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Heritage FUN auctions set record

Heritage Auction Galleries broke the world record for the largest numismatic auction with its $75,439,127 results achieved Jan. 3-6, 2007, in conjunction with the Florida United Numismatists Convention in Orlando, Fla.

The coin portion of the sale realized $65,180,395 and the paper currency portion kicked in $10,258,732. Both numbers are breathtaking from the vantage point that Steve Ivy, CEO of the firm said before the sales that he was hoping to break the $62 million record his firm set in 2005.

A major highlight among the coin lots was the $747,500 realized by a Kellogg $50 gold coin, minted in San Francisco in 1855. This and other numbers include the 15 percent buyer?s fees.

It is certified Proof-64 by the Professional Coin Grading Service and is probably the second finest of the fewer than 15 that are around today.

During the first night, the most exciting moment was when an 1879 dated, Quintuple Stella, a pattern $20 gold coin, realized $862,500 after a long bidding contest. It was conservatively graded Proof-62 by PCGS, and is a very flashy, attractive example. It is of an alternative design that is similar to the regular issue $20 gold coins of the era.

This Quintuple Stella, pedigreed to the epic Garrett collection, is one of 250 patterns in the ?Jones Beach? collection. Another pattern struck in gold, from the same collection, realized $402,500. It is an 1878 $5 gold, PCGS graded Proof-65 pattern, J1570, and has a design that is much different from any regular issue half eagle.

The ?Jones Beach? patterns plus more than 100 patterns from other consignors brought more than $5 million. A detailed analysis will appear in an upcoming issue of Numismatic News.

NN0123Hera.jpgThe most famous coin in the sale is an ultra high relief, Saint-Gaudens $20 gold coin dated 1907 in Roman Numerals. Fewer than 20 are around today. Each has very deep sloping fields, a wild display of die polish lines, and is much thicker than a regular Saint-Gaudens $20 gold coin. Also, ultra high reliefs look much different from regular high reliefs. They need
to be seen to be believed.

The top lot in Heritage?s FUN auction was this 1907 ultra high relief gold $20 with lettered edge, PCGS Proof-68.

NN0123Herb.jpgJames Halperin, co-founder of Heritage, said that ?the consignor is a collector who would like to remain completely anonymous.? This ultra high relief is PCGS graded Proof-68.

Through the Internet, a collector-partner of Legend Numismatics was the successful bidder, but not the buyer. The price realized was $1,840,000.

Laura Sperber, Legend?s president, said that her partner was bidding for a collector who ?bought the coin to finish an awesome set of Saints,? including both business strikes and proofs. She added that ?we sold him the Dallas Bank ?27-D, which she likes ?more than the Morse ?27-D!? Sperber also revealed this collector has the MS-65 graded 1921 Saint from the Morse collection.  

NN0123Herc.jpgSteve Contursi sold the Dallas Bank 1927-D, PCGS MS-66, to Sperber in 2003 or 2004. Contursi said that the $1.84 million price for this ultra high relief was ?a good deal? and he almost bid on it. But, he already has one, PCGS Proof-68, with ?inverted edge letters.? He chose not to spend the money for a second ultra high relief at this time, as he spent ?about $4 million? during Platinum nights. He bought most of the matte proof gold coins in the Loewinger collection because he thinks that these are undervalued at current levels.

This 1839/8 $10 type of 1838 NGC Ultra Cameo Proof-67 fetched $1.61 million at the record-breaking Heritage auction.

NN0123Herd.jpgThe Eliasberg 1839/8, $10 gold coin was certainly not undervalued by the top bidders. It is graded Proof-67 Ultra Cameo by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. I was stunned that it sold for $1.61 million. Halperin said the buyer, an absentee bidder, is a collector.

It is true that, sometimes, collectors forget that 1838 and 1839/8 eagles are of the first type of Liberty Head $10 gold coins. The design that was adopted during 1839 is different. There may be four or five privately owned proofs of this first type.

I have witnessed the sales of many pre-1840 proof gold coins at auction. Some are rarer than this 1838/9 eagle as a date or as a type, or both. I never saw another early proof gold coin realize more than $1 million. Of course, it is possible that the $1 million level could have been surpassed in private transactions of such coins.

Consider the famous Pittman 1833 half eagle, PCGS Proof-67, that sold in Heritage?s 2005 FUN auction for $977,500. It is one of only two that PCGS has certified for the Capped Head, small- size type. The NGC has certified four for the type. There are probably only three or four different privately owned coins.

The Eliasberg pedigree might be worth slightly more than the Pittman pedigree, and the demand for eagles is a little higher than the demand for half eagles. Even so, there is no escaping the conclusion that $1.61 million is a really strong price for an 1839/8 eagle.

This auction extravaganza will be remembered for all the rarities, carefully crafted collections, super quality coins, and very interesting numismatic items that were offered. Even a collection of hobo nickels was sold.

Both the evenings of Jan 3 and 4 were labeled ?Platinum Night? by Heritage. In the ?Platinum 1? catalog for Jan. 3, there were listed American copper, nickel and silver coins. This session realized $11.7 million and then came patterns. So, before any U.S. gold coins were offered, the prices realized already totaled $16.7 million.

On the night of Jan. 4, there were three sessions with three separate catalogs, all devoted to U.S. gold coins. These were Loewinger, Kutasi and Platinum 2.

From the same husband-and-wife collecting team that consigned the incredible Jones Beach collection of patterns also came a variety of other coins. One was an 1836 half dime, NGC Proof-66, formerly in the Eliasberg collection It brought $57,500.

An 1839-O half, PCGS MS-67, is the finest certified by PCGS and could well be the finest known. It is nearly flawless and has very appealing natural toning. The top bidder was a Texas dealer, who was bidding for a client. It realized an astounding $161,000. The same bidder took the very next lot, for the exact same price, an 1838 half, PCGS Proof-66, earlier from the John J. Pittman collection.

The Reed Hawn 1839 No Drapery half is not one of the most expensive items in the sale. For half dollar collectors, however, it is extremely important. Coins of this type are rare in mint state and are extremely rare in proof format. This example, PCGS Proof-64, is excellent. Bill Nagle was the successful bidder, most likely for the legendary Pennsylvania collector that he often represents. It brought $172,500.

One of my favorite coins in the sale is not a gem quality coin. It is a 1794 dollar that is NGC graded VF-35. The cataloger pedigrees it to the famous Peter Mougey collection that was auctioned in 1910. It has great natural toning and no significant blemishes. It opened at $172,500, and closed at $207,500. Steve Contursi bought it, and he was beaming when he later showed it to me.

Dr . Robert Loewinger?s collection of proof gold consisted of just 49 coins and realized $4.4 million, an average of more than $90,000 per coin. There will be more information about the Loewinger collection in a future issue.

The most valuable Loewinger piece is a Type 2, $1 gold coin, 1855, PCGS ?Proof-66 Deep Cameo.? PCGS has only certified six 1855 proofs and three 1854s, indicating a total of nine for the type. This 1855 $1 gold was earlier in the epic Pittman collection.

In 2007, it sold for $316,250 to telephone bidder 480, a number that was heard often throughout the night of Jan. 4. Heritage President Greg Rohan personally acted as this buyer?s agent.

The John Kutasi collection especially requires a separate article. It will appear in a future issue. His collection is best understood in the context of registry sets. He had one of the top collections of Saints, and the PCGS all-time finest collection of business-strike, Indian $10 gold coins. He also had an assortment of Indian half eagles and Liberty $20 double eagles. The whole Kutasi collection totaled $7.78 million

After the Loewinger and Kutasi collections, the ?Platinum 2? session of 556 lots realized $20.4 million. The ultra high relief was listed in the Kutasi catalog though it was not part of the Kutasi collection. The total for just one night was nearly $34.5 million, slightly higher than the record set in Fort Lauderdale during the 2005 Platinum night.

Contursi was pleased to buy two 1796 No Stars quarter eagles ($2.50 gold coins). These are of a one-year type. The first was probably undergraded by the NGC as MS-61. After opening at $149,500, an active contest brought the level to $253,000.

The second 1796 ?No Stars,? NGC MS-63, is from the Freedom? Collection, and is almost certainly among the top five known. Interspersed throughout each main Platinum night session were items from the Freedom collection, the number one type coin set in the registry of NGC.

Contursi previously owned this same 1796 No Stars and sold it to the collector who formed the Freedom type set. Contursi bought it from Larry Hanks. Coincidentally, an associate of Hanks showed it to me at the 2002 ANA convention in New York. In 2007, Contursi paid $287,500.

Most experts agree that the Byron Reed 1796 With Stars quarter eagle is the finest known of the date. It is NGC graded MS-65. It sold to bidder 480, for $862,500, probably an auction record for any Liberty Cap $2.50 gold coin of the With Stars type.

Seconds later, this same 480 took the Freedom collection?s 1808 quarter eagle, NGC MS-63, for $287,500. It is also a one-year type coin.

The Garrett example of the 1813 half eagle, PCGS MS-66, realized $316,250. One of two known proof 1857 half eagles was purchased for $230,000 by an unidentified floor bidder.

A collector on the auction floor, who asked that his name not be revealed, bought a large number of high-grade Liberty Head $10 gold coins. These include an 1849, NGC MS-63, from the Freedom collection, $23,000; a Central America shipwreck 1857-S, NGC MS-63, $27,600; 1907-S, NGC MS-66, $27,600; 1888, PCGS Proof-65 DC, $69,000; 1891, NGC Proof-65 UC, $48,875; 1892, NGC Proof-64 Cameo, $25,300 and 1898, NGC Proof-68 UC, $149,500. He edged PCGS founder David Hall to win a really nice 1893-S, PCGS MS-66.

The Trompeter-Morse, regular high relief Saint, PCGS graded MS-69, realized $546,250. This is of the variety with the so called ?wire rim.? Regular high reliefs should not be confused with ultra high reliefs. The Philip Morse example of the regular high relief with a ?flat rim,? PCGS MS-68, sold for $316,250, more than the $264,500 that it brought at the Morse sale in November 2005.

Coins with important pedigrees tend to be more in demand than nameless coins. Many, though not all, collectors at the event were much more interested in the Kutasi and Loewinger coins than they were in the gold coins that came from anonymous consignors. Regardless of who the consignors were, the range and depth of this one night?s offering of U.S. gold coins was overwhelming and just too amazing to describe.

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