Chronology : 600 BCE - CE 1 to 1000 1780-1789 1800-1809 1907 1933 2007
The Satyr of the Black Sea
2012 SOLD 3.8 M$ including premium
2350 to 2300 years ago, this city-state was powerful. An independent dynasty coming from Thrace ruled it for nearly a century, and its gold coins are among the masterpieces of ancient coinage.
The stater with satyr has a very sharp carving. On one side this mythical character is facing, shaggy, bearded, with the nose of a drunkard and the ears of a horse. It is a beautiful and powerful ancient portrait. On the other side, a winged griffin is standing to left but turns his head toward us. A Greek letter is certainly the initial of the name of the city.
A very nice specimen of this coin is for sale on January 4 in New York by Baldwin's. It weighs 9.12 g, and its nearly circular cutout is rather well centered. Estimated $ 650K, it is the top lot in a remarkable collection of antique coins.
Pantikapaion began to decline at the time of Alexander the Great, and its last great historical event, much later, was the suicide of Mithridates.
POST SALE COMMENT
There was no doubt on the quality of this coin. It was announced for several months as the star lot of the exceptional Prospero collection. Its price, $ 3.25 million before fees, 3.8 million after calculating the buyer's premium of 17%, ranks it among the masterpieces of antique art.
The coin is illustrated in the post sale report shared by CoinWeek.
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.
1621 The Ducats of King Sigismund
2018 SOLD for $ 2.16M including premium
The sharpness of the strike on such a large item is exceptional for its time. The rim circle and the centering of the unit for sale are almost perfect : 69.4 x 69.1 cm. It is 4.9 mm thick and weighs 349.49 grams. Tiny hairlines subsequent from handling are inevitable because of the malleability of gold. The coin is signed I.I. and S.A. It could only be used for presentation.
No previous edition is comparable. The 100 ducats coin issued in 1629 for King Ferdinand of Hungary and Bohemia, later the Emperor Ferdinand III, is of similar design with the portrait of the monarch on one side and royal shields on the other.
The coin lists the titles of Sigismund III Vasa as King of Poland and Sweden and Grand Duke of Lithuania, Russia, Prussia, Masuria, Samogitia and Livonia. The king is decorated with the Order of the Golden Fleece as a sign of allegiance to the Habsburgs.
Sigismund was a fervent Catholic born in a Protestant dynasty. He wanted to take over the throne of Sweden which he had lost for that reason in 1599 and was unpopular in Poland. At the beginning of the Thirty Years War, Poland was threatened with an invasion by the Turks but he did not participate directly in the resistance of the Khotyn Fortress in Moldavia against the Ottoman army in 1621. The conjunction of date of the 100 ducats coin with this heroic event is a mere coincidence or an opportunity.
Jacob Jacobson van Emden who signed with his Latinized initials I.I. was since 1616 the mint master in Bydgoszcz (Bromberg). The 100 ducats coin is a demonstration of his know-how which undoubtedly helped him to obtain from 1623 a direct or indirect responsibility over six other royal mints. The initials S.A. designate the engraver Samuel Ammon.
Exceedingly rare Poland commemorative 100 Dukat (349.49 grams) of Zygmunt III Wasa, celebrating 1621 victory over Ottomans, offered by CNG at 46th New York International Numismatic Convention, 10 January 2018, is one of the largest gold coins ever struck. https://t.co/I1Ad44EOqD pic.twitter.com/90dcByCj9A— Ancient Nomos (@ANAMCurator) December 8, 2017
1755 Gold 20 roubles coin of Elizabeth
2008 SOLD for £ 1.86M including premium by St. James's
1787 Doblons for New York
2014 SOLD 4.6 M$ including premium
Meanwhile, business transactions use large foreign gold coins, dominated by those from the Spanish colonies in South America. Banks and grand merchants are the only users of such coins. To deal against counterfeiting, they have their gold checked by specialists, the assayers, who put their own punch on the controlled pieces.
Ephraim Brasher is a goldsmith operating in New York City where he is a neighbor and supplier of George Washington, the President, known as a great lover of silverware. Brasher appreciates that he can play a role in the fight against the monetary anarchy, but his offer in early 1787 to carry out a copper coinage for the state of New York is rejected.
Brasher is an assayer. He knows well the doblon of Lima, a large gold coin worth 8 escudos and weighing 26 grams, whose name is anglicized to doubloon. Circa 1786, he produces in his workshop some Lima-type doubloons which are not fakes because their gold content is correct.
Brasher changes his theme in 1787 for producing doubloons and half doubloons to the use of New York identified under the Latin name Nova Eboraca. The pieces are stamped with his initials, EB, with two possible positions on the wing and on the breast of the eagle. Although their centering and cutting are awkward, they are beautiful coins whose design is sharp enough to discourage counterfeiting.
The only known Brasher doubloon with the mark on the breast was sold for $ 7.395 million in a private sale in December 2011, although its condition is only graded AU50 by PCGS.
On January 9 in Orlando, Heritage sells one from only two units in mint condition from an overall surviving total of six wing marked doubloons. The coin for sale is graded MS63 by PCGS. Here is the link to the catalog.
The coin for sale had been the first Brasher doubloon that was described in the nineteenth century. It was at that time in the estate of an important dealer importer named Gilmor also known as an early collector of coins.
This mercantile provenance strengthens the argument that the Brasher doubloon, earliest gold coin made for circulation in the United States, was designed to supersede the foreign currencies in large commercial operations. Other assumptions are however not rejected such as a promotional operation or a demonstration of know how.
POST SALE COMMENT
This great coin was sold for $ 4.6M including premium.
PRIVATE SALE IN 2018 :
1795 Gold in Philadelphia
2015 SOLD for $ 2.6M including premium
The first delivery of 744 half eagles is performed on July 31, 1795, followed on September 22 by the first 1097 eagles. The production of eagles marked as 1795 lasts until March 1796 before the availability of the 1796 dies. Numismatists recognize five sub-variants of the 1795 eagle numbered 1 to 5 by Bass and Dannreuther, differentiated by the marriage of the dies while no chronology is established.
The quantities issued with the mark of 1795 are low : 8707 half eagles and 5583 eagles. The quarter eagle will wait for the following year. The double eagle, not defined in 1792, will be launched in 1849. The Americans hoped that the half eagle competes in the international market with the British guinea, the louis from France, the Portuguese 4,000 reis and the Spanish 2 escudos.
In commercial matters, success is not immediate. Eagles, even less suited for these transactions than the half eagles, did not extensively circulate and some coins remained in mint state while their early owners were waiting for better times.
An eagle graded MS66+ by PCGS is undeniably the best 1795 example by the beauty of its color and the quality of its strike. It belongs to the rare BD-4 variant. It is estimated $ 750K for sale on September 30 in New York by Stack's Bowers in association with Sotheby's, lot 2092.
The BD-5 variant, as rare as the BD-4, is dominated by two MS65 coins, both recently sold by Heritage. One of them, graded by NGC, was sold for $ 680K including premium on 9 August 2013. The other, graded by PCGS, was sold for $ 880K including premium on 7 August 2014.
1808 A Flat Cap for Miss Liberty
2015 SOLD for $ 2.35M including premium
The other two coins are quarters : of eagle worth $ 2.5 and of dollar worth $ 0.25. These quarters were not user friendly to count his money. They were not popular and their manufacture was sometimes interrupted. In two cases, the production is stopped at completion of a year of design change, generating the rarest types of regular US coinage.
The first sale of the Pogue collection, on May 19 in New York by Stack's Bowers in association with Sotheby's, includes a specimen in exceptional condition for these two rarities. The 1796 quarter dollar was recently discussed in this column. The other example is the 1808 quarter eagle, lot 1128 estimated $ 1.2 million.
The eagle, half eagle and quarter eagle are the three gold coins defined by the Coinage act. At the beginning of the three denominations, Miss Liberty wears a turban like a Phrygian cap which had been a symbol of freedom during the War of Independence.
The eagle is discontinued after the year 1804, leaving the half eagle as the top denomination in production. In 1807, the drawing of the half eagle is changed. Miss Liberty exchanges her high turban to a flat cap. In 1808, the same design is applied to the quarter eagle that will be interrupted from 1809 to 1820 inclusive.
The 1808 quarter eagle in the first Pogue sale is graded MS65 by PCGS. This dark yellow gold piece is in a remarkable state of preservation of the metal, with nice coppery or violet tonings. Struck with a great clarity that reveals the defects from the die, it is by far the best surviving coin in its class, considered as a masterpiece of US numismatics for over a century.
1880 Four Times Four Dollars
2013 SOLD 2.6 M$ including premium
Most specimens entering this category remained in mint condition, and their low quantities favour the special visual quality of the "proof coins" struck with brand new dies.
In 1879, the U.S. government observed that the $ 5 coin is slightly heavier than the British sovereign, the 20 lire from Italy or the Spanish 20 pesetas. They developed a $ 4 gold coin with the naive idea that an international alignment may promote the circulation of US currency.
The two best designers present their project of the future Stella which is centered on one side with a big star. Barber designs a Miss Liberty with flowing hair and Morgan a Miss Liberty with coiled hair. In total, less than 500 units are made in 1879 and 1880.
The Bonhams sale includes four Stellas, each one graded PR67 by NGC. Their 1880 coiled hair is probably the best surviving specimen of all Stellas with its pleasant warm color and cameo surface, this term designating a genuine mirror-like effect without polishing. This one is estimated $ 1M and shown in the press release.
It had been sold for $ 980K including premium by Heritage on January 12, 2005.
POST SALE COMMENT
The 1880 coiled hair was definitely the best coin in this set: it was sold for $ 2.6 million. Excellent results also for the 1879 coiled hair at $ 1.04 million and for the 1880 flowing hair at $ 960K. The 1879 flowing hair has been sold for $ 280K. These results include the premium.
1907 Ultra High Relief for the Double Eagles
2012 SOLD 2.76 M$ including premium
A wonderful piece of gold may sustain the claim of being the finest coin of the 20th century, sharing this achievement with another specimen from the same variant and condition.
This Ultra High Relief $ 20 coin was sold for $ 2.76M including premium by Stack's Bowers on June 29, 2012. It comes back for sale by the same auctioneer on May 20 at Sotheby's New York. It is now estimated $ 2.75M, lot 93.
Please find below my discussion of 2012 along with the video which had been shared by Stack's Bowers before that sale.
President Theodore Roosevelt never did anything like everyone else. For his second inauguration in 1905, he required Augustus Saint-Gaudens to design a medal in parallel of the version traditionally handled by the official mint departments.
The result pleased that rebellious President. The following year, he asked Saint-Gaudens to redesign the whole American coinage.
Already hit by his terminal cancer, Saint-Gaudens stubbornly began this task, starting with the top gold coins : the eagle ($ 10) and the double eagle ($ 20).
Saint-Gaudens was primarily a sculptor. He imagined for the double eagle a motif in very high relief, which was tested in February and March 1907. Two dozen of proof coins were produced.
The result was superb but disappointing. It had taken nine strikes of a high pressure medal hydraulic press, normally used for very small quantities. It was impossible to consider such a technique for producing the big quantities needed for currency. The design of Saint Gaudens will however be later used, but with a flattened motif.
The two best preserved specimens of these rare Ultra High Relief Double Eagles are both graded PR69 by the PCGS. They may be considered as the finest pieces of American coinage.
One of them was sold for $ 3M including premium by Heritage in November 2005. The other is for sale by Stack's Bowers.
1933 Double Eagle
2002 SOLD 7.6 M$ including premium by Sotheby's and Stack's
narrated in 2020
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.
2007 Her Majesty's Bullion
2010 SOLD 3.27 M€ before fees
Gold bullion coins generally have a purity of 99.99%.
In 2007, the Royal Canadian Mint announces the launch of a product line to 99.999%. And as now the only way to get noticed is gigantism, they produce a coin with facial value of 1 million Canadian $. A small number of investors will then order similar parts.
The piece measures 53 cm in diameter, 3 cm thick, and weighs 100 kg. Chemists will appreciate this remarkable feat of engineering. The obverse is a portrait of Queen Elizabth II. The reverse shows the emblem of Canada, three maple leaves. Its value to weight is approximately € 3.2 million.
The copy that was owned by an Austrian financial company is for sale by Dorotheum in Vienna on June 25. Exciting fate for this symbol of capitalism: the owner has gone bankrupt!
POST SALE COMMENT
This lot has been sold 3.27 million € before fees. This is the price of its metal value to weight, not surprisingly. The extreme purity of gold has not generated an added value.