Condition Ranking of 1894-S Dimes, with Recent Histories
By Greg Reynolds …………
In late June, John Feigenbaum of DLRC sold a PCGS certified Proof-64+, 1894-S Barber Dime. Feigenbaum had purchased it in early April from John Albanese of the CAC, who had acquired it from a private client earlier in April. Bruce Morelan and Laura Sperber, partners in a coin firm in New Jersey, revealed their purchase of this dime last week, “for a sum in excess of $2 million”! Feigenbaum has confirmed that the selling price was above $2 million.
It is now widely believed that ten 1894-S Barber Dimes survive, though there really is solid evidence of only nine different ones. It is extremely unlikely that there are more than eleven. Indeed, it has been decades since another has been seriously rumored to exist.
Of the nine that definitely exist, I have personally examined six and I know enough about two others to place them definitively in the proper order. The Rappaport piece, if it is genuine, may be a duplicate of one of the nine, or it could possibly be a tenth 1894-S dime.
As two to four different 1894-S dimes are said to be traceable to the family of former San Francisco Mint Superintendent John Daggett, it is not very helpful to name any one as “The Daggett” 1894-S dime. Supposedly, two or three Daggett family 1894-S dimes were sold to a dealer in California in 1954. It is further supposed that John Daggett’s daughter, Hallie, spent one for ice cream shortly after receiving it in 1894 and that the Good grade 1894-S is the one that she spent, the “Ice Cream” 1894-S dime, #8 in my condition ranking.
The pre-1985 ownership histories and backstories are not being discussed here. I am focusing on the histories of 1894-S dimes over the last thirty years and their respective grades.
Only a couple of people have examined, and has taken notes about, as many as six different 1894-S dimes, and actually attended eight different auctions that featured an 1894-S dime, including repeat appearances of two of the same coins. I was fortunate enough to have witnessed bidding for 1894-S dimes and interviewed other experts about them.
While other researchers have presented rosters, I am updating my condition ranking, which was first published in July 2007. None of the living authors of rosters have seen many 1894-S dimes and the other researchers tend to emphasize material that was previously published in 1988 by Breen or in 1991 by David Lawrence Feigenbaum. Earlier, James Johnson compiled a roster, which was published in a coin newspaper in 1972.
Recounts of pre-1985 histories of individual 1894-S dimes largely come from the Johnson, Breen and/or Lawrence-Feigenbaum rosters. No one researcher, however, could have compiled a thorough listing solely on his own. It is my aim to productively build upon research that was earlier done by others and to contribute to the overall knowledge about 1894-S dimes in the coin collecting community. I believe that I am the only one to compile a condition ranking.
The Heritage Platinum Night catalog of Jan. 12, 2005 does contain a carefully formulated, rather complete listing of auction appearances. So, I draw attention to some private transactions and people involved. I have discussed 1894-S dimes with past owners, including Feigenbaum, John Albanese, Jay Parrino, Laura Sperber, Dave Schweitz, Don Kagin and Art Kagin, and with other serious bidders for them, including Pat Bolen and Charles Browne. My main emphasis is upon the physical characteristics of the individual coins.
Indisputably, 1894-S dime are among the ten most famous of all classic U.S. coins, along with 1804 Silver Dollars, 1913 Liberty Nickels, 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cents, 1916-D Mercury Dimes, 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollars, 1916 Standing Liberty Quarters, 1877 Indian Cents, 1793 Chain Cents and perhaps 1933 Saints ($20 gold pieces). Indeed, this issue is often thought of as the third or fourth most famous. (Clickable links are in blue.)
The fact that it is likely that all 1894-S dimes were struck as Proofs adds to their desirability and importance. Nineteenth century, San Francisco Mint Proofs of any date or coin type are extremely rare and are among the most curious of all U.S. coins. Coincidentally, on Aug. 8, Heritage will be auctioning the unique Proof 1855-S Liberty Seated Quarter. Although I would be delighted to provide evidence that 1894-S Barber Dimes are Proofs, such a demonstration would be beside the present purpose of putting forth a condition ranking and a discussion of the recent history of some 1894-S dimes.
1.) The Richmond-Parrino-JAS 1894-S dime
The Richmond-JAS 1894-S that DLRC sold privately in July 2007 was certified as Proof-66 by the Professional Coin Grading Service in Jan. or Feb. 1990. In or around 1997, it was also certified as Proof-66 by the Numismatic Guaranty Corp. (NGC).
When it sold privately in July 2007, for $1.9 million, it was again in a PCGS holder. Later, it received a sticker of approval from the CAC. John Albanese placed it with one of his clients and it remains with that same client in 2013.
There is a compelling reason to refer to this dime as the Richmond 1894-S since it was part of the epic Richmond collection that DLRC auctioned in 2004 and 2005. The collector known as “Richmond,” Bradley H. of Indiana, assembled an incredible collection of U.S. coins, which featured many Great Rarities. The whole Richmond Collection ranks as one of the fifteen all-time greatest collections of U.S. coins.
In January 1990, this same Richmond 1894-S was auctioned for $275,000 as part of the James A. Stack, Sr. Collection of dimes, which is probably the all-time best collection of dimes ever formed. Although Stack’s conducted that auction, James A. Stack, Sr. is not related to the Stack family that founded an auction firm, which remained entirely family owned until a merger with ANR in 2006. As James A. Stack and the Stack family having the same last name is a confusing coincidence that always seems to call for an explanation, it is more efficient to refer to this dime as the Richmond-Parrino 1894-S instead of the James A. Stack 1894-S.
When this 1894-S sold at auction in 1990, it had been in the James A. Stack, Sr. collection since 1947. A lawyer named Armen Vartian was the successful bidder. Gary Tancer was the underbidder.
At the time, Vartian was ‘general counsel’ for Heritage. A customer of Heritage, David D., was a serious collector of Barber coins, and obtained this 1894-S shortly after the auction.
It was earlier one of two 1894-S dimes owned by Louis Eliasberg, Sr. In 1947, Stack’s auctioned duplicates from the Eliasberg Collection, including this coin. It naturally toned over a period of decades, while being kept in a paper envelope as part of the James A. Stack, Sr. Collection. In all likelihood, it legitimately increased in grade from 1947 to 1990.
The appearances and grades of coins often change over time. Many of the dimes in the James A. Stack, Sr. collection developed appealing natural blue, orange-russet and tan-russet natural toning. They were properly stored in envelopes of types that have always been considered acceptable for coins.
In Jan. 1990, most of us in attendance graded it as ‘65.’ As grade-inflation became a reality the late 1990s and early 2000s, the 66 grade became widely accepted as years passed. Indeed, the assigned 66 grade for this dime is not controversial.
In the middle of 1990, Jay Parrino acquired the coin in a complex transaction that included several coins. The late Bob Rose was involved. The price for this 1894-S dime was imputed to be about $450,000.
In 1998, DLRC obtained it from Parrino and sold it, for $825,000, to Bradley H., the collector known as ‘Richmond.’ As Parrino seems to have owned the Richmond-JAS 1894-S for more than seven years, it is fair to include his name in the coin’s title.
When I first saw the JAS-Parrino-Richmond 1894-S, I was awestruck. The blue, orange-russet, tan, and green tones seemed really cool. It has continued to tone, and was a little darker in 2005 than it was in 1990. Even so, most experts maintain that it is the finest known 1894-S. Its grade is in the low end to middle of the 66 range.
2.) Chicago-Simpson 1894-S Dime - Mid Range 65
The Chicago-Simpson 1894-S was purchased ‘over the counter’ by a collector, Robert D., from James Ruddy in 1974, in Los Angeles. He paid $97,500 in literal cash, green currency. He had always dreamed of owning a Great Rarity, especially one of the Great Rarities that child collectors tend to dream about, the 1913 Liberty Nickel, the 1894-S Barber Dime, and the 1804 silver dollar.
Robert D. was living in the Chicago area in 1992. As a general policy, I do not mention the last name of a living collector without his permission, unless he is permitted his name to be ‘broadcasted’ in the coin collecting community, as has Simpson. I do not know if Robert D. is still alive.
Robert D. consigned the coin to the Superior (Goldbergs) pre-ANA auction of August, 10, 1992 in Orlando. Before the auction, it was certified as ‘Proof-64’ by the PCGS. A legendary collector, Pat Bolen, was the underbidder. It is the only date of the dime denomination that Bolen never owned. Bolen bought the unique 1873-CC ‘No Arrows’ Dime at the 1996 Eliasberg sale.
On Aug. 10. 1992, for $165,000, the successful bidder was Dwight Manley, who was communicating via telephone. At the time, Manley was president of Spectrum Numismatics. In October 2002, John Feigenbaum and David Schweitz bought the Chicago-Simpson 1894-S “from Kevin Lipton,” recollects Feigenbaum. It was then NGC certified ‘Proof-65,’ adds John, who, along with Schweitz, sold it to a collector who was assembling a set of Barber Dimes.
On Jan. 12, 2005, Heritage auctioned this same Chicago-Simpson dime for $1,035,000. This 1894-S was not then represented as being part of a collection. It was the first time that a dime sold at auction for more than one million dollars. In July 2004, Spectrum-B&M auctioned the unique 1873-CC ‘No Arrows’ Liberty Seated Dime for $891,000 and that same coin sold for $1,840,000 on Aug. 9, 2012.
The Chicago 1894-S was placed in the “Simpson Collection,” as part of a set of Proof Barber Dimes, which the NGC certified in 2005 or 2006. At the time, the NGC referred to Simpson’s coins as “BRS” and Simpson’s last name was not then revealed. This coin has since been reholdered with Simpson’s last name spelled out and the relatively new holder, with Simpson’s name, is pictured at two locations on the NGC website.
When Heritage auctioned it on Jan. 12, 2005, the Chicago-Simpson 1894-S was PCGS certified as Proof-65. Afterwards, it was NGC certified Proof-66. So, it was PCGS certified Proof-64 in 1992, NGC certified Proof-65 by 2002, PCGS certified Proof-65 before 2005, and NGC certified Proof-66 in 2005 or 2006. In my view, 65 was the correct grade all along.
When I saw the Chicago 1894-S dime in 1992, I remember thinking that a Proof-65 grade was probably deserved. My thinking then was that the obverse (front) was really pretty, and had very few imperfections. There are some relatively minor marks on the reverse (back), which is not nearly as attractive as the obverse.
The grade of Chicago-Simpson 1894-S falls in the middle of the 65 range. The obverse, though, is more than very attractive.
3) Kagin-Feigenbaum 1894-S High 64 to Low 65
It is difficult to give this coin a name. As two to four different 1894-S dimes are referred to as having been owned in the past by the Daggetts, it would be misleading and illogical to refer to just this one as the Daggett 1894-S dime.
It was offered in a Kagin’s auction in Long Beach (CA) in October 1984. Somehow, Don Kagin ending up owning it. Before 1989, Kagin sold it to a collector. The Stack’s catalog of Oct. 2007 indicates that this private sale occurred in 1985, though another source suggests that this private sale occurred later. In any event, when this collector died, his estate and/or his beneficiaries consigned it to a Stack’s auction that was held in New York in Oct. 2007.
John Albanese acquired this dime through an agent at that Stack’s Oct. 2007 sale. Albanese placed it with one of his clients. John Feigenbaum, in partnership with the late Jack Lee, had attempted to buy this dime at the Stack’s auction in Oct. 2007. It then sold for $1,552,000, an auction record for a dime that was not broken until the 1873-CC ‘No Arrows’ Liberty Seated dime went for $1,840,000 on Aug. 9, 2012.
Since 2007, Feigenbaum tried to buy it, through Albanese, on a few occasions. In April 2013, Albanese bought it from his client and sold it to Feigenbaum. For this coin, DLRC had an unnamed partner, “not a coin dealer.”
Feigenbaum “bought it in early April and it sold in mid to late June” to Legend Numismatics. As the last names of non-dealer owners have not been revealed, I feel compelled to name this coin the Kagin-Feigenbaum 1894-S.Yes, they are dealers, yet the collectors who owned this coin in the past did not reveal themselves. Feigenbaum has displayed tremendous enthusiasm for this coin ever since it emerged in 2007. Long before he owned, Feigenbaum raved about it in private conversations. Kagin is a very well known person who owned it in the past.
It was PCGS certified Proof-64 prior to being auctioned in Oct. 2007. It received a CAC sticker not long afterwards. In June or July 2013, it was recertified by the PCGS as “Proof-64+”! In this case, the plus upgrade was, undoubtedly, deserved.
In an article on CoinLink in 2007, I quoted Dave Schweitz to the effect that the Kagin-Feigenbaum 1894-S has “the most eye appeal of any 1894-S dime” that Dave “has seen.” He is thus asserting that it is more attractive than the Chicago-Simpson 1894-S, of which Schweitz was previously a co-owner. Furthermore, Schweitz asserted in 2007 that the Kagin-Feigenbaum 1894-S “definitely grades Proof-65”! Schweitz was the underbidder in Oct. 2007 and he never had a financial interest in this dime.
The Kagin-Feigenbaum 1894-S is a fabulous coin. It features a pleasantly frosted head of Liberty and excellent natural toning in the obverse (front) fields. There is a light blue tone about UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The fields on the obverse are partly covered with a neat, pale orange overtone. The reverse fields are more gray than blue, though appear very purplish when the coin is tilted at certain angles. Overall, this 1894-S dime is dynamic and very attractive. In my view, this coin grades somewhere in the high end of 64 range or the low end of the 65 range.
4.) The Eliasberg 1894-S Dime Mid Range 64
I have not seen the Eliasberg 1894-S dime since 1996. I was not present when it was offered in a Stack’s auction in Oct. 2000. It definitely sold for $451,000 in May 1996 and it reportedly sold for $431,250 in Oct. 2000.
“The Eliasberg Collection coin was described in the May 1996 sale as Proof 65; however, that coin has reportedly been dipped at least twice since the sale,” wrote a cataloger at Heritage in the description of the Chicago-Simpson 1894-S, which Heritage auctioned on Jan. 12, 2005. In the Bowers & Merena catalog of the May 1996 Eliasberg auction, this 1894-S is not exactly “described” as Proof-65. It was said to be “Proof-64 or finer” (on p. 326).
In May 1996, I spent a total of several minutes viewing it, during two sittings. I then figured its grade to be in the low end to middle of the 64 range. Given the grade-inflation that occurred from 1997 or so to around 2007, it certainly might merit a slightly higher grade now, perhaps in the middle to high end of the 64 range, possibly in the low end of the 65 range, depending upon its current appearance.
If a cataloger at Heritage is correct in asserting that it has been repeatedly dipped, I personally might regard its grade as being lower now than it was in 1996. Graders at the PCGS and the NGC , however, have a much more positive view of the effects of dipping than I do and my research indicates that most sophisticated collectors strongly prefer naturally toned coins to apparently dipped coins.
Importantly, coins often naturally retone after being dipped and almost all naturally toned coins continue to tone, anyway. In my view, the current grade of the Eliasberg 1894-S significantly depends upon its current toning.
In 1996, the Eliasberg 1894-S was attractive, though not very attractive. It had been lightly cleaned in the past and has hairlines. While it is glossy and cool, and I like the coin a lot, the Eliasberg 1894-S was not a gem quality coin.
Very recently, I noticed that the PCGS CoinFacts site lists the Eliasberg 1894-S as having been PCGS graded ‘64.’ Such a grading event was never widely reported and other researchers were not aware of it. I am currently seeking confirmation from the PCGS.
5.) Norweb-Lovejoy 1894-S 62 to 63
The Norweb-Lovejoy 1894-S was NGC certified as Proof-62 in 1990 or earlier. It was not certified when it was auctioned by Bowers and Merena (of New Hampshire) in Oct. 1987 in New York. It was acquired by Allen Lovejoy at the that Norweb sale or shortly afterwards. Lovejoy’s collection of dimes was auctioned by Stack’s on October 16, 1990. Jeffrey Bernberg was then the successful bidder, for $93,500.
It is certainly plausible that either the PCGS or NGC have would now assign a higher grade to the Norweb 1894-S. At some angles, the light scratches on the face are very noticeable, and, at other angles, these are not readily apparent. In late 1990, when grading standards were stricter than they are now, I placed this coin’s grade in the high end of the 62 range, certainly 62+!
In 1989, I was informed by Eric Streiner that he had graded it as “63” when Eric examined the Norweb 1894-S in Oct. 1987. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Streiner was widely regarded as one of sharpest graders in the nation, and was often referred to as “the boy wonder”!
The Norweb-Lovejoy 1894-S has or had appealing natural toning, with evenly blended tones of blue, lavender, and pearl gray, plus touches of green. It had naturally retoned after a moderate dipping in the distant past. Miss Liberty’s headband is russet, and her cap is a grayish-russet, a shade of which dominates the reverse (back).
6.) Newcomer-Neil-Hinman 1894-S 60 to 64??
Ron Gillio confirms that the Newcomer 1894-S sold in 1986 in an auction by Gillio’s firm, Pacific Coast Auction Galleries, for $93,100. “A collector bought it out of the auction. He was a quiet guy. I never talked to him about that dime again,” Gillio recalls on July 22. 2013.
Years ago, in the ANS library, I looked at the pictures of this 1894-S in the catalog of the just cited Gillio-Pacific auction in 1986. Those pictures are not extremely revealing.
More recently, I located a catalog of the Hinman-Century collection sale, which was conducted by Paramount during the spring of 1965. Though poor in comparison to coin images in general that are available in 2013, the pictures in the Hinman-Century catalog are excellent in terms of pictures published in catalogs during the 1960s.
Spots and the remnants of a significant cleaning in the right obverse inner field are seemingly apparent in those 1965 pictures of the Newcomer-Neil 1894-S dime. H. Hinman was the consignor in 1965.
Although the Newcomer-Neil-Hinman 1894-S is often referred to as grading “60,” I just noticed that the PCGS CoinFacts site lists it as having been PCGS graded “64”! Before this coin was so mentioned, no researcher had ever suggested that this 1894-S grades above 62. I have requested more information from the director of PCGS CoinFacts.
As I have never had a relevant conversation with an expert who has a very clear recollection of this 1894-S, and I have never seen it myself, I am not prepared to further discuss its grade. The possibility that it is superior to the Norweb-Lovejoy 1894-S cannot be ruled out.
7.) Jerry Buss 1894-S 55 to 62?
I have never heard of the Jerry Buss 1894-S dime being graded by the PCGS or the NGC. Buss was a professional chemist, an entrepreneur in several businesses, a real estate tycoon, and an owner of sports franchises, including the Los Angeles Lakers.
Buss was a flamboyant collector, who also owned a 1913 Liberty Nickel and an 1804 dollar. Superior (Goldbergs) auctioned his coin collection in Jan. 1985.
At my request, Ira Goldberg confirms that, “yes, it was Michelle Johnson who purchased the Buss 1894-S Dime in 1985 and she was present at the auction. Yes, she consigned it in 1988.” It sold for “$50,600“ in 1985 and for “$70,400” in 1988 in another Superior (Goldbergs) auction.
Michelle Johnson was a mildly famous actress at the time. Her career fared well in the early to mid 1990s.
Descriptions of this coin vary considerably, though it seem likely that it has notable friction and/or substantial imperfections. It may grade anywhere from 55 to 62. Ira Goldberg points out that “the coin was graded Proof 60, an impaired Proof, and I feel that today it would probably grade similarly, 62 at best,” Ira suggests today, July 22, 2013. It is difficult for any expert to remember the details of a coin that he has not seen in decades. Ira Goldberg is a member of the family that owned Superior Galleries in the 1980s and earlier.
8.) Ice Cream 1894-S 06 grade
This 1894-S dime is traditionally referred to as the “Ice Cream Specimen.” It was in Steve Ivy’s 1980 ANA Convention auction, the Bowers & Ruddy 1981 ANA auction, and the Bowers & Merena (NH) “Four Landmark Collections” sale that was conducted in New York during March 1989, in which it sold for $33,000.
The “Ice Cream” 1904-S is #9 in David Lawrence Feigenbaum’s list, and he referred to it as grading “Good-04.” Someone at the Bowers & Merena auction firm assigned this same grade to it.
I grade it as ‘Good-06,’ effectively Proof-06, and I very much like it. The “Ice Cream” 1894-S has few marks, even honest wear, bold rims, pleasant natural toning, and an appealing overall ‘look.’ While some well circulated coins can be very much appreciated by way of images, this is a coin that really should be examined in actuality. If my memory of it is accurate, it is an excellent coin.
9.) Romito-Montesano 1894-S 03 grade
The Romito-Montesano 1894-S was NGC graded AG-03 during or before 1990. I believe that it has a substantial gash on the obverse (front). It was widely reported that Laura Sperber sold it to a collector in 1990.
The names Romito and Montesano are vaguely referenced by Breen, an accomplished researcher in the past. Although the NGC CoinExplorer website currently refers to the lowest NGC graded 1894-S dime as grading “62,” the Norweb-Lovejoy piece, past ‘book form’ NGC census reports refer to an 1894-S dime as having been NGC graded from Poor-01 to AG-03, almost certainly the Romito-Montesano piece. The listing seems accurate in the most recent, physical NGC census that I have, which dates from July 2009. It is extremely likely that the Romito-Montesano 1894-S is or was NGC graded “03“ and I am almost certain that it is inferior to the “Ice Cream” 1894-S.
Maybe Another: Rappaport 1894-S?
I find the reports regarding the “Rappaport” 1894-S to be unconvincing. When Breen started researching 1894-S dimes, little information about them was available. The people that Breen refers to as “Rappaport” and “Reuter” could have owned one or two of the other 1894-S dimes already mentioned. Furthermore, “Rappaport” and “Reuter” could have been code names. It is not unusual for collectors and/or dealers representing collectors to employ code names in regard to owners of collections or of specific rarities.
The late Art Kagin, Don’s father, owned the “Ice Cream” 1894-S dime for years, possibly twice, during the same era that Art is reported to have owned the Rappaport 1894-S. Researchers in the past may have honestly thought that he owned two during that time period, when perhaps Art just owned one 1894-S dime. Art could also have owned more than one of the nine that I just listed. During the 1950s, Art frequently offered Great Rarities for sale. In some instances, he owned a Great Rarity for a short period of time and, in other instances, he received Great Rarities on consignment.
The Rappaport piece is said to have been offered in a Bowers & Ruddy price list in 1958, yet Bowers and/or Ruddy acquired the Norweb 1894-S dime in 1957 and sold it to Mrs. Emery May Holden Norweb in 1958. So, a typographical error in a price list or in a piece of correspondence could easily have later given a researcher the impression that B&R handled two different 1894-S dimes during the 1957-58 period. Could it be true that they just handled one or that the second 1894-S is among the other eight that I already mentioned?
I believe that Abner Kreisberg handled two of the 1894-S dimes that I already mentioned. The association of his name with the Rappaport piece could be an honest error as well.
Another possibility is that the Rappaport piece was demonstrated at some point to be not authentic and no one wished to admit to being fooled by it. An important reality, though, is that almost all top coin experts, at one time or another, mistakenly believe that a fake rarity is genuine. No coin expert has a perfect record.
If the Rappaport 1894-S exists, then why is it true that there never was a published, clear recollection of it? I first made inquiries about it in the early 1990s and others researched this piece before I started writing about coins. While it may be a genuine 1894-S dime, it is fair and logical to currently refer to as an unknown piece rather than as a genuine 1894-S dime that is known to exist. The “Rappaport” 1894-S is vaguely rumored to exist. There are just nine known 1894-S Barber Dimes.
©2013 Greg Reynolds
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