Southern California Scene Of Auction Action

Posted on 9/6/2012

A Collector's Dream: The Duke's Creek Collection; Bonhams and Goldberg's Host Labor Day Sales

As the autumn season is fast upon us, the numismatic market has shown virtually no signs of falling back. Serious collectors and new hobbyists seem to be emerging in even greater numbers. There is no shortage of buyers for high–grade type coins, rare dates and quality collectible coins from just about all series. Precious metals continue to show vigorous strength this late summer which certainly isn’t a hindrance to the rare coin arena. Both gold and silver are enjoying levels not visited since March of this year. This acceleration is certainly enticing many would be hobbyists that have been watching from the sidelines anxious to get their feet wet with a semi–numismatic purchase. As a well–known bullion trader recently asserted, “The surge in metals, especially silver which has shot up over 15 percent in the last 30 days, has kept me online nearly 20 hours a day just to fill buy and sell orders for bags of 90 percent US silver and Silver Eagles. The bias is in an upward trend and I am finding the majority of the action is on the sell side to collectors and investors. I have also seen a significant increase in demand for Morgan Dollars. Not just common circs but mid-grade Mint State coins, better date coins as a result of this silver rush.” However, whether six–figure rarities are on dealers' want lists or 90 percent silver bags are being targeted, it is increasingly more difficult to locate a sufficient quantity to satisfy the fervent collector base.

Demand is also exceeding the supply train for coins which are targeted by serious numismatists and Registry collectors. Those which possess an exciting pedigree, boast low population or finest known status are being hotly contested, too. And it should be mentioned for the newer collector/investor that just because a coin or coins are listed in the NGC US Coin Price Guide doesn’t guarantee that they are readily available for sale. It may and can take many months and in some cases years of diligent research before the patient numismatist is rewarded with the exact coin or coins to take up a place of residency in their cabinet. Certainly not all the hunted need be five or six–figure rarities. I’ve spoken to many collectors who were excited beyond words just to find a high–grade Full Red Lincoln Cent from the 1920s that would be an exact color and grade match for their collection. That is why cash may be king, but it can’t always secure the coin of your dreams immediately.

The just completed World’s Fair of Money host auction by Stack’s Bowers included an enormous array of finest known coins including a complete run within the always prized Carson City series. It was truly a treasure trove for the astute collector and Carson City specialist. Many of the superb key date coins and conditional rarities which had not been seen by the public for decades have found long–term homes and others that were whisked away are definitely being held by strong hands. Registry Set collectors are also vying for the finest NGC graded coins to supplement and upgrade their collections. An opportunity to collect and acquire the finest known, whether individually or as a series is an especially daunting task. There is so much competition especially for popular and rare coin series including US gold issues.

One such series that captivates numismatists is the coveted branch mint marked gold coins struck at Charlotte, NC and Dahlonega, GA. From 1838 to the dawn of the Civil War in 1861, the ever popular Quarter and Half Eagle gold coins were struck from gold ore mined from our countries first “Gold Rush” on the east coast. In fact, all of America's gold coinage from 1804 to 1828 was minted from Carolina gold which was transported to Philadelphia for production. The next gold rush occurred in 1828 in Cherokee country in the hills of Georgia at Dukes Creek near the town of Dahlonega. All of this excitement and prosperity occurred nearly two decades before the heralded find in 1848 at Sutter’s Mill in California.

For most collectors the acquisition of a single representative gold coin from either Charlotte or Dahlonega in any grade is an exciting achievement. A complete collection of many 20th century series can be readily accommodated, however, the instant gratification of a complete set of early mint marked gold is the stuff that numismatic dreams are made of.

Jeff Garrett and I recently revisited the exciting story of one such dream collection, the famed Duke’s Creek Collection. Aptly named after the site of the center of the Georgia Gold Rush, the original Duke’s Creek Collection consisted of a complete set of Georgia gold coins. A phenomenal undertaking that began in 1978 took over a quarter of a century to complete. Included were all of the gold Quarter and Half Eagles coins minted in Dahlonega, Georgia as well as the Territorial gold coins of Templeton Reid and the Bechtlers of North Carolina. The original set was sold in 2004 in three parts by Bob Harwell and Jeff Garrett. The Gold Dollars, Quarter Eagles and the 1854 Indian Three Dollar went to one collector and the Territorial Gold to another. Finally, the Dahlonega Half Eagles went to a third and very serious collector as both Jeff Garrett and the new owner agreed that the magnificent assembly should remain intact. Truly one of the greatest gold collections ever assembled. In total the complete Duke’s Creek set sold for nearly $4 million.

Jeff went on to discuss how excited he is since that proud owner recently reached out to him about selling his stellar Duke’s Creek Collection of Dahlonega Half Eagles. “All of these Half Eagles have been off the market since the last time I handled this collection in 2004. It’s really a crown jewel,” advised Jeff. “It could have been put up for auction, but then it’s broken up and gone to the wind and the chance to replicate it would be virtually impossible. We’re being patient; we want to find someone who will buy this and keep it as a set.” As Jeff expressed to me and I concur, it would be a numismatic crime to break up this collection. Amazingly 20 of the 27 coins are finest known and all have been graded by NGC. The average grade for this stunning assembly is an astounding MS 63! All the coins have been meticulously reholdered and now reside in NGC’s superlative scratch–resistant EdgeView holders. A few of the finest known Dahlonega Half Eagles include the 1838–D NGC MS 63, 1841–D NGC MS 65, 1849–D NGC MS 65, 1854–D NGC MS 67 and the 1861–D NGC MS 64. When I asked Jeff about a few of his favorites in the collection he said that was very tough. “The 1854–D in MS 67 is pretty incredible and the MS 64 1861–D is really an amazing coin,” advised Garrett. Personally I have always prized the enigmatic 1861–D, too. Not only is it the last Dahlonega Half Eagle, there is no way of determining whether any surviving example is a Union or Confederate striking! The superb collection is being offered at $1.75 million. For further information and a complete roster of this magnificent collection visit A unique numismatic treasure awaits.

As the calendar rolls to September most of the numismatic nation has landed in Southern California. It was certainly a busy Labor Day weekend, with many dealers and collectors attending a flurry of auctions to kick off the month. On Sept 2, Bonhams Coins & Medals Auction in Los Angeles generated nearly $800,000. The lion’s share of the sale went to a lovely and highly impressive 40.56 oz. gold bar from the S.S. Central America capturing $146,900. Paul Song, Director of the Rare Coins and Banknotes Department at Bonhams, commented, “We were pleased to see strong interest from private buyers with more than half of the top lots sold to individual collectors. Material from the Gold rush era and San Francisco did extremely well during the fall auction.” Sharing the Sunday spotlight, Goldberg’s Pre–Long Beach sales of US, World and Ancient coins and US Currency (September 2–5) are still underway as we go to press and have realized a $2.4 million midway through the third session. Heritage, the host auctioneer, will be very busy conducting The Shoshana Collection of Judean coins, Part 2 on September 5, followed by their exciting US Coins Signature Auction September 6–9 and their Signature World and Ancient Coin Auction on September 6–11.

Several of the desirable NGC US and World coins in the Heritage Signature sales include:

  • 1793 Vine and Bars Flowing Hair Wreath Cent NGC MS 63 RB
  • 1916–D Mercury Dime NGC MS 65 FB
  • 1796 Draped Bust Quarter NGC AU 53
  • 1853 Arrows and Rays Liberty Seated Quarter NGC PF 65 Cameo
  • 1837 Reeded Edge Capped Bust Half Dollar NGC MS 66
  • 1895 Morgan Dollar NGC PF 61
  • 1929 Indian Half Eagle NGC AU 55
  • 1869 Liberty Half Eagle NGC PF 65 Cameo
  • 1930–S Indian Head Eagle NGC AU 58
  • 1897 $20 Liberty NGC PF 67 Cameo
  • 1927–S $20 Saint–Gaudens NGC MS 64
  • 1851 880 Reeded Humbert $50 NGC AU 50
  • Australia 1936 Florin NGC PF 63
  • Brazil 1820(B) Joao VI Gold 4000 Reis NGC MS 62
  • China 1907 Manchurian Provinces Dollar NGC MS 62
  • Cuba 1915 Republic Gold 20 Pesos NGC PF 65 Cameo
  • Danish West Indies 1904 Christian IX Proof 10 Daler – 50 Francs NGC PF 64
  • Great Britain (1509–47) Henry VIII Gold Sovereign NGC AU 50
  • Greece 1851 Othon Drachma NGC MS 65
  • Guatemala 1757G–J Gold 8 Escudos NGC AU 58
  • India 1862–C Victoria Gold Mohur NGC PF 64 Cameo

Until next time, happy collecting.

Jim Bisognani has written extensively on US coin market trends and values and was the market analyst and writer for a major pricing guide for many years. He currently resides in Southern California and frequently attends major coin shows and auctions.

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