Five Coins Which Went Under the Radar at the Pogue Sale

Prior to the actual sale, I wondered if it were possible for a sale with only 128 lots to have coins actually fly under the radar at the recent Pogue I sale, held in New York on May 19th. With the benefit of a week’s worth of hindsight, I’d say that the answer is yes. Before I begin, I need to insert the following caveat. With an average lot value exceeding $150,000 the term “selling cheaply” is used with an epic grain of salt. The point I am trying to make in this blog is that at least half the coins in the Pogue I sale would have been highlights in virtually any other auction. This embarrassment of riches caused certain coins to sell for less than they might have if, for example, they were in a more general, less superlative auction.

There were five denominations represented in the Pogue I auction: half dimes, dimes, quarters, half dollars, and quarter eagles. It was pretty easy for me to choose an example for the first four and, in some cases (half dollars), it was actually hard to choose just one. The quarter eagle denomination was clearly the strongest despite a small sample size of 13 coins so my selection for “under the radar” is far less of a “good value” than it is for the other denominations.

1. Half Dime: Lot 1017, 1829 PCGS PR67+

Unless you’ve seen a lot of Proof Capped Bust Half Dimes, you might not know that a not insignificant number of the coins in third-party holders are questionable as to their method of origin. There are “proofs” of this date and then there are PROOFS. I had never seen one which screamed its method of manufacture as loudly as the Pogue 1829. If this coin had hands, it would have slapped you upside the face while declaring its Proof-ness.

   Lot 1017, image courtesy of Stack’s Bowers

Lot 1017, image courtesy of Stack’s Bowers

Not only was this coin amazingly well-struck, it was fully reflective and attractively toned with deep but not-too-dark colors on the obverse and the reverse. This coin was not as fresh as some of the other Proof bust coins in this sale but it had the distinct honor of being the single finest Proof of the entire type ever graded by PCGS.

This coin first surfaced in the 9/07 Goldberg auction where it brought $97,750 as a PCGS PR67. It next sold as Lot 3114 in the Heritage 1/12 auction, this time as a PR67 CAC. After being upgraded to a PCGS PR67+ (and again being approved by CAC although this was not revealed in the catalog) it sold for $102,813.

My contention is that this coin has actually underperformed all three times it has sold at auction since its first appearance in 2007. If this were a quarter or a half dollar in this grade it would realize at least double or even triple, and that’s without the fact that this is the single highest-graded Proof half dime of this design by a point-and-a-half.

NOTE: I purchased this coin at the Pogue sale. I don’t intend for this blog to be an exercise in self-congratulations, but I think it’s important for you to know this. I won’t focus on any other of the purchases I made at the sale, even though I thought they were all excellent value.

2. Dime: Lot 1044, 1803 PCGS MS64

I learned a lot of interesting numismatic tidbits from a careful reading of the Pogue catalog (my full props go to Stacks Bowers and John Kraljevich who produced the finest numismatic auction catalog I have ever seen). One of the more interesting facts was that Brent Pogue purchased nearly all his early dimes from the Ed Price sale conducted by Heritage in July 2008. This sale was timed better for its owner than any other specialized collection in recent history and the prices realized were spectacular. It seemed pretty likely to me that Brent was buried in most of his Price purchases. This was clearly evident after the sale. As an example, the finest known PCGS AU58 1804 14 Star Dime sold for (gulp…) $632,500 in the Price sale. Six years later, it brought (gulpier gulp…) $329,000 in the Pogue sale.

   Lot 1044, image courtesy of Stack’s Bowers

Lot 1044, image courtesy of Stack’s Bowers

My favorite early dime in both the Price and Pogue sales was the 1803 graded MS64 by PCGS. It is a really choice example of this condition rarity and it is pedigreed all the way back to the Parmelee sale in 1890. Most importantly, it is the only 1803 Dime known in Uncirculated; the next best is a PCGS AU58. Think about that for a second…the finest and only known in Uncirculated and a really nice coin to boot.

The buyer of this coin was a well-known collector who purchased many of the best dimes in Pogue and often at really favorable levels. He bought the 1803 for $211,500 which seems like a lot better value than the $322,000 which it sold for in the July 2008 Price sale.

3. Quarter: Lot 1091, 1837 PCGS "MS" 67

My initial reaction was to choose the incredible PCGS PR66+ 1827/3/2 quarter, Lot 1076 in the Pogue sale. Not only was this coin amazing from a technical standpoint (it looked more like a Proof Barber quarter than a Large Size Capped Bust quarter) but it is by far the finest known example of a legendary rarity with just nine known in all grades. By all rights, it should have been a million dollar coin, and in another less rarity-stacked sale it well might have attained this price point.

   Lot 1091, image courtesy of Stack’s Bowers

Lot 1091, image courtesy of Stack’s Bowers

Instead, I’m going with the most head-scratching coin in the sale: Lot 1091. This coin, an 1837 Browning-2 quarter in PCGS MS67 had previously been in NGC PR67 and PR68CAM holders (it was purchased by Brent Pogue in an NGC PR holder) and it had sold for $121,000 as Pittman II: 1295 where, obviously, the buyer and at least a few other bidders thought it was a Proof. The coin was purchased by Pogue in the 2006 ANA sale—as an NGC PR67—for $132,500.

If you weren’t totally sure this coin was a Proof (and I was about 99% sure it was) all you had to do was to compare it to Lot 1092, a second example of a superb 1837 B-2 quarter which was clearly a business strike. The two coins were night and day in appearance and this further strengthened the case for its Proof status.

Lot 1091 sold for $152,750; not a bargain if you though the coin was an MS67 (Lot 1092 sold for $117,500) but a really good deal if, like me, you thought it seemed easy-peezy to take the coin to NGC and get it back into its PR68 holder where it was now likely worth something north of $200,000.

4. Half Dollar: Lot 1099, 1795 Small Head PCGS MS62

Two big-ticket items stood out to me as being great values in this sale: the 1794 in PCGS MS64 which I thought for sure would eclipse the million dollar mark, but which settled in at $763,750, and the 1796 16 Stars in PCGS MS66 which, at $822,500, seemed like a much better deal than the 1796 15 Stars in PCGS Specimen-63 (I didn’t think it was a Specimen or a 63) at $587,500.

   Lot 1099, image courtesy of Stack’s Bowers

Lot 1099, image courtesy of Stack’s Bowers

But the coin I’m selecting as the best value in the half dollar section was a bit more obscure: the 1795 Small Head, graded MS62 by PCGS and sold as Lot 1099. This is a very distinctive naked-eye variety with a small portrait which is thought to have been designed by John Smith Gardner, an assistant Mint engraver. Only three of the 19 obverse dies used to make 1795 half dollars show this portrait, and the lovely Pogue coin is the only known Small Head in Uncirculated.

Given the fact that Bust Half Dollars are one of the two most avidly collected early coins by die variety, I expected this coin to be a complete runaway. I have personally never seen a 1795 Small Head half dollar above Extremely Fine, and the fact that this coin also had the coveted “Lord St. Oswald” pedigree made me think it would take at least $250,000 to buy this. The coin sold for $199,750 which doesn’t sound “cheap” but I’m sure that the collector who bought it feels better and better every day with his purchase.

5. Quarter Eagle: Lot 1126, 1806/5 PCGS MS62

If you read my detailed report on the Pogue I quarter eagles, you know that I found prices to be anywhere from strong to insane. But I think there was one coin which sold for a sensible price which, in retrospect, strikes me as the best value of all the quarter eagles in the sale.

   Lot 1126, image courtesy of Stack’s Bowers

Lot 1126, image courtesy of Stack’s Bowers

The 1806/5 in PCGS MS62 was a coin which I thought would fall through the cracks. Brent Pogue had paid an aggressive $195,500 for the coin—in an NGC MS63 holder—in the ANR June 2005 sale and I felt pretty certain that my pre-sale estimate of $145,000+ hammer would have been enough to buy it. The final price realized was $199,750 (hammer price of $170,000) which meant that this was one of the few quarter eagles in the sale on which I was bidding that I didn’t get totally blown out on.

This coin is the only Uncirculated 1806/5 quarter eagle graded by PCGS and it is likely the finest available of just three dozen or so known. This was a coin which would have sold for less had it not been in Pogue, or if I could have figured out a way to disconnect the two pesky phone bidders who cleaned my clock on all the Pogue quarter eagles.

The Pogue I sale was an interesting market indicator for ultra-rare and high-end coins.

The remaining Pogue sales which will occur during the next two-three years will prove extremely important events in the history of the American coin market. Would you like auction representation in the September 2015 sale? It’s not too early to discuss this, and I can be reached at dwn@ont.com.