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?

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-John Dale Beety