Archive for September, 2017

REDISCOVERING THE JAMES A. STACK, SR. COLLECTION

Posted on September 29, 2017 by 10 Comments

James A. Stack, Sr. was a collector of substantial means and discrimination who was active in numismatics from the late 1930s until his death in 1951. He acquired many rarities and “finest known” coins by taking full advantage of the opportunities presented to him as great collections came onto the market. He owned an 1894-S Dime, a 1798 Small Eagle $5, an 1870-S Silver Dollar, an 1838-O Half Dollar, and hundreds of other U.S. coins including condition-rarities, pattern coins, early Proof coins, and Pioneer gold. Portions of his collection were sold over a 20 year period beginning in 1975. Had his collection been sold as a single unit, it would have been one of the landmark auctions of the 20th century. Nonetheless, the James A. Stack pedigree signifies importance, rarity, and quality.

The following auctions contained important portions of the James A. Stack Collection (note: Stack’s, the New York auction house, was no relation to James A. Stack…they just shared the same name).

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The James A. Stack 1838-O Half Dollar – PCGS PR64BM

Stack’s 3/1975
This auction was the first introduction to the treasures that awaited in the James A. Stack Collection. This was a stand-alone sale (no outside consignments) of Mr. Stack’s Quarter Dollars and Half Dollars. Highlights in the Quarter section included a Mint State 1804, a Proof 1827 Original, and a Proof 1842 Small Date. Standouts among the Half Dollars included an 1838-O, a Branch Mint Proof. 1861-O, and a Gem 1892-O Micro O.

112196smallA nice 1796 Large Cent from the James A. Stack Collection – PCGS MS63BN

Bowers & Ruddy 4/1979
The second installment of the James A. Stack Collection included his U.S. Large Cents. This was the only time that a firm other than Stack’s was chosen to present Mr. Stack’s coins.

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The Finest Known 1801 Half Dime – from the James A. Stack Collection – PCGS MS66+

Stack’s 11/1989
This sale offered Mr. Stack’s Colonial Coins followed by his Half Cents through Half Dimes. Highlights included a 1792 “Roman Head” Washington Cent with a blundered edge, an 1811 Restrike Half Cent, Proof-only Half Cents of 1831, 1836, and 1840-1849, an AU 1792 Half Disme, several Mint State Half Dimes of the 1794-1795 period, and an 1802 Half Dime.

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The James A. Stack 1894-S Dime – PCGS SP66BM

Stack’s 1/1990
The 1894-S Dime from the James A. Stack Collection headlined this sale. Also included were his collection of U.S. Dimes and his Private and Territorial gold coins. Dimes must have been one of Mr. Stack’s favorite coins because the quality and depth of his collection was exceptional. He had a Mint State 1809 Dime, Proofs of 1820, 1822, 1824, and 1825, as well as numerous later dates. His selection of Pioneer gold was small, but included two $50 “Slugs”, an 1849 Mormon $20, a Gem Clark, Gruber & Co. Half Eagle, and numerous California Fractional gold coins.

Stack’s 3/1990
Nearly 2,000 lots were offered from the James A. Stack Collection of U.S. Paper Money, many of which hailed from the celebrated Albert Grinnell Collection of more than forty years earlier. From Demand Notes, Legal Tender Notes, Silver Certificates, Treasury Notes, Gold Certificates, to National Bank Notes, and even Colonial Currency, this collection included highlight after highlight.

2956small1820 $5 – PCGS MS66
A “taste” of the quality of the James A. Stack gold coins

Stack’s 10/1994
This sale included a nice run of gold coins from the James A. Stack collection. Highlights included a nearly complete set of Gold Dollars, a Proof 1821 Quarter Eagle, an 1841 Quarter Eagle, 20 early Half Eagles dated from 1795 to 1807, an 1819 Half Eagle, and hundreds of other high-quality Mint State and Proof gold coins.

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The James A. Stack 1870-S Silver Dollar – PCGS MS62

Stack’s 3/1995
Other consignments to this sale make it difficult to know exactly which coins were part of the James A. Stack collection, but those that can be identified are a complete set of 20 Cent pieces (including the rare 1876-CC), a large selection of Proof and Mint State Seated Liberty Silver Dollars (including an 1870-S Silver Dollar that later went on to sell for more than a million dollars), a set of Trade Dollars (minus the 1884 and 1885), a wonderful selection of high-grade Morgan Dollars, various gold coins (including the ultra-rare 1815 Half Eagle), and a complete set of Proof 1872 gold coins

Coin Galleries (a subsidiary of Stack’s) 4/1995
I haven’t been able to locate a copy of this catalog, but I am almost certain that this sale would have included world coins from Mr. Stack’s collection. I’ll update the post as more information is uncovered.

Stack’s 5/1995
Some of Mr. Stack’s world coins were included in this sale, but, unfortunately, very few (if any) were identified as having originated with his collection.

No additional sales of James A. Stack coins have occurred since 1995 with the exception of reappearances of individual coins, and it is doubtful if any more coins are held by his estate or descendants.

1653smallThe James A. Stack 1797 $2.50 – PCGS MS62 (Finest Known) – his name was recently reattached to this coin’s pedigree

As desirable as the James A. Stack pedigree remains today, there are many instances where his name has been stripped, intentionally or otherwise, from the ownership chains. Reattaching his name, which occurs fairly frequently, is a pleasant by-product of my work on the PCGS CoinFacts Condition Census. In fact, discovering one of those connections is what brought my attention to this remarkable collector.

Filed Under: News

OFF-METAL COINS: DEPARTURES FROM THE NORM

Posted on September 1, 2017 by No Comments

Off-metal coins are those struck using a metal alloy different from the originally intended one. One of the most famous (and valuable) examples is the 1943 Bronze Cent (the normal planchets for the 1943 Cents were made of zinc-coated steel). As the story goes, some bronze blanks left over from the previous year hid in an empty hopper that was later filled with steel planchets of the new year. As the hopper was emptied into the coining press, the bronze blanks emerged, went through the normal coining process, and emerged as super-rarities waiting to be discovered by collectors.

1943 Copper Cent
The 1943 Bronze Cent.  Do you see anything wrong with this picture? (hint: it should have been made of zinc-coated steel)

From this example, we see that off-metal coins can occur accidentally, and it happens much more frequently than you might think. Talk to any expert in error coins and they can provide scores of examples of off-metal strikes. In fact, just about every denomination is known on an off-metal planchet: Lincoln Cents on silver Dime planchets; Franklin Half Dollars on copper Cent planchets, Washington Quarters on nickel Five Cent blanks, and so on. For many collectors, this is an exciting and unusual area that is a true departure from the norm.

Off-metal coins can be categorized by the intentions of the people who made them: 1) accidental off-metal strikes (as mentioned above); 2) off-metal strikes to experiment with various alloys in anticipation of a change in the coinage; or 3) off-metal strikes for sale to collectors. Though these categories appear to be distinct and separate, the lines are often blurred and we can only guess at the original intent. Often, the coins themselves give us the clues we need.

Judd 1749
Judd 1749 – it looks like a regular 1885 Morgan Dollar, but it’s made of aluminum

For instance, the U.S. Pattern series is replete with off-metal strikes. Recently, I wrote about Judd 1749, which for all intents and purposes looks just like an 1885 Morgan Dollar, but it is struck in aluminum. While it is true that aluminum was being tested as a coinage metal in the 1860s and 1870s, it was never considered as an alternative for the Morgan Dollar, which was intended to soak up all the silver coming out of Western mines. So, why was Judd-1749 made? The answer: to test a new, three-part collar that imparted raised lettering to the edge of the coin instead of the normal edge reeding. Interestingly enough, this experiment included both copper and aluminum blanks (off-metals) and silver blanks (the intended metal). However, the three-part edge collar was abandoned until it was revived again on the 1907 Saint Gaudens coinage.

What about the aluminum patterns of 1868, which exist in every denomination from the One Cent all the way to the Double Eagle? Was the Mint seriously considering changing the metal of the Double Eagle from gold to aluminum? Absolutely not. The clue to the purpose of the 1868 aluminum patterns rests in a number of complete sets housed in special presentation sets (click here to see what one of the sets looks like – courtesy of www.uspatterns.com). Clearly, these sets were made for sale to collectors at a profit. The same is true of many of the off-metal pattern coins, especially those made in the middle of a design run where there was never any intention to change the coinage.

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Off-metal 1863 Patriotic Civil War Token, struck over an 1853 Dime (notice the words ONE DIME running diagonally across the top of the shield)

Another area where off-metal strikes abound is Civil War Tokens, which are broken down into Storecards and Patriotics. In addition to being a replacement for the U.S. coins that were being pulled from circulation and hoarded, Storecards were a way for merchants to advertise their businesses. Patriotic Civil War Tokens presented no advertising and consisted primarily of patriotic designs. Most Civil War Tokens were the diameter of a U.S. Indian Head Cent and the vast majority of them were made of copper. However, many off-metal variants were made in small quantities in a variety of metals, including brass, white metal, lead, nickel, copper-nickel, and silver. Some Civil War Tokens were intentional overstrikes on copper-nickel U.S. cents, silver Seated Liberty Dimes, and even coins from other countries.

Finding good values in off-metal coins is a real challenge. Sometimes they bring a premium (often huge) over the regular types, sometimes they are priced the same, and other times, they can be purchased for less than the cost of a similar type coin. As a general rule, off-metal error coins and Civil War Tokens command a premium; often, an off-metal pattern coin will sell for less than the price of a corresponding type coin.

What’s your favorite off-metal coin?

Filed Under: News