By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek …..
Stack’s Bowers’ Baltimore sales are always a good source of fresh coins for collectors looking for type material, rarities, and numismatic items that are a little bit off of the beaten path.
When the first session kicks off on the evening of November 8, expect to see a loaded lineup of certified U.S. coins, tokens, patterns, medals, and paper money, including perennial favorites like the $4 Stella and some coins that only come to market once in a generation.
We have broken down our preview of the sale into two categories – moderns and classic material and will offer our Lots You Need to Know in two installments. This one and our take on Stack’s Bowers classic coin offerings, which we will publish on Friday.
Scroll to the bottom of this article to see a rundown of all the sessions and handy link to Stack’s Bowers’ online auction platform.
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Lot 10018: 1915 Lincoln 1¢ NGC PR67* RB
1,150 Proof Lincoln cents were struck and distributed bearing the 1915 date. Unlike modern Proofs, which are immediately recognizable due to their mirrored finish and cameo covered devices, matte Proofs exhibited a finish that more closely resemble circulation strike coins. In fact, prior to third-party certification, many high-quality circulation strikes passed as Proofs. One obvious characteristic that informs collectors of an authentic Proof strike is the bold, wide, and flat rims. Edge detail should also be crisp and fully struck up.
Due to the significant price differential between Proofs and business strikes, it is important to buy problem-free certified examples, especially after careful consideration of at least a few comparable examples at the grade level. Disregard this advice, and you may end up with a piece that is technically fine but aesthetically mediocre – mediocre Proof coinage can be dull, bland, lifeless and hardly worth the premium.
This superb gem is neither dull nor lifeless. It features superior eye appeal and color and when compared to other comparably graded RB-designated 1915 Lincoln cent Proofs in either the NGC or PCGS census, of which there are a total of five coins (three at PCGS, two at NGC), it comes out at or near the top in our opinion.
Current Bid: $2,800
Lot 10025: 1919 Indian Head 5¢ NGC MS68
The Indian Head nickel series is one of those series that can be collected in just about any way. It’s really up to the collector to attack the series in a way that suits their taste… and budget.
In Choice grades or better, the series is a challenge, but doable for those who plan to pursue the series longterm.
At prevailing market rates, the per coin cost of completing the date and mintmark series in MS63 is just over $700 (if you include the irresistible 1937-D 3 Legs variety). To go “All In” on ultra-high-end and top pop issues is something approaching moon money… as those who followed Legend Auctions’ offering of the Angel Dee Collection can attest.
The 1919 issue closes out the series’ first decade with a robust mintage of 60,868,000 pieces, making it the second-most-produced nickel of the decade. In blunt terms, the 1919 issue is the very definition of “Type Coin”. It is one of the better produced Type II issues of the series, and it is an issue that you can find well struck to fully struck, if you are patient.
In reviewing the NGC population report, the mathematical average grade for the issue among Mint State examples is 63.57. We derive that number by multiplying the number of coins certified by their respective grades and dividing the sum of the results by the total number of coins certified in all Mint State grades. Looking at the table, this number makes sense as the highest concentration of coins certified fall in the MS64 grade, with 188 in MS65 and precipitous declines in subsequent higher grades.
The present example, lot 10025, is the sole coin certified as an MS68 at either service. Digging into the transactional history of the coin, we note that the piece first appeared at public auction in 2012, when it was offered as part of the Teton Ranch Collection.
The vividly toned and highly lustrous coin realized a strong sum of $14,950 at that sale and has since been reholdered in an NGC Edgeview holder for added security and viewing pleasure. The coin’s grade did not change.
The highest example certified by PCGS was Angel Dee’s MS67+, which brought $17,037.50 in December 2016.
Expect this piece to bring a number somewhere in that ballpark.
Current Bid: $1,200
Lot 10245: 1946 Unopened United States Mint “Mint Set”
A tension between coin collectors and the United States Mint was probably always present, but grew more acute as the hobby enjoyed a period of sustained growth in the interbellum between World Wars I and II.
For many years, collectors enjoyed a sort of unofficial “courteous” service from the Mint, which would supply whatever was on hand in modest quantities for face value plus the cost of shipping. Slightly more for Proof issues.
As the hobby grew more and more sophisticated, professional and vest pocket dealers descended upon the Mint with never ending requests for coins, in singles and in rolls. Bowers’ assemblage of notes by 1930s collector Walter P. Nichols includes a number of illuminating correspondences between Nichols and the Treasury Department as it relates to requests for present issue coins.
In one letter, dated December 15, 1932, the Mint writes:
The maximum number of one-cent pieces of each coinage year and mint now furnished to coin collectors is ten; there are forwarded herewith; for your coin collection, four new 1932 quarters of each mint’s coinage and ten new 1932 cents each of the Denver and Philadelphia coinage.
The mail charges hereon amount to 36c and the balance of $1.09 due you is returned in cash.
As you can see, this was hardly a sophisticated operation.
The present lot, described as an “Unopened 1946 ‘Mint Set’ Still Sealed in the Original Cloth Bag as Shipped from the Treasury Department”, is a curious study in the United States Mint’s attempts to satisfy the passionate collector base.
Hubert Walker and I first talked about these sets when we profiled Leo Frese’s purchase of a set of them at the 2014 Central States Numismatic Society’s Heritage Auction. Leo had a hunch that there was much more to the tail than what the Heritage catalogers had dug up and he was determined not to let the opportunity to pick them up go by.
For Frese, the opportunity to pick something that his former employer let fly under the radar was too good to pass up. It also wasn’t the first time that he had seen such an unusual item. At the 1990 American Numismatic Association convention in Seattle, Frese said, “a fellow came up with a little sealed canvas bag with a Treasury tag attached to it and asked if I was interested in purchasing it. He wanted more than a thousand dollars for it.”
At the time, Frese didn’t realize what he was being offered, but having more than a decade to think about it and seeing that Heritage had listed a run of five sets from 1942 to 1946, he felt the time was right to take a leap of faith and pick them up. He won all of them for just over $13,100.
History hasn’t been too kind to the hobby’s minutia. What we know for sure is that in 1947, the U.S Mint had finally developed a packaging solution and a marketing strategy that would serve it well for 11 years: the double mint set. On custom holed cardboard sleeves, collectors could look at the obverse and the reverse of each coin issued by each mint. The packaging proved to be highly reactive, ruining many of the copper coins housed within and creating an array of wonderful rainbows on the .900 silver coins and nickel five cent pieces.
What wonderful array of colors await those who would dare open this sack, which has gone untouched for more than 70 years? Hopefully, the collector that takes this once-in-a-lifetime throwback won’t be so curious as to find out.
Current Bid: $950
Lot 3437 (Session 6): 1973-S Eisenhower Dollar PCGS MS69
One of Four Certified in the Grade – Others Locked up in Registry Sets
40% silver Eisenhower dollars were struck in two finishes, Proof and Uncirculated. The Uncirculated issues of 1971 to 1974 were sold in blue envelopes and are typically called Blue Packs. Proof issues in 40% silver were sold in plastic cases, similar to GSA cases, and packaged in a woodgrain printed cardboard box with a flocked inner case. These are called Brown Packs.
The Blue Pack Ike, of which Stack’s Bowers Lot 3437 (from Session 6) is one, comes in three distinct finishes: circulation quality with numerous imperfections (the 1971 issue); satin finish of a quality nearly on par with the modern commemorative issues of 1982-1984 (the 1972 and 1974 issues); and a gritty satin finish (the 1973), of inferior quality to the former but noticeably better than a circulation quality coin.
As this example is of the latter, it is necessary to point out that despite the PCGS grade of MS69, this issue will not look as pure or clean as a comparably mark-free 1972 or 1974. This is a big reason why, to date, PCGS has certified only four examples at this nearly perfect grade level.
The top end of the Eisenhower dollar market operates in an idiosyncratic way. While its clear preference is for PCGS-graded coins, the top four or five collectors view the PCGS grade as a baseline estimate of the coin’s condition and apply their own taste before executing any bids or making any purchase via private treaty sale.
Certified Acceptance Corporation (CAC) and QA Check have put forward an added degree of scrutiny to the series, offering modern coin collectors a needed second set of eyes on the coins. But ultimately, a real market for Ike dollars exists away from public auction price levels in that grey area of what a collector wants and what he or she is willing to pay.
The last 1973-S in PCGS MS69 to sell at auction belonged to the collector of the Sonoran Monsoon Collection. Their coin had a smattering of frost breaks on the surface and brought a respectable price of $5,170. If the coin presented plus eye appeal, it could have brought substantially more than that – especially if it also had CAC approval.
The present piece was graded nearly a decade ago by PCGS. It is in an older holder and sports an Everest Selections sticker, which we trace to coin marketer Rick Tomaska. Who knows what he sold it for, but given his track record… it probably wasn’t cheap.
How do the upper-end collectors feel about this coin? You will know by the hammer price.
Current Bid: $360
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Stack’s Bowers’ Official Sale of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Expo in Baltimore, Maryland
November 2017 Baltimore – Session 1 – U.S. Coins Part I: Numismatic Americana – Lots 1-512
NOVEMBER 8, 2017 • 5 PM EST • BALTIMORE CONVENTION CENTER • ROOM 308
Session 1 – U.S. Coins Part I: Numismatic Americana. The live auction session begins at 5:00PM ET on Wednesday, November 8 in Room 308.
November 2017 Baltimore- Session 2 – U.S. Coins Part II: Half Cents-Quarters – Lots 1001-1623
NOVEMBER 9, 2017 • 10 AM EST • BALTIMORE CONVENTION CENTER • ROOM 308
Session 2 – U.S. Coins Part II: Half Cents-Quarters. The live auction session begins at 10:00AM ET on Thursday, November 9 in Room 308.
November 2017 Baltimore – Session 3 – U.S. Currency – Lots 20001-20695
NOV 9, 2017 • 5 PM EST • BALTIMORE CONVENTION CENTER • ROOM 309
Session 3 – U.S. Currency. The live auction session begins at 5:00PM ET on Thursday, November 9 in Room 309.
November 2017 Baltimore – Session 4 – Rarities Night – Lots 10001-10253
NOV 9, 2017 • 5 PM EST • BALTIMORE CONVENTION CENTER • ROOM 308
Session 4 – Rarities Night. The live auction session begins at 5:00PM ET on Thursday, November 9 in Room 308.
November 2017 Baltimore – Session 5 – U.S. Coins Part III: Gold Coinage – Lots 2001-2370
NOV 9, 2017 • 6 PM EST • BALTIMORE CONVENTION CENTER • ROOM 308
Session 5 – U.S. Coins Part III: Gold Coinage. The live auction session begins immediately following the conclusion of Rarities Session 4 on Thursday, November 9 in Room 308.
November 2017 Baltimore – Session 6 – U.S. Coins Part IV: Half Dollars-Commemoratives, Miscellaneous – Lots 3001-3772
NOV 10, 2017 • 10 AM EST • BALTIMORE CONVENTION CENTER • ROOM 308
Session 6 – U.S. Coins Part IV: Half Dollars-Commemoratives, Miscellaneous. The live auction session begins at 10:00AM ET on Friday, November 10 in Room 308.
November 2017 Baltimore – Session 7 – Early American Coins – Lots 4001-4309
NOV 10, 2017 • 6 PM EST • BALTIMORE CONVENTION CENTER • ROOM 308
Session 7 – Early American Coins. The live auction session begins at 6:00PM ET on Friday, November 10 in Room 308.
November 2017 Baltimore – Session 8 – Internet Only – U.S. Currency – Lots 21001-21361
NOV 13, 2017 • 9 AM PST • INTERNET ONLY
Session 8 – Internet Only – U.S. Currency. The live auction session begins at 9:00AM PT on Monday, November 13.
November 2017 Baltimore – Session 9 – Internet Only – U.S. Coins – Part 1 – Lots 5001-6467
NOV 13, 2017 • 9 AM PST • INTERNET ONLY
Session 9 – Internet Only – U.S. Coins – Part 1. The live auction session begins at 9:00AM PT on Monday, November 13.
November 2017 Baltimore – Session 10 – Internet Only – U.S. Coins – Part 2 – Lots 7001-8537
NOV 14, 2017 • 9 AM PST • INTERNET ONLY
Session 10 – Internet Only – U.S. Coins – Part 2. The live auction session begins at 9:00AM PT on Tuesday, November 14.
 Bowers, Q. David, editor. An Inside View of the Coin Hobby in the 1930s: The Walter P. Nichols File. Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, Bowers and Marena Galleries, Inc. 1984. 31