From February 26 to March 1, Heritage Auctions will be holding a signature auction of United States coinage. A total of 2820 highly collectable lots will be sold, ranging from colonial coinage to modern grade rarities. In this preview article we will take a look at some of the highlights in this auction, which is held in conjunction with the PNG Dallas Invitational Show. The lots discussed in this article as well as the others can be viewed in the print catalog as well as via this link: http://coins.ha.com/c/auction-home.zx?saleNo=1218&ic=Items-OpenAuctions-Open-BrowseAuctionInfo-071713.
The first lot we will take a look at is lot number 3014, a PCGS MS66+ graded and CAC approved 1858 Large Letters Flying Eagle Cent. The sole piece graded MS66+ by PCGS, there has been just a single piece graded finer. A quintessential type coin, Flying Eagle Cents are not necessarily rare, and a date set (minus the 1856 pattern) can easily be assembled. In high grades, however, this becomes a different story. The first problem was apparent at the time the Flying Eagle Cents were struck, as the design did not strike up properly, and this caused the design to be replaced by the Indian Head Cent in 1859. Weakly struck coins are often encountered, and sharply struck Flying Eagle Cents are a rarity, which limits the grade of many pieces. The coin offered by Heritage is a sharply impressed, lustrous and minimally abraded example, which would serve as the perfect type representative in a high-end set.
The only 20th century coin that we will discuss will be offered as lot 3065, a 1916-D Mercury Dime graded PCGS MS66FB by PCGS in a first-generation rattler holder and approved by CAC. Considered the classic key date of the series for generations, this first year coin had a mintage of 264,000 coins, by far the lowest mintage of any dime struck for circulation in the 20th century. Dimes were produced at the Philadelphia and San Francisco mints in much larger quantities, making production at the Denver Mint that year not as important, resulting in a much lower mintage. The majority of coins went into circulation, and while well-circulated examples can be found at any major coin show in the country, true premium gems are major rarities, making this an important offering for the specialist of the series.
The specialist of Liberty Seated Coinage has plenty of high-quality pieces to choose from, with the highlight being offered as lot 3111, an 1851 Liberty Seated Half Dollar graded MS67 by PCGS. Pedigreed to the Pittman and Gardner collections, the coin is by far the finest known of a scant 200,000 or so pieces produced for circulation. Many of these must have been melted in 1853, when the fineness of the half dollar was changed, while very few were saved in uncirculated condition. In addition to the rarity of the piece at this grade level the coin is also an example of a very rare die variety, of which just a two pieces are known in all grades, with the other known piece permanently impounded in the Smithsonian Institution. By miracle the coin was kept from circulation and stored carefully, over the years acquiring gorgeous toning, which can be seen on both sides and adds to the desirability of this piece.
Many collectors will have a Morgan Dollar or two in their collection, and many of them specialize in the series. Perhaps the most beautiful Morgan Dollars produced are Proofs, and the finest of the finest of those are always in demand. Lot 3191 is a Proof example of the 1896 Morgan Silver Dollar, graded PR68DCAM by PCGS, among the finest known of the series in proof format. The coin is of such quality that it is hard to believe that it is in fact a product of the 19th century; in 1896 the Philadelphia Mint produced a grand total of just 762 proofs for collectors. While quite a few of that number still survive many are impaired or at least significantly hairlined, making pieces graded finer than PR65 rarities, especially with Cameo or Deep Cameo contrast.
Territorial gold coinage is an area of American numismatics that has many rarities, many of which were struck in California during the gold rush in the late 1840s and early 1850s. Some of the gold that was found in California was exported to other areas, including Utah and Oregon. Lot 3316 in the Heritage Auction is an example of the coinage struck in Oregon, dated 1849, a $5 gold piece struck by the Oregon Exchange Company in Oregon City. The piece is graded VF-35 by PCGS, and is a nice mid-level representative of his rare private coinage. The coins, which show a beaver on the obverse and the weight and value on the reverse are rare, with just 6,000 pieces struck. Most of these were later melted and lost, and in all grades there are perhaps as few as 50 known to exist. Interestingly enough the dies show various mistakes, such as “T.O.”, on the obverse, which should read “O.T.”, for Oregon Territory. The letters above the beaver are initials of the business partners involved in the Oregon Exchange Company and include another mistake, as the “G” should have been a “C”, for J.G. Campbell. Said errors were never corrected, and all known coins of the $5 denomination show these errors. The coins of the extremely rare $10 denomination do not show these errors, suggesting that the dies for the heavier coins were perhaps made with more care.