Lot 12161856-O $20 Liberty. PCGS graded EF-45. The 1856-O is the rarest New Orleans double eagle and the rarest gold coin struck at the New Orleans mint. The mintage was a mere 2,250 pieces. A mere 14 pieces are identified in the PCGS Population Report, add in a handful of impaired examples, and estimates of 30 to 40 survivors are thought to exist. Most are in the VF25 to EF40 range.
In terms of number of specimens known it is more rare than the heralded 1870-CC (although it usually comes in higher grade than the 1870-CC) and is about the same rarity as the proof-only 1883. There is one very nice uncirculated piece known.
This is among the most historic and desirable gold coins ever made by the New Orleans Mint and is listed among the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth. (PCGS Pop. 3 in XF-45, only 9 graded higher, the highest grade being two AU-58 examples, and a total of 14 in all grades, 11/13/11).
Estimate $150,000 - 200,000.
Lot 3451854-S $2.50 Liberty. PCGS graded Fine-12. For collectors of the Liberty quarter eagles, the 1854-S is considered the paramount issue. This series contains several rarities, but approximately 12-18 examples of the '54-S are known from the original mintage of 246 coins in April 1854 is the ultimate treasure of the group. This issue was entirely unknown in numismatic circles until discovery of the first specimen over century ago. It is our belief that this is the Wolfson Example.
This issue is one of the true rarities in United States numismatics, a classic piece with few rivals. With just a handful of pieces known, it has a rarity similar to coins such as the 1804 silver dollar, the 1907 Ultra High Relief double eagle, the 1927-D double eagle, and the 1894-S Barber dime, all coins that have broken the million-dollar barrier.
With paper money prohibited in the early years of the California gold rush, trade was disorganized with few coins available save those perhaps brought west by those seeking their fortune. Most coins consisted of Spanish eight reales and fractional pieces, with private companies making gold pieces from mined ore. There was a small quantity of 25 cent, 50 cent and one dollar pieces privately minted with most ranging from $5 to $50 dollars, many in ingots. Miners would often carry small sacks of gold to offer for their needs.
The Act of July 2, 1852 legislated the establishment of the San Francisco Mint and production began April 3, 1854 after the building was completed. In the interim period private firms continued production of coins and bars. Initially, only gold coins were produced, consisting primarily of gold dollars (all Liberty design), eagles, and double eagles. A small quantity of quarter eagles (246) and half eagles (268) were made and are some of the rarest and most prized coins. Small denomination silver coins would not be struck until the next year. Production of $4,084,207 face value of gold coin during this initial year, using 197,573 ounces of gold, was minuscule compared to the amounts of gold that had been shipped east for export to London and other markets including the newly created New York Assay Office. (1851 - $34,000,000+, 1852 - $45,000,000+, 1853 - $56,000,000+, 1854 - $51,000,000).
Private firms did continue to produce gold pieces for a short period of time and while not all problems in the region were solved, creation of the San Francisco Mint eased many of the difficulties. As demand for coins only increased, in 1874 operations were relocated to a much larger facility and the building was demolished in 1875.
Estimate $75,000 - 100,000.
Lot 14791915-S Panama-Pacific Gold $50 Octagonal. PCGS graded MS-63. In 1915, San Francisco hosted the Panama-Pacific Exposition to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal. To commemorate the event, the United States mint struck a variety of coins in silver and gold, including a Half Dollar, Gold Dollar, $2½ Gold, $50 Gold Octagonal, and $50 Gold Round. The coins were sold at the Exposition individually or in a variety of combinations and/or sets. Apart from Patterns and semi-official Territorial gold coins, the United States had never issued a $50 gold piece. Not sure of how many they could sell, Mint officials struck 1,509 Octagonal and 1,510 Round versions. Because of the high cost of the coins and the sets, very few coins actually sold.
The Panama-Pacific $50 Octagonal ranks as one of the great numismatic rarities of the Twentieth Century; both the round and octagonal versions are tied for number 26 in Garrett and Guth's 100 Greatest U.S. Coins. (PCGS Pop. 145 in MS-63, with only 134 graded higher, the highest grade being a single MS-66 example. A total of 473 coins in all grades. 11/1/11).
Estimate $50,000 - 75,000.
Lot 5481879 $4 Stella. Flowing Hair. PCGS graded Proof 58 in first generation holder. These pattern coins were first suggested by John A. Kasson, then U.S. envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Austria-Hungary. It was through the efforts of W.W. Hubbell, who patented the alloy goloid (used in making another pattern piece, the goloid metric dollar), that we have these beautiful and interesting coins.
The four-dollar Stella - so called because of the five-pointed star on the reverse was envisioned by Kasson as America's answer to various foreign gold coins popular in the international market. The British sovereign, Italy's 20 lire, and the 20 pesetas of Spain were three such coins: each smaller than a U.S. five-dollar gold piece, they were used widely in international trade.
The Stella was one of many proposals made to Congress for an international trade coin, and one of only several that made it to pattern-coin form (others include the 1868 five-dollar piece and 1874 Bickford ten-dollar piece).
Odds were stacked against the Stella from the start. The denomination of four U.S. dollars didn't match any of the coin's European counterparts, and at any rate the U.S. double eagle (twenty-dollar coin)-already used in international commerce was a more convenient medium of exchange. The Stella was never minted for circulation. Those dated 1879 were struck for congressmen to examine. The 1880 coins were secretly made by Mint officials for sale to private collectors.
There are two distinct types in both years of issue. Charles E. Barber designed the Flowing Hair type, and George T. Morgan the Coiled Hair. They were struck as patterns in gold, aluminum, copper, and white metal. (Only those struck in gold are listed here.) It is likely that, of the 1879-dated Flowing Hair Stellas, about 15 were struck in 1879, and the rest in 1880.
Precise mintage numbers are unknown, it is thought that approximately 425+ pieces were struck.
Some of the finest Stella specimens are housed in the National Numismatic Collection in the Smithsonian Institution. Others are in private collections, and cross the auction block from time to time.
Offered here is a PR58 example, slightly rubbed on the high points and a touch in the fields, yet with undeniable reflectivity in pools around the peripheral elements. Saturated honey-gold color. A great coin.
Estimate $50,000 - 75,000.
Lot 12311861-S $20 Liberty. Paquet Reverse. PCGS graded VF-35. At the beginning of 1861, not only was transcontinental rail incomplete, but not even transcontinental telegraph lines were established. When the Philadelphia Mint discovered problems with the Paquet reverse to the double eagle, it sent telegraphs on January 5th to the branch mints in New Orleans and San Francisco. New Orleans was connected directly to Philadelphia by telegraph, and the Southern facility never released any Paquet-reverse twenties.
For the main Mint's message to reach San Francisco, however, it had to go to the western telegraph terminus at St. Joseph in extreme western Missouri, whereupon it was sent along with other mail via mounted courier--the legendary Pony Express. The message did not reach San Francisco Mint Superintendent Charles Hempstead until February 2nd, and he was forced to reply that he had struck and released a number of Paquet twenties. In his words, "The amount issued was $385,000." This translates to 19,250 pieces.
The Paquet twenties experienced considerable wear, and only a relative handful survive today. (PCGS Pop. 4 in VF-35, a total of 72 in all grades, 9/24/11).
Estimate $30,000 - 40,000.
Lot 10301870-CC $10 Liberty. PCGS graded EF-45. In his 2001 reference Gold Coins of the Carson City Mint, branch mint gold expert Douglas Winter states,
"Six Carson City eagles have lower mintage figures than the 1870-CC, but this is still clearly the rarest eagle from this mint. It is also the rarest Carson City eagle in terms of high grade rarity. At one time, in fact, I regarded this as the single rarest gold coin from this mint; eclipsing even the more famous (and considerably more expensive) 1870-CC double eagle. This coin's indisputable rarity and its status as the first gold issue struck at the Carson City mint should make it one of the most desirable 19th century United States gold coins. Yet this is a curiously overlooked and, in my opinion, undervalued issue."
The surviving population is estimated at 45 to 60 examples. Mintage 5,908 (PCGS Pop. 7 in EF-45, only 6 graded higher, the highest grade being two AU-55 examples. Total of 47 in all grades, 9/24/11).
Estimate $30,000 - 40,000.
Lot 3121848 $2.50 Liberty. "CAL." Above Eagle. PCGS graded AU-55. Many consider the 1848 CAL. to be America's first commemorative coin to observe the arrival of the first California gold shipment to the U.S. Mint. A hand punch was employed as an expedient measure to stamp the reverse of 1,389 quarter eagles to mark the occasion. Since it was a hand operation rather than an addition to a working die, there are slight variations in positioning of the punch.
As a member of the long-running Liberty Head series, the 1848 CAL. quarter eagles join such other rarities as: the 1841 quarter eagle, a proof-only production; the incredibly rare 1854-S (see lot 345), the equally historic first issue from the San Francisco Mint; the 1863, another proof-only date; the low-mintage 1875, produced to the extent of only 400 coins; and many other low-mintage issues of lesser notoriety, as well as numerous varieties and branch-mint oddities.
Shortly after the discovery of gold in California, some 228 ounces of Gold Rush bullion was sent by California's military governor, Colonel R.B. Mason, to Secretary of War William Learned Marcy. This was the first shipment east from the west coast's rich deposits. Marcy in turn sent the gold ore to Mint Director Robert Maskell Patterson at the Philadelphia Mint, where it was received on December 8 and was assayed at an average .894 fine. Marcy urged that, "As many may desire to procure specimens of coin made of the California gold, by exchanging other coin for it, I would suggest that it be made into quarter eagles with a distinguishing mark on each…" After enough gold had been taken from the shipment to strike Congressionally-authorized medals for Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott, the remainder was converted into quarter eagles, and as Marcy had suggested one distinguishing feature was added to each coin: the abbreviation "CAL." was impressed into the reverse above the eagle. (PCGS Pop. 6 in AU-55, only 28 graded higher and a total of 64 in all grades, 9/26/11). Ex-William R. Sieck.
Estimate $30,000 - 40,000.
Lot 14651927-S $20 St. Gaudens. PCGS graded MS-63. The 1927-S $20 St. Gaudens was, at one time, considered to be one of the rarest of all St. Gaudens. When shipments of Double Eagles were returned from Europe in the 1960’s - 70’s, a smattering of the 1927-S $20 were found, raising the population to about 200-225 known! Still a great and famous rarity, the 1927-S remains a fabulous addition to any coin collection.
According to David Akers "copper stains are very common on this" but, this select specimen is certainly among the more attractive examples of the 1927-S. The strike is remarkably strong, with abundant frosty brilliance over both the fields and devices. In addition to its overall rarity, this piece is also significant among gold enthusiasts as a memorable condition rarity. Mintage 3,107,000 (PCGS Pop. 27 in MS-63, with only 13 graded higher, the highest grade being a single MS-67 example. A total of 127 coins in all grades. 11/1/11).
Estimate $25,000 - 35,000.
Lot 12431866-S $20 Liberty. No motto. PCGS graded AU-55. The 1866-S $20 Double Eagle was minted at the beginning of the year as the mints were transitioning to the the $20 Double Eagle with the motto "In God We Trust". Interestingly, the San Francisco Mint was the only mint to produce "No Motto" $20’s in 1866 and the mintage was low. It would appear that, with the extremely low number of know examples made (estimated 300+) their release may have been even more limited.
With the release of the new design, the old one seemed to have taken a backseat in desirability and ignored. According to David Akers, the 1866-S is "Very rare in any condition and when available, which is not really very often, the 1866-S - No Motto, is typically VF" and as such nearly unavailable in any higher grades. AU coins are rarities and Mint State coins are extremely rare. (PCGS Pop. 3 in AU-55, 6 graded higher, the highest graded being one single MS-60, total of 122 in all grades, 9/24/11).
Estimate $20,000 - 30,000.
Lot 12271861-O $20 Liberty. PCGS graded AU-50. The New Orleans Mint produced half dollars and double eagles in the first few months of 1861 before Louisiana seceded, with additional examples struck under State authority and still more under Confederate authority. Mintage figures for each government are known including 5,000 double eagles for the United States; 9,750 for Louisiana; and 2,991 for the Confederate States. Those mintage figures derive from the Annual Report of the Director of the Mint for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1887. Mintage 17,741 (PCGS Pop. 12 in AU-50, 31 graded higher, the highest grade being two MS-60 examples, and a total of 104 in all grades, 9/24/11).
Estimate $20,000 - 30,000.