Chronology : 600 BCE - CE 1 to 1000 1780-1789 1800-1809 1907 1933
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 on the release of the auction house shared by Auction Central News.
723 The Gold of the Commander of the Faithful
2011 SOLD 3.72 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 723 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 (723AD), was sold £ 3.1 million before fees, 3.72 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 $ 1.8M before fees
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.
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 onSeptember 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.
1907 The ASG Specimen of Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle
2015 SOLD for $ 2.1M including premium
Shrinking to the size of a coin was the first difficult step. The development of the manufacturing process was a technical feat. The double eagle in Ultra High Relief required seven strikings in the hydraulic press. Between two strikings, the piece was annealed and then washed in nitric acid to maintain the highest possible purity of the gold surface. The result was superb from the viewpoint of the color and brilliance of gold.
In the first trial in February 1907, one of the dies broke during the manufacture of the fourth unit, providing the argument to demonstrate that mass production was impossible.
The story did not stop there, simply because it was so tempting to repeat the feat. Twelve or thirteen additional coins were minted between March and July 1907, and three more on 31 December 1907 just before the yearly destruction of the outdated tools.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens had died on August 3, 1907. The informal promise to provide a sample to the Saint-Gaudens estate had not been met. When the widow claimed, the Mint chose to part with one of the pieces kept in its cabinet rather than recreating the tools.
The widow had marked the ASG initials on the edge of her coin before presenting it in long-term loan to the American Numismatic Society. Withdrawn many years later from ANS by the Saint-Gaudens estate, it is now resurfacing. In an almost perfect condition like many other units from this pattern model, it is graded PR68 by NGC and PCGS.
It will be sold with no reserve by Heritage in Orlando on January 7, lot 4412. Two weeks before the sale, the bidding is at $ 1.3 million before fees. The only specimen graded PR69 (by PCGS) was sold for $ 2,76M including premium by Stack's Bowers on June 29, 2012.
1933 Double Eagle
2002 SOLD 7.6 M$ including premium by Sotheby's and 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.