A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds
News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #119 ……
The primary topic here is the “Battle Born Collection” 1870-CC Liberty Seated Quarter, which is PCGS graded AU-55 and is CAC approved. On Thursday, Aug. 9th, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Stack’s-Bowers will auction a complete set of Carson City (Nevada) Mint coins.
The collector who assembled this set called it the “Battle Born Collection.” In an article that I wrote in Feb., I discuss the overall importance of the set in addition to focusing upon the 1876-CC Half Eagle ($5 gold coin). I then asserted that Louis Eliasberg and the current consignor are probably not the only collectors to have ever assembled a complete set of Carson City (CC) coins. Either H. O. Granberg or Waldo Newcomer, maybe both, probably did as well. Three weeks ago, I wrote about the unique 1873-CC ‘No Arrows’ Liberty Seated Dime.
There is also an 1870-CC quarter in the main ‘Rarities Night’ session, which follows the auction of the “Battle Born Collection.” This second 1870-CC is NGC graded Very Fine-20 and is important. All 1870 Carson City Mint quarters are very rare.
I. How Rare are 1870-CC Quarters?
The Carson City, Nevada Mint began striking coins in 1870. Production continued until 1893. Dimes were not minted in Carson City until 1871. All 1870-CC coins, except silver dollars, are truly rare, and 1870-CC silver dollars are very scarce. A coin issue is rare if fewer than five hundred in all grades, and of all die varieties, survive. There is only one noted variety of 1870-CC quarters and it is very rare. I estimate that 110 to 155 exist.
As 1873-CC ‘No Arrows’ Quarters are Great Rarities, and 1871-CC quarters are even rarer than 1870-CC quarters, the 1870-CC is not discussed as often as some of her sisters. Of the 110 to 155 that survive, a substantial percentage, maybe half of them, are not gradable, meaning these have problems that are too serious for them to merit numerical grades. Many collectors shun or ignore coins that are not gradable, though others find them to be good values.
I am a bit surprised that it is asserted that “likely somewhere between forty-five and sixty-five examples exist today” in the “Battle Born Collection” catalogue. While the PCGS report and the NGC census include numerous multiple counts of some of the same coins, I conclude that the PCGS and the NGC together have graded at least fifty different 1870-CC quarters. Furthermore, their respective totals do not include the number in PCGS “Genuine” or NGC ‘details’ holders without numerical grades. Moreover, there are many collectors of circulated Liberty Seated coins who are opposed to having their coins in plastic holders. Personally, I contend that all 1870-CC quarters should be PCGS or NGC certified. Nonetheless, quite a few collectors disagree and insist upon coins that are not certified.
So, there are gradable 1870-CC quarters, especially those in the range of Fair-02 to Fine-12 that have never been submitted to the PCGS or the NGC. For such never certified rarities, there are collectors who tend to trust dealers who have a history of trading in not certified, better date Liberty Seated coins. I hypothesize that there are ten to twenty-five, gradable 1870-CC Liberty Seated Quarters that are not in PCGS or NGC holders. My working estimate is that there are sixty to eighty gradable 1870-CC quarters.
I further estimate that there are fifty to seventy-five 1870-CC quarters that are not gradable, or should not have been graded. More so than coins from other Mints or from other eras, 1870-CC coins tend to have taken a tremendous beating. Consider that most 1870-CC Double Eagles ($20 gold coins) are nearly covered with scratches and contact marks from hits.
Well before 1910, people were recognizing the rarity of 1870-CC coins and pulling them from circulation. These circulated heavily in the West. They were often carried around by people who worked outdoors and/or traveled considerable distances, usually while riding horses. Any 1870-CC coin that does not have serious problems is very important
II. “Battle Born” 1870-CC
It seems likely that the “Battle Born Collection” coin is the second to fourth finest known 1870-CC quarter. For a PCGS graded AU-55 19th century quarter, it is an excellent coin.
The “Battle Born” 1870-CC quarter is very much characterized by extremely pleasant, mostly uniform, medium russet toning, which is stable and not accurately conveyed in images. Moreover, there are blue, light silver-gray and orange-russet tints, especially when this quarter is tilted under a light. Indeed, when the reverse (back of the coin) is tilted, much light blue toning and multiple shades of russet become evident. At some angles, a significant amount of blue toning is visible on the obverse (front), too.
On Miss Liberty, who is seated, and on the eagle on the reverse, there are silvery-gray-tan colors that mixed well with the dominant medium russet tone. Die treatment contributed to the emergence of white colors on the central design elements.
In addition to pleasant toning, it is important to emphasize that this quarter is characterized by honest, even wear. Many rare coins, even uncirculated pieces, have friction that is the result of mishandling by dealers, collectors or heirs, rather than due to circulation. The coin has been properly stored since it was pulled from circulation.
Yes, there are some contact marks. To attain an understanding of this coin, it is important to discuss its imperfections. There are very light gashes to the left of the numeral ‘1’ in 1870 and just three or four shallow gashes in the right obverse fields. Additionally, there are a group of miniscule contact marks between Miss Liberty’s head and her pole. A few other marks elsewhere exist mostly in isolation and are not worth noting. Invariably, business strikes come into contact with other coins, often before leaving the Mint.
This coin did circulate. It has the level of wear equivalent to a 55 or even a 55+ grade. The wear is most apparent on Miss Liberty’s legs and on the eagle’s left wing. The apparent wear is just that, real honest wear. This quarter has never been substantially cleaned. Moreover, it probably has never been dipped. It scores very high in the category of originality.
If this coin was uncirculated, which it certainly is not, it would grade MS-65 or even 65+. It is a great AU-55 grade Liberty Seated Quarter. In my view, it is very attractive in its own right. When I reflect upon the more than twenty-five, seriously problematic 1870-CC quarters that I have seen, and upon the innumerable 19th century silver rarities that have been blatantly dipped, this coin is amazingly refreshing.
III. Eliasberg 1870-CC
There is no doubt the Eliasberg coin is the finest known 1870-CC quarter. At some point many years ago, perhaps not long after the April 1997 auction of Eliasberg’s quarters, halves and silver dollars, the NGC graded the Eliasberg 1870-CC quarter as MS-64. In terms of grade, no other 1870-CC quarter even comes close.
I attended the Eliasberg ’97sale and I like the Eliasberg 1870-CC. Had I then realized that it may be the finest known by several grade increments, I would have taken more notes about it. I found it to be more than attractive. The blue-gray obverse (front) inner fields and the dusky tan obverse outer fields are memorable. There is some blue peripheral toning from 4:00 to 8:00 or so, on the obverse. Russet toning outlined the design elements in a neat way. If I remember correctly, there are (or were) some russet, tan and orange-russet colors on the reverse (back of the coin). Coins may tone considerably over a fifteen year period, however, and the Eliasberg 1870-CC quarter may not look the same now. I have not seen it since April 1997.
When tilted under a light at particular angles, the Eliasberg 1870-CC is semi-prooflike, with some deep orange-russet toning then evident on reflective surfaces. I then graded it as 64, though I may grade it differently now. It did not reach a gem level because of very much apparent, crisscrossing hairlines. The hairlines on the reverse are less noticeable and cover less area than those on the obverse.
Years after the Eliasberg ’97 sale, I compared my notes with those of Charlie Browne, who is currently a grader for the PCGS. In 1997, Browne graded the Eliasberg 1870-CC quarter as “64+” and found the “reverse to be gem.” It seems that no other known 1870-CC quarter is in the same league.
IV. Another 1870-CC on Rarities Night
The primary Rarities Night session follows the offering of the “Battle Born Collection” on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. There will be offered an 1870-CC quarter that is NGC graded Very Fine-20.
This coin is likable. Its toning is definitely natural, is even, and is appealing. The highpoints are a somewhat light, gray-tan color. Most of the rest of the coin is a blend of brown, russet and gray. The dominant tone is of the kind of color that is sometimes found on circulated, 19th century silver coins and is more attractive than the shades of gray that are most often found on such coins.
To be honest, the VF-20 grade assigned to this coin is probably a little controversial. Although I maintain that it is gradable, others could argue that a few gashes preclude it from being gradable. I am not referring to the contact mark below the first star. This appears more serious in images than it does in reality. It is minor. There are also some light, short hairlines in the right obverse inner field that are minor as well, and are hardly noticeable.
The first issue is a rather wide, moderately deep gash near Miss Liberty’s elbow, in the left obverse field. Second, I note a long, wide, shallow gash under the eagle’s left wing, near the torso, above the branch. Third, there is a gash between the D in UNITED and the first S in STATES that is significantly long and wide. In the same vicinity, about the motto and near the beak, there are quite a few contact marks, some of which are not small.
In all seriousness, on 19th century silver coins, such gashes and contact marks are not that unusual. These are more likely to be tolerated on Liberty Seated coins than on Barber coins or even on Capped Bust silver coins. Moreover, graders at the PCGS and the NGC tend to more accepting of gashes on rarities than of gashes on relatively less rare coins. I have seen many Liberty Seated coins with serious problems in holders with numerical grades. Also, it is important to view the coin in actuality and form an overall impression. ‘Zooming in’ on a few gashes can be misleading. Positive characteristics of coins often offset negative characteristics.
For this coin, it makes sense to keep the natural toning, even wear, and overall appearance in mind. In my view, the NGC grade of VF-20 is fair. Most circulated 1870-CC quarters have much more serious problems. In my view, this is as desirable coin.
To get a rough ‘idea’ of market prices for 1870-CC quarters, It is best to mention auction results for 1870-CC quarters that are PCGS or NGC graded. Evaluating coins that are judged to be ungradable is usually complicated and would require long discussions. Also, auction prices are often not market prices. (Please read my pertinent article, What Are Auction Prices?)
Just recently, in late June, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned a PCGS graded Good-04 1870-CC quarter for $12,338. It has a sticker from the CAC. I examined this coin. The surfaces are slightly rough and the rims are a little weak. Even so, I like it. The toning is definitely natural. It does not have any serious problems and has fewer imperfections than would be expected on a Good-04 grade Liberty Seated Quarter. It is very attractive for its grade.
In March 2012, Stack’s-Bowers sold a PCGS graded VG-10 1870-CC for $13,800. This same firm sold an NGC graded VG-08 coin, with a CAC sticker, for $11,212 in Aug. 2011.I did not see either of these.
Before last week, the most impressive 1870-CC quarter that I had seen in many years was the one that Heritage sold in Jan. 2009 for $27,600 and later for $17,250. It is PCGS graded VF-35 and is CAC approved. Although Heritage sold a different PCGS graded VF-35 1870-CC for $23,000 in February 2012, offerings of 1870-CC quarters that truly grade VF-20 or higher are rare.
In July 2007, Heritage auctioned a PCGS graded VF-25 coin for $32,200, and, in April 2006, a PCGS graded VF-20 1870-CC for $26,450. Almost two months earlier, Heritage sold a different PCGS graded VF-20 quarter for $17,250.
In March 2005, DLRC auctioned the coin that became the Battle Born 1870-CC quarter. It was then part of the Richmond Collection. It was NGC graded AU-55 and sold for $57,500. I expect this coin to realize more than twice as much on Aug. 9th.
In Feb. 2005, Spectrum-B&M sold an NGC graded VF-35 1870-CC for $17,825. On Jan. 10, 2005, in Fort Lauderdale, ANR sold two NGC graded 1870-CC quarters, a VF-25 coin for $16,100 and an EF-45 graded piece for $48,300.
Auction results prior to 2005 may not be very relevant to current market values. The Eliasberg 1870-CC brought $187,000 in April 1997. Many seasoned coin buyers in attendance thought that it would then sell for an amount less than $75,000. It is difficult to predict how the “Battle Born” 1870-CC quarter will fare at auction. Also, I look forward to writing about the 1871-CC and both 1873-CC quarters in this set, which are of tremendous importance.
©2012 Greg Reynolds