Friday, May 29, 2009

Coin Friday: “Big Money”

May 29
Posted by John Dale

(Is it Friday already? What? Who am I? What am I doing here?... yes, it’s been one of those kinds of weeks, with the holiday at the beginning bringing it commensurate respite from labor that always has to be made up on the back end. It doesn’t get any more back end than Friday, so John Dale – always the valiant blogger – has volunteered to anchor the weekend with another of his coin posts… If he keeps this up I’ll just have to reserve Monday and Friday as coin days for our young numismatist… Today he tackles a rather humorous subject in terms of coins, and yes coins can be humorous. Just read on and you’ll see… and have a good weekend. My thanks to John Dale. – Noah Fleisher)

For more than 60 years, the highest denomination of U.S. currency printed has been the $100 bill, and despite the presence of larger notes in other denominations (such as the $500 note), the Treasury department has no plans to print anything higher. Interestingly, the largest coin struck by the United States also bears the $100 denomination: the one-ounce platinum American Eagle, represented by this 2007-dated proof specimen in our upcoming July 8-12 Summer FUN auction.

This status is subject to a couple of caveats: The first is the possibility that 2008 was the last year for the denomination. While all fractional platinum American Eagles and the uncirculated-finish one-ounce piece were discontinued after 2008, the proof one-ounce platinum American Eagle was spared, and though a release date has not been announced, I’ll mark $100 down as a “dead” coinage denomination only if I see an official statement about its cancellation or if none are minted before January 1, 2010. Until then, it counts!

Another potential quibble is that the one-ounce platinum American Eagles were never intended for circulation, from which the idea springs up that their $100 denomination shouldn’t count. It’s true that the coins were not meant to be spent; to quote from American Eagle Platinum Bullion Coins, a U.S. Mint brochure printed in March 2004, “Their face values are largely symbolic, because platinum’s market price … has historically been higher.”

The same brochure, however, emphasizes that the platinum American Eagles are real coins with the full backing of the U.S. government, specifically their “weight, content, and purity.” The standard term is non-circulating legal tender, abbreviated NCLT, but the Treasury emphasizes the legal tender aspect. (It’s worth noting that the American Eagles, like other bullion pieces struck by governments worldwide, are official coins to give them protection under anti-counterfeiting laws, in addition to other applicable statutes.)

The one-ounce platinum American Eagle may be the largest coin the United States has ever struck, but it’s hardly the largest-denomination coin ever produced. In 2004, the Austrian Mint created 15 examples of its popular Vienna Philharmonic coin in an oversized format containing 1000 troy ounces of pure gold in a .9999 fineness alloy, with a face value of €100,000.

Three years later, the Royal Canadian Mint claimed the world record. It produced a mammoth Maple Leaf bullion coin that contains an astounding 3215 troy ounces or 100 kilograms of .99999 fineness gold. Its official denomination: C$1,000,000. The Royal Canadian Mint has filled multiple orders for the million-dollar coin, though the publicity the coin has garnered has doubtless outweighed any actual profit made; as written on the Web site, “Why did the Royal Canadian Mint make the world's purest and largest gold bullion coin? Because we can.”

Until Heritage’s World Coin department gets one of those million-dollar Canadian coins in a consignment, our bidders will have to content themselves with something…smaller. Might I suggest an ounce of platinum?

Click on the title of this post to leave a comment.

-John Dale Beety

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The accessible side of Natural History Prints, or how to buy like you have a second house in The Hamptons

May 28
Posted by Joe

(I’m glad to welcome Joe Fay back to the Heritage Blog, our Rare Books Manager here at Heritage HQ. Joe wrote for us a few months back on a rare first edition of his favorite book, The Hobbit, that appeared in the last Rare Books auction. He’s volunteered a post for today regarding the upcoming mid-June rare books auction with an amazing selection of fine Natural History prints in it. I’ve seen these things up close and they are indeed impressive specimens of art and nature. Best of all, however, they represent a very affordable opportunity _ about $500 and up – to acquire something that, as Joe points out below, seem somehow to always end up on the walls of weekend cabins in the woods or beach houses belonging to people who rarely see them, even if they walk by them every day. The prices of many things here at Heritage are, rightly, not for beginners or the faint of heart. Not so this time, however. If you’ve ever wanted something beautiful, of value and at a great price, then this is a superb opportunity. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my eye on one or two prints in the auction. – Noah Fleisher)

Every time I open Architectural Digest or Florida Design – any other interior design magazine you could name – a homeowner with much more money than myself is being featured after remodeling their country house or cabin. Invariably there hangs on the wall – some wall in this beautifully re-designed home I couldn’t afford to rent for a night – a single framed example or an artfully displayed assortment of exquisitely-colored natural history prints. Not the two butterfly prints my mom had hanging in the guest bathroom when I was a kid, but the real kind: folio-sized, hand-colored original plates featuring exotic birds, mammals, flowers, fruit, reptiles, amphibians, and more.

In the June 16-17 Heritage Rare Books Auction #6025, we’re offer to the collecting (and decorating) public a vast single-owner collection of these very desirable and vibrantly-colored natural history prints and a smaller but no less important assortment of natural history rare books and sets, some of which include thousands of brilliantly-colored fine prints within their pages.

As mentioned above, these prints are often utilized as decorative pieces by interior designers, interior decorators, and anyone else who might fancy themselves as such. In other words, these prints have come to be regarded as works of art.

Prints like Lot 37374, a brilliantly hand-colored lithograph of Edward Lear's hyacinth macaw (yes, that Edward Lear, who was an illustrator of parrots before he wrote a word of nonsense poetry), might get framed and hung on the wall of a mountain cabin by a designer looking to match the wall art to a client's blue couch or to offset a white chaise lounge.

Lot 37313, the print featured on the cover of our catalog would also be suitable as an art display. This particular print is Daniel Giraud Elliot's Pavo Cristatus, an absolutely stunning hand-colored lithograph from Elliot's famous monograph on pheasants. It could complement earth tones, black, white, blue, aqua, or any number of other combinations of colors in furniture, carpet, upholstery, etc.

Besides their obvious and consistent use as decorative objects, natural history prints and books are also historically significant for their representations of very seldom seen aspects of the natural world, or certainly scenes not easily found by the human eye in nature.

An example of this is Lot 37279, which shows a scavenging bird at a closer viewpoint than most people have ever seen or will ever see a vulture (hopefully). The print is a wonderfully imposing hand-colored aquatint engraving by Havell from the first edition of Audubon's The Birds of America (London: 1827-1838).

Another print, Lot 37329 presents a fascinating and seldom witnessed scene in nature, showing an imposing mother Eagle Owl feeding a small brown bunny to her three babies. Both of these prints show close-up views of important members of the animal kingdom from an era way before the advent of zoom lenses, and for that matter, modern photography itself. This intimate view of nature continues to be a very valuable aspect of what makes these prints special.

We've had a special opportunity to live with these elegant prints for a few months now, and the time has come for us to release them back into the wild world of collectors, dealers, designers and so on; to let them spread their wings and fly away home, preferably your home; to plant themselves in a new garden, maybe on the wall inside your house next to your garden.

OK, I'll stop there, but you shouldn't, because if you've ever even thought of acquiring ornithological prints, or you don't know what "ornithological" means but you just want something beautiful to hang on the wall behind your new Stickley chairs, this is your chance because the entire collection of natural history fine prints and rare books is being sold without reserves. That's right. Your first bid might just be the winning bid. You never know.

You can certainly know that if you don't bid you have a 100% chance of not winning one of these gorgeous hand-colored works of art. We expect spirited bidding competition during the auction in June, and hope to see you there, your bidder card soaring like the Bird of Washington.

Click on the title of this post to leave a comment.

-Joe Fay

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"My name is Anderson. They call me Bloody Bill."

May 27, 2009
Posted by Noah

"My name is Anderson. They call me Bloody Bill."

That quote is from Clint Eastwood's seminal mid-1970s movie The Outlaw Josey Wales, and there's a very exciting "Bloody" Bill Anderson related lot in the upcoming Civil War Auction.

A Presentation Sword given to Lt. Col. Porter S. Cox in 1864, in recognition of his role in the killing of infamous Civil War guerrilla fighter “Bloody” Bill Anderson – a member of Quantrill’s Raiders – will lead a June 25 auction of rare and important Civil War artifacts at Heritage Auction Galleries’ Uptown Dallas headquarters. The across-the-board depth of the auction leaves no doubt that Heritage has become the most important auctioneer of Civil War artifacts in the nation.
“This sword is doubtless one of the most tangible touchstones in existence to what is probably the most romanticized, fictionalized and cruelly violent chapter in American Civil War history,” said Dennis Lowe, Director of Civil War Auctions at Heritage, “the merciless ‘no quarter’ bloodletting of the Kansas-Missouri Border War and the guerrilla rampage of Quantrill’s Raiders and ‘Bloody’ Bill Anderson.”

The saber is inscribed on the reverse of the scabbard between the ring mounts, "Presented to/ Lt. Col. Porter S. Cox/ the Officer who whipped Thrailkill/ and killed Bill Anderson the Bandit/ by his friends in St. Joseph, Mo./Nov. 25th 1864.” The sword, up until recently, was owned by Cox’s descendants. It carries with it an estimate of $55,000-$65,000.

During the Civil War, William “Bloody Bill” Anderson tormented Union soldiers. He was a pro-Confederate bushwhacker – men who pillaged for profit, who fed and grew strong on the nourishment of revenge. Among these men, Anderson became one of the most despised of them all. Anderson and his men were known for their savagery against Union soldiers and civilian sympathizers alike. They usually shot prisoners and often mutilated and scalped their victims. It’s been reported that Anderson once said he had killed so many Federals that he “grew sick of killing them.”

Anderson’s spree came to an end in October 1864, when Union militia Lt. Col. Samuel P. Cox caught up with the Kentucky native in Missouri. Cox, assigned by Union commanders specifically to track down Anderson, sent a mounted detachment to lure Anderson and other guerrillas into an ambush. As the gang approached, the militiamen fired a volley and one of the Civil War’s most notorious bushwhackers fell dead.

Shortly afterward, Cox received this presentation sword for the killing of Anderson and fellow bandit John Thrailkill.

The story continued on Dec. 7, 1869, when Jesse James walked into the Davies County Bank in Gallatin, MO – where Cox had been awarded the rank of Colonel for killing Anderson – and summarily shot dead the cashier, declaring to the citizens on his escape that he had avenged the death of his "brother" “Bloody” Bill Anderson by killing Cox. The cashier was Capt. John W. Sheets, not Cox, as Jesse believed.

Cox went on to a successful business career, dying in 1913.

Famously, in modern times, when The Outlaw Josey Wales, as portrayed by Clint Eastwood in the 1976 film, seeks revenge for the murder of his family by Kansas raiders, he casts his lot with the man who identifies himself by saying, "My name is Anderson. They call me Bloody Bill." With this line the legend was re-born for an entire generation of Americans. Anderson is the subject of numerous books and a character based on him appears in the 1976 Clint Eastwood movie The Outlaw Josey Wales.

Click on the title of this post to leave a comment.

-Noah Fleisher

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

If you had any doubt about The Flash’s superiority, you now stand corrected: Showcase #4 brings almost $180K and Chicorel brings $600K+

May 26, 2009
Posted by Noah

I know I had waxed an awful lot on last week’s Comic Auction, especially about the Showcase #4 – featuring the single greatest super hero in the history of the known universe, and even those we don’t know about, the one and only Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen – and about the astounding Chicorel Collection, but as the results for the auction, across the board, shows, these were and are indeed amazingly good comic books. In fact, the Showcase #4 that I coveted so dearly is now the single most-expensive Silver Age book in history as a determined and erudite collector paid almost $180,000 for it, including the BP. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: That’s one big matzo ball.

As impressed as I was by the price for Showcase #4 – and as proud as I am to point to my lifelong love of The Flash – the true heart and soul of the auction was The Chicorel Collection, which realized more than $600,000 all told. It was an astounding thing to watch made even better by the presence of Ralph Chicorel and two of his sons who were in Dallas for the event. I sat behind them, and chatted with them throughout the first 70-odd lots of the auction and was impressed with the level-headedness of Ralph and his sons, both of whom clearly love their old man and were thrilled to be part of the event with him.

Ralph, for his part, was quite relaxed and sanguine. Here he was, almost 70 years after buying these comics off the stand and putting them away watching a frenzied buying public pay tens of thousands of dollars for his collection. He seemed well at ease with the proceedings and quite happy with the results. I know it was 70 years in the making, but as the first part of the auction concluded and I had to leave to go finish my daily work, I couldn’t help but clap Ralph on the shoulder and say:

“Not bad for an afternoon’s work, huh?”

Not bad at all, and it really couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of folks. For my part, this is one of the best things about being the Media and PR Liaison at this company. I get to witness these great auctions and spend the time with the consignor – in this case a man who has lived an excellent life so far, has a loving family and is able to watch the fruits of his labor come to auction and quantify them with great prices. It’s the cherry on top for Ralph, who was a successful businessman and a way more successful family man. Yes, the money is a sizable amount for the collection, but the obvious love and respect of his children – and their excitement at the event – made it way better. I’ve seen many times when hardcore collectors sell their stuff for big money but the family doesn’t care much, because they know nothing about the collection, or don’t care, or maybe have no close relatives to revel in the respective glory of the accomplishments.

There were plenty of records set in this auction, including the most ever for an Underground comic – Zap #1 at more than $13,000 – and for Modern Age – Wolvie #1 in 10.0 Gem went for more than $15,000, which is gratifying to see given how good a comic book it is – but before you decide yourself to dig out your 1980s comics and inundate Heritage with your own comics, the ones you are absolutely sure have to be 10.0s themselves, remember the Wolvie #1 is the exception to the rule, not the norm. Do us all a favor and dig out the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s comics and inundate us with those. The chances are way better that they actually would have some value, and way better that Heritage would be willing to take a look. Store your ‘80s and 1990s comics away for another 60 years – like Ralph Chicorel did with his – then maybe we can talk.

Click on the title of this post to leave a comment.

-Noah Fleisher

Friday, May 22, 2009

Coin Friday and Monday: That coin

May 22, 2009
Posted by John Dale

(Because Monday is a holiday, and most of us are going to be remembering our fallen soldiers and celebrating the start of summer, John Dale and I huddled and decided to move Coin Monday to today and let the Coin Monday faithful have a full long weekend to savor the work. That, and I am always happy to turn an extra day over to John Dale; I learn as much from his posts about coins as in any part of my job, and more than once I’ve related facts that I’ve picked up in these posts to friends and family. No kidding. The most useful is to never – ever! – call a cent a penny. I repeat, NEVER call a cent a penny. You don’t want to see what happens to a numismatist when you commit this egregious sin. My thanks to John Dale, and my wishes to you for a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend. – Noah Fleisher)

The idea of a condition census, or listing of best examples, for a date or die variety is time-honored in numismatics. Usually, the condition census will show a sliding scale of grades, such as the top two or three coins being graded AU55, the next best examples XF45 or AU50, and so on, with small rather than large differences in quality from one piece to the next. A few issues, however, have coins in their condition censuses that have become famous in their own right; the Abbey Cent, a 1799-dated large cent, is not at the top of any generally accepted condition census for its variety, yet it has achieved such fame that merely saying “Abbey Cent” sparks instant recognition among many early copper collectors.

In other instances, a coin is without rival, far ahead of the other pieces in the condition census, and gains recognition for its quality; such a coin may be referenced by grade or by pedigree, if the latter is applicable, and the highest possible honor is to be known simply as “that coin,” as in the following conversation:

Cataloger A: “So, have you seen anything exciting today?”

Cataloger B: “We’re getting in an 1856-O $20.”

Cataloger A: “Oh, nice! What grade?”

Cataloger B (smiling): “It’s a 63.”

Cataloger A: “A 63! …oh, is it that coin?”

Cataloger B (nodding): “Yes, it’s that coin.”

Our Long Beach Auction press release covers plenty of ground on the Specimen 63 1856-O double eagle, but it’s hard to convey in a press release how it feels to be in the presence of a mind-blowing coin, one that takes the expectations a collector has for an issue and turns them upside-down; it is not lackluster but gleaming, not softly struck but sharp, not heavily abraded but lightly marked. Until its reintroduction to the numismatic community, no collector even dreamed that an 1856-O $20 like it could exist, and once it appeared on the market, its impact was immediate. Phrases such as “the single most important New Orleans double eagle in existence” are not mere puffery, but reflections on the esteem in which this specimen is held. A common refrain among numismatists is, “If only this coin could talk!”

Perhaps it’s just the auction-house employee in me, but I imagine that if coins could talk, this one would be singing like Eartha Kitt and wanting an old-fashioned millionaire.

Click on the title of this post to leave a comment.

-John Dale Beety

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chicorel Collection of Golden Age Comic Books today

May 21, 2009
Posted by Noah

As we speak I am preparing to go downstairs for the opening of this week’s comic auction, which starts with the amazing Golden Age comic book collection of one Ralph Chicorel. Perhaps you’ve read about it on our home page or comics page at, or maybe you saw the nice story Jamie Stengle of the AP wrote about the trove and its amazing journey.

Ralph’s story is one of those one in a million, suitcase-of-money-falling-from-the-sky things that we all wish could happen to us. Basically it’s this: he collected the original Golden Age comics off the newsstand, kept them carefully and moved on with his life. In 1970 he sold half of the collection to raise money for a family move. He got about $3500, a tremendous sum for comics at the time. He didn’t have time to dig up the other half of the collection before the auction, moved, became a successful businessman and forgot about the books.

Almost 40 year later he dug up the trove and contacted Heritage. It’s expected the amazing collection will bring upwards of $500,000, and I believe it – I’ve seen these things and they are indeed, as Al Milgrom put it, “some of the mintiest books I’ve ever seen.” It helps a lot that Ralph and his family are here, at Heritage for the auction, and that he’s about as nice as you’d want someone with such tremendous foresight and good luck to be. I love this story, am glad to be on the periphery of it and am glad that I get to witness such a thing and see that the word gets out about this collection.

As for the comics themselves, I don’t know where to start, except to say that they are all amazing books. From the Marvel Comics #1 to the Marvel #9 to the Batman #4 and #7 to any number of awesome comics in between, it’s a real treat. The color on many of these is still magnificent, and the prices are relative bargains. There are the sexy ones, mentioned above, that will get the high five and six figure prices, but it is the books that are going to go for $2000-$5000 that will prove the true future boon to their erudite buyers.

Yes, these are the type of comic books that make even the most seasoned veterans of the industry – meaning the guys in the Heritage comics department – sit up and take notice, even betray a little excitement. Barry Sandoval, the Director of comics, put it best when he likened the finding of this collection to the Time machine fantasy of many a comic book geek. All they want is to go back in time and buy the comics off the stand, first issue, put it straight into an air-tight containment device, and bring them back in time to add to their collections. There doesn’t have to be any more destiny tampering than that.

Is it so much to ask? Just a couple teeny tiny comic books?

The good news is that, today, we get the chance to see what those time-pilfered comics would actually bring.

Click on the title of this post to leave a comment.

-Noah Fleisher

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More magic afoot at Heritage: Harry Potter trove in June

May 20, 2009
Posted by Noah

I wrote here a few months ago about when we auctioned off an original 1st edition signed paperback of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone. It was worldwide news – It is, after all, Harry Potter – and seemed to open the floodgates where original Harry Potter books are concerned. This is, BTW, a good thing. Oh yes it is.

For our upcoming mid-June Rare Books Auction it seems we have a whole lot of a good thing with not just an original hardcover English 1st Edition Harry Potter leading the way – $30,000-$50,000 for this little treasure – but an original complete set of first Deluxe editions signed by Rowling Herself, a complete set of English hardcovers, also signed by Rowling, a complete set of American first editions, a first edition English version of Book Two – Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets – and, just to top things off, a first edition signed version of the Tales of Beedle The Bard, the only literature of the Rowling universe outside of the Harry Potter books themselves.

Whew! How’s that? I guess you could reasonably say that we’ve become the go-to house for rare and valuable Potter first editions.

Is it a little mind-boggling that books that are scarcely 12 years old are commanding $30,000? Yes, but I really don’t know too much about the world of rare books. I do know enough, however, to know that demand is everything and in today’s world there can be no doubt that the single most in-demand title is anything with Harry Potter on it. If we can facilitate the phenomenal growth of this niche – and fuel the continued growth of the Potter legend, then good for us!

Personally, I would love to have one of these books, because they are touchstones of modern Pop Culture and quite valuable. As far as literature goes, not so much. People love Rowling’s world, and they adore her characters, but you can’t possibly tell me that the writing is world class. The storytelling? No question. The writing? Again, not so much. I’ll take me some Faulkner or Nabokov on their worst writing day anytime over Rowling on her best. Like I said, it’s not to fault her epic imagination, just her prosaic writing. I know some of you must be fuming and wringing your hands over my blasphemy, but you can’t change my mind…

The real question with the Harry Potter phenomenon isn’t really what they mean to us today – it’s an indisputable fact that the series of books and movies are one of the most important properties of modern times – but rather whether they will have any legs 100, 200 or 300 years from now. Barring any unforeseen amazing medical breakthroughs – or maybe advanced cryogenics or the prospect thereof a la the future of Jim Halperin’s book The Truth Machine – I’m at a loss to say.

I won’t venture a guess here, as I’d hate for history to somehow prove me wrong, or some alien civilization based solely on the writing of Rowling to arrive here in millennia, uncover my answer and vilify me for all time to its dominion. You know it’s possible…

Anyway, content yourself in the meantime with looking at these superb volumes, and dream of where you’d put them on your own bookshelves. Imagine your grandchildren looking at them and asking you: “Grandma and Grandpa? Is that really a book?”

Click on the title of this post to leave a comment.

-Noah Fleisher

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

“Modern” Love: A wealth of 20th Century readies for June 4 auction

.May 19, 2009
Posted by Noah

I am pretty much the classic example of a Liberal Arts education. I am well-rounded enough in enough diverse subjects that I can speak with a modicum of knowledge on just about any subject. Wanna try me? Shoot me an email ( and I’ll try to dazzle you with the wealth of trivia stashed in the storehouse of my skull. I have no particular desire to be this way; it’s simply the fashion in which my particular skill set – which allows me to do this wonderful job – has evolved. What can I say? Nature of the beast, and all that.

I mention this because there are so many people at Heritage who can say the same, but who have a much greater institutional knowledge of their specific specialty – coins, comics, sports, etc. – than I could ever hope to have, and who also possess an impressive generalist knowledge as well, and also because there is one area of this business I love above all others, and about which I feel I know just about nothing despite – literally – hundreds of hours spent in its pursuit. That specialty is 20th Century Design, and to say that this stuff makes me ecstatic like my 3-1/2-year-old when she’s chasing bubbles is an understatement.

It also just so happens that we have what is really a spectacular 20th Century Design auction coming up here at Heritage. I kid you not. If you’re an aficionado of Modern design, and you’ve watched as Heritage has made its way in the category, then this is the one that you’ve been waiting for.

Depth? You bet. Variety? Unquestioned. Style? Where to even begin?

All I can say is that our new Director of 20th Century, the multi-faceted Christina Japp, (click here and scroll down for her bio) has done an expert’s job of assembling as deep a selection of 20th Century as has ever been offered here, and one that will certainly make the main players in the category sit up and take notice.

My focus has always been on “Modernism” as a form between roughly 1940 and 1980, give or take a few decades on either end with a healthy nod to Biedermeier, the Vienna Secessionists, Arts & Crafts, Mission and Deco. So, basically, everything. I would give my left foot for an original Charlotte Perriand bibliotheque, anything original by Nakashima, Bertoia, van Der Rohe, Prouve, Miller, Eames or any of 30 or 40 designers I know I am forgetting, which is exactly what is so amazing about the pursuit of 20th Century design.

Fortunately for a Modern-o-phile like myself, this auction has a little bit of everything, and a little bit of dozens of designers. There’s amazing Tiffany, a superb Ruhlmann cabinet, a classically modern Sotsass cupboard and a simply astounding array of other great stuff I simply don’t have the time to write about. There’s even an iconic New York Keith Haring painted leather jacket.

I know that I will finish this post, get it online and kick myself for not doing this auction, or my passion for Modernism, justice, but that is the nature of this particular bug. The very best minds on the form have forgotten way more than I will ever possibly know about Modernism, and they would say the same of their teachers. It is an infinite, intricate pursuit; one that fills a lifetime and makes you wish you had just a little more time.

A good place to start is here at Heritage on June 4, or at the online catalog for the event, linked here as well.

Click on the title of this post to leave a comment.

-Noah Fleisher

Monday, May 18, 2009

Coin Monday: A San Francisco Double Feature in Long Beach

May 18, 2009
Posted by John Dale

The United States Mint experienced dramatic changes in the 1860s, with three of five Mints (Charlotte, North Carolina; Dahlonega, Georgia; and New Orleans, Louisiana) leaving the fold after the states they were in seceded. Only the main Mint in Philadelphia and the branch in San Francisco remained open, and Philadelphia produced all coinage dies, sending dies to San Francisco as needed. With wide swaths of the American West still unsettled, communication between Philadelphia and San Francisco lagged, and two distinctive S-mint $20 gold coins (or double eagles) resulted from that lag, both of which make an appearance at our upcoming Long Beach Auction.

The first issue had its origin in a short-lived design change for the double eagle denomination. In the waning months of 1860, Anthony C. Paquet, an assistant Mint engraver known more for his medals than his coinage-work, prepared a modified reverse die for the double eagle distinguished by tall, thin lettering that was one of the engraver’s signatures. The design received approval, and Paquet reverse dies were sent to New Orleans and San Francisco for use with obverses dated 1861. Philadelphia discovered an apparent problem with the rims of the Paquet design, spurring the then-Mint Director, James Ross Snowden, to halt use of the Paquet reverse and send the same orders to New Orleans and San Francisco.

While Snowden’s early January telegraph reached New Orleans promptly, there was not an extensive telegraph network west of the Mississippi river, and the Mint Director’s message had to be carried overland from Missouri to California. By the time Snowden’s instructions arrived at San Francisco, 19,250 double eagles had already been struck with the Paquet dies and released into circulation. While most of the 1861-S Paquet double eagles are now lost, around 200 survivors, including this AU53 example, remain. Collectors who view the Paquet double eagle as a distinct subtype (myself included) have made it one of the most in-demand San Francisco double eagles.

Similarly, the time and distance between the East Coast and West Coast Mints created another prized variety, the 1866-S No Motto double eagle. In 1866, the various larger-size coinage designs were modified to incorporate the motto “In God We Trust,” an inclusion said to reflect a nation that had increasingly turned to prayer for comfort during the trials of the Civil War. As was customary, Philadelphia shipped the next year’s obverse coinage dies to San Francisco in advance, and the 1866-dated obverse dies arrived at the California facility in November 1865, but no new reverse dies were included. Though Philadelphia refrained from coinage until the various With Motto dies were ready, San Francisco went forward with production using old reverses, and several 1866-dated San Francisco issues are split between No Motto and With Motto pieces, including the half dollar, $5, $10 and $20 denominations.

Communication between Philadelphia and San Francisco improved and in 1877, when the Mint made the next significant change to the double eagle design, there was no laggard San Francisco issue. Still, double eagles such as the 1861-S Paquet and the 1866-S No Motto survive as reminders that even after the most dangerous Gold Rush days were done, there was considerable separation between the Western states (first California, later Oregon and Nevada) and the rest of the states in the Union, a distance measurable in both weeks and hundreds of miles that the Mint and many others had to overcome.

Click on the title of this post to leave a comment.

-John Dale Beety

Friday, May 15, 2009

Of great publicity, Martignette, Dr Pepper, Coins, Natural History. Or, How Heritage is planning on taking over the world…

May 15, 2009
Posted by Noah

There are so many things I would like to write about that come through the doors at Heritage, and so many potential things coming to auction that I can’t write about yet, but I can say this: The month of May has been a stellar one for humble little Heritage in terms of national and International PR. It’s actually the sort of extended run of coverage that adds up to an amazing string and a major boost for Heritage brand awareness. Forgive me if you can for using this soapbox to trumpet the achievement and the incredible hard work of HA staff across the board.

Consider this: Since the beginning of May, Heritage has been in the news – national or international – in one form or another, good, bad or indifferent, every day of the month, plus a few at the end of April. I would list all the links here to all the various stories, but that would be a list of more than 1100 hits, so just take my word for it.

It started with the auction of the 1804 $1 for $2.4 million at Central States at the end of last month. There was pre-auction coverage and post-auction coverage.

This was followed quickly by a Texas AP story on the much-debated Old Corner Drug Store ledger book with the “Dr. Peppers Pepsin Bitters” recipe in it, which set of a firestorm of coverage, interviews and speculation that spanned a full week of news cycles and ended up all over the world. It has to be noted that the ledger book failed to open at the minimum $25,000 bid in Wednesday’s Political & Americana Auction, which is no fun for us – though a private treaty sale is possibly in the works – but it did again get us another round of coverage in the national press.

On top of this, our Natural History Director David Herskowitz was interviews by Robert Siegel on NPR’s All Things Considered on Tuesday night, after an article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, and was mentioned again in the show’s letter section the next day. This was followed by an article in a La Brea, CA newspaper just yesterday, that looks like it could get some legs. The auction of a controversial 95% saber-tooth skull – absolutely, undisputedly authentic – is this weekend here at Heritage. This thing is a truly beautiful beast and an amazing piece of history.

Topping that off today is the lead spot in today’s New York Times Arts & Antiques Column, by Eve Kahn, about the upcoming auction of the awesome Martignette Collection of Illustrated Art. It’s a fantastic little bit about the man behind the collection – an eccentric, for sure, but on the side of good – and the collection itself. What more can you ask for?

Ed Jaster, Director of Illustration Art here, put it best in his quote about the amazing art in the collection: “The guys could flat out paint!”

Wonderfully put, indeed!

I also know, for a fact, that there will be another Heritage story coming out the AP wire next week about the imminent auction of the amazing Chicorel Collection in our May Comics Auction. It’s another fantastic human interest story and we are lucky enough to be the arbiters of its fruit. I’m hoping this one continues our amazing May run. I’m sure there a few things I’ve even missed.

Life at Heritage is often so busy we don’t get the chance to reflect on the accomplishments of the amazing staff here. When I look back at a month like May so far, it brings it all into focus and reminds me why we do what we do here, and why we love it so much.

Have a safe and happy weekend.

Click on the title of this post to leave a comment.

-Noah Fleisher

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Coin Thursday: Kosoff and a King’s Collection

May 14, 2009
Posted by John Dale

The May Long Beach auction has a pair of unexpected treats in the form of two old-time collections that have been off-the-market for half a century or more. The more prominent of these two collections is the Frank M. Stirling Collection, which contains a number of gorgeous patterns and other coins that come with envelopes from leading dealers of the 1950s. Names such as Hans M.F. Schulman, M.H. Bolender, and B. Max Mehl are all represented. Most interesting is the card accompanying lot 1428,an extremely rare Judd-1138A Indian Princess dollar struck in silver. The card notes that the pattern was previously in the Palace Collections and notes its sale to “F.M. Stirling,” with the signed attestation of Abe Kosoff.

Abe Kosoff was a titan among numismatists of his generation, not only one of the most knowledgeable and prominent dealers of the era but also held in high regard as a gentleman and friend; Q. David Bowers subtitled his biography of Kosoff “Dean of Numismatics,” a title with just the right connotation by virtually all accounts. He died in 1983, before I was born, so I never had the opportunity to meet him, but he left a remarkable body of written work in the form of a series of articles. These articles, published over a 13-year span in Coin World, were collected in the volume Abe Kosoff Remembers… and organized by topic.

One topic, which dominated Kosoff’s column for three months in late 1977 and the start of 1978, is the auction of the Palace Collections of Egypt in 1954. These collections, assembled by King Farouk of Egypt at great cost to the national coffers and confiscated after Farouk was driven out of the country by a military revolt, included coins, stamps, artworks, and antiquities. The coin auction was cataloged by Baldwin of London on-site in Cairo, and the polyglot auctioneer who called the lots was from Sotheby’s. Kosoff reported that his firm, which had sold many coins to King Farouk, made offers to auction the collection and to assist with cataloging, but neither offer met with a favorable reply.

Despite the astonishing accumulation of rarities in the Palace Collections, the prices realized were far less than they could have been. The auction cataloger was not familiar with American coinage, and so fabulous rarities were packaged into large lots alongside more common pieces. The short, vague descriptions scattered throughout the catalog also reflect the writer’s lack of understanding and the enormity of the task that was compressed into mere months.

The auction was a floor-auction only, held in a country far from the United States that was not at all removed from civil unrest; the house arrest and subsequent release of President Naguib took place during the coin auction itself. As a result, many collectors and dealers stayed away, but those bold enough to attend and bid strongly were rewarded many times over. Kosoff himself reported that he bought back many pieces that he had sold to Farouk for a small fraction of their original price, and his firm made money both ways.

Though it is unknown if Farouk purchased the Judd-1138A pattern from Kosoff in the first place, the envelope and card tell their own story of peril, profit, and the stranger-than-fiction relationship between a coin dealer and his royal client.

Click on the title of this post to leave a comment.

-John Dale Beety

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Today’s the day for ‘Dr. Peppers Pepsin Bitters’. Are you ready?

May 13, 2009
Posted by Noah

I know I’m in trouble when I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about a particular lot or press release – or blog posting – that is coming up, and that’s exactly what happened to me last night. I didn’t exactly bolt upright in bed with a gasp, but I certainly woke up with an overactive brain and a terrible urge to scratch my legs and upper body where I was savaged by chiggers last Sunday during a Mother’s Day picnic at a nature preserve in North Dallas. I took care of the itch with Calamine Lotion, and turned my thoughts to today’s auctioning of The Old Corner Drug Store Ledger Book – i.e., the “Dr. Peppers Pepsin Bitters” recipe that caused such a stir last week – for a little midnight distraction from sleep. I mean, really, who needs to sleep anyway?

I haven’t checked in a few days, but the Dr Pepper story that Jamie Stengle of the AP broke early last week, as of Monday, was online in more than 800 worldwide outlets. This is an impressive head of steam for any story to have, let alone one as innocent as this little recipe. I’m going to be waiting around the Heritage HQ tonight for the piece to come up for bid – somewhere in the 4:00 p.m. hour – to see if all the PR, the outreach, and the tireless interviewing that the consignor, Bill Waters, did will pay off in the fashion that we believe it should.

This has been interesting to watch and be a part of from the inside because it was unexpected. A few months ago, when we first began discussing the PR on the lot, nobody thought it would make much difference outside of Texas, the birthplace of the famous soft drink. We all know now how wrong our assessment was. People all over the world are still big fans of the drink, and collectors of its related memorabilia, and any chance to glean even an inkling of what gives any famous soft drink its flavor is something that, I now understand, is sure to pique the interest of just about anybody.

For its part, the Dr Pepper Snapple Group – located about 45 minutes north of Heritage via the Dallas North Tollway – is about as sanguine as you might expect a major corporation to be when one of its namesake brands is put in this position. They never once denied the book’s authenticity, but they felt compelled to refute its being the absolute origin of Dr Pepper. The group made its point well enough, but facts is facts: There is no earlier use of the name Dr Pepper known, and certainly not one that can be tied so closely to the year of Dr Pepper’s patent (1885) and definitively to Waco, TX.

The question now is, do collectors feel the same? Has Dr Pepper’s careful denial had its intended impact? Will bidders go crazy over the opportunity? Will anyone actually be able to find Wahoo Bark and Mandrake root and whip up a batch of this stuff? Between us chickens, I reckon it would taste pretty rank.

The taste of Dr Pepper is the taste of my grade school football games, of rainy Saturday nights watching the Dallas Tornadoes soccer team getting beat by Pele’ and the New York Cosmos, and of the bottling plant tours my school classes used to get once a year when the plant was just down Central Expressway from here at Mockingbird Lane and Greenville Avenue. No matter what the recipe for ‘Dr. Peppers Pepsin Bitters’ sells for today, nothing can ever buy my memories – and the memories of millions of others – of the soft drink, and I can also guarantee that almost no one would be willing to try the recipe in the ledger book were someone actually able to mix it up.

Here’s a link to the lot. Let the games begin!

Click on the title of this post to leave a comment.

-Noah Fleisher

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

R. Crumb grouping readies for May 21 Comics Auction: Only the adventurous need apply

May 12, 2009
Posted by Noah

There are few American illustrators as iconoclastic as R. Crumb. His characters are alternately loathsome and endearing, and Crumb himself never met a boundary he didn’t want to cross. If you know his work, then you know what I mean. If you’ve never seen any of his comics, or had the guilty pleasure of reading them, then I suggest you do a gut check before picking up an issue or compilation. If you are easily offended, then don’t even start.

The Comics auction at Heritage on May 21 is already filled with truly spectacular stuff – see The Chicorel Collection, Showcase #4 from the Motor City Run, or a Gem 10.0 Mint Wolverine #1 – but, as with so many of the cool auctions here, there are jewels sprinkled throughout the auction, not the least of which is a small grouping of lots from the pen, pencil, markers and crayons of dear Mr. Crumb, always a popular subject when he turns up in Heritage Auctions. They are all great examples of his inimitable style, though only one – a complete eight-page story from Hup!, which depicts Crumb as a full grown man, slobbering and shaking, dressed as a baby, being pushed around in an oversize pram by a buxom nursemaid, who is of course the object of his obsession – is truly salacious in the disturbing manner that only Crumb could embody.

Two of the lots feature, separately, the master’s two most famous characters: An early transitional period cover drawing for a never-realized comic called Inkling, featuring none other than Mr. Natural, and a very rare latter period drawing of Fritz The Cat for a 1993 for a collection of Fritz stories.

The Fritz drawing is one of the last times that Crumb drew Fritz, minus another notable 1996 drawing, and is a pretty classic representation of the haggard feline hounding one of his lady friends for a little “attention.” If you know anything about 1970s illustration and – in particular – animation, then Fritz The Cat is immediately recognizable as much for the comic books as for the Ralph Bakshi cartoon movie of the character, and for the massive firestorm of controversy that surrounded it. FYI, Bakshi was and is one of the greatest animators of the 20th century for a variety of reasons too numerous to mention here. Just watch the cartoon and you’ll see what I mean. There was so much attention paid to the movie and the comics, and Crumb was so pursued by the press that he actually killed the character in the pages of The People’s Comics in 1972.

You can check out the grouping here. In the realm of high-priced material, these are pretty affordable, ranging between about $1,000 to more than $5,000. Who knows what they will really bring, as the collectors dedicated to crumb – and in particular to Mr. Natural and Fritz The Cat – are indeed very serious in their pursuit.

When I was a boy in the mid-1970s, Bakshi’s Fritz The Cat was still quite a controversial cartoon. I remember it playing late one night on Dallas’s first pay-per-view station, Vue – a precursor to cable and DTV and all of that, you know you remember it – and my brother Matt told me he was going to watch it, as he somehow knew something about it already.

It turns out that he chickened out, or fell asleep, and I was left to my own devices. Sometime around midnight I crept into the TV room, closed the door, flipped that sucker on and turned down the sound. Needless to say it was quite and eye-opener, and an eyeful, for an eight-year-old, but I could still see the inherent humor in the story and the quality in the characters and animation. It led me to a full-blown Bakshi obsession in later years, where I watched movies like Wizards, Hey Good Lookin’!, American Pop, Heavy Traffic, Street Fight and – many times again – Fritz The Cat. If you are a discriminating fan of truly cool underground animation, then I heartily recommend Bakshi’s movies.

Here’s another look at the Crumb grouping if you’re curious.

Click on the title of this post to leave a comment.

-Noah Fleisher

Monday, May 11, 2009

Where the Dollar Began

May 11, 2009
Posted by John Dale

According to Wikipedia, today it is a small settlement in the Czech Republic, population around 3,500 residents as of 2006. From the early 1500s through the late 19th century, however, the town named for Bohemia’s St. Joachim’s Valley, or Joachimsthal in German, was a center of silver mining and minting for Europe. As recounted in various sources, including the Guide Book of United States Coins (also known as the Red Book and a U.S. coin collector essential), the term for the large silver coins struck at the mint in Joachimsthal was Joachimsthaler, a name later shortened to thaler as use of the term spread beyond Bohemia.

A derivative of thaler is the word “dollar,” and the Spanish dollars (known more popularly as pieces-of-eight) that made up much of the circulating coinage of the American colonies directly influenced the choice of the word “dollar,” both for Revolution-era money such as the Continental currency and the federal coinage as authorized in 1792. It was not until two years later, however, that the dollar as a denomination would be struck in silver. Just 2,000 pieces were struck on a single pair of dies, with all bullion supplied by the Mint Director, David Rittenhouse, and after the culling of specimens deemed unacceptable, the remaining coins – all 1,758 of them – were paid back to Mr. Rittenhouse.

Since coinage did not resume until the next year, those 1,758 coins were the only 1794 silver dollars produced, and the vast majority of those have been lost to time. Today, the 1794 dollar is very scarce in any grade, with even generous estimates of the number of survivors topping out at 10% of the mintage. As a result, the opportunity to examine (or better yet, purchase) a 1794 dollar, such as the one coming up in the May Long Beach auction, should not be missed.

As expected for a coin that is more than two centuries old, this 1794 dollar is not absolutely pristine; it shows light to moderate wear across the flowing-hair portrait of Liberty and the thin eagle within its wreath (though the apparent loss of detail around the rims comes from striking problems and not circulation). In addition, NCS notes a repair on the coin, though said repair is skillfully done and well-hidden. Neither the wear nor the repair affects this memorable coin’s historic aura, its enduring connection to the early days of U.S. coinage. After the bidding has ended, perhaps this 1794 dollar’s new owner will sit with the coin, examine it, and let it take him or her back to where the dollar began.

Click on the title of this post to leave a comment.

-John Dale Beety

Friday, May 8, 2009

Coin Friday: Silver Spoon, Gold Dollar

May 8, 2009
Posted by John Dale

(No worries, Coin Monday will still be where it's supposed to be, right on schedule. Today, though, it’s a Friday, it’s hot and muggy in Dallas, and our own John Dale Beety has consented to give your humble host blogger a day off from the blog. It gives me a break and you an extra taste of his skill as a writer and his knowledge of numismatics. John Dale’s coin posts have been very popular on this blog so I am happy to give our readers a little bit extra John Dale this week and thankful to him for letting me jump his post ahead in the queue. Enjoy, and have a good weekend. – Noah)

I was sitting at my keyboard, clicking away, when I heard a small sound to my left.

I turned my head and glanced at my box of coins. The stem of a spoon was sticking up from it. I was instantly suspicious. I knew there had not been a spoon in my box before, and unless my job duties had changed since that morning, I didn’t belong to the Silver and Vertu department! Then I noticed my manager nearby.

“Hey, wait a minute!”

“No takebacks!”

There was little I could do but pick up the spoon and take a look. To my surprise, it was well within the realm of U.S. coins: a commemorative spoon from the Louisiana Purchase Exposition with a 1903 Jefferson gold dollar mounted in the bowl.

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, more popularly known as the St. Louis World’s Fair, honored the centennial of the Purchase, which added vast amounts of territory to the fledgling United States, including the land on which the fair was held. A slight delay in the celebration, from 1903 (the actual centennial year) to 1904, allowed for a wider range of states and nations to send exhibits. Offered to fairgoers were thousands of different souvenirs, including commemorative coins. The World’s Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1892 and 1893, had established a precedent for silver commemoratives, and with the influence of Farran Zerbe, a noted dealer-promoter of the time, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition marked the nation’s first gold coinage with commemorative designs.

The gold dollar denomination, not struck since 1889, was resurrected for the Exposition’s commemorative coinage. All pieces shared the same reverse, but there were two obverse portraits created: one for Thomas Jefferson, the president who agreed to the Louisiana Purchase, and William McKinley, who would have been president at the time of the Exposition had he not been assassinated. As has often been the case with American commemoratives, hopes for sales far exceeded reality; few people were willing to trade three paper dollars for a single gold one, and a majority of the pieces struck went unsold and were melted.

The commemorative gold dollars were sold on their own, but also mounted in a variety of objects; most often noted are jewelry – such as stickpins and brooches – and commemorative spoons. This spoon has the gold dollar (with Jefferson portrait) mounted in the middle-lower part of the bowl, below a domed building and surrounded by sculpted walkways and water; a caption above describes the area as the “Festival Hall and Cascades.”

On the stem, figures appear on a leftward march toward the bowl, starting with two bison and progressing through horses-and-riders, a covered wagon, and a locomotive; these figures are flanked by commemorative dates, 1803 to the left of the bison and 1903 to the right of the locomotive. The back of the stem shows a notation for silver and text that describes the spoon as an official souvenir of the Exposition. The back of the bowl is engraved “Martin,” but with no surname.

The gold dollar, though lightly worn with minor scratches and hairlines that might indicate a past cleaning, has a pleasing look that suits the spoon well. Exposition souvenirs with their gold dollars inside are elusive and draw plenty of attention when they appear at auction. Look for this spoon, as well as a whole host of other fascinating items, in our online catalog for the Long Beach auction, up now!

Click on the title of this post to leave a comment.

-John Dale Beety

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What’s so great about Lincoln? I’ll tell you what’s so great about Lincoln!

May 7, 2009
Posted by Noah

First of all, that awesome beard. Second of all, that awesome stove pipe hat. Third, The Emancipation Proclamation. Fourth, the fortitude and foresight to see – and say – that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Fifth, the fact that almost 145 years after his assassination on April 14, 2009 – that’s Ruination Day, if you know your obscure references – he is far and away the most beloved American president.

He also had very neat handwriting.

How do I know? It just so happens that I’ve been doing a little more of that thing I so love to do in this job, which is to write about the crazy, cool and utterly historic pieces of material culture that make their way through Heritage every day. I hope that I am never cynical enough to be jaded about the awesome things I am privileged to see, because that would be a sad sad day. I have spent much of the last two days thinking and writing about a single page of longhand text, 23 lines in all, written by Abraham Lincoln himself for his 1864 State of the Union message. It was written just after he had won re-election in a difficult campaign, was on his way toward a resolute victory in the Civil War and was just five months shy of that fateful night at Ford’s Theater. It’s a crazy thing, really, if you think about it too much.

It is, btw, part of our June 16-17 Historical Manuscripts auction, if I may plug the company a bit.

This particular stretch of text finds Lincoln hardened and unyielding. He would settle for no less than total surrender from the Rebels, and complete preservation of the nation. He writes:

“... We are not exhausted, nor in process of exhaustion… We are gaining strength, and may, if need be, maintain the contest indefinitely.”

In other words, the jig is up. The Civil War was hugely bloody, fraught with a million and one tragedies and is still the war that inspires the most in American imaginations. The Revolutionary War may have provided us with a mythos and a pantheon of heroes, but The War Between The States provided us with our seasoning and character. No form or manner of wartime memorabilia is more visceral and tangible than Civil War relics, and no wartime memorabilia can give you the feeling of battle better than Civil war artifacts. It’s the truth. As Scatman Cruthers said in The Shining, this stuff simply shines, and nothing more so than those things directly linked to the man who bore the greatest burden, and the judgment of history, Abraham Lincoln.

Yes, this is an exciting, well-documented lot, and it will bring a pretty penny from a very erudite collector, likely upwards of $100,000+.

The kicker with this thing, actually, is that it was – literally – plucked from the dustbin of history by Superintendent of Public Printing in 1864, J. D. Defrees, who would have been given the original handwritten manuscript to typeset, make copies and distribute. Nothing was ever thought of handwritten copies, except on the day this one went to print. Defrees reckoned the pages would make neat gifts for some friends. He gave them out and hence to posterity. Only 11 very well documented fragments exist to this day, and this is one of them.

It’s a very cool, and very humbling, thing. Here’s another look if you haven’t yet clicked.

Click on the title of this post to leave a comment.

-Noah Fleisher

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tell me your story and I’ll tell you mine: Introducing Heritage Collector’s Corner

May 6, 2009
Posted by Noah

It finally feels as if we can surface for a breath around here. As Jim noted yesterday, when it rains it pours and Heritage has seen its share of the rising tide in the last few days. Super rare coins, a controversial early formula for a tonic that bears the name Dr Pepper, and way more than I can write here and now about what’s coming up. It’s a whirlwind most days on the Good Ship Heritage, and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. It’s hard work, but mighty good if you can get it.

Rather than take today’s blog post – and the coveted half hour I have to write it – and talk about any of the myriad amazing things currently readying for auction, or having just been there, I wanted to talk about a way in which we’ve all agreed upon here to get some of the great stories and brilliant minds of our collectors out to the general public. It’s a little experiment that we’re calling the Heritage Collector’s Corner, and we want you in it!

The basic ground rules are as follows:

Heritage Collector’s Corner: Why, and what, do you collect?

We’re well aware here at Heritage that our clientele are some of the most interesting, influential people around, and all of you come with a story. Now we want you to tell us just what that story is. Maybe it’s a remembrance of why you started collecting, or a survey of how far your collection has come. We’re looking for stories that can wow, make us laugh or cry, or otherwise remind us why we collect what we do. We would like to share these stories with the rest of the Heritage community, so this is an open call and a chance for you to tell your story.

Submission Guidelines:

1. Send submissions to (You can also send ideas for other topics.)

2. Submissions should be less than 2,000 words

3. Select submissions will be published anonymously by Heritage on the Heritage Blog, in company e-mails and in web promotion. All submissions are subject to editing and proofing. The author’s name will remain confidential.

How does this strike you? I’ll share a bit myself in the hopes of getting this thing started:

My own roots as a collector of sorts goes back to my childhood. My folks were ardent antiquers, yes, but I was bit by the collecting bug very early on myself, when I used to make the long drive from Dallas down to Round Top for the annual antiques fair there as a kid. My mom would give me and my brothers each $10 or so - $20 in the good years before the early 1980s recession here in Texas – and bid us do our own things for the next five or six hours.

I know it sounds anathema to today’s prevailing childcare mores to let your kid just disappear in a vast crowd, hours from home, with no way to check in – simply, “be back here at 3 p.m.” – but that’s the way it was. I knew enough to take care of myself, could run fast and bite and kick if necessary, though no situation ever arose. And for me it was simply Nirvana. I had a clear stretch of hours and hours to wander about, talk to people, get a couple burgers in The Rifle Hall – I can still taste them now! – and, most important of all, a full day of complete freedom from my constantly bossy, poking and punching older brothers. It’s where I got my first taste of, and fondness for being a loner.

I have to laugh at that now, married and with a toddler as I am, and knowing that I am lucky if I get even five minutes in any given day that’s not dedicated to my family or work. In fact, those infrequent days are the stuff of great nostalgia to me, as are the trinkets that I would pick up with the few dollars I didn’t spend on hamburgers, cokes or candy bars. Usually it would be an old, rusty toy of indiscriminate age, or a tin star that may or may not have actually been used by a lawman – most likely not – but I treasured those things, showed them off at school and kept them hidden from my fast-fingered brothers for years and years until they ended up in the trash with so many other trinkets from my childhood.

No, I don’t have the time to do much collecting anymore, and I certainly don’t have the money to get the things I would really want, but the bug has stayed with me. It ultimately led me into the business of writing about antiques and art, then editing magazines about them, and finally to my current happy perch at Heritage. It’s funny how the little things add up in the end to a great big important whole I would never have seen coming. Yet here I am.

Send your stories to

Click on the title of this post to leave a comment.

- Noah Fleisher

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dr Pepper artifact is huge news story; Social media advances at Heritage

May 5, 2009
Posted by Jim Halperin

(There is little for me to say, today, other than thank you to Heritage’s co-founder Jim Halperin, who has lent his time and name to today’s post. He’s one of the more recognizable names in our business, and also a futurist of significant note – if you haven’t read his best-selling 1996 novel, The Truth Machine, it’s worth a go, especially of you like your fiction on the sci-fi/speculative side. You can buy it at or download it free at With all the news of late about the Dr Pepper ledger going up for auction May 13 here, we all felt it was a perfect time for Jim to step in and address the blogging public. – Noah Fleisher)

What an exciting seven days here at Heritage!

We started last week with the sale of “The King of Coins,” a Class III 1804 $1 at our Central States Numismatic Society Platinum Night Auction, Thursday, April 30, for $2.3 million, garnering international media coverage. When a coin of this magnitude and fame comes to auction, the world takes notice. The auction itself netted approximately $45 million, a record for any numismatic auction other than a few Heritage FUN auctions, which occur every January in Florida and are invariably the largest numismatic auctions each year.

If that wasn’t enough, the Associated Press broke the story last weekend about the presence of a circa 1880-1890 ledger from The Old Corner Drug Store in Waco, TX, which we are auctioning off on May 13. This ledger contains what we believe to be the earliest known reference to the name Dr Pepper, and possibly an original formula of sorts for a tonic that may well have evolved in to the Dr Pepper we know and love today.

In the last two days, the story has taken on a life of its own. We’ve seen it in more than 400 worldwide media outlets, from New Zealand to India and the Philippines, and on NPR, BBC, on local news broadcasts across the region and on too many blogs to count. For several hours on Monday morning it was the most viewed and the most emailed story on the entire Internet, according to Yahoo! News. Just Google Heritage auction Dr Pepper formula, and you’ll see.

Now the Dr Pepper Company, which sent a delegation here last week to view the formula, has issued a non-denial denial about the formula in the book, stating simply that it’s not the formula that is used to make Dr Pepper (which we never said it was). Uh, no kidding. To their credit, however, they are not denying that it’s an original Dr Peppers Pepsin Bitters formula from the late 1800s.

My whole family and I LOVE Dr Pepper, by the way, as do practically all Texans – even transplants like us.

Greg Rohan, President of Heritage, has stated it best in our own clarification to the media, as follows:

“In its carefully worded statement, the Dr Pepper Snapple Group never claims that the ledger book from The Corner Drug Store in Waco, currently in our vault and preparing for auction on May 13, isn't the original formula, just that it's not the current one. We agree! We've always indicated that this document dates back to around 1880-1890, precisely the time when the first patent for Dr Pepper appeared.

“We know of no earlier reference to the name, and certainly not one that can be traced, conclusively, back to the drugstore where Dr Pepper was created. Like millions of others, we at Heritage Auction Galleries remain fans of the beverage and of the way its formula tastes today. We certainly wouldn’t recommend reverting to the original formula!”

Heritage operates from a place of transparency and honesty. The way we’re presenting this lot – and, happily, the way in which it is being portrayed across the planet – reflects that honesty, no matter how anyone else may try to spin it.

It is exciting when one of our upcoming auctions captures the world’s attention, as the Dr Pepper lot has done, but it’s a whole new ball game when a news story gets legs like this. This story has now survived several different news cycles – a feat in and of itself – and still seems to have steam.

Last but not least, throughout all of this, Heritage has been on top of the wave of social media. I’ve been Twittering about developments since the 1804 $1 sold last Thursday, and since the Dr Pepper story broke, and you can also find plenty of Heritage Auction stories if you dig into StumbleUpon, Reddit and Digg, all state-of-the art social media meant to keep people informed in this instant-fix 24/7 news environment. I’m proud to say that I know of no other auction house on earth that is, or ever has been, as technologically adept and current as Heritage. We owe our valued consignors and bidders nothing less.

Click on the title of this post to leave a comment.

Monday, May 4, 2009

It’s a cent! It’s a dime! It’s… an 11 cent piece?!

May 4, 2009
Posted by John Dale

Confusion is rare in the coin cataloging department at Heritage… after all, we are catalogers: We’re logical; we organize and write with clarity! Unfortunately, we do have one weak point: our names.

There are two Marks: Chief Cataloger Mark Van Winkle and Senior Cataloger Mark Borckardt. Of the rest of the cataloging staff three out of four are named John or Jon; only Brian Koller has a first name to himself. It’s impossible to say “Hey, Mark!” or “Hey, John!” without sending multiple heads swiveling. Our names also cause more than a few double-takes when Heritage tours come through.

“This is our cataloging department… and here are Jon Amato, John Salyer, and John Beety, our three Johns.”

Naturally, we’ve come up with our own nicknames, though I had to promise not to reveal any of theirs under pain of swift and terrible retribution. That side of the conversation looked something like this.

The catalogers’ nicknames may be off the table, but there’s another nickname I’m free to talk about: “11 cents.”

That nickname is given to a particular error coin, created when a previously minted dime is fed into a coinage press and receives a second strike, this time from cent dies, as happened to a coin in our upcoming Long Beach auction. It was struck twice in 2001 at Philadelphia. The “11 cents” nickname comes from the two denominations added up, “10 cents” for the dime with “1 cent” struck on top. Other varieties created the same way have similar nicknames; most commonly heard is the “6 cents,” in which a previously coined cent receives an impression from nickel dies.

Beyond their rarity (the multiple examples to be offered in our Long Beach auction are exceptional), errors like the “11 cents” are simply fascinating regardless of whether or not one is a coin collector. There is something wonderful yet disconcerting about seeing two faces on one coin, with Lincoln’s unmistakable yet strangely transformed image stamped over the ghostly effigy of Roosevelt. The reverse is less surreal and more whimsical, with unintended foliage growing around the Lincoln Memorial.

Speaking from personal experience, one of the greatest rewards of owning an error coin is being able to show it to others and watch their faces as they try to figure out what went wrong. There is endless variety in the wide-eyed stares and statements of incredulity!

Of course, aside from this auction’s bounty of error coins, there is a wide range of rarities struck as intended that shouldn’t be neglected! Take an hour or two to page through the catalog, whether online or on-lap, and enjoy our broad selection of numismatic treasures.

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-John Dale

Friday, May 1, 2009

Adams-Carter 1804 $1 brings $2.3M, Halperin Twittters, and Platinum Night is a rousing success

May 1, 2009
Posted by Noah

$2.3M on a $1 coin? That’s like, what, a return of 2.3M%? Where can I get odds like that?

In all seriousness, it is after midnight as I write this and I just spent the night glued to my computer watching the “dramatic” unfolding of the CSNS Platinum Night Auction and the selling of the Adams Carter Class III 1804 $1, which did indeed bring $2.3. Either coin collecting has gotten amazingly cool – as in I’m such a cool guy – or I’ve lost all perspective on what coolness means. I guess I’d have to go with the latter, though I know all of you would heartily disagree and insist on the former…

It was indeed a good night, with the total topping $32M for the session and more than $35 for the overall event, and there are still more sessions coming. It’s looking good. If you didn’t follow Jim Halperin’s Twittering throughout the night you missed some good fun. He’s a natural for it, and he’s got the charisma to make it interesting in the voyeuristic way that makes Twitter such a guilty pleasure. Here’s a sample:

“Platinum Night just ended. Coin auction at $32,979,089 with 4 sessions to go, plus Currency, so we should break $40 million. Not too shabby.”

“John Albanese on his $2.3 million 1804 $1: 'I don't drink, I don't smoke, so I needed a coin fix, and this will satisfy me for a while.'”

Given that I can’t really speak with any authority on the real meaning of coins, I’m going to turn it over to John Dale, who relays a true inside understanding and excitement about the event:

“It's past midnight in Cincinnati and past 11 p.m. in Texas, but I might have trouble getting to sleep tonight. I just finished watching a bit of numismatic history.

“First things first: $2 million hammer price on the 1804 dollar, $2.3 million with buyer's premium. It's Heritage's fifth multi-million-dollar coin sold at auction, and though all the action was online, there was still plenty of excitement, a Digital Age version of the mail bidder against the floor bidder.

“A HERITAGE Live! participant, seeing a starting bid of $1.7 million established by an Internet bidder, put up a digital paddle twice, the second time a cut bid at $1.95 million. The Internet bidder was willing to bid $2 million, though, and the Heritage Live bidder didn't jump in for another full increment. The lot was hammered down, and the sale moved on, but not before some clapping.

“Walking into that room, then, there was an auction record set for a Class III 1804 dollar; the previous record, set back in 2003 by the same coin, was just more than $1.2 million including buyer's premium, so a minimum hammer price of $1.7 million was going to blow that figure out of the water.

“(Auctioneer) Bob Merrill also moved even higher on my Cool People list when he paused the action just before the 1804 dollar.

Mark Borckardt, the "missing name" in my earlier post about the 1804 dollar, is the Senior Cataloger at Heritage, someone who's up there on the aforementioned Cool People list, and was in attendance. Bob took time to point him out and start a round of applause, praising Mark as the best in the business. I sat at home, watching and listening, and I smiled a little. Two more decades in the business, and maybe I'll get where he is... maybe. Beyond the obvious, the expertise that comes from being a professional numismatist for more than half one's life, Mark has a level of innate numismatic talent that leaves me in awe. Oh, yes, and he's a better bowler than I'll ever be.

“Back to the auction proper. As impressive as the 1804 dollar's showing was, the Platinum Night offering was more than just the 1804 dollar and a bunch of backup singers. Platinum Night hauled in more than $27.4 million, meaning that even if one were to take away the 1804 dollar, it would still be a $25 million session. There's plenty of money out there to buy the best coins, and many bidders took opportunities when they saw them. Of course, the auction is far from over, and judging from the bidding on a few of the lots yet to come, it seems as if they would've been right at home in Platinum Night. It'll be interesting to see how it all shakes out...and how the news wires respond.”

Thanks John Dale! FYI, AP has already picked up the story, it has appeared in Texas, Ohio and New Jersey, so it should break nationally today, if it hasn’t already by the time this gets posted.

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-Noah Fleisher and John Dale Beety