By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek….
On June 25, 2015, Legend Rare Coin Auctions will offer the first half of the PCGS Set Registry Current #1 Morgan dollar set, the Coronet Collection.
As a preview to the offering, we’re breaking down an important subset of the Coronet Collection: the Coronet Carson City Morgan dollars. On Thursday, we published the first part of that preview, covering issues dated from 1878 to 1882. You can read our comments on those coins here.
In this installment, we cover the Coronet CC Morgans starting in 1883 and ending in 1893.
Lot 26 – 1883-CC PCGS MS68 CAC
62.5% of all of the 1883-CC Morgan dollars struck were sold to the general public during the GSA Sales of the 1970s and ’80s (only the 1884-CC was more heavily hoarded). And while one could acquire a gem or near-gem Carson City Morgan from 1882 through 1884 with a little work and a few hundred dollars, finding a specimen as nice as the Coronet ’83-CC in the wild is probably impossible by now.
Only a handful of minor marks disrupt an otherwise perfect obverse, while a cluster of stray nicks to the left of the eagle’s wing are the only naked eye blemishes worthy of note on the coin’s reverse.
Legend Rare Coin Auctions notes that this is the Battle Born specimen, which brought $80,500 at a Stack’s Bowers auction in August 2012. At the time the coin was a pop-3 coin with none finer. Today, the coin is a pop 5 (two have CAC’ed).
Legend expects the Coronet example to bring between $70,000 and $80,000. However, an equally fine (though not certified by CAC) MS68 sold for considerably less in August 2013 at a Heritage Auction. Currently, active pre-sale bidding has the Coronet example at $47,500.
Lot 30 – 1884-CC PCGS MS68+ CAC, Ex: Jack Lee I & II
Jack Lee built the world’s finest Morgan dollar collection not once but twice, and both times he had to have this 1884-CC. Perhaps the finest, if not one of the finest CC-dollars known, PCGS conservatively grades the coin MS68+.
It’s a brilliant shimmering beauty and will bring a strong price.
Lot 34 – 1885-CC PCGS MS68+ CAC, Ex: Jack Lee
65% of the total 228,000 mintage of 1885-CC Morgan dollars came out of the GSA Hoard. While Treasury holdings would include CC Morgan dollars through the end of the series’ run, the number of coins to be had for even the most common of those dates (1890 and 1891) were in the low thousands–not the hundreds of thousands as was the case for the six years from 1880 through 1885. In fact, only one example from the dates 1889, 1892, and 1893 was reported.
Returning to the coin at hand, no 1885-CC – and perhaps no CC ever struck – compares to the quality and eye appeal of this piece. A full grade ahead of the issue’s runner-up (a solitary MS67+), the Coronet-Arno-Lee ’85-CC sports sea-foam green and gold toning, with hints of blue wash over the coin’s obverse. Patches of cream break through on Miss Liberty’s cheek, hair and crown on the obverse and scatter amongst the fields and devices on the coin’s reverse. Ticks are kept to an absolute minimum and lie beyond the coin’s primary focal areas.
It may never earn a 69 grade, but in terms of eye appeal and character this coin is off the charts. At its last public offering in 2009, the piece brought $46,000. After that, it’s current owner purchased the coin for an alleged six-figure sum.
Legend’s presale estimate of $90,000 to $100,000 has already been met. Our expectation is that the eventual owner of this coin has not yet had his or her final say. If the coin sells in excess of $145,000, we wouldn’t be surprised. Actually, we’d be surprised if it didn’t.
Lot 47 – 1889-CC PCGS MS64 CAC
After a three-year hiatus, coin production resumed at the Carson City Mint in 1889. The colorful history of why Carson City was shut down is the stuff of numismatic legend and you owe it to yourself to know the story. It’s a fascinating tale borne of corruption and incompetence.
In 1889, the gears of the Nevada Mint started to turn once more. The West was closing and an iconic period in American history was fading into the background. The mintage totals of CC dollars in 1889 tell the story: 21,726,000 were struck at the Mother Mint in Philadelphia; 11,875,000 spun off the presses at the branch mint in New Orleans, despite the oppressive summer heat; with Treasury vaults filled to the brim, even the San Francisco Mint managed 700,000. In Carson City, however, a paltry sum of 350,000 were struck.
At one point, the 1889-CC was the rarest coin in the series. Few entered circulation. Fewer still entered into the great collections of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Q. David Bowers, in his landmark book Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia (1993) claims that most of the mintage was shipped to San Francisco (we presume after the Mint closed for good in 1893) and only came to light after a few bags of the issue were released in the late 1930s.
The coin remains in critically short supply, with fewer than perhaps 700-800 Mint State pieces known. From a preservation perspective, the Mint State coins that survive do not rate among the series’ best.
And while it may be impolitic to say this, our feeling is that the Coronet piece in PCGS MS64 perfectly illustrates why.
However, underneath these marks are all of the components of a nicely struck coin and based on what else survives, you can’t argue that this is a desirable piece.
Legend relates that this coin was once in a MS64+ holder and that the consigner thought it was a shot 65. PCGS no longer shows a population at that mid-point grade level.
Although it’s outside of the focus of this article, our bet for an upgrade from the Coronet set would lie elsewhere, to the consignor’s 1884-S (which is also a spectacularly important series coin in short supply).
Legend predicts a hammer price of between $90,000 and $100,000. Pre-sale bidding currently has this no reserve offering at $80,000. The last two in this grade that Heritage sold brought over $105,000
Lot 51 – 1890-CC PCGS MS66 CAC
2,309,041 1890-CC Morgan dollars were struck. From that number just under four bags’ worth were distributed by the GSA. Most of what’s available on the collector market came from bags distributed in the 1940s and ‘50s. These coins, Bowers and others relate, were likely distributed in San Francisco.
Tens of thousands of examples in Mint State survive, but no more than that. The typical example is choice, due to shipping and handling from Nevada to San Francisco.
A thousand or so were spared the most egregious marks and meet PCGS and NGC’s standards for MS65. Of all of the gems submitted for CAC-approval, only 34 earned the sticker in 65; while four were deemed worthy in 66. The Coronet example is one of the four.
Blazing white with devices lacking distracting ticks and scuffs, it’s easy to see why CAC liked this example.
The last time this coin came to market was in February 2013, when it brought $45,531.25 at a Heritage auction.
Legend estimates the coin will bring between $38,000 and $45,000. In pre-sale bidding, the Coronet 1890-CC has already met these expectations.
Lot 55 – 1891-CC PCGS MS68PL CAC, Ex: Eliasberg
For generations, numismatists have been puzzled by this 1891-CC. It was once part of the famed Eliasberg collection and has been highly coveted before and since. The appearance and state of preservation of the coin is so far beyond what’s expected that some, including Q. David Bowers, have speculated that the coin could perhaps be a presentation piece, or even a proof striking.
When Heritage Auctions offered the coin in 2006, they did not support these views, citing a lack of crispness in some design details and areas on the reverse that did not present a mirrored appearance.
Numismatics is a forensic science, and since none of us were there and no records exist to support either point of view, we’ll just have to rely on what the physical evidence tells us.
On the specifics of the coin’s state of preservation, we quote the auctioneer:
“Deep 8” mirrors appear slightly watery when twirled, like you would see on a Proof coin, and although they are very clear, they’re difficult to see due to the toning. There is zero die polishing, dies [sic] lines, hits, or ticks of any kind. A moderate mix of pale, original champagne/gold/lavender colors splash all over. Miss Liberty and the details are needle sharp and have thick frost. The eye appeal is unbelievable!”
The Eliasberg 1891-CC brought nearly $200,000 ten years ago and should easily surpass that in this go around. Pre-sale bidding now sits at $165,000.
Lot 59 – 1892-CC PCGS MS67+ CAC
The Coronet 1892-CC sits firmly at the top of the census for this, the penultimate Morgan dollar issue of the Carson City Mint.
Graded MS67+, the coin has no peer at this level, and to date PCGS has graded just one other coin at MS67. The CAC-approved coin is exceptional, with frosted devices, a strong strike, and satiny fields that exude a flashy cartwheel luster. A faint hint of patina is visible in spots, but underneath is a totally original, brilliant white coin. This is a trophy coin for even the most capably-financed collector.
A bit about the coin’s pedigree: the consignor purchased this top-pop Morgan in 2006 from the Bowers and Merena 2006 Denver ANA Auction. Price paid: $80,500.
At the time, it was owned by Steve Deeds (1947-2013), a man with a golden reputation and a prominent figure in the rare coin industry for more than three decades.
After working with Steve Markoff to procure the Redfield Hoard in 1976, Deeds presided over Superior Galleries and Bowers and Merena, before establishing his own business, Morgan Gold. When Deeds retired his Morgan dollar set in May 2006, it was ranked #7 all-time (it would currently rank #11).
Legend Rare Coin Auction’s presale estimates have the coin selling for between $75,000 and $85,000. With a week to go before the live sale, active bidding has pushed the price to $70,000.
Lot 63 – 1893-CC PCGS MS65 CAC
The Carson City Mint’s final year of operation was marked by the production of 677,000 Morgan dollar coins. An unremarkable total when viewed through the lens of the Mint’s 13-year dollar coin output. By the numbers, 1893 should be the 6th-scarcest date for the coin – but the fact that the coin was totally dispersed before the great Treasury Vault runs of the 1950s and ‘60s makes the coin much scarcer than its mintage would indicate.
A run-of-the-mill Mint State 1893-CC will cost anywhere from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars. Above MS64, the coin is conditionally rare (PCGS currently shows 13 coins in MS65 holders, but the actual number of coins might be fewer). A single PCGS example earns the top grade of MS66; that coin once belonged to Jack Lee’s famous set and brought $161,000 in Legend-Morphy’s Regency IV sale in July 2013. Four years earlier, it brought $92,000 at Heritage’s Platinum Night at the January FUN.
The Coronet coin grades MS65 and is approved by CAC. It is brilliant white with an above average strike. Legend expects the piece to bring between $75,000 and $85,000. Judging by pre-auction action, we expect the final number to exceed these estimates.