Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top Favre memorabilia from an inveterate Cheesehead - PART II

Dec. 30, 2009
Written by Chris Nerat

(While it started two weeks ago, I have not forgotten the second half of Chris Nerat's Top Favre memorabilia, I have just been giving it a good mulling over… Actually, the holidays have come, are here, and are ending, and once that's all done - and may I be among the first to wish you a Happy New Year - the Heritage Blog will get back with regular postings from our burgeoning group of blog superstars… Enjoy the second part of Chris's post, and see you in 2010! - Noah Fleisher)

#6: Brett Favre Game-Used Touchdown Balls

Touchdown balls from any player are hard to obtain, and maybe even harder to authenticate. But, if you are fortunate enough to obtain one of Favre’s touchdown balls with solid provenance, it’s comparable to owning a home run ball from sluggers Henry Aaron or Barry Bonds. Very desirable indeed, and Heritage just happened to have sold probably Favre’s most significant touchdown ball of them all, when we offered his 2nd career touchdown ball, which also represented his first game-winning touchdown. This museum-caliber piece sold for nearly $10,000 in our October 2008 Signature Auction.

#7: Game Program from Brett Favre’s 1st Game – September 20, 1992

No, Favre isn’t pictured on the cover of this historic artifact. It actually has a Pittsburgh Steeler theme that is featured, so many uninformed Packers fans have disregarded it as insignificant over the years. Don’t let the black and yellow cover fool you. This program is highly desirable and will go up in value for years to come.

#8: Full Ticket from Brett Favre’s 1st Win – September 20, 1992

Not as valuable as his first start ticket, but a definite close second. On September 20, 1992, Favre entered the game for an injured Don Majkowski. The young player from Southern Mississippi was a little shaky at first, but led his team to an amazing comeback win, and solidified himself as Packers starting QB.

#9: Full Ticket from Game Played One Day After Favre’s Father Passed Away - December 22, 2003

One day after Favre’s father passed away, he could have had a horrific game and nobody would have blamed him. Instead, the gunslinger put up the best numbers of his career, and led his team to an amazing throttling of the Oakland Raiders. This ticket is probably the rarest of all significant Favre tickets. The game was played in Oakland, and the Raiders’ faithful just didn’t save them.

#10: Super Bowl XXXI Green Bay Packers Team-Signed Helmet

This helmet, representing Favre’s only Super Bowl-winning team is an easy choice for the list. Due to the passing of defensive leader Reggie White, Favre collectors are no longer able to put together complete Super Bowl XXXI team-signed memorabilia.

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-Chris Nerat

Monday, December 28, 2009

Coin Monday: Ode to Louis McHenry Howe

Dec. 28, 2009
Written by John Dale

While it may not have quite the same ring as “Ode to Billie Joe”, there’s an “Ode to Louis McHenry Howe” in lot 2062 of The Boca Collection, Part I, one of three volumes in the set covering Heritage’s January 2010 FUN U.S. Coin Auction.

Just about everyone who isn’t either a Franklin Delano Roosevelt fanatic, over 80 years of age, or a clicker of the hyperlink bearing his name is asking, “Who the heck is Louis McHenry Howe?”
Howe was a journalist turned ultimate political insider and ultimate confidant to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Through a quarter of a century Howe guided Roosevelt through his early state-level political experiences, his personal and political crises in the aftermath of his failed 1920 bid for the vice-presidency, and the vast majority of Roosevelt’s first term as president.

Still, Howe was doubtless more famous (or infamous) at the height of his influence than in the years following his death; even recent re-tellings of history inevitably must elide ($5 SAT word alert! - Noah) important figures of any one time, and advisors - even influential ones - are often among the first to fade.

Howe’s contemporaries could not deny his influence, however, so they called him names instead, attacking his appearance and his political acumen. He was a “Rasputin” for his perceived influence over Roosevelt, an unflattering “Talleyrand,” a “ghoul.” Less grudgingly, he was also “The President’s Other I,” “The Man Behind Roosevelt,” or as the title of a recent history-biography describes him, FDR’s Shadow.

The Roosevelt-Howe relationship was unusually close for a modern American president and an advisor, and the proof coinage of 1936 is actually a testament to that closeness. Though proof set coinage had been stopped in 1916 because of rising costs and hassle, the idea was revived two decades later.

Why? To quote a quotation of a quote (it makes sense if you read the description…), “It was understood at the Treasury that the resumption of [proof coinage] was ordered on a suggestion of Louis M. Howe, secretary to President Roosevelt, a few weeks before his death.”

Thus, it was a message from the President’s secretary and confidant – in some ways a last wish – and was, ultimately, the catalyst for the return of proof sets. The idea took only months to travel from Howe’s mind to then-Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau’s desk to the coining presses in the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia.

Why did Howe make his request? The press release that was the ultimate source of the above quote states simply, “Howe was said to have been interested in numismatics.”

The mid-1930s were a boom time for coin collecting, and there were a number of collectors campaigning for the return of proof sets at the time, but whether Howe was interested in proof sets himself or was acting on another’s behalf is not widely understood. Perhaps a further examination of Howe’s correspondence will reveal why this intriguing man – the “Medieval Gnome” at Roosevelt’s side, the whisperer in the President’s ear – looked after numismatics in his final days.
After Howe’s death, he was buried as much as he was praised, but his influence on President Roosevelt was incalculable. The last sets of the Boca Collection are the undeniable proof.

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-John Dale Beety

Monday, December 21, 2009

Coin Monday: Value Me as You Please

Dec. 21, 2009
Written by John Dale

“Colonial” or “Pre-Federal,” “Post-Colonial” or “Early American” — all are labels attached to parts of the same broad group of numismatic issues. (Here at Heritage, we just call them all Colonials.) A nearly exhaustive definition of the broad group might be: “metal coins or tokens, issued by a colonial government or private authority, on behalf of an area now part of the United States of America in the years leading up to and immediately after the area’s territoriality or statehood.”

Why must the definition be so complicated?

Actually, considering the diversity and complexity of “Colonials” themselves, every word is necessary. (I’m sure at least one Colonials specialist is going to chime in with some variant of “You missed X, Y, and Z.” Consider this an apology in advance.)

“Colonials” were made before and after the 1783 Treaty of Paris: before, a 1662-dated Oak Tree twopence silver coin from Massachusetts; after, a 1787-dated Immunis Columbia copper token. (Unless noted otherwise, all coins are from the January 2010 FUN U.S. Coin Auction.)

Colonials” were made for the British-styled “13 original colonies,” as well as North American French colonies and “New Spain” (present-day Texas), as seen in the Auction Archives.

As for the difference between colonial government and private authority, two prominent rarities from FUN’s Platinum Night offer a great illustration.

Lot 2390 is a “New Yorke” Token struck in brass, graded Fine 15 by PCGS. While no date appears on the New Yorke tokens, their origin can be pinned down to the space of a few years. They were issued by Francis Lovelace, who became the second British governor of the colony of New Yorke (as it was then spelled, after the Duke of York) in 1668. The colony had been captured from the Dutch, who called it “Nieuw Amsterdam.”

Lovelace’s governorship lasted until 1673, when the Dutch recaptured “Nieuw Amsterdam.” Though “New Yorke” was soon taken back by the British, Lovelace was not there to see the victory; he was instead rotting away in the Tower of London.

Before that end, though, Lovelace had enough favor to create the “New Yorke” tokens, which point to him on both sides: as noted in the catalog description, “the eagle on the reverse is identical to the crest on the Lovelace coat of arms.” The obverse, which shows Cupid and a woman on either side of the tree (various sources list her as Venus or Psyche), is a vignette depicting love, and puns such as “love-Lovelace” were not uncommon in coinage at the time.

While Lovelace’s “New Yorke” tokens were made with the approval of the Duke of York (or at least his indifference), the Higley coppers struck in Granby, Connecticut were strictly unauthorized. The coppers, represented in the auction by lot 2389, are traditionally attributed to Dr. Samuel Higley, a medical professional and a metallurgical amateur. He also owned a copper-mining business, and it’s believed that starting in 1737, Higley began making copper tokens, possibly with metal from his own mines.

His early copper tokens were self-described as “THE VALUE OF THREE PENCE,” according to their legends, though their closest approximations were actually British halfpennies. It would’ve been a nice racket if Dr. Higley had gotten away with it, but he didn’t, judging by his later tokens such as lot 2389; they read “VALUE ME AS YOU PLEASE” instead.

Lovelace and Higley were separated by the better part of a century and wildly different circumstances of birth and fortune, yet both contributed in their own way to the history of Colonial coinage. Theirs are also just two of the uncountable chapters in that history, told across two full centuries and a touch beyond. When Heritage’s next auction comes around, what will its Colonials have to say?

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-John Dale Beety

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Cheesehead's Top 10 Favre Collectibles - Part , or Heritage Auctions welcomes Chris Nerat

Dec. 16, 2009
Written by Chris Nerat

(It is with great pleasure that I can welcome veteran sports collectibles writer - and recent Heritage Consignment Director appointee - Chris Nerat to the Heritage Blog.

Some of you sports fans out there will well recognize Chris from his days editing, writing and blogging for Sports Collectibles Digest, or SCD, and - if you do - you are probably as happy as I am to see his contribution here. Chris is a recent refugee to Dallas from the frigid cold of his home in Central Wisconsin, and Heritage is glad to have him. He's a lifelong Green Bay Packers Fan {I guess he can be forgiven for that} and is probably the biggest dealer in Vintage Packers memorabilia in the country.

Besides all of his professional accomplishments, which are many at his relatively young age, Chris is a supremely nice guy - as so many from The Badger State tend to be. I know this because I had the pleasure to work parallel to Chris in Iola, WI during my brief stint a few years ago as editor on an antiques publication based out of there. Like I said, he's very welcome here in Dallas and I hope he's enjoying the transition.

I pegged Chris for the Heritage Blog the day he started and decided to let him start easy with something he knows and love: Brett Favre material. The only caveat being it had to include Heritage in it. The result is Chris's Top 10 Favre pieces as the ageless QB puts together another stellar year. We only have room today for the first five, which don't include the Heritage lot, but given that Chris is new, we'll let it pass… This time… - Noah Fleisher

On September 20, 2007, Brett Favre surpassed Dan Marino’s career touchdown passing mark when he completed a 16-yard pass to Packers receiver Greg Jennings for his amazing 421st score in front of a Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome crowd. Fast forward two years, and Favre is still slinging it, and coincidentally in that same Minneapolis dome. The difference is, this time he isn’t wearing the Green and Gold. Instead, he’s the enemy, or at least that’s the feeling in the hearts of most Green Bay Packers fans.

After spending a brief tenure in New York with the Jets, and now a Minnesota Viking, Favre is well on his way to winning his fourth NFL Most Valuable Player award, and quite possibly on the path to his third Super Bowl appearance. Favre is a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer, has excelled at a position no other 40-year-old player has ever even come close to … And by the way, has never missed a start during his 280-plus game career.

When considering Favre’s impressive resume already under his belt, no matter how bitter Packers collectors may be about No. 4’s recent career change, there’s no question that quality Favre items are, and will remain a smart investment for all football memorabilia collectors.

The good thing for potential Favre investors is that, recently, hype around the ‘ol gunslinger’s memorabilia has been less-than-spectacular. This has kept the price down. However, once the NFL’s postseason gets underway, and if the Vikings go on a serious Super Bowl run, Favre pieces are going to be on fire as much as one of his 30-yard, finger-breaking fastballs.

Presented here is my list of the Top Ten Brett Favre items in the hobby:

#1: Brett Favre Game-Worn Packers Jersey
No matter what team Favre is playing with, when it’s all said and done, he will always be remembered as a Green Bay Packer. Authentic Favre Packer gamers are definitely few and far between, but if you’re fortunate enough to pick up one of his green or white garments at a decent price, this is a no-brainer for the Favre investor.

#2: Full Ticket from Brett Favre’s 1st Game – September 27, 1992
Brett Favre’s consecutive start streak is one that could even make Cal Ripken Jr. blush. If you can’t afford an unused example from this game, stubs can make for a nice alternative, and a very good investment.

#3: Brett Favre Game-Worn Vikings Jersey
If you need proof, look no further than the example that recently sold for $16,000 by NFL Auction. Granted, this sale was for charity, and that may have had some affect on its realized price, but that is quite a hefty amount for a shirt that’s only a couple months old.

#4: Brett Favre Game-Worn Packers Helmet
The Packers equipment manager, Red Batty has stated that there has never been a Favre Packers game-worn helmet that has been made available to the collecting public. Well, that’s hard to believe, but we do know Favre game-worn helmets are nearly impossible to obtain. Also, the fact that there are many collectors who own Favre game-worn jerseys and would love to add a helmet as a suitable companion, the instant a gold Favre shell is offered it will attract lots of attention among collectors.

#5: Brett Favre Game-Worn Jets Jersey
Despite the fact that Favre only spent one year with the Jets, his New York gamers appear in the hobby from time to time. You will also have your aggressive Favre collectors trying to obtain an authentic gamer from each team he played with. That alone suffices a Jets game-worn jersey at No. 5 on my list.

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-Chris Nerat

Monday, December 14, 2009

Coin Monday: The Catalog Stands Alone

Dec. 14, 2009
Written by John Dale

It’s been a while since I last wrote about the coin cataloger’s perspective, so why not this week? (Don’t worry. You’ll get your coin fix closer to the end of this post. See hint at right.)

As a cataloger, I realize that my coin descriptions have two uses: the short-term and the long-term. In the short term, my lot descriptions have to sell the coins - that’s why I get paid - but finding a balance is tricky. Before the auction, if a consignor doesn’t like what I’ve written - doesn’t think it’s complimentary enough, or believes I’ve left out a Very Important Fact™ - and complains to the Consignment Director, I hear about it.

Then again, after an auction, if a buyer doesn’t like what I’ve written - see above, substituting “strict” for “complimentary” and “customer service department” for “Consignment Director” - I REALLY hear about it. So in selling the coin, I have to “sell” the lot description to two different audiences with wildly different expectations, making bidders say “It’s fair” and consignors say “It’s wonderful!”

While the department doesn’t have a 100% hit rate, considering the tens of thousands of coins the cataloging department describes each year, we come surprisingly close.

Once the auction has closed, the descriptions in the Heritage catalogs have a second life as reference material. While even the most basic photo-and-text description can help with tracking the provenance of an item, the greatest catalogs — usually single-collection catalogs focused on a specialty such as early copper or silver dollars — are treated with nearly the same reverence as scholarly books, and referenced nearly as often. A glance at our Catalog Orders page shows a number of catalogs that have attained this level of respect, such as the Lemus Collection of pattern coins, sold January 2009, and the Belzberg Collection of Canadian coinage, sold January 2003

(Conspicuously absent from the list is the Walter J. Husak Collection catalog, covering his impressive collection of large cents, which has completely sold out and now commands a strong price in secondhand numismatic literature circles. You might have heard about the Husak collection — maybe from the Washington Post or Ripley’s Believe It or Not! or even Saturday Night Live. Cue Seth Meyers: "A California man's collection of 301 rare American pennies [Bzzt! Never call a cent a “penny,” even if you’re Seth Meyers. – Noah] sold at auction this week for $10.7 million. Far exceeding my pre-auction estimate of three dollars and one cent.")

In January 2010, Heritage will hold two auctions with specialized catalogs that have every chance of becoming time-tested references. On the World Coins side, the Canadiana Collection will be auctioned in New York City. It’s one of the most jaw-dropping collections of Canadian coinage ever assembled—the legendary 1936 Dot cent is just one of many highlights.

On the U.S. side, the standalone collection leading the way in our Florida United Numismatists (FUN) auction has a distinct Floridian flavor: it’s called The Boca Collection, Part I. The collection contains a complete run of the 71 proof sets issued from 1856 to 1953, covering denominations up to one (silver) dollar.

The 1890 set has an added bonus: the four gold denominations, from two and a half dollars to $20, are also included in proof. Every one of those coins is a rare delight. Each year, Heritage auctions coins and collectibles from thousands of consignors. Every consignment is appreciated, but only a handful of these collections have the value and the strength to stand alone. While I treat each coin that comes across my desk with the respect it deserves, I invariably find myself giving extra attention to coins destined for stand-alone catalogs.

A stand-alone catalog means a great collection, and even if Heritage is going to sell it off one lot at a time, a collection that great deserves to last, if only in pages.

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-John Dale Beety

Friday, December 11, 2009

Me and Detective 27

Dec. 11, 2009
Posted by Noah

What can I say? When in the presence of a comic book like the one you see in my hands in this picture - a pristine 8.0 graded copy of Detective Comics #27, the first appearance of Batman, tied with one other for the best copy known - you give in to the geek factor. Tell me you wouldn't do the same?

This comic will be part of the February 2010 Comic Auction, will most likely end up being the single most valuable comic book ever offered at public auction, and will once and for all settle the eternal question of who is the more popular and/or valuable. This picture will tell you what I think. I don't think anyone would argue that Batman is certainly more relevant to this day and age than Super... Sorry...

The amazing thing about this comic book is that, yes, it is actually as gorgeous as it looks. The colors are rich and full, the detail is crystal clear and the thing is absolutely perfectly centered. It is every bit a work of art, and will command a price worthy of such. You can believe the hype on this one. I've said it before in this blog that it takes a lot to make our comic experts sit up and take notice. Needless to say, they - who have seen pretty much every great comic book ever made - did exactly what I did: they whipped out their cameras, handed it to the nearest person, and said, "take a picture of me with it!"

Yes, look at it, enjoy it, love it, but don't get too used to it.... Unless, of course, you have about a half million bucks to spend. Then it's all yours.
To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.
-Noah Fleisher

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tiger, Tiger memorabilia and the whole salacious affair: Thoughts from the Heritage Auctions Blog

Dec. 9, 2009
Posted by Noah

Perhaps you live in a cave somewhere deep in the mountains. Maybe you're a survivalist in a tree house deep in the woods living off your wiles. If that is the case, then you can be forgiven for not knowing about the ugly details of the unraveling of the monolith that was Tiger Woods.

I don't want to pile on to Tiger, because he's certainly getting a deserved pounding right now in the media and from his diminished fan base, but this is a monster entirely of his own making. Before two weeks ago, a suspicious car crash and the revelation of many women that they were paramours of the World's #1 golfer, Tiger's meticulously crafted and carefully guarded public image was squeaky clean to the point of shining. Now, not so much...

Now, Heritage Auctions is not the biggest dealer in Tiger memorabilia, but we have sold some... Though none since the story broke... so it's difficult to say if values will go down in a concrete sense - there is no proof yet. But...

I've spoken with most of my friends about this mess, many folks here, and with Heritage's Director of Sports Auctions, Chris Ivy, who was kind enough to spare a few minutes of his time for to discuss this whole debacle, and in his quite erudite opinion, and I'm paraphrasing Chris, how in the world could this not affect the value of his pieces? At least not in the short term.

Here's the thing: Most of us wanted to believe that Tiger was a clean as his image. He is the single greatest golf player (almost) of all-time, and his sport is easily the most elegant and refined of any major sport. It all added up magnificently - it was perfect. He's the greatest athlete in the world, people fall at his feet, and yet he was a charitable, humble man, a loving father and husband and, best of all, a sober role model for the millions that adore(d) him. We all want badly for it to be true... So badly... Now it seems that he, on many of those levels, is not what he presented himself to be. Speculation runs rampant.

What hurts the most is that this is the image Tiger himself wanted to project, and he did it masterfully. Had he never been presented as the Super Man, his fall from grace would have been less stunning. But it's not. It's actually more stunning, as it always is when a carefully constructed house of cards comes tumbling down.

The real revelation, which shouldn't be a revelation at all, is that Tiger is simply a man, and he is flawed like every one, and replete with weaknesses like every human. We all deal with pressure in different ways and - to say the least - most of us can never even consider the kind the kind of pressure that Tiger is under day in and day out, let alone reckon how to deal with it. In that sense, Tiger deserves somewhat of a break, I suppose, though there is little anodyne for the sting of this disappointment.

Would it do Tiger any good to pull a Kobe? Should he buy Elin a great big rock and change his ways? I do believe the public would welcome back a penitent Tiger with open arms, especially if he is sincere in his reformation. Mrs. Woods, however? Most of us can answer the question for ourselves as to where we would stand were it us. But we're not necessarily married to the single most charismatic person on the planet, no matter how much I tell my wife she is...

It will be interesting in the months to come to see how Tiger plays golf under the added scrutiny, and how his memorabilia plays given his recent tribulations. A couple major championships should ease the pressure a bit... It's that very pursuit, however, that got him into this situation in the first place.

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-Noah Fleisher

Monday, December 7, 2009

Coin Monday: The Legend of the 1943 Bronze Cent

Dec. 7, 2009
Written by John Dale

Back in late October, I discussed wrong-planchet errors in the context of a Franklin half dollar that had been struck on a planchet designed for a quarter. (The results from Houston are in, and the piece sold for $1,150. Not bad for a Mint mistake!) At the end, I left a slightly cryptic clue to another wrong-planchet error I knew about: “Oh, but I did mention ‘wrong size or type,” didn’t I? Well, I’ll tell you about that later…”

It’s officially later, if later than I’d planned, so now it’s time to let you in on the secret. This is the good stuff. The really, really good stuff.

For those of you who clicked and didn’t experience sudden coin euphoria, let me slip into my best Olmec impression and tell you The Legend of the 1943 Bronze Cent:

“Long ago, in the city of Philadelphia, there was a building called the U.S. Mint. In the early days of World War II, when copper was needed urgently for bullets and artillery shells, the Mint was using tons of copper to strike one cent coins, which were made out of bronze. To save that copper for the war effort, the Mint metallurgists experimented with other, different metals in search of a replacement. They even tried making cents out of plastic!

In 1943, for one year only, the Mint made cents out of zinc-coated steel, but a handful of 1943-dated cents were made in the old bronze alloy instead, and one of them made its way to the January 2010 FUN Auction!

Your quest is to outbid the rest of the room, retrieve the 1943 bronze cent, and add it to your collection.”

…yes, I watched Legends of the Hidden Temple way too much as a kid. To Viacom, Nickelodeon’s corporate parent: no box set? Seriously? Not even a “best-of” compilation on one DVD? But I want to give you money...

Where was I? Oh, yes, 1943 bronze cent. These wrong-metal rarities have been sources of intrigue ever since their discovery, and even today, tall tales about them flourish. To quote the 1943 bronze cent’s description in the catalog:

“Almost from the outset, the 1943 bronze cents were the subject of misinformation. Henry Ford, the automobile titan, supposedly offered a new car in exchange for a 1943 ‘copper’ cent, for example; this was not the first coin hoax centered around Ford. … Similarly, news dispatches in 1999 about a 1943 bronze cent supposedly spent as an ordinary coin overestimated its value; the original wire report claimed it was worth a quarter of a million dollars, a number that increased to a cool half-million as the story was retold!”

The legends made the 1943 bronze cent as special as it is. Generations have sought it, most finding nothing, some discovering a great love for coins. The best part of any legend, though, is its tiny center of truth, and that truth—3.11 grams of bronze, stamped by dies that never should have struck anything but steel—makes all the built-up hype seem irrelevant. It sits in the hand, sandwiched between layers of protective plastic, terribly ordinary-looking for such a prized relic. Yet it is the driving force, the dreamed-of ending for thousands of stories, true stories.

Come January, let the end be written.

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-John Dale Beety

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

John Dillinger Dilligence: Amazing trove relating to America's most famous ganster readies at Heritage Auctions

Dec. 2, 2009
Posted by Noah

So this one has been a few months in the making, has encompassed national news coverage, a few would-be scandals from mongerers of such things and a whole lot of open-mouthed astonishment from those of us here at Heritage that have actually come face to face with the amazing John Dillinger trove, consigned by Dillinger's little sister, Frances Helen, that will be featured in the Dec. 12 Arms & Militaria Auction.

Let's just say that it's an exciting thing. Letters, guns, clothing, watches and even currency that was in Dillinger's pocket when he was shot, all of these things are part of this amazing trove. It's one of those amazing gatherings that defy explanation when you first see it. It takes a lot to impress the experts at Heritage, but when this stuff came in our Director of Civil War & Militaria Auctions, one Dennis Lowe - normally a man of quiet reserve - could barely contain his amazement.

"I've been in this business 38 years," he said, "and I've never seen anything like this. A grouping of materials this significant, and related to such a huge figure in America's collective memory, is a truly remarkable occurrence in the annals of collecting."

Agreed, times two. Actually, make that infinity+1 no backs.

The icing on the cake will be when Frances Helen herself comes to town for the auction next week. She's in her 80s now, having been only 12 when "Johnny" was killed, and she's still as sharp as ever and her memories of her older brother are quite clear. This amazing gathering of Dillinger-related material has been in her possession for decades and, while it may seem a vast treasure to the rest of us, to her it has been a heavy reminder of her departed and beloved big brother. She has held on to them to assure their safety, and the safety of her brother's legacy, but has decided that now is the time to part with the treasure, all to benefit her family's future.

For what it's worth, Dillinger comes off very well in archive, but still very crafty and smart. He relates in detailed letters to his father how he came to be who he is, and is represented physically by an amazing hunting suit worn during the shootout in Little Bohemia, WI. If history and popular memory bears out that Dillinger wasn't such a nice guy, his family still views him as a generally good man gone astray, one who just happened to really like robbing banks but never hurt anyone.

It may be disputable whether the last bit is true, but it's also never been proven.

One thing that will be proven in just under two weeks from now is what these amazing personal Dillinger treasures are worth to the collecting world at large. His Double Derringer, seized when he was arrested in Tucson, AZ, sold for more than $95,000 last June. If the items in this archive come anywhere close to that, then Frances Helen and her progeny stand to do pretty well off of Big Brother Johnny.
For all the damage he had done to his name and family during his crime sprees in the 1930s, perhaps his greatest legacy will ultimately be the security he has provided his family with, and the pop culture treasures released to the world.

To leave a comment click on the title of this post.

-Noah Fleisher

Monday, November 30, 2009

Coin Monday: "The $100,000 Nickel"? Not Anymore!

November 30, 2009
Written by John Dale Beety
The Heritage Blog

Last week, I mentioned that the January 2010 FUN U.S. Coin Auction contains more than one million-dollar coin. As promised, this week I’ll discuss the other piece. Interestingly enough, this won’t be the first time I’ve talked about this particular million-dollar coin in the blog; I led off my “Seeing Double?” post with a reference to a 1913 Liberty nickel in an episode of Hawaii Five-O.

In early January, the same coin—called “The $100,000 Nickel” at the time of taping and “The Hawaii Five-O Specimen” (among other names) today—will be auctioned by Heritage. There are only five authentic 1913-dated Liberty nickels, and the five have appeared in many of the most famous coin collections of all time. While this is the first time Heritage has offered this or any other 1913 Liberty nickel at auction, there is a Heritage connection in the coin’s past.

Back in 1972, it first became “The $100,000 Nickel” when it was offered by Abe Kosoff for that sum. It was purchased by World Wide Coin Investments, which was co-owned by Warren Tucker, now the Director of Heritage World Coin Auctions.

(Aside: I often call Mr. Tucker Tucker-san, after a humorous incident that took place at a wedding in Tokyo. He had been invited there by the father of the bride, a leading Japanese coin dealer of the day. The wedding guests received appliances as gifts; the men were to get radios, the women crock-pots. As a jest, Mr. Tucker was led to the wrong receiving line, and afterward, the Japanese dealer would greet him with “Ah, Tucker-san, you like the crock-pot?”)

It was shortly after the record-setting and news-making purchase that World Wide Coin Investments lent the 1913 Liberty nickel to production of the Hawaii Five-O episode. Like many high-priced stars of the screen, the 1913 Liberty nickel had a “stunt double” for its various adventures in the show. The actual nickel appears only in close-ups, but in those close-ups, it was seen by millions of viewers, which has led some numismatic experts to call it "The Most Famous Coin in the World".

Before and after its brush with showbiz, the coin has been owned by a variety of famous collectors, including Wall Street scion Colonel E.H.R. Green, Fred Olsen, Dr. Jerry Buss of Los Angeles Lakers fame, and the Texan Reed Hawn. (Reed Hawn’s Class I 1804 dollar was bought by David Queller and sold as part of the Queller Family Collection of Silver Dollars for more than $3.7 million dollars in April 2008, the third-highest price ever brought by a U.S. coin at auction.)

It appeared in the news a month back that CBS is looking to revive the Hawaii Five-O franchise. If they ever do a re-make of “The $100,000 Nickel,” perhaps the coin’s next owner will let it reprise its role. Of course, the episode title is out-of-date now. Nearly four decades on, that $100,000 price tag seems almost quaint. While it’s too early to tell what this 1913 Liberty nickel might bring in January, all the early signs point to “The $3,000,000 Nickel”—or maybe something more.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gobble... Gobble... Gobble... and Happy Thanksgiving from Heritage Auctions

Nov. 25, 2009
Posted by The Heritage Blog

It is Thanksgiving and the Heritage Blog, like most every other American, is taking time to relax for a couple of days, eat some turkey, mash some potatoes and pie some pumpkin - does such a phrase even exists. There may even be some football watching... No shopping, though... Crowds freak The Heritage Blog out.

The Heritage Blog is very thankful for many things in its life, but most thankful of all, dear readers, for you. Thanks for coming and checking out these ramblings.

The Heritage Blog will be back on Monday, Nov. 30, with all new postings.
Gobble, gobble to you and yours.

To leave a comment, though there is nothing to comment on, click on the title of this post.

-The Heritage Blog

Monday, November 23, 2009

Coin Monday: Lucky 13 and the 1927-D Double Eagle

Nov. 23, 2009
Written by John Dale

Normally, I’d be talking about a coin in the upcoming December 2009 Houston U.S. Coin Auction in this space, but if I don’t get started on my preview/commentaries for the January 2010 FUN Auction , I know what’ll happen — it’ll be the day before the auction and I’ll still have half a dozen coins to write about. (That may happen anyway, though. Heritage’s FUN auctions are just that awesome.)

For the longest time I had to keep the secret that a certain coin is coming up for auction, as part of a remarkable set of Saint-Gaudens double eagles. With the mailers we’ve sent out, though, plus the Heritage Web site preview and the humongous advertisement in Coin World, I figure it’s safe to say…

We have a 1927-D! We have a 1927-D! (Insert video clip of me doing the Heritage Happy Dance of Coin Joy.) [Not happening. – Noah]

The 1927-D double eagle is rare, and I’m not talking garden-variety rare. When Heritage sold a Class III 1804 dollar earlier this year for $2.3 million, one of the big selling points, as has always been true in its history, is that there are only 15 known 1804 dollars out there.

In our census of 1927-D double eagles, part of an in-depth and potentially mind-bending catalog description in its final stages, Heritage has accounted for only 13 distinct examples. While 13 is seen by many as an unlucky number, it takes a mighty lucky (and wealthy!) numismatist to own one; moreover, since four of the 1927-D double eagles are in museum collections and thus as good as permanently impounded, that leaves just nine coins for collectors.

Just between us, there are a lot more than nine people who want this coin.

When Heritage offers a 1927-D double eagle, the results can be impressive. We offered this particular 1927-D $20 once before, when it was consigned by the Connecticut State Library; it brought $390,500 back on June 2, 1995. (For reference, I was still in fifth grade then. You may now feel old.)

In the Heritage Auction Hall of Fame’s Coins Wing, 17 of the 20 pieces listed sold for more than a million dollars total, and of the 17, two of the coins are 1927-D double eagles. In November 2005, we sold the MS67 Morse specimen for just under $1.9 million, while the MS65 example we offered in January 2006 went for slightly more than $1.3 million.

This coin is graded MS66, so it splits the difference, and it seems a fairly safe bet that this 1927-D $20, part of the Ralph P. Muller Collection, will be Heritage’s Million-Dollar Coin #18…unless it turns out to be Million-Dollar Coin #19, that is!

The story of that other seven-figure coin, however, will have to wait until next week, so stay tuned…

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-John Dale Beety

Friday, November 20, 2009

Now Hulk Smash World Record! 9.2 #1 issue brings more than $125,000 at Heritage Auctions!

Nov. 20, 2009
Posted by Noah

Easy there, big fella... Easy there...

What I really want to know is why The Hulk's skin changed from more gray-green to more lime green over the years... A little too much broccoli, perhaps, and not enough irradiated beef?

Thank you! Thank you! I'll be here all week...

The real reason you're checking this post out is to find out more about the 9.2 certified Hulk#1 that sold at Heritage yesterday as part of our November Signature Vintage Comics auction, and I don't blame you. It is indeed an amazing copy of a groundbreaking comic book and it brought a price worthy of its title character yesterday when a determined buyer turned over $125,475 to take home that little beauty you see above and to the right.

Hulk was never really my thing - don't get me wrong, if someone wanted to, say, give me a comic book like this one, then who am I to say no? Right? - but I did always love it when he would show up in a Fantastic Four book and poor Ben Grimm would be forced to go fight him, much to Ben's chagrin of course. Allow me to paraphrase:

"Why do I always gotta go fight that guy? It don't matter how hard you hit him, he just gets madder and madder!"

Yeah, that is the problem with fighting the Hulk. I suggest he try a little looser pair of purple pants. I imagine the freedom granted him there might go a long way toward easing some of that , uh... anger... Yeah... Thank you! thank you! All week, as I said...

I also always wanted Ben Grimm to know that I was with him, in spirit, in those fights, and that the reason he always had to fight the hulk was because his stone skin made him nigh invincible. It's the eternal dillema of being The Thing, Ben, don't you see? And don't you, dear blog reader, see what a perceptive and brilliant child I was? All those hours of reading comics have sured paid off now! Take that, Mrs. Draper, my second grade teacher! I want my JLAs back!

Today, Friday, Nov. 20, is also the day that orginal artwork from The Joe Kubert Collection goes on the block - 1 p.m. Central time - and I'm dying to know what the pieces will bring. Joe is awesome, and one of the all-time greats. He's held on to his art all these years and is now starting to let collectors get their hands on it.

Nice of Joe, don't you think?

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-Noah Fleisher

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Woody Allen: The Comic Strip(?), this Sunday in Heritage Auctions Sunday Internet Comics Auction

Nov. 19, 2009
Written by Barry Sandoval

(I got this nice little post yesterday from Barry Sandoval, Heritage Auctions' Director of Comics Operations, regarding quite a fun little lot we have in our Nov. 22 Sunday Internet Comics Auction. It may not be as glamorous as the massive spread Heritage Auctions got yesterday, Nov. 17, in The New York Times on the upcoming auction of Joe Kubert artwork, but it's still plenty cool and just the sort of thing that makes Heritage such a fascinating place to work.

Barry writes nicely and concisely about the original art work for a Sunday strip for Inside Woody Allen, an insecure comic that actually ran in various markets for the better part of a decade. Was it any good? Um... If Woody Allen is your thing - and during the period of the comic he was indeed creating some of his greatest work - then it carries a very intersting place in pop culture.

As a young Jewish kid, let's just say that I was exposed to Woody Allen early and often, and I count Hannah and Her Sisters as one of my Top Five movies of all-time, and proof that there is goodness in the unvierse and that all is right with the world - watch it this Thanksgiving and see if you don't agree with me... As for the strip Barry writes about, let's just say I'd like to have it for my own collection. The bid right now stands at $33, plus BP, so it's just possible I might... Read, enjoy, and thanks to Barry! - Noah Fleisher)

I’ll wager that most people do not remember the comic strip, “Inside Woody Allen,” which ran in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Or more precisely, most people have probably never heard of it in the first place, and whether you have or not probably depends on your hometown. Reportedly a number of newspapers dropped the strip in fairly short order.

One is tempted to say that a strip about a guilty, neurotic type who has dating misadventures wouldn’t “play in Peoria,” but that same formula worked just fine for Cathy, which debuted in 1976 (the same year as Inside Woody Allen) and is still going strong today. Perhaps neuroses are more endearing in a woman than a man… In fact, I’m sure they are.

The strip has received a retrospective in the form of the newly released book Dread and Superficiality: Woody Allen as Comic Strip by the strip’s writer/artist Stuart Hample.

Yes, I said writer/artist – Allen did not write the strip, but as Hample told The Guardian: “(Allen) judged the material and offered suggestions on how to develop characters and pace gags, and pleaded with me to maintain high standards.”

Heritage hadn’t offered an Inside Woody Allen Sunday before this week, but there’s one in the auction ending this Sunday night, offered without reserve.

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

- Barry Sandoval

Monday, November 16, 2009

Coin Monday: What’s in a Chain?

Nov. 16, 2009
Written by John Dale

Symbolism, as any political cartoonist can attest, is a tricky tool, built almost entirely on connotations.

Judged correctly, symbols are powerful; misjudged, however, they are damaging.

Worse yet, a symbol may be accepted in one context but decried in another. The use of a chain as a device on late 18th century U.S. coinage offers an interesting case study: it was accepted on the Fugio cents of 1787, but rejected on the Chain cents of 1793.

The Fugio cents, the first coins issued by the United States under the authority of the U.S. Constitution, used a chain motif on the reverse, 13 linked circles around the motto “WE ARE ONE.”

On the obverse, a sun hangs over a sundial and aphorisms, such as FUGIO (“I fly,” or when paired with the sundial, “time flies”) and the ever-popular “MIND YOUR BUSINESS.”

The chain was interpreted as a call for national unity, important with the still-fractious debates over Constitutional ratification ongoing; at the least, the chain motif received less comment than the controversy surrounding fulfillment of the Fugio cents’ coinage contract.

(Side note: the Fugio cents, though not popularly known, received an oblique mention as the “first U.S. coins” on the PBS children’s game show Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? The episode centered around Sir Vile traveling back to the ancient kingdom of Lydia to steal the first minted coins. When I played along at home, I didn’t miss a single question. I wonder why…)

When the first U.S. Mint opened in 1792 and copper coinage began the next year, the cent also featured a chain on the reverse, but it was paired with a portrait of Liberty on the obverse. The Chain cent received immediate criticism.

Many public comments interpreted the chain as a symbol of slavery and not national unity. One famous complaint, the source variously given as a Philadelphian or Bostonian newspaper: “The chain on the reverse is but a bad omen for Liberty…”

Liberty herself was said to be “in a fright” by the same commentator. Bowing to public pressure, the Mint quickly scrapped the Chain cent reverse, replacing it with a wreath.

Both the Fugio cents and the scarce Chain cents are highly prized by collectors of early copper, and the Chain cents in particular have been popular for more than a century and a half. The idea of a chain on a coin, on the other hand, took much longer to catch on.

I’ll admit I might have missed an obscure issue somewhere in the past, but after the Chain cent, the next such design I can find is a modern commemorative struck more than two centuries later, the 1994 U.S. Prisoner of War Museum silver dollar.

The obverse shows an eagle with a chain on its leg. On that design, unlike those of the past, the symbolism is clear. The chain is broken.

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-John Dale Beety

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Where are the Wild Things? Well... A first edition was once seen at Heritage Auctions

November 11, 2009
Written by Joe Fay

I was in a bookstore last night, as I seem to be most nights when I can find the time, and ran into a curious little book that got me thinking about a beautiful new movie and, subsequently, the classic book from whence it came, and, yet again, to the place I work and the job that I do there.

Let me explain:

I'm talking about Where the Wild Things Are. Last night, I spied a copy of Dave Eggers' new novelization of the Spike Jonze film adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic illustrated children's book. As a rare book person, I couldn't help notice the weird and twisted creative path this story had taken to arrive at this new book: classic children's book to screenplay to film to film adaptation, like a game of "telephone" played by eclectic popular creative artists. Sendak to Jonze to Eggers, oh, my.

Written by modern fiction's jack-of-all-trades, and co-writer of the screenplay for the film, Dave Eggers, the new novelization of Where the Wild Things Are, titled simply The Wild Things, was published in two versions. Of course (and again), being a rare book person, I immediately contextualized the two releases into vastly disparate tiers of future desirability. The trade edition is nice, and will continue to be bought and read, but it just ain't that cool.

The deluxe edition of the novelization is cool. True to his McSweeney's roots, Eggers master-minded a deluxe "fur-covered edition" of his novelization which includes a dust jacket made of grey fur, reminiscent of Max's wolf costume in the movie. It's a very cute touch that will surely have children's book collectors savoring the deluxe edition for years and probably decades to come.

The value of this fur-covered edition will never approach the first edition, first printing of Sendak's original, and the reasoning goes straight to what makes rare books rare and less rare books, well, less rare.

Mainly, what I'm talking about is the idea that collectors ultimately place the most value on "first" things.

As an example to illustrate the point, take Shakespeare's First Folio of 1623, the first time most of the Bard's plays were collected and published together. The value of this book is in the millions. By comparison, the movie tie-in for Kenneth Branagh's Henry V or Mel Gibson's Hamlet ain't worth a plugged nickel.

Eggers' fur-covered edition of The Wild Things will most assuredly be worth more than chump change in coming years, but it remains to be seen if it will be a truly collectible book. On the other hand, there's no doubt that Sendak's 1963 first edition in the first issue dust jacket will continue to appreciate. We've had the pleasure of selling one copy of Where the Wild Things Are at Heritage in June 2008 for $3,346, and hope to sell many more in the coming years.

In case you're wondering what makes a first issue dust jacket for this book, it must have a three-paragraph blurb on the front flap, three paragraphs on the rear flap, and no Caldecott medal, nor mention of one anywhere on the dust jacket. If your copy fits these criteria, you probably have a valuable book in your hands.

If you want to sell it, my direct line is (214) 409-1544.

Let the wild rumpus start!

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-Joe Fay

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes" or, best wishes to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from Heritage Auctions

Nov. 10, 2009
Posted by Noah

I never really liked Kareem Abdul-Jabbar until I was 10 years old, it was 1980, and my babysitter took me and my brothers to see Airplane! Kareem's cameo as co-pilot "Joey Murdock" was a great turn for the imposing Lakers big man, and funny, too.

Now, growing up in Dallas, in the years just before the Mavs came to town, the Lakers weren't much on my radar, or that of any of my friends. During the finals, in his classic battles against Bird and the Celtics, we watched and played, imitating Kareem's towering sky hook on the under-sized playground hoop, but that was about it. For most of us it was the Cowboys or nothing, and a few sad sacks - like me - even perpetually pined for a winning season for the hapless Rangers? Where have you gone, Buddy Bell?

The news today that Kareem is suffering from Leukemia, and that his prognosis is good, is welcome news to sports fans in general, many of whom - like me - are realizing today how much we've always like Kareem, and how much we wish him well.

Abdul-Jabbar has always been a class act, and an advocate for civil rights. He was impressive on the court, as his numerous records attest to, but his legacy off the court has been no less impressive. He has lived his life well and has continued to contribute to the NBA, via his position as a special assistant with the Lakers, and now will carry the banner for chronic myeloid leukemia, a form of the disease most of the world had not heard of until Kareem came forward this morning.

As with most any major sports stars, Kareem has a presence in the Heritage Auctions Archive. There are several autographs, sculptures of him and numerous signed balls. The top of the top, however, is a 1980s Abdul-Jabbar game worn Jersey that brought more than $7,000 in October of 2006. It's a prime Kareem jersey from the era of them an in his top professional form. It's also safe to say that most kareem autographs and cards, from the least to the best, are probably worth a little more today due to the man's brave admission.

I don't reckon Kareem frequents this blog, but just in case you are reading, Kareem, here's hoping you stay healthy and strong. The world is a better place with you in it.

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-Noah Fleisher

Monday, November 9, 2009

Coin (Glass) Monday: An Americana Detour

Nov. 9, 2009
Written by John Dale

Coin Monday has just made a temporary detour — don’t worry, though! I’ll be going back to the world of actual coins soon enough. (The December Houston U.S. Coin Auction catalog should be printing as this posts!).

There’s another auction of interest to numismatists that’s coming up even sooner, and it just can’t wait. Our November 2009 Grand Format Americana Auction has the Mike Follett Collection, which contains more than two dozen lots of glassware that should appeal to coin collectors and antique glass collectors alike. I’ll give you two guesses as to what it’s called…

Coin glass, in its original form, was manufactured for just five months, with pieces in the Mike Follett Collection dated to either 1892 or 1893. The Central Glass Company, which did business in Wheeling, West Virginia, began creating pieces of glassware that featured impressions of actual coins, such as Morgan dollars and Seated halves as well as smaller denominations and motifs from the Columbian half dollar, the nation’s first silver commemorative coin.

The coin glass sold well enough on novelty value that it came to the attention of the Treasury, which, predictably enough, was not particularly enthused about a private company replicating U.S. coinage. The Treasury claimed that the Central Glass Company’s method of manufacture was illegal, and the molds used to make the coin glass were destroyed. The Central Glass Company itself did not last much longer.

Though the manufacture of the original coin glass was short-lived, it remains well-appreciated today, both by collectors of antique glassware and numismatists. The Mike Follett Collection is itself proof of the latter; he was a widely known and well-liked professional numismatist who established his firm here in Dallas. He passed away early this year; our offering of his collection of coin glass is not merely an auction, but a way to honor him. Pick up a copy of the catalog, and just past the Dear Bidder letter, you’ll see what I mean.

Then, on the facing page, the Americana auction begins with fragments of $20 bills recovered from the ransom money paid to D.B. Cooper, the enigmatic hijacker who leapt from a plane in the American Northwest in 1971 and vanished into myth. We last offered bills from the D.B. Cooper ransom in June 2008; here are the results.

But that’s currency, not coins. Now I must walk back from the river, retrace my steps through the forest, and find my way home… (Just follow your carefully laid trail of Morgan Dollars, John Dale. You'll be home in time for supper, and none the worse for wear... - Noah Fleisher)

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-John Dale Beety

Thursday, November 5, 2009

In Memoriam: Don Ivan Punchatz

Nov. 5, 2009
Written by Don Mangus

The passing of Don Ivan Punchatz (1936-2009) is a hard blow, the loss of a fine friend. Beyond his unparalleled talent for science fiction and surreal fantasy illustration, Don will be lovingly remembered as an insightful, enlightened, and compassionate creative talent who mentored and inspired generations of younger artists. Don Punchatz absolutely obliterated the sardonic wise-crack of “Those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach.”

Don grew up in Hillside, New Jersey, and after he graduated from high school he won a scholarship to the famous Cartoonists and Illustrators School in NYC. There, comic strip legend Burne Hogarth took the youthful artist under his wing. When I last saw Don, he reminisced over lunch how much Hogarth’s staunch support and enthusiasm had meant to him. Such warm sentiments, still felt 50-plus years later, must have shaped Don’s own nurturing attitude towards his many students and assistants.

Check the world-wide web or any first-rate reference book on science fiction illustration, and you will quickly recognize the hyper-realistic, magical pieces that Don created. You might even experience a “eureka moment” as you recall the impact they’ve made in popular culture. In his autobiography on, Don modestly summarized his career, “At first, Punchatz was known primarily as a paperback artist, producing science fiction, fantasy, and horror covers for Ace, Berkley, Dell, Avon, Macmillan, New American Library, and Warner Books among others.

However, as his work became better known, he soon began receiving commissions from many national magazines including Playboy, Penthouse, Esquire, National Lampoon, Time, Omni, Rolling Stone, and Boys’ Life. Many of these commissions were directly related to science fiction and fantasy subject matter.” Among his most celebrated works are his cover paintings for Isaac Asimov’s famous Foundation trilogy from Avon Books, the cover illustration for Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions anthology, and the packaging art for the best-selling video game, Doom.

Don’s autobiography continued, “In 1970, he founded SketchPad Studio where a number of young illustrators began their careers. Later, many of them went on to establish their own national reputations. It was also in 1970 that Punchatz began teaching illustration at Texas Christian University and continued to do so for 35 years. He was also a guest instructor for Syracuse University’s Independent Masters Program since the mid-1980s.”

While Don was a frequent guest at our local Dallas comic conventions, I actually met him at the home of comic book artist Pat Boyette in the early 1990s. Before he turned to a career in filmmaking and comics, Boyette had been a San Antonio based TV/Radio broadcaster. Always intensely interested in Boyette’s variegated careers, I was delighted to learn that when Don had been stationed in San Antonio during an army stint in the late 1950s, he had watched Boyette’s newscasts and was a fan. Thirty years later, when he was first introduced to Boyette, Don had remembered him from those newscasts. It’s a small, wonderful world. As visual artists, Punchatz and Boyette had an immense mutual respect for each other. To me, these two kindred creative souls were “cut of the same cloth,” and it was a pleasure to watch them interact.

During Boyette’s slow, sad decline in health, his friends and family were touched by Don Punchatz’s bottomless emotional support for our mutual friend. However it wasn’t just Boyette who was the beneficiary of such deeply felt compassion. Don felt that way about all of his friends, whether new or old. He was one of the kindest men I’ve ever met. After all is said and done, along with his life’s work of awe-inspiring artworks, those who were fortunate enough to know him will never forget the unsinkable spirit and remarkable generosity of Don Ivan Punchatz.

To leave a comment click on the title of this post.

-Don Mangus

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Heritage Auctions' Collector's Corner: For the love of cents and a grandfather

Nov. 3, 2009
Posted by Noah

(Today, in the latest installment of Heritage's Collector's Corner, our writer offers up a moving tribute to his childhood collection of cents, as well as the grandfather that lovingly got him started. The core of this wonderful story, however, is the regret the writer expresses around an impulse act, centered on a craze of his youth, which actually led him to make a mistake with his collection of cents. Whether the collection was ultimately worth more or less than he got from an unscrupulous dealer is immaterial to the lesson that he ultimately learned. There is a happy ending, though, so no worries. As a successful professional the writer was able to get back some of that early lost innocence and, in the process, bring him back to the grandfather he so loved and the coin collecting experiences with that grandfather that meant so much to him. Enjoy! - Noah Fleisher)

When I was eight years old my grandpa Abe gave my brother and I a handful of Indian head cents. I was intrigued by these beautiful coins from another time and wondered who may have held them almost a century before. This began my fascination with coins.

It was a time when you could walk into a bank, give the teller an old dollar bill, and walk out with a shiny silver dollar. Or buy a role of pennies and occasionally find an Indian head cent. I began collecting primarily Lincolns and Indian cents. The Lincolns I found in my change. Most of my Indians were gifts from my grandpa Abe. The coins were all placed in those old blue albums. I would always check the dates of the coins in my pocket, hoping to find a 1909-S VDB or a 1955 double die. My collection grew and I would spend nights poring over my albums, hoping to fill the empty holes.

When I was 11 I made a mistake that I will always regret.

In suburban New York, we were in the middle of the “slot car” craze. Young teens took their electric model cars to stores with electric race tracks. We paid a small fee to race our cars. My best friend Larry had just bought a car, a beautiful red “Manta Ray,” and I badly needed money for a car of my own. I took my penny collections to a coin dealer in town. He examined the coins carefully and, after much eyebrow raising, offered me around $6.

Whether I was swindled or just had a lot of junk, I will never know. But I took the money.

That evening, I stayed awake in bed and felt very empty. I never mentioned it to my grandpa, but to this day I feel guilty about selling these small gifts he lovingly gave me. I don’t remember what happened to the slot car. The craze ended within a year.

My love of coin collecting, however, never left. I would always check the dates of the coins in my pocket.

As a teenager, I began saving “wheat backs” and silver coins after they began disappearing in 1965. I never really found anything of value in all this (although once I found a 1912-D Lincoln in VF condition), but I loved the thrill of the hunt. I still have all those wheat backs and silver coins, but they are largely worth only their “melt-down” value.

About 15 years ago, when I turned 40, I was a busy physician and met a patient who was a coin dealer. I told him of my love of coins and joked how I dreamed as a youngster of finding 1909 S VDB Lincoln in my pocket change. He called me a few days later and told me he located one - a nicely graded uncirculated coin - and was I interested?

I knew little about grading, but educated myself that day through the Internet. I purchased the coin later that week (a PCGS MS63 RD). Actually owning this coin was the realization of a childhood fantasy. The next month I bought a 1955 double die (PCGS AU55) on eBay.

I then started collecting coins that I always loved to look at in the “Red Book” as a child: Peace dollars, Indian eagles, and, of course, Lincolns and Indian cents.

Having my collection back is comforting and takes me back to the days when I would run through the door of my grandpa’s Brooklyn apartment to see what wonderful surprise awaited me.

To leave a comment please click on the title of this post.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Coin Monday: Branching Out: A Branch Mint Proof Morgan Dollar Heritage Auctions December Houston event

Nov. 2, 2009
Written by John Dale

In the history of U.S. coinage, only three official mints have produced proof coinage according to a defined schedule: Philadelphia (inception to 1964 and sporadically thereafter), San Francisco (1968 to present), and West Point (most gold and platinum proofs since 1984). The other five current or historical mints - Charlotte, NC, Dahlonega, GA, New Orleans, LA, Carson City, NV and the still-active Denver, CO - have not or did not.

Note the term "defined schedule," however: in the above list of the five mints not to regularly strike proof coins, the last three struck coins that are today recognized as proofs.

Early in its history, for example, the New Orleans Mint struck half dollars that are today recognized as proofs; Heritage has auctioned a few, such as this extremely rare 1839-O half dollar in PR63. Another famous O-mint proof coin is the 1879-O Morgan dollar. Denver, too, has a handful of branch mint proofs known or suspected, most notably a 1907-D double eagle.

This leaves Carson City.

While the Nevada mint was scrutinized from afar by politicians in the nation’s capital, who shut it down twice - first in 1885 for four years, and then in 1893 for good - there were a number of obvious practical difficulties in trying to supervise a mint in what was essentially a frontier town.

While Carson City struck an official branch mint proof issue, the 1893-CC Morgan dollar, in its final year of issue, there are also a number of unauthorized proofs from the same mint. One example is the proof 1884-CC dollar, an example of which will be offered in Heritage Auctions' December 2009 Houston U.S. Coin auction.

The Carson City Mint never received the specialized equipment, such as high-powered coin presses, that Philadelphia used to strike its proof coins. Nor did Carson City’s personnel have experience with striking proofs. That said, the proof 1884-CC dollar is a reasonable facsimile of a Philadelphia product: the signature bold strike and mirror-like fields are there. While the rims are not absolutely square, this can be accounted for by the fact that Carson City had to use circulation-coinage dies to strike the proofs, according to the catalog description.

This proof 1884-CC dollar, produced in an apparent moment of numismatic naughtiness, is a scrumptious treat for the discerning Morgan dollar collector, a sinfully rich dessert served with forbidden-fruit compote. Who wants a taste?

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-John Dale Beety

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Day in the Life of an Auctioneer, or Heritage Auctions presents lots and lots of lots

Oct. 29, 2009
Written by Stewart Huckaby

(I have the pleasure today of introducing a new writer to the masses of Heritage Blog readers, one Stewart Huckaby, a longtime numismatist, editor of the Heritage Weekly Coin Newsletter, and all around computer Jack-of-All-Trades here at Heritage Auctions. He's also a good writer. Stewart today has given the blog some insight into the world of actual auctioneering - what happens on the podium, when and how. It is interesting and much appreciated. In my capacity in PR here at Heritage, I spend a lot of time with the actual items - I know, I know, it's rough, but someone has to do it - in order to write about and promote them. I rarely get the time to watch, let alone learn about, the actual auctions themselves, except in prices provided to me after an event. My thanks to Stewart for opening the window. Take a few minutes now and climb in… - Noah Fleisher)

Woke up… got out of bed… dragged a comb across my head…

With all due respect to the Beatles, anyone who knows me knows that that’s not how my day starts – besides the fact that my supply of hair is continually decreasing, what’s left is not something you would want to waste a comb on.

A little introduction is in order, I think. I’m a long time numismatist, and I’ve been editing the Heritage weekly coin newsletter since about the time I started here seven years ago. I have a lot of other jobs here; in fact, I wear so many hats that sometimes I think the company wants me to consign my collection.

Near the end of last year the company decided that they wanted to get a number of new auctioneers licensed. Figuring - with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek - that I didn’t have enough different jobs around here, I decided to go through the process. After the required classroom instruction and a passed state exam, the license came in near the end of March. Then, after a slow period where I only called one auction for the first six months I was licensed, October saw me calling auctions seemingly every Friday.

Friday the 23rd, the last floor session of the Dallas US Coin Signature Auction, was my first experience calling a Heritage coin auction. The usual questions came up: Will there be lots of bidders in the room? Will I call lots at the right speed? Is there anything really expensive that I don’t want to mess up? What kind of dinner are they serving?

As it turned out, there were maybe 7-8 bidders in the room when the night started. This isn’t bad for a regular coin session away from a major show; Platinum Nights, on the other hand, will fill the room most of the time.

Auctioning coins for Heritage is a little different than calling most other types of collectibles. In most Heritage auctions, you might say something to introduce the lot, and this means that it helps to know something – well, not necessarily about the specific collectible you’re selling, but certainly about the subject of the collectible. For example, I’m not a sports memorabilia expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know sports, and most of the time I can speak with at least a little knowledge of the subject of the lot.

With coins, you’re selling a lot of lots, which means that you have to take bids, period. There are more lots in coin (and currency) auctions than in the auctions for any other type of collectible we sell, and neither the bidders nor anyone working the auction wants to be up until dawn when there are a lot of lots to sell. In practice, coin and currency auctions roll along at roughly twice the speed of the others.

The process of calling an auction requires you to think on your feet, literally. You need to know the bidding rules and the increments – and half increments – backwards and forwards. This is easier said than done when someone places a cut bid when the current bid is $3,750 and you’re calling for $4,000. You need to be able to hold an audience both in the room and over HeritageLIVE; if you put the bidders to sleep, they’re not going to be able to bid (“Sir, was that a yawn or a bid?”). Above all, you need to be fair and to get things right – and to not let things go to hell when something goes wrong. And you need to do all this and ask for bids at the same time.

Thankfully, we have good people to make sure that the auction goes smoothly. Generally, three people are on the podium – the auctioneer in the center, flanked by one person running the book – that is, the bids that come through, as well as mail, fax, and other written bids – and the other running HeritageLIVE bidding.

We open the lot at the same amount that shows up as the current bid on the Website, although if there are also proxy bids through HeritageLIVE, the bid on the floor will rise very quickly. At that point, live HeritageLIVE bids, floor bids, and phone bids might come in. Some lots just open and close. Other times, the bidding can be intense, and I’m just trying to make sure I see and recognize all the bids.

I called the eagles (no, Don Henley did not answer) and Liberty twenties; Bob Korver handled the rest of the session. There wasn’t really a huge amount of bidding activity during the session – there were some battles between HeritageLIVE bidders, as always, and there were a number of floor bids, but there wasn’t the kind of back and forth bidding that had taken place at the Sports and Autographs auctions I’d called earlier this month.

The lots seemed to roll along fairly quickly, although at one point, Jacob Walker handed me a note that said that I was only auctioning 100 lots an hour, which translates to: “Yikes, we’ll be here all night!”

It turns out I was going substantially faster than that, although still not as quickly as I would have liked – 200 lots in an hour is probably about right in a coin auction, and I was maybe 20% slower than that. Yes, I’ve done the math; that makes for an average 18 second lot time, which seems (and is) really fast, but again, we want to sell everything before the roosters start waking up.

If you were watching me in action on HeritageLIVE, I sincerely hope the video didn’t freeze, and I apologize for any damage your computer monitor may have suffered. My face is best suited for the telephone, largely because radio doesn’t want me.

Still, from a personal standpoint, I thought I did Okay – only one error that I know of, and that was in the bidder’s favor. Most importantly, most everything sold, and the prices looked pretty good.

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-Stewart Huckaby

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Martignette, baby, Martignette: Part II today at Heritage

Oct. 27, 2009
Posted by Noah

As you may have sussed if you've read this blog more than once - Mom? Are you there? - I've got kind of a thing for Illustration Art. My life is nothing like Charles Martignette's life, and I am nothing like Martignette, I promise, but I understand the man on the level that - if I could - I would gladly devote my every waking hour to pursuing the very best examples of illustration and locking them away in a couple of remote warehouses that I would only access under cover of dark.

Okay, maybe a bit too dramatic, but today is the day, after all, that the second part of Martignette's epic, astonishing collection hits the auction block as part of our October Illustration Auction. And let me tell you, included in this auction is some of the tastiest American Art ever produced. Period. The thing is deep with Elvgren, steeped in Vargas and dripping with Leyendecker, Bolles, Moran, Avati, Flagg, Lovell and so many more...

What will today bear out? The first auction, in July of this year, was a stunner, with Martignette pulling down more than $3 million alone, with some amazing prices paid deep into the auction. There were many paintings in that auction that I really wanted but never had a shot at, really, because they were all going for multiples of their estimates. The sale had Heritage Auctions all over the news, with a great write-up in the New York Times and an AP story that spread across the globe. The excitement in the room, especially for the Elvgrens, was palpable.

There is not so much hype around this auction, but the word is certainly out, and you can bet that there will be people bidding, and bidding hard, for the best examples. The hardcore collectors are already vying for the top pieces, and there is no shortage of people who came in because of the PR from the first one and, like me, got hooked. The only difference is that in most cases, I presume, they can buy. I can't, yet, but I can certainly dream...

I can tell you this, too, that there are a couple paintings - two in particular - from the first auction that, if they ever come back on the market, will not escape me. Which ones, you ask?

Not telling, I say.
The painting above, Earl Moran's unabashed masterpiece Golden Hours, is my favorite in this auction. And trust me, there are about 100 more competing right next to it, but this one famous image from the 1940s is a magnificent study of form and color. Moran was known for his use of bold background colors, but if you look at the painting to the left of this graph, Evening Glow, which is another truly gorgeous portrait, you can see that Moran was, simply, a master of light. Move past the fact that he painted women, if it bothers you - he was a journeyman painter, he needed to feed his family, and it was good work.

It must also be said that I have exceedingly good taste, as the bid for Golden Hours is already at $31,000+ with buyer's premium, and - as I see it - will go even higher. Don't be surprised if it reaches $50,000 or more.

We're lucky to live in an age when we can look back, see all these paintings in context of their time, and value them as works of art. See them in person, not just in print, and you will be amazed how quickly they transform from cheesecake or kitsch to bonafide painting. The skill of the artists is undeniable.

I'll be watching closely this afternoon as this auction goes off, for sure. Martignette's provenance is one that will never lose its import; this series of auctions is the seminal event so far in the evolution of the collecting of Illustration Art. Enjoy it now. There are only about 3,300 pieces left...

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-Noah Fleisher

Monday, October 26, 2009

Coin Monday, or Riddle Me This: A Planchet One Size Too Small

Oct. 26, 2009
Written by John Dale

First off, if you haven’t read Noah’s Tuesday post about A Christmas Story, then please do so now. I’ll be waiting…

If you left, welcome back!

Noah’s Christmas in, er, October post got me thinking about some childhood Christmas television memories of my own, and near the top of the list is How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (That’s the animated version from 1966, by the way, not the live-action feature film. I’m not that young…) The leering, sneering Grinch with his heart “two sizes too small” seeped into at least one of my nightmares, but that only made me more anxious to watch him the next year!

Speaking of things that are too small, I was cataloging coins for the upcoming December Houston U.S. Coin auction when I came across an intriguing error: a 1956-dated Franklin half dollar that was struck on a quarter planchet, which is indeed “one size too small.”

As with any error coin, the natural question is “What went wrong?”

The striking process is complex, but here’s the short version: a canvas-sided tub filled with planchets (or blanks) will have its contents poured into a hopper attached to the coinage press. Inside the coinage press, machinery pushes a single unstruck planchet from the hopper between the dies, the dies come together and strike the planchet, and then the newly created coin is ejected from the dies and replaced with a new unstruck planchet.

Ordinarily, all of the planchets are of the same size and type: half dollar-sized planchets to strike half dollars, for example. Once in a while, though, Something Goes Wrong™.

A smaller planchet, such as a quarter-sized one, might get stuck at the bottom of one of the tubs and then jar loose when half dollar planchets are poured in on top. A quarter-sized planchet might also get stuck in a hopper, though this is a less common occurrence. Either way, a too-small planchet winds up mixed in with bigger planchets and is struck as if it were one of those bigger planchets.

The result is a slightly misshapen error coin, slightly broader than a quarter but not nearly so large as a half dollar, with considerable detail left off at the edges. Most error coins are caught, either mechanically or by visual inspection, but this piece must have dodged both the riddler (not the Batman Riddler but a series of metal grids with holes designed to catch off-size coins — if a coin falls through the wrong level or doesn’t fall through the right one, it’s destroyed) and human eyes to reach the outside world.

That’s how a wrong-planchet error is created!

Oh, but I did mention “wrong size or type,” didn’t I? Well, I’ll tell you about that later…

To leave a comment click on the title of this post.

-John Dale Beety