News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #120
A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds
During or just prior to coin conventions, Heritage conducts two to four Platinum Night events each year, along with regular, live auctions. The purpose here is discuss some of the prize or otherwise noteworthy coins that sold in the Platinum Night event of Friday, Aug. 3rd. This auction was conducted at a hotel in Philadelphia, a few days before the start of the summer ANA Convention. In my column of July 18, I previewed the cents, dimes and quarters in this event.
The coins offered in Platinum Night events tend to be rare, especially valuable, members of great collections and/or special for other reasons. An NGC certified Proof-66 1901 Barber Dime, for example, is hardly a Great Rarity. It was offered on Platinum Night as an individual lot, though clearly part of a 1901 Proof Set that is original or at least has been intact for decades. This dime sold for $1645.
This 1901 Proof set came from an outstanding consignment of pre-1917 Proof sets, “The Time Capsule Collection.” In most other circumstances, a Proof 1901 dime would not have been included in a Platinum Night session. Of course, when an Ultra High Relief Saint is offered, it may become a star of such an event.
I. $1 Million for an Ultra High Relief
Recently, I wrote a detailed, analytical article about the Trompeter-Morse Ultra High Relief pattern $20 gold coin that sold for $2.76 million. (Please click to read.) I then explained the meaning and rarity of Ultra High Relief 1907, Saint Gaudens, $20 gold patterns (UHR Saints). On Aug. 3rd, a sub-60 graded Ultra High Relief realized $1,057,000, a record for a sub-60 UHR Saint. Adam Crum, of Monaco Rare Coins, identified himself as the successful bidder.
This same coin has been offered at auction three times since it appeared in a Stack’s (New York) auction in March 2005. I then wrote a long article, which was devoted to this same item, for Numismatic News newspaper. It would not make sense to discuss all of its characteristics here.
There are at least eighteen UHR Saints known and there are four varieties. Most collectors, however, would be thrilled to own one, or even just to examine one. It is unusual for a collector to seek multiple UHR Saints. Indeed,as one extremely dedicated collector owns representatives of all four varieties, it is unlikely that even a few others will attempt to collect UHR Saints by variety. So, I treat this one as another UHR, despite the fact that it is one of two known of a particular variety. For UHR Saints, varieties relate to the lettering and symbols on the edge.
As this UHR Saint was owned, not long ago, by a prominent collector in the South, who, for many years, specialized in patterns, I refer to it as the Southern Collection Ultra High Relief Saint. I do not know who else owned this UHR Saint in the past. The collector known as Simpson declined to purchase this piece when it was available to him in 2007.
Given the nature of UHR Saints, wear tends to occur first on Miss Liberty’s extended knee, her chest and especially on the rims, plus the ridges of the near wing of the eagle. Fortunately, on this piece, Miss Liberty’s head, hair, torch and extended arm are all almost entirely intact. The extant of the wear, however, on the parts mentioned, especially the rims, causes the coin, in my view, to qualify for a ‘Proof-53+’ assignment, rather than its PCGS 58 grade.
This UHR Saint was in an NGC holder with the same “Proof-58” certification and was recently ‘crossed’ into a PCGS holder. During the 1990s, a cataloguer for Sotheby’s gave this coin an adjectival grade that may imply that he contends that its grade is less than 55. In 2005, a cataloguer at Stack’s (New York) graded it as ‘Choice Extremely Fine,’ perhaps implying a grade of ‘45.’
While I maintain that it grades 53+, it does not much matter whether this coin is graded 45, 50, 53, 55 or 58. Of the eighteen or more known UHR Saints, just two to four grade less than 60.
This coin’s appearance is far more appealing than a sub-60 grade would suggest. Its glossy reflective surfaces are largely intact. The swirling die finishing lines that characterize this issue are quite visible and are really cool. It scores extremely high in the category of originality. In addition, its deep bronze-gold color has a positive, emotional impact. The Southern UHR Saint is a glorious gold piece.
In my view, the price realized was strong. I was expecting a price in the range of $800,000 to $925,000. This same UHR Saint brought $488,750 in March 2005 and just $690,000, a weak price, in the ‘hot’ market environment of July 2008. It is a fabulous gold piece that should, in my opinion, be worth significantly more than $1 million.
II. Gem 1921 $20 Gold Coin
Only four 1921 Saint Gaudens Double Eagles ($20 gold coins) have been certified as grading MS-65 or higher. I have now seen all four. In my view, the one in this auction is the second finest known. It brought $587,500 on August 3rd, a price that I regard as reasonable, perhaps a little weak.
The finest known Crawford-Morse 1921 was PCGS graded MS-66 when it was auctioned by Heritage on Nov. 3, 2005 for $1,092,500, which was then a mind boggling price. It is still PCGS graded MS-66. The second finest known is probably this one, which Heritage sold in 1994 and the Goldbergs offered in recent years.
As I then reported, this 1921 ‘changed hands’ for $1,012,000 in 2007. The buyer in 2007 owned a percentage of the coin before he bought 100% of it.
The third finest is the Eliasberg-Morse-Simpson 1921. Philip Morse had at least three 1921 Saint Gaudens Double Eagles. The Eliasberg-Morse piece was PCGS graded MS-65 when it sold for $805,000 in Nov. 2005. It upgraded to “MS-65+” in 2010, when the Simpson Collection was submitted for recertifcation under the new PCGS SecurePlus program.
The Dr. Steven Duckor 1921 Saint, too, upgraded in 2010. Dr. Duckor also submitted his set under the PCGS SecurePlus program. It went from being accurately graded MS-65 to being overgraded as “MS-66.” As I reported earlier this year, it sold for $747,500 on Jan. 5, 2012. The sale of a certified MS-66 1921 for that amount dampened demand for high quality 1921 Saints in general, though that $747,500 result should not have dampened demand. That $747,500 result was a fair price for a MS-65 grade coin in a holder with a label that reads MS-66.
I estimate that fewer than one hundred 1921 Saints exist in all grades. Therefore, the coins mentioned here are not just condition rarities. They are extremely rare overall.
III. Proof 1802 Dollar
The most famous of all U.S. coins is the 1804 Silver Dollar. A Proof 1802 Dollar is not nearly as famous, though it is very cool from a technical standpoint. No Proof U.S. coins were struck before 1817. I have never seen a Proof U.S. silver coin dated before 1820. In my view, experts at the NGC erred by certifying two 1818 halves as Proofs.
The Proof silver dollars of 1801, 1802, 1803 and 1804 could not have been made before 1834. As for exactly when these were minted, this is a topic for a long discussion, perhaps a book. An immediate point here is that a Proof 1802 dollar is much different from a business strike 1802 dollar. Indeed, there is no doubt about the 1802 dollar in this auction being a Proof.
In addition to exhibiting full strong mirrors, I found much evidence on this coin that indicates that it was ‘double struck.’ (Please see the third part of my discussion relating to 1841 Quarter Eagles for analytical notions relating to ‘double struck.’) Though this 1802 dollar just barely qualifies for a 65 grade, the physical characteristics of this coin are exciting. The mirrored fields and robust design elements grabbed my attention. When compared to business strike Draped Bust Silver Dollars, this 1802 is stunning. It is a coin that has quite a ‘wow factor’!
A Heritage cataloguer suggests that just four are known and this number sounds right, though I have not reviewed my own notes. While just two Proof 1801 dollars are known, there are at least five Proof 1803 dollars. The dollars of 1804 are in a separate category for multiple reasons, one of which is that a business strike 1804 dollar probably never existed. If any silver dollars were struck in 1804, these were probably dated 1803.
This 1802 dollar is PCGS certified ‘Proof-65 Cameo’ and has been approved by the CAC. It realized $851,875.
In April 2008, Heritage auctioned the Carter-Queller 1802 for $920,000. It, too, is PCGS certified ‘Proof-65 Cameo.’ As I am in Pennsylvania at the moment, I cannot access my handwritten notes about the Carter-Queller 1802, or those about Proof 1803 dollars.
On Feb. 10, 2007, Spectrum-B&M auctioned a PCGS certified Proof-66 1803 for $672,750. Not long before, a California dealer reportedly sold this same coin privately for more than $1 million. In many cases, a coin that is certified as grading ‘66’ is worth much more than a coin of the same issued that is certified as grading ‘65.’ The $920,000 result in April 2008 for the Carter-Queller 1802 and the $851,875 amount for this one are both very strong prices. Just a few years ago, certified Proof-65 1802 and 1803 silver dollars were worth less than $450,000 each. Ten years ago, these were worth $100,000 to $200,000 each.
IV. Proof 1820 Quarter
Though the Earle-Norweb Proof 1820 Quarter is not one of the more expensive coins in this sale, nor is it one of the freshest, it is extremely important and very cool. Furthermore, it relates to the topic of early Proofs, which relates to many of the coins in this auction. This coin was probably struck in 1820, almost certainly at some point from 1819 to 1821.
This 1820 is PCGS certified “Proof-64.” I have seen this coin at least three times, including during a lot viewing session on Aug. 3rd. Unfortunately, the Norweb II sale in March 1988 was before my time. I would have very much enjoyed attending.
This 1820 quarter is not an obvious Proof and a magnifying glass is required to determine that it is one. I conclude that it is a Proof.
The full mirrors, the detail of the design elements, and the traces of cameo qualities are important factors. Moreover, under somewhat high magnification, there is much evidence of it being double struck. The primary difference between a Brilliant Proof and a business strike relates to the relationships between the design elements (devices) and the fields. This coin qualifies, though just barely. (See my articles on 1841 Quarter Eagles, the unique Proof 1876-CC dime, the Turtle Rock Dimes and a Proof 1907-D Double Eagle.)
Additionally, this 1820 quarter has very colorful toning. Although a few of the shades and hues are a bit unusual, the toning on this coin is likely to be natural.
The price realized of $88,125 is slightly strong. A Proof 1820 quarter is something very special and this specific coin is very entertaining.
V. 1846 Dime and Half Dime
Earlier this year, when I was writing about the unrecognized importance of 1846 Liberty Seated Dimes, Saul Teichman pointed out that 1846 Liberty Seated Half Dimes are rare, too, especially in uncirculated grades. In this auction, there was one that is PCGS graded “MS-63.” It sold for $38,187.50.
The 1846 dime in this sale, is PCGS graded AU-55. It was also in Heritage’s Jan. 4, 2012 Platinum Night event. Then and now, I noted that it has been moderately to heavily dipped. Since January, it has naturally retoned a little. Even so, while many coin buyers may like it, I am not comfortable with this coin. It sold for $11,500 in January and did not sell this time. If it had never been dipped, then it may be worth $15,000 or even much more.
VI. 1807 Dime on Mis-shapen Blank
Though not a dramatic U.S. Mint error, the combination of the high quality of this coin and the fact that it was struck on a strangely shaped planchet (prepared blank) is especially interesting. Indeed, it is curious and entertaining.
It is PCGS graded MS-66 and is CAC approved. This 1807 Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Dime scores very high in the category of originality. The toning is natural, mostly a soothing brown-russet color with mildly brilliant underlying luster shining through in parts. There are also small areas characterized by neat shades of red-russet or green hues. This 1807 dime is very attractive.
Some design elements were struck in sightly distorted forms due to the irregular planchet. It is intriguing to see such a gem quality coin with distorted design elements. It brought $47,000, which is less than it realized in the Heritage Platinum Night event of July 31, 2008, though much more than it realized in April 2009. It is hard to gauge the value of this 1807, as it is both an early U.S. coin of excellent quality and a Mint error.
VII. 1823/2 “MS-66+*” Dime
The NGC certified “MS-66+*” 1823/2 probably should be mentioned, though I am not thrilled about it. It is just ‘too dipped’ for my personal taste. Plus, it has a ‘conserved look,’ though I do not whether it has been conserved. I prefer a more natural appearance.
Even so, this 1823/2 features some exceptional detail. Its stars, in particular, are impressive. Furthermore, many of the design elements are frosty. Moreover, the obverse (front) is a little prooflike and this coin is very glossy overall. There are collectors who would be thrilled about it.
Someone who has not seen this coin may conclude that the $22,325 result is not that strong a price. My guess is that, had there been a naturally toned 1823/2 that is deservedly certified as grading MS-66 in this auction, such an alternate 1823/2 would have realized a much higher price. A true MS-66 grade 1823/2 would have realized more than $30,000.
It is true that ANR auctioned this exact same 1823/2 dime, I believe, on Aug. 11, 2006 for $34,500. As I have been pointing out repeatedly, however, starting in the middle of 2009, a growing percentage of coin buyers have been looking past the certified grades and figuring the amounts that they are each willing to pay on the basis of true underlying grades.
For example, if the PCGS or the NGC mistakenly overgrade a MS-65 grade coin as MS-66, even though most grading experts regard its grade as a ‘low end’ to mid range 65, then many buyers will be willing to pay, at most, a price on par with MS-65 level for the particular coin, even if a MS-66 grade is indicated on the holder. (Please see my Aug. 2009 article on the Widening Gap and my 2012 article on grading issues, among others.)
This 1823/2 dime brought a MS-65 or -65+ level price, though it is in a holder with MS-66 on the label (insert). In my opinion, the consignor was probably fortunate that it realized $22,325.
VIII. Kaufman 1815/2 Half Dollar
The 1815/2 overdate is a key date in the series of Capped Bust Half Dollars. There are no 1815 halves with normal numerals; all are overdates. The 1815/2 that was formerly in the Kaufman Collection has attained a legendary standing. As Kaufman’s set of Capped Bust Half Dollars was sold privately circa 2007, the whole set was not appreciated by the collecting public at large, or even by fellow collectors of gem quality bust halves.
This coin was auctioned in a Rarcoa-Akers joint event in 1991 and again in April 2009 by Heritage, as part of the “Joseph Thomas Collection.” I was viewing this coin just as the last lot viewing session was ending. I was not able to fully interpret it. Tentatively, I very much like the toning and the overall appearance of this coin. It is more than very attractive.
Even given the likely greatness of the coin, I was a little surprised by the $182,125 result. This same 1815/2 brought $97,750 in April 2009, when coin markets ‘bottomed out.’ An increase of more than 85% in around forty months is newsworthy. Furthermore, the Numismedia.com value estimate for this coin is $109,850. Is there a reason not to conclude that $182,125 is an extremely strong auction result?
IX. Eliasberg 1897-O Morgan Dollar
Louis Eliasberg formed the all-time greatest collection of U.S. coins. The Clapp-Eliasberg 1897-O is famous among collectors of Morgan Silver Dollars. It is now PCGS graded ‘MS-66+’ and is CAC approved.
As stated in the current catalogue, Heritage auctioned it for $48,875 in April 2009. On Aug. 3, 2012, it brought $152,740, perhaps a record for the date. The Jack Lee 1897-O, which is PCGS graded MS-67, went for $126,500 in Nov. 2005. The PCGS price guide value for this coin is, or was at the time of the auction, “$95,000.”
The PCGS has graded four as MS-66, just this one as MS-66+, and two as MS-67. In my view, the pedigree and natural toning of this coin separate it from the others. The $152,740 price is extremely strong, though understandable.
The 1895-O is even harder to find in gem, 65 and higher grades. In this same auction, from the same consignor, there was a PCGS graded “MS-65“ 1895-O, which I did not see. It brought $164,500.
X. Some Quarter Eagles
This auction will certainly be remembered for Bust Quarter Eagles ($2½ gold coins). The 1796 ‘No Stars’ Quarter Eagle in this auction is one of five highest certified by the PCGS or the NGC of this important one-year type. It is NGC graded “MS-63” and it brought $252,625, a price commensurate with a MS-62 grade. I did not grade it as MS-63. A true “MS-63” grade coin of this issue would be worth at least $400,000. I expected this coin to realize less than $250,000.
The 1796 ‘With Stars’ is actually rarer than the 1796 ‘No Stars’ issue, though it is not nearly as important. While the 1796 ‘No Stars’ issue is a one-year type coin, the 1796 ‘With Stars’ issue is one of a type that spans from 1796 to 1807.
I am not thrilled about the PCGS graded MS-63 1796 ‘With Stars’ Quarter Eagle in this auction. I am astonished that experts at the PCGS would grade this coin as MS-63. It realized $329,000, which is one of the strongest prices in this Platinum Night event.
The 1808 Quarter Eagle is also a one-year type coin, the Bust Left design type. Unless 1907 ‘Rolled Edge’ Eagles ($10 pieces) are considered a regular issue AND a distinct design type, the 1796 ‘No Stars’ and the 1808 Quarter Eagles are, respectively, the two rarest U.S. type coins.
The 1808 in this auction is NGC graded “MS-63” and is one of the five to seven highest certified of this type. Three are, indisputably, of higher quality. In my view, this one ranks closer to seven than to four. Again, the price of $223,250 probably reflects, in part, the quality of the coin. An 1808 that clearly merited a MS-63 grade, in the views of most experts, would probably have sold for $300,000 or more. Given the quality of this 1808, $223,250 is a fair amount, seemingly a 62 level retail price for a coin that was mistakenly overgraded as MS-63.
Another noteworthy result is $258,500 for a Proof 1845 Quarter Eagle. It is NGC certified ‘Proof-67 Ultra Cameo.’ As the Heritage cataloguer points out, it was NGC certified ‘Proof-66 Ultra Cameo’ when it was last offered at auction. Although I very much like this coin, I evaluate it as 66 Cameo, maybe 66+ Cameo.
It is an indisputable Proof and is more than very attractive. It is a coin that reaches out to the viewer. Including all 1841 Quarter Eagles, there certainly exist fewer than fifty Proof Quarter Eagles of all dates in the 1840s. This 1845 is better than many and is of great importance.
While Proof Quarter Eagles from the 1840s are unforgettable, collectors often do not remember that 1875 Quarter Eagles, Proofs and business strikes, in all grades, are extremely rare. There were two in this sale, each of which is NGC graded AU-58. One sold for $15,275 and the other brought $18,212.50. In my view, the second is much better than the first and was a good value for the buyer.
Though both coins have received the same numerical grade from the NGC, there really is a need to examine such coins to evaluate them. The second features an attractive beige color, is mostly original, has just light hairlines, is characterized by minimal honest wear on the face, and is generally pleasing. The first NGC graded AU-58 1875 Quarter Eagle in this sale has some negative characteristics that I found to be bothersome. The $15,275 price for the first is much stronger than the $18,212.50 price for the second.
XI. Proof Liberty $20 gold coins
In this auction, the offering of Proof Liberty Head Double Eagles had depth. While not one of them brought a super price, the several Proof Liberty Head Double Eagles in this auction brought healthy prices as a group.
An NGC certified and CAC approved ‘Proof-65 Ultra Cameo’ 1864 brought slightly more on Aug. 3rd in Philadelphia than it did on October 14, 2011 in Pittsburgh, $352,500 to $345,000. I like this coin. The tan devices contrast well with the greenish-caramel fields. Its grade is in the middle of the 65 range. A price in the $350,000 range seems about right, neither strong nor weak.
The 1864 is a Type One Double Eagle. A Type Two, 1876 is PCGS certified ‘Proof-64,’ and CAC approved. It sold for $117,500, a moderate price.
The Plumley, NGC certified ‘Proof-67 Cameo’ 1885 went for $229,125. The Henry Miller, NGC certified ‘Proof-67+* Cameo’ 1887 garnered $411,250. When the Miller 1887 sold for $402,500 on Jan. 6, 2011, that result was clearly strong. It is not exciting for it to sell for slightly more around nineteen months later.
NGC certified ‘Proof-67 Ultra Cameo’ 1898 and 1899 Double Eagles each sold for $211,500. Though I have not extensively researched Proof Type Three Liberty Head Double Eagles, my tentative view is that $211,500 is a very strong price for either of these.
XII. More, Of Course
I wish that it was practical to discuss all the newsworthy, rare, especially interesting and/or otherwise significant rarities in this event. I cannot fit comments about all such coins into this discussion. The quarters were covered to an extant on July 18 and are of such importance that I will almost certainly discuss many of them in the future in other contexts.
The cents that I discussed in July tended to fare well. The 1792 Silver Center Copper Cent pattern sold for $305,500, a strong price. The four Chain Cents brought fair prices.
A highlight of this sale was the NGC graded MS-61 1795 Eagle ($10 gold coin) with nine leaves on the branch on the reverse. In May 2011, when writing about another representative of this issue, I discussed the rarity of the ‘nine leaves variety.’ Here, I note that this particular coin sold for $282,000, a strong price.
The 1795 ‘Nine Leaves’ Eagle that Spink-Smythe sold for $379,600 is a more desirable coin. Nevertheless, I found this one to be much better than I expected it to be. The survivors of this variety tend to have substantial problems and/or to have an unpleasant appearance. This one is attractive, truly uncirculated, and relatively original. I am accepting of the MS-61 grade. I was expecting it to sell for around $245,000.
Yes, I have excluded Half Eagles, most half dollars, and quite a few silver dollars from this discussion, many of which are newsworthy. A problematic 1817/4 half sold for $164,500. A not gradable, fresh, and curiously attractive 1794 dollar, with “AU Details,” brought $85,187.50, a weak price.
As for the other rarities in this event, I will mention some of them in future writings. I aimed here to cover most of the especially newsworthy results and to discuss some of the coins in this Platinum Night event that are particularly interesting for other reasons.
©2012 Greg Reynolds