For some time now I have been working with others on the D. Brent Pogue Collection Part II to be held at Sotheby’s in New York City on September 30, and the companion sale, The Rarities Auction, to be held the next day. As I compose these words, I am looking at the Rarities Auction catalog. What a nice publication it is, full-color, and comprising 232 pages. It begins with one of my favorite items in American numismatics, or at least related to it – a Libertas Americana medal with its portrait of Miss Liberty with a cap behind her head, the inspiration for the copper cent and half cent coinages beginning in 1793. Following that are other items related to early America including papers, books and an autographed letter from George Washington. I could spend multiple paragraphs on just the first several lots!
Coming up next as I turn the pages is lot 7, the 1652 Pine Tree shilling, the one single coin type that is most emblematic of early American numismatics – a coin of lore and legend. Happily, there are enough of them around of different varieties that they are affordable within the context of colonial issues. The present piece is in remarkable Mint State with attractive surfaces and a planchet fissure as issued. Then follows a 1776 Continental dollar – worthy of an exclamation point or two! Few equal pieces exist anywhere. A high grade 1804 Draped Bust half cent follows next, then a 1793 Chain cent, a Gem 1839 cent, and several others of this denomination. Then comes a superb Gem 1875 nickel three-cent piece (far rarer than a Proof of this date), a Gem 1834 Capped Bust half dime, a Gem 1837 Liberty Seated half dime and two early Proofs. Dimes begin with lots 20 and 21, high grade examples of the first year of issue, followed by other early dates, then Barber dimes.
Quarters start with a Gem 1815, the first year of the Capped Bust design and continue with a Gem 1834, a Proof 1843 and other delights through the Liberty series, concluding with the finest certified 1918/7-S Standing Liberty quarter ( watch this one go!).
Half dollars are likewise notable and range from early to late, including Condition Census pieces of quality seldom seen. Among the half dollars and other series are provenances linking them to previous owners, some of whom are among the best known names in numismatics.
Silver dollars start with a beautiful 1795 BB-21 Flowing Hair followed by a 1799/8 MS-64 that’s been off the market since 1938 (!), an 1802/1 BB-232, and others in the later series ending with a Mint State 1889-CC Morgan dollar. A remarkably choice Gem 1875 trade dollar follows, after which gold coins begin with a Mint State 1855-O dollar, a Gem Proof 1886 dollar, and a classic 1796 quarter eagle without obverse stars. Other quarter eagles continue into the next century, including the key 1808, later Proofs and more. Three-dollar gold pieces come next, followed by a nice run of half eagles. Eagles include the classic Wire Rim Indian Head of 1907, the masterpiece of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and continue with several notable later pieces. Double eagles are also important and include “story” coins, a lovely MCMVII High Relief, and more.
Next is a separate listing of certain denominations from the Griggs Collection, essentially a type set of gold coins that includes many key issues. The last lot of the sale, 135, is not a coin at all but is a personal possession of J.P. Morgan, America’s most famous financier, and, along the way, a casual numismatist (his collection of Proof 19th and 20th century gold coins was donated to the American Numismatic Society.)
I’ve often said if a coin is worth one point, and the story is worth one point, a coin that has an interesting story can be worth not two points but three. Our Rarities Auction certainly has stories and coins from front to back.
As you peruse the catalog or contemplate the coins on the Internet enjoy the experience. Few sales like this have ever been conducted.