By Greg Cohen for CoinWeek …..
As a professional numismatist who has worked for some of the biggest companies in the industry, I have had the honor of being a part of the sale of some of the greatest coins in existence, from ancient to modern times.
Most recently, having cataloged the Bruce Morelan Collection of early type and silver dollars, I have had the honor of having the finest 1794 dollar (the most expensive coin ever sold) and the Dexter-Dunham-Pogue 1804 dollar cross my desk. As someone who has cataloged such great rarities, one might think “why could someone like that want to own that could top those seven-figure rarities?” My list is going to be completely different than anything you would expect. Each of the 10 coins listed below would form the “core” of a collection that would explain who Greg Cohen is, as a numismatist and history buff. These 10 pieces almost make up a numismatic biography of myself.
1. 1786 New Jersey Copper
The first coin would be a high-grade New Jersey Copper. Being a lifelong resident of New Jersey, these historic Confederation-era pieces have always fascinated me, and while common enough in lower quality or problematic, high-end, high-grade pieces are rare and desirable. A 1786 Wide Shield type with a fully struck reverse is what I would choose.
2. 1902 Hillsdale National Bank Note
The second item is not a coin, but a banknote. My hometown of Hillsdale had a chartered national bank, and the bank issued both large size and small size notes. While considered “common”, the 1902 Large Size notes are indeed rarely seen, though are known in Uncirculated grade. To represent my hometown, I have always wanted to own an example.
3. Gold Double Excelente struck in Granada
The third item I would love to own would be a gold double Excelente of Spain, struck under the reign of Isabella and Ferdinand, “Los Reyes Catolicos”, struck in Granada. My maternal grandmother’s maiden name, Algranti, derived from Al Granada, left Spain after the Jews and Muslims were told to convert, leave, or die during the Spanish Inquisition. After leaving Spain, the family ended up in the Ottoman Empire before coming to the United States after World War I.
4. 1927 Peace Dollar
My maternal grandfather was not a collector, but he was an accumulator of coins. When I was seven, he showed me his “collection” and from that introduction, I was enthralled with numismatics. Little did I know that those wheat pennies and bicentennial quarters would spark a lifelong interest. To honor him, I would like to, for my fourth item, own a Gem example of a coin of his birth year, 1927. I feel that the Peace dollar would make a great choice, especially a blazing, lustrous, and well-struck piece. It is a large, impressive coin that is familiar to people outside our hobby, as well as seasoned numismatists.
5. 250th Anniversary of Jewish Settlement in America Medal
The fifth item I would love to own is a major rarity and is excessively rare. I first saw this item in 2010 in the sale of the Louis Eliasberg, Jr. Estate, a gold striking of Isadore Konti’s 250th Anniversary of Jewish Settlement in America medal. The beautiful allegorical design was created and struck in 1905 and only two were struck in gold, along with 36 in silver and 284 in bronze. As someone whose ancestors came to the United States around that time, this beautiful medal is significant for me and represents the hopes and dreams of millions of Jewish people who sought religious freedom in America.
As a historian, certain epochs of American history have drawn my attention and study. The next few coins represent those important to the earliest American numismatics.
6. Fugio Copper
Obviously, the New Jersey copper above represents the Confederation era well, but I would also love to have a Mint State Fugio copper, preferably one that is not heavily clashed, and features clear definition of the Benjamin Franklin-inspired motifs.
7. Pine Tree Shilling
Another iconic colonial-era coin I would love to own is a beautiful Pine Tree Shilling, a “Gem” AU quality coin with classic toning would really be the perfect piece.
8. Spanish “Milled Dollar”, or Pillar 8 Reales
The first coin listed in the Red Book is the Spanish “milled dollar” or Pillar 8 Reales. A choice Mint State example of the coin that inspired the entire American monetary system and would be legal tender in the US until 1857, is another coin I have always wanted.
9. 1792 Half Disme
The motto on the 1792 half disme, “LIBERTY: PARENT OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY”, is inspiring and, as the first coin officially struck under the auspices of the United States Mint, its folkloric place is settled in the annals of American numismatics. I would love to own a problem-free example that saw some early federal-era circulation.
10. 1824 Overdate Capped Bust Half Dollar
The final coin I would love to own is a high-grade 1824/various dates Capped Bust half dollar. The first series I focused on when I became a more serious collector was the Capped Bust series, and out of the many varieties, the jumbled repunched final digit has always drawn my attention. It is a common variety that is not often seen, especially in Mint State.
These are the 10 coins I would love to own. Several represent who I am as a person and a few represent my interest in American history and numismatics’ place in history. I hope you enjoyed reading this article.
* * *
Greg Cohen is the Senior Numismatist at Legend Rare Coin Auctions (LRCA), where he has worked since December 2015. Prior to that, Greg was employed at Stack’s Bowers Galleries and R.M. Smythe & Co. Greg graduated from Quinnipiac University in 2006 with a BA in History and minors in Economics and Political Science. He lives in Northern New Jersey with his wife and son. When not cataloging and gathering consignments, Greg enjoys gardening, cooking, and painting.