Spirited bidding was abundant at the Sotheby’s Historic Coins and Medals sale held in New York on May 21. This much-anticipated event included more than 200 lots showcasing coins from the distinguished collection of Ralph & Lois Stone. Mr. Stone, a northern California banker, was a fastidious collector who assembled an attractive cabinet of 19th- and 20th-century coins in the 1980s and ‘90s. While the Stones’ collection included a variety of silver and gold coins, it was notably anchored by a truly exceptional Morgan dollar set complete by date and mintmark.
The Stone Collection was built around coins encapsulated in early-generation Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) holders, many labeled with a seal of approval from Certified Acceptance Corporation (CAC), indicating coins that represent exceptional quality and eye appeal respective to their assigned grade. Pre-auction estimate suggested the entire collection would take perhaps $3 million, but when all was said and done it managed an astounding $5,094,629. What does this mean? In a nutshell, quality coins that are properly graded are essentially always in demand.
A Few Highlights
Morgan dollars inspired fervent bidding that helped push hammer prices well past estimates in several cases, with the top coin for the entire auction being a spectacular, sharply struck 1884-S PCGS/CAC MS67 Morgan dollar that closed for $735,000, well beyond the $300,000-500,000 it was expected to take. Also selling for $735,000 was a crisp 1893-S PCGS/CAC MS65 with stunning surfaces and light gold toning – a coin that was also originally anticipated to snag $300,000-500,000. An 1892-S PCGS/CAC MS67 Morgan dollar sold for $495,000, or more than $100,000 past the pre-auction estimate of $250,000-350,000. An 1893-O PCGS/CAC MS65DMPL Morgan took $325,000, or some $75,000 beyond pre-auction expectations, while an 1897-O PCGS/CAC MS66 Morgan managed to sell for $262,500, or more than triple the predicted $50,000-80,000.
Morgan dollars weren’t the only coins shining under the spotlight. So, too, was an outstanding gold and silver five-piece 1915 Panama-Pacific commemorative set with its original box. Featuring the always popular round and octagonal $50 Pan-Pac gold commemoratives, this gorgeous set sold for a whopping $275,000. Other memorable lots include a fantastic collection of MS65 silver commemorative coins spanning from 1892 through 1954 in early PCGS, NGC, and ANACS holders which took $60,000, an 1848 CAL. PCGS AU53 Liberty Head quarter eagle that hammered at $62,500, an 1865 Andrew Johnson Indian peace medal that notched $37,500, and an 1890 PCGS/CAC MS66 Liberty Seated half dollar that traded for $18,750,
The Stone Collection was unlike anything else the market has seen in recent years, which is in part why the cabinet fared so well in the Sotheby’s event. In addition to the sheer quality of the coins in the Stone Collection, another element that helped it gain traction with specialists was its impeccable collection of three-cent silvers – a relatively obscure series that often receives little attention in major sales. However, Stone’s assemblage of three-cent silvers encompassed the best of the best, including an 1868 NGC/CAC Gold MS65 that commanded $35,000 – a mighty sum for a three-cent silver on any day. Other highlights from the collection of three-cent silvers are an 1870 NCG/CAC MS66 that sold for $32,500, rainbow-toned 1867 NCG/CAC MS65 that took $13,750, and 1863 NGC/CAC MS66 that went for $6,000.
Strong Figures Suggest Good Things for Morgans, Coin Market
While every series represented in the Stone Collection performed relatively well at the Sotheby’s event, we at CDN are taking particular note of the Morgan dollars, which we’ve recently reported have shown indications that the series could be softening. While this may remain true for run-of-the-mill examples, the May 21 Sotheby’s event demonstrates that properly-graded examples of these popular coins still perform well, boding well for choosy enthusiasts who insist on buying top-quality Morgan dollars with nice surfaces, strong strike, and great eye appeal. We will be reflecting some of the results from the Sotheby’s sale in our online pricing as early as next week, so please stay tuned.