The Fabulous Eric Newman Coin Collection, part 8: Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Half Dollars
Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #197
A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds
Almost all of the U.S. silver coins that were in the Eric P. Newman Collection, plus some copper and nickel coins, were auctioned by Heritage on Nov. 15 and 16 in New York City. Here in the eighth part of a series, the focus is on Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Half Dollars. These were minted from 1801 to 1807 and are extremely popular. Certainly, Newman had one of the all-time best sets of these.
As was said in the sixth part, the Newman Collection will probably be best remembered for 19th century quarters, many of which were amazing and beautiful. As was said in the seventh part, the Newman Coin Collection had the best group of business strike early silver dollars to be auctioned since Eliasberg’s early dollars were auctioned in 1997. Indeed, it could be fairly argued that Newman’s business strike early dollars were superior, as a whole, than those that were owned by Louis Eliasberg, who built the all-time greatest collection of U.S. coins.
Flowing Hair Half Dollars were minted in 1794 and 1795. There were Draped Bust, Small Eagle Half Dollars (1796-97) before there were Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Half Dollars (1801-07). Newman’s 1796 halves were covered, in detail, in the fifth part. (Clickable links are in blue.) The whole design type of Draped Bust, Small Eagle Halves is very rare and most interested collectors will never be able to own a 1796 or 1797 half. In contrast, most Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Halves are not very rare, and finding type coins is easy. Even a set of almost all dates, including overdates, is not difficult. These are accessible and collectible.
The Newman Coin Collection Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle (1801-07) Half Dollars are meaningful to a large number of collectors. Besides, many of the collectors who cannot afford Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Halves that grade above AU-55 can afford circulated coins. Indeed, this is an early type of U.S. coins that thousands of collectors are willing and able to collect. Plus, more than one hundred thousand coin collectors can afford to spend around $200 for one Draped Bust Heraldic Eagle in Good-04 or -06 grade, as a representative of the design type.
I. Finest 1801 Half Dollar?
This Newman-Green 1801 Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Half Dollar is NGC graded MS-64 and it has a sticker of approval from the CAC. Many of Newman’s pre-1840 silver coins were earlier in the collection of Col. E.H.R. Green.
The Newman-Green 1801 scores very high in the category of originality and is very attractive overall. If not for some contact marks in the right inner field on the obverse, this would be a gem quality (MS-65 grade) coin, for sure. This is the one Newman Collection Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Half Dollar that towers above the rest.
The color on the obverse is terrific. Various shades of russet, including reddish and orange-russet hues, are wonderful, and are nicely balanced by green tones. The creamy russet-gray and brown-russet inner fields are memorable as well.
On the reverse (back of the coin), the Heraldic Eagle and nearby fields have toned a greenish gray. The outer fields and outer design elements are multicolored. A few contact marks on the shield are not very distracting. This is a really cool coin.
Though the PCGS graded MS-63, Jimmy Hayes 1801 is attractive, too, the Newman-Green 1801 might very well be the finest known 1801 half. I witnessed the Hayes 1801 sell for $95,450 on Jan. 9, 2005 in Fort Lauderdale, in a Spectrum-B&M auction that I covered for Numismatic News newspaper. The Hayes 1801 sold again in April 2009, as part of the “Joseph Thomas Collection,” for $184,000, when markets for rare U.S. coins were bottoming!
Regarding this Newman 1801, Richard Burdick remarks, “I graded the coin 64. This is one of the top three of the date. Technical grade-wise, the Jimmy Hayes coin is finer than this one, and maybe more original. But, the Hayes coin does not have the pretty toning on this one. I like this Newman 1801 a great deal. I was very impressed by it.
The Newman-Green 1801 brought $329,000 to a floor bidder. It is very difficult to gauge the value of this coin. Although an AU-58 grade 1801 is worth less than $50,000, there are only two to four that truly grade above MS-60. In my view, the grade of the Newman 1801 is in the high end of the 64 range and it is an extremely appealing coin. Also, the past dipping of this coin is less apparent than such past dipping, respectively, of many of the other Newman-Green silver coins in this auction.
Somehow, for reasons that are not fully explainable, $329,000 is a moderate price for this coin. This coin and other relatively high grade 1801 halves have to be seen for the importance and eye appeal of the Newman 1801 to be fully appreciated.
In all grades, 1801 halves are very scarce, not rare. Fewer than one thousand are known.
A PCGS or NGC certified 1801 in Very Good grade would retail for a price between $1000 and $2000, depending upon the characteristics of the individual coin. If a VG-08 or -10 grade 1801 half exhibits natural toning, is relatively original and has no serious problems, it may be an excellent value from logical, cultural and historical perspectives.
II. Key 1802 Half Dollar
The 1802 half in the Newman Collection is not gradable and was not in the Platinum Night auction session. Even so, I wish that I had seen it. This is the key date of the Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle type, though the 1801 is in the same category of rarity.
Evidently, scratches on the obverse (front of the coin) have been smoothed with tools. It may have additional problems. It also may, however, possibly have colorful toning like that found on many of the Newman-Green, pre-1840 silver coins in the Platinum Night session. The Newman 1802 half sold during the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 16, for $9400.
This 1802 is said by experts at the NGC to have the “Details” of an AU grade coin, which is an important pronouncement. How many uncirculated 1802 halves exist? The PCGS reports grading two as “MS-62,” though I wonder about the identities of these two. Besides, an early U.S. coin does not have to be strictly uncirculated in order to be fairly graded “62” by the PCGS or the NGC.
III. 1803 Halves
Although the Newman-Green 1803-Large Three half is among the top ten known, it is NGC graded MS-61 and that grade is debatable. Most of the scratches are not apparent without magnification. Even so, some are of medium depth. As the attractive natural toning offsets the negative impact of the scratches, it is not easy to formulate a net grade; 61 is fair enough, though some experts might tend towards a grade of 60. The price realized of $30,550 is strong to very strong.
The 1803-‘Small Three’ is even harder to find in AU to ‘mint state’ (“MS”) grades than the 1803-‘Large Three.’ Though the Newman-Green ‘Small Three’ 1803 is NGC graded AU-58 and is CAC approved, the hairlines on Miss Liberty are significant. Some are so deep that they qualify as scratches. The delightful toning deflects attention from the technical imperfections. The $17,625 auction result is strong.
IV. 1805/4 Overdate
There are no genuine 1804 half dollars. The Newman-Green, NGC graded 1805/4 is one of the most famous half dollars in this auction. At most, six 1805/4 halves grade above MS-62, perhaps only three or four. Furthermore, this issue is rare or nearly so in all grades. It is an overdate that is typically collected as a distinct date. In another words, people who are assembling sets ‘by date’ typically demand both an 1805/4 and an 1805 ‘Normal Date’!
The technical component of this coin’s grade is very high. I could not find notable contact marks or scratches. In addition, the medium brownish-russet toning is stable and is of the hues that are often found on 19th century silver coins. After having been moderately dipped, probably in the 1930s, this coin has has naturally retoned to an extent, more so on the obverse. Generally, though, the Newman-Green Draped Bust Halves do not exhibit the kinds of beautiful colors that are exhibited by many of the Newman-Green Draped Bust and Capped Bust Quarters. This coin, in particular, has typical natural toning, rather than especially colorful toning. Even so, this 1805/4 is attractive, is technically strong, has much underlying luster, and indisputably merits a grade in the middle of the 65 range.
There are two, at most, 1805/4 halves that are PCGS graded MS-65. At the moment, I do not remember seeing even one of them. Another 1805/4 is also NGC graded “MS-65.” Even if it is believed that there are four different 1805/4 halves that each truly merit a “65” grade, and I doubt that this point is true, there are zero certified at the MS-64 level. The Newman-Green 1805/4 is certainly among very few that grade above MS-62.
The $152,750 result is one of the few weak prices in this auction. Even though it lacks the colorful toning found on many of the quarters and quite a few of the pre-1840 halves, it is an accurately graded coin of tremendous importance, one of the three finest known representatives of a readily visible overdate that is probably truly rare overall.
This is the only 1805/4 of a grade above AU-58 that is CAC approved. Further, the CAC has approved just one as AU-58 and just two at the AU-55 level, one of which is in this auction.
The Newman-Green AU-55 grade 1805/4 is much more colorful than the Newman-Green MS-65 grade 1805/4. There are plenty of neat natural tones, especially shades of blue, green, and orange-russet. This is a great AU-55 grade coin. The price realized of $19,975 is moderate to slightly strong.
V. 1805 ‘Normal Date’ Halves
Three 1805 ‘Normal Date’ halves were in the Platinum Night session. To the best of my recollection, an 1805 normal date has never been PCGS or NGC graded MS-64 or higher. So, those that may grade from 61 to 63 are important condition rarities.
If a coin has very attractive natural toning, is well struck for its issue, has light to moderate friction and has some medium hairlines (or worse lines), it is especially hard to compute a single numerical grade that incorporates and balances all such factors. For pre-1840 U.S. coins, it is often much more difficult to grade coins that fall into the 58 to 63 range than it is to grade coins that clearly merit 64 or higher grades. The reality that coins with some friction, even friction that I call ‘wear,’ often are certified as grading 61 or 62, sometimes even 63, must be comprehended if the grades and values of these in actual market environments are to be understood. These three Newman Collection 1805 ‘Normal Date’ halves are inherently difficult to grade, by any expert.
The grades and prices realized of these three 1805 ‘Normal Date’ Half Dollar: “62” $21,150, “63” $28,200, “63+” $42,593.75. While the result for the certified “63+” 1805 might sound like a high price, it is probably the best value of the three. Though a “63+” grade for this coin may never be accepted by 80% of all relevant experts, it is the highest quality coin of these three and it is excellent. I suggest that a majority of relevant experts would determine its grade to be in the low end or middle of the 63 range, probably the middle. Could it be the finest known 1805 ‘Normal Date’ half?
The certified “62” 1805 is much more colorful. It would be the most enjoyable of the three to own. If it did not have substantial apparent friction, it would have sold for many multiples of the price that it realized.
In addition to fourteen Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Half Dollars in the Platinum Night session on Friday, there were nine in the auction session that was conducted during the afternoon of Nov.16, a Saturday. I already the mentioned the 1802. There were three 1806/5 overdate halves in this Saturday afternoon session. I did not view them.
VI. 1806 Half Dollars
People who collect Draped Bust Half Dollars in grades above AU-53 generally seek three different 1806 halves in addition to an 1806/5: the 1806 with a ‘Knob Six’ numeral, the 1806 with a ‘Pointed Six,’ and the 1806/6. On an obverse (front) die, a regular pointed six was punched over a six that had been mistakenly punched such that it was ‘inverted’ or rotated 180 degrees. The 1806/6 issue is sometimes listed as an “1806/9,” which is fair enough.
The Newman Coin Collection had two 1806-Pointed Six halves that are each NGC graded MS-64 and each CAC approved, which were sold as lot #333431 and lot #33432. I estimate that there are around twenty 1806-Pointed Six halves in existence in total that most relevant experts would grade as MS-64 or higher.
The first (#33431) is attractive to very attractive and the second (#33432) is even more attractive. The first has been very apparently dipped, though is still likable. The relative lack of originality and several contact marks prevent a 65 grade from being a consideration, though the assigned 64 grade is not controversial. The retoning consists of common shades of russet with a few small touches of blue. Rather than having the beautiful toning that characterized many of the Newman 19th century quarters, this half has relatively typical toning. It is, though, very lustrous. The price realized, $35,250, is strong, though well within the realm of reason.
The second 64 grade 1806-Pointed Six is weakly struck and has some minor scratches. Even so, it is even more attractive than the first. This second 1806-Pointed Six has the eye appeal that would be associated with a 65 or even a 66 grade. The hairlines from a light to moderate cleaning, perhaps more than a century ago, are consistent with a 64 grade. I was more concerned about a few horizontal lines that may only be seen when the coin is tilted at odd angles. These could be a reason why this 1806 brought $28,250, more than $7000 less than the just mentioned first Newman Collection, MS-64 grade 1806-Pointed Six. In my view, this second one is a much prettier coin, and grades higher by a small fraction of a point than the first one. The successful bidder for this second 64 grade Pointed Six was a dealer who is one of the sharpest graders in the nation.
An NGC graded “MS-62” 1806-Pointed Six, which sold as lot #33428, has some readily apparent friction and is not exciting. It brought a strong price, $12,925. A moderate price for this coin would have been perhaps $10,200.
If there was or is an 1806-Knob Six (other than an 1806/5 overdate) in the Newman Collection, I am not aware of it. It is extremely likely that an 1806-Knob Six is in the Newman Money Museum or was sold privately at some point. Newman would probably not collect twenty-three Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Halves and exclude an 1806-Knob Six.
The 1806/6 is scarce in all grades and is extremely rare in grades above 60. A pressing question is whether the Newman 1806/6 really merits the “MS-61” grade that has been assigned by the NGC. It does not have a CAC sticker, though it probably would have qualified for a CAC sticker if it had been graded 58.
Really wonderful ‘Almost Uncirculated’ coins are often certified by the NGC or by the PCGS as 61 or 62. Are there any 1806/6 halves in existence that are more enticing than this one? There may be at least two that are of a higher grade.
The auction result of $28,200 is a fair retail price for an ‘AU-58+’ grade 1806/6 half. The Newman 1806/6 is a wonderful coin; AU-58+ is probably its true grade; and the auction price is perfectly sensible.
VII. 1807 Draped Bust Half
The Newman Collection Draped Bust 1807 half in the Platinum Night session is NGC graded “MS-65.” This coin did not recover as well from being dipped as most of the other Newman-Green pre-1840 silver coins.
The price realized of $70,500 is strong to very strong. Some relevant auction participants probably figured the auction value of an NGC graded MS-65 1807 at around $50,000, maybe $60,000 with a Newman premium.
So many of the bust halves, and bust quarters especially, in this collection recovered marvelously from having been dipped long ago, probably in the 1930s. Though there is some natural retoning, acid-modified fields of this coin are just too bothersome for my personal taste. The reverse has more luster than the obverse. There are quite a few very light hairlines, from a very light cleaning. In accordance with widely accepted grading criteria, it probably merits the 65 grade that experts at the NGC awarded it. It is, though, a coin that most sophisticated collectors would not be enthusiastic about.
The PCGS has graded six 1807 Draped Bust Half Dollars as “MS-65.” This coin has perhaps a 55% chance of becoming the seventh, if it is soon submitted to the PCGS. The NGC has so graded eight. Both the PCGS and the NGC have each graded just one 1807 Draped Bust Half Dollar at a level above MS-65. This total of sixteen, certified gems amounts to maybe eleven different coins.
Though 1807 Draped Bust Half Dollars are not rare overall, these are condition rarities in MS-65 grade. The importance of the Draped Bust Heraldic Eagle Half Dollars in the Newman Collection has been overlooked. Several of these place in the condition rankings for their respective dates, including overdates, and a few are among the top four known. Did Newman have the finest known 1801 and the finest known 1805 ‘Normal Date’ Half Dollars?
©2013 Greg Reynolds