The ANA National Money Show is held each spring in a city around the country and is the first of two shows organized by the American Numismatic Association. This year, that city was chosen to be Portland, Oregon, where the show will be held from March 5 to March 7. In conjunction with this show Stack’s-Bowers organizes an auction of United States coins, and that auction will be the subject of this preview article. We will take a look at some of the upcoming highlights in that sale, all of which are examples of American coinage that are irregularly offered for sale. The auction will be conducted on March 6 (with 549 lots offered for sale), with an additional online only session taking place on March 10. The auction can be accessed through http://www.stacksbowers.com and a PDF of the auction catalog can be found via the following link: http://media.stacksbowers.com/VirtualCatalogs/2015/Stacks-Bowers-Galleries/SBG_Mar2015_Portland_Catalog_LR.pdf.
The first coin we will cover is lot 96, a PCGS MS68 graded example of the 1937-D Buffalo Nickel, one of just two graded at this level with none finer. The 1937-D Buffalo Nickel is generally considered to be among the most available dates of the series, with MS66’s selling for less than $100 and MS67 graded examples available for less than $1000. In MS68, however, this becomes a completely different story. Buffalo Nickels at this grade are incredibly difficult to find, thanks in part to the strike characteristics of the coin, which are often weak. For the specialist of the series as well as a type collector desiring the ultimate coin, the Buffalo Nickel offered by Stack’s-Bowers in Portland might be the perfect opportunity to add one of the highest graded Buffalo Nickels in existence to their collection.
Lot 245 is perhaps the most exciting offering of this auction: the finest known Proof example of the 1839-O Capped Bust Half Dollar. The coin is graded PF66 by NGC. One of four or perhaps five Proofs of this date known to exist, the 1839-O was the first Half Dollar produced for circulation at the New Orleans Mint, after a small number of proofs dated 1838-O were struck in January of 1839. A few Proofs were also struck dated 1839-O, of which the coin offered by Stack’s-Bowers is the finest known example, with a pedigree that traces back to the 1982 Robison sale. Judging by the die state of the reverse die (the same reverse die was used to strike the rare 1838-O Half Dollars) the 1839-O Proofs or Special Strikes were struck shortly after the 1838-O Half Dollars were produced. Perhaps this was done to commemorate the soon to commence production of half dollars for circulation, or perhaps it was done for another reason that has been lost to history.
Struck 80 years after the 1839-O Half Dollar is lot 282, the single finest known 1919-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar, graded MS67 by NGC. The 1919-S Half Dollar, which had a mintage of 1,552,000 pieces, is generally considered a semi key-date in the series in grades above Very Good. While lightly circulated coins are already difficult to find, this issue is surprisingly (given the mintage) difficult to find in uncirculated grades, and becomes a prime rarity at the gem level. The population at both PCGS and NGC in uncirculated condition numbers to the hundreds at each service, and less than twenty have been graded MS66 at both services combined. The coin offered as lot 282 is the only MS67 to have graded that high at either PCGS or NGC, and will most likely attract a lot of attention from specialized Walking Liberty Half Dollar collectors.
Back in the late 1860s, with the nation still recovering from the American Civil War few collectors could afford to collect (Proof) gold coins, such as the one offered as lot 424. That coin is the single finest known 1869 Proof Liberty Eagle, graded PF67* Ultra Cameo by NGC. The coin is the finest known survivor of a miniscule mintage of just 25 proofs of the 2nd largest denomination in use at the time to have been produced. Of the original mintage it is estimated that, at most, a dozen pieces survive. While it is unlikely that any of these were spent and later lost, it is generally believed that demand did not live up to the 25 pieces produced at the Philadelphia Mint in 1869, and that perhaps as many as half a dozen pieces went unsold and later were melted.
The final lot we would like to discuss is lot 540, an NGC AU58 graded example of the $5 1850 Mormon Territorial Gold Piece. Identified as Kagin-5 and rated R-5+ on the rarity scale, the coin is a high-end and very rare example of the gold pieces produced by Mormons in Salt Lake City following the discovery of gold in California in 1848. While quite a bit of the gold found in California in the late 1840s and 1850s was shipped to the United States Mints, many private enterprises also turned gold dust into gold coins, which circulated and were accepted (sometimes at a discount) throughout the country. Many of such companies were obviously located in California, but issues were also produced in Oregon and Utah. With the majority later melted, all issues are now rare, and the pieces produced by a small mint in Salt Lake City are among the most desirable of these private gold issues.