Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 4

Lot 1408

The Unique 1851-O Silver Dollar. ANACS graded Proof 62. First auction appearance of this extraordinary rarity, essentially unknown to the collecting fraternity until 1990, when it was shown to the celebrated Walter Breen by a private collector. Breen reported the discovery in the Gobrecht Journal some years ago. We quote from his report, as it is the only source of reliable information on this coin.
Breen declared that "the 1851-O is a proof; and though genuine, it was not made where or when it claims to have been." He says the obverse on this piece is "identical to that of the 1851 Philadelphia restrike," and of the reverse he says this: "Heavy O mintmark, from the same punch as in 1859-O and similarly placed"; it was not from an 1860-O reverse, he decided, for it is "higher and slightly larger than that on 1860-O revs." Also this: "Shield does not have the same internal details as the 1858-59 proof rev. regularly used with the 1851 restrike obverse." Of the crucial O mintmark, Breen found under 20x magnification that "it shows plain evidence of having been chiseled off, carefully so as not to disturb any more of the proof surface than necessary". The coin is also very slightly underweight (at 400.3 grains or 25.94 grams, Breen said--against a standard of 412.5 grains), the cause being the filing off of the knife-rim, and perhaps a substandard planchet as well.
How was it made, and when? Breen surmises that the nephew of Adam Eckfeldt, one George J. Eckfeldt (foreman of the Engraving Department at the Philadelphia Mint into the 1860s), together with his own son, Theodore, some time in 1858 or 1859 "opened the Coiner's Vault and Engraver's Vault, retrieving the 1851 proof dollar obv. from the former and the nearest dollar reverse from the latter. Both dies had to be degreased, inspected, cleaned and polished; this was within George Eckfeldt's capacities as foreman of the Engraving Dept. The other accomplice (probably in the Coiner's Dept., as he would have to know how to set dies into a press) may have prepared the blanks, most likely foreign dollar-size coins polished down and with edges shaved off, rendering them lightweight. Unlike Mint Director Snowden, the Eckfeldt gang could not use regular silver planchets; like gold planchets, these were counted as money in inventories."
What happened next is sheer speculation, but it makes sense. Breen reasons that the "gang" spotted the O mintmark on the secret coin they had just made but had no time, for some unknown reason, to locate and prepare another reverse die, one without a mintmark. They intended to make more restrike 1851 Proofs, and perhaps they did--without the incriminating O mint letter. Breen thought they probably never had another opportunity, but who knows?
He concludes his tale as follows: "Too valuable to melt down, too dangerous to sell as is: what to do with the 1851-O dollar? The obvious expedient: remove the mintmark along with the unpleasantly sharp fin [mint terminology for the knife-rim), offer the coin as a regular proof 1851, and hope that buyers would not notice the traces of mintmark--or weigh the coin."
Breen's numismatic conclusions are usually thought of as decisive, so we have given him the final word here on this controversial and exciting rarity: "The unprecedented 1851-O silver dollar is, beyond doubt, one of the most extraordinary coin rarities of the 1850s, and one of the most important coin discoveries of the century; most likely the first and most valuable of the 1851 restrikes; certainly the only coin minted in Philadelphia with an O mintmark; the only 1851-O silver dollar, unique and likely to remain so."
What does it look like? Fairly graded as a Proof-62, we'd say, and having slightly iridescent, medium gray surfaces. The mirrors are nicely reflective and the overall appearance is that of an 1851 Restrike Proof Seated Liberty dollar. Even in the slab the "softened" knife-rim (or fin) on each rim is obvious. No marks on the reverse. The obverse is similarly clean, except for some identifying, notable marks on Miss Liberty: a chattermark (!) just below her throat right on her breastbone; a cut on her throat and another right on her chin; a small abrasion right below her left wrist (her right arm to the viewer); and another just to the left of her shoulder clasp on the other arm. Beneath the toning are some hairlines, as one would expect on a PR62.
And what of the O mintmark itself, the all-important feature of this fabulous item? It is soft but very evident, the inner and outer outlines of the O absolutely clear and undeniable. Curiously it looks as if somebody tried to scratch off what exists of it, for there are some fine hairlines right across it, but these are not heavy and the effort must have been brief. What it actually looks like is that the mintmark was partially lapped off the die it was made from; so it is possible that the "Eckfeldt minters" did indeed see the mintmark on the die they used, despite Walter's surmise, and just thought they did a good enough job. Without magnification, the mintmark is easily missed--in fact, this coin may well have passed into the collecting fraternity and traded for years as a Philadelphia Proof restrike. That would explain how it came to be in a collector's hands, after all--the man who brought it to Breen's attention in 1990. Whoever he was, he was the true discoverer of this rarest of all items--a unique, if clandestinely made, silver dollar rarity for the ages!

Lot 257

Finest Known 1943-S Copper Cent. NGC graded MS-61 Brown. We are thrilled to offer this major cent rarity for your bidding pleasure. Its variety number is Breen-2164 (who estimated 6 known). Attractive surfaces for the grade, mostly brown with few marks, even microscopic, but most crucial of all--this coin is fully struck with crisp details in every aspect of the coining design, obverse and reverse. The reason for this, of course, is that the striking pressure for the dies was tuned for minting much-harder zinc-coated steel cents, which were the normal issue for this middle year of World War Two, when bronze alloy was needed more for manufacturing shell casings for the war effort than for making minor coins. Furthermore, the steel and zinc coated planchets were thinner than the prior standard issue bronze cents, making the strikes on 1943 bronze cents exceptionally sharp.
The fabulously rare bronze cents of 1943 have gained a vast, new popularity in the past few years, as it becomes increasingly recognized by advanced collectors of U.S. coinage that here, in a minting period which produced few coins of any interest aside from their sometimes immensely appealing designs, lies a major rarity. Part of this new recognition stems from the searching and research published by error collectors, who prize these bronze issues more than almost any others. Indeed, these coins are now seen as some of the rarest American issues, in the absolute sense. That is, they are not just "condition rarities"-coins that are elusive in certain grades. No, these bronze cents are rare, rare, rare in any grade!
Among them, the Philadelphia pieces, it stands to reason, are the most "easily" found--but are in hot demand. The Denver issue may be the rarest of the three. (Breen thought 24 made at Denver existed, but that has now been discounted.) The only known 1943-D bronze, in Uncirculated, fetched a then-impressive $82,500 at auction in May 1996. Since then, its rarity has become much more highly prized; the present owner of that coin has revealed that he would not sell it today even for $200,000. If that appears inflationary, or overvalued, consider this: it is the only one known after more than 50 years of frantic searching by American collectors; so it is a pure supply-and-demand situation, with that coin's owner snuggling in the catbird seat!
Thus we arrive at a consideration of the presently offered specimen--the only known Uncirculated 1943-S bronze cent, and therefore the finest in existence! In Uncirculated, it is just as rare as the 1943-D bronze. In the absolute sense, its rarity is still awesome: just 4-6 exist, the others being EF to AU. How many will "come out of the woodwork" in the next fifty years? We suspect none! This coin came to light back in 1943--yes, 1943--when a sharp-eyed individual named Merl D. Burcham plucked it from a mint-sealed bag of 1943-S steel cents being handled at the main office of the Bank of America in San Diego, California. That this piece was in fact minted from a bronze blank intended for a 1942 cent (stuck in the Mint's hopper at San Francisco at year's end) can probably be safely deduced from the fact that a tiny fleck of zinc is to be seen lodged in the bronze, just above the 3 in the date.
As a final thought, we would like to go on record right here by proposing that this type of error coin should be renamed. It has traditionally been classified as an "off-metal" piece, but in reality it is not "off" anything. No, we think a more apt terminology might be to call this a "fabric error"--for it is the fabric of its composition that sets it apart. The word "fabric" comes from the Latin word fabrica, which meant "workshop" or "forge"--so what could be more appropriate to a coin struck in the wrong metal than the term "Fabric Error"?
For a detailed historical background on this coin, see Walter Breen's commentary on pages 226-227 of his monumental Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins.
So, here it is. The Finest Known 1943-S bronze cent--found in the year of issue in a mint-sewn bag of 1943-S steel cents, and saved for all time by a sharp pair of eyes. What is it worth as we begin the new century? Tell us, please!

Lot 1470

The Olsen/ Ewalt/ Kardatzke 1884 Trade Dollar. PCGS graded Proof 50. PCGS has labeled this famous coin PR50, but frankly that puzzles us. It has been cleaned, everyone knows that as it has appeared in a number of famous auctions: the Mehl/Olsen sale of Nov. 7, 1944, as lot 997; Stack's George Ewalt sale of Nov. 22, 1965, as lot 42; Stack's Emmons sale of Sept. 19, 1969, as lot 814; Ivy's 1980 ANA sale as lot 1809; RARCOA's Auction '84 sale, again as lot 1809; and Superior's Hoffecker sale of Feb. 8, 1987, as lot 1446A, and Worrell sale of Sept. 1993, as lot 1324. The coin was usually called Proof-60, cleaned with hairlines. For some reason, unknown to us, PCGS decided to deduct a lot of points and call it "50." But the coin has absolutely no wear, which 10 points below "60" would indeed imply, wouldn't it? And then, what is the meaning of "PR60" if not to describe a coin such as this, adding that it is cleaned. In any event .
Only 10 pieces were minted, causing this to become one of the most celebrated coins in American numismatics. The present cataloguer finds the piece to be highly attractive, that is to have its own eye-appeal, despite the obvious swirling hairlines. It is a bright silver in color (evidently it has been dipped since it appeared in the 1984 Apostrophe Sale; see previous catalogues for comments on its color). Like the other 1884 Trades, it can most likely be traced back to the estate of William Idler. The 1884 Trade dollar was not known to exist prior to 1908. Since then, it has appeared regularly but infrequently at auction. Usually years pass between offerings (by estates most often), as their owners rarely wanted to part with them.
Here then is one of the American classics. Its sale offers a chance to add your own name to the ranks of the famous who have possessed one--names such as Dunham, Newcomer, Col. Green, Jerome Kern, Amon Carter, Atwater, Eliasberg, Adolf Menjou, Wolfson, King Farouk, Norweb, Worrell and many more. Are you next? If you win it, we think you will become possessed by its charm, even with the hairlines--and will want to keep it for many years as the treasure it has proven to be.

Lot 1871

The Finest Known 1886 Gem Cameo Proof $5 Gold. NGC graded Proof 67 Cameo. Only 72 pieces were made as Proofs this year. But here's the best part: PCGS has graded a total of 7 of them (including duplicates?), the best being PR64. NGC has graded just 4; of them, the Reed and Trompeter coins were both given 64 numbers. There's another 64, but no 65s, no 66s, and only one in the Gem category--this one! Making it the finest known in a slab, no question about that. Its orange-peel surfaces are a sheer delight, as is the cameo effect--frosting on Liberty and the eagle, frosting on the stars, frosting on all the reverse legend, even frosting on the motto! (To identify it for all time, just northeast of the first star there is a tiny crescent-moon-shaped flaw in the field, about half a mm long.) In summary, this is truly Superb. "I like it, let's buy it!"

Lot 2010

1915-S Panama-Pacific Gold $50 Round. PCGS graded MS-63. The massive gold Fifties minted exclusively for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, held in San Francisco to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal and the commercial possibilities it would allow, are so enticing in concept and so pleasing in design that they would look good in almost any condition. This coin goes far beyond "okay," though. There are no marks to speak of, just some fritzies and some disturbance of the luster by being handled or perhaps being in a plush case. As with all of these, the luster is so mellow that it lulls you into an appreciation of the owl of Minerva theme. Another delightful feature is the only other use (aside from that on the famed 1907 High Relief twenties) of the date in Roman numerals--"MCMXV" in large capital letters on a cartouche beneath Minerva's portrait. So, should you wish to capture one of these magnificent hunks of goodness for your own, you may bid with confidence on this example--a Choice BU with handsome surfaces.

Lot 2011

1915-S Panama-Pacific Gold $50 Octagonal. PCGS graded MS-64. Like its mate in this sale, which came from the same consignor and looks as if it even came from the same original set, this splendid 8-sided Fifty is something truly lovely to enjoy. It shares the same mellow, old-time gold color as the Round, but in the judgment of the experts it is just slightly better preserved. We see no real difference--both coins are really choice. The coin has some small marks on the owl, in fact, whereas the Round has none. Maybe the glow of the golden luster is a touch stronger here; you decide. The designs are the same except that the portrait of Minerva and the alert owl are smaller on the Octagonal, as they must be--for the designs are surrounded by an additional border on which swim the famous dolphins--one in each point of the octagons which form its edge. Again we find the "MCMXV" date, indicating the classical influences upon designer Robert Aitken. To conclude, if you want a handsome example of this splendid commemorative coin, feel confident about this lovely Choice BU and bid accordingly.

Lot 61

Important 1792 Silver Half Disme. NGC graded EF-40. One of the classic rarities of the early pattern issues, this Half Disme is actually one of the more available issues. Mintages are thought to have been between 1500 and 2000 pieces. Research has shown that George Washington himself gave some of his silverware to be melted for these and he may have actually distributed them to friends as examples of possible coinage. Small change was in desperate demand at the time and the issue of coinage was one of the first challenges addressed by the evolving United States government.
Excellent color on both sides with deep gray hues throughout, well struck too, with full lettering and device detail on both sides. Moderate wear on Liberty, with her upper curls showing light wear, similar on the reverse with the breast feathers worn off the eagle. Usually found in low grades, or poorly struck, this high grade well struck piece should excite the advanced numismatist. Worthy of a superb collection.

Lot 1407

Very Desirable 1851 Seated Liberty Dollar. PCGS graded AU-58. High date of the Original strikes. This is a really appealing coin, one that most collectors of silver dollars and of type coins alike covet but rarely get a chance to own. The mintage was 1,300 coins. NGC has graded 7. PCGS has graded 14. That's 21 total coins. Rarity is not a question here. Only opportunity to acquire. PCGS has given the nod to 10 of them in MS, from 60 through 65, with the greatest concentration on MS64, oddly enough. So it is not the very best we are offering here. But this is decidedly a coin of considerable charm and visual appeal. We'd like to check the slabbed MS60 through MS63 coins against this one, to see just how much "wear" this one has compared to those. Because there is just the barest hint of friction here. This coin did not ever circulate, more than likely, but rather acquired some rubbing on Liberty's knee and boobs from being in trays owned by collectors. The fields just sparkle with semi-prooflike luster. The strike is exceptional, bold in all respect, including 13 deeply detailed stars. The rims are clear of any significant mark. Marks are few and far between, mostly hidden well in the design, and all light except for some abrasions on Liberty's face--a central but small part of the design. Curiously, die-clashing shows just to the right of Liberty's bent arm. And then there's the color--oh, the color! It is a dream for a coin of this grade. Bright iridescent blues and greens and olive golds, all dancing like phantoms at dusk upon a still lake. You must like this coin, or you just aren't a collector at heart. Its appearance here is a wonderful opportunity to buy something precious.

Lot 1088

High Grade 1870-CC Half Dollar. PCGS graded AU-55. One of the rare "no drapery" varieties from die lapping to remove clash marks. The surfaces are a dark gray color, evenly distributed on both sides. A glass notes that there are hairlines in the fields, both from circulation and from an ancient cleaning. Long held in high regard as the first year of issue of this wild west mint, the sale of an 1870-CC carries abundant excitement. Mintages were low (54,617) and few survive in decent grade. How this one remained in nearly mint state will forever be a mystery, but here it is in all its glory. Bid accordingly.

Lot 1119

The Elusive 1878-S Half Dollar. VF-30. One of the classic rarities of the Seated half dollar series, the mintage of just 12,000 as the coining presses were stopped in order to grind out millions of Morgan dollars under the just passed silver act. The surfaces show moderate tick marks, and the color is a dark gray. The diagnostic lump is noted at the top left open vertical shield line, which is seen on all of this issue. Obviously most were melted or otherwise lost, and very few remain today in any grade. A tremendous opportunity and one of the many highlights of this extensive collection.

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