A Rare and Unique Pair Debut in Philly

Posted on 8/16/2018

They don't come fresher or more exciting than this!

As this article posts, the ANA World’s Fair of Money is in full swing in Philadelphia. While avid, excited attendees and motivated dealers share discourse on the massive Pennsylvania Convention Center bourse floor, each faction is responsible for elevating the decibel level, producing the boisterous buzz emanating from the main convention hall. With conversations echoing, the buying, selling wheeling and dealing continue at a spirited pace as we go to press.

The Sunday best

For me one of the joys of attending the ANA World’s Fair of Money is not only because the numismatic hierarchy would be there, it was because all of the dealers would bring their collective “Sunday best” to adorn and tempt us through their respective showcases.

Although not every collector would have the wherewithal to purchase many of these wonderful coins, it was thrilling to see the beautiful and rare examples which true numismatists have long studied and written about. For me, each visit to the big show comes with the thrill of becoming acquainted with another “new series,” US or world, to study. The scope and opportunity never ends.

Old friends

Certainly major dealers still offer up a wealth of superb certified coins, although many of them seem as familiar old friends to me and for many of us more seasoned numismatic brethren, as we have seen them before. (While visiting them again is welcome, it is the want for something new and exciting and, well, fresh!) This is why I believe that the Heritage and Stack’s Bowers host auctions will supply defining moments for this 2018 ANA World’s Fair of Money.

Where are the fresh coins?

While it is virtually impossible to offer up a “ fresh” supply wagon of coins to any public sale consistently nowadays, I can recall hearing collectors and dealers uttering the exact woeful refrain “Where are the Fresh coins?” to much the same effect two or three decades ago.

If it was difficult in the pre-certified era. Then today, in 2018, the cry is louder and more desperate as it is harder and harder for auction houses to procure fresh or semi-fresh numismatic offerings with any regularity. To put this in perspective, when I was knee-high to a quarter eagle (late 1960s to early ’70s), “fresh” would have referred to coins either never before seen hitherto, or otherwise off the public radar for at least several decades or more.

No time for reruns

Now, with online auctions vying for collectors’ and dealers’ attention nearly every day, it is like watching summer reruns: I have personally viewed many of the exact same key and rare certified slabs making the rounds once or twice a year or more! It is not only monotonous, it often erodes market value. Accordingly, today, the “fresh” moniker could and does apply if a coin had been off the market for 5 years!

The rare pair debuts!

With this in mind there’s a pair of marquee offerings, two never-before-seen standouts that will be appearing at this year’s Heritage 2018 WFOM Signature sale. Neither coin is an Ultra Cameo nor blazing Mint State Gem. Both in fact grade NGC XF 45 (one with the NGC’s star designation: ★). If the collector’s coffers are bulging, I can offer this great pair of numismatic delicacies.

Described as "the discovery of a lifetime," Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has authenticated and graded as NGC XF 45 the fourth-known 1854-S Half Eagle. Photo courtesy of Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGCcoin.com)
Click images to enlarge.

1854-S Half Eagle, graded NGC XF 45: Dubbed the “Discovery of a Lifetime,” this Liberty gold Half Eagle coin was owned by a collector in my greater New England region. Earlier this year, and after some consternation amongst his numismatic contemporaries and dealers as to its legitimacy, the owner ultimately decided to send it to NGC for the final word on its status. Much to the delight of the submitter and to the numismatic nation, history was made when the first-year San Francisco mint Half Eagle was deemed authentic and was awarded an XF 45 grade by NGC!

This is not only an exciting story but reinforces the notion to never leave any stone unturned when searching through coins or dealers’ inventory! This San Francisco branch mint Half Eagle was one of only 268 coins minted on April 19, 1854, during the inaugural first year and first days of the mint’s official operation in the Golden State.

She is truly an iconic mega rarity! As of today, only 4 examples of this coin are known. One is permanently impounded in the Smithsonian. Another, the Willis DuPont coin (along with nearly 7,000 other coins in his massive collection) was stolen in an armed robbery at his home in Coconut Grove, Florida, on October 4, 1967. While much of the collection has been recovered since the brazen robbery, DuPont’s 1854-S has not.

This leaves the Pogue specimen (which remains in secure and safe hands) and the present “Discovery of a Lifetime” coin. A tremendous opportunity for the well-healed rare coin specialist, also a substantial and even life-changing unexpected payday for the consignor. As we go to press, the coin is pre-bid at $2.16 million (including buyer’s premium) and is slated to appear on the auction block later tonight (Thursday) as a prime feature in Heritage’s Platinum Night.

To view a video about this coin, click here.

1792 Eagle & Stars Gold $10 Washington President, graded NGC XF 45★.
Click images to enlarge.

1792 Washington President Gold Eagle pattern, graded NGC XF 45★: This pattern gold piece is truly a unique link to our numismatic heritage. Not only is this glorious piece a prototype for our country’s first gold coinage, it is also perhaps a numismatic treasure that resided with General Washington as a pocket piece. The coin’s origin is still not definitive, for many researchers it was believed that British engraver Jonathan Hancock struck the gold coin in Birmingham, England, yet current wisdom and documentation indicate that Newburyport, Massachusetts’ Jacob Perkins (who designed the Massachusetts 1788 Cent and Half Cent) most probably produced this gold eagle for presentation purposes and consideration for our country’s Gold Eagle or $10 coin. I am in the latter camp.

The previous and illustrious owner Eric P. Newman acquired this coin in 1942 from the Colonel Green estate, and of all the thousands of coins Mr. Newman held and researched, this unique President Washington gold coin was his absolute favorite.

Much has been written about the origins and specific intent of the piece by Newman and a host of other acclaimed numismatic historians. While it is still calculated conjecture that this coin was indeed Washington’s pocket piece, to me it seems likely that it was indeed handled by Mr. Washington. Though he professed an unyielding disdain for any coin bearing his image for the new republic, I feel it was highly probable that he did have the piece to show to other elected officials and contemporaries.

What a thrill for the next owner! The 1792 Gold President Washington Eagle was last seen in a public sale as lot #618 as a part of the New York Coin & Stamp’s Parmalee sale in June 1890, realizing only $220! The pattern had since changed hands privately a handful of times before ultimately being purchased by Mr. Newman in July 1942. So the last public sale for this coin was 128 years ago and it has been in Mr. Newman’s collection and estate for the past 76 years! Good luck!

Pre-auction excitement was confirmed, as 321 are tracking this on the Heritage Auctions site, and there are 21 registered bidders.

To view a video about this coin, click here.

Now, while 1913 Lib Nickels or 1804 Dollars never become old hat, it is so refreshing and exciting to have a pair of coins never before seen in our lifetimes offered at public sale! Enjoy the show folks!

Until next time, happy collecting!

Jim Bisognani is an NGC Price Guide Analyst, having previously served for many years as an analyst and writer for another major price guide. He has written extensively on US coin market trends and values.

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