, very flashy and apparently unique. In Jan 2008, it realized $161,000. The collector known as ‘Greensboro’ was the buyer and Kaufman was the consignor. In 2012, Greensboro was the consignor and, presumably, Gene Gardner was the buyer, for even more, $164,500. This week, it realized this same $164,500 price, which is strong, given current market realities.

VII. Carson City Dimes

Other than coins for type sets, the most widely recognized and sought after Liberty Seated Dimes are the Carson City Mint issues of 1871 to 1874. The James A. Stack 1871-CC is one of the most famous of all Liberty Seated Dimes. It is NGC graded “MS-65” and perhaps is the highest certified. The other 1871-CC that is reportedly also NGC graded MS-65 is a mystery. In any event, I am not commenting upon this coin’s grade here.gr_102914_1871

The JAS-Gardner 1871-CC brought $270,250 on Oct. 27, a very strong price. I was surprised that the bidding level reached $200,000. A collector attending ‘in person’ bought it while bidding on the ‘auction floor.’ He collects Liberty Seated Dimes ‘by date’ (and Mint location). Usually, I will not mention the name of a collector without his or her explicit permission.

Overall, the 1874-CC is much rarer than the 1871-CC. The Gardner 1874-CC is PCGS graded MS-63. As the highest certified, it is often regarded as the ‘finest known. It may not be so.My guess is that it would not qualify for a CAC sticker while in a ‘MS-63 holder’ or at the MS-62 level either. The $152,700 result is strong. Standard price guides have over-valued this coin; the editors of such guides have probably never viewed it with a magnifying glass.

In any event, it is a prize for someone forming a PCGS registry set. As a really choice 1874-CC dime might not exist, this is a very important coin. Many collectors dream about acquiring an uncirculated 1874-CC dime and this auction contained one in reality.

©2014 Greg Reynolds

Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds has carefully examined a majority of the greatest U.S. coins and most of the finest classic U.S. type coins. He personally attended sales of the Eliasberg, Pittman, Newman, and Gardner Collections, among other landmark events. Greg has also covered major auctions of world coins, including the sale of the Millennia Collection. In addition to more than four hundred analytical columns for CoinWeek and at least 50 articles for CoinLink, Reynolds has contributed hundreds of articles to Numismatic News newspaper and related publications. Greg is also a multi-year winner of the ‘Best All-Around Portfolio’ award from the NLG, as well as awards for individual articles, a series of articles on the Eric Newman Collection, and for best column published on a web site.

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