Gold rarities, early proof specimens and S.S. Central America sunken treasure highlight Heritage Central States Auctions
Conducted April 27-30 in conjunction with the Central States Numismatic Society
Glittering gold rarities, including elite proof specimens and a double eagle that survived the mass melting of its issue in the 1930s, are among the major highlights of Heritage Auctions’$20,000,000+ CSNS Signature® & Platinum Night U.S. Coin Auction, the official auction of the Central States Numismatic Society’s Annual Convention, April 27-30, in Rosemont, IL.
“Our Central States auctions consistently rank among our best events each year,” said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage. “This time around should be no exception, thanks to an auction that is both broad and deep. More than 3,600 lots will be offered on the auction floor, and our special Platinum Night session on Thursday, April 29, contains the best of the best, more than 550 important rarities.”
A small but important specimen is an 1859 three dollar gold piece graded PR66 Cameo by NGC. The 1859 is one of the earliest years in which proofs were distributed to collectors on an official basis, and this example is one of the finest known, as well as a piece with a long and illustrious history.
“This special coin’s provenance dates back more than a century,” said Rohan. “Its earliest auction appearance was at the sale of the Jewett Collection by S.H. Chapman in 1909. From there it went to John H. Clapp, later passing into his estate, which was bought outright in 1942 by legendary numismatist Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. After Eliasberg’s passing, the coin was auctioned in 1982 and later appeared in the collection of Ed Trompeter, a man whose name is virtually synonymous with elite proof gold. Bidders will get the chance to add their own names to that illustrious roster.”
The four dollar gold patterns of 1879 and 1880, popularly known as “Stellas” after the star on their common reverse, are collector favorites whenever they appear at and collectors will have a quartet of opportunities to own the denomination, led by two particularly good coins, when an 1879 Flowing Hair Stella graded PR64 by PCGS with CAC sticker comes on the block, and when the second, an 1879 Flowing Hair Stella graded PR65 Cameo by NGC, makes its appearance.
“The 1879 Flowing Hair Stella struck in gold, the Judd-1635 variety that both of these pieces are, is one of the most popular pattern coins ever struck,” said Rohan. “Hundreds of the coins were produced, making the Stellas more available than many other patterns, and their unusual denomination created instant popularity among numismatists and non-numismatists alike. They are also surprisingly scarce on the open market. Collectors who own one are usually reluctant to let them go, so they do not trade often.”
Proof double eagles are among the most majestic coins the U.S. has struck, and this auction has plenty of worthy examples. A great early proof is an 1860 double eagle graded PR64 Cameo by NGC, an issue that is far rarer than even its tiny mintage of 59 pieces would suggest. The two lots following are also of special importance: an 1870 double eagle graded PR65 Ultra Cameo by NGC with CAC sticker, is one of just 35 specimens struck, while an 1873 Closed 3 double eagle graded PR65 Ultra Cameo by NGC, is one of only 25 proofs for its date.
A double eagle produced for circulation, in the form of a 1920-S double eagle graded MS64 by PCGS, is a decidedly important highlight. Had history unfolded differently, the 1920-S double eagle would be a relatively ordinary issue in the Saint-Gaudens series; more than half a million pieces were struck. Most of those coins never left government possession, however, and after gold coinage was recalled by the Roosevelt Administration, the gold coins the Treasury Department had on-hand were slated for destruction. The subsequent mass melting meant that the few 1920-S double eagles to reach the outside world became great rarities, and the example offered here is one of the finest known.
An auction as broad as this one, however, cannot be made of gold coins alone; collectors of early copper will be drawn to a 1793 half cent, C-2 or B-2 variety, graded MS61 Brown by PCGS with CAC sticker. Two important and seldom-seen early silver rarities come in the form of two proof Bust half dollars, the first an extremely rare 1818 half dollar, O-113 variety, graded PR65 by NGC, the second an 1823 half dollar, O-111 variety, graded PR63 by NGC and believed to be unique as a proof.
“Just a handful of Bust half dollars, coins struck in the early 1800s before the U.S. Mint converted to steam power, are believed to be proofs,” said Rohan. “It is remarkable that two such coins should appear in the same auction, and we expect considerable attention from series specialists and from early U.S. coinage enthusiasts in general.”
The Michael A. Tongg Collection, one of the auction’s Featured Collections, includes a number of important Hawaiian and Hawaii-related coins, including an 1883 eighth dollar pattern for the independent Kingdom of Hawaii graded PR63 Cameo by NGC. The eighth dollar was a proposed denomination that was never issued for circulation. Just 20 examples were struck for inclusion in proof sets, and perhaps half that number survive today.
Two additional and distinctive highlights are made of gold, but are not coins per se. The first is a 1925 Norse medal in gold graded Matte PR68 by NGC. Formerly in the collection of a noted sports professional, this Norse medal is part of a commemorative issue struck in bronze, silver, and gold. The medal was designed by James Earle Fraser and is often collected alongside the classic commemorative coin series. After unsold pieces were melted, just 47 gold Norse medals remained in the net mintage, and this is the single finest example known.
Last but not least is a 56.25-ounce gold ingot assayed by Kellogg and Humbert and recovered from the wreck of the S.S. Central America. That single shipwreck is the source for the majority of California Gold Rush-era assayers’ ingots known today; being lost in the shipwreck saved the bars of gold from being melted down in New York or another financial center. Many of the ingots were produced by the firm of Kellogg and Humbert, and this hefty ingot carries history that is almost as weighty as the bar itself.
Heritage Auctions, headed by Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin and Greg Rohan, is the world’s third largest auction house, with annual sales more than $600 million, and 500,000+ online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com.