On Thursday evening, Aug. 18, all eyes will be on the Rarities Night Auction being conducted by Stack’s Bowers Galleries. As the official auctioneer for the ANA/PNG Pre-Show as well as the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Chicago, the firm will have a week-long program of auctions covering all series, including American coins, tokens, medals, paper money, ancient coins, world coins and paper money.
“Our Rarities Night Auction will be a prime focus,” noted Chris Napolitano, president of Stack’s Bowers Galleries. “Crossing the block will be legendary rarities, high grade and Condition Census copper, silver and gold, including some of the single highest graded by PCGS and NGC. Numismatic News readers are invited to participate in person at the World’s Fair of Money – the show of the year – or by Internet.”
A special treat awaits you right now on the company’s website, where David Hall (founder of PCGS), Mark Salzberg (president of NGC), Harvey Stack and Dave Bowers discuss on video a number of the auction highlights.
Napolitano continued by noting that the Rarities Night Auction, as well as several other sales for the convention, are the work of a team of nearly a dozen talented numismatic experts. Each coin is described in detail and illustrated, with Dave Bowers overseeing the numismatic cataloging process and furnishing a commentary for selected lots – his personal view that may be of interest. In addition, Bowers has prepared the overview of the Rarities Night Auction included here – the only place for it to appear in print anywhere.
The Rarities Night Auction catalog as well as the World and Ancient Coins, ANA/PNG Pre-Show Auction, United States Coins, Paper Money Sale and The Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection, Part V (Educational notes, including proofs and the first sheets recently showcased here in Numismatic News) is available by contacting Stack’s Bowers Galleries at (800) 458-4646 (West Coast office) or (800) 566-2580 (East Coast office), or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“A warm welcome awaits you either way, Napolitano promised.
The Rarities Night sale begins with the Dick Osburn Collection of Seated Liberty half dollars. For many years the firm’s consignor has been a leading light in this specialty – a connoisseur who has sought a combination of rarity and high quality, according to Bowers.
“Our offering is one of the finest ever to cross the auction block,” he said.
The first coin is a Mint State example of the 1839 Without Drapery at elbow – a half dollar type made only for part of that year. The Without Drapery issue at this grade level is the rarest of all design types in the entire Seated Liberty silver series from half dimes to dollars. This is followed by a choice 1839 With Drapery, continuing through dates and mintmarks, including interesting varieties. Some of these are absolutely incredible, Bowers points out. The 1855-S is in superb gem Mint State, he explains.
There are also proofs and branch mint coins in seldom seen grades.
The first Carson City issue in the Osburn Collection, the 1870-CC, is represented by a Mint State example, ditto for the other Carson City issues through and including the last year, 1878. Another show-stopper is the 1878-S in Mint State, a key to the series, after which the offering continues through the last year, 1891.
Next in Part I is a smorgasbord of Colonial and early American coins. A seldom seen Sommer Islands shilling leads the way, followed by an offering of Massachusetts silver with the much-admired Noe-1 1652 Pine Tree shilling being among multiple examples of that historic type.
For the advanced specialist, an undated (1790) Albany Church penny will be of commanding importance, as will a curious and exceedingly rare 1796 Myddelton muling with the beautiful Kentucky Settlement obverse (in 1875 in Early American Coins called by Sylvester S. Crosby the most beautiful coin in the American series) combined with an irrelevant Copper Company of Upper Canada reverse. Typically, years will pass between offerings of one of these, Bowers said.
The 1796 Castorland medal, struck in Paris and intended for an area in Upstate New York, is a choice Mint State piece, seldom seen so fine. The circa 1798 Theatre at New York penny follows, a gem example of this rarity. Two 1776 Continental dollars – American classics – follow, after which there is a selection of Fugio coppers.
Next on the program for Part I is a selection of medals in various American series, including two of the famous 1782 Libertas Americana medals, voted No. 1 in the best-selling Whitman book, The 100 Greatest American Medals and Tokens. The 1858 S.S. Central America medal in silver is the original presentation example given to the widow of Captain Herndon, accompanied with documentation, a museum-quality rarity and exhibit, absolutely unique with this connection.
On Sept. 12, 1857, in a raging hurricane with his vessel foundering in mountainous seas, standing on the wheelhouse the captain, in the best naval tradition, went down with his ship – to the floor of the Atlantic 7,200 feet below. The gold treasures it contained were retrieved and sold to numismatists in the 21st century.
A choice 1837 Feuchtwanger 3-cent piece follows, then a marvelous gem, indeed one of the finest in existence, of the 1826 Erie Canal medal in silver. A suite of Hawaiian coins in high grade, a spectacular multiple-coin mint error, proof coins of 1859, and a silver proof set of 1908 follow.
In Part II of the Rarities Night there begins an offering of federal series by denominations, started by two very high-grade 1793 half cents, rare in any grade, and distinguished as the only year of the design type. Other half cents include scarcities and rarities in seldom seen high grades, among which two important proofs are noted, one of 1831 and the other of 1847.
Copper large cents, the popularity of which needs no explanation, begin with two examples of the 1793 Chain AMERICA, followed by two of the Wreath, continuing with notable highlights through later years. Small cents are heralded by three beautiful 1856 Flying Eagle cents, likely the most famous of all popular rarities of the 19th century.
Selections from the Indian Head and Lincoln cent series follow, after which we go into trimes (as the Treasury Department used to call silver 3-cent pieces). A group of Buffalo nickels Bowers expects will make you sit up, perhaps even stand up, and take notice. Among others, there is a 1927-S in MS-66 and the gem 1937-D 3-legged error.
Early American silver coins include two lustrous Mint State Flowing Hair 1795 half dimes and two Mint State 1796/5 varieties, the last seldom seen at this level. Half dimes continue through 1796, 1797, multiple 1800s in Mint State, and other early pieces, after which will be found a presentation (very likely) proof 1829 half dime, with the history of this given in the description – relating to the laying of the cornerstone for the Second Philadelphia Mint early in the morning of July 4, 1829.
Dimes include high-grade examples of early issues from 1796 onward, incredibly rare proof Capped Bust pieces, a rare proof of the key 1846 date (for which high grade circulation strikes are virtually unknown), Seated Liberty mintmarks in seldom seen grades, and more, continuing into the Mercury series, capped by two gems of the 1942/1-D overdate, a variety several times rarer than its Philadelphia Mint sister.
A very special coin of this denomination, one of just two known 1975 proof Roosevelt dimes without the “S” mintmark will be spotlighted. In terms of known examples, with just two recorded (this after a lot of publicity in the hobby press trying to ferret out another), this is the rarest dime since the unique 1873-CC Without Arrows. Moreover, PCGS has certified it as an ultra gem.
“Watch the fireworks when this crosses the block,” Bowers exclaimed. “I congratulate the owner in advance.”
Ken Goldman, the agent for the consignor, emphasizes that this seems to be the only 20th century American coin listed in the Red Book that has never been offered at auction.
Twenty-cent pieces include proofs, after which quarter dollars commence with two high-grade examples of the first year of issue, 1796, a believe-it-or-not Mint State 1804. There are gem Capped Bust issues. Seated Liberty quarter dollars are also memorable, with high-grade examples, continuing into the Barber series and several 1916 Standing Liberty rarities.
Starting with 1794 and continuing to include the classic 1796 and 1797 rarities, then into the 19th century with choice and gem grades being the rule, not the exception.
Seated Liberty half dollars include scarce varieties in seldom seen high grades, many of them complementing the Osburn rarities in Part I. Among Barber half dollars is an ultra gem 1901-S in MS-67 grade. Participants in the Registry Set competition will have a field day. Walking Liberty halves include several rarities.
Silver dollars are particularly extensive, and provide memorable opportunities for variety collectors in this series, a specialty seemingly growing in popularity every year. In the category of simply amazing early dollars Bowers aid is a 1797 BB-71 in gem Mint State. It may be many years before you see another. The same can be said for quite of few of the other issues through 1803.
Gobrecht silver dollars follow next, after which the Seated Liberty silver dollars are memorable, including an 1847 proof, the proof-only 1858 (just 210 are estimated to have been minted) and a run of late Seated Liberty dollars that include Mint State and proof examples, with a particularly high-grade 1871-CC being notable among them.
Morgan silver dollars, one of America’s most popular series, begin with a branch mint proof 1879-O and continue to include some pieces that can only be described as wondrous, the gem proof 1893-CC and the landmark ultra gem proof 1895-O.
The proof-only 1895 of which just 880 were minted is offered in a selection of grades from ultra gem Proof-68 downward. Trade dollars include memorable quality examples of the later proof-only years.
Commemoratives follow with classic silver issues from the estate of Julius Guttag – off the market for several generations. The 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition is represented by multiple examples of the famous $50 gold slugs.
Pattern coins will then take front row center with a 1792 disme, a rarity deluxe, after which many other notable pieces are found. Patterns speak for themselves as you contemplate denominations from cents to double eagles, including off-metal strikes and the largest offering of Amazonian pieces in recent memory, many from the Richard Jewell Collection. An 1877 pattern half union in copper (the only gold examples are in the Smithsonian Institution) will be a showpiece, a unique denomination in the pattern series.
Gold begins Part III of Rarities Night with romantic and historical coins in the Territorial and Pioneer series, each of which is at least scarce, often rare and with many very rare examples included.
These begin with the highly desired issues of Christopher and August Bechtler from their private mint in Rutherfordton, N.C. California Gold Rush-era coins are next, highlighted by the beautiful and famous 1850 Baldwin & Company Vaquero, or Horseman $10 in choice Mint State.
A rare Wass, Molitor & Co. round $50 will command attention, as will a number of patterns and related pieces. Coins of the Mormons follow, from 1849 to 1860, after which there is a nice selection of Clark, Gruber & Co. gold coins from Denver.
Bowers recalled an old saying, “Today’s record price may be tomorrow’s bargain.” He cited his firm’s past auctions, which date back to 1935 and include highlights like the Louis E. Eliasberg Collection, sold in multiple events in 1982, 1996 and 1997. All-time records were set. Coin after coin brought double or triple the then-current market value.
Today he said his firm would write a check to buy just about every one of the thousands of Eliasberg coins, offering the owners a profit. It is a great feature of the world’s greatest hobby – numismatics – that this pursuit, which can furnish years of pleasure, may at the same time be the best investment a collector can ever make.
Federal gold coins commence with an ultra gem 1851 dollar graded MS-68 with a CAC sticker. The Collectors Acceptance Corporation, which began business less than three years ago, Bowers aid, has grown to become a highly admired “fourth party” service. For a nominal fee the company will review already certified PCGS and NGC coins and add its green sticker to those felt to be of exceptional quality within the assigned grade level.
Across American numismatics, relatively few coins have been sent to CAC so far, but this is changing. The Rarities Night offers a selection of such pieces.
Gold dollars include branch mint rarities, a seldom seen 1856 proof, and ultra- grade later proofs.
Quarter eagles begin with a Mint State example of the 1796 Without Stars, a singular type, after which a choice Mint State 1796 With Stars – a commanding rarity – crosses the block, followed by other early quarter eagles in high grades.
Later $2.50 pieces include Mint State Charlotte and Dahlonega Classic Head issues, and a selection of Liberty Head pieces, including branch mints, high-grade circulation-strike Philadelphia issues and memorable proofs, not to overlook several examples of the key 1911-D Indian Head.
Three-dollar gold coins, a short-lived series laden with scarcities and rarities, include an exciting proof of the first year of issue, 1854, two high-grade examples of the 1854-D (the only Dahlonega variety in the series) and later choice and gem pieces.
Among all denominations listed in A Guide Book of United States Coins, the 1879 Flowing Hair Stella is one of the most desired. Only a few hundred of these exist in all numismatics, with six offered at Rarities Night. This provides a selection of different price levels, beginning with an ultra gem Proof-66 and continuing downward.
Half eagles start with several examples, each in high grade, of the 1795 Small Eagle type, the first American gold coins (issued in the summer of that year). A marvelous offering by die varieties ensues, going through to the turn of the century and beyond.
Among the later rarest of the rare issues, Stack’s Bowers has three examples of the key 1818, an 1821, 1823, 1831 and 1832, each memorable. Later half eagles include Charlotte and Dahlonega varieties in high grades, including a choice Mint State 1861-D. Carson City half eagles include choice examples of several of the earlier years. Proofs of the denomination begin with the ultra-rare 1862 and continue intermittently through the 20th century.
Gold eagles include four examples of the first year of issue, 1795, highlighted by the seldom seen rarity with only nine leaves (instead of 13) on the palm branch. Eagles of 1796, 1797, 1798/7, onward will be found, including one of the nicest selections of turn-of-the-century pieces, through 1803 that the firm has ever presented.
Liberty Head eagles start with the very rare 1870-CC, the first year of issue from that mint, continuing to include a notable circulation strike 1875 Philadelphia Mint (only 100 coined) and proofs in the Liberty Head and Indian series.
Double eagles commence with a run of New Orleans issues of the 1850s from the Collection of a Southern Gentleman, including the classic 1856-O rarity, after which other notable offerings include a Mint State 1866-S No Motto (deserving of an exclamation point, a legendary 1870-CC in AU grade and others.
Beautiful proofs toward the end of the Liberty Head series will attract attention as well. The MCMVII (1907) High Relief, considered by most numismatists to be America’s most beautiful coin, is offered in a selection of grades, topped by an ultra gem MS-66. Later Saint-Gaudens double eagles include seldom seen proofs, the rare 1921 and classic issues toward the end of the series.