2015 US Coin Sales Top $439 Million at Major Public Auctions


A record number of 17 U.S. rare coins sold for at least $1 million last year and a combined total of more than $439 million in U.S. coins sold at major public auctions in 2015, according to the Professional Numismatists Guild.

Lord St. Oswald 1794 dollar
With a winning bid of nearly $5 million, the most valuable U.S. rare coin sold at auction in 2015 was this Lord St. Oswald pedigree 1794 Flowing Hair dollar. (Photo by PCGS.)

PNG noted that the record number surpassed the previous high of 12 U.S. coins that sold for $1 million or more in 2014.

"As gold and silver prices dropped during the year and significant money was being spent on prized, big ticket numismatic rarities, there was weakness in the market for ‘average’ grade, commonly available coins," said PNG President Dana Samuelson. "However, prices remained strong for U.S. rare coins that combined historical significance, rarity and superb condition."

Samuelson said that prices realized for U.S. coins sold at major public auctions reached $439,623,237 in 2015 compared to $536 million in 2014 and $393 million in 2013. Two companies surpassed the $100 milestone. Heritage Auctions scored $254,097,887 and Stack’s Bowers Galleries hit $104,991,259.

Overall, the consensus estimate for the U.S. coin market in 2015 was in the billions.

"In a year-end survey of auction house executives, most of the experts responding estimated the overall 2015 coin market in the U.S. at between $4.5 billion to $5 billion," explained Samuelson. "That includes auctions and private transactions made at coin shows, by mail order, online and at coin stores, but does not include numismatic bullion items or the modern coins sold directly by the United States Mint."

These are the 17 U.S. rare coins purchased by winning bidders for $1 million or higher in 2015, and the auction companies that sold them:

  • 1794 Flowing Hair design silver dollar graded Mint State 66+ by Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), jointly auctioned by Stack’s Bowers Galleries and Sotheby’s for $4,933,750.

  • 1795 Capped Bust design Eagle ($10 denomination gold coin), PCGS MS66+, Stack’s Bowers/Sotheby’s, $2,585,000.

  • 1792 Birch design copper cent (an early American experimental design), graded MS65 by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) with second opinion on grade by Certified Acceptance Corporation (CAC), Heritage Auctions, $2,585,000.

  • 1793 Chain design copper cent, PCGS MS66, CAC, Heritage Auctions, $2,350,000.

  • 1808 Capped Bust design Quarter Eagle ($2.50 denomination gold coin), PCGS MS65, Stack’s Bowers/Sotheby’s, $2,350,000.

  • 1792 experimental (pattern) quarter-dollar struck in copper, NGC MS63, CAC, Heritage Auctions, $2,232,500.

  • 1907 Ultra High Relief, inverted edge letters design Double Eagle ($20 denomination gold coin), graded PCGS and NGC Proof 68, Heritage Auctions, $2,115,000.

  • 1880 Coiled Hair design Stella ($4 denomination gold coin), NGC PR67, CAC, Heritage Auctions, $1,821,250.

  • 1796 Draped Bust design silver quarter-dollar, PCGS MS66, Stack’s Bowers/Sotheby’s, $1,527,500.

  • 1797 Draped Bust design silver half dollar, PCGS MS66, Stack’s Bowers/Sotheby’s, $1,527,500.

  • 1776 Continental silver dollar "CURENCY," NGC Extremely Fine 40, Heritage Auctions, $1,527,500.

  • 1776 Continental silver dollar "CURRENCY" and EG FECIT design, NGC MS62, Heritage Auctions, $1,527,500.

  • 1792 Birch copper cent "TO BE ESTEEMED BE USEFUL" lettered edge, PCGS About Uncirculated 58, CAC, Stack’s Bowers, $1,175,000.

  • 1798 Capped Bust Right, small eagle design Half Eagle ($5 denomination gold coin), PCGS AU55, Stack’s Bowers/Sotheby’s, $1,175,000.

  • 1880 Coiled Hair design gold Stella ($4 denomination), PCGS PR65, CAC, Heritage Auctions, $1,116,250.

  • 1792 copper pattern disme (early spelling of the word, dime), NGC MS64, CAC, Heritage Auctions, $1,057,500.

  • 1795 Capped Bust Right design gold Eagle ($10 denomination), PCGS MS63+, Stack’s Bowers/Sotheby’s, $1,057,500.

The auction companies either responding directly to a PNG questionnaire about their 2015 auctions of U.S. rare coins or whose auction sales figures were compiled from public announcements during the year include (in alphabetical order):

  • Bonhams; David Lawrence Rare Coins;
  • GreatCollections Coin Auctions;
  • Heritage Auctions;
  • Ira and Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles;
  • Legend Rare Coin Auctions; and
  • Stack’s Bowers Galleries and auctions conducted jointly by Stack’s Bowers and Sotheby’s.

Founded in 1955, the PNG is a nonprofit organization composed of many of the country’s top rare coin and paper money dealers. For additional information about the Professional Numismatists Guild, visit www.PNGdealers.org or call the PNG headquarters in Temecula, California at (951) 587-8300.

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