Bonhams New York Inaugural Coins and Banknotes Sale, Incredible US Gold Coinage Strength

by Bonhams on December 8, 2009 · 0 comments

The December 3rd Coins and Banknotes sale, presented by Bonhams New York, was met with great enthusiasm amongst collectors. The first of its kind to be held at the auctioneers’ New York showrooms, numismatics from across the globe eagerly awaited the opportunity to bid on over 400 exceptional lots.

1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific Round
1915 $50 Panama-Pacific Round: One of the most desirable of Classic Era commemorative coins realized $54,999. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Clearly one of the most coveted lots in the sale was a 1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific Round (pictured, above). Considered one of the most desirable of Classic Era commemorative coins, this is the largest official coin produced by the United States Mint and features the helmeted head of Minerva on the obverse and an owl on the reverse. With an amazingly limited number of defects, both sides are bathed in a shimmering velvet bloom. The rarity and importance of this issue, as well as the beautiful quality, resulted in a final price of $54,990.

Also drawing collectors was an 1851-O $20. Although coined in a large mintage of 315,000 pieces, the vast majority of these disappeared long ago. Only a mere handful exist in high grades, and perhaps just 100 or so are of as fine a quality of the present example. Touching off a round of intense bidding, this fine and seldom found piece drew the impressive price of $12,285.

An exceptional 1878 $3 also lured enthusiasts. Notably free of heavy marks, even upon the closest inspection, the strike is about as bold as ever seen for the date. Further adding to the coin’s desirability are the fiery rose and peach highlights on its frosty honey-gold surfaces. As the gavel fell, this beautiful example fetched $11,700.

Solidly outperforming was a group of seven, 1924 $20 coins. The set featured highly lustrous pieces which were also noticeably devoid of most major detracting marks. Inspiring a session of excited bidding, the lot brought $11,408 against a pre-sale estimate of $8,000-9,000.

A group of six, 1904 $20 coins also sold strongly with a price of $9,360.

Bidders were impressed by an 1808 $5 coin as well. A lovely, lustrous example enhanced by its deep mint frost, the piece displays minimal surface and contact marks- adding to its excellent eye appeal. This rare and impressive half eagle fetched a noteworthy $8,775.

However, it was another $5 coin that proved to be the most hotly sought lot after of the sale. Setting off no less than a bidding war, was a set of two 1881-S $5 coins. Carrying a pre-sale estimate of $550-650, the lot sparked a fierce round of passionate bidding which ultimately resulted in the amazing final price of $8,190.

Other lots drawing strong bidder attention were a set of five 1924 $20 coins which brought $7,898; a set of five 1904 $20 coins that fetched $7,605; and a group of four 1923 $20 coins that neatly outperformed, realizing $7, 020 against an estimate of $5,000-5,600.


"I am delighted to have been able to organize and hold our inaugural auction at Bonhams New York," commented Director of Coins and Banknotes, Paul Song. "Although some parts of the rare coin and banknote market were selective, we had areas of incredible strength, most notably in the US gold, where we realized prices never seen before for US regular issue gold coinage of the 19th and 20th century.  We look forward to our next auction in the spring of 2010."


The illustrated catalog for the sale will be online at in the weeks following the auction.  For more information about the department, please visit

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About Bonhams

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world’s oldest and largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son and Neale UK. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America.

Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street, and Knightsbridge, and a further seven throughout the UK. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Boston in the USA; and Switzerland, France, Monaco, Australia, Hong Kong and Dubai.

Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 50 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, go to

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