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HomeAuctionsMillion Dollar Coins in ANA Auctions ....Part 1

Million Dollar Coins in ANA Auctions ….Part 1

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #236 — Edited on Aug. 14, 2014, 11:06 pm

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds ……..

For the first time, both Stack’s-Bowers and Heritage conducted official ANA auctions at the summer convention, which was held from Aug. 5th to Aug. 10th in Rosemont, Illinois, near Chicago.

gr_millions_p1Three coins and two patterns surpassed the million dollar barrier. Although a 1792 Silver Center Copper cent pattern was reported to have sold for more, the most famous coin auctioned at the ANA Convention was the Garrett 1804 silver dollar, which realized $1,880,000.

Here in part 1, the prices realized for this 1804 dollar, the Norweb 1792 Silver Center Copper Cent pattern and a Philadelphia Mint, 1861 Paquet Double Eagle ($20 gold coin) are analyzed. In part 2, two additional million dollar items and coins that realized more than $750,000 will be discussed.

I. 1792 Silver Center Copper Cent Pattern

The Norweb pedigree 1792 Silver Center Copper Cent pattern (Judd #1) in this auction reached a level of $1,997,500 in competitive bidding. If it had been purchased by someone other than the “owner,” an auction record for a non-gold pattern would have been set and the result would have been a slightly strong price. John Albanese reveals that “I was the underbidder and regret not ‘stretching’ for it”!

A few days following the posting of  prices realized by Heritage, after this analysis was submitted to CoinWeek, the Heritage web site indicated that the “owner placed a late bid on this unreserved lot and re-purchased it, subject to applicable commission.” So, as this lot was “unreserved,” the owner topped the highest competitive bid and evidently is not avoiding the buyer’s fee. I thank Bruce Morelan for bringing this matter to my attention.

gr_mills_1792This exact pattern traded privately for a larger amount at the August 2011 ANA Convention, which was held at the same convention center in Rosemont. Reportedly, Ed Milas sold it for “$2.5 million” to a trio of dealers. One of the three buyers, in turn, sold it to Oliver Jung. It is a mystery, though, as to how the $2.5 million price was figured. This exact same Norweb piece was auctioned by Stack’s (New York) in 2002 for less than one-fifth as much.

Silver Center Copper Cent patterns directly relate to Alexander Hamilton’s path breaking coinage plan of 1791 and to controversial provisions in the legislation of 1792 that authorized the establishment of the U.S. Mint. Information regarding the history of these pieces may be found in an article on the sale of the PCGS graded MS-61, Morris 1792 Silver Center Copper Cent pattern for $1.15 million in April 2012. (Clickable links are in blue.) There is additional background information in pre-auction commentary regarding the Newman piece, which was auctioned in May 2014. Historical aspects are not part of the current discussion.

Pressing questions relate to current market values of 1792 Silver Center Copper Cent patterns. Many collectors were surprised to learn that $5 million was paid for the Garrett piece in a private transaction in Jan. 2012. The Garrett piece, which is the finest known, is PCGS graded MS-67 and has a CAC sticker.

The Norweb piece is PCGS graded MS-64 and has a CAC sticker as well. John Albanese is the founder and president of CAC.

While the NGC graded “MS-63+” Newman piece does not have a CAC sticker, it may be that it has never been submitted to CAC. Its grade is about or very close to being in the middle of the 63 range. I suggest that it is more likely than not that the Newman piece would be CAC approved, though no one should assume that it will be CAC approved.

In my column of May 21, it was stated that the $1,410,000 price realized for the Newman piece was a moderate result and that a $1.55 million result would have been strong. The Norweb piece is obviously of higher quality, though there is not as much of a difference between the two as I expected there to be. Although the Norweb piece is relatively more original than the Newman piece, the scratch above the letters of the denomination, “ONE,” on the reverse (back) and the hairlines on the obverse (front) of the Norweb piece are a little bothersome. Even so, it is sharply struck and has excellent natural color. Surely, this Norweb piece is impressive. Charlie Browne indicates that, if it did not have that scratch on the reverse, he would have graded it as MS-65 or -65+.

The Norweb piece is worth $400,000 to $500,000 more than the Newman piece. A moderate auction result for the Norweb piece would have been in the range from $1.85 to $1.95 million, approximately.

Generally, a moderate auction result is on or about the border between the wholesale price range and the retail price range for the specific coin. For a famous rarity like 1792 Silver Center Copper Cent patterns, the moderate price range is defined as a gray area including upper-wholesale and lower-retail price ranges. It is impossible to certainly identify such ranges with exact precision. Years of auction experience and research, along with careful analysis, are required to meaningfully estimate such ranges.

I have been analyzing auction results in publications for more than twenty years. Further, I have written a great deal about 1792 Silver Center Copper Cents and related patterns. Also, I have interviewed buyers and sellers of these.

Also, Alan Weinberg’s piece and the one that oddly lacks a silver plug have not been publicly seen in a long time, as far as I know. The Weinberg piece was never submitted to PCGS or NGC. The Silver Center Copper Cent without a silver center is PCGS certified ‘SP-63-RB’ and has not been auctioned since the 1990s. Was it PCGS certified a long time ago?

In any event, the Norweb Silver Center Copper Cent pattern is attractive, colorful, very much original and of great historical importance. Given the large number of American numismatic items that have been auctioned for more than $1 million each, it is not surprising that that this piece almost realized $2 million.

II. Garrett 1804 Silver Dollar

The three most famous U.S. coins are the 1804 silver dollar, the 1913 Liberty Nickel and the 1894-S Barber Dime. The Garrett family collection is one of the half-dozen most famous coin collections ever formed. Most of the Garrett Collection was auctioned by Bowers & Ruddy in multiple sales dating from 1979 to 1981. Clearly, the Garrett family 1804 dollar is an extremely famous coin.

gr_mills_1804Although there exist fifteen 1804 silver dollars, only eight are privately owned. Five of these are ‘Class I’ coins, which were struck in the mid 1830s. There are three privately owned, Class III pieces, which seem to have been struck in 1858 or later. Researcher Ken Bressett maintains that the sole Class II 1804 dollar and all six Class III pieces were struck in 1858.

Several 1804 dollars have often been offered at auction during the last quarter-century or so, the Adams-Carter-French and Mickley-Hawn-Queller pieces on multiple occasions. The Adams-Carter-French 1804 dollar was last auctioned in April 2009, by Heritage, for $2.3 million. It was PCGS certified as Proof-45 in 1989 and upgraded by PCGS to “58” before Nov. 2001. Its true grade lies in between 45 and 58.

The Garrett 1804 was NGC certified “Proof-55” in early 2005. On the certified grades of 1804 dollars, I quoted Scott Travers, last year. His statement then is very much relevant to the current discussion.

The assigned “grade of each 1804 dollar is determined according to how coins above and below each have been certified,” Travers noted. “The academic grade is becoming less relevant for a Great Rarity. They are coins of impeccable reputation with impressive pedigrees, which reach back generations. Great Rarities like 1804 dollars and 1913 Liberty Head Nickels stand on their own merits. They do not need to be graded by a grading service. Great Rarities are one of the few areas of numismatics where certification is not a necessity; it is a bonus. People who buy these Great Rarities care about how they rank, not about the specific grades assigned by grading services,” Travers asserted.

Regardless of assigned numerical grades, the Adams-Carter-French piece has more appealing surfaces and it a more attractive coin overall than the Garrett piece.The Adams-Carter-French piece is justifiably more valuable.

The $2.3 million result in April 2009 was then strong. A moderate price then for the Adams-Carter-French piece would probably have been $1.9 million and a moderate price for it now would be around $2.15 million. Collectors, though, are often willing to pay strong prices when they very much want specific rarities.

The Mickley-Hawn-Queller-Greensboro 1804 was auctioned by Heritage for $3,737,500 in April 2008 and again for $3,887,500 on Aug. 9, 2013. This coin had been generously graded as “62” by NGC and then crossed into a PCGS holder many years later. Also, it is a ‘Class I’ 1804 Dollar.

If it is imagined that a particular ‘Class I’ 1804 dollar was equal in quality and eye appeal to a specific Class III 1804, the Class I coin would probably be worth a premium of 12.5% to 25%. After all, the Class I pieces were minted under direct orders from President Andrew Jackson to be part of Proof sets to be used as diplomatic gifts. Also, the toning, technical characteristics, reflective surfaces and overall impact of the Mickley coin are superior to that of the Garrett 1804.

Even so, the Garrett 1804 is pleasing. There are no very irritating imperfections. The charcoal-gray toning is nice enough. Certainly, if they each examined it, most collectors of 19th century U.S. silver coins would like the Garrett 1804 dollar.

Still, the Garrett 1804 selling for $1,880,000 is almost consistent with the Mickley-Hawn-Queller coin selling for $3,887,500. The current result for the Garrett piece might be slightly weak. From a logical perspective, the Garrett 1804 may be a much better price value. Indeed, the $2 million difference in value could be used to buy some tremendous coins. Overall, the buyer should be happy with his purchase of a genuine and particularly famous 1804 dollar for a weak to moderate price.

The fact that the Pogue Collection contains two 1804 silver dollars, both of which are rated higher than the Mickley-Hawn and Garrett coins, casted a shadow over the offering of the Garrett 1804 on Aug. 6th. It was announced in June 2014 that Stack’s-Bowers will auction the amazing Pogue Collection of pre-1840 U.S. coins in the near future, presumably including both 1804 dollars. Some interested collectors may have abstained from bidding on the Garrett piece with the idea of bidding on the Dexter-Dunham or Childs 1804 dollars in the future.

III. Philadelphia Paquet 1861 $20 gold coin

The ‘Dallas Bank’ 1861, Philadelphia Mint Double Eagle, with the Paquet reverse (back) design, in this auction is PCGS graded MS-61. It realized $1,645,000, an auction record for a Liberty Head Double Eagle ($20 gold coin). At least three, business strike Saint Gaudens Double Eagles, though, have each been auctioned for more than $1,645,000.

Of all U.S. gold coins, the 1861 Philadelphia Double Eagle with the Paquet reverse is the rarest, widely recognized variety that is collectible. There is some disagreement over whether it is needed to complete a set of Double Eagles.

gr_mills_1861Liberty Head Double Eagles were minted from 1850 to 1907. Before 1861, it was decided that the reverse design that is credited to James Longacre would be replaced by a slightly different design by Anthony Paquet. After some Double Eagles with the Paquet reverse design were made, U.S. Mint officials canceled the adoption of Paquet’s modified reverse design. It was decided that the reverse design would not be changed.

Early in 1861, U. S. Mint officials in Philadelphia sent orders to the New Orleans and San Francisco Branch Mints to not use reverse dies with Paquet’s design. By the time that such an order was received in San Francisco, thousands of 1861-S Double Eagles, with the Paquet reverse design, had already been minted and more than one hundred now survive. I have never seen or heard a reference to an 1861-O Double Eagle with a Paquet reverse.

Two 1861 Philadelphia Mint Double Eagles with the Paquet reverse are known, the Norweb piece and the ‘Dallas Bank’ piece. The Norweb coin was NGC graded MS-67 shortly after it was auctioned by Bowers & Merena in New York during Nov. 1988. The ‘Dallas Bank’ piece was in the Heritage Platinum Night event on Aug. 7, 2014.

The ‘Dallas Bank’ Collection was owned by the late Jeff Browning. Sotheby’s, in partnership with Stack’s, auctioned the “Dallas Bank Collection” in New York in October 2001. The $345,000 result for this coin was then considered a weak price. When this same coin was auctioned in Aug. 2006, it sold for $1,610,000.

It is not surprising that this coin realized about the same in 2014 as it did in 2006. Prospective bidders were probably puzzled when they thought about how much this coin is worth or should be worth. More so than other famous coins, market values for Paquet reverse Double Eagles are particularly hard to conceptualize.

Are Paquet reverse coins needed for complete sets ‘by date’ of Liberty Head Double Eagles? Are these distinct subtypes? Alternately, are these just die varieties? There are not readily apparent answers to such questions. There are varying hypotheses regarding the relative importance and overall meaning of Double Eagles with the Paquet reverse.

When the Norweb Philadelphia Paquet Double Eagle was auctioned in Nov. 1988, it sold for $660,000. In that same auction, the already mentioned Norweb 1792 Silver Center Copper Cent pattern sold for $143,000, less than one-twelfth of the amount that it realized on Aug. 7, 2014! Many rarities are now worth multiples of their respective values before 1997.

Importantly, the sale of the Norweb Philadelphia Paquet Double Eagle in Nov. 1988 almost set an auction record for a U.S. coin. In Oct. 1982, two different U.S. coins in the Eliasberg Collection, an 1822 Half Eagle and the unique 1870-S Three Dollar Gold piece, each sold for $687,500. (The Eliasberg 1822 is in the Pogue Collection and probably will be auctioned in the near future.)

From some point in Oct. 1982 to July 1989, $687,500 was the auction record price for a U.S. coin. (A Garrett Collection, 1787 Brasher Doubloon had sold for $725,000 in 1979 or 1980). Therefore, when the Norweb Collection 1861 with the Paquet reverse sold for $660,000 in Nov. 1988, it was in fourth place in the roster of auction records for coins and patterns.

Granted, the Norweb piece is of much higher quality than the ‘Dallas Bank’ piece. Even so, these are the only two known.

The ‘Dallas Bank’ piece has been graded as ‘Almost Uncirculated’ in the past. Indeed, Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth refer to it as having been “lightly circulated” in the first edition of their encyclopedia of gold coins (Whitman, 2006). In my view, there is no actual wear.

A past cleaning of the obverse left some hairlines and slight friction on the highpoints that could be mistaken for wear from circulation. Moreover, there are bothersome, rather large gashes in the middle of Miss Liberty’s face. The contact marks on her neck are serious, too. Even so, I find no evidence of circulation. Double Eagles tended to bang against each other in bags, sometimes even before they left the facility that produced them.

Overall, the reverse is of much higher quality than the obverse. Given the unusual nature of the design of the reverse, collectors tend to focus on the reverse of this coin, anyway. The design of the obverse did not noticeably change from until 1907.

The grade of the obverse of the ‘Dallas Bank’ 1861, with the Paquet reverse, is below the midpoint of the MS-60 grade range, while the grade of the reverse is in the high end of the 63 range or the low end of the MS-64 range. In last week’s column, I theorized that the obverse of a coin counts for two-thirds of a coin’s grade and the reverse for one-third. My calculations suggest a grade in the low end to the middle of the MS-61 range for this coin.

Charlie Browne grades the reverse as “MS-64,” and he may grade the whole coin a little higher than my middle of the MS-61 range. Browne worked four stints, in different time periods, as a grader for PCGS. Additionally, Charlie has worked as a grader for several highly-financed dealers of expensive rarities during his career as a coin professional, which has lasted for more than three decades.

Also, this coin is, indisputably, a business strike. It does not have any of the characteristics of a Proof and it is not even semi-prooflike. There have been claims in the past, by serious researchers, that the Philadelphia Paquet coins are special strikings of some kind. Although the Norweb piece has a slightly unusual appearance, both surviving Philadelphia Paquet coins are business strikes.

As far as I know, no one collects Liberty Head Double Eagles ‘by die variety.’ There are a few collectors who obtain some of the more interesting die varieties as complements to a set ‘by date’ (and U.S. Mint location). In order for the two Philadelphia Paquet pieces to each be worth seven figure prices, as they obviously are, there must be collectors who figure that a set ‘by date’ (and U.S. Mint location) should include both Philadelphia and San Francisco Mint Paquet coins in addition to 1861 and 1861-S Double Eagles with the standard Longacre reverse. Indeed, the concept that these are needed for sets, and are not just options, must logically be at the root of their market values.

Last week, Doug Winter was the successful bidder for this ‘Dallas Bank’ 1861 Paquet reverse Double Eagle. “It is by far the rarest regular issue Double Eagle, and no set of Liberty Head Double Eagles can be complete without the inclusion of this issue,” Winter commented in his public announcement. Doug was acting on behalf of a collector who has completed a set of Type One Double Eagles ‘by date’ (and U.S. Mint location).

Even those who seriously seek Paquet reverse Double Eagles as trophies or stand-alone famous rarities must think of them as having the status of distinct dates, not merely as die varieties. Collectors do not spend seven figure prices for die varieties of mid-19th century coins. Even so, the differences are subtle; the Paquet reverse is just somewhat different from the Longacre reverse.

Regarding some dates of Capped Bust Half Dollars, there are greater differences among die varieties of the same respective dates. A Paquet reverse seems to be a variety, not a separate issue. Anthony Paquet edited the Longacre reverse; Paquet did not introduce a new design.

Interested collectors may wish to place a picture of the reverse of this ‘Dallas Bank’ 1861 next to a picture of the reverse of a MS-63+ or MS-64 grade, Philadelphia Mint Double Eagle from 1860 or 1862. Each collector could then form his or her own opinion regarding the significance of the differences in the respective reverse designs.

Learning about very expensive coins helps collectors understand less expensive coins and the values that prevail in the coin collecting community. In part 2, results for two additional million dollar items will be discussed and the two coins that sold for $881,250 each will be covered. Also, the reasons why all collectors should care about million dollar coins are relevant.

©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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  1. It is interesting that the three above ultra-rarities (and also the 1792 “specimen” half disme) each sold for less than or approx. what they sold for several years ago. It is not widely known that the Norweb-Hain silver center cent was bought back by the consignor, according to Bruce Morelan. I was surprised as I was present. The slight rim planchet clip-not visible in the slab-and the reverse scratch- quite noticeable- may have contributed to the no -sale. And the Newman silver center cent had numerous hairline scratches as perceived from the Heritage image enlargement and was more than generously graded MS-61.

    Also the relative flood of choice half dismes, dismes (2 for sale on the ANA bourse floor) and silver center cents on the auction bloc must have affected the perceptions of rarity.

    Atop those factors, there is a general feeling among collectors and dealers that the market has topped out for the time being, there’s a shortage of cash flow, and Gardner, Newman and Pogue material upcoming will further flood the market. I have personally and recently talked with major longtime dealers who are concerned with the hobby’s future and the price structure of rare coins and are much more selective on purchases.

  2. Greg, you make some very astute observations and ask probing questions regarding these amazing this article. I enjoy your insight and found the Garrett 1804 Silver Dollar particularly interesting.


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