News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #319
A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds........
On Tuesday, February 9, Stack’s Bowers, in association with Sotheby’s, conducted the third in a series of auction of the Pogue Family Coin Collection. Last week, this third auction was reviewed in depth. In October, the second auction was reviewed. Now, the focus is on business strike Reich (‘Lettered Edge’) Capped Bust half dollars from the 1830s.
As these are not rare and not particularly interesting, they're rarely mentioned in the "news", yet thousands of collectors demand them. One in Good-04 grade might cost around $50. Many dates in VF-20 grade could be found for around $100 each. A past discussion was devoted to advice for assembling a set of nearly all Capped Bust halves for less than $500 per coin.
There are quite a few halves from the 1830s that grade 65 and higher. While many of the coins in the Pogue Collection are extremely rare or are extreme condition rarities in choice to gem grades, Capped Bust halves from the 1830s are available. These are realistic pursuits for many collectors and do not cost six-figure prices.
Dale Friend, along with many specialists in Capped Bust halves, note that there is “greater” interest in the half dollars that date from “1807 to 1821.” There are many general collectors, however, who buy just one Reich Capped Bust half. For someone who seeks just one Capped Bust half or is buying his first bust half, a coin from the early to mid-1830s is often selected, as these tend to be relatively inexpensive type coins. The Pogues had one of the all-time greatest groups of halves from the 1830s. I will discuss the Pogue Collection Proofs in the future.
Epic Sets of Capped Bust Half Dollars
Although the Pogues assembled the best set of Capped Bust quarters to ever be publicly auctioned, the ranking of the Pogue set of Capped Bust half dollars is not as apparent. There may be a need for a coin by coin comparison with the Capped Bust halves of Eliasberg, before a fair conclusion should be drawn.
“We can thank Clapp [the father] for the excellent quality of Eliasberg’s bust halves. Other than the 1817/4, I do not remember a bust half that Eliasberg personally bought for his collection,” Saul Teichman exclaims. It is relevant that the Pogue Collection had a large number of coins that were earlier in the Eliasberg Collection, including a few of the halves discussed herein.
Also, the incredibly rare Pogue Collection 1822 and 1854-S half eagles were purchased at the auction in New York, by Bowers & Ruddy, of Eliasberg’s U.S. gold coins in October 1982. Most dates in the series of Capped Bust halves are not rare at all. The only great rarity is the 1817/4, to which I devoted an article last year.
Choice to gem grade, “Capped Bust half dollars were cheap and plentiful from 1900 to the 1920s,” reveals Teichman. Saul and I agree that some collections that were sold between 1907 and 1921, including those of Stickney and Earle, had amazing bust halves. The Virgil Brand Collection did as well, which was sold privately at times from the 1930s to the 1990s.
“Both Virgil Brand and Col. Green had large quantities of high grade bust halves, certainly collected ‘by date,’ maybe by variety,” Saul Teichman theorizes as a byproduct of decades of research. Saul also figures that at least two of the collections of half dollars that were sold by Stack’s during the 1960s and '70s may have had relevant runs of gem quality Capped bust halves. More research is needed before meaningfully ranking past sets of Capped Bust halves in terms of quality.
Historical concepts notwithstanding, most of the Pogue halves from the 1830s are extremely impressive and fared well in the Pogue III event. “Overall, the prices realized for the Capped Bust half dollars in Pogue III were moderate to strong, with only a handful getting bought by the bottom-dwellers, either dealers looking to wholesale or collectors considering only the price,” concludes Dale Friend. He has been a leading collector for decades and Dale is a specialist in Capped Bust halves, with an impressive PCGS registry set.
“Later date [Reich] Capped Bust halves are much easier to find in gem [MS-65] and above grades compared to the Pogue II sale early dates. Nonetheless, the later date examples in the collection included some spectacular coins. The competition in this segment of the market remains fierce compared to quite a few other sectors and strong demand remains for technically high end Capped Bust halves,” explains Charles Link, in response to my inquiry. Chuck was a leading bidder for Capped Bust halves at the Pogue II and Pogue III sales.
Reich and Gobrecht Capped Bust Halves
The type of bust half dollar that is named ‘Lettered Edge’ should properly be termed Reich Capped Bust half. References to the Capped Bust half dollars that date from 1807 to 1836 as ‘Lettered Edge’ and to those dating from 1836 to 1839 as ‘Reeded Edge, while true, are misleading and counter-educational. Names relating to just the edge give the impression that the difference in edge devices is the only difference or is the primary difference between these two design types of Capped Bust halves. The truth is that there are many differences; they are the creations of different artisans.
John Reich designed the Capped Bust half dollars of 1807 to 1836. Those dating from 1836 to 1839 appear much different and are largely the work of Christian Gobrecht, who was was also the father of Liberty Seated coins. Therefore, the ‘Lettered Edge’ halves are properly termed Reich Capped Bust halves and the following type with a ‘Reeded Edge’ should be called Gobrecht Capped Bust halves.
Reich Capped Bust halves are not rare, as thousands of most dates survive. If the 1830 ‘Large Letters’ is collected as if it is a distinct date, then it could fairly be termed ‘rare,’ though there was not one in the Pogue Collection and is thus besides the present topic.
Although the denomination (“50 C.”) is on the reverse (back of the coin), the 1836 overdenomination error is often collected as a distinct date. People who collect a series ‘by date’ will sometimes figure that two or more coins of a particular year are needed for a set if some major varieties are granted the status of distinct dates.
I have never met anyone who collects a series just ‘by year.’ In most cases, for there to be two dates of the same year in a series of coins, there has to be a readily noticeable difference on the obverse (front). A difference that relates to the numerals of the year is usually considered to be more important than minor variations in the design elements.
In the case of the 1836 overdenomination, the zero under the five is barely noticeable. The one in the Pogue III sale is PCGS graded as “MS-65” and is not CAC approved. I am not commenting on this coin’s grade. It realized $35,250, a very strong price. Even a price of $25,000 would have been strong.
Both of the 1830 halves in the Pogue III sale are each PCGS-graded as MS-66+, although there is a substantial difference in quality between the two. The Eliasberg-Pogue 1830 ‘Small 0’ is a terrific coin. The light tan hues, mellow gray shades and green outer fields are all natural. This coin scores incredibly high in the category of originality.
The Eliasberg-Pogue 1830 ‘Small 0’ is one of the three finest known 1830 halves of any variety. In February 2009, the Goldbergs auctioned the lone PCGS graded MS-67 1830 ‘Small 0’ for $37,570.
This Eliasberg-Pogue, “MS-66+” grade 1830 sold for $28,200, a strong price, though not very strong. In addition to likely being the second finest known 1830 ‘Small 0’ and the finest of the O-123 die pairing, it is a wonderful type coin with an excellent pedigree.
All other factors being truly equal, a gem 1830 ‘Large 0’ would be worth significantly more than an 1830 ‘Small 0.’ The 1830 ‘Large 0’ major variety is dramatically more of a condition rarity in the gem range than the ‘Small 0.’
Although each has been PCGS graded as “MS-66+,” the 1830 ‘Large 0’ in this auction brought less, $21,850, than the 1830 ‘Small 0,’ $28,200. All other factors were not equal. Two coins with the same “MS-66+” assignment may differ substantially in quality.
The Eliasberg-Pogue 1831 is likable. It is PCGS-graded as MS-66 and CAC-approved. Although it is barely ‘solid for the grade,’ it is certainly a pleasant coin, relatively original, technically impressive and very attractive. The $16,450 result was fair enough. In June 2005, this same coin was auctioned by ANR for $14,950.
The Pogues had business strike and Proof 1832 halves, both of which were earlier in the collection of John J. Pittman. The PCGS graded MS-67 1832 is of the ‘Small Letters’ major variety. The next highest certified by PCGS of this major variety is MS-64. Although $42,300 is a respectable price, if most interested bidders really regarded this as a solid MS-67 grade coin, bidding would have gone wild, as bidding did for many superb Capped Bust halves in the Pogue II sale. I suggest that this 1832 would have been CAC approved if it had been graded as MS-66?
Very Original 1833
The PCGS-graded “MS-67+” 1833 brought $70,500. The colors are terrific, especially the shades of green. Also, the reverse is virtually flawless.
If the just mentioned 1832 was of the quality of this 1833, it would have brought much more than $42,300. They are both type coins in the sense that they are among the least scarce issues of the Reich Capped Bust design type.
The 1833 is not rare at all. PCGS data indicates that more than 2,000 have received numerical grades from PCGS, including more than 20 as MS-65 or higher. There are many Good-04 to Fine-12 grade 1833 halves that have never been submitted to PCGS or NGC.
Less than one year ago, Heritage sold a PCGS graded MS-65 1833, with a CAC sticker, for $9,106.25. So, it may be true that it is the quality of the Pogue 1833, or just its certification, that brought about the $70,500 result. It is not of a rare die pairing. I hope that originality was a prime factor in the minds of leading bidders for this coin.
This Pogue 1833 is now in multiple PCGS registry sets, each of which was assembled by “ICRF03.” He is a sophisticated collector who is interested in more than just the registry set scores. Even if there never was a registry set program, he would have collected Capped Bust halves with the same level of enthusiasm.
Under five-times magnification, a few lines on Miss Liberty’s face bother me personally, though not many other people would notice them. A coin does not have to appear flawless, under five-times magnification, however, to legitimately grade 67. For grades above 65, eye appeal is a primary determinant.
Scott Travers knows that I very much appreciate originality. At a lot viewing session before the auction, he handed this coin to me on his own initiative and cited it as “original.”
It is amazingly original; there is no evidence of it ever having been cleaned or dipped. There is a good chance that it has been properly stored since 1833. The layers of medium brown toning are stable, soothing, and may not become dark for centuries. The blue tones are even and neat. For connoisseurs, this is one of the more memorable silver coins in the Pogue III event.
This week, I called Travers and mentioned this 1833 half to him. “Natural and original, worth the money that it brought, a coin for which a collector probably develops a permanent attachment, magnificent,” Scott responded.
There are three major varieties of 1834 halves that are often collected as distinct dates: 1834 ‘Large Date, Large Letters,’ 1834 ‘Large Date, Small Letters,’ and 1834 ‘Small Date, Small Letters.’ The Pittman-Pogue 1834 ‘Large Date, Large Letters’ is PCGS-graded as MS-66 and has not been CAC-approved. The $16,450 result seems more ‘in line’ with a grade in the high end of the MS-65 range, which is fair enough.
There were two 1834, Large Date, Small Letters, halves in the Pogue Collection, both of the same O-106 die pairing. Was there a good reason for buying the second one in March 2011? This second one is PCGS-graded as MS-66 and realized $22,325.
The first, Pogue 1834 Large Date, Small Letters (O-106) is PCGS graded as MS-67. It is certainly a certification rarity. Although it is not CAC approved, it is a terrific coin. It just does not have the level of eye appeal that many experts would associate with a 67 grade. CAC approval would be likely, in my estimation, if this first 1834 Large Date, Small Letters was downgraded to MS-66 and then re-submitted to CAC.
This 1834 is very attractive, though not spectacular, maybe 67-minus? “It is certainly deserving of a grade higher than MS-65,” Scott Travers maintains.
The price realized, $64,625, was strong to very strong, though understandable. It is the finest-known 1834 Large Date, Small Letters half that has been publicly available in a long time, as far as I know.
The Pogue Collection, 1834, Small Date, Small Letters, is PCGS graded as “MS-66+” and CAC approved. Although not the most dynamic half dollar in the sale, this coin is very original and almost flawless from a technical standpoint. The light tan-gray and orange-russet tones are soothing. Travers, too, notes that it is “lovely and original.” This 1834 went for $32,900, a strong price.
There were two PCGS graded “MS-65+” 1835 halves in the Pogue III event. A collector from the Middle Atlantic States bought the first for his own collection. I believe that a dealer from California was the successful bidder for the second, perhaps as an agent for a collector.
The first brought $14,100. The second had been dipped and later naturally retoned.
“Acceptable as is, solidly graded,” declares Travers. It brought $15,275. Both results were moderate at best.
People who collect Reich Capped Bust halves by date often seek two 1836 ‘Lettered Edge’ halves. The overdenomination variety has already been mentioned. The Pogue 1836 with ‘normal reverse’ is colorful. It is PCGS graded as MS-66+ and CAC approved. “Okay as a 66, I like the blue, green and honey-russet tones,” Travers states.
There are a few marks on the obverse. The wondrous eye appeal of the reverse carries the overall grade well into the 66 range, in my view.
The $54,050 result is very strong. In June 2014, the NGC certified “MS-66*” and CAC approved, Gene Gardner piece brought $19,975. PCGS graded MS-65 1836 Reich Capped Bust halves would retail for less than $10,000 each in the current market climate.
Before 2015, I had already seen many of the pre-1800 silver coin in the Pogue Collection. I was pleasantly surprised by the Capped Bust quarters and halves, which have been even more enjoyable to view and write about than I expected them to be. Most of these score very high in the categories of eye appeal and originality.
©2016 Greg Reynolds