On January 7, 2004 Heritage Numismatic Auctions sold the Green Pond collection of Dahlonega gold coinage at auction. This was a complete set of Dahlonega issues, with many of the coins ranking high in the Condition Census. The final price realized for the 66 lots was $1.7 million dollars (an average of $25,575 per lot!), which is around 10 to 15% higher than I anticipated. Looking more closely at the lots gives the collector a good idea of the current market for high-end Dahlonega coinage. GOLD DOLLARS: In my opinion, results for the gold dollars in this sale were mixed. The very nice or very interesting coins sold for good prices while the average quality pieces were somewhat weak.
The key date Gold Dollars did very well. An 1855-D with a weak date that was graded Mint State-62 by PCGS brought $56,350. In the 1999 ANA sale, this exact coin sold for $43,700. Another Uncirculated 1855-D, this a PCGS Mint State-61 with a full date, realized $46,000. A lovely PCGS Mint State-63 1861-D was bid to $86,250 which tied a record auction price realized for this date. Another very strong price was the $47,150 paid for a Mint State-62 1856-D. This was, by far, a record price for an 1856-D gold dollar.
There were a few coins that brought weak prices, in my opinion. This included a PCGS Mint State-61 1850-D that sold for $8,625; a PCGS Mint State-63 1853-D at $20,700 (less than 60% of current Trends for this date in this grade) and a pleasing PCGS Mint State-63 example of the 1859-D that went very reasonably at $17,250.
QUARTER EAGLES: Quarter Eagles are the rarest denomination from this mint and the Green Pond collection contained a number of very significant pieces. As with the gold dollars, prices were mixed. There were some coins that sold for quite a bit more than I predicted while others were, in retrospect, very good values.
Some of the stronger prices realized included the $28,750 paid for a PCGS Mint State-61 1839-D, $25,300 for a very nice 1842-D graded About Uncirculated-58 by PCGS (although this could turn out to be one of the best values in the sale if it upgrades to Mint State-60 or Mint State-61, as I think it might), $43,700 for a PCGS Mint State-60 example of the rare 1855-D (by far the least attractive coin in the Green Pond collection, in my opinion) and a staggering world record price of $69,000 paid for a PCGS Mint State-60 1856-D.
There were some weaker prices as well. The 1841-D in PCGS Mint State-63 had sold for $46,000 in the November 1998 Bowers and Merena auction; here it brought just $40,250. An NGC Mint State-61 pedigreed to the May 1998 Pittman collection sold for $10,350 which seemed like very good value with Trends at $14,000 in Mint State-60. The PCGS Mint State-61 example of the 1853-D went cheaply at $14,950 but it was a coin with poor overall eye appeal due to questionable coloration and a soft strike.
THREE DOLLAR GOLD PIECE: I expected a strong price realized for the PCGS Mint State-61 example in the Green Pond collection but was very surprised that this piece sold for $92,000. To the best of my knowledge, this is a record auction price for an 1854-D Three Dollar gold piece and it demonstrates the high regard in which this one-year issue is held by collectors.
HALF EAGLES: The half eagles in the Green Pond collection were, for the most part, very choice with a number of finest known or high Condition Census examples. Prices for these coins were mostly strong, although a few coins (see below) saw disappointing results.
Some of the stronger prices included $28,750 for the 1839-D in PCGS Mint State-62 (this exact coin had sold for $19,550 in the Heritage August 1999 Chestatee auction), $26,450 for the 1840-D in PCGS Mint State-62 (it had most recently sold for $12,650 in the Heritage August 1999 Chestatee auction) and the 1861-D in PCGS Mint State-62 which realized $74,750 (this same piece had most recently sold at auction in October 1999 for $48,300).
Two interesting "souvenir" coins were the 1843-D Small Mintmark in PCGS About Uncirculated-55 and the 1859-D Large Mintmark in PCGS About Uncirculated-58. Both sold for 20-30% more than I expected. My guess is that they were purchased by collectors who wanted an affordable coin with a Green Pond pedigree and considering how few pieces in this collection were valued at $10,000 or less, the competition for these two lots was especially intense.
There were some disappointments as well. The only certified Uncirculated example of the 1842-D Large Date, graded Mint State-61 by PCGS, brought $41,400 but I thought it had a good shot of eclipsing the $50,000 mark given its rarity. The superb PCGS Mint State-65 1845-D went for $57,500 which is the same price it sold for in the October 1999 Bass sale but still almost $10,000 less than what it brought at the October 1987 Norweb auction. A coin which I though fell through the cracks was the PCGS Mint State-63 1859-D which realized $27,600. Trends for this date is $50,000 while CDN Quarterly Bid is $35,000. Considering how fresh and attractive this coin was, it seemed like a great deal at just 55% of Trends.
After the dust has settled, we can look back and answer the oft-asked question "how is the market for high grade Dahlonega gold coins?" with better accuracy than at any time in the past two years.
Coins that have good eye appeal, interesting stories, neat pedigrees or which just make sense to buyers from the standpoint of value are selling well. They are generally bringing 80-120% of Trends and once they are sold they tend to disappear in long-term collections.
Coins that are ugly, uninteresting or which are perceived as being overvalued in Trends or Quarterly are much harder to sell. These are generally bringing 55-70% of Trends and they tend to bounce around from dealer to dealer before getting foisted-off on an investor or unsophisticated new collector.