A Quick 2011 FUN Sale Analysis

The 2011 Heritage FUN Sale contained some of the most interesting and freshest coins that have appeared at auction in the last few years. Yes, there were some retreads, some low-end "stuff" and some run-of-the-mill lots, but there were also some really exceptional coins; most of which could be found in Thursday night's Platinum Night session. I'd like to focus on a group of coins from this session that I found exceptional. 1. 1864 Quarter Eagle, NGC PR65 Cameo, CAC Gold Label. Lot 5033. I have seen some pretty incredible Proof quarter eagles over the years but the truly amazing ones, at least from the standpoint of grade, tend to be date 1890 and later. Pre-1880 Proof gold coinage tends to be far, far rarer and really superb pieces, regardless of denomination, are almost never seen.

This 1864 Proof quarter eagle was from the Henry Miller collection and it was easily the best Proof quarter eagle in the sale. I'd even go out on a limb here and say that it was one of the best--if not THE best--early date Proof of this denomination that I've seen. It was in an old PR65 holder but I graded it PR67 DCAM. The coin sold for $80,500 which is a record price for a Proof of this year.

Only 50 Proofs of this year were made and I doubt if more than fifteen or so exist. The best that I had ever seen before the Miller coin was Bass III: 210, graded PR66 by PCGS, that sold for a very reasonable $27,600 back in 2000.

This coin was purchased by an extremely savvy dealer and it will be interesting to see what grade it will be after it is resubmitted for grading. I'd love to think that PCGS or NGC would call it a PR67 DCAM without it having to be conserved.

2. 1823 Half Eagle, NGC MS65 CAC. Lot 5096.. This was a coin that you had to see in person to really appreciate. When I pulled it out of the box during lot showing at Heritage's office in Beverly Hills my reaction was pretty to the point and it rhymed with "moley bit." In a nutshell, this was among the prettiest early gold coins that I've ever seen.

I knew this coin would be one of the most actively bid on lots in the Heritage sale and my guess was that it would wind-up in the collection of a prominent father and son in Dallas who have the best set of early gold assembled in modern times. It was purchased by a Chicago-area dealer for $299,000 bidding as an agent for a collector.

The 1823 is a scarce date in all grades with an estimated 100 or so known. It is typically seen in AU50 to MS61 grades and it is rare in MS62 to MS63. There are a few nice MS64's (there were actually two PCGS examples available at the FUN show) but this is the only Gem. It is from the Bareford collection and it had the sort of unmessed-with appearance that you almost never see anymore on early gold coins.

My opinion is that this coin sold for a ton of money but it was a ton of coin. I'd have to assume it was bought as a type coin and if this is the case, the new owner is getting a Fat Head half eagle that he or she will never have to worry about upgrading.

3. 1838-D Half Eagle PCGS MS63. Lot 5105. This was another fresh coin but, unlike the Miller pieces listed above, it had never been on the market until the 2011 FUN auction. I spoke with the dealer who consigned this coin and he told me that it was part of a small group of coins that had been in a New Hampshire family for many generations and was recently "rediscovered" by the family.

I am a big fan of this issue. It is the first half eagle made at the Dahlonega mint and a popular one-year type that is in demand in all grades. It is scarce in Uncirculated with fewer than a dozen known but most of these grade MS60 to MS61 and are characterized by processed surfaces. The 1838-D in the FUN Sale was only the second coin ever graded MS63 by PCGS and it was one of the two best I'd ever seen. It had lovely natural coloration, choice surfaces and a wonderful overall look that just shouted "originality."

This coin sold to a collector bidding on the floor for $57,500. It broke the previous auction record for the date which was set by a PCGS MS62 that brought $40,250 in the 1999 FUN sale.

4. 1857-O Double Eagle NGC MS62 CAC. Lot 5251 This was my favorite lot in the sale. I knew it was going to be a hard coin to buy but, more than any other coin in the sale, it was a coin that I wanted to own. I spoke with a client of mine who is a seriously collector of New Orleans gold (and Type One double eagles) and he agreed to let my represent him. We decided to bid $125,000.

The coin opened at $100,000 and I found myself bidding against two other dealers. I was able to raise my hand at the $130,000 mark but was outbid by another dealer at $140,000 and then watched another dealer successfully buy it at $150,000. With the buyer's premium the coin brought $172,500.

I can't imagine a New Orleans double eagle with much more eye appeal than this 1857-O (I liked it more than the 1852-O graded MS65 in the sale!). It had superb color, great luster and a really wonderful look that you really had to see in person to appreciate. I graded it MS63+ and am really interested to see what it winds-up grading. I wouldn't be shocked if it was graded MS64.

There are just two choice examples of this date known. The first is a PCGS MS63 that brought $97,750 back in the Bass III sale (May 2000). That was a huge price for an 1857-O double eagle back then but the market has really soared for great Type One double eagle in the ensuing decade and the more I think about it, the more I wished I had bought this coin; even at a level above what it sold for in the FUN Sale.

It was hard to limit myself to just four coins in this auction as there were dozens of really great pieces with great stories to tell. Prices were exceptional for the coins that merited them and this sale offers pretty convincing evidence to me that great coins are back in demand. (But did they ever really ever fall out of favor?)

Carolina Circle Collection of Charlotte Gold Coinage

I recently completed cataloging the Carolina Circle Collection of Charlotte gold coinage for Heritage. This collection, which was primarily formed in the 1970’s and 1980’s, is going to be sold by Heritage during their 2008 FUN auction. It is a virtually complete collection, missing only the 1849-C Open Wreath gold dollar and it contains some of the nicest—and freshest—coins from Charlotte that I have seen in some time. I have known the owner of this collection for a number of years and when he made the decision to sell, I suggested that he place the coins in the 2008 FUN auction. About 40% of the collection is housed in very old PCGS and NGC holders and I suggested to this individual that he keep the coins in these old slabs; despite the fact that many of them appeared to be significantly undergraded by today’s standards.

What I really like about this collection is the originality of many of the coins. Almost all of them are in the EF40 to AU58 range and a number are notable for their superb original color and unadulterated surfaces. There are a few individual coins that I think rank as among the most attractive Charlotte gold coins I have ever seen; regardless of date or denomination.

My two favorite gold dollars in this collection are an 1849-C Closed Wreath and an 1850-C. Both are in old PCGS AU58 holders and both, in my opinion, grade considerably finer by today’s standards. I think both coins have great eye appeal and would make excellent additions to a date or type set. I also like the AU55 1857-C gold dollar in this collection. It, too, is in an old green label holder and it seems very choice for the date and grade.

The quarter eagles in the Carolina Circle Collection are outstanding and include a number of Condition Census pieces. Even though it “only” grades NGC AU53, the 1839-C Repunched Date is a lovely original coin and is housed in an old “fatty” holder certain to attract attention. There are PCGS AU55 examples of the 1840-C and 1844-C, both in old green label holders, that are also extremely choice for their designated grade levels. The 1846-C and 1849-C quarter eagles are both also graded AU55 by PCGS.

There are two quarter eagles in this collection that I think are absolutely wonderful coins. The 1852-C is in an old green label PCGS AU58 holder but it appears far choicer than this. I absolutely love this coin’s coloration and I personally regard it as the third finest known for the date, trailing only the Bass II and Elrod coins.

I also really like the 1855-C in this collection. I had never seen or heard of this coin before I went to examine this group a few months ago and I’m sure I let out a big gasp when I first saw it. It is currently in a PCGS MS61 holder but I personally feel it is nicer than this. What I like best about this coin is its freshness as evidenced by its glowing frosty luster, lovely rose-gold color and extremely clean surfaces. It is probably the third finest known example of this rare date and it is the nicest 1855-C I have seen since the incomparable Bass coin was first sold in 1999.

The half eagles in this collection are complete and include a number of important and choice pieces. One that is certain to capture a lot of viewer attention is an 1838-C in PCGS AU58. While reasonably common in lower grades, this date is rare in AU and the current PCGS population is just three in AU58 with a single example higher.

The 1840’s half eagles in the Carolina Circle collection are, for the most part, very nice coins and this includes solid AU examples of the 1840-C, 1841-C, 1844-C and 1846-C. There is an 1842-C Large Date in an old green label PCGS AU55 that seems extremely choice for the grade, in my opinion.

The half eagle in this collection that will probably generate the most interest is the 1842-C Small Date. It is currently housed in an old ANACS AU50 holder but it appears to be considerably nicer than this. As you may or may not know, this is the rarest collectible issue from this mint and the typical piece is well worn with poor eye appeal. The example in this collection is lightly marked, well struck and original with good color and a very pleasing naked-eye appearance.

There are other less glamorous but very attractive half eagles in the Carolina Circle collection as well. An 1847-C in an older PCGS holder has superb color and great eye appeal. The 1851-C, graded AU50 by PCGS many years ago, seems to be way undergraded and it has an exceptional strike for the issue as well as superb deep yellow-gold color. The 1853-C, housed in a green label PCGS AU58 holder, is also attractively toned in rich, natural shadings.

If you follow the rare gold coin market you know that Charlotte coinage has been somewhat out-of-favor for the last few years. I predict that this collection will help to jumpstart this market. It’s been a number of years since this many fresh, attractive pieces have been offered for sale and, typically, when collection like this are sold, new collectors become interested in getting a set started.

For more information on this collection, feel free to contact me and I also suggest that keep an eye on Heritage’s website. I expect that the lots for the FUN sale will be posted sometime around the middle of December.