Has buying famous American rare coins gotten too easy?
You might think so.
At a Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction when the hammer fell June 29 on an Ultra High Relief Roman Numeral 1907 gold $20, buyer Steve Contursi was dining at a fine Baltimore restaurant, not sitting in the auction room.
“I didn’t know I was going to pay $2.76 million for a gold coin when I woke up in the morning. The price was too good to pass it up, so I took an advantage of the opportunity,” Steven L. Contursi, president of Rare Coin Wholesalers, Irvine, Calif., said.
Contursi knows his coins.
The same piece sold for $2.99 million in 2005 when Heritage Auctions sold the Phil Morse Collection.
Contursi placed the winning bid by phone from the Bella Norte restaurant two miles from the auction.
Contursi bought the coin in partnership with Donald Kagin of Tiburon, Calif.
The Professional Coin Grading Service grades the coin as Proof-69. It is just one of about 20 UHR examples known today.
“This coin now ranks as No. 7 in the top 10 prices realized at auction,” said Chris Napolitano, president of Stack’s Bowers Galleries.
“The all-time record for a coin sold at auction is $7.59 million when we partnered with Sotheby’s to sell the only 1933-dated $20 Saint-Gaudens double eagle ever to be auctioned.”
David Hall, founder of PCGS, commented, “The 1907 Ultra High Relief $20 Saint-Gaudens is considered by many experts to be the most beautiful coin ever minted. It is also an extreme rarity, one of the classic rarities of U.S. numismatics. And because of its history of being designed at the personal request of President Theodore Roosevelt, it is one of the most important United States coins. The finest known example, just sold by Stack’s Bowers, is one of the most important coins PCGS has ever graded.”
The 20 known UHR pieces were struck for dignitaries. The relief had to be lowered twice after these were struck to allow the regular issued pieces to stack properly in the banking system.
Contursi plans to display the coin Aug. 7-11 at the American Numismatic Association in Philadelphia and at the Long Beach Coin, Stamp and Collectibles Expo Sept. 6-8.