The June 2015 Long Beach Expo includes a U.S. coin auction organized by Heritage. Offered are 4,414 lots, ranging from colonials to territorial gold coins, with auctions taking place between June 4th and June 7th. We have gone through the auction catalog and selected half a dozen of the rarest and most exciting lots to cover in somewhat more detail in this preview article. All lots offered in this auction can be viewed on the Heritage’s website using this link: http://coins.ha.com/c/search-results.zx?N=51+793+794+791+1577+792+2088+4294950094&chkNotSold=0.
The first lot we will discuss is an extremely rare colonial, offered as lot 3735. Undated, the coin is a Higley Copper, a private issue produced in Connecticut in 1737 by a resident of Simsbury named Dr. Samuel Higley. An unknown number of copper pieces were struck from locally mined copper, meant to alleviate a small change shortage, a problem common in 18th century America. Survivors of this issue are very rare and in much demand by colonial specialists. Various different die pairs are known, the Heritage example showing a deer on the obverse with the legend “Value Me As You Please” on the obverse and an axe on the reverse with the legend “J Cut My Way Through”. The coin is graded VF20 by PCGS and stickered by CAC and is a very presentable example of this issue which often comes heavily corroded, as virtually all known examples are detector finds that came out of the ground.
In 1793 the United States Mint in Philadelphia started producing cents, soon a much-used denomination in commerce, with three distinctive types struck the first year. The first was the Chain Cent, which was unfavorable and soon linked to slavery, replaced with the Wreath Cent soon after. Lot 3749 in the Heritage auction is a high-grade example of such a Wreath Cent, graded MS65 Brown by PCGS. It should not come as a surprise that 18th century coins struck for circulation are extremely rare in gem uncirculated condition, making the coin offered in the Heritage auction a seldom-seen opportunity for type collectors to acquire this type in superb condition. The Wreath Cent type was struck for a relatively short period as well, as it was replaced by the Liberty Cap cents later that year, a type that would be struck until 1796.
Proof Mercury Dimes were struck for a relative brief period of time, from 1936 to 1942, and a single proof coin of this type can easily be acquired, even in gem condition. Of a different caliber is the coin offered as lot 3882, the single finest Proof Mercury Dime of any date, a 1942 dated coin graded PR69 by PCGS and stickered by CAC. Virtually perfect, the coin is the ultimate Proof of this type that must have enjoyed extraordinarily good care since the day it was struck. Lightly toned, the fields are free of any imperfections, and this is the only such coin ever graded by PCGS at this level. The auction description explains how these coins went through an extensive process that include minting, being packaged up in cellophane, and shipped in sometimes loose boxes together with other Proof coins of the year. Hairlines and nicks were easily acquired by the coins, so even though this is a relatively modern coin it’s survival is nothing short of a miracle.
For the next coin we stay with ultra high-grade coins but move back to the 19th century and switch to gold coins. Lot 4262 is an MS68 graded example of the 1898-S Half Eagle or $5 gold piece, a relatively common coin with a mintage of 1,397,400 pieces that is easily acquired in circulated and the lower mint state grades. Of course, any 19th century gold coin becomes a major rarity at the MS68 level, and of this date a total of four have graded in this grade. The coin offered by Heritage is the only coin of the four that has stickered by CAC. Even though this is a coin that has been saved in a remarkable state of preservation it is certainly not the only coin from the turn of the century struck at the San Francisco mint that has survived in such a grade; other dates and denominations are also known to exist, coins that were purchased at the San Francisco mint by wealthy individuals the year they were struck and saved in remarkable condition up to the present day.
Even during the great depression it was not unusual for collectors to purchase gold coins at the respective mints for their own collection. What these collectors could not realize at the time was that for some dates the coins they purchased would soon be the only available in the market, as all others were retained at the mints and later melted. Lot 4322 is an example of such a coin, an extremely rare 1933 Gold Eagle or $10 gold piece, graded MS65 by PCGS. Despite a published mintage of 312,5000 coins less than 30-40 pieces are presently known to exist, with the balance melted following the executive order by President Roosevelt that recalled all gold coins in circulation at the time.
The final lot we’d like to discuss is one of the more esoteric items, but for your author certainly one of the more exciting lots of this auction. Lot 4439 is a 48.03-Ounce gold ingot from the California Gold Rush, assayed by the firm of Kellogg & Humbert in San Francisco circa 1855. Recovered from the wreck of the S.S. Central America off the Atlantic coast, the ingot is an example of one of the ways gold was transported from the California Gold Fields back to the East Coast of the United States where they would be melted and struck into coin. Since these ingots were supposed to be melted when they reached their destination they are extremely rare, and most survivors come from the shipwreck of the S.S. Central America. It’s value at the time it was made was $889.61, as stamped on the ingot, the gold of which is .896 fine.
These are just some of the lots offered in the June Long Beach auction held by Heritage Auctions. As this preview article testifies there is a wide range of numismatic material available, and the auction should prove to be a good one.