by Al Doyle ...........
It's almost a given in modern numismatics. Top-level collections are sold by major auction houses, as exemplified by the ongoing dispersal of Eric P. Newman's impressive holdings.
Russell Augustin of AU Capital Management is taking a somewhat different approach, as he will be displaying a 150-piece collection of Pioneer gold coinage and related items at the upcoming Florida United Numismatists convention, which will take place January 9-12, 2014 in Orlando, Fla. The coins are available for purchase, but potential buyers won't be bidding for them lot by lot.
"We're putting together a 60-page brochure that highlights the six-figure coins along with what happened during the era and how the coins were minted," Augustin said.
High-profile auctions of top-tier collections often spark interest in specific areas, and that can lead to greater demand and rising values. Augustin and the unidentified owner of the Private Mints and Coins of the American Gold Rush collection obviously believe in another way to sell such coins.
"This is being done by one of my clients," Augustin said. "He is not in the coin business, but he has been a prominent collector for several decades. He's in no hurry to sell the coins."
Much of what is being offered was part of the Henry H. Clifford/Coins of the American West collection that was auctioned by Bowers & Ruddy in 1982. Augustin has long maintained an interest in the privately minted coins of the Gold Rush era, and that indirectly led to his involvement in the upcoming sale.
"Many of the coins that I once owned and sold have ended up in this collection," he remarked. "I'm seeing a lot of old favorites again." The Private Mints collection is where history and advanced numismatics merge into a rare opportunity.
With the wealth of pricing information and auction records at hand, putting together a fixed-price list for popular U.S. coin series isn't an exceptionally difficult task. It's a completely different story with this collection, as many pieces include some combination of condition census preservation, exceptional rarity and little price history or comparable results.
"It takes a lot of comparative analysis to decide how much to sell these coins for," Augustin said.
Narrowing down the highlights of the Private Mints collection is no small feat. Among the eight Augustus Humbert $50 gold slugs are a trio of 1851-dated octagonals. An .887 fine version is certified as AU-58 by the Numismatic Guaranty Corp., while $50s slabbed as AU-55 by the Professional Coin Grading Service and NGC are sure to attract advanced numismatists. All of the pieces display hand-punched edge lettering.
All early U.S. Gold Rush locations from North Carolina to Georgia, California, Oregon, Colorado and Mormon gold are represented, and Augustin described the 1830 Templeton Reid $5, NGC MS-61 as the star of the sale. Of the six known examples, two repaired pieces are possessed by the Smithsonian Institute. The AU Capital half eagle is the finest known. Mint State specimens of Bechtler $1, $2.50 and $5 are listed, while an 1849 Norris Gregg & Norris reeded edge $5 has an MS-61 designation from NGC.
Combine low mintages with frequent meltings, and it's safe to say that almost any territorial gold issue is rare. Patterns are scarcer still, and this collection contains several attention getters.
Check out the silver die trial of the 1849 Pacific Company $2.50. The PCGS AU-55 rarity is distinguished by a cap and rays theme reminiscent of Mexican coinage. An 1861 Clark Gruber copper die trial has been designated MS-64 brown by PCGS, while an 1861 Clark Gruber $20 in copper resides in an NGC EF-45 holder.
The Miners Bank of San Francisco struck underweight $10 gold for a short time in late 1849, which means a PCGS plain border AU-55 doesn't come along often. Expect lots of interest in the 1852 U.S. Assay Office of Gold $50. The .887 fine slug is graded AU-55 by NGC. Say "Wow!" after eyeing the 1853 Assay Office $20. This finest known example has been certified as MS-63 by NGC.
All Oregon gold is rare, and an 1849 NGC AU-55 $5 "beaver" is solidly in the condition census. Mormon gold such as the 1849 $2.50 NGC AU-55, 1850 $5 NGC MS-61 and 1860 $5 NGC MS-62 are in far better condition than average. Who could resist the Pikes Peak obverse on the 1860 Clark Gruber $10? It's an NGC EF-45 coin.
Even the lower grade and slightly less rare coins alone would make for a memorable collection, as this list includes 100 or so territorial gold coins and ingots. The Private Mints sale is where history and advanced numismatics merge, and opportunities to obtain such an assortment of territorial coinage seldom come along.