Highlighting the holiday auction were gold coins from the Estate of Hellen and Charles Mapes, of Reno, NV. The eponymous Collection, once owned by the famed hotel and casino mogul Charles Mapes, included a rarely seen, high grade 1870-CC Liberty Double Eagle gold coin. This date and mint are well known to numismatists as the top Carson City rarity in the Liberty Double Eagle series. In fact, it is the rarest of all CC gold coinage.
"We are delighted with the result of the auction. Rare US gold coins continued to bring exceptional prices. As well, the exceedingly rare gold medals at the end of the sale elicited excited eager bidders," Paul Song, Director of the Rare Coins and Bank Notes Department, Bonhams, said of the sale.
"The 1870-CC $20 Mapes coin was a truly a pleasant surprise as it realized almost 50% over its low estimate, and the Panama-Pacific Set brought nearly 30% over pre-sale expectations. Both lots prove that extreme rarity, coupled with aesthetic merit and historical significance will always be sought after in the marketplace."
The 1870-CC Double Eagle gold coin has been in the Mapes Collection since it was purchased in February of 1961 from the fabled Kreisberg-Schulman Auction of February 16-18, 1961 held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, and can be considered a "discovery" piece due to the length of time since its last offering. Knowledgeable researchers estimate that approximately 35 to 45 1870-CC $20 coins exist, most in the Very Fine to Extremely Fine grade range. It should be noted there are no Uncirculated (Mint State) examples presently known to either of the major grading services.
At the time this coin was brought into Bonhams’ offices, the client was unaware that this was in fact a classic rarity, and believed this coin to be the much more common 1870 $20, which is typically estimated between $1,500-2,000. The highly sought after coin sold for $243,500 after several rounds of competitive bidding on the telephone, in the saleroom and online.
In addition, a highly sought after five-piece Panama Pacific coin set was also prominently featured during the September auction.
Created to commemorate the opening of the Panama Canal and the workmen that created it, the coins graced the 1915 exposition in San Francisco in celebration of the monumental event.
Coins featured in the set included a 1915-S 50C, 1915-S G$1, 1915-S $50 Round, 1915-S $50 Octagonal and a 1915-S $2.5. It was during this time that many new devices were being tested on America’s coinage: matte proofing, rims without denticles, artistic lettering, textured fields, and the like.
As can be seen, the coins struck for this exposition, such as this attractive quarter eagle, incorporate many of these innovations. Instead of a more traditional design, the artist of the 1915-S $2.5 proposed an unusual motif of Columbia seated on a mythological hippocampus, half-horse, half-sea serpent. The eagle, too, was styled in a new way, not seen before on an American production coin. It was modeled upon a similar eagle seen on one of the rare pattern issues. The coins were offered with the original case of issue inscribed PANAMA-PACIFIC INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION COMMEMORATIVE COINS 1915 SAN FRANCISCO, U.S.A. and brought $142,875.
Of note within the medal section of the fall sale was the Gold Roosevelt Memorial Association Medal of Honor presented to Owen Wister for distinguished service. This rare medal has been in the possession of Owen Wister’s family since it was issued to him in 1929 by James Garfield, President of the Roosevelt Association. Garfield was the son of the late James A. Garfield and served as the Secretary of the Interior during the Roosevelt administration. To date, only 135 Theodore Distinguished Service Medals have been awarded. This medal is an extremely rare offering at public auction and sold for $21,645.
Other awards and accolades featured within the sale included the gold trophy from the first Pulitzer Air Race, awarded to Lieutenant Corliss C. Moseley in 1920, which sold for $16,965. The obverse with relief design shows the Pulitzer Trophy itself, which was crafted by sculptor Mario Josef Korbel, and the words "Pulitzer Trophy." The reverse has a laurel-crowned propeller and inscription "Winner of First Place: Lt. C.C. Moseley, USA. Distance 116.0808. Time 44:29:57. November 25, 1920." Struck in gold by the Gorham Company of New York, the trophy is marked 14 karat, measures 124 x 75 mm, and weighs approximately 375 grams. The Pulitzer Air Race occurred annually until 1925, and the large silver trophy itself now resides in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
Additional coinage of note from the auction included two MCMVII (1907) high relief wire rim Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle gold coins (est. $40,000-45,000, sold for $46,800 and est. $22,000-25,000, sold for $25,740, respectively), an 1851 Augustus Humbert octagonal $50 gold piece, 880 THOUS (est. $22,000-25,000, sold for $22,230) and a core of $20 gold pieces from a private collection highlighted by an 1871-CC (est. $8,000-12,000, sold for $21,060) and an 1868-S (est. $14,000-16,000, sold for $16,380) as well as a 1796 $10 AU50 NGC (est. $50,000-60,000, sold for $54,990), an outstanding example of the second year of the $10 gold eagle.
About the Mapes Hotel and Casino
The Mapes Hotel and Casino was the first major high-rise hotel built in this country after World War II. When the twelve-story Mapes Hotel opened in the heart of Reno, NV., in December of 1947, it was the tallest building in the state. The hotel was significant in the development of the tourism industry and was the forerunner of the Nevada casino-hotels built specifically to offer gaming, guest accommodations, restaurants, bars and big name entertainment. When World War II ended, Charles Mapes, Jr., and his family decided to build their dream hotel using the blueprints chosen by his father, Charles, Sr., who had passed away in 1937.
The Mapes Hotel and Casino thrived throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, but began to face competition in the 1980s. The Casino closed on December 17, 1982. The building was allowed to decay, and finally, the Reno Redevelopment Agency took possession of the building in 1996. Despite being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was condemned and the building was demolished on January 30, 2000.
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