Doyle New York, an art and collectibles auction firm in Manhattan, now has an active coin division. This firm?s auction on Sept. 18 was conducted in its gallery at 175 E. 87th St. The most valuable coin in the sale, at $162,000, was a round Panama-Pacific Expo commemorative $50 gold coin that has been graded MS-66 by the Numismatic Guaranty Corp. A second 1915-S round Pan-Pac $50, NGC-graded MS-65, brought $108,000.
There were 276 lots in the auction, of which just two did not sell. The average price per lot was more than $8,500, but there were more than 40 lots that realized less than $1,000 each.
The least valuable lot in the auction contained four awkward replicas of Saint-Gaudens $20 gold coins. It realized $48. The lowest price for a gold coin was $240 for a circulated 1886 $5 coin.
An NGC AU-58 example of the most famous date in the $3 gold series, 1854-D, realized $51,000. A 66.59-ounce Kellogg & Humbert gold bar, from the 1850s, sold for $90,000.
Most of the items in the auction were consigned by the estate of a recently deceased collector who lived in the New York City area. His family wishes that his name not be made public. A knowledgeable source revealed that he was a philanthropist who gave millions of dollars to charities.
Additionally, there were offered U.S. coins from the estates of John Dillon and Virginia Lee Ingraham. This auction also included very small numbers of world coins, world stamps and U.S. paper money.
The collection of this deceased NYC collector seemed to have at least six themes. First, he had many items from the shipwreck of the S.S. Central America, generally dating from the period from 1854 to 1857. Second, he had a few pre-1838 $5 and $10 gold coins, which seemed to be collected as type coins. Further, he had other type coins, including an 1879 $4 gold coin and all three types of gold dollars. Also, he had no motto and with motto Indian $10 gold coins.
Third, he had a group of Dahlonega Mint gold coins. Fourth, he had an ordered selection of Carson City Mint gold coins of the 1870s. Fifth, he had a significant run of $20 gold coins dating from 1850 to 1928. He may have been beginning a collection of Liberty $20 gold coins (1850-1907) by date. His assortment of silver coins is hard to interpret.
Sixth, this deceased NYC consignor clearly collected $50 gold coins. There are not many different varieties of this denomination. All $50 gold coins were minted in or around San Francisco.
The only $50 gold coins manufactured by an official U.S. Mint that are available to collectors are the round and octagonal $50 gold coins that were minted in San Francisco in 1915 in honor of the Panama-Pacific exposition. In addition to the two round $50s mentioned above, he had an octagonal Pan-Pac that is graded MS-64 by the Professional Coin Grading Service. It realized $78,000.
He had five Humbert $50 gold coins. As U.S. assayer, Augustus Humbert ran a semi-private mint in California. Three of these $50s are dated 1851 and two are dated 1852. The last of them is a U.S. Assay Office piece that does not bear Humbert?s name, though it is generally thought of as another octagonal Humbert $50 gold piece.
Some Humbert varieties are much rarer than others, and thus more valuable. There is not space to explain or even list the varieties here. The following list is of dates, grades and prices realized: 1851, PCGS AU-53, $30,000; 1851, PCGS EF-40 $66,000; 1851, NGC AU-55, $42,000; 1852, NGC AU-55, $42,000; 1852, NGC AU-55, $45,000.
This NYC collector had 11 $50 gold coins overall, including three 1855-dated coins that were issued by the private firm of Wass, Molitor & Co. The first is NGC graded MS-60; the second is PCGS graded EF-45 and realized $54,000; the third is a mess and sold for a modest price of $15,600.
The MS-60 grade Wass, Molitor $50 gold coin is probably in the condition census for the type. It garnered $132,000. Andy Lustig was the successful bidder, though he was not the buyer. At the auction, Lustig bid on behalf of a few people.
The deceased NYC collector obtained numerous coins and four gold bars that were earlier recovered from the shipwreck of the S.S. Central America, which sank in September 1857 off the coast of North Carolina. A 1.8-gram gold nugget from the Central America, in a PCGS holder, sold for $330, and a similar 0.7-gram nugget realized $144. Further, this collector had numerous restrikes and replicas of private territorial gold coins that were minted by the Central America Marketing Group with gold that was obtained by melting one or more gold bars that were found in the shipwreck.
He had four restrikes of Kellogg $50 gold coins, two proofs and two mythical business strikes. All four realized $2,700 each. These complemented his collection of genuine $50 gold coins.
The four gold bars in this NYC collection were issued by private assay firms in Northern California. Such gold bars were often used as currency. A Harris-Marchand 32.45-ounce bar sold for $90,000, the same price that the Kellogg & Humbert 66.59-ounce bar realized. Lustig paid more attention to the Kellogg & Humbert 5.8-ounce bar. According to Lustig, bars that weigh less than 10 ounces are ?miniscule? and are ?very rare as such.? The Doyle catalogers had estimated that this 5.9-ounce bar would sell for from $10,000 to $15,000. It realized $42,000.
$20 gold coins that are dated 1855-S, 1856-S and 1857-S are offered regularly at auction, including many that were found in the wreck of the Central America. The several that this deceased NYC collector had are not extraordinary. His 1856-S is appealing. It realized $22,700. The PCGS price guide lists its value as $17,500 in MS-64 grade. Also, a S.S. Central America 1857-S, from this same collection, PCGS MS-65, sold for $10,800.
Some of the $20 gold coins in this NYC collection that were not from the Central America received more attention. There were two 1850 $20 gold coins. Both are NGC graded MS-63, and each realized $42,000.
Lustig said that these results show that a collector who is ?selective? does not always ?have to pay more for quality.? Lustig, Rick Gross and I all agreed that there is a tremendous difference between these two 1850 $20 coins.
I found the first 1850 to be one of the most appealing coins in the whole auction. The head of Liberty has toned tan and the nearby flat areas are a soothing beige-russet. There are very few contact marks, and the details are sharp. The reverse glitters in a really cool way. Lustig said that it is ?beautiful.? Separately, without knowing about Lustig?s exclamation, Gross also said that it is ?beautiful?!
Lustig, Gross and I each determined that the second 1850 has some technical problems and is not really a choice piece. It is clearly inferior to the first 1850 in this sale.
Another of my favorite coins in the auction was an 1860 $20 gold coin, PCGS graded MS-64. Lustig said that it is ?very presentable as a MS-64 grade? $20 gold coin, and is a ?very pretty coin? overall.
The gem-quality reverse was stunning. On the whole, the 1860 $20 is very attractive, has minimal marks and neat luster. It sold for $39,000, a high price for a coin of this date and grade, but worth it, I think .
Lustig also maintains that the 1873-CC $10 gold coin from this collection is ?presentable for the grade.? It is much better than many other 1873-CC $10s that I have seen. It is reasonably graded AU-50 by PCGS. An 1873-CC $10 coin may not exist in MS-60 or higher grades. Of all $10 coins from the Carson City Mint, Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth say, the 1873-CC ?is perhaps the most difficult to find in high grades, as the top-certified examples are only two NGC AU-55 coins ? one of which was formerly a PCGS AU-53 from the Bass collection? (Whitman, 2006). This 1873-CC, from the estate of a NYC collector, realized $27,000.
The 1873-CC $5 gold coin from this same collection, NGC-graded AU-50 is similar to the $10, though not quite as desirable. It sold for $21,600, which is the exact same price realized as the 1873-CC $20 coin from this same NYC collection. It is NGC AU-58. The 1873-CC $20 is not nearly as rare as the $5 and $10 coins of the same date.
Another important coin in this same NYC collection is an 1804 $10 gold coin. Lustig said that it is ?a good coin? and ?a good value? at $84,000. It is graded NGC MS-62, and I thought that it was of higher quality than most NGC-graded MS-62 early $10 gold coins that I have seen.
This same NYC collection had an appealing 1915-S Pan-Pac $1 gold coin, PCGS MS-66. On behalf of Gross, Lustig was the successful bidder, at $2,880. Gross said that this $1 coin is ?completely original? and ?special in its appearance.? I agree that it is a very attractive coin with particularly nice natural toning.
The deceased NYC collector seems to have picked areas of numismatics about which he was enthusiastic. I get the feeling that he enjoyed collecting coins. It was fun to view the coins. On the whole, the sale was a success.