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HomeAuctionsStack's Bowers Spring 2024 Rarities Night Preview - Silver Coins

Stack’s Bowers Spring 2024 Rarities Night Preview – Silver Coins

Stack's Bowers Rarities Night Spring 2024 Showcase Auction - Silver coin denominations
Stack’s Bowers Rarities Night Spring 2024 Showcase Auction – Silver Coin Denominations

By Charles Morgan for CoinWeek …..

This is the second of three previews I am writing to discuss the Stack’s Bowers’ Rarities Night sale in their Spring 2024 Showcase Auction. The auction will be held on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, and consists of more than 300 lots of rarities, condition rarities, and PQ eye appeal pieces. In the first Rarities Night preview, I broke down six lots in the minor coinage categories, including rare Mint State examples of the 1793 Wreath cent and the 1916/916 Buffalo nickel.

In this part, I will focus on the silver coins from the sale. The silver section is incredibly deep and includes top pop examples from multiple series, as well as a nice set of Liberty Seated half dollars from the Arlington Collection. Stack’s Bowers does not offer a description of the collecting goals of the Arlington collector in their preamble, but from what I can gather, the collector enjoyed brilliant or near-brilliant uncirculated Liberty Seated halves and collected coins in or near the top of the condition census.

Also on offer are important midcentury coins in the finest known state of preservation. Two coins from the 1950 Proof Set should be given a close look by every serious collector. The lots I discuss only scratch the surface of what is undisputably a statement sale from Stack’s Bowers.

Silver Coins

Lot 4088: 1861 Liberty Seated Quarter, MS68 NGC

1861 Liberty Seated Quarter. Image: Stack's Bowers.
1861 Liberty Seated Quarter. Image: Stack’s Bowers.

The collapse of the Union was assured by January 1861, when Jefferson Davis spoke in the Senate Chamber to announce his resignation and that Mississippi would join South Carolina in secession. Within two days, Florida and Alabama had joined, and by the time Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter, six states stood in rebellion. By the time the Battle of Bull Run took place in July, the states of Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee had joined the Southern cause. At this point, the federal mints at Charlotte (NC), Dahlonega (Georgia), and New Orleans were either under Southern control or threatened with seizure.

Because of this, the Philadelphia Mint went to extraordinary lengths to produce enough coinage to keep coin flowing throughout the Northern states. It was a valiant but losing effort. By the end of the year, the economic demands of the war were such that the Treasury Department had to resort to issuing paper currency. The flow of hard money slowed to a trickle and would not freely flow again until several years after the war’s conclusion.

Yet because of this extraordinary effort, the mintage of the 1861 Liberty Seated quarter dollar stands out as plentiful relative to other issues of the era. The 1861-S is considerably more scarce, but that issue is unknown in Mint State. The present example, struck at the Philadelphia Mint, sits squarely in the condition census. It is one of six certified at MS68 by NGC, and the current PCGS census tops out with two coins at the MS67+ level. Pleasing gold, green, and orange toning are present throughout. This piece was offered sold at a January 2023 Heritage Auction for $22,800.

Lot 4103: 1934-D Washington Quarter, MS67+ PCGS CAC CMQ

1934-D Washington Quarter, Heavy Motto. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1934-D Washington Quarter, Heavy Motto. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

As a collector of toned Washington quarters, I advise collectors to personally view Lot 4103 before placing a bid. Toned Washington quarters can be incidentally toned, attractively toned, or unfortunately toned. The 1934-D Heavy Motto is not an issue I remember seeing with PQ color. It’s understandable, seeing that the United States Mint did not begin mass-producing uncirculated coin sets until 1947.

The photographs provided in the auction listing for this Top Pop, Pop One coin tell three different stories: the PCGS TruView presents the coin as rainbow-toned, with dark red, gold, green, and cobalt colors. Stack’s Bowers’ image lightens the contrast, while the holder’s scan flattens the coin’s luminescence (typical with scans). I think PCGS, CAC, and CMQ saw something with this coin that needs to be seen in hand. I’m going to request to view it in Baltimore.

Lot 4105: 1950 Washington Quarter, PR68DCAM PCGS CMQ

1950 Washington Quarter Proof. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1950 Washington Quarter Proof. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

The Washington quarter debuted in 1932, but wasn’t struck in Proof until 1936. This early period of modern Proofs ran from 1936 to 1942 and was suspended due to World War II. A second and much revered period for modern Proofs began in 1950 with the release of a Proof Set containing the Franklin half dollar, the Washington quarter, the Roosevelt dime, the Jefferson nickel, and the Lincoln Wheat cent. When Proof production stopped in 1942, the Mint had sold just over 21,000 sets. When Proof coinage resumed, demand more than doubled, and 51,386 Proof Sets were issued in 1950. Within 10n years, demand for Proofs would surpass 1.6 million units.

The run of Proofs Sets struck from 1950 to 1964 have long been popular with collectors and will only see heightened interest in the years to come. These are relatable coins with designs that are familiar to collectors and imbued with nostalgia. PCGS has certified two coins at the PR68DCAM level: this coin, and cert. #42808900 (which sold at Heritage’s January 13, 2022 sale for $31,200). The coin presently on offer was last sold by Stack’s Bowers on June 13, 2023, for $22,800, but now returns to the market with a CMQ sticker, meaning that PCGS founder David Hall and Spectrum CEO Greg Roberts have approved its quality. Spectrum owns Stack’s Bowers.

Photographically comparing the two coins, one sees plusses and minuses. I believe that the present coin has thicker Cameo frost than the Heritage example, but the light layer of pale gold toning of the Stack’s Bowers coin is not present in the other example. There are also areas of apparent frost break on the Heritage coin, particularly on the lettering of LIBERTY, the back of Washington’s neck, and the lettering of the denomination. The example in the Stack’s Bowers sale is thickly frosted with isolated lightness only on certain letters of the denomination and legend. It’s not quite a toss-up, so I recommend thoughtful study at lot viewing.

Lot 4110: 1839 Liberty Seated Half Dollar, PF64 (NGC)

1839 Liberty Seated Half Dollar in Proof. Image: Stack's Bowers / Adobe Stock.
1839 Liberty Seated Half Dollar in Proof. Image: Stack’s Bowers / Adobe Stock.

This is the only confirmed Proof striking of the 1839 Liberty Seated half dollar with Drapery. When numismatist Walter Breen wrote about the 1839 Liberty Seated halves, his information on the extra drapery issue was limited and couched: “Menjou:15, possibly reappearing as Lichtenfels I:2799. Unverified” (Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Proof Coins: 1722 – 1989, p. 69). The unverified proof was verified when it appeared in David W. Akers’ sale of the John Jay Pittman Collection. Since that sale, this unique coin has been locked away in three significant collections: Phil Kaufman, Greensboro, and Gardner.

The $99,875 it brought in on October 27, 2014, is an aberration. That was a low point for the rare coin market. Important unique coins like this bring six figures in today’s market.

Lot 4112: 1840 Liberty Seated Half Dollar, PF65 NGC

1840 Proof Liberty Seated Half Dollar. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1840 Proof Liberty Seated Half Dollar. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

While not unique, this 1840 Liberty Seated half-dollar is the finest of five confirmed examples in Proof. Like lot 4110, this example was a Pittman coin that Phil Kaufman and Eugene Gardner later purchased. The coin is dusklight in appearance, with light iridescence. Stack’s Bowers describes the color as having midnight blue and pinkish-apricot. Not to get carried away with color names, but the reverse leans into mauve with exteriors in stone blue. There are similar tones on the obverse, with the area to the right of Liberty showing accents of coral.

This example brought $109,250 when it was sold in the August 2007 Kaufman sale and then sold for half of that during Gardner III in May 2015. That Pogue sale period was such a strange time for rare coins. It’s been years since the other four have appeared in the auction, and the Lichtenfels-Norweb coin is not considered finer.

Multiple Lots Between 4109-4139: The Arlington Collection of Liberty Seated Halves

1847/6 Liberty Seated Half Dollar. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1847/6 Liberty Seated Half Dollar. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

Stack’s Bowers offers a selection of Mint State Liberty Seated half dollars from the Arlington Collection in this Rarities Night session. While the Arlington collector’s biography and collecting goals were not among the retrospectives presented in the auction’s preamble, the fact that such a collection was assembled is a testament to the Arlington collector’s patience and taste.

I recommend that you review the entire offering for yourself, but I’d like to highlight three coins that were of specific interest to me.

The Arlington 1847/6 half dollar is one of just three coins graded in Mint State by PCGS; all three are tied in MS62. NGC records one example of this overdate in the census report, which is also graded MS62. This example of the popular Guide Book variety has a long and distinguished pedigree and brought $36,425 when offered by Heritage in January 2015. For enthusiasts, this is an interesting variety to look at under glass.

There may be no more than two dozen Mint State examples of the 1864-S Liberty Seated half dollar that still survive. The trip from the West Coast to the Eastern United States was difficult and expensive and collecting U.S. coins by branch mint did not become en vogue until the early 20th century. Most of the everyman’s silver coinage struck at the San Francisco Mint saw heavy circulation or export.

The Arlington collector likely acquired this coin from the September 2020 Bob R. Simpson sale. This frosty example has satiny surfaces with a thin layer of mild champagne toning. Perspective bidders should note that this example is in the top five known for the issue.

Another brilliant Arlington Collection condition census half dollar from the San Francisco Mint. San Francisco Mint silver coins of the Civil War era are tough and are perennial favorites among collectors. This example has premium eye appeal and how it did not qualify for MS65 is a subject best left to the grading experts. A clear argument could be made that this coin is among the top five known for the issue.

Lot 4154: 1897 Barber Half Dollar PR67DCAM CACG

1897 Barber Half Dollar in Proof. Image: Stack's Bowers.
1897 Barber Half Dollar in Proof. Image: Stack’s Bowers.

John Albanese has cultivated a market for CAC-approved coins for nearly 20 years. The concept behind this market innovation was to help dealers and collectors identify coins that were correctly graded or strong for the grade. While John always acknowledged that coins that did not earn his approval could also be correctly graded, he did not think they were appropriate for discriminating collectors.

In 2023, Albanese and a coterie of financial backers launched CAC Grading, a full-service grading business based out of Virginia Beach, Virginia. The company announced a soft launch in the spring of that year, and the first CAC-slabbed coins began to appear in the market by the ANA summer show.

To rival NGC or PCGS, CAC Grading has a steep mountain to climb. The two leading legacy services have graded and encapsulated over 100 million coins. The present lot is an 1897 Barber Half graded CACG PR67DCAM. The L at the end of the certification number denotes that this coin has crossed from another holder that had already been CAC-approved. Stack’s Bowers denotes this as being a “Legacy Holder”. As for the coin, this is a fine example of the grade and is one of just 731 issued. It will be interesting to watch how the market responds to this service over time. We are studying the numbers carefully.

Lot 4154: 1948 Franklin Half Dollar MS-68FBL PCGS CMQ

1948 Franklin Half Dollar. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1948 Franklin Half Dollar. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

This is the sole finest 1948 Franklin half dollar. It’s almost certainly a Double Mint Set coin that developed a rich all-over toning pattern on the obverse with rainbow colors encircling the rim on the coin’s reverse. In 2022, Heritage offered this coin in an NGC MS68*FBL holder, adorned with a Rick Tomaska Everest sticker. Tomaska knows his Franklins and popularized their collecting. In the March Stack’s Bowers offering, the coin is presented in a PCGS MS68FBL holder with a CMQ sticker. I expect this monster toner to hammer at about $30,000.

Lot 4155 and Lot 4157: Top Pop Franklin Half Dollar Proofs in Deep Cameo

1950 and 1952 Franklin Half Dollar Proofs with Deep Cameo. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1950 and 1952 Franklin Half Dollar Proofs with Deep Cameo. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

Collectors often group Franklin business strikes (and their elusive Full Bell Lines) apart from the Proof issues. Proof Franklins were struck from 1950 to 1963. The early Proofs were struck in much lower numbers, with mintages increasing yearly until the numbers reached more than 3.2 million at the series’ peak. The mintages were much lower for the early issues: 51,386 in 1950, 57,500 in 1951, and 81,980 in 1952. The Proof strikes from these years were typically brilliant upon issue, but the storage in their government-issued plastic sleeves over time damaged many examples. Incidental Cameo and Deep Cameo frost examples were produced during this period; their numbers are quite low compared to the general population of Proofs for any given year.

These coins are highly coveted, and I argue that they are iconic coins of the 20th century. Two examples stand out in the Stack’s Bowers sale.

This coin has been the finest certified example of the 1950 Franklin half dollar with Deep Cameo for over a decade. Stack’s Bowers last offered the coin on June 13, 2023, where it brought $66,000. It was purchased as the crown jewel of the EBL III #1 All-Time Finest PCGS Registry Set and is available again for that next great set builder to enjoy.

Another EBL III coin, this is the first auction appearance of the finest known Deep Cameo 1952 Proof Franklin half dollar. The coin is graded PCGS PR67DCAM and is CAC and CMQ-X approved. This and the 1950s are key issues for the construction of any world-class set of Franklin Proofs. The potential of mid-20th-century coins cannot be understated. This area has an expanding collector base and very few coins of this caliber to go around.

* * *

That does it for my auction preview of the Stack’s Bowers silver coins in the Spring 2024 Rarities Night session. Silver coins comprise lots 4063-4220. There were many coins that I did not cover that are worthy of your consideration. I’ll be back with my gold picks this Saturday.

* * *

Charles Morgan
Charles Morgan
Charles Morgan is an award-winning numismatic author and the editor and publisher of CoinWeek.com. Along with co-author Hubert Walker, he has written for CoinWeek since 2012, as well as the "Market Whimsy" column for The Numismatist and the book 100 Greatest Modern World Coins (2020) for Whitman Publishing. From 2021-2023, Charles served as Governor of the American Numismatic Association (ANA), where he was bestowed the Glenn Smedley Award. Charles is a member of numerous numismatic organizations, including the American Numismatic Society (ANS) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG).

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