At DWN, I get to handle many interesting coins. Some make it to the website; others don’t. In this blog, I thought I’d share images and impressions of three particularly interesting coins which I handled in March 2019.
1. THE WORLD’S MOST UNDERGRADED 1841-D QUARTER EAGLE
As of April 2019, only four Dahlonega quarter eagles had been awarded a Gold Sticker by CAC, and while I don’t know this for sure, I’m willing to bet that only one wasn’t in an older holder. The coin I am referring to is an 1841-D graded AU50 by PCGS.
A little background is in order.
First, the 1841-D is quite rare as a date with fewer than 100 known. It is not often seen in AU grades and almost never with natural color and choice surfaces.
Second, a few words on how this great coin came to be. If you catch me at the right time at the right show and you are a good customer who I like, I just might show you my new purchases from the show. I rarely show them as they typically include “secret” coins, coins not ready for public viewing or, most often, coins I want to sell from my website, not from the bourse table. A collector who we will refer to as Blazer Fan approached me at what must have been the exact right alignment of the planets.
Blazer Fan: Can I see your newps?
Me: (hemming and hawing) Ummm, ok.
Blazer Fan: (carefully going through a box of newps) This 1841-D quarter eagle is incredible. How much?
Me: (hemming and hawing) That coin is waaaaay undergraded. I don’t want to sell it. (remembering that I have over 100 new coins to grade/describe/image/sell) Oh, ok…it costs $X.
Blazer Fan: (waits less than two seconds to answer) Sold.
Cut to four years later when I buy Blazer Fan’s coins. I see this lovely 1841-D quarter eagle again and I still love it. And I’m still mystified at how it could have ever graded AU50 by modern standards as I see it as a rock solid 55+ to 58 and regard it as likely the nicest circulated example of this date in existence.
II. A GLOWING RED GEM 1795 HALF EAGLE
I have a reputation as a dealer who really likes gold coins with exceptional original color and this is why a well-known dealer called me right after he purchased this 1795 Small Eagle half eagle graded AU53 by NGC and approved by CAC. He mentioned that the coin was really, really pretty and that I was going to really, really like the color.
OK, you ask, why should I believe that the color is real? Why isn’t this another of those funky botched heat-treated pieces that you rail against on your website, Mr. Fancypants Gold Dealer (the exact name I got called recently by a coin expert whose 10 minutes spent researching his gold coin on the Web apparently made him smarter than me…)?
The first reason is the hue of this color. Heat-treated gold coins tend to show a bright orange hue (I’ve repeatedly referred to this as “Cheeto Orange.”). You’ll note this this piece has more of a reddish hue. It’s very beautiful in person and it is still impossible to replicate in the lab. What causes this color? I’m not exactly sure but I’m inclined to think it’s from long-term storage in an old wooden coin cabinet. The toning I refer to as “leather pouch” is more of a purple in hue.
The second reason is how the toning lays on the surfaces. You’ll note that it doesn’t totally cover either side as does fake toning. On this, the relief details are lighter in hue as one would expect from a coin with natural color.
One other important thing to consider is that the coin is in an older holder. Now this is no guarantee that the color is original. What it tells me is the color is stable, and that it isn’t the result of chemicals that inevitably breakdown with the passing of time.
III. A MOST UNUSUAL 1851-O HALF EAGLE
If you aren’t a coin weenie, you might not want to read any further - but if you are interested in New Orleans gold bear with me.
In my recent book on New Orleans gold I identified three varieties for the 1851-O. One of these (Variety 3) is known to be very rare with just a handful known.
I recently purchased an 1851-O half eagle graded EF45 by PCGS/CAC and was pleased to learn it was a Variety 3. When I studied the reverse, I was intrigued to note that not only is the mintmark clearly repunched to the southeast, it also seems to be entered by hand into the die. While not as extreme as the famous 1854-O Huge O quarter dollar, this mintmark is crude and oddly placed, appearing much different than on any other New Orleans half eagle I have seen.
I’m not ready—yet—to declare that this is the gold coin version of the 1854-O Huge O quarter, but it is clearly an interesting variety which requires careful scrutiny.
Douglas Winter Numismatics handles more interesting US gold coins than any other dealer in the country. Want to join the fun? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (214) 675-9897.