The ANA Rarities Night, Part 3: Capped Bust Dimes, Proof 1893-CC Silver Dollar, and Historic Gold Bars

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds
News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #124 …..

In association with the ANA Convention in Philadelphia, Stack’s-Bowers conducted an auction extravaganza that lasted for several days. The night of Thursday, Aug. 9th was special.

The lead event was the auction of a complete collection of U.S. coins that were struck in Carson City Nevada, the “Battle Born Collection,” about which I have already written extensively.

Next, the coins listed in the Rarities Night catalogue were offered. My column on Monday is about the quarters. Earlier, I wrote about cents and 1796 dated coins in this Rarities Night event.

I now discuss Capped Bust Dimes, a Proof 1893-CC Morgan Silver Dollar, and two large, historic gold bars.

The few Capped Bust Dimes in this Rarities Night are scarce and important. Herein, I cover three of them.

The PCGS certified “Proof-65” 1893-CC is stunning and really neat. Carson City Mint coins are at the forefront of the news and Morgan Dollars are extremely popular with coin buyers. Additionally, the two large gold bars in this sale are unusual and are particularly newsworthy.

I. 1811/09 Dime

In the series of Capped Bust Dimes, the 1811/09 overdate is a much ‘better date’! Indeed, it is scarcer than and worth a substantial premium over most other dates of this type. Furthermore, there are no 1811 ‘normal numerals’ dimes and there are no other dimes dating from 1810 to 1813. The 1811/09 thus attracts more attention than most of the other dates in this series.

The 1811/09 in this auction is NGC graded “MS-65.” I believe that it is the same 1811/09 that appeared in the Spectrum-B&M auction of March 2005, as lot #435. I did not attend that event. On Aug. 9, 2012, this dime sold for $19,550.

Matt Kleinsteuber declares that this 1811/09 is a “beautiful coin. I agreed with the NCG-65, but I don’t know if PCGS would grade it [as] MS-65.” A dealer price guide values this coin at “$27,000,” Matt says, yet “it brought $19,500, more than [relevant] auction records. I think the sheet is wrong [in this case]; this 1811/09 dime brought a premium price, deserving of its quality. I bid more than $16,000, for inventory,” Kleinsteuber reveals. Matt is the lead trader and grader for NFC coins, and is an instructor at ANA grading seminars.

Jim McGuigan also very much likes this coin. Jim is a specialist in pre-1840 U.S. coins of all metals. McGuigan, though, disagrees with the certified MS-65 grade, and regards this coin as “a nice 64.” Jim suggests that the PCGS would probably grade this coin as MS-64 as well, if it was submitted to the PCGS.

Richard Burdick also grades this 1811/09 as “MS-64.” Richard emphasizes that, “in MS-64 and higher grades, the 1811/09 is much rarer than most collectors realize. The PCGS and NGC population reports way overstate the number that exist” in the MS-64 and higher range, Richard says. Over a period of more than four decades, Burdick has been very much involved in the building of several major collections, including the epic ‘Foxfire’ type set.

II. Key 1822 Dime

Although the 1811/09 is a better date, the 1822 is the undisputed key to the series of Capped Bust Dimes. The one in this Rarities Night event is PCGS graded ‘Extremely Fine-45.’ Matt suggests that it “will eventually end up grading AU-50.” It realized $10,575.

“I love 1822 dimes,” Kleinsteuber exclaims. “I have handled just two in the past four years, both graded VG or lower. This is a very nice one, a very strong price if you are just looking at [particular price guides], but if you are looking at the quality and the rarity, $10,500 is not too much to pay, ” Matt says. Jim McGuigan has a very positive impression of this coin, too.

In my view, $10,575 is a moderate price. Further, this purchase is a good deal, from a logical perspective. This 1822 is a particularly desirable representative of the key date of a whole design type. Also, it was formerly in the collection of David J. Davis, a famous collector and author.

III. 1829 ‘Curl Base 2’ Dime

The 1829 dime variety with a ‘Curl Base 2’ is sometimes regarded as having the status of being a distinct ‘date.’ The curl bottom ‘2’ in the date is clearly different from the ‘2’ in the much less scarce 1829 square or flat base ‘2' dime.

Some collectors of Capped Bust Dimes ‘by date’ demand two 1829 dimes for their respective sets. If this were a distinct date, it would be the rarest date in the Capped Bust Dime series, much rarer than the 1822. I note that the guide does not list it, though does list the ‘1828 Large Date, Curl 2’ and the 1830/29 overdate.

This 1829 ‘Curl Base 2’ is the third dime in a row in this sale to be pedigreed to David Davis, whose name appears on the label (insert) inside the PCGS holder. It is graded Fine-15 and is one of the finest known 1829 ‘Curl Base 2’ dimes.

Coincidentally, Heritage auctioned a PCGS graded Fine-12 1829 ‘Curl Base 2’ dime on Aug. 3rd, in Philadelphia in their pre-ANA Platinum Night event. That one sold for $18,800.

Though assigned a higher numerical grade by the PCGS, this one brought less, $12,925. Kleinsteuber remarks that “most of them come screwed up. This one is pretty nice. [It is a] very well known variety, pretty easy to sell, could have brought $15,000, moderate price for a rarity.” Matt continues, “$12,925 is a wholesale price, in my opinion, especially for that coin,” Kleinsteuber insists.

In my view, the surfaces of the 1829 ‘Curl Base 2’ dime in the Heritage pre-ANA sale are of higher quality than the surfaces on the one in the Stack’s-Bowers Rarities Night. (Surface quality is different from level of detail.) Given the rarity of this issue and the difficulty of finding pleasant, gradable 1829 ‘Curl Base 2’ dimes, neither the $18,800 price on Aug. 3rd nor the $12,925 price on Aug. 9th is strong. As I said, there are thousands of people who collect Capped Bust Dimes. These are good values for the buyers.

IV. Excalibur Proof 1893-CC Morgan

In this Rarities Night event, an 1893-CC Morgan sold for an astounding price of $218,500. I have examined this 1893 Carson City Mint Morgan Silver Dollar on at least four occasions. I never get tired of it.

This 1893-CC silver dollar was PCGS certified ‘Proof-65’ in 2004 or earlier. It was part of the Excalibur Collection of Proof Morgans that was sold in 2005. Later, it received a sticker of approval from the CAC.

On Jan. 12, 2005, this same 1893-CC was auctioned by Spectrum-B&M in a pre-FUN auction in Fort Lauderdale. I covered that event for Numismatic News newspaper. My review is still online on a dealer’s website. This 1893-CC then sold for $132,250.

This 1893-CC dollar appeared in the Stack’s Jan. 5, 2009 sale in Orlando and it was in the Stack’s sale of the Cornelius Vermeule Collection in Nov. 2001. I will further research the history of 1893-CC dollars.

Additionally, this Excalibur 1893-CC appeared in the Summer 2009 ANA auction by Spectrum-B&M in Los Angeles, in which it did not sell. I am also certain that it appeared in the first Stack’s-Bowers Rarities Night event, which was held in the Chicago area on Aug. 18, 2011. It then sold for $149,500. A rise from $149,500 to $218,500 in one year is substantial. Before the Aug. 9, 2012 Rarities Night event, the PCGS retail price guide value was $195,500.

John Albanese regards the current $218,500 price as “strong.”Andy Lustig finds this result to be “a very strong price,” and I agree. Richard Burdick states that the $218,500 is “extremely strong”!

I very much like this coin. The Excalibur 1893-CC is more than very attractive. Indeed, it is fantastic.

The colors are wonderful and the toning is definitely natural. It is super-colorful and the colors are amazingly balanced on the reverse (back of the coin.) When tilted under a lamp, phenomenal colors on the obverse (front) became exceptionally apparent, including pink, russet, and several shades of green.

The reverse by itself certainly grades 67, or 67+! If not for significant contact marks on the face, the whole coin would easily grade 67 or higher. The marks on the face are substantial, however, and several are noticeable without a magnifying glass. Even so, as is, it could be fairly argued that this coin merits a 66 grade.

“It is beautiful,” Albanese exclaims. John is the founder and president of the CAC.

In Richard Burdick’s opinion, this 1893-CC “is not a real Proof as we know it. It is a coin struck from relapped and heavily polished dies.”

Albanese maintains that it is “unquestionably a Proof.” Andy Lustig finds that “it is not a slam-dunk Proof. If there are any Branch Mint Proof Morgans, this is definitely one of them,” Andy says.

I found that it took several minutes of examination and analysis to conclude that this coin is not a business strike and is likely to be a Proof. Regarding this and similar 1893-CC Morgans, I do not agree with Mark Van Winkle’s view regarding the significance of diagnostics, especially die state characteristics.

U.S. Mint personnel could easily use the same pair of dies during the same day to make Proofs and non-Proofs. There were not rules restricting their behavior in this regard. Regardless of the pair of dies used, or the die state, a coin must fulfill minimum criteria for a Proof to be a Proof. If it fails, then it is not a Proof, even if it was made with dies that were used to make Proofs before and afterwards.

The dentils and design elements seem square enough, more squared than on the certified “Proof” 1879-O Morgan that appeared in the same auctions as this coin in Aug. 2009 and Aug. 2011. I found it helpful to lay the two side by side along with a Philadelphia Mint Proof Morgan. The CC mintmark on this coin is relatively more square than the O mintmark on the just mentioned 1879-O Morgan. The numerals are flatter on top and more blocklike than corresponding numerals on the 1879-O and on business strike Morgans.

The mirrors on this 1893-CC are much different from those on Deep Mirror Prooflike (DMPL) Morgan Dollars. Further, the characteristics of the mirrors and the fields of this 1893-CC suggests that the blank used was buffed. Put differently, it is likely that this coin was struck on a buffed planchet, though it could have been just an exceptionally smooth planchet. Also, the rims on this 1893-CC are defined a little differently than the rims on business strike CC Morgans that I remember.

There are some other characteristics relating to the strike and the relationship of the devices to the fields that lead me to conclude that this coin is very likely to be a Proof, and definitely not an ordinary business strike. In some ways, it is a borderline case. It seems very likely that it just barely fullfill minimum criteria for Proof status. My definition of a Proof, however, is in contrast to some others. I disagree with the approaches of researchers who have recently emphasized the role of U.S. Mint records in understanding Proofs. I also disagree with experts who focus almost exclusively on a coin’s mirrors.

I contend that full mirror surfaces are not sufficient to demonstrate that a coin is a Proof and that U.S. Mint records are of secondary importance. The major difference between a Proof and a business strike relates to the relationships between the devices and the fields. Despite its flaws, Breen’s Proof coin encyclopedia, which was published in 1977 and reprinted in 1989, remains the best reference on this subject, by far. Moreover, I hope that interested readers refer to some of my previous articles, in which I analyze the Proof status of important coins, including an 1876-CC dime and a 1907-D Double Eagle. (Please remember that clickable links are in blue.) I recently discussed the Proof status of an 1820 quarter in the Heritage pre-ANA Platinum Night event.

V. Historic Gold Bars

While Proofs were usually very carefully made, 19th century gold bars were crudely made. Yet, the most expensive item listed in the Rarities Night catalogue is not a coin; it is a rare gold bar. Numerous gold bars were found in the wreck of the S.S. Central America. Such bars served as stores of value. Essentially, a large amount of gold was cast into a bar and was marked, by a recognized firm, as to weight and fineness.

As gold is so soft, it is practical to include copper and other metals in a gold alloy. Indeed, most U.S. gold coins consist of ninety percent gold and about ten percent copper.

In the middle of the 19th century, most people on the West Coast were not accepting of paper money or ‘paper’ monetary instruments, like checks. Presumably, gold bars were used in large transactions, perhaps for real estate.

These bars are often termed ingots. According to Adam Crum and the Monaco website, “There were only 532 monetary ingots recovered in the shipwreck, and all were produced by five different assay companies located in San Francisco: 34 from Blake & Co., 37 from Harris, Marchand & Co., 33 from Henry Hentsch Co., 85 from Justh & Hunter and 343 from the offices of Kellogg & Humbert.”

The Harris Marchand bar in this auction weighs 174.04 ounces and is “942 FINE,”meaning that it is 94.2% gold. This bar has other characteristics that specialists in this field regard as particularly significant, which I will not attempt to explain here.

In my view, the weight and the Harris Marchand name are, by far, the two main factors relating to the importance of this bar. There are few potential buyers who would be concerned about other details.

This bar sold for $891,250. Adam Crum, of Monaco Rare Coins, was the successful bidder.

Andy Lustig remarks that “this is not a bargain, [though] is a really good value.” For decades, Lustig has been an expert in territorial gold coins, which are related to the bars found in the wreck of the S.S. Central America.

Albanese, in contrast, finds the $891,250 result to be “a lot of money, a very strong price. At the Sotheby’s sale in 2000 [of some items] from the Central America, a lot of [relatively heavy] bars brought a modest percentage over melt. Those were bargains. The market has changed since then. [Even so,] this bar sold for a lot more than I thought it would,” Albanese indicates. Dwight Manley and John Albanese owned the firm that purchased most of the S.S. Central America treasure from the group that discovered the shipwreck and excavated the site.

This was not the only rare gold bar in this auction. The next lot was a Kellogg & Humbert bar that weighs 111.63 ounces and is marked as “896 FINE,” 89.6% gold. This item sold for $218,500, a result which Albanese refers to as a “logical price.”

Many of the people who collect Western gold bars also collect territorial gold coins. This is a complex and specialized area.

There were many regular issue, U.S. gold coins in this Rarities Night event. I plan to write about some of them in the future. Also, in this sale, there was a special striking 1876-CC dime that I will certainly analyze.

©2012 Greg Reynolds

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