From the Coin Commentary Archive

May 17, 2014: CRO's View of the Eric Newman Collection, Part IV

We recently had the distinct pleasure of attending the sale of the Eric Newman Collection, Part IV (the colonials!), in New York. It was an unexpected pleasure too, since I had heard about this collection for years (and years and years), but never thought it would come to market.

But there it was freshly graded by NGC, cataloged by Heritage and sold in a crisp 2-session, 1-day live event in NYC, followed by an internet session the following day.

But my preparation for this mega-event would begin weeks earlier, first by scouring the catalog and studying the coins, then painstakingly researching all of them looking for earlier pedigrees which I hoped to find in auctions from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Of which I found some, though not nearly as many as I expected.

And then flying to Dallas to view the coins a week in advance in an unhurried, uncrowded setting. So I booked my flight, planned to arrive in Dallas at around 10:30 AM, view for 4 or 5 hours, stay the night and fly back home in the AM. Which would have worked great if not for the severe weather in Dallas that day which first diverted my flight to Shreveport for three hours, finally arriving in Dallas just in time for a tornado warning. Did you know that if you are viewing lots at Heritage’s offices and there is a tornado warning, they have to put the lots back in the vault? I didn’t either. But at the end of the day and despite the delays I got 3 solid hours of viewing in and accomplished most of what I had hoped to do there.

So when I went to NY on Thursday the 15th, it was too re-look, confirm my previous views, make sure I didn’t miss anything and finalize the specific coins I would be bidding on. Which I did over a solid 7 or 8 hours in a room that was waaaay less crowded than I expected. Seriously, where was everyone? I guess they either viewed these coins at a different time, or a whole lot of people would be making their bidding decisions based on the images. Which I do not recommend in general, and specifically not in this case, since these were complicated coins with a lot to take in, with a variety of looks and levels of originality ranging from ‘stone cold’ to ‘not so much’. And plenty with lacquer, or verdigris or spots or other issues to be weighed, evaluated and discounted (at least by me).  So by the time I had finished viewing, I was exhausted, but ready.

And then it was show time, as I strolled into the auction room in the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion on 79th street early enough to get a good seat in the back with a table and electrical outlet access. Which I did, next to my friends and fellow dealers Tony Terranova and John Kraljevich, where we would go head to head on many lots while still remaining friends (I think) which is one of the cool things about this business.

Starting with lot #30001 and the Virginia coinage, including a nice group of Halfpennies which I would characterize as mostly fresh and attractive and graded by NGC about as I expected. Prices were about as I expected too, which is to say that there did not seem to be any real ‘Newman Premium’ associated with these coins.

The first ‘big’ coin in the session would be lot #30014, the 1774 Virginia Shilling graded AU58 by NGC, one of just 5 known, 2 of which are impounded in the Smithsonian and the museum at Colonial Williamsburg respectively. And so if you want one of these, your chances are very, very limited, which is why I expected a wicked strong result. Didn’t happen though, with this piece bringing a seemingly very reasonable $94,000 (this and all images in this article courtesy of Heritage):

And then we were on to the Vermont coins, including a group of Landscape coppers ranging from extremely ordinary to absolutely killer.

The former included lot #30017, a dark rough, environmentally damaged and verdigrised example of a 1785 VERMONTS Ryder-2 in an NGC XF Details holder which realized $822.50:

The latter including lot #30024, the first of two deluxe VERMONTENSIUM varieties, this a Ryder-6 graded AU58 by NGC. I thought this was one of the most aesthetic examples of this extremely popular type I’ve ever seen or know about, with a lovely planchet, superb color and excellent centering for an issue that doesn’t often (or ever) come this way. Which explains why this was one of the few coins in the sale I knew I would not be leaving without, and I didn’t, buying it for $32,900:

 

I also liked lot #30026, a VERMONTENSUM Ryder-7 graded higher by NGC at MS62, though this piece had a bit more evident rub on the highpoints and an old and not too obtrusive spot on the obverse. On the other hand, it had lovely color, some mint red in the devices and despite the minor complaints still ranked highly among all landscapes I’ve seen. So I was not expecting it to be inexpensive and it wasn’t, selling for $44,062.50:

Followed by a run of mostly wholesome but unremarkable Vermont bust types that sold for ‘regular’ prices to, as far as I could tell, Vermont series specialists.

And then began a long run of Connecticut Coppers containing some regular old coins, some condition rarities, some absolute rarities and some things that simply never come to market except when a great old-time collection is sold.

With lot #30064 being the first heady one, the finest known example (apparently by a mile) of the Miller 2.2-D.2 ‘Noble Head’ type in a seemingly conservative NGC XF45+ slab. This is a distinctive issue that I personally believe would be more popular and sought after if you could actually get one that looks decent. Like this one - which explains why it soared to $52,875, trumping your author’s bid in the process:

And then lot #30071, a sharp example of 1786 Miller 5.4-G in an NGC AU58 holder, caught my eye, if only because it displayed odd, unoriginal color of the sort that doesn’t normally get graded by the services. Perhaps this coin will resurface after a recoloring as a more natural looking brown (unless it disappeared into a collection, which is also possible):

Followed by lot #30074, the very tough 1786 Draped Bust Left Miller 7-K graded NGC AU58 and lauded as the finest known example. And it was a cool coin with fabulous golden brown color that, in this author’s opinion, would not have sold for one penny more than the $38,187.50 it realized even if it did not have that dark spot on the reverse:

 

But the star of the CT show was undoubtedly lot #30080, the legendary 1786 Miller 1.4-WW graded F12 by NGC, one of just 2 known examples of this the only issue in the loooong CT series with the reverse figure facing right. And while this one was not exactly beautiful [insert understatement emoticon here], it did represent the first time one of these has been available in, oh, a generation and a half, so if you wanted one you needed to buy it RIGHT NOW. Which a well-known dealer did for $164,500, evidently on behalf of a very, very serious collector:

And while I can academically understand the demand for extremely rare issues like that, my own personal tastes gravitate toward coins of a more aesthetic bent, like lot #3012, the 1787 Connecticut Draped Bust Left Miller 33.39-s.1 graded MS65 by NGC and representing one of the finest CT type coins I’ve ever had the opportunity to buy. And so I did at well less than my max bid at $35,250:

With the CT series ending with lot #30170 a dramatic error coin which had to have been made intentionally by a bored but very creative minter, looked totally groovy, and sold for what I thought was another very reasonable price at $25,850:

And then we were on to the New Jersey Coppers, where we encountered a series of lots that repeatedly surprised your not–that-easily-surprised author.

Starting with #30173, a 1787 Maris 6-D graded (accurately, in my opinion) as AU58 by NGC, but which sold for $10,575, which was approximately 3x more than I expected:

Which I can only assume means that someone (actually 2 someones) saw this as a mint state coin and bid accordingly. I guess?

The there was lot #30177, a 1786 Maris 14-J which was graded MS65 by NGC but which I personally did not see as a gem:

The price realized of ‘only’ $25,850 suggested I was not alone in that view.

And what of lot #30213, the distinctive 1788 Maris 50-f ‘Head Left’ type graded XF45 by NGC? That coin was sharp for the issue, and well made, but I could not get past the bright green verdigris on the reverse:

Didn’t seem to matter though, as it catapulted to a $21,150 price which was a multiple and a half of my expectation.

But the most anticipated coin in the NJ series would be the last one, lot #30233, the 1788 Maris 77-dd ‘Running Fox’ graded MS65 by NGC. And it looked pretty darn good to me and others too, with some rapid fire bids carrying it to $105,750 which was about where I expected it to land:

I wanted to pay no more than $100K myself, which means that I did not get it. To be honest, I really did not expect to.

And then came the last group of coins from Session 1, the Massachusetts Coppers, including some really nice and some utterly average coins.

The former included lot #30235 as a lovely, choice, smooth, naturally glossy example of a Ryder 6-D 1787 Half Cent in a totally appropriate MS64 NGC slab. I tried hard to buy this one, but two specialists were on it, outbidding your author at $22,912.50:

 

I preferred the look of that coin over lot #30238, a 1788 Half Cent Ryder 1-B also graded MS64 which brought a very soft for the grade $7,050:

We would be remiss in not mentioning lot #30245, a flawed, rim bruised and pretty beat up Ryder 3-A 1788 Cent in a VF30 holder notable for the fact that it tied with a few other coins as the least expensive in the Newman floor auction at $440.63:

With the series ending with lot #30249, the 1788 Cent Ryder 9-M in another MS64 holder. This a rare issue with superb color but a bunch of unfortunate reverse spots which did not seem to matter much to the bidders who launched it to $32,900:

And then Session 2 kicked off with a giant Bermudian bang, as the nicest set of Sommer Islands coin I’ve ever seen delighted bidders, culminating with lot #30257, a fantastic Shilling purchased by a gentleman in the row in front of me for $258,500:

Interestingly, the winner apparently simply perused the catalog during the auction and decided to bid on this item ‘on the fly’, which is an interesting reality at these auctions. I suppose I should be delighted to win anything, since there is no shortage of competition from knowledgeable dealers and serious collectors, but also from people who just sort of wing it. Which means that it is important for me to figure out how much I want to pay and then stay disciplined during the auction, since it is very easy to get caught up in the moment and buy something for more than you wanted by outbidding someone who may or may not have arrived at their bid scientifically.

And then we were on to the Massachusetts Silver coins, a group of mixed quality, starting with lot #30258, the lovely, original New England Sixpence in a suitable NGC AU58 slab which realized a lower-than-I-expected $646,250:

And lot #30266, the extremely round and well struck 1652 Oak Tree Shilling, Noe-4 in an aggressive MS65 slab, which I personally thought looked a lot better from a distance than it did up close, at $105,750:

 

But while those were aesthetic and well made pieces, lot #30267, the rare Noe-6 Oak Tree Shilling graded XF45 was considerably less so, bringing a weak for the grade and issue $11,162.50:

 

And what to make of lot #30269? That was a sharp and attractive Noe-9 Oak Tree Shilling with a severe crease from having been bent and straightened, but still graded XF45 by NGC at $9,400:

Without the crease, I think that sells for about 2x that price, which is why looking up auction prices realized without pictures can be highly misleading.

Which contrasted dramatically with lot #30272, a superb Pine Tree Threepence graded MS63 by NGC, but looking more like MS64 or better to my eye. I tried to buy it too, but was nipped by a half increment at $49,937.50:

And then we were on to the St. Pats series, where one particular coin caught my eye. That would be lot #30310, a Vlack 4-E Halfpenny graded VF30 by NGC and notable for its lovely color, choice surfaces and for the fact that this coin was sold to Mr. Newman by CRO:

Q: Huh? I thought these coins were collected 80 years ago and off the market ever since?
A: Not all of them, as evidenced by this slab photo taken back when we last owned it:

Of course I planned to buy that coin back, and did so at $4,700.

I next turned my attention to the American Plantation Tokens, one of the more anticipated series in this auction (for me, anyway) since Mr. Newman literally wrote the book on these coins and personally developed the attribution system to identify the varieties. And so I was extremely disappointed with the overall quality of the offering which I would describe as extreeeemely average.

Such as lot #30316, the N.3-C Sidewise 4 variety in an XF Details slab which realized $1,292.50:

I’m guessing these were the Newman Collection duplicates, and that some nicer ones were kept for the museum. Maybe.

Anyway, next were the Elephant Tokens and including one variety I had never seen before, lot #30325, a unique piece struck on a thick brass planchet and bearing the cool “Reverend Henry Christmas” pedigree. This one was graded MS61 by NGC despite the mother of all planchet cracks and brought $19,975:

And then we were on to the Rosa Americana and Hibernia coins, containing a large group of mostly very average pieces, though there was lot #30349, an example of the rare 1722 Rocks Halfpenny in reasonable NGC VF25 holder. I saw that as an unremarkable example, darker and more off-center than most, and so I was surprised to see it bring what I thought was a very robust $16,450:

Followed by perhaps the most anticipated series of the auction, the Higleys, a 5-coin group of widely varying quality starting with lot #30365, the highest grade, best detailed example I’ve ever seen or know about. It was not perfect, with some old lacquer, stray scratches and bits of verdigris on it, but all of those were inconsequential for the issue as it brought about what I expected at $470,000:

Followed a few minutes later by lot #30368, a lower grade but IMO more aesthetic NGC VF30 example. And while this too had a few issues, including evidence of an old wipe and probably an old recoloring, it was inarguably desirable and I knew it wouldn’t be cheap. I tried very hard to buy it too, but it got away at $199,750:

Interestingly (or depressingly, depending on your perspective), my max on this coin was 200K all-in, and I could have been the buyer had I landed on the winning bid first.  But I didn't.  Of course the winner may have then bid again and trumped me anyway, so I choose not to dwell on the might have beens.  If there is a take away here it is this:  If you want to make sure to "own" your max bid, you need to bid in advance and lock it in so someone else doesn't beat you to it.  I chose not to do that for this auction primarily so I could have better control of my overall spending, but that strategy might have cost me this coin. 

Anyway, I had a brief moment to recover before the next highly sought after coin, lot #30375, the lovely 1787 Nova Eborac in an NGC MS64+ RB holder. That was graded about right IMO, but wasn’t especially well struck and had a slightly distracting clip, neither of which seemed to have any effect at all on the price as it rocketed to $55,812.50, eclipsing your author's own sky high bid in the process:

Without the red, I figure that coin would have sold for about $10,000, indicating once again that people really, realy like ‘R' (especially on coins that don't normally come with it).

And then came lot #30380, the 1787 George Clinton Cent in an ambitious NGC MS63 holder. Regardless of the grade assigned, I believe this was the finest example to come to auction since March of 1973 and so we all knew it was not going to be a bargain. And it wasn’t, bringing $499,375 to a serious collector who has wanted one for a really, really long time:

Followed shortly after by lot #30423, the 1776 Continental Dollar in Silver graded MS63 by NGC. I personally thought this coin was more like AU, though I am not surprised to see something like this graded ‘1804 Dollar style’. Regardless of the number, it is the finest of the issue, and I knew I had no chance to be the buyer anyway. Which is unfortunate, since the $1,410,000 it brought (tied for highest price of any coin in the auction) seemed downright cheap to me, relatively speaking, and I personally believe the new owner will make a fortune (or possibly a fortune and a half) when he eventually sells:

And from that lofty perch we will end with internet session lot #3056, an extremely well-loved 1723 Hibernia Farthing in an NGC G4 slab:

And why are we discussing this item?  Because it was the lowest priced coin in the entire auction at $64 and thus the Newman sale equivalent of buying a Mona Lisa coffee mug in the gift shop when you visit the Louvre:

So how did CRO do? We were very pleased to buy 40 coins, some at our top bid, others for well less than we expected to pay.

We were also outbid by one increment on a couple of pieces which is always disappointing and makes you wonder if you should have kept going. In general, I think it's better to be blown away and have no chance to win, which also happened in this session a few times.  And we were SHOCKED not to buy a few items, including the aforementioned Sommer Island Shilling and Nova Eborac that we figured would be ours. But overall we can’t complain with the results and found the preparation time paid off nicely.

And now that we bought them, we need to figure out what to do with them. So we will be sorting things out here before eventually bringing these coins to market over the next few weeks, so you might want to keep and eye out for that.
 

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Over the years we've heard and read a number of interesting and thought provoking numismatic quotes from a variety of sources (actually, we've come up with a few on our own, too)...

December 27, 2008: The Year in Review

It's time once again for Dave and me to reflect back on another year of traveling to coin shows and auctions, meeting a lot of nice people, buying and selling cool coins, visiting new cities, using just under 2 miles of packing tape, waiting for hours at various airport baggage carousels, filling out grading forms, etc...

Thanksgiving, 2008: Thank you

Thank you. Thank you to our loyal customers who make it possible for Dave and me to travel around the country going to coin shows and auctions instead of commuting to work at some company that makes widgets and serves as the inspiration for the comic strip 'Dilbert'...

October 1, 2008: Coin Collecting in an Uncertain World

As usual, we're going to tell it like it is in our Coin Commentary. You see, we actually have a number of incredibly clever new topics lined up and ready to go for this section of the site (based on lots of good suggestions by many of our regular visitors), but frankly it seemed odd to post some of them at this point...

July 23, 2008: On CAC

As some of you have already noticed, a number of coins in our current inventory are now identified as having CAC stickers...

July 14, 2008: What are Your Choices for the 100 Greatest US Coins?

That was the question posed to me recently by the good folks at Whitman Publishing. It seems they are hard at work on the shiny new 3rd Edition of their extremely popular coffee table book, The 100 Greatest US Coins, and so they have asked me and a group of other (and I quote) "dealers, collectors, researchers, historians and others connected to the field" to vote on the list...

May 19, 2008: My Love Affair with a Fat, Old Woman

An Original Work of Numismatic Non-Fiction by Dave Wnuck. Shhhhh. Don't tell my wife, but I'm in love with another woman...

March 31, 2008: An Ode to . . . John Agre(?) by Dave Wnuck

This Coin Commentary may sound nakedly self-promotional, but I'd like to tell the folks out there a little about my business partner and the half owner of Coin Rarities Online, John Agre...

February 9, 2008: Colonial Coin Collecting Q & A, Part 2

Waaaaaay back in August of 2006 we wrote part 1 of this Q & A with every intention of adding Part 2 eventually...

December 26, 2007: The Year in Review

As another exciting numismatic year winds to a close, it is appropriate that we look back and reflect on the new friends we made, the coins we bought and sold, the fun we had, the memorable meals we enjoyed, the wonderful grades we received, the bad bus rides we took and the myriad other events which, in total, conspired to make this the finest and most enjoyable year ever in the history of CRO, ever...

November 15, 2007: How Come the Coins Went so Cheap?

I got an email from a customer the other day who had been watching the Stack's 'Amherst & Waccubuc' catalog colonial session online and seeing (with a handful of notable exceptions) very low prices or coins not meeting reserve...

November 2, 2007: Ten Coins we Could Buy and Sell Ten Times

This idea for a Coin Commentary was submitted by one of our customers, and I liked the idea so much that I just started flailing away on the keyboard immediately...

September 10, 2007: So How's the Coin Market? (Parts 1 & 2)

That's a question dealers (including us) hear all of the time from customers. And while responses to this question may vary wildly depending on who you ask, this is our Coin Commentary and here you will get the 'CRO View' (which happens to be pretty well researched)...

July 31, 2007: How Can You Avoid Buying Doctored Coins?

We recently received an email from a collector who was dismayed by the number of doctored, conserved and enhanced coins in TPG holders in the marketplace...

July 4, 2007: Life is Too Short to Buy Ugly Coins

At the recent Baltimore show, I spent a fair amount of time walking the floor perusing the gazillion dealer tables looking for nice coins to buy...

May 27, 2007: The Right Stuff

Is what I saw during a recent visit to view a customer's collection. He graciously invited me to travel to meet him and view his coins, and, of course, I enthusiastically accepted...

April 14, 2007: What should you do with a sub-par coin?

Let's say you have a coin in your collection that really isn't up to snuff. And I don't mean one that is too low grade, or not expensive enough...

March 16, 2007: Why are we talking about trains?

That's an excellent question - thank you for asking. Actually, the answer is quite simple. One of the most informative and important articles I've ever read about coin collecting actually wasn't about coins at all...

Michael Kent Ringo: 05/28/54 - 01/28/07

We lost a good friend and numismatic colleague this week with the passing of Mike Ringo. Most coin collectors and dealers may have never heard of Mike...

January 18, 2007: Should Coins be Purchased as an Investment?

You're in for a treat today, especially since Dave and I totally disagree on this topic. Which means this will be our first Point-Counterpoint Coin Commentary, almost certain to be filled with polite disagreement possibly culminating in pure, unbridled acrimony with computer YELLING in all caps...

December 1, 2006: How NOT to Buy Coins at Auction

We felt compelled to write this week’s Coin Commentary as a sort of numismatic public service announcement after watching all kinds of people buy all kinds of coins at auction over the last couple of decades...

October 10, 2006: Dave Speaks About the Market

Interesting times in the coin market. After an almost unprecedented multi-year run-up in demand, prices and euphoria, we are seeing some changes...

August 30, 2006: Colonial Coin Collecting Q & A, Part 1

An increasing portion of our business is in colonial coins, and so we thought it was about time for us to speak up...

July 18, 2006: One Vote for the 'Box-of-20' Concept

We have been around coins for a long, long time, and we've seen people collect coins of all different kinds in all different ways, from type sets to die varieties to date and mint runs in all series to the odd...

June 9, 2006: Once sold, what item(s) in your inventory will be hardest to replace?

Someone asked us this on the phone today and we thought it was an interesting, thought provoking question...

May 26, 2006: So how much of a premium above sheet levels would you pay for a choice original coin?

Lots of people say they want them. That they value originality. That they hate to see original coins stripped and dipped and ruined...

May 6, 2006: What makes a good client?

Someone asked us this at a recent show and, as is our want, we like to answer particularly interesting or provacative questions right here on the ol' website...

April 16, 2006: Top 10 things we would change about coin slabbing

In no particular order: All slabbed coins would be photographed by the services and would thus be traceable, and it would therefore be impossible to crack out and resubmit a coin and receive a higher grade than the one originally conferred...

April 4, 2006: Do you guys BUY coins for these prices?????

A gentleman came to our table at the Baltimore show a couple of weeks ago, looked in the case for a while, admired a couple of coins, asked a few prices and then with a slightly pained and sarcastic scowl asked me what was apparently intended to be a stinging question: Do you guys buy coins for these prices? The implication of this question was, of course, that our prices are high...

March 19, 2006: Will the last original coin to leave please turn out the lights?

Heres an experiment for you: Go to view lots at a typical major auction. Look through every box of every series and jot down how many original, uncorrupted coins you find...

March 5, 2006: Thoughts on Coin Grading, Part 1

We thought we'd tackle a not-controversial, simple and easy topic like 'coin grading' this week. We’ll start with how we, as dealers, grade and assess a coin: Whether it is in an auction, in another dealer’s case, raw or slabbed, we evaluate a coin by studying it carefully and determining, regardless of the level of wear in evidence, whether we like it or not...

January 15, 2006: Why should I buy from a dealer?

In our experience, this question is typically followed by a statement that goes something like this: "I can just buy from auctions myself, so I really don't need to pay a dealer...

December 26, 2005: The Big Picture

As we’ve had a few days to relax, enjoy the holidays and spend some time with our families, we’ve had a little time to step back and reflect on the year...

 


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