19th Century Coins
1815 Shortage of Metals in Philadelphia
2016 SOLD for $ 820K including premium
The metals do not circulate any more. Copper, silver and gold are no longer available for the Philadelphia Mint whose business is extremely slowed down. The reserves ran dry. The currency emissions are no more resulting from federal decisions but the production line accepts some operations to change bullion in coins on orders from private investors.
In such conditions, it is assumed that individuals were using for their transactions the Spanish silver coins and the Portuguese gold coins whose circulation were to remain legal until 1857. The extreme rarity of the 1815 US coinage demonstrates the fragility of the American economy and the weakness of the autonomy of the United States despite the satisfactory conclusion of the war.
Only one gold coin operation is carried out in 1815, on a coordinated order between two private depositors and the Bank of Pennsylvania who each brought some gold to turn it into half eagles of $ 5. In less than one hour on November 3, 1815, 635 pieces are produced with a single pair of dies.
The rarity of this coin has become legendary. Unknown to the numismatists until the mid-nineteenth century, the 1815 half eagle was regarded in the 1880s as the rarest regular issue of the USA. Although some coins have surfaced in the following century, this variety remains a treasure.
On February 9 in New York, Stack's Bowers in association with Sotheby's sells the finest known example of 1815 half eagle, graded MS65 by PCGS with a rich color between deep yellow and orange. It is estimated $ 750K, lot 3149.
1820 A Too Long Reign
2020 SOLD for $ 440K before fees
During this period, the final victory over the Napoleonic empire led the United Kingdom to the brink of financial ruin. The reform of 1816 defines a new currency, named sovereign or pound, which takes reference to a gold standard. The silver money is devalued and the guinea becomes outdated.
To engrave the new coinage, the Royal Mint hires Benedetto Pistrucci, an Italian medalist recently arrived in London. The gold sovereign features on the obverse the laureate head of an earlier portrait of the king and on the reverse a dynamic image of St George slaying the dragon.
They must now prepare the highest denominations. The 5-sovereigns succeeds to the 5-guineas, the last issue of which was dated from 1753. The creation of a double sovereign is also decided. These two references have the same design, based on the sovereign of 1817 with a rejuvenation of the king's face and the replacement of the saint's broken spear by a sword.
In early 1820, the dies are ready for the two new denominations. The king's death on January 29 forces the project to be canceled. The production is limited to 25 5-pound and 60 2-pound gold coins. Each of these values exists in two variants : the edge is either plain or inscribed in raised letters celebrating the 60th year of this too long reign.
A five pounds pattern coin with lettered edge, graded PR63 Deep Cameo by PCGS despite a scratch behind the tail of the horse, with a rich orange peel color, was sold for £ 360K including premium by Spink on May 14, 2015 over a lower estimate of £ 100K. It is estimated $ 425K for sale on January 19 in New York by Baldwin's of St James's, lot 169 linked here on the NumisBids bidding platform.
The lot 170 of the next sale, estimated $ 70K, is the highest graded copy of the two pounds pattern, certified PR64 Ultra Cameo by NGC. It has also the inscribed edge.
The gold double sovereign of George IV was released for circulation in 1823, followed two years later by the five-sovereigns.
The participation of William Wyon in 1820 in the retouching of Pistrucci's drawing is possible. The fact remains that the Una and the Lion by Wyon which will symbolize in 1839 the new reign of Victoria is undoubtedly a feminization of this heroic St George.
£ 5 : SOLD for $ 440K before fees
£ 2 : unsold
Happy #StGeorgesDay from #Spink #Coins!— Spink & Son (@SpinkandSon) April 23, 2020
Along with the 200th Anniversary of the first 5 Pounds we chose a #GeorgeIII, Pattern Five Pounds, 1820.
Only 25 made depicting St George and the Dragon as designed by Benedetto Pistrucci.
Sold in May 2015 for £360,000#numismatics #coins pic.twitter.com/rOcJjDSwvn
1822 The Emperor Pedro
2014 SOLD 500 K$ including premium
The fall of the French Empire made the situation even more complex. In 1821 King Joao VI came back to Portugal to try to oppose the liberal revolution. During the fourteen years of exile, the dependence of the two territories had been reversed. For the first time, a European country, Portugal, was de facto considered by its ruling dynasty, the Braganza, as a colony of an American country, Brazil.
King Joao reluctantly entrusts the regency of Brazil to his eldest son the crown prince Pedro. This young man aged 23 is impetuous and womanizer, and despite being intelligent his political training had been neglected.
The crisis broke out on the following year when the Portuguese Cortes tried to impeach the powers of Pedro. The prince, who had spent his youth in Brazil, tears his Portuguese cuff in emitting the grito do Ipiranga on September 7, which will be commemorated as Brazilian national day.
Pedro is no longer in control of events. Separatists nominated him as Emperor under the name of Pedro I on 12 october 1822 and the coronation ceremony took place on 1 December of the same year.
Hastily conceived in order to be available on coronation day, the gold coin of 6400 Reis with the effigy of the new Emperor is the first coinage of the independent Brazil. It was produced in only 64 units to be provided to the main dignitaries.
It is extremely rare on the market. The coin for sale on January 5 in New York by Heritage is in superb condition, graded AU55 (Almost Uncirculated) by NGC, with a deep orange color. It is estimated $ 200K. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
Great result for this interesting coin : $ 500K including premium.
1825 A US Coin from only Two Units known
2008 SOLD 690 K$ including premium
It is codified under the reference 1825/4 $5 AU50 by NGC (NGC is a normative service). It is a piece of $ 5 with a branched eagle on obverse and a rather ugly Liberty on reverse.
From a low mintage, the fate of this model was settled in the early years when the money producers observed that the value of its raw metals (ratio silver-gold 18 / 1) was more interesting than its currency value. Tens of thousands of coins of several models were then melted, and there are currently only two survivors of our model, including that which is for sale.
Sold $ 140 K in 1978, it came down at auction in two steps to $ 105 K (1992). The commerce sold it $ 275 K and it got $ 240 K at auction in 1999. Heritage auctions it now with a reserve price of 600 K $. If it is sold, it will mean that the market has changed considerably over the past decade, and that the scarcity tops over all other characteristics.
POST SALE COMMENT
The auction house had well targeted its estimate. This coin of 1825 was sold for 690 K$ including fees.
1838 The Enigma of the 1838-O Half Dollar
2013 SOLD 735 K$ including premium
The New Orleans mint has not edited any half dollar coin in 1838. Yet nine 1838-O samples are identified. They are all in first strike (proof) quality. The puzzle is now closed out by a recent study, unquestionable and documented, published by the numismatists of Heritage.
1838 is the key year when production of federal coins is decentralized. Three provincial plants are created: Charlotte in North Carolina, Dahlonega in Georgia, New Orleans in Louisiana.
In the old mint of Philadelphia, they do everything to achieve a success. The decision is made to mark the origin of the strike: C for Charlotte, D for Dahlonega, O for New Orleans.
The first two of these plants will use the local gold, and the program of activities of the third is the only one to include a silver coinage. Philadelphia therefore tested a half dollar marked 1838-O before shipping its dies to Louisiana.
The year is very bad, due to equipment malfunction and serious epidemics, and no half dollar is struck in Louisiana in 1838. In early 1839, when the problems are resolved, the hardware of the new vintage is not yet ready and the first tests of half dollars are still using the 1838-O dies.
Our nine coins are regular, without being able to discriminate whether they come from the 1838 Philadelphia pattern or from the 1839 New Orleans novodel.
One of the best, graded PR64 by PCGS, was sold $ 630K including premium by Heritage in June 2005. It is listed again in the sale held from 9 to 13 January by Heritage in Orlando. Here is the link to the catalog.
1838 The Gobrecht Eagle
The eagle was completely redesigned in 1838 by Gobrecht, who had previously created the new silver dollar. The image of Liberty, tilted from the axis of date and stars, seems to be leaning forward. This first variety is rare, with only 7,200 units minted in 1838 and 25,801 in 1839. From the end of 1839, the figure is straightened and slightly modified. The new Liberty regains her pride but is less pretty.
Since 1820, the mint was maintaining its know how in the proof polishing of gold coins, with extremely low quantities. For the eagle, the first proofs, in 1834 and 1835, are the four pieces of Roberts' journey, made in the design interrupted in 1804.
The proof eagles in Gobrecht's first design are extremely rare. Three 1838 and three 1839 have survived, including one from each year in the collection of the Smithsonian.
An 1838 proof eagle graded PR65 Cameo by PCGS will be sold by Heritage in Dallas on January 21, lot 4109. An 1839 proof eagle from the type of 1838 graded PR67 Ultra Cameo by NGC was sold for $ 1.6M including premium by Heritage in January 2007.
1839 Victoria and the Lion
2017 SOLD for $ 376K including premium
In June 1837, the still unmarried young woman became Queen Victoria. Wyon realizes the portrait with the young head that is used on the British coins from 1838 and on the postage stamps from their first emission in 1840. The very broad dissemination of this figure contributes to bring back an undeniable sympathy of the public tired with the scandals of the previous generations of the Royals.
The £ 5 gold coin of 1839 is Wyon's masterpiece. The obverse has the young head, inscribed 'Victoria DG (for Deo Gratias) Britanniarum Regina FD (for Fidei Defensor)'. The reverse stages Una and the Lion with Victoria in the role of Una and the inscription 'Dirige Deus Gressus Meos' (May the Lord direct my steps).
Una is the allegory of the True Church in a 1590 poem by Spenser. The re-use of this figure by Wyon to symbolize the hope of a healthy and strong redirection of the British monarchy will remain highly popular in England throughout Victoria's reign.
At that time the practice is already taken to use the first striken coins of a new monetary edition for presentation and for selling to numismatists. On January 13 in New York, Stack's Bowers sells as lot 2477 a complete set of the fifteen coins issued by the Royal Mint in 1839, from farthing to sovereign, in proof condition.
It is evident that this collection was gathered from the origin and has never been separated. The coins have a matching patina suggesting that they have been stored for a long time in the same box and they were inspected at the same time by NGC which graded them from Proof-63 to Proof-66. The £ 5 Victoria-Una is a magnificent Proof-63 Ultra Cameo piece. The lot is estimated in excess of $ 200K.
1849 Gold Rush !
2010 SOLD 218 K$ including premium
It is no coincidence, of course, if the gold rush in California and the
first issue of American gold coins of $ 1 are from the same year, 1849.
A copy is being sold by Heritage Auction Galleries in Long Beach on February 5. It is estimated $ 300K.
This price may seem high for a regular issue. The explanation is related to the production site. Marked 1849-C, it was struck at the plant in Charlotte, North Carolina, whose production had been low on that year. Only four 1849-C $ 1 coins are currently located. The image is shared in the press release of the auction house.
Carolina had its gold rush 14 years before California, and it probably continued in 1849 to handle local extractions.Before the $ 1 gold coins, the Charlotte mint had already produced half eagles ($ 5) and quarter eagles ($ 2.5).
POST SALE COMMENT
Heritage had been cautious in assessing this lot below the data provided from their usual databases. Once again, it was correct. This coin has been sold 218 K $ including premium.
1849 A Private Bank in San Francisco
Wright understands that the participation in the circulation of currency is a source of wealth. He creates in San Francisco the Wright & Co company soon to be known as the Miners Bank of Savings of Alta California and begins to issue paper money.
The feverish unrest in the region accelerates the organization of the State of California. The issue of notes by private operators will soon be prohibited. Wright gets on 7 August 1849 the authorization to produce gold alloy coins of $ 5 and 10.
Assayers had good reasons to be suspicious. A report issued in December 1849 revealed that a $ 10 piece of the Miners Bank contained only $ 9.65 of metal. Customers were requiring discounts and Wright could not maintain his company. Because of their denomination at $ 10 considered as fraudulent, almost all coins made by the Miners Bank were melted.
The case of Wright is not isolated. The State of California understands the risk and prohibits private coin operations in April 1851. Honest assayers such as Wass and Molitor earn their good reputation in that new period.
On August 6 in Chicago, Stack's Bowers sells a $ 10 coin of the Miners Bank, lot 13295. This piece is in a beautiful condition, graded MS65 by NGC.
1850 Two Quarter Dollars
2008 Sold 460 K$ including premium by heritage
2013 SOLD 260 K$ including premium
They are of course the subject of a special attention, if only to verify that everything is correct. Initially, specimenswere kept for some time by the directors of the plant. They were made directly available to collectors from the late 1850s.
When they are uncirculated, these coins approach perfection. The original color of the metal can be rich and varied, easy in this case to distinguish from the rest of the production. When they have a low face value and so were not intended to be hoarded, the survivors may be extremely rare.
Tomorrow on August 9 in Rosemont IL, Heritage sells two proof quarter dollars (25 cents) respectively dated 1850 and 1855, coming from the same collection.
The earlier is gorgeous with shimmering colors from bright blue to orange. It is graded PR68 by NGC. Such a condition is hard to exceed, especially for a small coin of that time. Here is the link to the catalog. It had been sold for $ 460K including premium by Heritage on January 10, 2008.
The 1855 specimen is graded PR64 by NGC. It is also almost perfect, but the colors are more common. It is particularly rare because it was minted in San Francisco. Here is the link to the catalog. This 1855-S had been sold for $ 276K including premium by Heritage on August 12, 2011.
POST SALE COMMENT
The two coins did not reach their previous price. For such specimens that are unique of their kind orbest in their class, the price goes up when a collector chooses a theme and falls when he sells. This sector of the market is not speculative.
Here are the results including premium: $ 260K for the 1850 quarter and $ 180K for the 1855-S.
1851 An Octagonal Gold Coin
2008 SOLD 460 K$ including premium
An octagonal gold U.S. coin of 50 dollars is announced by Bowers and Merena for the sale of September 13 in Beverly Hills, lot 681.
The press release links to the referenced lot in the catalogue, a feature that I had already appreciated in one of the most direct competitors of this auction house.
The characteristic of this coin is that it is in mint condition. No one of this type (known as Augustus Humbert) has apparently never been seen in such a perfect condition. Other mint coins are known, but due to production conditions at that time they are generally tarnished. This coin previously unknown on the market appears with a luster that the boss of the auction house considered impossible for this model.
Dating back to 1851, it is contemporary of the gold rushes of California.
It is a true pleasure, even for the layman, to view this remarkable item of unusual shape with maximum magnification on the site of the auction house.
I did not find the estimate in the catalogue, but the current bid is 250 K $.
POST SALE COMMENT
Prices have climbed up to 460 K $ including fees. So it is what we have to pay for an old US coin of gold rush time, of unusual shape, in such an exceptional condition that we can talk about perfection. Good.
This coin is catalogued as Humbert $50 Gold. Reeded Edge. K-5. Rarity-5. 880 THOUS. MS-65 * (NGC)
Reference : CoinNews before and after the above sale.
1853 New Year's Day in New Orleans
2017 SOLD for $ 520K including premium
On January 1, 1853, the officers of the New Orleans plant celebrate the new year by launching a small production. On the next day a commentator reports in a local paper that he has seen the new silver half dollars as well as some twenty dollar gold coins.
No government likes to waste its money. The Mint Act of February 21, 1853 decides a 7% reduction in the weight of silver for the half dollar. To identify them without weighing, both faces are slightly modified : arrows are added around the figures of the year as well as rays in the background behind the eagle.
The 1853-O no arrows no rays suddenly became non-compliant with government regulations. They will not be identified in a ledger.
Four examples are known. These coins had circulated : the discovery coin that surfaced in 1881 is the only one in very fine condition, graded VF-35 by PCGS. This unit was sold for $ 320K including premium by Stack's in October 2006. It will be sold on August 3 in Denver by Stack's Bowers, lot 2099.
The regularity of this 1853-O is beyond doubt. It used the same reverse die as for the 1852-O and it is certain that the die of the 1853 obverse was received from the Philadelphia Mint at the end of the previous year according to the usual practice. Its identification with the festive production of January 1 is very likely.
The scarcity of the 1853-O half dollar no arrows no rays is legendary. One of the other three units was the penultimate entry into the Eliasberg collection. Eliasberg completed his fabulous collection of all regular US varieties in November 1950 by purchasing his last missing item, the 1873-CC No Arrows Liberty Seated dime which still remains unique in its variant. This coin was discussed earlier in this column.
1856 Direct from Grandpa's Treasure
2010 SOLD 345 K$ including premium
It is a double eagle in gold dated 1856-O, manufactured in New Orleans from the model used since 1850. On one side, it shows Miss Liberty. The design of the other side is based on the official Great Seal of the United States. The O revealing the location is above the N of Twenty.
The collector died in 1923. His gold coins, known only to his family, now reappear. The arrival of a treasure is an exciting pleasure for specialists and collectors.
This copy of the 1856-O has been little circulated and has retained its original shine, which is an important quality for the gold from that time.
The article published by Heritage, which I linked above, provides ten references of prices obtained by them on New Orleans double eagles. The year 1856 is the most prestigious: a perfect specimen has reached $ 1.43 million including premium on May 28, 2009.
POST SALE COMMENT
The pre-sale press release issued later than my article announced an estimate of $ 300K. The result, $ 345K including premium, is consistent with this expectation.
Here is the link to this release, where the illustration of the coin is easier to find than through the link in my above discussion.
1858 A Collectible Eagle
2020 SOLD for $ 480K including premium
When the production of the gold eagle was restarted in 1838, a distinction was made between these first coins, designated as proof strikes, and circulation strikes. For this designation, all proof strikes were made in Philadelphia while the circulation strike was shared between Philadelphia and New Orleans. Until 1858 inclusive, the number of proof eagles is estimated at less than 5 per year.
The first collectors already preferred the most magnificent specimens, of course. Proof sets are assembled for them with a copy of each denomination of silver and copper coins, from half cent to dollar. A complete 1856 proof set was sold for $ 200K including premium by Heritage in February 2016. In 1858 the Mint director advertised for the first time the sale of such sets to the public.
In 1858 a pioneer collector named George Seavey managed to extend his proof set to include the six denominations of gold coins, from dollar to double eagle. Maintained intact by the next owner, this proof set was dispersed in 1890.
The proof eagle from the Seavey set is in a stunning state of conservation, graded PR64 Ultra Cameo by NGC. It will be sold by Heritage in Dallas on April 23, lot 3823.
This unit is the best among the four proof eagles of 1858 that survived, and it is the only one in private hands. These coins were made to be collected. That figure of 4 may constitute the total quantity of the production.
That year 1858 marked the dawn of the modern collection, with the founding of the Philadelphia Numismatic and Antiquarian Society and of the American Numismatic Society and the establishment of the first American professional business of coin sales by Edward Cogan.
1862 El Dorado
Coin collectors enjoy riddles. A gold coin from South America, estimated $ 400K, should specially interest them.
Dated 1862, it is a large piece of 28 mm in diameter weighing just under 16 grams. It is marked on behalf of the Republica del Ecuador with a Republican motto, and located in Quito. It shows the portrait of the Libertador, Simon Bolivar, who had died 32 years before but remained the undisputed hero of South America where he had assured the decolonization.
This coin of 50 FR (Francos) is known in only one copy. At the time, Ecuadoran currencies were the real and the escudo. The best hypothesis is that this coin was a model that has not been followed, or a copy from a very small edition for international trade.
It is amusing to note that the model remained unknown to numismatists until being introduced in a sales catalog (at fixed price) in 1956. Now this single sample which was in the same collection since 1970 comes back to the market atHeritage in New York on January 3.
1876 A Coin for Nevada
2019 sold for $ 460k including premium
The West sees an opportunity to support the mining activity after the stopping of the silver dollar and to end the bad practice of using a 1/8 dollar unit modeled on the former colonial real. The East does not see any benefit in this change. In Philadelphia they do not converge on a design for the new currency. It will be almost identical to the quarter except for the rim which is smooth instead of reeded.
As a logical consequence of these diverging interests, most of the production is made in the West : in 1875, 1,155,000 units are minted in San Francisco and 133,290 in Carson City, compared to 37,000 struck in Philadelphia.
It is out of question for the Congress to abolish the quarter dollar. Users are furious about the risk of confusion between the two coins. San Francisco stops producing the 20 cents. Philadelphia maintains a limited activity for use as a souvenir at the Centennial Exhibition.
Carson City, capital of Nevada, persists. Although the unpopularity of the new denomination did not allow to empty the reserves, a production of 10,000 pieces is launched on the date of 1876. Before being one of the rarest, it is already the most mediocre. The only used set of dies generate a very visible doubling of the image on the obverse.
Due to the remaining coins of 1875, 1876 is not released for circulation. The denomination is stopped in 1878, with the order to melt the stocks. Less than twenty 1876-CC 20 cents survive. Many are in very good condition although the circulation was not immediately banned.
A coin certified MS 65 by PCGS was sold for $ 560K by Stack's Bowers in January 2013. At Heritage, a difference of two grades did not have a flagrant effect on prices : $ 470K for an MS 64 in June 2014 to be compared with $ 460K for an MS 66 in April 2009. These results include the premium.
On August 15 in Rosemont IL, Stack's Bowers sells as lot 5182 a 1876-CC 20 cents graded MS 65 by PCGS.
1876 The Gold of a Grand Duke
2014 SOLD 380 K$ including premium
The third son, the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, was an excessive character with a booming voice, loving art and good life but displeased by any criticism. The most visible prince of the then younger generation of the dynasty, he married in 1874 and moved into a brand new palace built for him in St. Petersburg.
Russia had then no history on large gold coins and Vladimir was not the heir to the throne. However, a gold coin of 25 rubles is struck in 100 units in 1876 to honor his 30th birthday to happen on the following year. It is beautifully illustrated with the two-headed eagle. A medal would have been more logical but the extravagant Grand Duke was certainly trying to display his originality.
An uncirculated coin graded PR62 by PCGS is estimated $ 200K, for sale by Baldwin's in New York on January 9.
Very large gold coins will remain exceptional until the end of the Romanov dynasty. Only three types, all of them at later dates, can be compared with the coinage of the Grand Duke : the 25 rubles of 1896, the 37.5 rubles of 1902 and another 25 rubles in 1908.
POST SALE COMMENT
This exceptional Russian gold coin was sold for $ 325K before fees.
The result is $ 380K including premium.
The photos of the coin, both sides, is included in the post sale release shared by AuctionPublicity.
1879 The Metric Dollars
2018 SOLD for $ 1.5M including premium
To accompany the new dollar its new multiples are designed in 1879. The five-dollar half eagle should be replaced by a four-dollar coin 6 G, .3 S, .7 C (7 grams) nicknamed the stella for the star that adorns its reverse. The incentive of the four dollar denomination is to be directly exchangeable for eight florins.
At the top of the monetary range a die is created for the $ 20 coin 30 G, 1.5 S, 3.5 C (35 grams) known as the quintuple stella. It should be noted that the alloy of the stellas and quintuple stellas is too heavy in gold to be designated as a goloid.
The goloid patent stated an increased difficulty of counterfeiting. It was naïve : it was enough to remove the gold and increase the copper to obtain a cheaper piece impossible to distinguish from a real dollar coin. The government understands it in 1880 and stops the operation : the goloid, the metric dollar and its multiples are dead and buried.
The stella has never been released. Used as a gift to promote the project, it is not scarce and some examples have been worn by handling. This is not the case for the five known units of the quintuple stella from its unique 1879 strike : all of them remain in mint proof condition, graded PR 62 to PR 64+ by PCGS or NGC.
A coin was donated to the Smithsonian by Stack's. A collector still recently owned the two specimens in deep cameo condition. He keeps the best. The other, graded PR 64 by PCGS, was sold for $ 1.88M including premium by Legend Rare Coin Auctions on May 19, 2016.
Another one of the five coins had been presented by the US Mint to Hubbell. Graded PR 62 by PCGS, it was sold for $ 860K including premium by Heritage in January 2007. Upgraded PR 63 Cameo also by PCGS it will be sold by Stack's Bowers in Baltimore on March 22, lot 2272.
#AuctionPreview—An 1879 “Quintuple Stella” from the Garrett Collection will be offered by @StacksBowers as part of the official Whitman Coins and Collectibles Baltimore Expo auction next month. https://t.co/pp3S4QahIj #coins #numismatics #gold #Stella pic.twitter.com/2MV6shXKqo— CCN & CSN (@trajanpublisher) February 9, 2018
1894 A Few Dimes after the Panic
2020 SOLD for $ 1.5M including premium
That year was disrupted by the financial panic of 1893. Users wanted only gold, to the detriment of silver and paper money. Federal gold reserves were emptied and silver was piling up and depreciating. The need for silver coins decreased, especially for fragmentary denominations.
Procedures were applied. The San Francisco plant had received in November and January the pairs of dies for the production of the 1894 dimes. The production of dimes continued with the dies marked 1893 until the production of the 24 pieces on June 9, three weeks before the end of the fiscal year.
The factory managers did not appreciate that they had created the greatest scarcity of the US regular coinage. The logic of their decision remains unknown. They were not prestige pieces made on polished planchets. None were sold to a collector despite an insistent request from some of them to constitute complete series. They were no longer in the cashier's inventory in January 1895.
The treasure hunt was on. Nine pieces will be found.
Four units in excellent condition constitute two groups. The collector John H. Clapp owned two, presumably acquired new from a factory worker. One of them, graded PR66 by PCGS, was sold for $ 2M including premium by Heritage on January 7, 2016.
Two other coins were purchased in 1949 by a dealer to an old woman identified as the daughter of a California banker. They gave rise to the legend that she had received three from her father when she was a a child but immediately used one of them to buy ice cream.
The better of the latter two coins, graded PR66 by NGC, was sold for $ 1.04M including premium by Heritage in January 2005. It will be sold by Heritage in Dallas on September 17, lot 10055. The other coin, graded PR63 by PCGS, was sold for $ 1.32M including premium by Stack's Bowers on August 15, 2019.
1884 Last Report for the Trade Dollar
2020 SOLD for $ 550K including premium
The Philadelphia Mint begins preparing 1884 in a similar process. The end-of-year report will declare the production of 264 pieces, delivered to the cashier in January. Shortly after the delivery, the Treasury Department bans the production and sale of new trade dollars. The cashier returns 254 pieces which are melted. None is kept for the archives. The dies are destroyed in January 1885. The model will become legendary, especially since a copper impression was known.
The existence of surviving units is revealed when six coins are sold by the dealer John Haseltine, in 1907 and 1908. They come from proof sets assembled by his late father-in-law William Idler for his personal collection. Idler, a jeweler in Philadelphia, had also been a pioneer in the numismatic trade, in direct contact with the factory. With a secret temper, he did not reveal his treasures.
It appears that Colonel Snowden, Superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint, had acquired the ten missing pieces, most likely before the order to cancel the operation, presumably to transfer six to Idler and keep the rest of it for himself.
This act was completely legal : mint employees could buy new coins at their face value. The relationship with collectors explains the survival of test pieces whose model was rejected, such as the stella coiled hair of 1879 and 1880.
The other four coins surfaced later, with no apparent connection to the Idler-Haseltine team. The ten missing pieces defined from the figures in the ledgers are thus known. They are all in private hands. Nine of them are graded PR63 and higher, and the last one is PR50.
A 1884 trade dollar graded PR66 by NGC was sold for $ 1.14M including premium by Heritage on January 10, 2019. Another one, graded PR64+ Cameo by PCGS, will be sold by Stack's Bowers in Baltimore on March 19, lot 3215. The next lot is a more mysterious and even rarer 1885 trade dollar, which will be the subject of another article in this column.
1885 The Treasures of Colonel Snowden
2020 SOLD for $ 1.32M including premium
The ban on continuing to produce the 1884 trade dollar came just after the January delivery to the cashier of a first batch covering about a quarter of the annual quantity needed for silver proof sets. The 1884 dies, however, were not destroyed until January 1885, as if the factory had been waiting for a government counter-order. There was a precedent, the 1878 muddle, when the production of circulation trade dollars was restarted on bad arguments after being banned.
Five 1885 trade dollars have survived. Unknown to the factory cashier, they were probably test pieces for a production that was never authorized, which would explain the omission of internal records. Meanwhile the Democrat Grover Cleveland had become president, and the position of the Superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint, the Republican A. Loudon Snowden, was becoming untenable. He resigned, or was forced to resign, in June 1885.
In 1908 the dealer John Haseltine announced at the ANA Convention the existence of the 1884 trade dollar, which some numismatists close to the factory had supposed. The 1885 trade dollar was still unsuspected at that time.
Snowden used to keep samples from plant operations during his superintendence. In 1909 he needed money and sold to the collector William Woodin through Haseltine the jewel of his treasure, the only two $ 50 gold coins made in 1877 for a project of union ($ 100) and half union ($ 50) in the context of the development of the gold standard. The project had been abandoned for reasons of technical feasibility.
The fact that the two half unions were still in private hands caused an uproar, and the sale was canceled after a legal action. Snowden took back the two pieces which were immediately returned to the Mint by donation or confiscation. After an amicable settlement, Snowden, unable to pay Woodin in cash, gave him his hoard in 1910.
This transaction was not the subject of an inventory but there is no doubt that the four 1884 trade dollars which had not belonged to Haseltine and the five 1885 trade dollars were part of the lot. All of these pieces were brought to the market by associates of Woodin between 1911 and 1915.
The highest ranked 1885 trade dollar, graded PR66 by NGC, was sold for $ 3.96M including premium by Heritage on January 10, 2019. Another coin, graded PR64 by PCGS, will be sold on March 19 in Baltimore by Stack's Bowers, lot 3216.
1889 The Eliasberg Pedigree
2013 SOLD 880 K$ including premium
Even for the common issues, the most perfect piece is always coveted. This is especially true for coins made in Carson City (CC), Nevada, which was all along its period of activity from 1870 to 1893 a very small mint once equipped with only one press.
Eliasberg had an almost perfect copy of the 1889-CC Morgan Silver Dollar. This variant was made after four years ofsuspension of the factory due to a questionable profitability. For an unidentified reason, 70 to 90% of the 350 000 units were immediately melted, making the survivors one of the rarest variants among Morgan dollars.
The 1889-CC $ 1 from the Eliasberg collection is graded MS-68 by PCGS and its condition is far surpassing any other example. Its brilliance is great and the tone is superb.
After more than half a century in the Eliasberg collection, it was sold for $ 460K by Bowers and Merena in April 1997. It was later sold for $ 530K including premium at Bowers and Merena in January 2001 and at the same price by Heritage on January 9, 2009.
It returns on sale on August 15 in Chicago by Stack's Bowers Galleries, successor to Bowers and Merena.
POST SALE COMMENT
Coins in exceptional condition are always prized by collectors. This silver dollar was sold for $ 880K including premium, well beyond its previous results.
1892 Gold in Transvaal
The discovery of the most important natural resources of the world has forever changed the social and political stability in the south of Africa. In 1886 Johannesburg was founded on the extraordinary gold deposit of the Transvaal.
President Kruger tries to defend the Transvaal against the British greed. His republic is called Zuid-AfrikaanscheRepubliek. The currency is the pound, spelled pond.
In 1892, a gold coin of one pond is issued bearing the portrait of the President, whose profile shows off the lush white beard. A copy in mint condition, graded PR65 NGC, is estimated $ 300K, for sale by Heritage in New York on January 3. This specimen has all the qualities of proof coins, including the beauty of the print and the so-called orange-peel texture.
The catalog reveals the reason for the rarity of this issue, estimated at ten copies only.
The realization was entrusted to an engraver of Berlin mint, who put his initials, OS, on the shoulder of the President.But the word Os, in Afrikaans, is the equivalent of Ox in English. Imagine the anger of Kruger.
1893 the morgan dollars
The silver mining industry is pushing up the price of that metal. The Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 obliging the federal government to buy a considerable amount of silver does not curb the crisis. Many banks go bankrupt.
The Morgan dollar is a circulation currency that nobody hoards. Its productions are active but often canceled by counter-orders that generate immediate melting or stocks that will be melted later. The Morgan dollar 1889-CC (Carson City) is a typical example. An almost perfect example graded MS-68 by PCGS was sold for $ 880K including premium by Stack's Bowers on August 15, 2013.
In 1893 the gold reserves fell to their critical threshold with the risk that gold certificates could not be any more exchanged. Due to the financial panic the Morgan dollar 1893-S (San Francisco) is extremely rare in mint state.
An 1893-S remained in a superb condition. Graded MS-67 by PCGS, it was probably chosen in the factory by a collector for the unusual sharpness of its strike and remained in his descendance until it was sold by Stack's in September 2001 for $ 414K including premium.
This coin had not been included in the auctions of the Coronet collection of Morgan dollars by Legend Rare Coin in 2015. This operator had attempted a private sale with a price tag at $ 2M. This offer was discussed at that time in an article shared by Coin World.
It is now estimated $ 1.3M for sale by the same auction house in Philadelphia on October 26, lot 388. Legend Rare Coin is the official auctioneer of the PCGS Members Only Show.
1894 The Price of an Ice Cream
2019 SOLD for $ 1.32M including premium
A prominent collector wanted an uncirculated example of each denomination produced in San Francisco in 1894. His demand is satisfied except for the dime. The factory manager wrote to him on November 9, 1894 : "We have no coinage dimes 1894". This collector is tenacious : he will acquire before 1900 two of the best specimens, currently graded PR66 and PR65. The former was sold for $ 2M including premium by Heritage on January 7, 2016.
The currently known population is 9 units, including 7 in condition equal to or better than PR60. They were struck with the same dies and their surface condition is consistent. The planchets and dies were not specially polished, showing that the operation was not designed for prestige.
Obviously all the coins struck before June 9, 1894 had used the dies at the date of 1893. The best hypothesis is the realization of tests with the new dies of 1894, pending a production order that will never come. The 19 coins put into circulation were probably shared among several employees before their future scarcity could be identified. The November 9 letter means that they were already out of stock.
Two of the nine surviving pieces appeared together in the late 1940s, bought by a dealer to an old lady. This 1894-S dime was one of the most remarkable types of the regular US coinage. The purchaser generates a legend : the lady had three pieces when she was a girl but had innocently used one of them to buy an ice cream. This story has not been consolidated by direct testimony.
One of these two coins is graded PR66 by NGC. The other, graded PR63 by PCGS, will be sold by Stack's Bowers in Rosemont IL on August 15, lot 5178. Numismatists sometimes enjoy charming tales : a circulated coin in Good 4 condition has been nicknamed The Ice Cream Specimen.
1895 The Russian Shift to the Gold Standard
2014 SOLD 235 K$ including premium
In the 1870s, the major countries had begun a financial globalization by adopting the gold standard. The great advantage of this system compared to the gold-silver bimetallism was to end the risk of fluctuation between the two metals and other issues concerning their parity. This reform favored international trade and industries.
Russia had not followed. Witte endeavored to catch up.
In 1895, prototypes of gold coins were prepared in three denominations : imperial, 2/3 imperial and 1/3 imperial. Entry into the system required a devaluation of one third of gold against the ruble.
This reform will not be easily accepted by the Russians. Officials cautiously imagined a new monetary unit, the Russ, to replace the ruble. An Imperial is 15 Russ, but has the weight of a previous 10 rubles coin.
Five groups of these three pattern coins are known. Two of them were disassembled, and two are held in institutions.
The fifth set is offered in three lots in the sale of Stack's Bowers in Chicago on August 7. Each unit has been graded by NGC. The Imperial of 15 Russ graded Proof 63 is estimated $ 150K, lot 1547. The 10 Russ coin was graded Proof 65 Cameo thanks to its glossy surface. It is estimated $ 100K, lot 1546. The 5 Russ graded Proof 65 is estimated $ 100K, lot 1545.
In 1897, the mass production of new gold coins begins with the three originally planned denominations along with a fourth worth 1/2 imperial, all with the same engraved figures as for the Russ pattern coins : the portrait of Nicholas II and the two-headed eagle. The government has waived to change the name of the currency but the ruble had lost in this process one third of its value in gold.
POST SALE COMMENT
These three pattern coins with a high historical interest have far exceeded their estimates. Here are the results including premium : $ 235K for the Imperial, $ 210K for the 2/3 Imperial and $ 176K for the 1/3 Imperial.
1898 THE MYSTERY OF THE GOLD TICKEY
In South Africa, Tickey was the familiar name of the coin of 3 pence. This piece was made of silver. Yet it is a gold Tickey which is presented in November 4 by Stephan Welz in association with Sotheby's.
The history of this foundry is known. It was produced in 1898 with the same dies as the silver coins of same value. The equipment had been loaned for one day by the government to Sammy Marks who issued 215 copies, probably using his own gold.
This is a coin and not a token or medal, because at that time in that country the material was not taken into account for the authorization of circulation.
But why doing by yourself what already exists as a regular coin? Historians have no satisfactory explanation for the initiative of Marks. This man of humble origin was established for 30 years in South Africa, where he made his fortune and had become an influential friend of President Kruger. Also of strong personality, he was familiar with Rhodes and Barnato who competed together for control of gold and diamonds.
I conclude that gold was the symbol of the wealth of the country, its financial value was minor for Marks, and he wanted to do an operation both prestigious and original. The gold Tickey of Sammy Marks looks like a one-off operation in the history of money.
The copy presented by Stephan Welz is guaranteed as authentic by its perfect similarity with the silver Tickey. It is estimated 120 K ZAR.