The first of the Pogue sessions was held in New York on May 19th and I was excited to attend. The auction was conducted at Sotheby’s and the last time I went to a coin sale on 72nd and York, I saw the record-breaking 1933 $20 take the numismatic world by storm.Read More
The last few years have been fertile, to say the least, for auction sales involving all-time great collections. We’ve seen the sales of the Newman collection, are seeing the current selling off of the Gene Gardner sets, and have also witnessed the not-as-splashy sales of a number of important general and specialized sets. But none of these sales affected me as much as the announcement of the upcoming sale(s) of the legendary Mac and Brent Pogue collection.
Around a week ago I read a press release stating that the Pogue collection would be sold by Stacks Bowers in a series of auctions “over the next several years.” My reaction? Unprintable in this blog (hint, starts with: Holy) but understandable, given that it is well-known within the dealer community that this is quite probably the greatest collection of American coins ever formed, and that there were no rumors floating around that it might be sold.
After pondering the Pogue Situation for a few hours, I’ve reached a few initial reactions which I’d like to share with you.
1. This Collection is Even Greater than You've Heard
Other than a handful of people, there are not many numismatists that are aware of the complete inventory of this collection, and I am not one of the lucky few. Over the years, I’ve been shown little date runs from the collection (I can remember looking at a phenomenal group of early quarters at Dave Akers’ table at an ANA convention 10-15 years ago that belonged to the Pogues and, at another ANA show maybe 15 years ago a group of Fat Head half eagles which were mind-blowing) and have received tidbits of information from Brent about what he has. But this is truly a once-in-a-generation collection and it is certainly the only collection that I would actually pay to see in person.
2. This Collection is More Valuable than You've Heard
It is nearly impossible to know the value of a collection which you haven’t seen in person and don’t even know for sure what it includes. If I had to give a good guesstimate, I’d say the collection is easily worth $150 million, and it could ultimately be worth $200 million or even more. It contains a coin which is likely to set a record for most valuable United States issue ever sold at auction (the Childs/Pogue PCGS PR68 Original 1804 Dollar) and it contains at least two other coins (the 1822 half eagle and the 1854-S half eagle) that could break the $5 million dollar barrier. There are scads of mid to high six-figure coins in the Pogue collection, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a number of other coins which will break the $1 million dollar mark when they are sold at auction.
3. This Collection Will Severely Impact the Very Highest Segment of the Coin Market
If you collect finest known or Condition Census early American gold or silver coinage, the news of this sale impacts you critically. There are going to be countless once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for collectors and you will need to start planning your strategy sooner than later. If you are planning to sell high quality coins in the near future, you have to ask yourself: will the prices I realize for my coins be impacted by Pogue? If you are planning to buy an expensive early American coin, how will prices be impacted by Pogue?
One fallout I see happening is a rush to trade-in certain coins which are nice but which are exceeded in quality by Pogue. Some collectors will trade in coins wisely, others will make poor decisions. Working with a smart, informed dealer is the best way to make your decisions the right ones.
4. The International Factor
For the most part, the impact of foreign buyers in American coin sales has been insignificant. Sure, a few foreign buyers bid in American sales but not enough to have a serious impact. This could change with the Pogue sales.
Stacks Bowers has made strong inroads selling foreign coins via auction in Hong Kong and, if I were them, I’d take the Pogue coins to exhibit in Hong Kong and at least one other location in the Far East before the dates of the sales. There is a better-than-average chance that they will interest at least one or two wealthy Chinese buyers in these great American coins, and I wouldn’t be shocked if a not insignificant amount of the dollar value for some of the sales went to foreign bidders.
Now that I think of it, I’d probably take the coins to London as well and expose them to European and dual national buyers in this important market.
5. The Draw of the New Internet
As we witnessed with the Saddle Ridge Hoard discovery and subsequent sale, the newest incarnation of the internet has forever changed the rare coin market.
When the Eliasberg and Bass sales were sold in the 1980’s and late 1990’s, there was essentially no internet. The Pogue collection is the first truly great American coin auction which will be picked up by world-wide press outlets and which will receive untold amounts of publicity on internet news outlets.
Stacks Bowers has the potential of reaching nearly every wealthy person in nearly every country with relative ease. All it takes is a few Indian men of extreme wealth, Russian oligarchs, Chinese and other far Eastern billionaires, and American hedge fund managers to bring the Pogue collection to a new pool of ultra-wealthy buyers who might not have known about rare American coins. What seemed far-fetched a few years ago seems possible today.
6. "It's 1995-1999 All Over Again"
A smart dealer friend made this comment when looking at the current embarrassment of riches when it comes to auctions. He was referring to the point in time when we had scads of sales of great coins in the mid to late-1990’s: James Stack, Pittman, Childs, Eliasberg (silver), and Bass were all sold within a span of less than a decade. If you were in the market then, you remember how great coins were suddenly everywhere and you’d see coins like Proof 1868 three dollar gold pieces or Proof 1877 half eagles sitting, unsold, in dealers cases; coins which would sell quickly today if available.
The impact of these 1990’s sales was profound. After some temporary weakness in the market, a run of boom years began around 2001/2002 which lasted all the way up to the economic issues of 2008/2009. In part, this boom was fueled by the availability of great coins from these great old collections. After all, you can’t have a bull market in coins if there are no great coins to sell.
And this is what could happen after the Pogue coins sell. The coins which don’t get bought by collectors and which don’t get “black holed” are likely to sit in dealer’s inventories and impact dealer’s cash flow. If, say, the Pogue sales begin in 2015 and conclude by 2017, we might see an oversupply of coins in 2018, 2019 and 2020. This could, in turn, weaken the market.
But, to take another perspective, perhaps the market will be deep enough this time around (due to the amazing amount of global wealth) to absorb the Pogue’s $200+ million without skipping a beat. We shall see…
7. How Will Pogue Impact Me?
At this point you are thinking, “OK enough of the babbling, Winter, how is this sale going to impact me?"
Not every coin owned by the Pogues is a finest known six figure rarity, so it is likely that if you are a regular DWN client, there are going to be some coins in the sales that interest you, anywhere from casually to obsessively. So let’s operate under the assumption that you might want to consider expanding your coin budget in the next few years.
If you are the typical DWN client who feels comfortable spending $5,000 or $10,000 on a neat American gold coin, the Pogue sales aren’t going to have a huge impact on you. The sale of the finest known 1838-C half eagle (the Pogue collection contains a gorgeous PCGS MS63) isn’t going to impact the value of a nice AU50 example that I sold you in 2010.
I see the sale of this collection as a positive. Coins will become better known across the world thanks to the internet-driven publicity of the Pogue collection and, if it is done as well as I think Stacks Bowers will do it, the number of serious collectors of serious American coins could increase. A lot.
The greatest impact will be on the very top of the market; the 1% if you will. There will be a lot of juggling and jostling to see who has the best 1794 half dollar or the finest 1795 half eagle after the grades of the Pogue coins become better known.
Given the fact that the Pogue collection really came of age after the family bought heavily in the 1982 Eliasberg gold sale, I think the Eliasberg pedigree will become even more important than it is today. When today’s new collectors see how many great Pogue coins are from the Eliasberg sale, the legacy of the Eliasberg pedigree will grow and grow.
I am curious to hear your thoughts about the Pogue sales. Please leave your comments at the end of this blog or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you buy rare gold coins?
Do you have coins to sell?
Would you like to have the world’s leading expert help you assemble a set of coins?
Contact me, Doug Winter, directly at (214) 675-9897 or by email at email@example.com.
The FUN show is clearly one of the two major market indicators. Symbolically, it is the beginning of a New Coin Year but it is, most of all, a huge economic event with hundreds of millions of dollars changing hands. For me, a good FUN show is a clear indicator that the first quarter—if not half—of the coin year will be strong.
This was one of the strangest FUN shows I can recall. I was constantly busy and there were people at my table from the beginning of dealer set-up on Wednesday until I was packing up to go home on Friday afternoon. It was one of the easiest selling shows I can ever recall having, and my wholesale numbers were well above average. But it was also a hugely difficult show at which to buy. If, like me, you were a dealer who buys choice, cool, rare coins there were slim pickings at best. I was able to buy a number of great coins (some of which are now posted on my website; others never made it back from Orlando) but I knew as early as Thursday morning that I was going to fall well short of my numeric goals in terms of coins bought.
Clearly, one of the facts of life about major coin shows (FUN and ANA in particular) is that the huge auctions that surround them have a profound and significant impact. I talked to numerous well-heeled collectors who roamed the floor but stated that they were “waiting until after the auction” to make purchasing decisions. Considering that the major segment of the auction was Thursday night, this left a short window of opportunity for them to buy coins.
Heritage should be credited for producing one of the all-time great FUN auctions, and although I don’t know exactly what their final numbers were, I am assuming the FUN sale set an all-time record, given that Platinum Night alone did north of $50 million dollars.
Some observations from the auction are in order:
- Rarity is clearly in vogue right now and even off-quality examples of truly rare issues are commanding huge premiums. As an example, an NGC EF45 1864-S brought just a shade under $100,000. And other seldom-seen eagles such as the 1863, 1873, and 1876 brought what I thought were enormous prices based on their actual quality.
- There were a number of really exceptional coins in the auction and they brought exceptional prices, as they should have. My two personal favorites were David Akers’ personal 1826 half eagle graded MS66 by PCGS which brought $763,750 (a price which I thought was strong but not at all outrageous), and the Eliasberg Proof 1889 double eagle, graded PR65 by PCGS but in an old green holder and looking more like a PR67 Deep Cameo by today’s standards, which sold for an extremely strong $352,500.
- Speaking of exceptional, the market for Liberty Head double eagles continues to rage on. The FUN sale had a deep offering with coins ranging from off-quality and very choice for the grade and issue. But it almost didn’t matter what the coin looked like as prices were strong across the board. Type One O mints? Very strong. CC’s? Very strong, although the nice PCGS AU50 1870-CC at $329,000 seemed like a much better value than the really unappealing PCGS EF45 at $282,000. Civil War dates? Crazy strong including a record-for-the-grade prices on the 1861-S in PCGS MS62, the 1863 in PCGS AU58, and the PCGS MS62 1864. I was taken aback by prices for the Big Five late date Type Three issues. An 1881 in PCGS AU58 sold for $111,625, an 1882 in NGC AU58 realized $94,000 and perhaps most incredibly, a tooled no grade 1886—the ultimate “what a shame” coin—brought a staggering $129,250. No grades in general did very well in this sale, by the way, but that’s another story.
- The best values in the 19th century series are clearly in the Liberty Head half eagle series. Prices on double eagles have made this series the playground of the 1%, and the eagle series has gone from neglected to flavor of the year (smart buys still can be made in this series but proceed with caution!). Even though there were some price records set in the FUN sale for finally-recognized date rarities such as the 1863 and 1865, there are still many dates in the $2,500-15,000 range which seem very fairly priced relative to their rarity. Given the great prices that schlocky rare date coins brought in the auction, I’d like to think that DWN-quality examples are even better values.
A few other non-auction observations, based on looking at dealer’s inventories: nice quality early gold is still in very short supply, Dahlonega gold is literally nowhere to be seen (I’m embarrassed to admit this but I came home with exactly two new D mint coins…two! From the FUN show!!! How is this possible?!?), CAC premiums are really noticeable - especially from sellers who don’t typically handle nice coins, and if I had listened to myself and bought Civil War gold coins when I predicted they’d be the Next Big Thing I’d have made myself a tidy little profit.
Do you buy rare gold coins?
Do you have coins to sell?
Would you like to have the world's leading expert with you assembling a set of coins?
Contact Doug Winter at (214) 675-9897 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m freshly returned from Dallas, where I attended a spectacular coin dealer wedding, and combined the nuptials with viewing the remarkable silver coins that are being sold on behalf of Eric P. Newman. I spent close to two full days viewing, and it was one of the most pleasurable coin-related experiences I’ve had in a long time.
I’ll be writing more blogs on the Newman sale as I think it is one of the most important numismatic events which will occur in many years to come. But I’d like to share a few impressions about the coins — namely the appearance and surface preservation.
In a nutshell there were basically three types of coins in the sale:
- Coins which were spectacular before they were stored long term, and which were carefully handled in the ensuing 50-75+ years.
- Coins which were average quality before they were stored, but which have toned superbly and which now appear “better” than they might actually be.
- Coins which may (or may not) have been nice, but which were not well-stored and now are dull or drab. These are coins that almost certainly will be dipped if they are purchased by dealers. In some instances I believe that this dipping will significantly improve the coins.
Let’s look at an example of each of these three categories and briefly discuss the impact of how they were stored.
Hands down, my favorite group of coins in the sale was a date run of Large Size Bust Quarters, struck from 1796 to 1828. Viewed as a type, these are among the most difficult silver designs to find in high grades. The Newman collection had a number of Gems; far more than I can recall having ever seen in one place — even more than Eliasberg or Norweb.
Possibly my favorite early quarter, from a technical standpoint, was Lot 33334, an 1807 graded MS66* by NGC.
Close examination of this coin revealed nearly flawless surfaces with wonderful luster and no signs of hairlines or past attempts of “improvement.” I don’t know what this coin looked like 75 years ago, when it was probably lightly toned or even white, but the color it has acquired from storage was simply breathtaking. This coin, along with a number of the Bust Quarters and Bust Half Dollars in the collection, had been placed in old Wayte Raymond albums. These contain paper with high sulfur content and this tends to impart superb color with rainbow hues in instantly-recognizable concentric patterns.
The next classification of coin is one that wasn’t as nice as category #1 but which was beautifully toned from storage in a Wayte Raymond or another high sulfur source.
Lot 33321 was an 1840 With Drapery dime graded MS64* by NGC. In my opinion, this looked like a coin which had been cleaned many years ago and there were a decent number of hairlines on the surfaces. However, these were easy to overlook on account of the superb color shown on the obverse and reverse. I counted a number of coins in the sale which were clearly given a significant bump in grade due to exceptional second-generation color.
The third and final category are coins whose actual appearance is difficult to determine due to storage issues; probably in old 2x2 brown paper envelopes which imparted a lot of toning but not in the spectacular manner as seen on the two coins displayed above.
On his inexpensive coins, Mr. Newman clearly placed less of a premium on careful long-term storage. This is clearly easy to understand given that some of these cost of just a few dollars when they were purchased. An example of this is Lot 33883, an 1875-S Trade Dollar graded MS62 by NGC. It is hard to say what this coin looked like when it was first placed in the brown envelope it had been stored in for decades. Today, it was very deeply toned with somewhat impaired luster as a result.
Will this coin look better if it is dipped? Possibly yes, possibly no. One of the interesting things in this sale is trying to imagine what the category 3 coins look like without 75+ years of dirt, grime, and monochrome color.
The dealers who are best at determining which coins will dip well will be fascinated by this sale, and I have no doubt that they will be active participants. As I said above, this is not necessarily a bad thing. No one is going to dip a coin like the amazing multi-hued 1807 quarter shown above. And I doubt that any of the category 2 coins will be dipped either; nor should they. Ah, but the category 3 coins…here is an interesting subtext to the Newman Sale!
If you need representation at this sale, please feel free to contact me via email at email@example.com.
I’ve heard it said many times that, “All the great coins can only be found at auction.”
As my recent experience at the 2013 FUN show in Orlando will prove, this is far from the truth. At this show—and at most other major conventions—I am able to purchase great coins via private treaty from dealers and collectors. Many of these are fresh as the proverbial daisy having either never appeared at auction before or, if they have, many years ago.
As a dealer who specializes in choice and rare 18th and 19th century United States gold coins, I have a special place in my heart for important coins from the Eliasberg sale. Held in October 1982 by Bowers and Ruddy, this was arguably the single greatest collection of gold coins sold in the modern era. Unlike many other great gold sales, the Eliasberg pedigree is synonymous with high quality and, in most cases, when I see a coin is ex: Eliasberg, I get the mental picture of a very high end piece for the date.
On the first day of the FUN show, I got a text message from a dealer who I have known for many years and who I do business with from time to time. He told me to come to his table to look at a group of coins and I went there quickly as I know this dealer isn’t someone who will waste my time with marginal stuff.
When he showed me the small group of coins, my heart skipped a beat as the group contained a number of New Orleans gold coins that I immediate recognized as being from the famous Eliasberg sale. One of these coins was something that I had been chasing since the mid-1990’s. That was the good news. The bad news was that this dealer is one of the very smartest guys in the coin business and he is not exactly known for giving things away. I knew I had to buy these coins; it was just a question of how much would I have to pay.
I’m going to discuss these coins in some detail. Since they are already sold, I’m not going to reveal what I paid for them but I will discuss how I figured values for each.
1842-O Half Eagle, Graded MS63 by NGC/CAC approved
The New Orleans mint produced a total 16 Liberty Head half eagles from 1840 to 1894, in two different designs. The No Motto coins, issued from 1840 to 1857, tend to be scarcer than their counterparts from Charlotte and Dahlonega and nearly all are very rare in Uncirculated.
The 1842-O is the second rarest half eagle from this mint. Of the 16,400 struck there are around five or six dozen known. When available, the typical 1842-O is very well-worn with most in the VF-EF range. In About Uncirculated, the 1842-O half eagle is quite rare with probably less than a dozen properly graded pieces known. But in Uncirculated, this date is of the highest rarity.
There are exactly three 1842-O half eagles known in Uncirculated: an NGC MS63 (the present coin), a PCGS MS61, and an NGC MS60. Remarkably, I have now sold all three of these coins, meaning that there are no longer any Uncirculated pieces available.
Of the three known in Uncirculated, this example is the finest and it has a wonderful pedigree. It was last sold in Stack’s May 1995 auction for $31,900 as part of the famous collection of No Motto half eagles owned by the late dealer Ed Milas. It was earlier in the Eliasberg collection where it brought a whopping $3,850 in October 1982. Eliasberg obtained the coin from the Clapp collection and it was first recorded in the George Earle collection sale of June 1912, conducted by Henry Chapman.
A number of things appealed to me about this coin as I made the decision to purchase it. The first was that I would be able to sell it. I had a specific collector in mind but even if he passed on it, I had enough confidence in the coin to buy it “on spec.” Probably even more important was that I loved the coin when I first saw it two decades ago and I loved it even more when it reappeared. It was still in the same old NGC “fatty” holder in which it appeared in the 1995 Milas sale and, even without having access to that catalog, I knew that it had not been messed with.
As you can see from the photo above, the most remarkable thing about this coin is its color. Both the obverse and reverse have splendid rich orange-gold and coppery color. If you don’t know what “real” color on a gold coin of this era is supposed to look like (and many collectors, I’m afraid, do not…) take a careful look at the toning pattern and the hues on this coin. Note how the color is perfectly blended and how it lays on the surfaces. Note how it doesn’t suddenly become darker exactly where there is a mark (as on coin where color is applied to masks flaws). And note the richness and the “purity” of the color.
Having sold the other two Mint State 1842-O half eagles, I had a good idea of the “base line” value for a high grade 1842-O. Knowing this, I factored in the amazing appearance of the coin, its pedigree and its numismatic significance as the finest known example of a truly rare coin. This was an easy decision for me to make and I doubt that there will be many New Orleans half eagles that I buy in 2013 with more panache than the Eliasberg 1842-O half eagle.
1844-O Half Eagle, Graded MS64 by NGC/CAC Approved
By the standards of New Orleans No Motto half eagles, the 1844-O is a “common” coin. It is plentiful in circulated grades and available, from time to time, in the lower Uncirculated grades. There are an estimated two to three dozen in Mint State with most in the MS60 to MS62 range. In MS63 the 1844-O is rare and it is very rare in MS64 with around five or six known to me. There is a single Gem known (graded MS65 by PCGS) and it is ex Bass II: 937 where it sold for a reasonable $34,500. A few years ago, it was re-offered to me by a Midwestern dealer for a six-figure sum.
In my opinion, this NGC MS64 has the best pedigree of any 1844-O half eagle. It was last sold as Lot 457 in Stack’s Milas collection in May 1995 where it brought $20,900. Before this, it was Lot 434 in the October 1982 Eliasberg sale, where it brought $4,620. It was earlier in the Clapp collection and it is not pedigreed prior to be obtained by the Clapp family.
As with the 1842-O half eagle described above, this coin was in the same old NGC “fatty” holder in which it had resided when offered in the May 1995 Milas sale. It was a degree of comfort to me to know that it hadn’t changed in appearance since then.
This coin had a very different look than the 1842-O. Where the first half eagle was all about its color, this 1844-O was more about its blazing mint luster. Unlike some of the high grade 1844-O half eagles which I have handled, this piece was very frosty in texture; most of the others are grainier and present a different appearance. The Milas/Eliasberg 1844-O half eagle had lovely light to medium yellow-gold color and really the only thing keeping it from an MS65 grade was a few small marks in the left obverse field.
While the purchase of the 1842-O half eagle was a no-brainer, I had to think a little bit harder about this coin. I generally don’t care for common dates in uncommon grades. But how often do you see any No Motto half eagle in real MS64, let alone one from New Orleans? So I thought for another two or three seconds…then happily bought the coin.
1841-O Eagle, Graded AU58 by PCGS/CAC approved
Every dealer and many collectors have coins that are White Whales. If you don’t get that Ahab-ian reference, I mean an elusive coin that you are literally on a quest to buy, even if it takes years to track down. And when it becomes available…Ahab-ian things can and will happen.
While still not that widely known, the 1841-O eagle is among the most numismatically significant gold coins from the New Orleans mint. It is the first eagle struck at this mint and only 2,500 were made. It would remain the largest coin struck at a southern branch mint until 1850, when the double eagle denomination was introduced to New Orleans.
Of the 21 No Motto eagles from New Orleans, the 1841-O is the second rarest in overall rarity with around 60-70 known. This is an issue which was placed immediately into circulation and it saw hard use. When available, an 1841-O is likely to grade VF and a decent-looking EF coin is very scarce. In higher grades, I regard this issue as the single rarest eagle from New Orleans. It is unknown in Uncirculated and I believe that there are only two properly graded AU55 and finer pieces known: a PCGS AU55 in a California collection which I sold in 2007 and the present example. Having now owned both of them, I can pretty boldly pronounce that the PCGS AU58 is clearly the finest known.
If you have ever seen a typical quality 1841-O eagle, you are aware that this date just doesn’t have very good eye appeal. Most are very heavily worn and extensively abraded. More significantly, most have been processed and stripped to the point where they have zero original luster or surfaces. And that fact makes the existence of this choice 1841-O so miraculous.
While it is “only” graded AU58 by PCGS, I feel that this coin is actually Uncirculated as it has no real wear. Because of the fact that it is semi-prooflike, the surfaces appear a bit more abraded than they are in person. When I first saw this coin two decades ago, I thought it was a “baggy Unc” and I still believe this today; probably even more so.
The pedigree of this 1841-O is impressive. It was last sold as Lot 6238 in the Heritage 10/95 auction as part of Warren Miller’s collection (a set of Liberty Head eagles that is still probably the finest ever assembled). It was earlier sold as Lot 934 in Stack’s 10/86 auction and before this it was Lot 665 in the Eliasberg sale where it brought $4,400. Eliasberg bought it as part of the Clapp collection in 1942 and it was earlier purchased from the Massachusetts dealer Elmer Sears in 1920.
Of the three coins, this was the hardest to buy as it was many multiples more expensive than any other example of this date which has ever sold. But it was the coin I wanted the most. So how did I justify paying what I did?
In the last few years, the 1883-O has become the coin du jour of all New Orleans eagles. At least two AU58’s have sold for over $100,000 and this is a coin that is clearly more available in comparably higher grades than the 1841-O. I asked myself: “Self, what coin would you rather have: an AU58 1841-O eagle or an 1883-O eagle?” The answer was almost immediate: the 1841-O is an issue which I think has more upside than the 1883-O and it is an issue that is rarer; despite the very low mintage for the latter. I sucked it up, wrote a check and haven’t looked back since…
So how was your FUN show? Mine was pretty incredible actually. I was able to buy many, many impressive coins there but the three which will stand in my memory are these wonderful New Orleans pieces from the Eliasberg. This is what makes being a coin dealer fun and why I still look forward to major coin shows even after all the years I’ve spent going to them.
For more information on great New Orleans gold coins, Eliasberg pedigree gold coins or cool coins in general, please feel free to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.