Chronology : 600 BCE - CE 1780-1789 1790-1799 1820-1829 1830-1839 1933
List of most expensive coins in Wikipedia.
Link to PCGS database.
42 BCE Eid Mar Aureus of Brutus
2020 SOLD for £ 3.25M including premium by Roma Numismatics
narrated post sale in 2020
Caesar has himself appointed dictator perpetuo. Suspected of liberticide, he is assassinated less than two months later, in the Ides of March 44 BCE, by a group led by Brutus and Cassius. In a first phase, the tyrannicides are approved by the Senate. On official mission in Macedonia and Thrace, Brutus issues coins bearing his effigy. The abbreviation IMP (imperator) next to his name is only meaning "general".
Octavian (who will later be Augustus) and Antony claim separately the succession of Caesar. They are reconciled in 43 after a short war and obtain the condemnation in absentia of the tyrannicides. The civil war is then transferred against Brutus and Cassius who consider themselves the ultimate defenders of freedom.
At the beginning of 42, Brutus and Cassius want to return to Rome with their armies. They prepare their coins with the booty collected by Cassius in Asia Minor. The Brutus coinage becomes revolutionary. The front side bears the effigy with a slightly improved design. The back claims the assassination of Caesar by the inscription EID MAR (for Eidibus Martiis) in large letters under three symbolic figures : the cap of freedom between the daggers of the two tyrannicidal leaders.
EID MAR was struck in gold and silver with the same dies. These coins were recalled and melted down by Octavian and Antony after the defeats and death of Brutus and Cassius in October 42 and are very rare. A silver denarius was sold for $ 550K including premium by Heritage in September 2011 and another for $ 520K including premium by Goldberg in June 2014.
Three EID MAR aureus survive, one of which was very poorly centered and pierced. The best of the three, very well centered and in near mint condition, was sold for £ 3.25M including premium by Roma Numismatics on October 29, 2020, lot 463.
724 The Dinar from Arabia
2019 SOLD for £ 3.7M including premium
Taking advantage of the conquests, the caliphs exploit distant mines including Ifriqiya in Tunisia from 100 to 122 AH and al-Andalus. Around 100 AH the caliph Umar buys a mine in Hijaz, between Medina and Mecca, on a land bequeathed to the father of the previous owners by the Prophet himself.
The dies are made in Damascus. Some very rare prestige editions make a reference to the origin of the gold. Most of the coins were nevertheless striken in Damascus but the practice of traveling mints is not excluded because the necessary tools were not bulky.
The use of the Gold of the Commander of the Believers is indicated on a series of dinars in 91 and 92 AH. The dinar of 105 AH adds to this inscription a Hijaz origin. It is impossible to know if the gold of these two series comes from the same mine.
In 105 AH corresponding to 724 CE, the caliph Yazid dies after a long illness. The presence in Arabia of his brother and successor Hisham is attested in that year. Although it is impossible to conclude which of the two caliphs commissioned the gold dinar, a prestigious operation of the new caliph co-ordinated with a pilgrimage to Mecca is likely.
By its inscription, this beautiful dinar from Hijaz weighing 4.27 g is the most valuable of the Islamic Umayyad coins. One of them in Extremely Fine condition was sold for £ 3.7M including premium by Morton and Eden on April 4, 2011 over a lower estimate of £ 300K.
Another uncirculated example of this dinar was sold for £ 793K including premium by Baldwin's on December 6, 2012, lot 120. It had previously passed at the same auction house on April 25, 2012, lot 17 with a lower estimate of £ 1.5M. I discussed it in this column before these sales. It is now estimated £ 1.4M for sale by Morton and Eden in London on October 24, lot 11 here linked on the NumisBids bidding platform.
Morton and Eden are delighted to announce the sale of the extremely rare Umayyad dinar Ma'din Amir al-Mu'minin bi'l-Hijaz 105h, sold today for £3.720.000 (with premium), matching the record we set in 2011 for a similar coin. pic.twitter.com/dkN2oBdES2— Morton & Eden Ltd (@MortonandEden) October 24, 2019
724 The Gold of the Commander of the Faithful
2011 SOLD 3.7 M£ including premium
These coins are illustrated on both sides by an Arabic text, indicating in particular that they come from the mine of the Commander of the Faithful. They are dated 92 and 105 AH (711 and 724 of our calendar).
The latest coin certifies that it was made from a mine in Hejaz. Such a mine had been purchased a few years previously by one of the first Caliphs. The absence of coins of this origin between 92 and 105 could correlate such issues with pilgrimages to Mecca led by the Caliph himself.
Both are in very fine condition. They are estimated respectively at £ 250K and 300K.
POST SALE COMMENT
I had announced an event exceptional in its category. It was true.
The most prestigious of the two coins, dated 105AH (724AD), was sold £ 3.1 million before fees, 3.7 million including premium.
The photo of this exceptional dinar is shared by CoinWeek.
The other coin (92AH, 711AD) also far exceeded its estimate. It was sold £ 540K before fees, 648K including premium.
1787 First Flights of the Eagle
2021 SOLD for $ 9.4M including premium
The popular iconography seized on this patriotic symbol in 1786, with the engravings prepared by James Trenchard for the first two issues of Columbian Magazine. The eagle with its outstretched wings, the thirteen stripes on the breast shield, the olive branch and the arrows appeared in 1787 on the reverse side of the Cent and Half Cent from Massachusetts.
The first gold coin illustrated with these symbols is the New York-style Brasher doubloon, also in 1787. The finest of the seven known examples, graded MS65 by NGC, will be sold by Heritage in Dallas on January 21, lot 3934.
Brasher was a metallurgist and definitely not an artist, which is amply demonstrated by his Lima-style doubloon prepared in 1786. In the meantime he partnered with the designer John Bailey. His new doubloon is superbly engraved on both sides. The centering is very good, with full readability all around.
Both sides are inspired by the national emblem. The eagle has all of its attributes, including the constellation of thirteen stars around its head. On the other side, the Eye of Providence shines its radiant light from above a pyramidal mountain. The inscription conforms to the federal motto E Pluribus Unum but the production is located in Nova Eboraca (New York).
Brasher's Lima-type and New York-type doubloons were not documented in period, which confirms how limited their use was. The gold alloy had undoubtedly been recovered by the melting of some jewelry. Brasher assayer's punch EB gave these coins an authorization for circulation and they are considered regular by numismatists.
A half doubloon is kept at the Smithsonian. It was made with the same dies and a thinner planchet. Unlike the doubloons of the same year but in accordance with the two known Lima style doubloons, some trimming was required to adjust the weight. This half doubloon was perhaps an intermediate version for testing the dies.
Heritage Auctions will offer the Donald G. Partrick Collection in a series of auctions over the next year, making available one of the most historic collections of American colonial coins ever assembled.https://t.co/lZtpZzLOKC#Coins #DonaldPartrick pic.twitter.com/0a798TEqkh— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) August 11, 2020
Join us tomorrow for a little F-U-N!— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) January 20, 2021
It is a coin any collector would love to own, but only one will be able to possess. We could only be talking about the 1787 New York-Style Brasher Doubloon!
Jan. 20-24 FUN US Coins Auction #HeritageAuctions #coins https://t.co/Jq3TVG58jP pic.twitter.com/wysPjhL8uk
1794 Preparation of the Dollar
2013 SOLD for $ 10 M including premium
Within two years after the Coinage Act of April 2, 1792, the preparation of the silver dollar has not yet started. Hurry up. A pair of dies is created on a design by Robert Scot and a first trial is made in copper. One prototype has survived. It was sold for $ 92K by Goldberg on February 16, 2001.
A further pair of dies is created to insert the fifteen stars in the circumference around the head of Liberty. A copper trial piece is kept at the Smithsonian.
Regarding silver, a unique coin has the characteristics of a specimen as defined by PCGS : superior minting quality and shiny appearance. It has been compared with the Smithsonian prototype : the state of the dies is exactly the same, with no added wear, and the sharpness of the line is perfect.
This coin is certainly the first federal silver dollar. It was struck in October 1794 at the Philadelphia Mint before the very last limited rework of the dies and the launch of the first production batch.
Graded SP66 by PCGS, it was sold for $ 7.85M in private sale in May 2010 and then for $ 10M including premium at auction by Stack's Bowers on January 24, 2013, lot 13094. It is estimated $ 8M for sale on October 8 at Las Vegas by Legend Rare Coin Auctions, lot 11.
1,758 units were supplied to the cashier on October 15, 1794. Technically, this lot was premature. The available press was not suitable for the required diameter, larger than the previous silver dime. The alignment of the dies did not resist, weakening the strike and limiting the output.
The preparation of the specimen had been extremely careful. The silver planchet had been fitted with a plug and the weight of the specimen is almost perfect, only 0.24 grains (15 mg) above the 416 grains prescribed by the Coinage Act. Its splendid reflectivity has no equivalent among the 135 surviving units. It may be the sample presented to President Washington by Secretary of State Edmund Randolph. It surfaced in 1942 in the deceased estate of Colonel Green with an earlier provenance from the Virgil Brand collection.
1794 The Silver Dollar of Lord St. Oswald
2015 SOLD for $ 5M including premium
Two years later, the Philadelphia plant tries the first production of the silver dollar. The technical difficulties concerned the officials to the point that the preparation is confidential and not documented. The issue is to achieve a perfect strike with the exact weight and purity required by the Congress.
Ingots are bought to cover $ 2,000 in the new coinage. The production is done in one day, 15 October 1794. 1758 pieces are released.
This yield below the target is due to a drift of the strike during the operation, in part because that coin was too large to enable a repetitive adjustment of the weight. Manufacturing is suspended. There will be no further 1794 $ 1 coin.
The first coins are admirable. Only one survivor is ranked as a specimen. Its mint preservation is because it was originally stored in the factory's archives. This coin graded MS66 by PCGS was sold for $ 10M including premium by Stack's Bowers on January 24, 2013.
On September 30 in New York, Stack's Bowers in association with Sotheby's sells the best silver dollar of 1794, graded MS66+ by PCGS, winner 30 years ago of a friendly confrontation by direct inspection with the only other example in the same grade. It is estimated beyond $ 3M, lot 2041.
It is not a works specimen. Its provenance explains its exemplary preservation.
An Englishman named William Strickland visited the United States from 20 September 1794 to 29 July 1795. He acquired coins in mint state at a time when production was not yet sufficient to really start a circulation. The box containing the treasure was stored in a Chippendale coin cabinet in England and fell into oblivion.
The box surfaces in 1964 when the cabinet is opened for the auction by Christie, Manson and Woods of the collection of Lord St. Oswald. The dates of the coins stored in the box correspond with the time spent by Strickland in the USA.
1822 The Big Dream of the Half Eagles
2021 SOLD for $ 8.4M including premium
Half eagles of the capped head type caught their attention early on. Around 1820 their gold value had exceeded the face value. Their production was limited, the government was reluctant to put them into circulation, and a large proportion of the coins were redeemed and melted.
1816 and 1817 are out of the scope : no half eagle was released on these years. 1822 was known from a severely worn coin found by an executive of the Philadelphia mint who was already looking to fill in the gaps. The first craze applied to the 1815.
In 1864 the Seavey collection of gold coins was reputed complete. Parmelee acquired it en bloc, including an 1822 half eagle.
In 1890 Parmelee put his collection up for auction at the New York Coin and Stamp Company. His 1822 half eagle was to be the star of the event, symbolizing the sensational quality of his collection. Catastrophe : this highly desirable coin is a counterfeit.
A subterfuge is found. By chance, one of the managers of the auction house owns an 1822 half eagle, which is then somehow the only one in private hands. He substitutes it for the Seavey-Parmelee unit and auctions it to himself for $ 900. It is the most expensive lot of the sale, far ahead of the 1815 half eagle, already less rare at that time, sold for $ 235. The authentic 1822 will enter the Smithsonian collection in 1968.
Only one other 1822 half eagle has surfaced. It appeared in 1899, bought by Virgil Brand from a dealer. Louis E. Eliasberg acquired it in 1945 from a broker. It made the big dream come true : his collection is complete and unrivaled, since this authentic piece is the only one of its variety in private hands.
Coming now from the D. Brent Pogue collection and graded AU-50 by PCGS, it passed at Stack's Bowers on May 24, 2016, lot 4026. It will be sold by the same auction house in Las Vegas on March 25, 2021, lot 4149. Please watch the short video shared by Stack's Bowers.
The Only 1822 Half Eagle Available to Collectors— Stack's Bowers (@StacksBowers) March 23, 2021
1822 Capped Head Left Half Eagle. BD-1. Rarity-8. AU-50 (PCGS).
"I have the only one not in the hands of the government." - Louis Eliasberg, on the 1822 half eagle, 1975
Bid on Lot 4149 at https://t.co/BoJzSFkF9P. pic.twitter.com/7PybjguHcM
1834 The Muscat Eagle
2021 SOLD for $ 5.3M including premium
The diplomat Edmund Roberts had convinced the Sultan of Muscat and Oman in 1833 of the interest of signing a treaty of friendship and commerce with the United States. In 1834 President Jackson asks Roberts to prepare for this mission, to which he adds a visit to the King of Siam.
Among the diplomatic gifts, the Americans define a box that will contain an example of each of the coin denominations in circulation. The cumulative face value of the ten samples is derisory : $ 19.415. The double eagle did not yet exist.
The target is indeed to demonstrate the quality of proof coins produced in the United States. This prestige finish had been used sparingly since 1801 for silver, 1817 for copper and 1820 for gold. A 1821 quarter eagle graded PR64 Cameo by PCGS was sold for $ 240K including premium by Heritage in January 2007.
For the largest silver and gold coins, $ 1 and $ 10 respectively, President Jefferson suspended production in 1804 to curb speculation, while maintaining their circulation. For these two denominations, the factory decides to supply coins inscribed 1804 rather than 1834 which would be illegal. These coins will necessarily be a new build, to display the proof finish in mint condition.
Two dollars and two eagles were thus produced at the end of 1834. The eagles used for the obverse a spare die from the 1800s decade on which the engraving of the last digit of the year still had to be done. This 4 designed in the style of the 1830s makes it possible to distinguish between the Crosslet 4 variety produced in period and the Plain 4 variety produced for the Roberts mission.
In March 1835 two other destinations are added to the mission at the last moment. Two new 1804 eagles and two new 1804 dollars are minted. A tiny defect in the eagle die has been repaired in the mean time. There will be no further 1804 Plain 4 eagles, confirming the recent hypothesis that the four 1804 Class I supernumerary dollars are patterns unrelated to the Roberts mission.
The eagles prepared for Muscat and Siam are the two pieces from the first batch. No test eagle having been identified, they are the first two eagles to have been processed as proofs.
The Muscat specimens are the best in both varieties. The dollar is graded PR68 by PCGS. The eagle, graded PR65+ Deep Cameo by PCGS, will be sold by Heritage in Dallas on January 20, lot 3049.
NEW RECORD: The finest of just three known examples of the 1804 $10 Plain 4, BD-2, JD-1, Judd-33, High R.7, PR65+ Deep Cameo PCGS. CAC brings $5,280,000 at the FUN US Coins Signature Auction – the most ever paid at auction for a coin! https://t.co/6sLPD6FYbz#AuctionUpdate pic.twitter.com/aD2ohJauuy— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) January 21, 2021
1913 The Eliasberg Nickel
2018 SOLD for $ 4.6M including premium
This variant, not documented by the plant, is the consequence of the introduction for 1913 of the Buffalo Head figure replacing the Liberty Head for the 5-cent coin. It appears that when this decision was made in February 1913, a 1913 Liberty Head die was already available for the production line.
The population of the 1913 Liberty nickel is limited to a single group of five pieces exhibited together in 1920 by a former factory employee who had known about it and managed to get it in his hands. The five pieces had been struck with new tools, perhaps simply for a first test that would become obsolete with the change of design.
Eliasberg considered this group to be the total population. Indeed no other example has ever surfaced. His copy is the best, graded PR66 by PCGS, and the only one from these five with a glittering mirror surface.
When Eliasberg died in 1976, his collection was shared between his two children. It was then the subject of several auctions. The 1913 Eliasberg Liberty nickel becomes the first coin to cross the million-dollar threshold at auction, on May 21, 1996 by Bowers and Merena. Q. David Bowers' hammer falls at $ 1.35M, $ 1.485M including premium.
Its price has considerably risen in the next decade. It was sold for $ 1.84M including premium by Superior Galleries in March 2001. Two private transactions were revealed, at $ 4.15M in May 2005 and $ 5M in April 2007. It also passed at auction at Stack's in January 2007 .
The Eliasberg specimen of the 1913 Liberty Head nickel will be sold by Stack's Bowers in Philadelphia on August 15, lot 1096. The image shared by Wikimedia had been prepared for the 2001 auction.
1933 Double Eagle
2002 SOLD 7.6 M$ including premium by Sotheby's and Stack's
Next sale on June 8, 2021 by Sotheby's
The crisis had lasted since 1924 and the production of eagles and double eagles was considerably slowed down. The production of the 312,500 eagles of 1933 was finished before April 5 and this denomination was legal at that time. The production of the double eagles, which was in progress, was not interrupted.
On September 13, 1934, all gold coins in federal stocks were declared obsolete (uncurrent). In the following month two 1933 double eagles were sent to the Smithsonian for the National Collection as non-monetized samples. 445,469 pieces were in the vaults. This stock was melted in 1937.
Ten pieces escaped that melting, certainly stolen by the cashier of the Mint who was jailed in 1940 for another scam. All of them were recovered and destroyed by the government except one that King Farouk had managed to acquire in 1944. The King had obtained for this piece an export license issued by the Secretary of the Treasury, either simply by mistake or to please the King. This license being federal, the Farouk specimen became the only 1933 double eagle with some legal US status.
Removed at the request of the US government from the auction of the Farouk collections in 1954, the double eagle resurfaced in 1996, brought to New York by an English dealer. He was caught in the act by the FBI during his negotiations with his American customer.
The coin of the English dealer was the specimen which had been legally exported for Farouk. A judicial compromise was found in 2001. The double eagle was listed for auction on July 20, 2002 by Sotheby's and Stack's. In order to declare for the first time the official release of this specific coin, the buyer was required to pay to the federal government its face value of $ 20 in addition to the auction. It was sold for $ 7,590,020 including premium. Here is the link to the catalog in the website of Stack's Bowers, successor to Stack's.