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Pogue Family Coin Collection Part 18 – Half Dollars and Bust Dollars Fare Well in 4th Auction

News and Analysis regarding coins, markets, and the coin collecting community #332

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds
The fourth in a series of auctions of the Pogue Family Coin Collection was conducted on Tuesday, May 24, by Stack’s-Bowers in association with Sotheby’s. Too much attention has been paid to the fact that the two most valuable coins failed to sell. It should be emphasized that the reserves for the Childs 1804 dollar and the Eliasberg 1822 $5 coin were substantial, however many of the other coins in the same auction realized strong retail prices. The focus here is on ‘Reeded Edge’ half dollars and bust dollars.

Next week, the Capped Head and Classic Head half eagles (U.S. $5 gold coins) in this Pogue IV event will be covered. The four Gobrecht silver dollars will be addressed in the future.

On the whole, the auction went well, in a financial sense. The 1822 half eagle will be addressed next week.

If a consignor sets extremely aggressive reserves, the auction firm can not and should not be blamed. Excessive reserves prevent a customary bidding process from occurring. In any event, the vast majority of the 63 coins in the Pogue IV event realized healthy prices, many were strong to very strong.

I am certain that there was much genuine participation from both collectors and dealers, as I know most of them. Also, dealers sometimes act as agents for collectors.

The sale opened with ‘Reeded Edge’ half dollars, which should be called Gobrecht Capped Bust halves. These were followed by an epic offering of Draped Bust, Small Eagle dollars, which were minted from 1795 to 1798. The 1804 dollar came on the block next. Half eagles followed Gobrecht dollars, and there was one eagle in the auction, an 1838.

A general conclusion is that underlying market levels for classic U.S. coins remain about the same, more or less, as they have been since the end of February. For six-figure coins or even seven-figure coins, there was more collector-participation in Pogue IV than there was for six-figure coins in the Pogue III sale on February 9th, which was also held at Sotheby’s headquarters in Manhattan.

Reeded Edge Half Dollars

The PCGS graded MS-66 1837 brought US$32,900, a moderate price. It has been CAC approved. If a collector was the top bidder, this coin was a good value.

The next lot was not a good value. The $111,625 realization for this PCGS graded 1837 half was very strong. I was startled. Some suggest that it just barely merits the assigned grade, if it does. A moderate price for this coin in this auction would have been $76,375, and $94,000 would have been a strong price.

It is true that this exact same coin was auctioned for $103,500 in August 2006. Market levels for classic U.S. coins, especially for silver type coins, were higher in August 2006 than such levels are now. Moreover, coin buyers, on average, were much more accepting of PCGS and NGC grades than they are now. Since 2010, it has become common for buyers to seek additional interpretations and not rely entirely on certified grades. Pedigrees provide information as well about the history of individual coins.


1838 Capped Bust Half Dollar. Proof-66+ (PCGS).

The Pittman Collection, PCGS certified “Proof-66+” 1838 half is an important coin. In January 2007, when markets for such coins were at higher levels than they are now, this same coin was auctioned for $161,000. The $199,750 price this time was very strong.

I had figured that dealers would be willing to inventory this Pittman 1838, if one of them could buy it for less than $150,000. The day of the auction, one very serious collector of Proof half dollars told me that he would not be willing to pay even as much as $165,000. A $175,000 result would have been strong.

The 1838 business strike in this sale is very original and screams, “I grade MS-66.” Indeed, another grade, in the current era, is unimaginable. It has the technical characteristics and the eye appeal that experts associate with a MS-66 grade. It has a few noticeable abrasions, though not many, and it does not quite have the color or pizazz that would be expected of a MS-67 grade. It is very attractive and obviously superior to 1838 and 1837 halves that have been certified as grading MS-65.

This is a wonderful coin for the collector who demands a MS-66 grade representative of the design type. There are quite a few other MS-66 grade Gobrecht Capped Bust (‘Reeded Edge’) halves, however, and I was not expecting this coin to realize as much as it did, $44,650. Relevant auction records are lower or stem from an era when market prices were higher.

The current “Numismedia Retail” guide value of “$26,880” is a little low. Before the auction, I had figured a strong price to be $33,500 for this MS-66 grade 1838.

As for the Pogue 1838-O, it is hoped that collectors will not harp upon the fact that the Eliasberg-Gardner 1838-O brought more, $646,250 in May 2015, than the Newcomer-Queller-Pogue 1838-O, $493,500 did a year later. Although they both have the same “SP-64” designation from PCGS, the CAC approved Eliasberg-Gardner 1838-O is superior in eye appeal and overall quality to the Newcomer-Pogue 1838-O. Even so, I like them both.

After taking both quality and current market realities into consideration, the $493,500 result is slightly strong. The results in this auction do not provide any evidence that demand for rarities is falling.

The 1838-O is a Great Rarity. Is the 1839 ‘Small Letters’ variety even rarer?

The $76,375 result for the PCGS graded AU-50, Meyer-Pogue 1839 must be an an auction record for the ultra rare, 1839 ‘Small Letters’ variety. This exact same coin was PCGS graded as EF-45 when it sold for $63,250 at the ANA Convention in 2008. Overall markets for rare U.S. coins reached an all-time high at that time.


1839 Capped Bust Half Dollar. MS-66 (PCGS)

The PCGS graded MS-66 1839, with regular or “normal” letters, is a great coin, one of the best in the sale. The obverse has 66+ level eye appeal, though some contact marks on the face bring the technical rating of the obverse down to the lower part of the 66 range. The reverse announces that its grade is in middle of the 66 range. Without a doubt, this is a 66 grade coin. CAC approval is unsurprising. Additionally, this coin scores very highly in the category of originality.

Before the auction, the PCGS price guide value was $47,500 and the Numismedia “Retail” value was $35,630. Given the quality and originality of this specific coin, and its likely first place in the condition ranking, the $51,700 result is strong and is a logical retail price.

The Pogue 1839-O may be the most famous of all 1839-O business strike half dollars. It was earlier in the Knoxville Collection and then Oliver Jung’s type set that ANR auctioned in July 2004. This Knoxville-Jung-Pogue 1839-O is PCGS graded as MS-67 and failed to receive a CAC sticker. In 2004, this 1839-O sold for $138,000 and it later brought $161,000 in the FUN sale of January 2007. On May 24, 2016, it brought $211,500, strong for sure!

Draped Bust, Small Eagle Silver Dollars

The 1796, 1797 and 1798 silver dollars in this sale are especially noteworthy because all these are condition rarities in grades above AU-55. Collectors of uncirculated, early type coins almost always select a 1795 Draped Bust, Small Eagle silver dollar as a representative of this design type. There were three, highly certified pieces in this one sale. Certainly, this was the all-time, most astonishing offering of 1795 Draped Bust, Small Eagle silver dollars.


1795 Draped Bust Silver Dollar. Specimen-66 (PCGS)

The Garrett-Pogue 1795 is PCGS certified as “SP-66.” It was not approved by CAC. A fair analysis of it would be too long to include an auction review. There is not a concensus among experts as to whether a very prooflike coin should be awarded a special designation.

Other than reflective and unusually glossy surfaces, this coin is not different from other 1795 dollars that were struck from the same pair of dies, including the coin in the following lot in this sale. The design elements, other devices and rims seem the same as they are on other relevant bust dollars. Should collectors refer to this coin as super-prooflike?

It is understandable that many experts have determined that it is something special. It must be noted, though, that the toning and other colors on the coin are very unusual, and many would see the $1,057,500 result as being very strong.

For a type set, the Earle-Eliasberg and L.A.-Foxfire are the two best ‘Small Eagle’ silver dollars in existence. I like the Newman-Green coin, too, which is more dynamic. The Earle-Eliasberg and L.A.-Foxfire pieces, however, are more original than the Newman coin, which is more colorful.

The Foxfire 1795 seems to be the most original of the three; I could not find evidence that it had ever been dipped or cleaned. Originality, however, is not of paramount importance to everyone.

All three grade solidly in the middle of the MS-66 range, and it is a matter of taste as to which is the most appealing, Draped Bust, Small Eagle silver dollar of the whole type, which lasted from 1795 to 1798. All three have been approved by CAC at the MS-66 level; experts at CAC ignore the plus aspects of plus grades assigned by PCGS or NGC.

The Newman-Green 1795 is NGC certified as “MS-66+” and realized $910,625 in November 2013. Market levels are lower now and there was much bidding hysteria at that sale. Moreover, bidders in 2013 probably did not think that the Pogue 1795 dollars would become available for decades. While demand has fallen a little, the supply of 1795 Draped Bust dollars ‘on the market’ has notably increased.

The Pogue IV event needs to be interpreted in the framework of current market realities, not through the lens of one auction in November 2013. If prices for MS-66 Draped Bust, Small Eagle dollars have fallen by 22.5%, a moderate price now for each would be 620,000. A strong price would be 685,000, and 800,000 would have been very strong.

Therefore, the $763,750 result for the Earle-Eliasberg-Pogue 1795 was strong to very strong, though certainly understandable. George Earle and Louis Eliasberg had some of the most amazing early silver type coins, and the Pogues did as well, including many of the exact same coins.

Although I like the Foxfire-Pogue 1795 more, I am not surprised that some experts prefer the Eliasberg-Pogue 1795 and that it brought a higher price. It is lighter, and is at least semi-prooflike. Many silver and gold U.S. coins from 1795 and 1796 are prooflike to varying degrees, often very much so.

The Foxfire-Pogue piece is nearly flawless and is characterized by a charming crustiness. The toning is exceptional and the central reverse glistens. For $646,250, this coin may be a better deal than the just discussed Eliasberg 1795.


1796 Draped Bust Silver Dollar Lg Date, Sm Letters. MS-64 (PCGS)

The Pogues had one of the finest 1796 ‘Large Date’ dollars in existence, which was earlier owned by Thomas Cleneay. These tend to be classified as distinct dates by people who collect bust dollars ‘by date.’ In another words, two or three 1796 dollars are needed for a complete set of bust dollars ‘by date.’ There was not a choice uncirculated 1796 ‘Large Date’ silver dollar in the sale of Newman’s U.S. silver coins in November 2013.

Before the Cleneay-Pogue piece was recently certified, the highest graded 1796 ‘Large Date’ by PCGS was the PCGS certified MS-62 Cardinal Collection coin. I am not commenting upon the respective assigned grades here.

Both the Cardinal 1796 ‘Large Date’ and the Pogue coin are particularly difficult to grade. It is important to keep in mind, though, that uncirculated 1796 ‘Large Date’ dollars are extreme condition rarities. The highest certified 1796 ‘Large Date’ silver dollar approved by CAC is a single coin at the AU-58 level.

The $246,750 result was strong. A collector from the Midwest was the successful bidder. It would be understandable if collectors assembling sets of uncirculated Draped Bust dollars felt compelled to pursue this coin. It could be the only strictly uncirculated 1796 ‘Large Date’ dollar available for a quite a while.

This coin had been dipped and has since naturally retoned to a significant extent, most notably in the outer fields. The orange-russet and green tones are pleasant, though cover only a small portion of the surfaces.

Among the most extreme condition rarities in ‘mint state’ grades are 1798 ‘Small Eagle’ dollars. Of all varieties, PCGS has graded one as MS-63, two as MS-62+, one as MS-62, two as MS-61, and zero as MS-60. NGC has graded two as MS-63 and two as MS-60. These ten submissions probably amount to six to eight different coins, and a couple have serious problems and others might not really be uncirculated. CAC has approved just one 1798 ‘Small Eagle’ dollar at a mint state level, a MS-62 grade ‘15-star obverse’ coin.

So, the PCGS graded MS-61 ‘13-Star obverse’ in this Pogue IV event is an extremely important coin. It was PCGS graded AU-58 when it was auctioned in the past.

It seems to have been extensively cleaned before it was dipped. The friction on the highpoints is from a past cleaning, not from wear. It is unlikely that this coin ever actually circulated. The ‘61‘ grade is fair enough. There are many PCGS or NGC certified MS-61 coins that are not strictly uncirculated. It would not be fair to focus on the Pogue 1798 for criticism as a “MS-61” grade coin with slight friction.

The $135,125 result is weak in a puzzling way. Despite this coin’s imperfections, it is extremely impressive for a 1798 ‘Small Eagle’ dollar.

Childs-Pogue 1804 Dollar

It was hard to follow the activity on the auctioneer’s platform in regard to the Childs-Pogue 1804 dollar, as it seems that the consignor set an extremely aggressive reserve above what would have been a New world record for a coin sold at auction.

In August 2013, the Mickley-Hawn-Queller 1804, also a Class I 1804, sold for 3,887,500, slightly more than the exact same coin realized in April 2008 when market levels were higher than they were in August 2013. It is relevant that market levels for rarities in August 2013 were clearly higher than they are in May 2015.

When the Eliasberg 1804 dollar brought $1,815,000 in April 1997, people in the room were stunned. Greg Roberts was the successful bidder. Jay Parrino was the underbidder. Brent Pogue was the next underbidder. That realization was then an auction record for any coin. It surpassed the $1,485,000 price that Parrino had paid for the Eliasberg 1913 Liberty Head nickel in May 1996.

The Eliasberg 1804 was later PCGS certified as “Proof-65.” The Childs 1804 was PCGS certified as “Proof-68” before it was auctioned in August 1999.

Bidding at the Eliasberg sales of 1996 and 1997 was often maniacal, generating prices realized that were well above market levels at the time. The general belief in August 1999 was that the Childs-1804 would realize a price between $2 million and $2.75 million. Only two competitors were willing to progress anywhere near the final price of $4.14 million. The Pogues, who were then represented by David Akers, battled Parrino.

The situation regarding the sale of the Fenton 1933 double eagle in 2002 for $7.59 million was an anomaly. In terms of prices for U.S. coins that are not involved in bizarre legal disputes, the $4.14 million auction record was not broken until the Carter 1794 sold for more than $10 million  in January 2013. A Brasher Doubloon, not really a U.S. coin, sold for $4.62 million a year later.

Perhaps the most relevant auction result is the nearly $5 million that the Hayes-Pogue 1794 dollar brought on Sept. 30, 2015. This is not the most valuable 1794 and 1794 dollars are much less rare than 1804 dollars. Yes, the Childs-Pogue 1804 dollar is worth more.

That almost $5 million result, though, was a very strong price, a product of bidding by the respective agents of eager collectors. Furthermore, market levels for rarities overall were higher in September 2015 than such levels are in May 2016. A similarly strong price for the Hayes-Pogue 1794 would be around $4.35 million now.

On this day, May 24, 2016,  the Childs-Pogue 1804 Dollar did not sell, and it appears it will remain with the Pogue family for the foreseeable future.

©2016 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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