W. Philip Keller Collection of US Colonials Leads Heritage COINFEST Auction

Posted on 10/12/2010

The October 28-31 auction in Stamford, Conn., features one of the most important offerings of early-American coinage in decades.

DALLAS, TX — Locked in a Pennsylvania vault for 43 years, one of the most comprehensive collections of Colonial and early-American coins ever to reach public auction — the W. Philip Keller Collection of US Colonials — is the principle highlight of the upcoming Heritage Auctions Rare US Coin auction, Oct. 28–31, in conjunction with COINFEST in Stamford, Conn.

Mr. Keller apparently stopped actively collecting around 1966, with intermittent purchases through the early 1970s, and stored his collection in a bank vault for nearly 40 years, until its discovery by his surprised family after he died last year. They knew that Mr. Keller was a collector, but had no idea of the depth or value of his collection.

“This is Heritage’s first official auction with COINFEST, and we couldn’t be more thrilled,” said Greg Rohan, president of Heritage. “Fittingly enough, our debut at this New England venue is filled with a variety of Colonial and early-American coins, including dozens of different Connecticut coppers struck shortly after independence.”

One of those Connecticut coppers is a 1785 African Head Connecticut copper, the extremely rare Miller 4.2-F.6 variety, graded VF 30 by NGC. It is estimated at $40,000+, but could go significantly higher.

“There are two varieties of the African Head Connecticut copper — one relatively common, the other extremely rare,” said Rohan. “This piece is one of the rare variety, one of just two or three known. Its appearance at COINFEST is truly a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Keller bought most of his collection from leading dealers and auctioneers in the 1950s and 1960s, and this African Head copper has been in Keller’s collection, and thus off the market, since 1966.”

Another anchor consignment of the auction is the Diotte Collection, which spans US Mint history from some of the earliest issues to noted modern rarities. Its chief highlight is a 1797 half dollar, O-102 variety, graded Fine Details by NCS. It is estimated at $50,000+.

“The half dollars of 1796-1797 are among the most prized US type coins regardless of grade,” said Rohan. “Just four varieties were struck between the two years, all of them are very scarce to very rare, and the 1797 O-102 variety is the most elusive of them all.”

In addition to Colonials, pattern coinage is among the strengths of this auction. In a relatively small but impressive selection, the most prominent piece is an 1879 “Washlady” dollar struck in silver, Judd-1603 variety, graded PR 66+ by NGC. It is estimated at $50,000+.

“This design’s nickname was originally an insult,” said Rohan. “In 1891, just a dozen years after this pattern was struck, David Proskey called it the ‘Washlady,’ a negative reference to how Liberty’s hair appeared. Today, however, the ‘Washlady’ is considered one of the most beautiful patterns ever produced, and the very rare examples struck in silver are especially sought-after.”

The 20th century has its share of highlights as well, led by a 1909 half eagle, graded PR 67 by NGC. Like other gold proofs of that year, it has a distinct semi-bright finish sometimes called “Roman gold,” which tried to find a balance between the mirrored proofs of the 19th century and the dull-finished matte proofs that were popular in Europe but had received a disastrous reception among US coin collectors. The “Roman gold” experiment failed, but survivors from the issue’s mintage of 78 half eagles are popular with modern numismatists. It is estimated at $55,000+.

Additional highlights include, but are not limited to:

Lot 3826, 1878-S Trade dollar MS 67 NGC: An exquisitely preserved example from the last year of the Trade dollar as a circulating series. Estimate: $45,000+.

Heritage Auctions, founded by Steve Ivy and Jim Halperin, is the world’s third-largest auction house, with annual sales of more than $600 million, and 500,000+ registered online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit www.HA.com

This is a guest article. The thoughts and opinions in this piece are those of their author and are not necessarily the thoughts of the Certified Collectibles Group.

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