Thursday, February 25, 2010

Batman Beats Superman: $1,075,500 Price Is Comic Book Record, at Heritage Auctions

February 25, 2010
Posted by Noah

Following is the press release that we just sent out about the 8.0 Detective Comics #27, a new world record for any comic! Can you say $1,07,500? I thought your could!

(Dallas, Texas) -- Batman beat Superman. The Caped Crusader pounded the Man of Steel – and the recession – in a comic book auction today in Dallas, Texas with an anonymous superheroes fan paying a record $1,075,500 for a 1939 comic book with Batman’s first appearance.

“This is a world’s record price for any comic book. There was applause in the room when the gavel pounded for the final price of $1,075,500,” said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage Auctions of Dallas, Texas (, the auction house that sold the Batman comic book today.

The name of the winning bidder was not disclosed.

“This is one of the finest known surviving copies of Detective Comics #27, the first appearance of Batman. Two weeks before the live auction session, online bidding already surpassed the previous comic book auction record of $317,000 set last year for a copy of Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman,” said Lon Allen, a Director of the Comics Department at Heritage.
The Batman comic was sold on behalf of an anonymous consignor.

“It was owned for decades and kept in excellent condition by a savvy comic book collector who purchased it for $100 more than 40 years ago. In the 1960s and 1970s many people considered that an outrageous amount of money to spend for a 1930s era comic book,” said Allen.

“The Bat-Man,” as he was originally called, appeared for the first time in a six-page story in Detective Comics #27 with a cover date of May 1939. Superman appeared a year earlier in Action Comics #1 with a cover date of June 1938.

The comic was certified at VF 8.0, on a scale of 1 to 10, by CGC. It is one of two known Detective #27 comics certified at that grade, with none higher.

Earlier this week, a copy of the first appearance of Superman was reported as being sold for $1 million by a company in New York City; however, it was a private treaty transaction and not an open, public auction.

For additional information, contact Heritage Auctions at (800) 872-6467 or visit online at

On the Net:
Heritage Auctions:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Detective #27, first Batman at Heritage, sitting a $500K+ already and looks to rise... Old public auction comic book price, I laugh at you!

Feb. 23, 2010

Posted by Noah

It's been a busy few days here at Heritage, and in the world of high-end, culturally iconic comic books. If you're reading this, then you know that Heritage is on the verge of selling an epic copy of Detective #27, first appearance of "The Batman," this Thursday, Feb. 25. The previous record for a comic book offered at public auction was $317,000, last year, for an Action #1. Right now our Tec #27 is sitting at $507,000, and bidding looks to continue rising a few days from now. Hang on to your plastic sleeves, everyone! It's going to be quite a ride...

There has been much press in the last 24 hours about an Action #1 that reportedly sold (unverified at this point) for $1,000,000 in a private treaty sale in NYC yesterday. I say good for the seller and good for the overall comics business. That book, according to the reporting, was placed on the site where it sold and picked up its $1M price about a minute later.

Impressive, yes, but I wonder what it would have brought had the seller been really smart about it and placed it in a public auction. Imagine, if one buyer was willing to pay $1M in 1 minute, what would at least two buyers be willing to pay for the same book if they were both competing for it, and they had weeks to sit on it... Great price, yes, but in the humble opinion of your blogger, there seems to have been money left on the table...

Our concern here, however, is now with the 8.0 Detective #27. The excitement is certainly building and we're getting a lot of inquiries, not to mention 10s of thousands of page views on the book. It is important to note that this comic will make history for its price not as the most expensive comic ever purchased, but as the most expensive comic ever offered at public auction. It's an important distinction to make, because - at least in theory - everyone has a shot at the Detective #27. If it were a private treaty sale, well, then first come first serve...

The overriding theme in a lot of the press on the recent comics action has been on the pop culture rivalry between Supes and Bats. I prefer Bats, and given a choice I'd take the Tec #27. There are less copies available, and I believe The Dark Knight is simply more relevant to the squeaky clean Man of Steel.

Supes is true blue, and he operates strictly within the confines of good and bad. Batman, however, doesn't mind bending the rules to get what he wants. The line blurs with Batman, and in the world today, with so many competing outlets for our interests, that blurry line is the most relevant thing there is in this comic battle.

Tune in to Heritage Live at this Thursday, around 2 p.m. or so to see where the Tec #27 lands. It's going to be a public auction record, it's going to be fun, and it could be yours...

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

-Noah Fleisher

Monday, February 22, 2010

Coin Monday: Fifty Large, Heritage Auction Galleries' style

Feb. 22, 2010
Written by John Dale

The last heavy stages of cataloging for Heritage’s Official ANA Auction next month are underway. Cataloging life is never more stressful than in “the crunch,” but at the same time, it doesn’t get any more interesting. It’s impossible to predict what will come next!

For me, this past Friday was the most interesting day of all. Among other lots, I cataloged seven 1915-S Panama-Pacific fifty dollar gold pieces, three round and four octagonal. That’s…not normal.

Then again, it’s not normal for one of our auctions to have seven of these enormous coins, regardless of how many lots it contains. For example, the January 2010 FUN Auction had just three examples of either shape.

The fifty dollar pieces, along with three smaller denominations, were struck to commemorate the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, a World’s Fair-grade celebration held in San Francisco in 1915. (The San Francisco Public Library has an engaging “virtual tour” of the Exposition grounds as seen through contemporary photographs.)

For the first time in a decade, the U.S. Mint struck commemorative coins for the event, and for the first time ever, it did so away from the main Mint in Philadelphia. At more than two ounces of gold each, the fifty dollar coins were too large to be struck on regular coin presses. Rather than strike the huge coins in Philadelphia and ship them out to California, the Mint sent a medal press over instead. This allowed the San Francisco Mint to strike the coins on demand.

In addition to their huge size and dollar value (the fifty dollar face value remains a record for a U.S. commemorative), the Panama-Pacific fifties are known for coming in two different shapes, round and the more dramatic octagonal format. The octagonal shape is a nod to the massive fifty dollar “ingots” struck in California at the height of the gold rush, like this United States Assay Office piece.

The entire maximum mintage, 1,500 pieces each for the round and octagonal formats, was struck, though less than half of that mintage would be sold, with the rest re-melted. Not surprisingly, the octagonal pieces were more popular and sold 645 examples, leaving the round version a net mintage of just 483 pieces, the lowest of any classic commemorative.

With seven examples on offer in the upcoming auction, there are plenty of chances to own one of these massive gold coins. Two featured collections are key. The Cliff Street Collection offers four separate examples: here, here, here and here.

The Larry V. Cunningham Collection has two more pieces as part of a complete five-coin set of Panama-Pacific commemoratives, one round and one octagonal. A “lone wolf” octagonal, an attractive MS63 coin, rounds out the selection.

Whatever your budget (assuming you have, say, $40,000 or so to spend on a coin), there’s sure to be a Panama-Pacific fifty dollar in the auction for you. If they’re all out of your reach, there are a variety of other Panama-Pacific denominations, such as the half dollar, gold dollar and gold quarter eagle, that could be yours for a fraction of the price. I’m sure Mr. Cunningham would be happy if you bid on any of them…

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

-John Dale Beety

Friday, February 19, 2010

Martignette, Illustration Art - Led by Willcox-Smith, Elvgren, Leyendecker and Vargas - continues its inexorable climb to legend at Heritage Auctions

Feb. 19, 2010
Posted by Noah

Perhaps a few of you tuned in to Heritage Live! yesterday to watch how Heritage's Illustration Art auction was going to do... Perhaps you even thought that, with the third segment of Charles Martignette's amazing estate filtering out that prices were going to settle and excitement was going to diminish... If that's the case, then you are disappointed this morning, no?

Let's see. I was at Heritage Slocum location for a good part of the auction in the afternoon, and had it on live on my computer back at my desk, and kept it on at home both before and after dinner until the thing ended somewhere around 9 or 10 p.m. I watched until my eyes blurred and ached, until I couldn't freeze the amazing images out of my consciousness and they seared the background of everything I looked at, ghosting in greens and yellows behind the skaters and skiers of Olympic coverage long after the final tally was set.

That tally? Oh yes, the reason you're disappointed if you're a naysayer (Do you say nay?), is that when the smoke settled, the auction had realized $4.5 million, obliterating the previous single auction record set last year at Heritage by more than $1 million. Serious scratch if ever there was.

While I could talk about the $310,000 Jessie Willcox-Smith drawing, or any of the $100,000+ Elvgrens, or the record setting Vargas Girl ($107,000+), or any number of record-setting illustrations, I will leave that up to the intrepid collector and pop culture junkie to dig through the archives - there is a certain Zen to spending hours doing it.

No. I want to talk about the one painting in this auction that I wanted above any, and that was Rudy Nappi's "Reefer Girl." And once you stop giggling at the quaint title and look at this painting you will see why I - and many more - wanted her for our own.

Reefer Girl was estimated at $2,000-$4,000, and given that none of his paintings had ever brought more than $4950, it seemed reasonable to expect the same range - he's that sort of artist. Quite good, indeed... But Reefer Girl, oh, Reefer Girl... I guess I knew it was destined, like the best of love affairs and liaisons, to end in heartbreak. Yes, my $2,000-$4,000 girl, who I actually entertained a brief second of hope of actually getting my hands on - don't ask how laughable my only bid was, how I would have possibly paid for it and explained it to my wife had I won it, or how quickly said bid tumbled to those with more do-re-mi - soared to $26,290.

Yes, I have good taste. Expensive, too...

I'm sorry for keeping this from you for so long, but love like this cannot be trumpeted too loudly, less it be lost or stolen, and I feared one of this blog's readers would try and take her from me. As it turns out, there was nothing to lose, for my sweet Reefer Girl was never really mine...

Excuse me, please.... No, those aren't tears... It's the smoke, the smoke left from a painted girl with an orange sweater, that's gotten in my eyes...

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

-Noah Fleisher

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Revisiting “Blondiegate,” 1982, at Heritage Auctions

Feb. 18, 2010
Written by Barry Sandoval

Blondiegate: The day America lost its innocence, or an event of no consequence whatsoever?

You be the judge.

It was June 20, 1982, when the Associated Press wrote:

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A recent Blondie comic strip showing two husbands sneaking out on a lecture was a slightly altered version of a Blondie strip published 19 years ago, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported Sunday.

From the article, readers also learned:

- The strips were virtually identical except for the final panel, where a quip by Blondie was replaced by a funnier quip by Herb (hmm, 75% repetition!).
- Chic Young’s real name was Murat Young (who knew?).

- Dean Young, who took over writing the strip in 1973, could not be reached because his phone was knocked out by severe weather (suspicious!).

- King Features said “We are very concerned and surprised about this.” (Why, 28 years later, have no heads rolled yet?)

A follow-up story a couple of days later quoted Dean Young as saying: “Who cares?... I mean, golly, give me a break.”

I agree with Dean Young, but King Features obviously didn’t, as I learned from this lot to be auctioned Feb. 27, three boxes full of correspondence from the files of King Features editor Bill Yates.

The documents therein show that King Features launched into damage-control mode, demanding that Young re-do from scratch any strips with partially re-used gags, with the exception of those that had already been published or were too far along in the process to stop.

From handwritten notes, presumably by Yates:

"TOO LATE TO STOP: 6/7/82 redo of 3/10/63
any more?
anything we can pull, we must
Sunday holds (KILL) Aug. 15 + 22"

A few thoughts here:

- Writing a comic strip is one of those things lots of people think they could do well. Many probably could come up with a week’s worth of funny gags. Maybe a month’s worth. Perhaps even a year’s. Dean Young, though, had thought of about 4,000 gags by 1982, the vast majority funny. Try that sometime.

- If someone reminded me of something today that made me smile or laugh in 1991, I would thank him, not criticize him.

- If re-using premises was a crime in 1982, the makers of Three’s Company, the Dukes of Hazzard, and Love Boat should have all been sent to San Quentin.

In closing I quote a King Features memo from June 21, 1982, also part of this auction lot:

“With the exception of the Sioux Falls paper, reporters’ approach to the situation has been casual. The AP writer told Dean, ‘I feel silly calling you.’”

- Barry Sandoval

Monday, February 15, 2010

Coin Monday: Numismatic New Orleans

Feb. 15, 2010
Written by John Dale

So there was a football game eight days ago. Maybe you saw it. Full disclosure: I was rooting for the Indianapolis Colts. I grew up in Indiana, and I’m a graduate of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, where the Colts hold their summer training camp.

(Apropos of nothing: Peter King of Sports Illustrated had a pretty amusing take on Rose-Hulman when he went there to cover the Colts in 2009, and while there wasn’t an “Advanced Calculus” course while I attended, math did start with “Calculus I” and got harder from there!)

Naturally, I was disappointed that the Colts lost, but the New Orleans Saints deserved the win. Enjoy the rings, Drew Brees, head coach/mad scientist Sean Payton, and all the rest. We’ll get you next time…

In honor of the Saints’ victory (and my lost “blog bet”), today’s coin comes from New Orleans. While Saints fans hope this season was just the beginning, the MS63 1909-O half eagle in the upcoming March 2009 Fort Worth Official ANA Auction marks an end: the end of the New Orleans Mint as a coin-striking concern.

The New Orleans Mint has an unusual history in two acts. One of three branch mints to begin striking coins in 1838, New Orleans shut down operations in 1861, along with the other two branch mints, which were also in Confederate states. While the other two branch mints never re-opened, the New Orleans Mint was refurbished and began to strike coins again in 1879.

The re-opening was only a partial success. The Mint’s equipment was old, and its existence was controversial. Production halted in 1909, and the Mint machinery was dismantled and returned to Philadelphia two years later.

The mintages for the various half eagle issues of 1909 illustrate how obsolete the New Orleans Mint was. That year, Philadelphia struck 627,060 half eagles for circulation. The San Francisco Mint coined 297,200 pieces, a respectable figure. The recently opened Denver Mint had an astonishing output of 3,423,560 five dollar coins. New Orleans? Just 34,200 examples. Worse yet, that was the first half eagle issue struck at New Orleans in 15 years.

The New Orleans Mint did not linger to strike more half eagle issues, and today, the 1909-O is key to its series in Mint State grades. The Select example to be offered in Fort Worth would make an excellent cornerstone to a complete collection. The winning bidder can do with the coin as he or she pleases, with one exception: no coin tosses. I’m sure the Vikings fans will agree with me on that one…

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

-John Dale Beety

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow Day here at Heritage Auctions in Dallas

Feb. 11, 2010
Posted by Noah

It's not often that we actually get a whole day of snow here in Texas - I can remember a few real snow and/or ice storms from when I was a kid, circa 1980 or so - so today is special for Texans who never see too much of the stuff. Most of them are actually stopping, looking up to the sky and scratching their heads as they mutter, "Now what in tarnation is that there white stuff floatin' down from the sky?"

While I am from here, I did spend 20 years in the Northeast and New England, not to mention one unbelievably cold winter in central Wisconsin, so it takes a lot of snow, and very deep cold, to make me even take notice.

Still, though, it is kinda beautiful...

The worst part of it all, I have to say, is how poorly Texans drive in the snow. It is literally as if the earth itself has thundered, shaken and been rent wide open - even though the snow is not sticking to the roads, and not freezing to the roads either. It is like driving in a medium downpour, really... Texans also have a thing about rushing to the supermarket and buying all the milk and bread they can find - bottled water, too, these days - just in case that funny white stuff coming down means the end of society as we know it... I kid, I kid...

The top picture is from the 17th floor here at Heritage World HQ, looking into Downtown Dallas. The other is from the front of our Slocum Street Annex in Dallas's Design District.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

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

-Noah Fleisher

Monday, February 8, 2010

Coin Monday: The 1904 Double Eagle, Playing to Type

February 8, 2010
Written by John Dale

One of the broad styles or modes of collecting coins, type collecting consists of acquiring and owning a series of coins, each representative of a subset, or “type” of coin. A type set of double eagles, for example, would include coins exemplifying its various designs over the years, both long-lived (such as the “Type Three” Liberty double eagle with denomination spelled out as TWENTY DOLLARS, struck from 1877 to 1907) and short-lived (the High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagle was made only briefly in the latter year). The High Relief double eagles are worthy of their own blog post, so I won’t go into them today, but consider this coin from the upcoming March 2010 Official ANA Auction in Fort Worth a sneak preview.

The High Relief double eagles of 1907 are the only ones of their type, so the collector by type has to get one or do without. Longer-lived types, on the other hand, have a variety of issues to choose from, and usually type collectors will aim for more common dates, often known as “type coins,” well-suited to that style of collecting. Since type coins are more available than rarer dates, they are usually less expensive than their peers, letting the type collector acquire a higher-graded coin for the same price.

For the “Type Three” Liberty double eagle design I mentioned earlier, there are several dates that appeal to type collectors. Most famous is the 1904 double eagle, struck at Philadelphia. The official mintage of coins for circulation: 6,256,699 pieces. Over six million coins at twenty dollars face value each—and 1904 dollars, no less—that’s a lot of money, even for Mark Cuban. Which reminds me, I should go to another Mavericks game one of these days...

Anyway, there were a lot of 1904 double eagles made, and many of them have survived. In the Fort Worth auction, there are examples in a variety of Mint State grades, suitable for a broad range of budgets. Go ahead and check out the price information on this MS63 example. Those “Population in All Grades” numbers? In the six figures, and no joke. NGC has graded a 1904 double eagle as MS63 64,496 times. That’s not a typo. Suffice it to say, if you want an example in MS63, you can find usually find one to your liking, and quickly.

Same for MS64, and even MS65, though as the quality increases, so does the price. There’s a dramatic drop-off in availability from MS65 to MS66, though, and the example we’re offering in that grade looks every bit the five-figure coin it is. As for finer examples, NGC and PCGS combined have graded three total. Even Heritage hasn’t offered one. If you’re holding out for an MS67, expect a long wait. If an MS66 will do for you, though, the coin coming up in late March might be just your type.

-- John Dale Beety

Friday, February 5, 2010

CGC 8.0 1939 Detective #27 comic, Batman's first appearance, on the brink of a world record at Heritage

Feb. 5, 2010
Posted by Noah

Ode to the CGC Certified 8.0 1939 all-original copy of Detective #27, The Batman's first appearance, in Heritage's Feb. 25-27 Comics and Comic Art Auction, which stands, at this very moment, one single bid away from being the single most valuable comic ever offered at public auction (currently at just more than $310,000+, which is a BIG wow) and the catalog has not even reached collectors yet:

The mintiest little Batman book
the public's ever seen
Whoever walks with this baby
will be feeling quite sanguine...

Okay, okay... so I'm not much of a poet, but you have to give me credit for using sanguine...

Speaking of sanguine, I daresay Heritage's comics department is sporting a collective smile these days. Think about it: The auction literally just opened to bidding a few days, online no less, and the bidding jumped immediately to $286,000 before moving one more notch this afternoon. There is little doubt that this book is going to surpass the record price ever paid at public auction for a comic book, and rightly so. It's a beauty.

Let's try this again:

Oh comely Detective #27
with your yellow cover still bright
you are the hobby's Holy Grail
let your price now take record flight...

Better? I didn't think so...

Facts, though, is facts, and this little comic, bought back in the 1960s by a savvy collector for about $100, is now a thing that rivals the prices paid for examples of artwork from important American painters and furniture makers. This is a storied item that speaks of a vastly different world - an era when America was quickening toward war with Germany and the public zeitgeist was indeed in need of a somber savior - that is somehow still very relevant to the war torn world of today.

My favorite take on this comic potentially setting the world record for price is that it proves, if only for now or a few years, that Batman is simply more relevant to society today than Superman. I know it's not really fair to compare this comic book with the Action #1 that sold last year for $317,000, because the grades were different - and if an 8.0 Action #1 showed up then that would probably eclipse this record - but I'm going to do it anyway.

In 2010 the general populace loves its superheroes to be flawed, plagued by doubt and conscience, in short, human. Superman is not a human, and he is almost invincible. Batman? Very flawed, even fragile, despite his incredible gadgets and intellect. Batman could easily have been destroyed many times over if only one of his foes had simply killed him on the spot instead of leaving him in a deadly, but slow, trap. That, however, is also Batman's particular luck, and don't we all live our lives in the same way - in one sense or the other?

No? Not you... Oh well... I was speaking metaphorically, of course.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to make my way out of the ropes binding me to this giant Jack-In-The-Box, painfully plinking Pop Goes The Weasel, before it pops open, pops up and smashes me to bits in the jagged refuse of the Joker's abandoned toy factory hideout... At least that's how my commute home through Dallas traffic sometimes feels...

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

-Noah Fleisher

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Unbelievably rare Mickey Mantle gamer surfaces for Heritage Auctions April Sports event

Feb. 5, 2010
Posted by Noah

An extensively photo-matched, researched and authenticated New York Yankees jersey worn by Mickey Mantle during the 1967-68 MLB season – truly one of the greatest Mantle-related pieces of memorabilia to ever surface in the hobby – will make its’ world auction premiere as part of Heritage Auction Galleries April 22-23 Signature® Sports Memorabilia Auction, live in Dallas and online via It is estimated at $100,000+.

Let's turn to Chris Ivy, Director of Heritage Sports, for his opinion, yes?

“This amazing jersey truly represents the find of a lifetime for collectors of top shelf baseball memorabilia,” he said. “Even more incredible is the fact that it sat in a private collection for more than three decades with the owner completely unaware of how important and piece it actually is.”

Consigned by a South Florida collector, who wishes to remain anonymous, the jersey found its way to the area after Mantle’s final game in pinstripes when the great slugger participated in a youth baseball camp in spring of 1970. Before that, however, it saw active duty in the minor leagues with the Oneonta Yankees – a farm team for the great franchise – as they trained alongside the professional team in Ft. Lauderdale in 1969, evidenced by a very faint outline of the letter "O" appearing over the heart, which replaced the original iconic “NY” Yankees symbol.

After Mantle agreed to participate in the clinic, the “O” was stripped and replaced with a block lettered "NEW YORK," which is how the jersey appeared when it came to Heritage from the consignor, a friend of one of the boys who had attended the camp. The stitching path of the original "NY" logo still remains clearly visible, even after expert restoration to return the jersey to its original appearance. Importantly, however, the number "7" on the reverse shows no such sign of removal or replacement.
"In actuality, the jersey also saw active duty in the spring of 1969, and could therefore be justifiably billed as Mantle's last pinstripes,” Chris said. “We know for sure that this was the very jersey that The Mick wore on the cover of the Mickey Mantle Day program distributed to more than 60,000 fans at Yankee Stadium on June 8, 1969.”

The aging slugger couldn't help but think of a man honored on that same ground three decades earlier as he stepped to the microphone.

"I've often wondered how a man who knew he was going to die could stand here and say he was the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” Mantle said, “but now I guess I know how he felt."

Like Gehrig, the Mick had nothing left to give to the fans of the Bronx other than his gratitude, the sharp edges of his athletic gifts dulled by injury, hard living and the relentless, unforgiving passage of time.

“Now, in a magical moment, Mantle has once more surfaced to gift us with his immortal presence in the form of this long-hidden gamer,” Chris said. “It’s easily one of the most important and desirable Mantle artifacts ever to reach the public auction block.”

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

-Noah Fleisher

Monday, February 1, 2010

Coin Monday: Wreath Arms Wide Open

Feb. 1, 2010
Written by John Dale

My taste in coins is well-defined: I favor proof Seated silver, classic and modern commemoratives, and obscure 19th century gold rarities.

My taste in music, on the other hand…well, calling it a “taste” stretches the definition of the word. But decidedly under-represented in the mix: power ballads. Pat Benatar is acceptable, but I draw the line at Michael Bolton, and ditto for any song title combining the words “arms” and “open” (see Journey, “Open Arms,” and Creed, “With Arms Wide Open” [JDB, I have to take issue with the Journey diss. Those guys stuill rock! In fact, my frist concert, at age 13, was Journey and Bryan Adams at the now-gone Reunion Arena here in Dallas! - NTF).

When the arms are those of a wreath, however, I do like open arms — and in the case of the 1849-C Open Wreath gold dollar, those open arms hold immense rarity, not to mention potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in value. Heritage is offering an 1849-C Open Wreath gold dollar, believed to be one of just five known, in the swiftly approaching February 2010 Long Beach U.S. Coin Auction. For many years, the fifth example was only rumored, though within the last couple of weeks Heritage has received information that all but confirms the existence of the fifth coin.

There are two major design varieties among gold dollars struck in 1849, the first year of the denomination, at the mint in Charlotte, NC. The “Open Wreath” coins have the ends of the wreath far away from the 1 in the denomination. The “Closed Wreath” coins, such as this example, have the ends in much closer. Both coins are from The Longfellow Collection, a remarkable gathering of gold dollars with the 1849-C Open Wreath as the cornerstone.

What makes the Open Wreath 1849-C gold dollar so rare? Between both Open Wreath and Closed Wreath coins, there were just 11,634 1849-C gold dollars struck. Researchers believe the Open Wreath coins were struck first, but only a couple hundred of them were made before the Closed Wreath design replaced the Open Wreath. Mint officials found fault with the technical details of the Open Wreath reverse, hence the replacement. For a Charlotte gold dollar issue, a survival rate below 3% is not unusual, so if, for example, 200 Open Wreath pieces were made originally, it wouldn’t be strange for just five coins to remain today.

Some rarities are famous, others obscure. To the collecting population at large, the Open Wreath 1849-C gold dollar is the latter, but the catalog description quotes Douglas Winter as saying, “Among Charlotte [gold] collectors, it has assumed near-mythic proportions.” What will it bring? A coin so infrequently seen is hard to predict, but a six-figure sum is virtually assured.

It’s time for me to go back to cataloging. I often catalog to music, and this time, I think I’ll make an exception to my usual rule about power ballads. Bring on the Pat Benatar! But should I start with “Shadows of the Night” or “Invincible?” Decisions, decisions… [I can only assume, John Dale, that you went with “Invincible.” – NTF]

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

-John Dale Beety