Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The Fun Has Begun

News and Analysis on scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #34

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

While the Summer ANA Convention includes a wide variety of items of interest to collectors of U.S. coins, paper money, tokens and medals, plus some coins of the world, the Winter FUN Convention is the leading event of the year in the field of rare U.S. coins. Today’s discussion will be a little shorter than usual as I am busy in Tampa viewing coins, witnessing events and gathering information during FUN week. Yes, the winter FUN Convention formally begins on Thursday, at the Tampa Convention center. Coin related events, however, have already occurred.

I. B&M Pre-FUN Auction

1876 50c bm2011 pr Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The Fun Has BegunI attended the Bowers & Merena pre-FUN auction on Tuesday at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, which is near the Tampa Airport. In last week’s column, I discussed the fact that Bowers & Merena and Stack’s are in the process of merging. The new Stack’s-Bowers president, Chris Napolitano, was in attendance. It was made clear that QDB and Chris Karstedt would continue to play roles in Stack’s-Bowers. Brad Karoleff, the longtime auctioneer for B&M, and Melissa Karstedt, an auctioneer at Stack’s, served as auctioneers during Tuesday night. Unfortunately, as this auction did not finish until well into Tuesday night, there was not time for me to thoroughly analyze this event.

On Tuesday, the lot viewing room for the B&M auction was packed. There were, at times, people waiting for seats in a fairly large room on the main floor of a very large hotel. My sources tell me that lot viewing attendance was excellent on Sunday and Monday as well, and that there were many collectors and dealers viewing at Heritage’s lot viewing room at the Tampa Convention center on Monday and Tuesday. So far, there seems to be even more interest in the FUN auctions than there was last year. It is too early, however, to draw a conclusion on the topic of collector interest in FUN week auctions.

In my column of Dec. 8, I raised the topic of FUN auctions, and I then provided explanations as to the general importance of January FUN auctions. My column of Dec. 8 is primarily about Jim O’Neal’s landmark set of Indian Head Half Eagles ($5 gold coins) and I remind readers that I wrote a two part series on O’Neal’s Eagles ($10 gold coins) in 2009. Please also read my article about the Jan. 7, 2010 Platinum Night event. (As usual, clickable links are in blue.)

In my column of Dec. 22, I focused upon the Henry Miller collection, the core of which Heritage will auction on Thursday, during Platinum Night. On Dec. 15, I wrote about the Malibu set of Proof Liberty Seated Quarters. The collector known as ‘Malibu’ also consigned Proof Liberty Seated halves and silver dollars to Tuesday night’s event, plus a few other coins. As I earlier suggested, his set of Proof Liberty Seated Quarters is far more spectacular than his respective sets of halves and dollars. I was delighted to finally have the opportunity to view all of his Liberty Seated Quarters, Half Dollars and Dollars.

It is not practical to write here about the whole auction or even about all of the coins from the consignment of the second part of the Malibu collection, As the Proof Liberty Seated Quarters from the 1860s were really special, perhaps the best ever collection of these, I will discuss several of them here.

II. 1860s Proof Liberty Seated Quarters

I like the Malibu Proof 1865 quarter, though not nearly as much as I expected to like it. I agree with its ‘Proof-66 Cameo’ certification, and I respect its CAC sticker, though I have seen better Pr-66 Liberty Seated Quarters including other coins in the Malibu collection. The price realized of $12,650 is certainly a retail level price and a successful auction result.

1865 25c proof bmfun2011 Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The Fun Has BegunActually, the next lot, #511, another Proof 1865 quarter, though not part of the Malibu collection, was probably a better value. It is PCGS certified Proof-64 Cameo, and, like the Malibu 1865 Quarter, has a CAC sticker of approval. In my view, it is just beautiful and may be undergraded. This coin’s toning, which is definitely natural, is stunning, especially when this coin is tilted under a light. It realized $2415, I believe.

I really like the Malibu 1866, which is PCGS certified ‘Pr-64 Cameo,’ and is CAC approved. About it, Jeff Ambio says, “very colorful, quite smooth for the grade and” Jeff regards its toning as likely to be “original.” In my (this writer’s) view, the Malibu 1866 was dipped decades ago, and then naturally retoned, probably while in a coin album. It sold for $2186. (Keep in mind that these are preliminary auction results and will occasionally include errors. The auction house will post final, audited prices realized in the near future.).

The Malibu 1867 is exceptional. It is also PCGS certified ‘Pr-66 Cameo’ and it has a CAC sticker of approval. It was not one of Ambio’s favorite coins in the set, but it is one of mine. The wonderful natural toning is more than very attractive and this coin is technically impressive as well in that it has few surface imperfections. If my memory serves correctly, Laura Sperber was the successful bidder and the price was $8050, which is a good value.

Jeff Ambio and I are strongly in agreement in relation to the Malibu 1869 quarter. “This one is definitely original,” Ambio declares, “no worries here, just a lovely and solidly graded Gem.” Indeed, the Malibu 1869 is more than very attractive and the toning is definitely natural. It is PCGS certified Proof-66 and CAC approved. The reported price for this coin, as lot #516, is $4543.

The price realized of $11,500 for the Malibu 1870 was extremely strong. It is NGC certified PF-67 and it has a CAC sticker. Though the obverse (front of the coin) has an absolutely stunning look, it has some imperfections as well. The reverse (tail) has really neat steel blue toning, but it is not spectacular. In my opinion, this coin should not be worth a premium, though I admit that I like it. I would hope that non one figures that it should grade 68, though a casual glance at the obverse, without a magnifying glass, may give the impression that it should grade 68.

III. Barber Quarters

Though not particularly rare, and not candidates for finest known status, three Proof Barber Quarters in this auction captured my attention, largely because of their wonderful natural toning. I am referring to two 1892s and an 1894.

proof barber 25c sm fun 2011 Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The Fun Has BegunThe first, lot #553, is PCGS certified Proof-66 Cameo. The variety, blend, and evenness of its natural toning are incredibly pleasant. The orange-russet, brownish-russet, green and other shades cannot be described in words. It sold for $2415, a high price for a poor person, though hardly a vast sum in the field of rare U.S. coins. This coin would be a good value for a connoisseur of U.S. coinage.

A second 1892, this one NGC certified PF-66, and CAC approved, has heartwarming tones of russet, green and gray. It has probably never been dipped or significantly cleaned. Plus, I suggest that it grades in the high end of the 66 range. This coin, as lot #554, garnered $2990. Lot #557, a PCGS certified Pr-66 1894 is terrific, too, and was reasonable at $2140.

As an aside, I note that a 1901-S quarter, a representative of the key date in the series, realized $20,987.50. It is PCGS graded Very Fine-20.

IV. Malibu Halves

The Malibu set of Proof Liberty Seated Half Dollars was nowhere near as nice, overall or in terms of the respective certified grades of the individual coins, as his corresponding set of quarters. Even so, there were many very attractive coins in the set and there was intense bidding for some of these at the auction.

seat halves bm fun2011 Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The Fun Has BegunThere was a long bidding contest for the Malibu 1876, lot #738, which seemed to start at around $10,000 and ended at $16,100. The two ‘with arrows’ issues of the 1870s caused the most commotion. Both are PCGS certified ‘Pr-65 Cameo.’

It seemed that at least four people bid on the Malibu 1873 ‘With Arrows’ half before it sold for $18,400. My tentative impression is that the successful bidder was a Southern California dealer, who is almost always very active at B&M auctions. The 1874, lot #734, went to Laura Sperber for $16,100.

The Malibu 1879 half is really cool, though I could not get quite as excited about it as did the cataloguer. It is PCGC certified ‘Pr-67 Cameo’ and it is CAC approved. To some extent, it has a traditional ‘black and white Proof’ look. It does, though, exhibit even russet toning on and around the outer devices and periphery. It is sharply struck and has minimal imperfections. It is lighter in actuality than it appears to be in the online catalogue images. There is certainly no doubt about the assigned 67 grade and it may be the finest known Proof 1879 half. It sold for $18,400. The next lot, #747, another 1879 half that is PCGS certified ‘Pr-63′ went for $1092.50.

One of my favorite Malibu Liberty Seated Halves is the 1885. It is PCGS graded 67 and is CAC approved. It just has to be seen to be appreciated. The toning is incredibly pleasing and well balanced. A telephone bidder captured this prize for $12,650.

One of the reasons why I am focusing upon the Malibu collection is that many of the other coins are dealer-consignments or miscellaneous anonymous consignments rather than carefully assembled collections. There were a wide variety of coins in this auction.

One of the most important coins in this auction was an 1875 Quarter Eagle ($2½ gold coin), sold as lot #1350. Fewer than fifty 1875 business strikes survive, hardly any in high grades. This one is NGC graded AU-58 and I like it. It is an appealing coin. While it has some imperfections, it may be very difficult to find an 1875 business strike Quarter Eagle that is of higher quality than this one. Although the reported price of $18,975 seems high, this amount is a sound value from a logical perspective.

Next week, I will be writing about coins in the Heritage auction. I am very much looking forward to viewing them. I will also walk around the bourse floor and see rare coins that are available or on display for other reasons. The rest of the week will be even more fun.

©2011 Greg Reynolds

About the Author:

Greg Reynolds has carefully examined a vast majority of the greatest U.S. coins and most of the finest classic U.S. type coins. He personally attended sales of the Eliasberg, Pittman, and Gardner Collections, among other landmark events. Greg has also covered major auctions of world coins, including the sale of the Millennia Collection. In addition to more than two hundred analytical columns for CoinWeek and at least fifty articles for CoinLink, Reynolds has contributed hundreds of articles to Numismatic News newspaper and related publications. For three years in a row, he has been the winner of the ‘Best All-Around Portfolio’ award of the NLG. Greg has also won NLG awards for individual articles, for a series of articles on the Eric Newman Collection, and for best column published on a web site. Reynolds is available for private consultations: insightful10{a}gmail.com

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