The Marvelous Pogue Family Coin Collection, part 14: Successful Third Auction Given Uncertain Market Conditions
News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #318
A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds........
The third in a series of auctions of the Pogue Family Coin Collection was conducted by Stacks-Bowers on February 9, at Sotheby’s world headquarters in Manhattan.
There were 158 coins in this sale. This sale featured pre-1800 half cents, 1793 large cents, Capped Bust dimes, Reich Capped Bust half dollars from 1823 to 1836, Three Dollar Gold pieces, and half eagles ($5 gold coins) from 1807 to 1820. Some coins fared far better than others, and the overall results were heavily mixed. The auction was generally successful, given concerns relating to market downturns during the second half of 2015 and current uncertainties.
Market Levels Are Down Since August 2015
When interpreting auction results, it is taken into consideration that market levels for U.S. rarities fell 10% to 20% from August 2015 to January 2016, perhaps 20% for many of the coins in the Pogue sales. Levels are still drifting downward slightly. There are also reasons, which will never be entirely known, as to why there was much more collector-participation in the Pogue II sale on Sept. 30, 2015, than in the Pogue III on Feb. 9, 2016.
Markets were sliding more sharply downward in September than now, in my view.
Falling stock prices, oddly low oil price levels, political issues in China, long-term business problems in Japan, and other macro-economic matters have been ‘in the news’ for weeks or months. Those factors may not have had more of an effect on this sale than they did on the January 2016 FUN auction, the auctions at the New York International, the recent Goldbergs auction or the official auction of the Long Beach Expo. Adjustments have been made by coin buyers, and the reality of the somewhat ‘down market’ has sunk into the minds of collectors and dealers. (Words in blue may be clicked to access past articles.)
Scott Travers figures that “declines in coin market prices that occurred more than five months ago are now being reflected in auction results." He maintains that "auction prices tend to lag behind changes in real market levels, as some buyers at auctions are outsiders and are unaware of falls in demand known by insiders.”
In my view, there are a multitude of variables that may reflect the outcomes in any one auction. After this event, is there a need to consider whether market levels in some areas have fallen more than 20% since August?
The answer is probably no, except that gem quality Bust Left and Capped Head half eagles may have fallen 25%. Prices for other rarities seem stable enough. Also, there are meaningful explanations for apparent not so strong prices in most cases besides declines in demand.
An important factor is the increase in supply of gem or relatively high grade representatives of some design types of U.S. coins. Even if demand remains the same, and it is not being suggested that demand has remained the same, an increase in supply usually results in lower prices. In another words, the same demand with more supply will results in lower prices, in the contexts of auctions and free markets.
Although I expound upon the meaning of auction results in an earlier piece on ‘What Are Auction Prices.’ there is a need to revisit the topic now because some people have mis-interpreted my use of the word moderate in the context of auction prices. A moderate price may be exciting and moderate prices are frequently indicative of successful, effective auctions.
Understanding Auction Prices
In some cases, collectors eagerly compete for individual rarities, and, in others, dealers buy them for inventory. Rarities are not commodities, and the moods, personal schedules, and perspectives of coin buyers affect bidding by collectors, especially by non-investing collectors. The excitement at Pogue II was not generated at Pogue III though may very well be generated at Pogue IV.
I attended the Newman sales in New York. There was much more energy and excitement at the sale in November 2013 than there was in the other Newman sales. Market levels were not significantly higher in November 2013 than they were when another Newman sale was held in New York in November 2014, though auction results were higher. There were a multitude of factors that caused very strong prices at the November 2013 event and much less strong prices at the Newman sale in November 2014.
An immediate point is that an auction may be tremendous while underlying markets are stagnant or even falling. When Stack’s (NY) auctioned the L.A. type set in October 1990, coin markets were then terrible and falling further, yet strong prices were realized at that auction. Bidders went wild over many of the fresh and fabulous coins in the L.A. type set, some of which later found their way into the Pogue Family Collection, including the 1796 quarter that sold for more than $1.5 million in May at Pogue I.
An auction is successful if moderate prices are achieved, which is a harder task than outsiders may figure it to be. If a collector seeks to sell many great classic U.S. coins at a major coin show, dealers will frequently offer lower range wholesale prices, or below-wholesale prices, with the idea of wholesaling them to other dealers at the show for rapid profits. Such collector-sellers will only occasionally receive retail prices and may often sell for below-wholesale prices.
A moderate price at an auction is a price around the border between wholesale and retail. Even if interested collectors do not bid on a particular lot because they skipped the auction or because they were not focused at the moments when lots were offered, inevitably dealers will be paying attention and they will be competing against each other. Usually, multiple dealers with ample resources have to seriously participate for auction prices to reach moderate levels overall.
Personnel at auction firms work hard to make coins available for viewing by dealers and collectors. For example, the Pogue coins were brought to major coin conventions before being available for viewing in New York.
Some collectors feel more comfortable having dealers send them coins in the mail that they inspect for hours or days. There are a core group of collectors, though, that love participating in auctions. Making split-second decisions and allocating a coin budget over a course of three hours is not easy and is not a task for everyone.
As always, I recommend that prospective buyers hire experts before bidding, but then my recommendation is biased.
Although it is impossible to precisely sample the sale in some unbiased statistical sense, I select coins that are interesting, brought newsworthy prices and/or relate to the more general points already made about markets and this sale overall. The human and cultural variables involved make coin auctions fun and entertaining in addition to being excellent mechanisms for acquiring rare coins.
One of the most intriguing and exciting half cents in this sale was a 1795 Plain Edge that was overstruck on a Talbot, Allum and Lee “cent,” a famous private issue of the era. It is PCGS certified as ‘MS-66-Brown’ and CAC approved. This coin is fascinating, truly uncirculated, and apparently nearly flawless. It even has traces of original mint red. The underlying Talbot piece gives this coin a distinct and unusual texture, with additional odd elements. By far, this is the finest known to me of the 1795 Plain Edge, No Pole major variety.
Before this sale, I told a collector that a weak price would be $150,000, a moderate price would be $200,000, and a strong price would be $250,000. In my view, the $235,000 result is moderate to strong, a retail price.
Although the first Tettenhorst-Pogue 1793 half cent brought less than it did two years ago in the auction of the Missouri-Tettenhorst set of half cents. The $700k+ price then was strong and the current result, $446,500, is a fair moderate price for this coin. Although some bidders in 2014 and I believe that it is worth a premium over other 1793 half cents that are PCGS or NGC graded as MS-65, not everyone agrees. The $446,500 result is healthy.
The second Tettenhorst-Pogue 1793 half cent is PCGS certified as MS-64-Brown. When a collector asked me about before the sale, I said that $160,000 would be a moderate price and $190,000 would be strong. The $176,250 result is not evidence of a decline in market levels beyond the drop since August that I already incorporated into my calculations.
The Tettenhorst-Pogue 1794 half cent that is PCGS certified MS-67-RB was at the forefront of the news after the Missouri-Tettenhorst sale was announced in 2013 and when that auction occurred in January 2014. The $1.15 million result in 2014 was record breaking. It is anti-climactic to auction the same coin again two years later.
The $940,000 result this time seems fair enough, certainly not weak. These are large amounts for a coin that is not extremely rare. In 2011 or 2012, $940,000 would have been considered a very large amount for a half cent.
Indeed, before 2014, was the Eliasberg-Pogue 1796 ‘No Pole’ the only half cent to have sold for more than $500,000?
In May 1996, an auction record for a half cent was set when the Eliasberg-Pogue 1796 ‘No Pole’ sold for $506,000. Although it was certified by PCGS as MS-67-RB soon after the Eliasberg ’96 event, its appearance has changed since I saw it in May 1996.
I really believe that, if most prospective buyers of gem quality, early rarities really agreed with the certified grade of this coin, then this it would have sold for more than $1.25 million in this Pogue III sale. Given the true level of quality of this coin, the $763,750 result was moderate to strong.
The Pogue 1797 ‘1 and 1’ is a true ‘MS-66-RB,’ 18th century half cent, though 1797 half cents are nowhere near as rare as 1796 half cents. This coin is very attractive and scores incredibly high in the category of originality.
This is one of my favorite coins in the sale; it is amazing. The $223,250 result is moderate. There were certainly opportunities for collectors in regard to these half cents, perhaps one of the highest quality groups of 18th century half cents to ever be publicly auctioned.
In my condition ranking of 1793 “AMERI.” (S-1) Chain cents, the Cleneay-Mills-Pogue piece is fifth, behind the Mickley-Morelan-Simpson, Alan Weinberg, Parmelee-Gardner, and Dan Holmes coins. The Pogue piece, though, is more attractive than the Parmelee-Gardner coin. Although Denis Loring assigns the same numerical grade to the Gardner, Holmes and Pogue S-1 cents, “personally, I like the Pogue coin best of these three,” Denis remarks.
The $470,000 result for the Cleneay-Mills-Earle-Pogue ‘AMERI.’ (S-1) cent is very strong, an amount well into the retail range. Indeed, this $470,000 amount is higher than the $440,625 result for the PCGS graded MS-63 Gardner piece in June 2014, when market levels were clearly higher than they are now. Although there were some good deals in this auction, this was not one of them. This is a result that definitely ‘beat the market’! Even $350,000 would have been a strong price.
As I devoted a whole article to the Garrett-Pogue 1793 Chain cent, it is not optimal to discuss it at length in this auction review. Admittedly, I do not have an explanation for the weak result, $998,750. This result is probably just an anomaly. There are imperfections in any market environment, especially in a cultural realm.
The lackluster results for the Wreath cents in this auction are not a function of market imperfections. People assembling type sets or collecting ‘by date’ will not usually care about the die pairing of a Wreath cent. Among all Wreath cents, there are more than fifteen that are PCGS or NGC graded MS-65 or higher, a total which may refer to ten to twelve different coins. More than half of these have been available over the last six years, perhaps more than two-thirds of them, including the three in this sale.
There were two PCGS certified MS-66-Brown Wreath Cents in Pogue III. The S-5 brought $235,000 and the S-11A brought $217,375. The “MS-67-RB” S-9 sold for $399,500. It is best to cover these in detail in a future analysis that is devoted to Wreath cents. A point here is that demand for gem Wreath cents remains healthy; the recent ‘supply’ has been bizarre.
Capped Bust dimes dating from 1814 to 1837 were offered. Generally, the dimes brought the strongest prices of any group in this auction. There were well known dime collectors in attendance, including Tom B. and ‘Easton,’ and others participated from a distance.
Although it is a stunning coin, which probably merits a 67 grade, the $94,000 result for the PCGS graded “MS-66+” 1814 ‘Small Date’ dime is very strong. The $16,450 result for the PCGS graded ‘MS-65‘ 1814 ‘Large Date,’ is strong too, clearly a retail price.
The 1822 and the 1809 are the keys to the series of Capped Bust dimes. The Pogue 1822 is PCGS graded as “MS-66.” I am not commenting here upon this coin’s grade. It is in the same category of quality as the NGC graded “MS-66“ 1822 that realized $70,500 when it was last auctioned in February 2013.
For the Pogue 1822, the $129,250 result was very strong. Although this same coin was auctioned by Stack’s (NY) for $149,500 in March 2006, that was a stunning price at the time and market levels for these are lower now.
Another example of a dime that brought a strong price is the $15,275 result for a PCGS graded MS-65 1825. Outside of PCGS, I do not know anyone who graded this coin as MS-65. Even if MS-65 is the ‘right’ grade, this is a strong price.
The PCGS graded MS-67 1830/29 is one of the most stunning dimes that I have ever seen in my life. The blue, green, orange-russet, red and apricot colors on this coin are indescribable. This coin is truly splendid.
While strong, the $64,625 result was very much understandable. The collector who refers to himself as ‘Easton’ should be congratulated. This is one of the most spectacular silver coins in the whole Pogue Collection. It was a better value than the astonishing $94,000 price for the PCGS graded MS-68 1831 dime that was sold moments later.
The first half dollar in the sale is an 1823 ‘Broken 3.’ This coin is the topic of a recent discussion, in which it was analyzed in depth. The $64,625 result was very strong and substantially above the $51,750 result for this same coin in January 2012.
There were two 1823 ‘Patched 3’ halves in this sale. The first is conservatively graded as “MS-65+” and CAC approved. This is a really great coin, with neat green and orange-russet tones. A collector from the Midwest captured it for $19,975, a moderate price.
The second ‘Patched 3’ (also of the O110A variety) was earlier in the Eliasberg Collection. It is PCGS graded as “MS-65” and CAC approved, too. It went for $28,200, a very strong price, to a different collector in the auction room.
There was an intense bidding battle for the Earle-Eliasberg-Pogue, Proof 1827 half. This coin has probably never been dipped or cleaned. It has a soothing and pleasing overall appearance that is not conveyed in published images.
This Eliasberg 1827 was NGC certified as Proof-68 for many years. It is now PCGS graded 67 and CAC approved. It sold in at least three previous auctions over the last 20 years, in 1997 for $110,000, in 2004 for $126,500, and in 2006 for $178,250.
Tuesday night, bidding started around $90,000. A book bid pushed the level above $95,000, and then a dealer from New Jersey bid more than $105,000 (1.175X90,000). Seconds later, a New York wholesaler pushed the level to $141,000. Several telephone bids were recognized before a dealer from Illinois indicated $235,000 (=1.175X200). There were additional bids before SBG President Brian Kendrella represented a telephone participant and placed the winning bid of $258,500, a strong price.
Three Dollar Gold Pieces
After the unique 1870-S, the 1854-D is the most famous three, though not the second rarest. Furthermore, it is the only U.S. Three Dollar Gold piece that was struck at the mint in Dahlonega, Georgia. CAC has approved three as AU-58, one as MS-61 and this Pogue coin as MS-62, the highest graded.
I do not know whether the lone NGC certified MS-62 1854-D, from the famous “Duke’s Creek Collection,” has ever been submitted to CAC. It was auctioned for $149,500 in April 2006.
On Feb. 9, 2016, the PCGS graded MS-62 Pogue 1854-D brought $188,000, a strong result. This price is well above estimated values in almost all price guides and is probably an auction record for an 1854-D Three. Before the sale, the PCGS price guide value was $170,000 and that seemed a little high.
As the unique 1870-S is often ignored, the Proof-only 1875 is sometimes regarded as the key to the series. Of all the sets in the Pogue Collection, the threes are probably the least impressive. This 1875, however, is fantastic. It is a coin that really captures the attention of the viewer and is hard to put down. It is very original and more than very attractive.
It is PCGS certified as “Proof-65+ Deep Cameo” and CAC approved. It was NGC certified as ‘Proof-66 Ultra Cameo’ when it was auctioned for $253,000 in November 2010. This time, it brought $329,000.
A different PCGS “Proof-65+ Deep Cameo” 1875 sold for $253,000 in November 2006. That was the Richmond Collection coin that earlier sold for $166,750 in July 2004. I covered all three sales of the Richmond Collection, by DLRC, for Numismatic News newspaper. John Brush of DLRC bid on coins for inventory at the Pogue III event.
The Pogue 1875 is clearly superior to the Richmond 1875, if I remember correctly. Even so, $275,000 now would have been a strong price. When this same 1875 was auctioned for $253,000 in 2010, market levels were clearly higher than they are now. In any event, it is a great coin, and is well suited to be the centerpiece of a set of Threes.
On the whole, the Three Dollar Gold pieces fared well in this auction. The half eagles are a different matter.
Although I figured that market values for gem quality Bust Left and Capped Head half eagles had fallen 20%. It now seems that the decline is more like 25% from levels that prevailed, with ups and downs, from 2010 to 2014. Collectors or their respective agents did buy at least a few of the pieces at the Pogue III event. Given prices realized, I would not be surprised, though, if dealers brought several for inventory.
Super-Rare 1810 Large Date, Small 5 Half Eagle
Generally, price guides and other references list four 1810 half eagles as major varieties that are often collected as four distinct dates by the fortunate few who can find all four. ‘Large Date’ and ‘Small Date’ varieties relate to the size of numerals in the year on the obverse. These are two ‘Small Date’ varieties, the first has a so called ‘Tall 5’ and the second has a ‘Small 5’ in the denomination. There are two ‘Large Date’ varieties, which are also distinguished by the size of the numeral ‘5’ on the reverse.
Regarding the ‘Small Date, Small 5’ 1810 half eagle, Saul Teichman revealed in 2011 that he had “traced only four” and that he believes that another may exist. I have seen three of these four, two of which were owned by Harry Bass.
According to PCGS CoinFacts, the Pogue coin was auctioned for $46,000 in January 2006. This time, it sold for $56,400, a healthy result.
If this is collected as if it is a distinct date, it is certainly one of the rarest of all business strike U.S. coins. The Pogues are among the few collectors who assembled sets of all four major varieties of 1810 half eagles.
©2016 Greg Reynolds