Heritage COINFEST Auction Features Keller Collection of Early American Coins

by Heritage Auctions on October 11, 2010 · 0 comments

DALLAS, TX — Locked in a Pennsylvania vault for 43 years, one of the most comprehensive collections of colonial and early American coins ever to reach public auction, The W. Philip Keller Collection of U.S. Colonials, is the principle highlight of the upcoming Heritage Auctions Rare U.S. Coin auction, Oct. 28-31 in conjunction with COINFEST in Stamford, CT.

1785 COPPER Connecticut Copper

Miller 4.2-F.6 1785 COPPER Connecticut Copper, African Head VF30 NGC. There are two distinct die pairs of 1785 Connecticut copper described as the ‘African Head.’ The first, Miller 4.1-F.4, is a common variety that offers considerable supply to meet the demand. The Miller 4.2-F.6, on the other hand, is extremely rare. The entry in the Whitman Encyclopedia of Colonial and Early American Coins states of the latter: Discovered by Eric P. Newman (CNL, January 1972). Rarity: URS-2. It is estimated at $40,000+, but could go significantly higher at the Heritage COINFEST Auction.

Mr. Keller apparently stopped actively collecting around 1966, with intermittent purchases through the early 1970s, and stored his collection in a bank vault where it was discovered nearly a 40 years later by his surprised family after he died last year, who knew that Mr. Keller was a collector, but had no idea of the depth, or value, of his collection.

"This is Heritage’s first official auction with Coinfest, and we couldn’t be more thrilled," said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage. "Fittingly enough, our debut at this New England venue is filled with a variety of colonial and early American coins, including dozens of different Connecticut coppers struck shortly after independence."

One of those Connecticut coppers is a 1785 African Head Connecticut copper, the extremely rare Miller 4.2-F.6 variety, graded VF30 by NGC. It is estimated at $40,000+, but could go significantly higher.

"There are two varieties of the African Head Connecticut copper, one relatively common, the other extremely rare," said Rohan. "This piece is one of the rare variety, one of just two or three known. Its appearance at COINFEST is truly a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Keller bought most of his collection  from leading dealers and auctioneers in the 1950s and 1960s, and this African Head copper has been in Keller’s collection, and thus off the market, since 1966."

Another anchor consignment of the auction is The Diotte Collection, which spans U.S. Mint history from some of the earliest issues to noted modern rarities. Its chief highlight is a 1797 half dollar, O-102 variety, graded Fine Details by NCS. It is estimated at $50,000+.

1797 Silver Half Dollar

1797 Half Dollar, Fine Details, O-102 Rarest Variety of the 1796-1797 Type. Draped Bust Small Eagle half dollars of 1796-1797 are one of the most significant, if not the most significant, coins desired by advanced type collectors. While not the lowest-mintage or the rarest type coin (those distinctions belong to the one-year design type 1796 No Stars and 1808 quarter eagles), the half dollars of 1796-1797 are the costliest of all type coins on a grade-for-grade basis. It is estimated at $50,000+.

"The half dollars of 1796-1797 are among the most prized U.S. type coins regardless of grade," said Rohan. "Just four varieties were struck between the two years, all of them are very scarce to very rare, and the 1797 O-102 variety is the most elusive of them all."

In addition to colonials, pattern coinage is among the strengths of this auction. In a relatively small but impressive selection, the most prominent piece is an 1879 "Washlady" dollar struck in silver, Judd-1603 variety, graded PR66+ by NGC. It is estimated at $50,000+.

1879 Washlady dollar struck in silver

1879 $1 Washlady Dollar, Judd-1603, Pollock-1798, High R.6, PR66+ NGC. The famous 'Washlady' design by Charles Barber. A portrait of Liberty faces to the left with her hair tied behind her head. She has a headband inscribed LIBERTY, and her hair is adorned by wheat and cotton. It is estimated at $50,000+.

"This design’s nickname was originally an insult," said Rohan. "In 1891, just a dozen years after this pattern was struck, David Proskey called it the ‘Washlady,’ a negative reference to how Liberty’s hair appeared. Today, however, the ‘Washlady’ is considered one of the most beautiful patterns ever produced, and the very rare examples struck in silver are especially sought-after."

The 20th century has its share of highlights as well, led by a 1909 half eagle, graded PR67 by NGC. Like other gold proofs of that year, it has a distinct semi-bright finish sometimes called "Roman gold," which tried to find a balance between the mirrored proofs of the 19th century and the dull-finished matte proofs that were popular in Europe but had received a disastrous reception among U.S. coin collectors. The "Roman gold" experiment failed, but survivors from the issue’s mintage of 78 half eagles are popular with modern numismatists. It is estimated at $55,000+.

1909 Indian Half Eagle

1909 Indian Half Eagle. $5 PR67 NGC. Roman Finish. The proof five dollar coinage of 1907 through 1909 provides quite an object lesson in the evolution of Mint technology and consumer tastes. The 1907 Liberty Head proof, last of the series, was produced in a mostly brilliant or 'semibrilliant' proof format that was introduced in 1902; as a result, most proof gold from 1902-1907 lacks much cameo contrast--half eagles or otherwise. It is estimated at $55,000+.

A more conventional mirrored proof offered is a 1904 double eagle graded PR65 Cameo by PCGS. Just 98 proof $20s were struck in 1904, and most of them lack the contrast that was often seen on pre-1902 specimens. Thanks to its Cameo status and solid all-around preservation, it is one of the most important representatives of its issue. It is estimated at $60,000+.

1904 proof double eagle

1904 $20 PR65 Cameo PCGS. For double eagle collectors, the date ‘1904’ usually conjures up images of thousands upon thousands of type coins, back in the U.S. after an extended stay in European gold holdings. For proof double eagle enthusiasts, however, 1904 is important for a far different reason: it is the year that the mintage for proof twenties fell back into the double digits after reaching a then-high 158 pieces the year before. It is estimated at $60,000+.

Additional highlights include, but are not limited to:

  • Lot 3640, 1796 16 Stars half dollar, O-102, Fine 12 PCGS Secure: The 16 Stars subtype of the famously elusive 1796-1797 half dollars. Estimate: $50,000+.
  • Lot 3826, 1878-S Trade dollar MS67 NGC: An exquisitely preserved example from the last year of the Trade dollar as a circulating series. Estimate: $45,000+.
  • Lot 5036, 1882 double eagle, AU53 PCGS: One of 571 business strikes made of an issue so rare, the Smithsonian collection lacks an example. Estimate: $65,000+.
  • Lot 5092, 1907 Liberty double eagle, PR64 Cameo PCGS: The last brilliant proof double eagle issue, a gorgeous specimen from the end of a classic gold era. Estimate: $40,000+.
  • Lot 5163, 1931 double eagle, MS63 PCGS: An important late date that was heavily minted but never circulated to any extent and was all but destroyed during the Roosevelt-era gold melts. Estimate: $60,000+.

About Heritage Auctions

Heritage Auctions, headed by Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin and Greg Rohan, is the world’s third largest auction house, with annual sales more than $600 million, and 500,000+ registered online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com.

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