On April 7, 2006 Heritage Auctions sold the Duke’s Creek collection of Dahlonega gold coinage at unreserved public auction. The prices that these coins realized give the advanced collector an excellent idea of values in this series. Going into this sale, I was not certain at how results would be. I looked at this sale as having two possible results: it would either be a complete disaster or it would be much stronger than expected due to the current bull market for all United States gold coins. My initial take on the results are that prices were, in most cases, very strong although a few items went very reasonably.
Here are the auction results as well as some quick comments regarding the coins and the prices they brought. Please note that the prices realized include a 15% buyers charge.
I. GOLD DOLLARS
DATE/GRADE TRENDS QUARTERLY BID PRICES REALIZED
1849-D N64 25000 16500 $17,250
Comments: I didn’t like this coin. I thought it went for a strong price given its level of quality.
1850-D N64 30000(63) 22500(63) $34,500
Comments: One of my favorite coins in the gold dollar section and an excellent value. I purchased this coin and would have paid quite a bit more.
1851-D N65 41000 ----- $37,375
Comments: Probably a bit overgraded but a very nice example. I thought it would bring 10% more.
1852-D N63 ----- 28000 $27,600
Comments: I was very happy to buy this coin right at quarterly bid. I liked the coin very much.
1853-D N63 35000 21500 $21,850
Comments: I didn’t care for this coin at all and it went fairly cheaply at well under 70% of Trends.
1854-D N62 20000 13500 $13,800
Comments: A very nice coin for the grade and a very good deal at less than 70% of Trends. I purchased this coin.
1855-D N64 ----- ----- $132,500
Comments: This was a very controversial lot. Many collectors were disappointed to see that the coin had been dipped by NCS and was now very bright. Had it been original I think it could have brought close to $200,000. As it is, this piece set an all-time auction record for any Dahlonega gold dollar.
1856-D N62 55000 39000 $40,250
Comments: I really disliked this coin and thought that the price it sold for was pretty amazing given its quality.
1857-D N62 18000 13500 $14,950
Comments: I thought this was a very nice coin and it sold for exactly the right amount. I purchased this piece.
1858-D N66 75000(65) 55000(65) $74,750
Comments: While $75,000 is hardly chump change, I thought this superb coin could easily have broken the $100,000 mark. Surprisingly, this coin sold to a book bidder and it was one of the few coins that did not get hammered to a live bidder at the sale.
1859-D N64 30000(63) 27000 $23,000
Comments: Very cheap and seemingly a real bargain but this piece had a major mint-made defect on the face which could make it hard to sell.
1860-D N64 ----- ----- $57,500
Comments: Probably my least favorite gold dollar in the collection; I thought the color was artificial and the coin was well overgraded. Despite this it set a record at nearly $60,000.
1861-D N65 125000 ----- $138,000
Comments: This was the most controversial lot in the sale. The coin had only recently been in an MS63 holder and its color had been lightened by NCS. But it was still the highest graded example of a classic rarity. Would the price reflect this? I think a crusty, original MS65 1861-D gold dollar could bring $250,000 in this market. The price realized for this coin was, in my opinion, very strong given its true quality.
GOLD DOLLARS FINAL PRICES REALIZED: $633,075 NUMBER OF GOLD DOLLAR LOTS: 13 AVERAGE PRICE REALIZED PER LOT: $48,698
II. QUARTER EAGLES
DATE/GRADE TRENDS QUARTERLY BID PRICES REALIZED
1839-D N64 50000(63) 48500 $63,250
Comments: This was an extremely strong price for this coin. The great popularity of Classic Head issues was clearly evident as this 1839-D brought approximately 30% over CDN Quarterly Bid.
1840-D N62 ----- ----- $74,750
Comments: This coin was a highlight of the collection and brought a record price. I was surprised at how many different people were bidding on it; I counted at least five different hands in the air after it opened.
1841-D N63 60000(62) 44000 $46,000
Comments: I did not like this coin as it had a detracting pinscratch on the obverse. I thought the price realized was extremely strong, considering that the much nicer PCGS MS63 Green Pond: 1017 coin sold a few years ago for $40,250.
1842-D N62 ----- 40000 $57,500
Comments: Here was an example of a finest known coin that sold for a very strong price. There were three bidders eagerly competing for this piece and I was somewhat surprised at the price realized.
1843-D Sm. D N62 25000 14000 $16,100
Comments: I thought this was one of the nicest MS62’s in the collection as it had superb color. I estimated that it would sell for $15,000 or so.
1843-D Lg. D N61 ----- ----- $12,075
Comments: Few people are aware of the fact that this major variety is excessively rare in Uncirculated. I purchased this lot for a collector who was very pleased to obtain it for 20% less than what the 1843-D Small D sold for.
1844-D N63 30000 21000 $25,300
Comments: This was a very impressive price for a coin that was not really that choice for the grade, in my opinion. The Green Pond coin graded MS63 by PCGS sold for $20,700 in January 2004.
1845-D N63 ----- 28000 $34,500
Comments: I’m not exactly sure what I missed on this coin. I thought it was very unappealing due to splotchy coloration and an overly-NCS’d appearance. Despite this fact, it sold for a very healthy $34,500.
1846-D N63 ----- 21500 $27,600
Comments: Here was another coin that brought around 20-30% more than I expected. If I had owned this coin, I would have been thrilled to see it sell for $22,000.
1846-D/D N58 ----- ----- $9,200
Comments: Yet another very strong price. I have seen these sell at coin shows in the $6000-7000 range. The Duke’s Creek pedigree appeared to add a considerable amount of value.
1847-D N65 ----- 55000 $74,750
Comments: I thought this was the strongest price of the night. This coin had formerly been the prettiest Dahlonega quarter eagle I had ever seen but it had recently been lightened and I no longer loved it. But the record-shattering price indicated that at least two bidders liked it. A lot.
1848-D N62 20000 12000 $23,500
Comments: Apparently someone saw this coin upgrading to MS63 (I didn’t) as it sold for well over MS62 Trends. Another very impressive price.
1849-D N62 35000 21000 $24,150
Comments: I loved this coin. It had great color and a terrific pedigree that went back over fifty years. I purchased it right at my upper limit and was very pleased with it. I was happy to see that this coin, unlike others in the collection, had not been lightened.
1850-D N61 16000(60) 12000(60) $17,250
Comments: A very average coin for the grade which sold for around $5,000 more than I expected. I have seen at least three or four NGC MS61’s sell at auction in the last few years for $9,000-11,000.
1851-D N65 ----- ----- $63,250
Comments: I had a client who wanted to purchase either the 1847-D or the 1851-D. Considering that the 1851-D is a much rarer coin and it sold for $10,000 less than the 1847-D, I think he got a great deal.
1852-D N64 40000(62) 40000(63) $57,500
Comments: This was a coin that I thought might slip through the cracks and sell for a reasonable number. It is the finest known example of a rare date and a coin with good eye appeal. It shattered all previous price records for the date and I was left in the dust.
1853-D N62 ----- 26000 $32,200
Comments: This was another coin that brought 20% more than I would have expected. It was fairly nice for the grade but I was very surprised it brought so much over Bid.
1854-D N64 60000(62) 65000(63) $80,500
Comments: I have been in love with this coin since I first saw it in 1999 but have never been able to own it. I was very excited when a new collector called me before the sale and told me to bid on it for him. I was even more excited that it went for what I feel was a reasonable number; after all it sold in 1999 for $63,250 in an MS62 holder.
1855-D N61 ----- 42000(60) $54,625
Comments: I was not wild about the quality of this coin and I think the price realized was extremely strong. I had a very nice NGC MS60 last year that I sold for nearly $20,000 less and it was a long struggle to sell it even at a discounted number.
1856-D N61 80000(60) 60000(60) $71,785
Comments: This coin really grew on me. At first I wasn’t that wild about it but the more I studied it the more I realized it was exceptional. In fact, I think it is the unqualified Finest Known example of the rarest Dahlonega gold coin. If you can’t already tell, I purchased it and I think it was my single best deal of the whole auction.
1857-D N62 27500 18000 $17,250
Comments: After the excitement of the 1856-D I sort of went to sleep for a few seconds and let this coin sell too cheaply. It was an excellent value.
1859-D N62 23000(60) 30000 $37,375
Comments: This final Dahlonega quarter eagle closed the denomination with a bang. I didn’t like this coin yet it sold more than double what a similarly graded NGC example brought in the Heritage January 2002 auction.
QUARTER EAGLES FINAL PRICES REALIZED: $920,500 NUMBER OF QUARTER EAGLE LOTS: 22 AVERAGE PRICE REALIZED PER LOT: $41,840
SUMMARY: I think the final prices realized for this collection was about 15-20% more than what I expected before the sale. This was a case of individual coins benefiting from the overall strength of a world-class collection. I think at least half the coins in this collection would have brought considerably less if they had been in another sale and had not had the benefit of the Duke’s Creek pedigree.
This collection has had a strong mystique about it for many years. When I viewed it carefully, I had mixed emotions about it. There were some pieces that were just remarkable. There were others that were not as nice as I remembered. And there were a few that had been overzealously conserved by NCS and which, in all honesty, I think had been ruined. This was clearly a collection that had been “maxed out” from a grading standpoint. I saw very coins in the set that weren’t aggressively graded and a few, like the 1861-D gold dollar, had been recently upgraded by two full points.
The bottom line is that truly high grade Dahlonega gold coinage is very rare and it remains in strong demand. When you consider how much certain areas of the market have risen in value in the past three to five years, very high quality Dahlonega coinage seems like a good deal when one considers that prices really haven’t appreciated that much since the robust days of the late 1990’s.