Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The Summer FUN Auction, with emphasis upon dimes and quarters
News and Analysis of scarce coins, markets, and the collecting community #60
A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds
The official auction of the Summer FUN Convention will be conducted by Heritage on July 7th and 8th at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. There are numerous worthwhile coins in this auction, including some desirable coins that would hardly be noticed in an ANA or pre-ANA auction receive more attention in this context. Although several collections that were assembled by serious collectors were consigned, there is no one consignment of an epic collection in terms of size, quality and rarity. I discuss a variety of coins that I find to be desirable, interesting, conditionally rare, especially attractive, and/or noteworthy for some other reason. I have viewed many of the coins in this sale.
I. Summer FUN Convention
While each Summer FUN Convention and its accompanying auction are significant, this event pales in comparison to the Winter FUN Convention, which is held every January. Indeed, please click to read some of my writings relating to the January 2011 FUN Convention: A 1907 $10 Gold piece becomes the latest coin to be Auctioned for more than $2 million, Incredible Variety of Exemplary Business Strikes Sell on FUN Platinum Night, The Introduction of the PCGS ‘Coin Sniffer’, and The Jan. 2011 FUN Convention. (As always, clickable links are in blue.)
The overshadowing of the Summer FUN Convention notwithstanding, it is the leading show between the third week in June and the beginning of the ANA Convention in mid August. From 2007 to 2009, the Summer FUN Convention was held in West Palm Beach.
In my view, the management of the Florida United Numismatists (FUN) organization made a mistake by moving this summer show from West Palm Beach to Orlando. While the event was a little slow in 2009, mostly because coin markets had recently hit bottom in April 2009, this show was on its way to becoming a major coin convention. Now, leading dealers and collectors are less likely to attend than they were in 2007 and 2008.
There are many wealthy coin collectors who live in South Florida. In contrast, people travel to Orlando for vacation, and only a percentage of the people physically present in Orlando actually stay there for more than two weeks. Moreover, people tend to go to Orlando for vacations and for conventions during the WINTER and early Spring, not during the summer! People often visit coastal areas in Florida, including Palm Beach County, during the summer to swim in the Atlantic Ocean, which is much warmer during the summer than it is during the winter or spring.
Many people who live in the middle Atlantic States or New England maintain residences in Southern Florida, especially the Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami areas, all of which are in ‘a day trip’s’ distance to the West Palm Beach Convention Center. In contrast, people in these areas find a trip to Orlando to be inconvenient and almost unthinkable during the summer. Orlando is an excellent choice for a Winter Convention and a poor choice for a Summer Convention.
II. Moderately Expensive Coins
As I will be covering some extremely expensive coins that will be auctioned in Chicago in August, I wrote an introductory article about collecting dimes last week, which included references to collecting some very low priced coins, and I will be mentioning many moderately expensive coins here. Over the last year, I have written columns and articles for collectors of all income levels. (See my column on Basics for Beginners.) Besides, I honestly believe that, to understand the coins that a collector owns, he or she must understand coins that are not affordable. Knowledge of collecting U.S. coins in general requires some understanding of very expensive coins.
I often read about paintings and various collectible that I cannot afford to buy. Indeed, most people who read about famous Impressionist Paintings, towering sculptures by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, baseballs autographed by Babe Ruth, footballs autographed by Johnny Unitas, and letters signed by Abraham Lincoln, cannot afford to acquire them. Reading about expensive, important items is part of a learning process. Certainly, most people who read about 1804 dollars or 1894-S dimes have no intention of ever buying one of these.
It makes sense for collectors of U.S. coins to learn about the values and traditions relating to coin collecting in the U.S. A background in U.S. coins involves learning about a wide variety of coins, in a range of grades, especially including the positive and negative characteristics of individual coins. Further, scarce and rare coins are fun to view, interpret, research, and write about. I hope that I convey my enthusiasm for coins in my writings. Scarce and rare coins cost money and it is in the interest of buyers to attain an understanding of them. There are desirable coins in the Summer FUN Auction.
There is a sizeable run of uncirculated Indian and Lincoln Cents, many of which have stickers of approval from the CAC. I did not view them and I just wrote about Lincoln Cents in my review of the June Long Beach Auction.
In this auction, an 1862 Half Dime caught my attention. It is NGC certified Proof-65 with a CAC sticker of approval. This coin has attractive toning and would be an appealing addition to a type set.
As 1796 is the first year that U.S. Dimes were minted, a 1796 dime is always notable. The NGC certified Very Fine-25 1796 in this collection is noteworthy. I have seen better 1796 dimes that are certified as grading in the Very Fine range and I have seen worse ones. This 1796 was moderately cleaned long ago and has naturally retoned. While this 1796 is a little ‘low end’ for its certified grade, it would be acceptable to most collectors.
I am impressed by an 1801 dime in this auction. It PCGS graded AU-55, and has a CAC sticker. The 1801 is a very scarce date and an AU-55 grade 1801 is a condition rarity. In fact, it is probably true that 1801 dimes are rare in all grades. The ‘PCGSCoinFacts’ site provides a “survival estimate” of “175.” Even if this number refers only to gradable 1801 dimes, I find it to be a little low. My impression is that there are at least two hundred that are gradable and probably at least another hundred fifty that are ungradable. Even so, it is extremely likely that there are less than five hundred 1801 dimes overall and it is thus rare!
Certainly, only a few 1801 dimes truly grade higher than AU-55. While having been lightly cleaned and dipped long ago, this dime has recovered. To an extent, it has naturally retoned and is pleasingly lustrous. Further, it has very few contact marks. The details are sharper than I would expect of an AU-55 1801 dime. The hair and face detail are well above average. This 1801 would be an excellent addition to a set of bust dimes.
Though I just glanced at it, I have a positive impression of the following lot, an 1805. That dime is NGC graded Very Fine-30. The toning is natural and this coin is appealing.
My favorite Draped Bust dime in this auction is an 1807, the least scarce date of its type. Indeed, collectors assembling type sets of dimes, of bust coins, or of 19th century silver, may wish to consider this coin.
This 1807 is PCGS graded “MS-64+” and is CAC approved. The CAC, though, is just approving the 64 grade and CAC experts are not necessarily agreeing with PCGS experts in that this coin merits a “+” grade.
I find its grade to be near the borderline of the “64+” range and the “+” grade is reasonable enough, in my view. A circular contact mark near Miss Liberty’s neck and a very light gash on her neck keep this coin from grading 65. If these particular two imperfections were not present, this coin would certainly be a gem.
Though it may have been moderately dipped decades ago, this 1807 dime has naturally and evenly retoned a nice, light russet-gray color. In addition to being strictly uncirculated in every sense of the term, there are no signs of friction and no signs of cleaning. Furthermore, the reverse has so significant contact marks or scratches that I remember now. On the whole, this 1807 dime is very attractive and should be worth a very substantial premium over a typical, certified “MS-64” 1807 dime.
The “Douglas Bust Dime Collection” is an appealing consignment to this auction. I wonder, however, if it should have been called the ‘Douglas CAPPED Bust Dime Collection,’ as only Capped Bust Dimes, and just a few of them, are identified as being from this collection.
The Douglas 1811/09 overdate and the Douglas 1814 ‘Large Date’ are each PCGS graded ‘Extremely Fine-45′ and each has a sticker from the CAC. I like the Douglas 1811/09 a lot more than the Douglas 1814 ‘Large Date.’
The “Douglas” collection may be missing an 1822, which is the scarcest date of the Capped Bust Dime type. The 1822 in this auction is “from the MJT Collection” and is NGC graded ‘Very Good-08.’ This 1822 did not thrill me, though it is okay.
Of the two 1823/2 dimes in the Douglas Collection, I especially like the first one, lot #3401. This 1823/2 is PCGS graded “AU-50” and is CAC approved. It is really neat for a certified ‘AU-50′ grade dime. The natural toning is really nice overall and the dominant, mellow green shade is especially pleasant. Indeed, the Douglas 1823/2 has very few imperfections and is more than attractive overall.
The Douglas 1824/2 overdate is PCGS graded ‘Very Fine-35′ and has a CAC sticker. This 1824/2 is a very desirable coin and is great for its certified grade.
The Douglas 1829, of the large denomination variety, is PCGS graded “MS-62.” I am not completely comfortable with the 62 grade, though I am thrilled about this coin. It has wonderful cool green toning with touches of russet. Moreover, this coin has a solid, distinctive strike with unusually well formed outer design elements, numerals and letters. I could imagine the thoughts that went through the minds of PCGS graders when they assigned a “MS-62” grade to this coin, though I would not have done so. I do, though, like it more than some 1829 dimes that have been certified as grading ‘AU-58′ or ‘MS-61.’
If the 1829 dime issue, with a ‘Curl Base 2,’ is collected as a distinct date, and it often is so collected, it would then be termed the rarest date of the Capped Bust dime type. After all, the 1829 with a ‘Curl Base 2′ is much scarcer than the 1822.
The Douglas 1829 ‘Curl Base 2′ Dime is PCGS graded ‘Good-04′ and it perhaps barely qualifies for that grade. The Douglas 1836 is PCGS graded “MS-62.” I wonder why “Douglas” is selling these dimes. This group seems to be a ‘work in progress’ and was a good start to significant collection of Capped Bust Dimes.
This auction will not be remembered for Liberty Seated Dimes. Two of them, though, strongly impress me. An 1874 of the ‘with arrows’ subtype is an important type coin. For less than two years, in 1873 and in 1874, dimes were minted with the legend, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and arrows on the obverse (front of the coin). The arrows are at the sides of the numerals of the ‘date.’
The 1874, with arrows, in this auction is PCGS graded MS-65 with a well deserved CAC sticker. This dime certainly has the ‘look of a 66.’ Indeed, if it were not for some light scratches in the lower right field on the obverse, it would grade MS-66. It has pleasing, pale russet natural toning with some light blue overtones. Other light colors are apparent as well. This 1874 is more than very attractive.
The 1885-S issue is much scarcer than most collectors realize. It might even be rare, in all grades. Yes, an 1885-S in any grade is noteworthy. Many of the survivors are those that circulated to a substantial extent. The 1885-S dime in this auction is PCGS graded ‘Good-06,’ It was moderately cleaned at some point in the distant past. This 1885-S has nicely naturally retoned with well balanced shades of brown russet, tan and gray. Its grade is a solid ‘Good-06,’ in my view.
Among Proof Liberty Seated Dimes, an 1891 stands out. It is PCGS certified ‘Proof 66+ Deep Cameo’ and has a CAC sticker. Most experts would agree that it grades ’66+’! I find this coin to be particularly appealing.
The most important Barber Dime in this sale would be an attraction in any offering of Barber Dimes. It is an 1898-S that is PCGS graded MS-66 and has a CAC sticker. This 1898-S has excellent natural toning, mostly orange-russet, with greenish russet and blue shades, over underlying original luster. The reverse (back) is mostly russet-brown, with much original luster still shining. This dime has never been cleaned and may have never been dipped either. Yes, there are few shallow gashes, including one on the chin and another near Miss Liberty’s eye. For the most part, though, this coin has minimal imperfections. Further, it has well struck outer design elements. In my view, its grade is a mid range MS-66. Certainly, this coin is one of the four finest known 1898-S dimes.
Among the Proof Barber Dimes, the 1894 in this sale would be a terrific choice for a type set. This 1894 is PCGS certified ‘Proof-66′ and is CAC approved. I also like the 1897 in this sale, lot #3447. It has the same certification as the Proof 1894.
A Proof 1898 dime in this auction is well suited for the collector who wishes to spend less money than the just mentioned 1894 and 1897 dimes will cost. This 1898 is PCGS certified ‘Proof-63 Cameo’ and is CAC approved. It is an excellent ‘three grade’ Proof.
Only one of the Twenty Cent Pieces in this auction grabbed me, lot #3464, an 1875-S that is PCGS graded “MS-65+” and has a CAC sticker. Though lightly dipped, it is naturally retoning, with appealing russet shades, and features nice luster. I mention again that CAC approval of a plus graded coin does not necessarily indicate that experts at the CAC approved the plus grade. Regardless of whether CAC experts grade this coin 65 mid range or 65+, I grade it as 65+ and I like it.
There is a significant assortment of quarters in this auction and these may fit into a variety of collecting plans. The 1822 quarter in this auction is intriguing. It is NGC certified ‘MS-61 Prooflike,’ and it is very prooflike. It is not, though, a Proof, nor is it a Choice Uncirculated coin. While the reflective surfaces are not that deep, these are complete and give the coin a cool and special ‘look’! This 1822 is definitely uncirculated, indisputably prooflike, and has a distinctive ‘look’ for a certified “61” grade quarter.
The 1825/4 is much scarcer than the 1822 quarter issue. I like the 1825/4 in this auction that is PCGS graded ‘Very Fine-30.’ This quarter has naturally retoned a stable and appealing medium-gray. Plus, this 1825/4 has especially choice fields.
One of the highlights of this auction is a particularly satisfying run of circulated Liberty Seated Quarters. At least a few of them, perhaps, come from the same collection, as there is a consistency in the texture and overall appearance of many of these, which tend to be naturally toned in light to medium gray hues and have minimal contact marks in the fields. It takes time for a collector of circulated Liberty Seated Quarters to find coins that exhibit natural toning, lack significant contact marks and have no serious problems. Fortunately, there are quite a few such quarters in this auction.
The first piece in this run, an 1842-O, has been in a few Heritage auctions and may be part of a dealer-consignment. Even so, I like it and I am surprised that it has not recently been given a home for a long term. It is important to remember that a coin that grades ‘Fine-15′ is expected to have imperfections in addition to normal wear. This scarce 1842-O ‘Small Date’ is PCGS graded ‘Fine-15′ and has a CAC sticker. The toning, in my view, is definitely natural and is appealing. There are hardly any contact marks or scratches. This quarter is very nice for its certified grade.
The 1854-O ‘Huge O’ variety is extremely popular with collectors. Indeed, this issue has a special place in the history of coin collecting in the U.S. Evidently, the ‘O’ mintmark was engraved by hand into the die. In almost all other circumstances in the 19th Century, each mintmark was punched. Not only is the mintmark very large for a quarter, the ‘Huge O’ has a very curious look.
In this auction, there are three 1854-O ‘Huge O’ quarters. The first is PCGS graded VG-08 and I like it. I could understand how someone could challenge the assigned grade of 08, but I find this grade to be acceptable. After being lightly cleaned very long ago, this coin has retoned naturally and nicely. It has mellow brown-russet inner fields along with some blending of lavender and orange-russet tones in a few areas.
Though the second ‘Huge O’ coin is sharper, the Very Good-08 grade piece has more appealing toning. The second is PCGS graded ‘Fine-15′ and has a CAC sticker. It is naturally toned a dirty gray color, with light gray highpoints. A past light cleaning would only be noticed by coin experts.
The third is nice looking, though I doubt that it will turn out to be the best value of the three. The PCGS grade of Very Fine-35 is a little liberal and the CAC sticker is probably mostly due to its rather impressive surface quality. This coin certainly scores high in the category of originality. On the obverse (front), the fields are a brownish-russet color and, on the reverse, the fields are a light gray. On both sides, there are dirty gray natural developments about the devices, almost certainly from true circulation. For circulated coins, the sharpness of the design elements (devices) is not the only factor taken into consideration when a numerical grade is computed.
The 1856-S is a tough date and finding a pleasant uncirculated coin would be challenge. Indeed, 1856-S quarters are at least very scarce, and might be truly rare! Perhaps only ten gradable 1856-S quarters are uncirculated.
The 1856-S in this sale is important, PCGS graded Extremely Fine-45, with a CAC sticker. It has almost zero contact marks and no noticeable hairlines. This 1856-S is a pleasing, mellow coin, with a little naturally dirty-green toning about the design elements.
The 1859-S is an even better date than the 1856-S. It is probably rare! It may be impossible for a collector to find a truly uncirculated 1859-S quarter. Indeed, a collector of Liberty Seated Quarters would be lucky to acquire the circulated 1859-S in this auction, which is PCGS graded ‘Very Good-10′ and, unsurprisingly, is CAC approved. It is a pleasing coin, with standard medium gray, natural toning. Overall, it is a premium coin for the certified VG-10 grade.
The 1860-S is another elusive date in the series of Liberty Seated Quarters. Surely, it is definitely very scarce and probably rare! The 1860-S in this auction is PCGS graded “Fine-12.” I am not sure about its quality.
The 1861-S is in the same category of rarity as the 1859-S and the 1860-S, though may be the least scarce of these three dates. Nevertheless, all three of these are much scarcer than many collectors and dealers realize.
I have a positive impression of the 1861-S in this auction. It may have been very lightly cleaned many decades ago, or just accidentally exposed to liquid. It could have been in someone’s pocket on a rainy day.
This 1861-S has naturally retoned an appealing light gray color, with natural dirtiness about the design elements, which is a good sign. The fields are choice for a Very Fine grade coin. It is PCGS graded ‘Very Fine-25′ and is CAC approved. It is similar in appearance to some of the other circulated, better date Liberty Seated Quarters in this auction, which are pleasing overall. Indeed, this coin has choice fields.
As for the 1864-S, 1866-S and 1869 quarters in this auction, these are not as impressive as many of the earlier better date Liberty Seated Quarters in this auction. Even so, these are acceptable and should be considered by collectors who are assembling sets of Liberty Seated Quarters. Naturally toned, nice, better date Liberty Seated Quarters can be very hard to locate. On the whole, better date Liberty Seated Quarters are under-appreciated.
V. Rest of the auction
Unfortunately, it is just not practical to cover here all the coins that I have seen in this Summer FUN auction event. In different columns, I focus on different series. Before last week, I had not written much about dimes in a long time. During the past four years, I have not written a great deal about quarters. Moreover, I repeat that, in my discussions of the Summer FUN auction, I aim to provide information about coins that are not extremely expensive, as I will soon be writing about many extremely expensive coins that will be offered in the pre-ANA and ANA auctions in Chicago in August. Next week, I will write about some of the gold coins in this Summer FUN auction.
©2011 Greg Reynolds