Garrett Sales Conclude - Part Three

Posted on 11/20/2014

The market timing of the Garrett sales were incredible when viewed in hindsight.

This week we will discuss the final portion of the Garrett collection that was sold by Bowers and Ruddy Galleries in March, 1981. By this time, the rare coin market had cooled off considerably from the 1980 highs. Bullion prices were in a steep decline that would continue for several years. Most of the buyers at the sale were now serious collectors and not newly minted “millionaire” coin dealers. This is nicely illustrated by the purchases of Donald Partrick at the last Garrett sale. This extremely devoted collector has retained most of his purchases at the Garrett sales for nearly 35 years. When auction houses state that coins from truly great collections are sometimes offered only once or twice in a lifetime, they are not exaggerating.

The market timing of the Garrett sales were incredible when viewed in hindsight. The first three sales contained amazing US coins that sold for staggering sums compared to what they would have sold for a few years earlier. The three sales brought in over $22,000,000, with many records that stood for years. By March 1981, the rare coin market had cooled, but the final sale contained no regular issue US coinage. The sale started with an amazing collection of George Washington medals. This now rather obscure segment of numismatics was at one time one of the most sought after by early collectors. The various members of the Garrett family devoted considerable resources building one of the finest collections of this material ever assembled. The catalogue still serves as an important reference work for Washingtonian collectors.

The first lots sold were various Washington Colonials familiar to anyone with a Red Book. A few of the highlights from this section included a Roman Head Washington piece that sold for $13,000, now worth close to six figures. Three different Washington Getz Half Dollars sold for $24,500, $32,000, and $34,500. All three would bring many times that if offered today. The sale continued with various Washington medals, the highlight being an extremely interesting Skull and Cross Bones Funeral medal in gold. The piece sold for $37,500 and would surely sell for a huge sum today. The Washington Indian Peace Medal sold for the astonishing price of $65,000. In the description of the lot, Dave Bowers stated, “This piece is certainly one of the most important items in the entire Garrett Collection.” The majority of these medals seen are fakes, and one with the illustrious Garrett pedigree would be highly desirable.

The next few hundred lots were made up of an incredible array of tokens, medals and miscellaneous exonumia. A few of my personal favorites include an original 1861 Confederate Cent that sold for $12,500, now worth close to $200,000, and a silver lifesaving medal issued for the wreck of the SS Central America that sold for $2,900. The medal sold several years before the famous shipwreck was discovered off the coast of North Carolina. A nice run of California fractional gold and various paper money items were sold near the end of the sale.

Perhaps for dramatic effect, the most magnificent lots were the last few sold of the Garrett collection on March 26, 1981. Lot 2340 was the second Brasher Doubloon with punch on breast. The coin is unique and sold for the still amazing (considering the market downturn) price of $625,000. The coin resold 24 years later for $2,990,000. The final eight lots sold were the US Pattern coinage of 1792. This seminal offering of what many consider the most important coins ever struck in the United States, was the most comprehensive ever seen. Nearly every issue was represented of this fascinating coinage. These coins are literally the “birth” of United States coinage. The founding fathers were very involved with their production, and it would be hard to match these for historical importance.

The offering of 1792 Pattern coinage began with lot 2347, the 1792 Silver Center Cent in Choice Uncirculated that sold for $80,000. The coin is an interesting experiment in bi-metallic coin production that never was adopted for circulating coinage. Estimating current value of these numismatic treasures can be very tricky, but I would say the coin would sell for over $1,000,000 today. Lot 2348 was the 1792 Fused Alloy Cent in circulated condition that sold for $28,000. This coin was struck on a planchet made from a combination of copper and silver. The coin is probably worth $300,000 plus now. The next coin, lot 2349, is one of the most amazing coins from the Garrett collection. It is a Gem Uncirculated 1792 Birch Cent in Copper that sold for $200,000 to Donald Partrick. The coin has recently been certified by NGC as MS 65 Red Brown. It will be sold at the January 2015 FUN sale by Heritage Auctions. Its current value is anyone’s guess, but it’s safe to say seven figures will be involved! This coin has been off the market for nearly 35 years and is truly a generational opportunity.

The next coin, lot 2348, was a unique white metal Birch cent that sold for $90,000. The 1792 Half Disme, lot 2349, was graded About Uncirculated and sold for $36,000. The next two lots sold were the 1792 Copper Disme with one coin having reeded edges, (lot 2350,) and the other with plain edges, (lot 2351.) The coins sold for $54,000 and $45,000, respectively. Both are probably worth close to $500,000 on today’s market. The final lot of the Garrett sales was the obverse and reverse of the 1792 Wright Quarter. Lot 2352 sold for $12,000 and concluded one of the greatest sales of a rare coin collection ever offered. In all, the four segments of the Garrett collection sold for over $25,000,000, with many auction records that would stand for decades.

When truly great collections are offered for sale, they should be viewed as very unique opportunities. As can be seen with many coins from the Garrett collection, important coins sometimes do not reappear for decades. In the next year or so, several amazing collections are being offered. The sale of the Partrick collection contains many coins that have only crossed the auction block once or twice in over 100 years. I, personally, feel privileged to have the opportunity to view these coins when they are offered at auction next year. I urge any serious numismatist to do the same–it may be the only chance in your lifetime!

Next time–a review of the incredible collection of Amon Carter sold by Stack’s in 1984.

Questions about the rare coin market? Send them to

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