By Charles Morgan for CoinWeek….
In this, the second installment of CoinWeek’s coverage of the Whitman Baltimore Winter Expo 2014 Coin Show, I talk to a collector from Pennsylvania about his pursuit of a rare obsolete bank note and take a quick look at the 10 coins that brought the most money on Rarities Night. I also discuss a recent rash of dealer thefts that may be connected.
Part One can be read here.
In Pursuit of a Rare York Note
Longtime collector and Coin Community Forum member Bob Saylor took up my online invite to stop by the CoinWeek booth. The subject of our discussion was an elusive 1860s York Bank (Pennsylvania) $5 obsolete note (Lot 2210 in the Stack’s Bowers currency auction).
“The central vignette on the note shows downtown York at the time of the Civil War,” Bob said. “They are rarely offered, and honestly, this is the first proof note I’ve ever seen offered. I already have a piece issued for circulation.”
The note in question was printed by Danforth, Bald & Company and once belonged in the Peter Mayer Collection. Stack’s describes the condition of the piece as Choice Uncirculated.
Bob calls the note the key to the York series.
He also says that his attachment to such memorabilia is rooted in his interest in hometown history, though he assures me that he’s of a more recent mintage.
Having lived for a number of years in the vicinity of York myself, I took particular interest in the central vignette–a mid-19th century street scene. I asked Bob if he could identify the buildings in the image, wondering if the art was a true-to-life depiction or whether it was, like so many engravings of the period, a generic vignette.
Neither of us could say for sure, but we both thought that if it were an actual image of York, then it probably portrayed York’s historic Market Street.
With that, I wished Bob the best of luck. Stack’s pre-auction estimate for the rare proof note had it bringing between $2,500 and $3,500. It brought a hammer price of $4,112.50 instead.
Speaking of auction results, here are the top 10 prices realized for 1853 Collection coins auctioned by Stack’s Bowers at the show:
- Lot 10026: 1853-O “No Arrows” half dollar; Ex: Colin E. King. One of four known PCGS G-06. $246,750. (For more on this coin, see Greg Reynolds’ October 22 article here.)
- Lot 10031: 1853 $1; PCGS MS-66 CAC. Stack’s last sold this piece in July 1979. It features champagne-colored toning with dark blue and charcoal around the periphery. A rare issue in Gem. One similarly graded example is in an NGC holder (assuming it’s a different coin). $129,250.
- Lot 10030: 1853 proof dollar restrike PR-66 PCGS CAC. Ex: Lamb-Geiss-Starr. The 1853 collection’s most visually-arresting coin. Nice cameo that didn’t earn the designation in the eyes of the PCGS graders. Strong contrast on the devices, some weakness on the inscriptions on the reverse. Stack’s describes the color as blue with violet iridescence. PCGS finest. One of perhaps 12 known. $105,750.
- Lot 10027: 1853 Arrows and Rays Half Dollar PCGS PR64 CAC. Five to eight known; one is in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. Ex: Hayes, Kuntz. $94,000.
- Lot 10068: United States Assay Office gold $20 K-17, 884 Thous. MS-61 PCGS CAC. $70,500.
- Lot 10044: 1853-D Liberty half eagle Winter 29-V. Large D. PCGS MS-64+ CAC. Top pop example of a tough date to find in Mint State. This piece eluded some of the most important collectors of the 20th century, including Bass and Eliasberg. Stack’s notes that this piece previously sold in 1995 for $55,000. Adjusting for inflation, the hammer price of $70,500 shows that this rare coin has lost ground in the intervening 19 years. $70,500.
- Lot 10021: 1853 Liberty Seated quarter. Arrows and Rays. PCGS PR-64 CAC. Another tremendous rarity. Mature toning on both obverse and reverse Past examples brought much more, which makes one wonder if this example was a bargain at $64,625.
- Lot 10045: 1848 Liberty Eagle. PCGS MS-64 CAC. Staggeringly rare in Mint State. This example exhibits proof like surfaces and plus eye appeal. $64,625.
- Lot 10042: 1853 Liberty Half Eagle. PCGS MS-65 CAC; Ex: Edward Milas. Only the second gem specimens of this issue ever graded, the other PCGS grades a point higher. $38,187.50.
- Lot 10043: 1853-C Liberty Half Eagle. Winter-2. Late Die State. PCGS MS-64. Very scarce issue in Mint State. Shares top pop spot with Bass coin sold in 2008. That coin brought $51,000. That was then, this is now. $38,187.50.
- Lot 10066: 1853 United States Assay Office of Gold $10. K-15. Rarity-7. 884 Thous. PCGS AU-53 CAC. Rare issue, believed to have been struck for only one week in 1853. Population of 3 with one finer in a PCGS holder. $38,187.50.
Coin Dealers Targeted on the Road
A rash of recent thefts has dealers feeling uneasy. Some speculate that the thefts are the work of an East Coast crime syndicate.
I talked to one dealer who recently lost everything in a “snatch-and-grab” robbery that took place after he left a coin show in Virginia.
“I was done exhibiting at the Virginia Numismatic Association [56th Annual Convention], and on my way to a show in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania,” said Mark Reid, proprietor of The Time Machine. “On Saturday, the 27th of September at around eight o’clock at night, I stopped at a rest area off of I-95.”
It was during this brief stop that three thieves, who had been following Mark, assailed his vehicle, smashing the rear window and grabbing several bags containing coins, medals, and small artifacts.
“I heard that something was going on,” said Reid. “By the time I got outside, I saw them get into their car and leave. I was in shock and helpless to stop them.”
Reid estimates than more than $200,000 worth of material was taken.
In a flier Reid circulated to dealers and the public at the Whitman Expo, some of the stolen items were described as being: amulets, rings, and cylinders; ancient, world, medieval, and U.S. coins; medals from the 1800s; and about 200 medium-sized antiquities including bronze and terracotta-like statues, animals, and jewelry. Reid also noted that a box containing 15 scarce Alexandrian drachms housed in Ancient Imports flips was also taken.
Witnesses described the thieves as being “large Hispanic males” driving a beat-up black van with Virginia license plates. The plate number on the vehicle may have been covered up at the time of the robbery.
As for why he was singled out, Reid doesn’t know. The effect on his business, however, is clear.
“Most of it is illiquid,” Reid told me, “but it has completely wiped me out. I’ve had to sell my house because of it and I’m still dealing now because of the generosity of several of my friends in the industry, who have sent me consignments.”
Reid will attend several upcoming shows that he’s already registered for, but after that it remains to be seen whether he will continue.
“I’ve been dealing since 1967. Luckily I have clients built up… but it’s hard at my age to start over.”
Elements of Reid’s story resonated with Lorton, Virginia-based dealer George Watson, who was also robbed recently after leaving a coin show. Watson said that two of his tires went flat when a group accosted him and his car and stole his merchandise.
Doug Davis from numismaticcrimes.org also notes that an Eastern Shore Maryland coin shop was robbed on October 11, 2014. Thieves took more than $300,000 worth of gold and cash, including 500-600 pieces of fractional gold and classic U.S. commemoratives, plus a number of foreign bullion coins.
Fortunately, no one was hurt in the commission of these crimes.