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The Hunt for the 1875 $10 Liberty Head Gold Eagle

By John BrushPresident, David Lawrence Rare Coins (DLRC) ……

The story of the D.L. Hansen Collection has been written several places and as we wind down the challenge of collecting an example of every circulation strike piece from the United States Mint, there are a few pieces that have eluded our grasp in the past few years.

The search for one coin in particular has become a story of education for myself. We recently acquired an 1875 $10 PCGS AU50 for the Hansen Collection in auction for $360,000 USD and it filled one of the last remaining holes in the set (three coins left!).

For those that do not know about the rarity of the 1875 $10, there’s quite a bit written about it. But in short, the date of 1875 presents a number of low-mintage gold issues. The $5 half eagle issue was produced to the tune of 200 coins and the 1875 $10 is actually the lowest mintage among all regular-issue US coins. I guarantee you that if this was offered as a trivia question at your next major show, VERY few people would know this. In fact, only 100 coins were produced and only eight to 12 pieces are currently known.

If you’re comparing auction appearances of this coin to other items like the 1913 nickel, the 1804 dollar, or the 1894-S dime, these coins come up far more often than an 1875 $10. Certainly gold experts realize this, but it’s one of those sleeper concepts that don’t typically come up at the average numismatic dinner party.

Del Hansen (Left), John Brush (Right). Image Credit: DLRC
Del Hansen (Left), John Brush (Right). Image Credit: DLRC

My relationship with the coin and its history began two years ago in a conversation with well-known numismatist and collector Stanley Kesselman and DLRC’s own gold expert, Paul Nugget. In this conversation, Stanley mentioned an 1875 $10 that was coming up in auction. His words were “You’d better buy this one as you won’t find another one any time soon.”

Honestly, it wasn’t a date that I was overly familiar with. It’s a famous year for low mintages, of course, but I didn’t know how few coins were available on the open market. And this ignorance could have cost us the opportunity to acquire a coin for the collection!

The auction came and went and while we pursued it heavily, we were outbid in the end by Doug Winter (on behalf of Harvey Jacobson) as it was the last coin that Harvey needed to complete his Liberty gold eagle set. I remember Doug’s sigh at the end that it was a higher value than he wanted to pay, but it was likely the first one he had seen in quite some time as well. The final tally was $388k for the NGC AU50 in the auction.

Well, Mr. Hansen and I continued to scour the numismatic world for the next two years looking for another example in ANY grade. None showed up. Hansen actually has a Proof version of the date and he began to worry that he might have to settle for adding it into the set as we were doubting that we’d have another opportunity to find the real thing.

As time went on, we were researching the condition census for the date and we simply could not find any other examples. We were told that a long-time collector actually had several in his collection that were NOT for sale – which was why there were none available for sale directly. We also learned of a coin that PCGS had to buy back in recent years, as it was previously graded but had later been discovered to be an altered date. Another piece surfaced in an NGC holder but since David Lawrence Rare Coins suspected it to be a circulated Proof, we decided against it.

Starting to get desperate, we actually approached Harvey in an attempt to purchase his entire set from him to get the one coin. Unfortunately, he was still collecting coins and we couldn’t come together on a price. Then, right before the FUN show, I saw an ad that his collection was coming up for auction at the February Long Beach Show. It wasn’t even imaged on the website or available for bidding, but I saw the ad and I called Dell Loy immediately. We discussed it and shortly after I booked a trip to Long Beach!

For those of you who do not attend the Long Beach Show, it is a LONG trip from Virginia Beach. On average we have attended one of the three events every year, but the activity of the show hasn’t been as exciting as it was a decade ago so it hasn’t been our top priority.

However, in recent years there has been an ongoing display of the Tyrant Collection, one of the most valuable private collections of coins, and this week the collection of $10 Liberty eagles were on display. My eyes certainly lit up when I noticed that not one but three of the 1875 $10s were on display! Well, that solved the mystery as to why examples hadn’t been for sale over the last four years.

The display was absolutely amazing and the other coins in the set were truly special, but the location of the 1875 $10s blew me away (who could possibly have more than one or two?). I knew that if we didn’t pounce on them now, these coins weren’t going to be for sale for a long time after.

Wesley Brush. Image Credit: John Brush
Wesley Brush. Image Credit: John Brush

I ended up attending the show with my oldest son, Wesley (10 years old), and we had a great time. It was his first coin auction and what better way to introduce the auction process to a child than to ask him to bid for you on a $300k+ coin! We were active bidders on a number of the coins in the collection and when the 1875 came up, I knew there were two other gold experts in the room who would be following the action closely.

Throughout the evening they had both been bidding actively, so we expected stiff competition.

The bidding started at $260k, then $280k. Then Wesley got a bit nervous and we chimed in together at $300k. There was a long pause in the action as they tried to encourage the other dealers to bid and we hoped that the other $10 Liberty Collector wasn’t going to jump in on the internet. After what felt like the second-longest auction ending in history, they closed the lot, and we had won it for a total of $360k! Despite the 20% buyer’s fee, that was still less than it had sold for just two years prior, and this time in a PCGS holder!

We were absolutely ecstatic and received several congratulations on a “good deal” as we departed the auction room.

Finally, after four years of searching, one of the most underrated numismatic dates in the US gold series had been obtained. While it isn’t the most expensive coin that we’ve ever purchased, it was certainly one of the most exciting and personally gratifying. And now it resides peacefully in the D.L. Hansen Collection by way of DLRC.

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  1. What a fun article to read, congratulations on acquiring the 1875 and thank you for sharing it with the rest of us! Continued success to you!


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