Great Sales Of The Past - Part Two

Posted on 11/6/2014

The four sales of the Garrett Collection held from 1979 to 1981 were of staggering importance to numismatics.

Last week, Heritage Auctions announced that the unparalleled collection of United States Colonial coins formed by Donald Partrick would be coming to market. Incredibly, the Partrick collection of Colonial coins is said to be finer than those of Ford or Newman. Like the Newman collection, selections from the Partrick collection will be certified by NGC. Grading these types of coins is a great honor, and I congratulate NGC for being chosen for the task. Mark Salzberg has mentioned to me that the coins he has seen are amazing. The sale of this collection will no doubt be the subject of several future articles.

My first article about great collections of the past started with the November 1979 sale of coins from the Garrett collection. This is very timely, as many of the most significant coins in the Partrick collection were purchased at the Garrett auctions. This includes the 1787 Brasher Doubloon that Partrick paid $725,000 for in 1979! The coin is considered the finest known of this legendary rarity. The coin had previously been purchased by John Work Garrett from the Col. James Ellsworth collection in 1923. When the coin is sold in the next year or so, it will have only traded hands three times in over 100 years.

The second installment of the Garrett collection was sold by Bowers and Ruddy Galleries in March 1980. As many may recall, this was at the height of the precious metals boom. Silver prices had run to over $50 per ounce, and coin dealers around the country were making a fortune trading bullion. Quite a few invested this unexpected windfall into what they knew best—rare coins. Prices at the March 1980 Garrett sale went through the roof. Many seem cheap today, but by the summer of 1982, the coins were trading for much less by cash-strapped dealers. Collectors fared much better, as many have retained the coins over the decades. Donald Partrick has held many of the Garrett coins for over 35 years. Hopefully, his patience will be well rewarded when the coins are sold in the next year or so.

The March 1980 Garrett sale began with a beautiful run of Bust quarters. The 1804 Bust Quarter was graded AU 55 and sold for $80,000. The coin appears Mint State, and it would probably sell for around $150,000 in today’s market. The Gem 1827 Original Bust Quarter sold for $190,000. It would not bring much more today. A Proof 1828 and 1835 brought $60,000 and $75,000, respectively. The next section offered was Bust dollars, of which the highlight was a 1795 Draped Bust Dollar described as Superb Proof. The coin looks amazing, and may be a presentation coin of some sort. It sold for $170,000 and would probably be worth over $500,000 today. The last coin represented in the Bust dollar section was the Garrett 1804 Silver Dollar. This iconic coin was described as Extremely Fine and sold for $400,000. The coin later sold at auction in 1986 for $187,000. Another circulated 1804 Silver Dollar sold for $2,300,000 in 2009.

The significant run featured early quarter eagles, with the Choice AU 55 1796 No Stars hammering for $125,000 (today worth around $200,000). One of the highlights of the early quarter eagles was the Gem Proof 1821 which sold for $120,000. The coin is now worth nearly $1,000,000. A Gem 1831 sold for a healthy $105,000. A superb Proof 1834 No Motto Classic Quarter Eagle reached $135,000 (today: $500,000 plus). The Gem 1848 CAL. Quarter Eagle brought $70,000 (worth over $200,000 now). Most date quarter eagles from 1860 to 1915 were represented by Proof examples, and sold for incredibly high prices for the time.

The next group of coins to be sold were double eagles. Most dates from 1860 to 1915 were featured in the sales as Proof examples. The coins all brought record prices for the time ranging from $40,000 to $100,000. It must be remembered that when the Garrett collection was formed in the late 19th century and early 20th century, most collectors ignored mint marked coinage. This seems illogical to modern collectors, but nearly all great collections of time were formed this way.

Silver commemoratives were next up for sale and brought prices that have not been seen since! The Gem 1915-S Panama-Pacific Half Dollar sold for $12,000. The 1935 Spanish Trail sold for $3,200. The 1915-S Panama-Pacific Gold Dollar brought $8,000. Needless to say, these were not the bargains of the Garrett sales.

Next came an amazing selection of Territorial gold coinage. A Choice 1850 Baldwin “Horseman” Ten Dollar sold for $77,500 and would be worth $350,000 today. The 1851 Baldwin Double Eagle sold for $110,000 and resold in 2014 for about $650,000. The 1849 Cincinnati Mining Company $10 brought $270,000. This is probably a million dollar coin today.

One of the coolest coins in the sale was lot 890: the 1852/1 Augustus Humbert $20 in Gem Proof. It was his personal specimen, and the coin sold for $325,000. The coin resold several times for much less in the intervening years, but is now worth much more, probably seven figures. Lot 897 was Augustus Humbert’s personal Octagonal $50 in Proof condition. The coin sold for $500,000! This is also easily a seven figure coin today, maybe by multiples.

One of the most amazing condition coins from the Garrett sale was lot 908, the 1854 Kellogg & Co. $20 that once belonged to Augustus Humbert. The coin is nearly perfect and has been certified as PR 69. The coin sold for $230,000, and is worth many times more today. The finest known 1855 Wass, Molitor $50 sold for $275,000 (worth $800,000 or more now). Nearly every issue of Territorial gold coinage was represented in this sale, and specialists are encouraged to study this catalogue carefully. The catalogue has a wealth of original information about these fascinating coins.

The March sale concluded with a nice run of Pattern coinage, the highlight being two 1863 Gold Pattern Ten Dollar coins. They brought around $50,000 each. The 1879 “School Girl” Silver Dollar sold for $105,000. Many of these prices seem reasonable now, but they were shockingly high for the time.

The next installment of the Garrett sales occurred in October 1980. By then precious metals prices had fallen dramatically, and the market for rare coins began to return to normal. The October sale included a vast run of United States Colonial coinage, many of which will reappear when the Partrick collection is sold next year. Nearly every Colonial issue was represented in the sale, the highlight being a unique 1776 Continental Dollar in silver that brought $95,000.

Next up was a fine run of United States Dimes from 1796 to 1938. The Gem 1796 sold for $38,000. (today worth $100,000 or more.) The dimes were followed by a run of original Proof sets from 1879 to 1915. Lot 1655 started the final section of the fall 1980 sale of the Garrett collection. The coin was a Gem 1795 Ten Dollar gold coin and sold for the bargain price of $130,000 (now nearly $1,000,000). A superb 1798/7 sold for just $52,500 (worth over $500,000 today.) An 1845 Ten Dollar gold coin in Proof sold for just $38,000. Another two dozen Proof ten dollar coins followed. The Gem 1907 Rolled Edge brought $60,000 (one recently sold for $300,000). The sale concluded with every Proof Ten Dollar Indian 1908-1915.

Hopefully, this article will give readers a hint of the staggering importance of the four Garrett sales that were held from 1979 to 1981. Next time we will examine the final installment of the Garrett sale that was sold in March 1981. Many of the greatest coins in the upcoming Partrick sale were purchased at this auction. Great sales like these deserve careful study. Important pedigrees are a crucial part of numismatics, and hopefully, articles like this will give readers a better appreciation of their significance.

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