A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds
News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #105
Last week, I covered the Silver Center Copper Cent pattern of 1792 that sold for $1.15 million in Heritage’s Platinum Night event of April 19, at a convention center near Chicago. This week, I am discussing a selection of coins in the same sale. My selection here is not a list of the most expensive coins and is not intended to be an accurate sampling of the sale contents. Coins were chosen rather because these are particularly distinctive in some ways, in terms of rarity, quality, certification, pedigree, recent auction history, physical characteristics, etc.
I. Proof 1842 Half Cent
This auction contained a partial 1842 Proof Set. Evidently, a ‘full’ set of copper and silver belonged to Oscar Schilke in the middle of the 20th century. The half cent, half dollar and silver dollar were in this auction, along with a corresponding case of the type that has been linked to many 19th century Proof sets. The half cent is an ‘Original’ Proof and is very pleasing.
Unlike many half cents from the 1840s that are classified as Proofs, this coin has powerful Proof characteristics. The dentils and numerals are squared or mostly so. The stars seem to ‘rest’ on the fields, rather than seem to have sprung from them. The ‘resting’ concept should not be taken literally and refers to the relationship of the stars to the fields, which cannot be easily explained. Other design elements meet the fields in the ways of Proofs, not business strikes, for the most part. This coin was certainly struck twice. Furthermore, it has fully mirrored fields. Plus, Miss Liberty’s head as considerable Proof frost, which is different from business strike style ‘mint frost.’
Two different definitions of ‘originality’ apply to this coin. It is an ‘Original’ Proof in the sense that it is believed it was part of a striking run that occurred in the year 1842. Restrikes were made later.
This coin is very original in the sense that the surfaces have NOT been significantly modified through dipping, careless treatment or doctoring. Some carbon in the fields testifies to its originality. In addition, it has much original Mint red. There is a little evidence of a liquid cleaning, which was probably limited to the obverse (front) inner fields. This is not a big deal. Importantly, it has never been dipped and its toning is natural. This coin is more than attractive and is likable overall.
This 1842 half cent is NGC certified ‘Proof-64 Red & Brown.’ The PCGS Coin Facts site estimates that only eleven ‘Original’ Proof 1842 Braided Hair Half Cents exist, in all grades, and just twenty-two ‘Restrikes.’
This 1842 brought $27,600, a very strong price. I was expecting a price between $15,000 and $18,500.
Oddly, the half dollar from this exact same set brought the exact same price, $27,600. The Oscar Schilke 1842 half is NGC certified ‘Proof-64.’ In my view, it is overgraded and has other issues. Unsurprisingly, the $27,600 result would be a fair retail price for a Proof-63 (not 64) 1842 half.
The silver dollar in this partial set has issues, too. It is NGC certified Proof-65 and the $69,000 it brought is far from the price that a true Proof-65 1842 silver dollar, if one exists, would bring at auction. The other NGC certified ‘Proof-65’ 1842, the Norweb-Kaufman coin, sold for $86,250, about four years ago in another Heritage Central States Convention auction event.
II. 1864 Two Cents
Among business strike Two Cent Pieces, the key dates are the 1864 ‘Small Motto’ and the 1872. ‘Small Motto’ Two Cent Pieces were struck only in 1864, before the ‘large’ or ‘regular’ size motto became standard later in the same year. The motto is in a banner near the top of the obverse (front).
Recently, I wrote about a gem 1872. Last year, I devoted a column to collecting Two Cent Pieces, with advice for beginners and for those who do not plan on spending large sums. (Clickable links are in blue.)
In this auction, there were two PCGS certified ‘MS-65 Red’ 1864 ‘Small Motto’ Two Cent Pieces. The ‘RD’ on each holder indicates that experts at the PCGS determined that these two coins each exhibit full (or nearly full) original mint red color. The second of the two has a CAC sticker.
The first of the two was formerly in the epic Garrett Family Collection and is now in a special, long PCGS holder. It was also offered by Heritage in Oct. 2011 in Pittsburgh. On April 19, it brought $11,500.
I must admit that I have never seen it. The unusually long PCGS holder does not fit in a regular box that is used in lot viewing sessions, and a special request would have been necessary to view it. In October and in April, I was viewing many coins during limited time periods and I just did not get around to requesting this coin.
I like the second one. While the original red color is fading, it remains full and is not too mellow. This coin is very attractive and is clearly original. It sold for $14,950, a strong price, though certainly a fair price.
III. 1796 Dime
My favorite dime in this sale was not the NGC graded MS-64 1796 ($40,250), the PCGS graded MS-64 1798 ($33,350), the NGC graded MS-67 1899-O ($9200), the PCGS + CAC ‘Proof-68 Cameo’ 1898 ($12,650) or the PCGS graded MS-65 1916-D Mercury that realized $34,500! It was the 1796 that is PCGS graded AU-53 and has a CAC sticker.
This 1796 has very pleasant, natural toning. It has never been doctored. It exhibits no evidence of having been dipped. It has even, normal wear. Its certified grade is certainly fair. It realized $17,250, a strong price, well into the retail range.
IV. 1874 Arrows Dime
The Proof 1874 dime in this sale is an important condition rarity. For only two years, Liberty Seated Dimes were minted with both the legend, United States of America, AND arrows on the obverse. It is thus a two-year type. Partly because Liberty Seated Dimes were minted for such a long time, 1838 to 1891, many more people collect them ‘by type’ than ‘by date.’ Indeed, collecting Proof Liberty Seated Dimes ‘by type’ is much easier and less expensive than collecting them ‘by date.’ So, Proofs, with Arrows, of 1873 and 1874 are highly demanded.
These are not rare, as a type, yet are condition rarities in 65 or higher grades. The PCGS has certified just one 1874 dime as Proof-67, which is the coin being discussed. It is relevant that the PCGS has not graded any Proof ‘With Arrows’ 1873 dimes as ‘67’ or higher.
Even if this 1874 were not certified, it would be memorable as both sides are thoroughly toned an unusual green color. Personally, I am not completely comfortable with this coin. Experts at the CAC, however, have approved it. Furthermore, Mark Feld likes it and was prepared to bid on it. Feld was a full-time grader at the NGC during most of the 1990s and has worked as a grader for leading coin dealers. It sold for $27,400, a strong price.
V. Jung 1818 Quarter
One of the highlights of this auction is the 1818 Capped Bust Quarter that was formerly in the type set of Oliver Jung. On July 23, 2004, in New York, ANR auctioned Jung’s type set of copper, nickel, silver and gold U.S. coins. I covered the event for a leading coin newspaper.
Among U.S. coin collections that were designed as type sets, Jung’s collection is one of the half-dozen finest of all time. At the moment, the only two that come to mind that are clearly superior are the Madison type set, which Heritage sold in 2008, and the ‘High Desert’ type set, which is listed in the PCGS registry.
The Jung 1818 is very attractive, with light gray, green, tan-russet, blue and orange-russet toning, mostly gray and green. It is not dark. If it were not for some imperfections in the obverse left inner field, it would probably grade 66 or 66+. It probably has never been dipped. Indeed, if it ever was dipped, the event occurred many decades ago. Further, it shows no evidence of ever having been substantively cleaned. The reverse is very attractive and the obverse even more so. I grade it as 65.6 or 65.7.
The $34,500 price for the Jung 1818 shows, perhaps, the value of PCGS certification and/or a CAC sticker. This is the third time that Heritage has auctioned this same coin during the last nine months. In all three instances, in 2004, and presumably at all times from 2004 until 2012, its certified grade remained MS-65
While in an NGC holder, in August 2011, the Jung 1818 realized $14,950. In January 2012, it was in a different NGC holder, though still graded MS-65. It then brought $16,100. Curiously, the Jung 1818 realized $18,400 in a PCGS holder in 2004 and $34,500 last week in a new PCGS holder. Additionally, in 2012, it was approved by the CAC.
I wrote about this coin in my column of Jan. 18, 2012: “Light hairlines are present on the surfaces, though are hard to see. One short medium abrasion is not a really big deal, though it is a little annoying. All the imperfections are consistent with a 65 grade.” My remarks in Jan. 2012 and in July 2004 about its toning are consistent with my current remarks. The toning is definitely natural and is appealing.
It is curious that a PCGS grade and/or CAC approval seem to have lead to an increase in value from $16,100 to $34,500 within four months. Indeed, the January FUN Platinum Night events attracted more attention than the Platinum Night of April 19th. While there could be another explanation, like two new bidders who both strongly desired this coin, there is an excellent chance that a change in certification resulted in a doubling of the price, even though the assigned grade was unchanged. Note that I was very positive about this coin in January, when it was in an NGC holder.
VI. “Proof-69” Quarter
Yes, the 1883 quarter in this auction is NGC certified as “Proof-69.” Other than the NGC graders who assigned this grade, more than eight years ago, no one else grades it as 69, though it is a wonderful coin. I grade it as 67.85 or so. Though the obverse just does not have the eye appeal of a 68 grade coin, it is very attractive. The reverse, especially the green toning, is awesome. The reverse merits a grade in the middle of the 68 range.
This 1883 quarter was formerly in the Knoxville Collection, which was a silver-only type set. For silver U.S. coins, it was probably the best type set of all time. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jay Parrino guided a collector in building this set.
On April 19, 2012, this 1883 sold for $21,850. The Numismedia.com retail value for a Proof-68 1883 is “$18,130.” If leading players in rare coin markets really determined that this coin merited a grade of “69,” it would have realized at least $28,000, maybe much more.
VII. 1797 Half Dollar
The PCGS graded VF-25 1797 Draped Bust Half Dollar in this auction was also in the Nov. 2011 Stack’s-Bowers auction in Baltimore. In my column of Dec. 7, 2011, I wrote about it. Please click to read my discussion then, in which I mention the rarity and importance of 1797 and 1796 half dollars.
I did not find any serious problems with this coin in 2011 or in 2012. I noted again that it was extensively, moderately cleaned long ago. It is in the process of naturally retoning. It realized $51,750 in November and $54,625 on April 19th. Neither price is strong for a VF-25 grade half of this type, probably because it is just not that nice a coin. It is not easy, however, to find especially appealing 1797 or 1796 halves.
The extensive pedigree provided by the Heritage cataloguer and the consignment information provided by the Stack’s-Bowers cataloguer detail a great deal of the history of the coin from 1954 to the present. Grade-inflation and coin doctoring would be less serious problems if the histories of all rare U.S. coins were so detailed. Collectors and researchers could then check pictures, assigned grades and descriptions of the same coin in the past.
VIII. 1852 Dollar
Business strike and Proof 1852 Liberty Seated Dollars are rare. The number of business strikes and Proofs combined is probably less than three hundred. I doubt there are as many as thirty Proofs extant. The Pittman-Kaufman 1852 was in this auction.
There are considerable differences of opinion regarding whether any Proof 1852 silver dollars were actually struck in 1852. It is clear that some were struck later than 1852. Without commenting on the controversy here, I am lumping all Proof 1852 dollars into one category. After all, it would be unusual for a collector to acquire representatives of both varieties, if there really are two major varieties of Proof 1852 silver dollars.
The PCGS and the NGC together have certified fewer than thirty Proof 1852 dollars. I am certain that these counts include some multiple submissions of a few of the same coins. I hypothesize that there are between seventeen and twenty-three different 1852 Liberty Seated Dollars that have been certified as Proofs by the PCGS, by the NGC or by both services. Plus, it is likely that three to seven others exist have never been submitted or were denied numerical grades by the PCGS or the NGC.
The Pittman-Kaufman piece is NGC certified Proof-65. The PCGS CoinFacts site seems to imply that the PCGS would grade it as 64, and its history since 2008 suggests that the PCGS refused to grade it as 65. At the auction, it brought $47,437.50, which is a moderate to strong price for a Proof-64 (not 65) 1852 dollar.
IX. Proof Double Eagles
This Platinum Night event had “a wonderful selection of Gem Proof $20 Libs, one of the better offerings in a long time,” John Albanese exclaims. I asked John if buyers tend to pay a premium for PCGS certified Proof Liberty Head Double Eagles. “Most of the buyers are investors, not registry set collectors. They don’t care whether these Proofs are PCGS or NGC certified. They buy both,” Albanese finds. John is the founder and president of the CAC.
“Proof gold has lagged the market over the last ten years,” Albanese notes. “Prices for early gold coins went up much more.”
There were Proof gold coins of all denominations in this auction. I just did not have the time to view many of them.
I especially like the 1867 Double Eagle in this auction. It is PCGS certified ‘Proof-64 Deep Cameo’ and it has a CAC Sticker. It is fresh, very attractive and very original. Further, it has an amazingly cool look that I just cannot explain. David Akers has estimated that less than ten Proof 1867 Double Eagles survive. This 1867 sold for $138,000, a moderate price.
The 1867 is a Type Two Double Eagle. Over the last ten years, Type One Double Eagles have received an enormous amount of publicity and Type Two Double Eagles have hardly received any publicity. Choice, 63 and higher grade, business strike or Proof Type Two Double Eagles are scarce.
Type One Double Eagles were minted from 1850 to 1866 and Type Twos from 1866 to 1876. Type Three Liberty Head Double Eagles date from 1877 to 1907.
Proof and business strike 1885 Double Eagles are extremely rare. Probably, fewer than one hundred business strikes survive.
Heritage cataloguers itemize twenty-one Proofs. It is very likely that there are less than twenty-five Proof 1885 Double Eagles in existence. The one in this auction is NGC certified ‘Proof-67 Cameo’ and is CAC approved. It is from the “William Plumley Collection.” The PCGS has not graded a Proof 1885 as 67.
This Plumley 1885 sold for $241,500, a price which is a little weak. In Jan. 2011, Heritage auctioned the Henry Miller 1885 for $207,000. The Miller 1885 is (or was) NGC certified Proof-66 Cameo and is CAC approved as well. In August 2011, Stack’s-Bowers sold a PCGS certified Proof-66 Deep Cameo 1885, with a CAC sticker, for $230,000. I expected the Plumley 1885, as a certified 67 grade coin, to sell for more than $250,000.
I like the Loewinger-Plumley 1887 more than the Plumley 1885. Moreover, 1887 is a Proof-only date; there are no 1887 business strike Double Eagles. The Plumley 1887 was formerly in the collection of Robert Loewinger, MD., which was sold in a Jan. 2007 FUN Platinum Night event in Orlando. I covered that event for a coin newspaper.
The Loewinger-Plumley 1887 is PCGS certified ‘Proof-65 Deep Cameo’ and it is CAC approved. It has a terrific look with stunning yellow overtones. There are yellow-tam devices and yellow-russet tinted fields. The catalogue images do not reveal much of the aesthetic aspects of this coin. It is very attractive plus and especially distinctive. It sold for $161,000 in Jan. 2007 and $195,500 in April 2012.
After April 19, the editors of the PCGS price guide increased their estimated value for this coin from $160,000 to $195,000. After all, it is the only coin so certified and it was auctioned.
In my view, this coin needs to be understood as an individual. Other PCGS certified Proof-65 Deep Cameo Double Eagles from the 1880s are unlikely to have the particular colors, other physical characteristics, and overall look of this piece. Also, there could be fewer than twenty-five 1887 Double Eagles in existence, in all grades!
There were about a dozen other Proof Liberty Head Double Eagles in this auction. I did not have a chance to view all of them.
This week, I ignored the rare Quarter Eagles in this auction because I plan to write about these soon. An 1841, an 1863 and an 1864 are all especially important, as is a Proof ‘Classic Head’ Quarter Eagle.
©2012 Greg Reynolds