For collectors of South American coins attending the New York International Numismatic Convention, Stack’s Bowers provided not-to-be-missed occasions. The firm offered the once-in-a-lifetime Eldorado Collection of Colombian and Ecuadorian Coins. “Superb,” “extraordinary,” “fabulous” ... none of the clichéd adjectives do it justice.
Rarities abounded the evenings of Jan. 12-13. Many a collector headed homewards charged with that wonderful warm glow that comes from scoring a remarkable trophy coin or two.
All told, the two sessions consisted of 747 lots that together realized $3,809,400. The average price of $5,100 apiece testified to the serious quality of the collection. Sixty-five lots sold in excess of $10,000.
The results were headed by the rarest of the entire onza series, including all 8 escudos produced in the former Spanish colonies: an Ecuadorian 1844-MV 8 escudos struck at the Quito mint, KM-28. The coin is now possibly unique given that its believed twin was stolen from the Banco del Ecuador collection and has yet to be traced.
Apart from its rarity, the coin is famous for its crude portrait of Bolivar that lacks detail and is topped with a mop of plastered-down hair. As the S-B catalog has it, “It is crude but charming, while being memorably distinctive.”
In many ways it is a remarkable piece. To quote S-B again, “An entire generation of numismatists came and went before 1982 without ever knowing with certainty that this coin even existed.” As a consequence, when it went to the block graded Professional Coin Grading Service EF-45, it was bid well over its $75,000-$150,000 estimate to realize $456,000.
A second Ecuadorian 8 escudos from Quito also soared well past upper estimate. In PCGS MS-65, it is the finest known dated 1842-MVS (KM-23.2). It also sported a much better-looking Bolivar. Hence it was perhaps not unexpected that fierce competition produced a price of $102,000.
It was finally the turn of Colombia to shine. This was achieved with a unique 1848 pattern 16 pesos struck at Popayán (KM-Pn18). The coin is linked with Britain’s Royal Mint given that the bust is signed “W.W.” presumably for William Wyon. Ex-Norweb Collection and graded PCGS SP-64, it took an easy $96,000 that was, yet again, well in excess of double estimate.
Other top-selling gold included the most famous of eight known examples of the 1522 Cartagena 2 escudos – the first gold coin to be struck in the New World. Produced posthumously for Philip III, it achieved $66,000 in PCGS AU-58.
The sole certified mint state example of an Ecuadorian 1854-GJ 8 escudos, KM-34.1, realized $48,000 in PCGS MS-63. And a unique 1755-S 4 escudos struck at Santa Fe de Nuevo Reino (Bogotá) mint for Ferdinand VI sold under estimate for $43,200 in PCGS AU-55. It was just this coin’s third time at auction. The previous two occasions had been in 1943 and 2005.
Silver was not to be denied. Among the leaders here were a couple of rare Santa Fe de Nuevo Reino (Bogotá) mint 8 reales struck for Philip V. Both were KM-18. Both took $60,000. The first was one of just two 1721-ARC known. It came in PCGS AU-53. The second was also one of just two known but this time dated 1722- SAN and graded PCGS EF-40.
From slightly later in numismatic history came a choice mint state Santa Fe de Nuevo Reino (Bogotá) mint pillar 8 reales of Ferdinand VI. Dated 1759-JV, it is a distinguished Columnario rarity, being an example of the first milled coinage struck in Colombia. It romped to an easy $63,000 in MS-62 (PCGS) on its $20,000-$40,000 estimate.
Full catalog details and prices realized are available at the Stack’s Bowers website: www.stacksbowers.com.
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