Attack of the 1839-C Quarter Eagles!

At the Heritage 2008 FUN sale it was the Attack of the 1839-C Quarter Eagles as there were no less than a dozen (!) examples of this popular Classic Head issue available for sale. How did these coins do and what nuggets o’ information can be gleaned from the auction results? The 1839-C quarter eagles in question ranged in grade from a low of PCGS VF30 to a high of NGC MS61 and included ten coins in NGC holders, one in a PCGS holder and one orphan in an ANACS net AU50 holder that had been cleaned.

Two interesting things can be determined right away from the statement made in the paragraph above. The first is that 1839-C quarter eagles are pretty difficult to define as “rare” if eleven examples appear in one sale (although if you read the rest of this blog I contend that a certain type of 1839-C quarter eagle is, in fact, quite rare...) and that secondly, NGC seems to have the market cornered on this date. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about this (cue raised brow...)

One last thing before we analyze. If I were a consignor I’m not sure I’d be thrilled that my 1839-C had to share the spotlight with eleven of its cousins. But, to Heritage’s everlasting credit, these giant auctions continually prove to me that there are enough people looking at the coins that quality typically trumps quantity.

An interesting place to begin is with Lots 3809 and 3810. The former was in an old green label holder and was called VF30 by PCGS (I graded it AU50 or thereabouts but noted in my catalog that it had been cleaned at one time) while the latter was in an NGC 45 holder and was, in my opinion, pretty marginal for the grade. The PCGS VF30 coin sold for $4887.50 while the NGC EF45 brought $4,600. This result wasn’t really a surprise but it doesn’t point out that when someone analyzes the Heritage auction archives they should assume that the 1839-C quarter eagle that they own in VF30 is worth $4,887.50.

The next pair to compare are the two examples graded AU53 by NGC, Lots 3812 and 3813. The result of these coins was interesting to say the least. The former sold for $20,700 while the latter brought $5,750. How is it possible for two coins graded the same by NGC to bring such a gigantic difference? The coin that sold for $20,700 was gorgeous. It was in an old “fatty holder,” had lovely original color and I thought it was a very solid AU58. As nice as the coin was, I was pretty surprised it sold for essentially MS60 to MS61 money. The other AU53 in the sale? It wasn’t very nice and the fact that it had to compete against the Lovely Lot 3812 couldn’t have helped.

No less than four NGC AU58’s were in the sale and every one of them brought $12,650. With Trends at $18,000, this seems a little bit cheap, no? Well actually I think the numbers were pretty right on when you consider that all four of the coins were not exactly high end for the grade. I was a bit surprised that Lot 3085 sold for the same as Lot 3082-3084. Lot 3085 was what I call on “OOG” coin. This acronym stands for “original overgraded.” Which means that although I didn’t think the coin passed the Winter Test as an AU58, it did at least have natural color and a decent overall appearance for the issue. Had this been the only 1839-C in AU58 in the sale perhaps it might have brought an extra 5-10%.

Neither the MS60 or MS61 examples in the auction sold. I didn’t think either one was very nice and both were reserved too high; never a great combination.

Remember earlier in this blog when I mentioned that despite there being twelve examples in the sale, a certain type of 1839-C quarter eagle was still rare? I think the fact that only one of these twelve coins had original coloration and was high end for the issue says something important. Most 1839-C quarter eagles have been cleaned or processed at one time and the one-in-twelve ratio for originality seems accurate in my experience.

So what did I learn about this issue as the result of The Attack of the 1839-C Quarter Eagles? Well, for one I learned that NGC AU58 examples are worth $12,650. I also learned that nice, original coins still bring great prices even when “lost” in huge sales and when competing against multiples examples of the same date. And I learned that if I had a nice 1839-C quarter eagle in an old holder, I would resist temptation and sell it “as is.”