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Heritage’s Platinum Night at FUN
By Greg Reynolds 01/08/08

  This will be the fourth year in a row of spectacular, FUN Platinum Night auction events. This is not to say that earlier FUN auction events were not important. As usual, Heritage will auction a wide variety of coins and other numismatic items during the Florida United Numismatists winter convention, which is held every January, usually at the Orlando convention center. Heritage 2008 Fun Sale - Platinum NightIn the entire auction extravaganza, which goes on for days, there are items of interest to every coin collector, certainly including beginning or very budget-minded collectors. My focus here is upon the upcoming Platinum Night event, on Thursday, Jan. 10.

At the January 2005 FUN convention, in Fort Lauderdale, Heritage shocked the coin community by selling more than $30 million worth of coins in just one night, including about $14 million for a gold type set. At the 2007 FUN convention, there were two Heritage Platinum Nights. No gold, other than gold patterns, was offered in Platinum 1, on Jan. 3, 2007. There were sold U.S. copper, nickel and silver coins, plus patterns, and also pre-1792 American coins. The Jan. 3 total was $16.7 million, including nearly $5 million for one collection of patterns. On Jan. 4, 2007, just U.S. gold coins were auctioned in Platinum 2, and the 2005 single night record was eclipsed as the total reached $34.5 million, including $7.78 million for the Kutasi collection.

Heritage Platinum Night 2008 FUNOf course, other auction companies have sold epic collections that would, if still intact, be worth more than $40 million today. The Garrett, Eliasberg, Norweb, Pittman, Earle, and Stickney collections, plus others, were auctioned during eras when coin market prices were lower than they have been since 2002. Comparing the great auctions of the above-mentioned collections to Heritage Platinum Nights would be a little like comparing ‘apples and oranges,’ as these were sold over multiple sessions, with hours, days, months, or even years in between. It is interesting, and enjoyable, that Heritage packs an incredible number of special rarities into single night sessions.

The lead collection in the 2008 FUN Platinum Night event, Jan. 10, is the Madison type set. It warrants its own article, and I will write about it soon. I have already written an article, for CoinLink, that spotlights the Hein Kellogg fifty dollar gold coin, which is one of many stars of this Platinum Night.

In addition to a Kellogg fifty, there will be offered an 1877 $50 gold pattern. It was minted in copper and then plated in gold at the Philadelphia Mint, which never produced $50 coins for circulation. It is certified as Proof-63 by the Numismatic Guaranty Corp. (NGC). There are six more $50 pieces ‘coming on the block’ during Platinum Night, five territorials and a 1915-S Octagonal Pan-Pac Commemorative $50 coin.

There is not space here to discuss the varieties of the three EF to AU Humbert/Assay Office $50 coins. Two are NGC graded and one is certified by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). Curiously, in this sale, there are two Wass-Molitor, privately issued 1855 gold coins that have both been graded MS-60, one by PCGS and one by NGC. MS-60 is a very high grade for a Wass-Molitor fifty.

The Jacob collection of Saint Gaudens Double Eagles ($20 gold coins) features several gem quality Saints that are each among the finest known of their respective dates. The Jacob 1929 is one of only five that the PCGS has graded MS-66, and these ‘five’ might amount to two to four different coins. The Jacob 1932 Saint is also PCGS graded MS-66, and is likely to be among the finest known.

Jacob Collection 1909-D Saint in 67 Heritage 2008 Fun Sale Lot 3368The Jacob 1909-D Saint is PCGS graded MS-67, and it has a fabulous pedigree. It was formerly in the Louis Eliasberg collection, the greatest collection of U.S. coins that has ever been formed. It was also in the collections of Dr. Steven Duckor and Philip Morse, two of the ten all-time best collections of Saints. Indeed, the Morse collection of Saints could possibly be the finest all-time collection of this series. Heritage auctioned it in Nov. 2005.

There are several other coins that were formerly in the Eliasberg collection in this Jan. 2008 Platinum event. These include: a 1786 Vermont Copper, a 1794 large cent, PCGS MS-66 (Red & Brown color), an 1862 quarter, NGC graded PF-67, a 1794 half dollar, PCGS graded Fine-15, a 1795 half dollar, NGC AU-58, an 1829 half, NGC Specimen-63, the Kaufman 1841 half dollar, NGC PF-64, an 1859-D $5 gold coin, PCGS AU-58, and a Paquet designed 1859 pattern $20 gold coin struck in copper.

Eliasberg Proof 1818 O-113 Half, PR66 2008 Heritage FUN sale Lot 2871Another is one of the most intriguing coins in all of American numismatics. The Eliasberg 1818 half dollar is NGC certified as “Proof-66.” Last time I checked, which was a while ago, it is (or was) the only silver coin minted before 1820 that is NGC certified as a Proof, and there are not (or at least were not) any pre-1820 gold coins certified as Proofs by either PCGS or NGC. Photographs do not accurately depict this coin’s characteristics. It is coin that really must be closely examined to be appreciated or interpreted.

I have always liked 1827 quarters. These have a special role in the history of coin collecting. On Platinum Night, an 1827/3 Restrike will be offered. It is NGC certified Proof-64. I had the privilege of viewing it. It looks much better in actuality than it does in the picture in the printed catalogue. Most of the fields, on both the obverse and the reverse, are characterized by a terrific, natural, glistening blue color, with a cool steel-gray overtone. The design elements tend to have a neat glossy look. When the coin is tilted under a light, strong mirrors are apparent. The rust bumps are standard on such Restrikes and add some personality to the issue. It is appealing and special in its own way.

I look forward to seeing the 1913-S quarter in the sale. The 1913-S date is one of the scarcest Barber quarters, and is a condition rarity above MS-65. This one is NGC graded MS-67.

Though there are a large number of gem quality coins in this Platinum event, quite a few coins grade below 60. Indeed, there are fourteen 1794 half dollars, including several varieties, that range in grade from Good-04 to AU-55. None of the three 1797 halves reach a Very Fine grade. One is NGC graded Good-06. An 1878-S half is PCGS graded VG-08. It is not easy to find an 1878-S that is of a much higher grade.

There will be six 1795 half eagles ($5 coins), with ’small eagle’ reverse, auctioned on Platinum Night. I clearly remember seeing one before. It left a deep impression on me. It is NGC certified “MS-65 PL.” The “PL” is for “prooflike” and it is so! While I have seen other 1795 half eagles with deeply reflective fields, most of which have not (at least not yet) received a ‘PL’ designation, this one is the most distinctive.

1795 Prooflike Half Eagle - Fun Sale Lot 3135While such reflective fields are really cool, I was stunned by the deeply frosted Miss Liberty on the obverse of this 1795 half eagle. Indeed, Miss Liberty is deeply frosted in a way that is very similar to the frost found on deep cameo Proof gold coins that were produced decades later. This half eagle is not a Proof and it does not have a complete cameo contrast. Even so, the frost is amazing for a coin that was minted in 1795! This coin’s physical characteristics demonstrate that the Mint had the technology to make coins with deep cameo contrasts, though this was not an objective at the time. Its existence suggests that maybe they had far more advance technology than researchers in the past thought the Mint had in 1795. Technology here refers to equipment, skills, and ‘know-how.’

Before I saw this half eagle, I had only seen one other coin from the era that had a thick white frost similar to the frost found on many Proofs minted after 1820. It is the Knoxville 1796 half dollar, which is NGC certified Specimen-65.

Although this prooflike half eagle is not the highest quality 1795 ’small eagle’ piece that I have ever examined, it is the most fascinating. Others that I have seen do have traces of such a frost, but not to the same extent.

Perhaps the most aesthetically appealing coins to be offered during this Platinum Night are from the Phil Kaufman collection of Proof Liberty Seated coins. Kaufman bought many of them from the 1997 and 1998 auctions of the Pittman collection, which were conducted by the firm of David Akers. Many of Kaufman’s Proofs dating from 1838 to 1850 are featured, and grade from 64 to 68.

From a different consignor, an 1865 silver proof set, plus a Proof 1865 Three Cent Nickel, will be offered, along with an “original case.” Each coin is NGC graded, and each NGC grade has been seconded by the CAC. Please see my discussion of the CAC in my review of the first CoinFest event.

Another Platinum Night highlight that I look forward to examining is the Buddy Ebsen 1794 dollar, PCGS graded AU-55. The last auction appearance of this coin that the cataloguer mentions was in 1990! Since 2002, demand for 1794 silver dollars has been tremendous, and I have always liked them. Of course, there are many other silver dollars, of all types, in the sale. Additionally, there is a small, though remarkable, selection of error coins.

No discussion could include information regarding a majority of the choice and rare coins in a large, major auction. I hope that I have provided fair impressions of several of the offerings, and have communicated some of the essence of the event.

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