One of the things about the Christmas/New Year's holidays is that they are a time of remembrance. If you are a coin dealer (and if you've been one for as long as I have...) this is a good time to sit around and get all nostalgic about interesting coins that you have seen or sold. I originally thought about writing an article that talked about the great U.S. gold coins that I have sold over the years. But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like a disingenuous puff piece and I think one of the reasons that people like to read my web articles is that they are not simply written to extol the virtues of Douglas Winter Numismatics. So, what I've decided to do instead is to modify the article but keep the basic theme. I'm going to discuss three interesting coins from each denomination that are, in my opinion, extremely important but not necessarily that well known. A few are coins that I've handled but most aren't. And none are currently for sale or are likely for sale anytime in the near future.
I. Gold Dollars
a) 1849-C Open Wreath Gold Dollar, Graded AU58 by PCGS
This coin is important to me for a number of reasons. I sold it back in 1999 via private treaty to another dealer who then sold it to a collector who resides in the South. It is still in this collection and it is still in the same old green label holder that it has been in since 1997.
The 1849-C Open Wreath is the rarest gold dollar and it is, by far, the rarest coin from the Charlotte mint. There are five examples known. One has been graded higher than this coin (an NGC MS63PL that was sold by David Lawrence Rare Coin Auctions in July 2004 as Lot 1005 in the Richmond I sale; it brought $690,000) but I personally like this piece more on account of its superb original color and unmolested surfaces.
This coin was part of the North Georgia collection that I sold in 1999 in conjunction with Hancock and Harwell. Jack Hancock was a good friend of mine and he died far too young. Jack and I did alot of business together and had a lot of non-coin related fun at shows and at his house in Georgia. The aforementioned 1849-C Open Wreath gold dollar was the most expensive--and neatest--coin that the two of us ever handled together and whenever I think of this coin, I think of my buddy Jack.
b) 1863 PCGS MS68
I first saw this coin a number of years ago in David Akers' case at a show. Dave has owned it for a number of years and he likes to display it, from time to time. Its never really been for sale but its a coin that I find remarkable for a n umber of reasons.
The 1863 is one of the truly rare Philadelphia gold dollars. It has a much lower survival rate than the other Civil War issues and it is especially rare in Uncirculated. While a decent MS62 to MS64 trades from time to time (I sold a lovely NGC/CAC MS64 earlier in the year) Gems are extremely rare. But the Akers coin is just amazing. It is one of the finest business strike gold dollars of any date that I have seen with incredible luster and color and nearly perfect surfaces. The fact that it is really rare and really gorgeous makes it a very special coin.
c) 1875 PCGS MS65
This coin sold in the February 2010 Heritage sale as lot 1427. I had heard about it years ago but had never actually seen it. I wasn't disappointed. The coin is a total Gem with superb natural coloration atop gorgeous prooflike surfaces. It is housed in an older green label holder and would likely upgrade a point if it were resubmitted. The coin sold for $109,250 which I felt was extremely aggressive buy, as the old cliche goes, where are you going to find another one like this at any price?
The 1875 is a rarity in all grades with an original mintage of just 400 business strikes. When available, it tends to come in the AU range and I have never personally seen another Gem (and only a handful of nice Uncirculated coins).
This was another coin that, like the 1863 I mentioned above, neatly combined rarity, high grade and superb eye appeal in one neat package.
2) Quarter Eagles
a) 1842 PCGS MS62
The 1842 is among my favorite quarter eagles. It is a rare date in all grades. Only 2,823 were struck and most of the three to four dozen that exist are well worn. Which is why I think this coin, graded MS62 by PCGS and very choice for the grade by today's standards, is among the more interesting Liberty Head gold coins that I have ever handled.
I've actually owned this coin twice. I first bought it out of the Superior 9/99 auction where it brought $31,050. I sold it to a Nevada specialist who considered it one of the prizes of his quarter eagle collection. I purchased his entire collection from him in 2002 and then sold this coin to a Midwestern collector who has, without much fanfare, assembled the greatest set of quarter eagles ever assembled (and I'm proud to say that I've built essentially his whole set!)
I would love to have this coin in my case at a major show. I think it would be a great litmus test for dealers and collectors who fancy themselves experts on U.S. gold coins. If you are a true expert, you are going to swoon when you see a coin like this 1842; if you are a faux gold coin expert, you'll walk right on by and not even look twice.
b) 1842-C PCGS MS65
There are a small number of coins like this 1842-C quarter eagle: items that are not only spectacular from a condition standpoint but which are very rare as well. This 1842-C quarter eagle, which is best known to specialists as the Elrod coin (it was owned by the noted Charlotte gold expert Stanley Elrod from 1980 to around 1992) is not only the single best Charlotte quarter eagle of any date that I have seen. It is also the finest known 1842-C quarter eagle by a mile and it is one of just two or three examples of this date that exist in Uncirculated.
This coin last appeared for sale as Heritage 2/99: 6146 (as an NGC MS65; it was subsequently crossed into a PCGS MS65 holder) where it brought $90,850. I was the underbidder and this is one of the few expensive coins that I have ever bid on at auction with the total intention of buying it for myself and putting it away. Had I bought it I'm not sure I would have sold it yet and the current owner, a Southern connoisseur who does not specialize in branch mint gold, was smart enough to realize the significance of this coin.
c) 1864 NGC MS67
I have written about the Byrod Reed sale that was held by Spink's in October 1996. This is a sale that I'd love to be able to travel back in time to and spend about ten times more money than I actually did. Prices, at the time, seemed high but, in retrospect, they were dirt cheap. The most amazing thing about the coins in this sale where how fresh they were. You are talking about coins that had lain undisturbed since the 1870's or 1880's....ahhh, be still my heart.
There were numerous terrific coins in the Reed sale but the coin I remember most was the 1864 that was cataloged as "Gem Brilliant Uncirculated." It was by far the best example of this very rare date that I had ever seen (and there is still nothing even close). It later graded MS67 at NGC and sold for $132,000 in the auction.
I don't think this coin has traded in many years and I'm not certain where it is today. Whoever owns this coin has one of the really great Civil War rarities and it is a piece that I think might bring an extremely strong price if offered today.
3) Three Dollar Gold Pieces
a) 1854 PCGS MS68
You'll have to bear with me on this coin as I don't totally recall all the facts behind it. I do remember that the coin turned up at a small coin show in Dallas in the mid-1980's and I missed buying it by about five minutes, much to my chagrin. The coin was submitted to PCGS around 1987 and it graded MS67; back when MS67 meant , essentially, perfection.
Now here's where my memory is a bit murky. I think this coin was sold in the Superior January 1990 sale for $132,000 which, as you can guess, was an amazing price for a common date Three Dollar gold piece; still is, in fact. It was eventually sold to John Moores, the owner of the San Diego Padres, and it was in his incredible type collection that was sold by Sotheby's in November 1999 to raise money for Scripps Hospital. As with all the coins in this sale, it went very cheaply at $57,500. It finally resurfaced as Heritage 6/04: 6219, graded MS68 by PCGS, where it brought $112,215.
This is easily the finest business strike Three Dollar piece I've ever seen and it may be the best pre-Civil War gold coin I have seen as well. It has amazingly clean surfaces, glowing luster, a razor sharp and as much eye appeal as you could hope for. 1854 Threes come nice but, man, this coin is something special.
b) 1854-D PCGS MS62 This is not the most valuable Three Dollar gold piece (the 1870-S holds that honor) but it is clearly a coin that has very widespread appeal and would be considered desirable even by someone who owned no other examples of this denomination. This is a coin that is universally considered to be the finest known 1854-D and it resides in the incredible Great Lakes collection which is easily the finest set of business strike Three Dollar pieces ever assembled.
This coin last appeared for sale in the Superior January 1996 sale where it sold for a reasonable $72,600. It was later upgraded to MS62 by PCGS.
While it has been fifteen years since I've last seen this coin, I remember it well. It had superb color and surfaces and was well-made for the issue. At the time, it was the only 1854-D three that had ever been graded Uncircuclated by PCGS. Since then, PCGS has graded a few more in Uncirculated (as has NGC) but this is still the only example that I uncategorically regard as Mint State.
c) 1865 NGC MS67*
Its not so much the specific coin that I remember in this case; its more the collection and the thrill of the research that went with it.
This coin was one of the centerpieces of the wonderful Richard Jewell Collection of Three Dollar gold pieces. I assembled this collection with Rich from 2002 to 2004 and in the beginning of 2005, I was informed it was for sale. I decided to place it in the ANR March auction. As part of the agreement, it was decided that I would write a book about Threes with the Q. David Bowers.
Dave Bowers has been a hero of mine since I was a kid and the thought of working on a project with him was exciting, We had to race through the book due to time constraints but the day a finished Doug Winter/Dave Bowers book on Three Dollar gold pieces arrived at my office was one of the numismatic highlights of my career.
Part 2 of this article will cover half eagles, eagles and double eagles and it will be published on my website in around 30 days.