Skip to main content

Rare gold highlights Long Beach sale

Two rare gold quarter eagles will highlight the Feb. 14-17 Heritage Auction Galleries official Long Beach Coin, Stamp and Collectibles Expo sale.

Two rare gold quarter eagles will highlight the Feb. 14-17 Heritage Auction Galleries official Long Beach Coin, Stamp and Collectibles Expo sale.

The two rarest quarter eagles ($2.50 gold coins) are the 1841 and the 1854-S. Examples of both will come on the block in this auction. They are both authenticated and graded by the Professional Coin Grading Service.


The cataloger for Heritage details a roster of 12 1854-S quarter eagles. When the newly discovered C.L. Lee coin was auctioned by American Numismatic Rarities in 2005, it was then believed that it was the 10th. In his encyclopedia published in 1988, researcher Walter Breen listed nine and said that there ?are probably at least two others around.?

The Dannreuther-Garrett compilation of auction records, 1994-2004, lists five auction appearances, a total that does not include the C.L. Lee coin. Two listings are of the same coin, the finest known Harry Bass example, PCGS graded AU-50, and, more recently graded AU-53 by the Numismatic Guaranty Corp. Jay Parrino bought it when Bowers and Merena (New Hampshire) auctioned it in New York City in
October 1999.


According to this compilation, the Bass 1854-S later realized $178,250, when Superior sold it January 2004. ANR auctioned the Lee piece, NGC EF-45, in September 2005, for $253,000.

The Heritage cataloger suggests that the current example, PCGS graded EF-45, might be the second finest known. Further, the Heritage cataloger relates that the Smithsonian example also grades EF-45. Additionally, the Heritage cataloger refers to the Davis-Graves, Norweb and Richmond examples as all being the same coin, NGC graded VF-35 in 2004.

The DLRC cataloger in 2004, Ron Guth, did not link the Richmond piece to the Stack?s Davis-Graves sale, though he did mention that sale. He did not mention the Norweb 2 sale at all. Also, there are two pieces in the Heritage roster that are barely pedigreed and have not been auctioned in some time. Piece #9 was last auctioned in 1988 and 1854-S #7 was last auctioned in 1991, during an era when pictures in catalogs were often not very clear. It would seem to really be sure, it would be helpful to interview experts who attended many of the sales in past decades, and to try to locate true photographs.

The Heritage roster is certainly the most thorough to date, but it still leaves questions unanswered. Also, it could have included information on private sales. In all fairness, the catalogers might have incorporated information that was not explicitly mentioned in the catalog. In any case, it does show that the currently offered 1854-S is in the top four, and might be the second finest known.

Anyone who has researched pedigrees would sympathize with the ANR cataloger who wrote, in 2005, ?a definitive listing of all known 1854-S quarter eagles is a challenge, due to poor photography in past decades, changing appearances of certain specimens, and more misinformation published than we care to think about.?

The 1841 quarter eagle in this sale is PCGS graded Proof-53, and is traced to Arthur Lamborn who consigned ?The Fairfield Collection? to Bowers and Ruddy in 1977. ?Perhaps as many as 20 quarter eagles of 1841 are known today,? wrote the Heritage cataloger in 2007.

In 2004, the Richmond collection cataloger, Ron Guth, seemed content with ?the estimated mintage of 20 pieces,? a ?mintage? figure that is also found in the PCGS population report. Guth is the brain behind, and currently is the president of PCGS.

Guth then cited Mark Borckardt?s 1999 listing of 17 different 1841 quarter eagles plus more that are not clearly identified as one of the listed 17. When Borckardt worked for Bowers and Merena, two Harry Bass 1841 quarter eagles were auctioned, a PCGS Proof-60 in 1999, for $115,000, and a PCGS Proof-64 in 2000, for $178,250.

The Dannreuther-Garrett compilation lists seven auction appearances from 1994 to 2004. According to Guth, the James A. Stack and Richmond pieces are the same.

No matter how you figure it, there cannot be as many as 25 1841 quarter eagles, and there might be only 16. PCGS has graded nine, none of which has a cameo designation, per the January 2007 population report. There seems to be a clerical error in the online NGC census, as of Jan. 28. The row that should list those with a ?cameo? just repeats the row above it, that of proof 1841s with no additional designation. In the next row, there is listed one Proof-64 Ultra Cameo.

Breen listed 12 and said that others are ?reported.? He emphasized that several fake 1841 quarter eagles are around. Could this account for some of the old reports that are hard to explain?

The theory that 20 were minted and that almost all of them are around today seems to be consistent with the facts and expert opinions that are available. Researchers may be relying too heavily upon old auction plates that are unreliable for more than one reason. It would be great if collectors volunteered images. They could do so without revealing their names.

It will be exciting to see how well these two super-rarities do at the upcoming Long Beach auction. There are many other rare and desirable coins in this same auction.


Among copper coins, there will be offered a 1793 Chain Cent, pictured at right, PCGS EF-45, and a 1922 plain cent, PCGS MS-63 Brown. Gem quality, 1858 Flying Eagle cents are somewhat hard to find. A PCGS graded MS-66 example will be in the sale.

Transitional half dimes are popular among collectors. They are curious as the name of our nation is nowhere mentioned on these coins. Until 1859, ?United States of America? appeared on the reverse of each half dime, and then in 1860 it was moved to the obverse. Transitional half dimes have the obverse of 1859 and the reverse of 1860. The transitional in this sale was previously in the King Farouk and Norweb family collections. It is PCGS certified Proof-63.


All 1874-CC half dollars are rare. PCGS has graded just 54 in total, and only five above MS-62. NGC has graded 42, with just nine above 62. In this sale, there is an NGC graded MS-64 example.

As for Morgan dollars, an 1885-CC, NGC MS-67 is a condition rarity. An 1892-S, NGC MS-61, and an 1895, PCGS Proof-64, are examples of two of the rarest dates. Only 880 1895s were minted.

A 1909-D Indian eagle ($10 gold), PCGS MS-66, was formerly in the collection of Dr. Steven Duckor. It is a somewhat rare date in all grades. PCGS had graded only five MS-66, and only two higher. Duckor?s collection of Indian Head eagles is listed as the fourth ?all-time finest? in the PCGS set registry. Was this coin a duplicate?

PCGS has graded only 87 1861-O double eagles in total, and the two highest are both just MS-60. In this sale, there is a PCGS graded AU-55 example.

On double eagles ($20 gold), a slightly different reverse, modified by Anthony Paquet, was used very briefly in 1861. Though the Philadelphia pieces are extremely rare, San Francisco examples are obtainable. PCGS has certified 87 and NGC has graded 79. As there are no Mint State examples, the offering of an NGC AU-50 piece is important.

The Frank McCarthy collection includes many high grade 19th century coins. He has the following three cent nickels that are all PCGS certified MS-66: 1866, 1867, 1868, 1870, 1872, 1873, 1879, 1881, 1887, and an 1889 in MS-67, plus proofs in various grades. His collection of Bust half dimes is particularly noteworthy, including: 1829 NGC MS-65, 1830 NGC-65, 1831 NGC-66, 1832 PCGS-66, 1833 NGC-64, 1834 NGC-67, 1835 NGC-67, 1836 NGC-64. In addition, there are some duplicate dates, of different die varieties. He also has a set of high-grade Mercury dimes.

The Matt and Susan Brown collection of Saint-Gaudens double eagles is very important, and cannot really be summarized. Major rarities included are a 1929, PCGS MS-65, a 1930-S PCGS MS-64, and a 1931-D, PCGS ?.
In the sale, there are a wide variety of coins from a number of consignors, including many gems and many circulated coins.