The New York International Numismatic Convention (NYINC) is one of the most prestigious shows focused on ancient and world numismatics. Organized in 2018 from January 12 to 14 at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan, it has moved down the street from its long-time home at the Waldorf Astoria. In conjunction with the show, a large number of auctions take place before, during, and after the actual show, offering a plethora of numismatic items. Previously we covered the Heritage Auctions section of ancient and world coins offered that week, but this time we will take a look at the ancient and world coins on offer in the Stack’s-Bowers auction. In the final preview article for the NYINC show, we will take a look at some of the highlights in the world currency auction. All lots discussed in this article, as well as all other lots offered in the various sessions, can be viewed at the website of Stack’s Bowers.
We will start our preview with one of the scarcest 20th-century coins from Canada. Lot 20065 is a 1921 50-cents graded SP-62 (Specimen). A legendary rarity, this is a type that should not be considered rare if you take a look at the mintage, as a whopping 206,398 coins were struck for circulation. This mintage is not particularly low (mintages in the 1930s were much lower, for example, but they are nowhere as rare as the 1921). The reason for this is that the 1921’s were not needed in circulation at the time, and virtually the entire mintage was melted at a later date. A very small number (estimated to be less than 100 coins) is believed to have survived, and quite a few of those (such as this example) are considered Specimen strikes. Still, any 1921 50-cents from Canada is a major rarity and a coin that is always highly in demand with Canadian specialists.
The next issue is a Proof coin, of which its status as a Proof is sometimes disputed, but was nevertheless clearly produced with care. Lot 20128 is a 500-piastres from Egypt struck under King Fuad I, dated 1932 (AH1351) and graded PR-64. The largest denomination in Egypt at the time, this gold coin contains well over an ounce of gold and was minted in extremely limited quantities (this type was struck for two years only, with a reported combined mintage of 700 pieces). Whether or not Proofs were deliberately struck is unclear, mint records do not seem to indicate so, but the existence of some very high-grade survivors (such as this one) seem to indicate otherwise. Perhaps they were created as presentation pieces, or perhaps they were just merely early strikes produced with more care, but the fact remains that it is a very rare gold coin that seldom comes up for sale in any grade.
Session Two starts with a selection of coins from the ancient world. Lot 21005 is a high-grade silver tetradrachm struck in Sicily circa 425-413 B.C. and graded Choice AU (Strike 5/5, Surface 4/5). This coin is a great example of what people were capable of producing almost 2,500 years ago. The obverse shows a biga, a two-horse chariot popular in ancient times, while the reverse shows a hare and a dolphin. The importance of the sea to the people of Sicily in ancient times is obvious from this coin, as the obverse also features two small dolphins below the biga. A very scarce coin in any grade, particularly for this choice and with such a strong strike.
A most unusual piece of South American numismatics can be found offered in lot 21417. This is an imitation 4-reales cob attributed to Caracas, Venezuela that has been graded AU-50. Spanish colonial cobs are well known for their crude appearance and relative availability, as they were struck in huge quantities for almost two centuries at the Spanish colonial mints. The pieces circulated freely throughout the world and were common in circulation no matter where you were for many years after their mintage ceased. This particular piece is believed to date back to the early 19th century, well after the originals were no longer being produced, and was probably struck after Venezuela became independent but before it had its own coinage. Making a coin such as this would almost guarantee that it would be accepted in commerce, something that was never certain with coins from a brand new nation. Very rare, especially in such a high grade, notable features include the date, 180, and the lack of any discernible legends on either side.
The Stack’s Bowers sale also features the Eldorado Collection of Colombian and Ecuadorian Coins (a special session of paper money from this collection is also being held). Offered in two sessions, the first session is highlighted by lot 11369, a unique 1844 8-escudos from Ecuador, struck at the Quito Mint and graded EF-45. It features a rather crude portrait of Simon Bolivar and this type was only struck in 1844, allegedly in very small numbers. While rumors have persisted of others, Stack’s Bowers has only been able to verify the existence of a single piece — the one in the sale — which traces its pedigree back to 1921. It has been off the market since 1981, and its appearance in this sale means that one Latin American specialist can now add the rarest 19th-century Latin American gold coin to their collection.
The second session of the Eldorado Collection features more rarities, including a very rare 1759-JV 8-reales from the Santa Fe de Nuevo Reino Mint in Colombia. Offered as lot 12001 and graded MS-62, this is an example of the familiar pillar 8-reales. While a relatively common type minted by various mints throughout Spanish America, coins of this type struck in Colombia are very rare, as mintages were limited, and only a small number of pieces are known by a handful of dates. The Santa Fe Mint was located near gold mines and created an abundance of gold coin issues, but silver was in short supply, so only limited quantities of silver coins were minted. This was the first date of this rare series, which also makes it a part of the very first milled (struck inside a collar) coinage of Colombia, and is the only coin struck under Ferdinand VI of Spain.