The D. Brent Pogue Collection is arguably the greatest collection of early American coinage assembled in our lifetime. Part I (in May) already drew a huge amount of interest in the collection, which we expect to grow during the coming auction sessions. These auctions will continue for several years, thanks to the extent and depth of the collection. Jointly organized by Stack’s Bowers and Sotheby’s, part II will come up for auction in New York City on September 30, and consists of Capped Bust half dollars (lots 2001 through 2040), Flowing Hair silver dollars (lots 2041 through 2047), Capped Bust and Classic Head quarter eagles (lots 2048 through 2068), Capped Bust half eagles (lots 2069 through 2090), and Capped Bust eagles (lots 2091 through 2105). In this second preview, we will cover the highlights of the gold coins offered in this part of the Pogue collection, while the silver coins were featured in an earlier article. All lots can be viewed on the Stack’s Bowers Web site.
We’ll start our in-depth look with the first gold coin sold in this session, lot 2048, which is the single finest 1821 quarter eagle in existence. Now graded MS-66+ by PCGS, the coin has been known in the numismatic community for decades, and was long considered a possible proof striking due to its strong strike, reflective surfaces, and excellent eye-appeal. It was previously part of both the Parmelee and Eliasberg collections. A survivor from a mintage of just 6,448 coins, these early quarter eagles saw limited use in day-to-day commerce but were often used for banking and international transactions, with many of them melted in the years after being minted. As a result, survival rates are very low and auction appearances of many dates are few and far between.
The Pogue Collection also includes the single finest-known Capped Head Left quarter eagle, large-size planchet, graded by PCGS—a coin which could be considered to ultimate example of the type. Offered as lot 2050, the 1825/5 quarter eagle is the sole MS-67 graded example of the type, which was struck in very limited numbers (this particular date had a mintage of just 4,434 coins) for just a few years in the 1820s. The pictures in the auction catalog reveal a fully original, fully struck, and extremely appealing gold coin; it’s hard to believe that it has been around for almost 200 years. Of course, this can be said of many coins in the Pogue Collection, but for your author the eye-appeal of this particular coin beats many of the others we’ve seen offered so far.
A collector wishing to also pursue the smaller-sized type of the quarter eagle denomination gets that opportunity with lot 2055, the single finest known 1831 Capped Head Left quarter eagle, graded MS-67 by PCGS. The difference between this and the previous type derives from the upgraded minting equipment at the Philadelphia Mint, which saw the introduction of machinery that could strike coins of uniform diameter within a collar during the second half of the 1820s. Mintages of the smallest gold coin denomination remained low, however, with just 4,520 quarter eagles struck in 1831, a quantity that is similar to all other dates of the type.
Five dollar gold pieces were first struck in 1795 and were the first gold coinage produced at the Philadelphia Mint. If you want to purchase a single coin of this type to represent that important milestone of the early United States Mint, look no further than lot 2069. That coin is one of just three 1795 half eagles graded MS-65 by PCGS, a coin pedigreed to the important Garrett collection that truly shows what the early Philadelphia Mint was capable of with limited machinery. Like many coins in the Pogue collection, it has a long pedigree filled with the names of famous numismatists, dating back to the 19th century.
While collecting early gold coins by date is not something that many of us can afford, rare dates of the early American gold series are still much in demand and often see intense bidding at auction. Lot 2074 is such a coin, one of just six 1798 half eagles of the BD-1 variety known to exist, identified by the small eagle reverse. In the 18th century the Mint tried to extend the life of dies as much as they could in order to save money, which resulted in some interesting varieties. Examples include the 1795 five dollar gold piece with Heraldic Eagle reverse and this 1798 five dollar gold piece with the small eagle reverse, coins which probably would not have existed if the mint employees had paid attention to the different designs (it had been discontinued in 1797, but as the story goes an outbreak of yellow fever created chaos at the Philadelphia Mint for several months). The Pogue coin of the latter variety is graded AU-55 by PCGS, and is the single finest known example of one of the rarest American gold coins.
The early United States Mint reused old dies quite often as well, resulting in various overdates, such as the 1802/1 half eagle, which boasts a very clear overdate that can be identified even without the aid of a loupe. The Pogue collection includes a gem example of this variety, graded MS-65 by PCGS, and offered as lot 2082. The Mint used two obverse dies for half eagles in 1802; both were overdated 1801 obverse dies, so the fact that the coin is an overdate does not influence its value, a much different scenario from many such issues found in later 19th and 20th century coinage.
The final lot we’d like to discuss is another true highlight of the collection. The largest denomination struck prior to the introduction of the double eagle in 1850 was the ten dollar gold piece, first produced in 1795. Lot 2092 of the Pogue Collection includes the very finest known example of the earliest ten dollar gold piece. The 1795 dated coin is graded MS-66+ by PCGS, and like the previously discussed 1795 half eagle it represents the ultimate example of this elusive type. Again pedigreed back to the 18th century, the coin is fully original and was obviously cared for quite well over the years, resulting in one of the ultimate early American gold coins in existence today.
In all honesty, we could probably write a paragraph about every lot in the second installment of the Pogue Collection, but in the interest of brevity we opted to focus on the rarest of the rare. The large-size catalogs of the collection are true works of art; even if you are not able to afford the coins offered, the catalogs are definitely worth tracking down, as they no doubt will prove to be a valuable reference in the years to come. For now, we’ll wait for the second Pogue auction on September 30th and, as usual, we will take a look at the most noteworthy results after the event.
All images courtesy of Stack’s Bowers.