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$253,000 buys rare $2.50

The media spotlight was on a rare, recently discovered 1854-S $2.50 piece.
But a 1796 half dollar, referred to as the Whitney Coin, attracted the top bid at the C.L. Lee Sale presented by American Numismatic Rarities on Sept. 18.

Graded XF-45 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., the 1854-S $2.50 was purchased for $253,000, helping push the total prices realized from the ANR sale to $5,678,299. That includes the 15- percent buyer’s fee.

The coin was consigned to ANR at the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money by C.L. Lee, whose family had owned the coin since the mid- to late-1800s. It is believed to be only the 10th known piece from a 246-coin mintage.

“At the recent ANA convention in San Francisco, the moment we saw this coin and met C.L. Lee we knew that we had become a part of something unforgettable and historic, a story that resonates with the fantasy of found treasure and the romance of the American dream,” wrote the sale cataloger.

Lee’s great-grandfather was the first to own the coin. A learned scholar, author and Tai Chi master in China, the great-grandfather left his native land for California around 1854. He went back to China for a short period and then returned to California between 1856 and 1858.

“It was probably about that time that the quarter eagle was acquired, for a now unknown reason – perhaps a first wage, perhaps a souvenir of the return, or something else entirely,” wrote the cataloger.

This was the first ever auction offering of the C.L. Lee specimen. But the highest bid recorded in the sale was $310,500, submitted for a 1796 half dollar graded MS-64 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp.

Of the coin, the cataloger writes that it is “A superb specimen of America’s most desirable type coin, one of the very finest of the entire design and tied for second finest known of this 15 Stars issue.”

Those weren’t the only six-figure bids secured by ANR in the sale. An 1879 Flowing Hair $4 Stella, graded Proof-63 Cameo by PCGS, fetched $126,500. Also, the Byron Reed 1796 eagle, graded MS-62 by PCGS, brought in $115,000 and a 1796 $10 in NGC MS-61 condition realized $109,250.

The C.L. Lee Sale included Part II of the Allison Park Collection and took place at the Loews Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, Calif. To find out more about the C.L. Lee Sale, visit www.anrcoins.com. To reach ANR, call (866) 811-1804 or (603) 569-0823, e-mail auctions@anrcoins.com, fax (603) 569-3875 or write to: American Numismatic Rarities, LLC, P.O. Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.

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