It took some bidding strategy, including a “shock and awe” plan, but it brought the 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar home to Legend Numismatics.
The firm paid $10,016,875 for the coin auctioned by Stack’s Bowers Galleries on Jan. 24.
“Legend has no plans to sell this coin,” said Laura Sperber of Legend. “No games are being played, no slick secret marketing here. This coin is not being offered nor do we have any plans to do so anytime soon.”
And the purchase of the coin was part of a carefully planned strategy.
“Two days before the sale our lead partner made the final decision, we must pay $10 million dollars all-in minimum. We developed a ‘shock and awe” plan. We were all in agreement, we even went through a mini practice.”
The next two days, she said, were nerve wracking.
“We tried to put on our best poker faces about bidding,” Sperber said. “Everyone in the dealer community pretty much expected us to be bidders. But we tried to hide our plans as best we could.”
About a month before the sale, the firm thought it could purchase the coin for $10 million, she said, but then “auction fever” set in.
“We began feeling the pressure that $10 million for this iconic coin would not be enough. After all, how many chances will there ever be to buy a classic coin like this?. In an auction setting, anyone could pop up for it,” she said.
The market has dramatically changed since it had been offered for sale in 2010, she said. So Legend decided to raise its bid.
“Then … the Batmobile sold for nearly $5 million dollars. Then we read about some paintings that just sold for $100,000,000.00+. Those events were critical,” she said.
It was decided that it would be an oversight to value that coin at anything less than $10 million.
“We raised our limit to $15 million and started to sweat what the other buyers would do,” she said. “Knowing there was at least one buyer who has coveted this coin forever and had the means to buy it, made us lose lots of sleep last week.”
And then it was Jan. 24 and the auction room in New York.
“How any of us survived with out having a heart attack is a wonder,” Sperber said. “So we all spoke on the phone and our last minute discussion involved implementing “shock and awe.” After sitting through 93 lots of incredible coins in a total fog, the time had come.
“The auctioneer looked around to make sure she had a clear sight line of all potential bidders. We freaked slightly when we saw the head of a major coin company get ready to bid – we didn’t add him to our equation. Oh no!
“Then the bidding started at $2.2 million. It slowly climbed to $5 million. That was our original planned ‘shock and awe’ point to take control of the bidding, hopefully freezing out other buyers.
“Instead, in the fog of bidding, we suddenly got hit at $5.5 million (missing our $5 million dollar invoke). We knew we could not wait any longer. We invoked ‘shock and awe’ and jumped the bid to $8,525,000.
“Everyone in the room was stunned. We firmly believe we took control of the bidding at that point and made a powerful statement about what it will take to beat us.”
And at the final hammer, Legend Numismatics was the new owner of the 1794 silver dollar, now the world’s most valuable coin.