Early U.S. coinage experiments and rare proof strikings are among the top highlights of Heritage Auctions’ Aug. 11-12 Chicago Signature® U.S. Coins & Platinum Night Auction, at the Chicago Marriott O’Hare.
"The front cover of our Platinum Night catalog, our collection of the ‘best of the best’ in this auction, has three key coins on it," said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage. "One is a great early pattern, and two are rare proof coins in gold. Of course, there are many more highlights than just those, but the three coins really stood out and captured the overall strength of the event."
The front-cover pattern is a 1792 Judd-2 Fusible Alloy cent, Fine 15 NGC, CAC. This extremely rare experimental coin, a prelude to the U.S. Mint’s copper coinage of 1793, is an important milestone in the evolution of the nation’s money.
The silver-copper alloy tested by the Fusible Alloy patterns would have allowed for much smaller cent coins than the ones struck in 1793, though practical tests showed that it was nearly impossible to tell whether the smallish Fusible Alloy cents contained the proper amount of silver mixed in with the copper.
"There are fewer than 10 Fusible Alloy cents known today," said Rohan. "It is important to remember, though, that this is not merely a rare pattern, but a piece of history. Major collectors have long been aware of how desirable the Fusible Alloy cent is, and many famous names appear in the provenances of the various known examples. The winning bidder will get to add his or her name to the list, if he or she so chooses."
Another pattern highlight, this one appearing on the inside back cover of the Platinum Night catalog, is the unique "P-Punched" or "Platina" specimen of the Judd-44 1814 half dollar in platinum (first coin image above), certified but not graded by NGC. Just two examples of the Judd-44 pattern, a Mint metallurgical experiment, are confirmed, with one more reported. The other known coin does not have the dramatic post-striking treatment shown by this platinum piece.
"The Mint wanted to test platinum as a coinage metal. Back in 1814, platinum was not considered to be the rare precious metal it is today," said Rohan. "In fact, the Spanish name ‘platina,’ seen as a cursive engraving on the reverse of this piece, means ‘little silver’ or ‘lesser silver.’ More prominently, 33 backwards letters ‘P’ have been punched into the obverse. Nobody would mistake this for an ordinary half dollar."
Elite proof coinage is also a strong presence in the auction. No coin exemplifies this quite like the unique 1855-S branch mint proof three dollar gold piece, PR64 Cameo NGC, CAC.
This coin, which has every appearance of a Philadelphia Mint proof except for its San Francisco mintmark, first came to the hobby’s attention in 1984 and has made several prominent public appearances in its short collecting life.
"The branch mint proof three dollar coin can stake a claim as the most important lot in the entire auction," said Rohan. "It is one of three extremely rare 1855-S branch mint proofs in this auction pedigreed to the ‘Golden Gate Collection’ on their holders. The others are a quarter and half dollar."
The third front-cover coin of Platinum Night is an 1863 ten dollar gold piece, PR65 Deep Cameo PCGS, CAC.
Just 30 proof specimens were struck for this Civil War-era gold issue, making it a great delicacy for today’s collectors, and this is the single finest example known to PCGS as of this writing. The piece is pedigreed to The Oliver Collection, an elite Featured Collection from a private consignor that contributed more than 200 lots to Platinum Night.
Last but not least among the proof gold highlights is an 1868 double eagle, PR64+ Deep Cameo PCGS Secure, CAC. Only 25 proofs were struck, and of those coins, only six or so remain in private hands. This elite specimen once resided in the cabinet of the legendary gold coin enthusiast Harry Bass.
Of course, the highlights of Platinum Night are not limited to patterns and proof gold alone. A key theme to several additional highlights is pedigree or provenance. A remarkable early rarity, an 1802 half dime, V-1 or LM-1 variety, AU50 NGC, is a candidate for finest known and has a provenance stretching back to 1884. An 1893-S Morgan dollar, MS67 NGC, possibly the second-finest example of the famous key date, was part of the Norweb Collection and later acquired a Jack Lee pedigree. A 1921 double eagle MS64 PCGS, CAC, a high-end survivor from an issue that was heavily melted after the 1930s gold recall, was formerly a cornerstone of the Morse, Kutasi, and Stokely Collections; the coin appears on the inside front cover of the Platinum Night catalog.
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+ 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.