Two U.S. coins each sold for more than $400,000 when the firm of Ira and Larry Goldberg conducted auctions May 27-30, a few days before the Long Beach (Calif.) Coin, Stamp and Collectible Expo. Most sessions were held at the Beverly Hills Crowne Plaza, which is a short distance from the Goldberg offices on South Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills.
This auction extravaganza included U.S. coins, colonial coins, paper money, and coins from throughout the world, minted over more than 2,000 years. The total was greater than $11 million. As world coins are usually much less valuable than U.S. coins of similar rarity or of parallel importance, the auction total does not provide much of a clue regarding the depth of the world coin portions of the extravaganza.
This review is limited to U.S. coins, with emphasis upon gold coins. Most of the U.S. coins were offered on Monday, May 28. Late in the evening, a scarce and popular 1926-D $20 gold coin came on the block. It is graded MS-63 by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), and is a particularly attractive example. It realized $35,650.
The second highest price in the auction, $414,000, was for an 1879 Coiled Hair $4 gold coin. There are fewer than 15 known and even fewer 1880 Coiled Hair $4 coins. The total number of all Coiled Hair $4 coins, of both dates, is thus very small.
This 1879 $4 coin is certified as ?Proof-63? by the Numismatic Guaranty Corp. (NGC). This exact same Coiled Hair $4 was in another firm?s auction, a few months ago. It then sold for $316,250. Ira Goldberg cited the $414,000 result as an example of the current ?market strength? for ?high powered coins.?
The highest price in the auction was for a 1797 ?Small eagle? $10 gold coin, which sold for a record $448,500. In the May 22 issue of Numismatic News, I identified it as having earlier been in the Amon Carter collection. The cataloger does not provide any pedigree information. It is NGC graded MS-63. Neither the NGC nor the PCGS has graded another one as MS-63 or higher. It is generally believed that fewer than 50 $10 gold coins of this date are around today. This piece may be the finest known.
The same buyer took both the 1879 Stella and this 1797 ?Small eagle.? In my review of the February 2007 Goldbergs auction, I relayed Ira Goldberg?s revelation that a Southern California real estate baron ?buys only coins that cost $50,000 and up,? and, as before, Ira says this buyer believes that, ?in coins and in real estate, the best values for the future are in trophy pieces.?
Larry Goldberg added that this real estate baron is buying coins of only certain denominations, half dollars, silver dollars, $3, $5, $10 and $20 gold coins. He bought a really good looking 1868 $20 gold coin, PCGS certified ?Proof-64 Cameo.? The whitish golden design details contribute to a strong cameo contrast. The fields are also really neat, sort of a brownish green color. It brought a fair price of $97,750.
This same night, the real estate baron also bought an 1859 $3 Gold coin, NGC certified Proof-65 Ultra Cameo, for $60,375. This was one of my favorite coins in the auction. There is certainly no doubt about the ?Ultra Cameo? designation. It had a terrific look on the whole.
There were two 1854 Dahlonega (Ga.) Mint $3 coins in this sale. It is the most popular date of this denomination. The first is rather generously NGC graded AU-55. It went to a Long Island dealer for $41,400. The second one is NGC graded AU-53. It was earlier in the epic collection of John J. Pittman, and was auctioned by the firm of David W. Akers in May 1998. In 2007, it brought $34,500.
Other $3 gold coins were more affordable. An 1854 Philadelphia Mint, NGC AU-55, sold for $2,185. An 1854 New Orleans $3, NGC AU-55, garnered $8337.50, and a somewhat rare 1861, PCGS MS-62, realized $8050.
Bust gold coins continue to be strongly demanded. There were two 1800 date $5 gold coins, with reverses of slightly different die varieties. The NGC graded MS-61 example realized $11,500, and the PCGS AU-55 coin, $8,625. Numismatic News Coin Market values the date at $6,400 in AU-50 and $8,800 in MS-60.
An 1802/1 overdate $5 piece, PCGS MS-62, went to bidder #302 for $23,000. John Hammrick, a Georgia dealer, bought an 1805 $5 coin, PCGS MS-61, for $12,075. All prices realized listed here, and adjusted underbids, include the 15 percent buyer?s premium that is standard at all major coin auctions.
A Los Angeles area dealer, who prefers that his name not be mentioned, was representing two buyers, a major dealer as bidder No. 108, and a collector-investor, No. 147. The latter bought two 1806 $5 coins, of different varieties. The first, with a ?Pointed 6? in the date, PCGS MS-63, brought $29,325. The second, ?Round 6,? PCGS MS-62, realized $14,950. Later, he acquired an 1856 Dahlonega, Liberty Head $5 gold coin, PCGS MS-62, for $12,075.
An 1807, Capped Bust facing to the left, $5 coin, NGC MS-64, is a really nice type coin, with no serious imperfections. The cataloger said that it has ?intense frosty mint luster,? and I agree. A few scratches and contact marks keep it from a higher grade. It sold for $31,625. Charles Browne, of Certified Assets Management, was the successful bidder.
Browne also took an 1811, with ?small 5 on the reverse,? NGC graded MS-64, for $35,650. The next lot, an 1812 $5 gold coin, also, NGC MS-64, sold to a book bidder for $36,225.
Capped Head, Small Size $5 gold coins, minted from 1829 to 1834, are rare as a type. There are no dates that are easy to obtain. Dave Wnuck, a Connecticut dealer, was prepared to spend as much as $62,500 for the 1834 Capped Head $5 in this sale. It is NGC graded MS-61. Bidding opened and closed at $69,000, including the buyer?s fee. It is a credible example. It has been moderately dipped, and, like most MS-61 grade gold coins of the era, it has numerous contact marks and light scratches. It is somewhat brilliant with cool green fields. Numismatic News? Coin Market values it at $40,000 in MS-60 grade.
Wnuck did buy an 1832 Capped Head $2? gold coin, NGC MS-61, for $17,250. He was at the auction for hours and tried to buy many other coins, but found the prices to be too high. Wnuck?s firm was also a consignor to the sale of a few U.S. and world coins. He said that he was ?generally pleased with the results.?
A 1911-D Indian $5 gold coin got a lot of attention, and is more appealing than most PCGS graded MS-63 coins of the Indian $5 type. It is scarcer than most of the dates in this series and is particularly rare in grades above MS-62. Danny Lee, of Stanford Coin & Bullion, was the top bidder, at $30,475.
One of my favorite coins in the sale is an 1801 $10 gold coin, PCGS MS-64. Much of it is a wonderful, natural pale green color. The obverse strike is sharp, the reverse strike even more so. It has a very small number of microscopic contact marks, and hardly any scratches. Certainly, it has much fewer marks than more than 90 percent of all other early $10 gold coins. Bob Higgins, senior partner of Certified Assets Management, bid $109,250, and was beat by bidder #256 who grabbed the coin for $115,000.
Certified Assets Management also bought a 1907 Indian Head $10 coin, of the Wire Rim variety. It is PCGS graded MS-66 and is a really attractive coin. The obverse is sort of a pale yellow, and the reverse has light orange tones, especially on the eagle, along with light, glossy fields. It realized $77,625.
There were numerous Charlotte, Dahlonega, and Carson City gold coins in the sale of all denominations. Ira Goldberg said th at bidding for the Charlotte and Dahlonega gold coins ?showed weakness because many of them had been over graded by one of the major grading services.? Further, Ira suggests that ?if the same coins were submitted to the same service now, they would [each] receive lower grades.?
As he did when commenting upon the Goldbergs? last auction in February, Ira asserted that ?coins with their original skin brought stronger prices.? As he did in February, Charles Browne, a former PCGS grader, very much agreed with Ira that there was more demand for ?original coins.?
The unidentified cataloger, Browne, and I were all in agreement that an 1868-S $20 coin, PCGS MS-62, had really nice natural toning. I thought that the cataloger?s ?Premium Quality? designation was extremely fair. It is a special coin. Plus, it is likely to be near or at the top of the condition census for this date. It sold for $29,900.
There were two particular Liberty Head $10 gold coins that I did not have time to see, which Browne said had their ?original skin.? A condition census 1890, PCGS MS-64, sold for $6,900, and a PCGS certified Pr-64 1904, $21,850.
Browne cited a 1794 half dollar, PCGS VF-30, as being ?100 percent original.? It was consigned by a California dealer. Browne was the top bidder at $23,575. He had been willing to go higher.
Another half dollar that Browne mentioned as having its ?original skin? is an 1873 ?No Arrows,? NGC PF-67. It went for $27,600.
Browne was also enthusiastic about a 1795 Draped Bust Dollar, PCGS graded AU-55. It is of a rare die variety, known as Bolender-14 or BB-51. There is no point in trying to explain such die varieties in an auction review. Those who collect them typically refer to either the Bolender-Reiver or Bowers silver dollar books.
This 1795 dollar, BB-51, was a duplicate consigned by a famous collector, Dr. Robert Hesselgesser. His collection of Bust Dollars is listed in the PCGS registry. This dollar sold for $17,825 to an Internet bidder.
Another silver dollar of a rare variety was a 1796, small date, small letters, BB-63. It is PCGS graded VF-35, and Miss Liberty herself is toned a light russet color. John Hammrick bought this coin for $5,462.50.
On behalf of a collector, Laura Sperber bought two colorful copper patterns. An 1872 ?Commercial Dollar? struck in copper is of the variety known as Judd-1217, and it looks to be an Indian Princess design. The obverse bears considerable resemblance to the adopted Trade dollar design. It is NGC certified ?Proof-65 Brown Cameo.? Referring to it as ?Brown? is misleading as it has richly toned and exhibits several bright colors. It brought $63,250. Sperber relates that this collector ?now has the all-time finest collection of copper dollars.?
Although there are only two or three known of this J-1217 variety, with plain edge, there are at least four known with a reeded edge of the exact same design. Further, there are pieces of this design in silver and in aluminum.
Although the buyer collects patterns struck in other metals, he prefers copper. For him, Sperber also acquired an 1867 half dime struck in copper. It is of the Judd-586 variety, and is PCGS certified ?Proof-66 RB.? It was struck with the same dies that were used to strike regular issue 1867 half dimes. It is very attractive, with neat blue, magenta and orange shades. It is a coin that has never been dipped. At $7187.50, it was a good value.
A lot of collectors do not realize that 1797 dimes are fairly rare, perhaps very rare. In this sale, there was one that is NGC graded EF-40, with appealing toning and no serious problems. It is better struck than average. It realized $6,325.
In a review, there is never space to mention all the rare, interesting, attractive, curious, or otherwise notable coins in any major auction. The U.S. portion of this sale will be best remembered for Bust gold coins.