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The Norweb-Bass MS66 1911-D Quarter Eagle
By Heritage Auctions

The Norweb Collection was a legend while still owned by its namesake family, and while two decades have passed since the three auctions that dispersed most of it, time has only added to its importance to collectors.

Quality and rarity are the chief watchwords; no discussion of early copper, colonials, proof silver, or early and Southern-Western gold would be complete without acknowledging the Norweb influence and legacy. Rarities such as a Gem Proof 1829 Small Planchet half eagle and an 1885 Trade dollar stand out in the auction, as does the famed 1861 Paquet double eagle.

Similarly, Harry W. Bass, Jr. built his knowledge and his collection into formidable forces whose effects on current and future numismatists continue to unfold. While his study of early gold coinage is first to come to mind (especially to those who peruse the early gold listings in this catalog, which are attributed by Bass-Dannreuther numbers), though as with the Norwebs, he also had extensive holdings in Charlotte and Dahlonega gold, as well as classic proof gold.

With all of the emphasis on the two collections’ 18th and 19th century rarities, a number of important later pieces in both collections have gone under the radar of many enthusiasts. Doubtless the Norwebs’ 20th century holdings would be better-remembered if their 1913 Liberty nickel had been sold at auction and not turned over to the Smithsonian, for example. Similarly, the detailed note-taking of Bass did not extend to 20th century issues, which were less interesting to a student of die varieties than their forebears.

Yet both collections contained a number of important 20th century coins, both recognized at the time of auction and unheralded but now appreciated. The 1911-D quarter eagle Heritage is offering in their 2010 March Fort Worth, TX Signature ANA US Coin Auction was one of the former, a coin that attained considerable individual fame with its modern-era debut at the Norweb auction; it had been sold to the Norwebs by B. Max Mehl, likely in the late 1930s. It was graded MS64 by the auctioneers, who then went on to say, “We have never seen a finer specimen.”
From 1988 to 1999, it went from auction block to auction block, with a stay in between in the Bass collection. Its 1999 auction appearance took on a retrospective tone. It rated the MS64 grade of 1988 as “quite conservative” and readily agreed with the then-current PCGS grade of MS65. The 1999 description also took pains to note that while there were other coins graded MS65 known (and two graded MS66), “few can hold a candle to the Norweb-Bass coin.”

Between 1999 and January 2005, when Heritage first offered the Norweb-Bass 1911-D quarter eagle, it was elevated in grade from MS65 to MS66, putting it on a numeric par with the other two Premium Gems known to PCGS. Those three coins are still the only examples at that level in the PCGS Population Report with none finer, as the coin comes full circle again with another Heritage auction appearance.

The coin is instantly memorable, with sharp detail down to the often-weak pendants in the necklace, and even the mintmark is clear when the eye is focused on the area. The surfaces have potent luster of the type more commonly associated with the best type issues. The dominant color is yellow-gold, though a measure of peach-orange visits the reverse margins. Remarkably well-preserved with no marks of any consequence on the portrait; the clean cheek in particular is a revelation. In short, a coin that is sure to be held in high esteem for decades to come.

To be sold as Lot 2176 By Heritage on March 26, 2010

 



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