Ron Guth

Posted on March 17, 2017 by No Comments

1805 PERU 8 Reales


In 1817, Captain Amasa Delano published a book titled “A Narrative Of Voyages and Travels, In the Northern And Southern Hemispheres: Comprising Three Voyages Round The World; Together With A Voyage of Survey And Discovery, In The Pacific Ocean And Oriental Islands.” Delano described his extensive voyages aboard the American ship Massachusetts as it traveled around the world. For general readers, this is a detailed description of Delano’s voyages to parts of the world that were mostly unknown at the time. Numismatists will be particularly intrigued by Delano’s visit to the Mint at Lima, Peru in 1805. Thanks to special access, Delano provided insider details of the Mint and its procedures.

Ken Bressett referred to the Delano story in Bowers & Borckardt’s 1993 reference book on U.S. Silver Dollars, where he pulled in a portion of the narrative relative to the use of silver plugs to raise underweight planchets to the required legal standard. However, there is a lot more to the story.

Original copies of the Delano book are quite rare. Fortunately, several modern reprints can be found on sites such as AbeBooks.com for as little as $13 plus shipping. Even better, digital copies of the original are available for free at Google Books.

This installment presents the first half of Delano’s mint visit (his story appears in the highlighted text blocks below):

The next curiosity here, that is worthy of mentioning, is the mint; which I visited and was shown every thing worth my attention in it. Two or three gentlemen accompanied me to see it, first having sent to know when we could be admitted, and the answer being returned appointing the day.

The Spanish King, Philip II, established a mint at Lima, Peru in 1565 by royal edict.  In 1568, production began of silver “cobs” (crudely shaped coins cut from the ends of silver ingots).  In 1659, the Lima Mint added gold “escudos” to their lineup.  By 1805, Spanish colonial coins were made of a more uniform size and they bore the portrait of the King (as seen on the 8 Reales illustrated above).

When we went we were received with every degree of attention that could be shown. The master or conductor went with us over all parts of it, and shewed [sic] us all that was worthy of seeing, and explained every thing to my satisfaction. The building forms a square, one part of it fronting on the street. It has a strong wall on all sides of it, which forms a large square that is about one hundred and fifty feet each way. The gate is in the middle of the front side. We entered a row of buildings on the left hand after passing through the gate, in which the process of refining and separating the ore is performed; and as we proceeded on the left hand side, we came to where they were melting and casting gold and silver in iron moulds. It was cast in a proper shape to be drawn down cold. The process with the gold which was performed in my presence, was by bruising the ore fine with mauls, and then wetting it with some liquid, and working it over in the same manner as lime mortar is prepared in this country. This is done on the floor of the room, which was all paved with smooth stones, or bricks. This labour is done by negroes, who tread it over with their feet and kneed it like dough…

The implication here is that Peru used slaves to produce coins.  The U.S. Mint, from its establishment in 1792, relied entirely on paid laborers.

…after which they put quick silver amongst it, as I was informed, which separates the ore from the other metals that are mixed with it. It had the appearance as they worked it, of yellow mortar, or dough. After it was separated, it was cast into ingots or bars. The silver is separated previous to its being brought to the mint, and cast into pigs that weigh from eighty to one hundred and sixty pounds each. Many tons of these bars I saw piled up like cord wood.

There was another method by which I saw them separate gold dust (so called,) which is by putting it into a little trench, that runs through one part of the mint. It is made serpentine, and is about one foot wide and two feet deep, with a little descent. Its sides and bottom are made as smooth and even as possible with stone and lime cemented together. In each of the turns of this trench a small ragged iron wheel is sunk, like the sunk wheel of a watch, in the cement at the bottom of the trench. This wheel has a shaft, or spindle in the middle, which comes above the top of the trench, and has another wooden horizontal wheel on the top of this spindle; to which were fixed bands that were brought from the barrel of a large wheel, which being put in motion moved all the small ones. The gold dust, sand, and all together as it was taken up, was put into the upper part of the trench, and a gate hoisted that set the large wheel going which moved the horizontal sunk wheels. The water running likewise through the trench carried the dust down, and at every sunk wheel it got a scouring; and by the time it had passed through the trench, the sand and other particles of matter lighter than gold were swept away, and the gold dust left in the basins formed for the ragged wheels to move in.

This sounds a lot like the way gold is processed in the field by modern mechanical devices (see the popular TV series “Gold Rush”).  At Lima, this would been a big operation that required a lot of labor and a reliable source of significant amounts of water.

The next process is the melting of the metal. The method for this was to have crucibles made of a kind of clay which will stand fire. These are made in the form of a tub as large as aa half hogshead, with the top a little contracted, which were suspended by axles fixed to their sides, and placed in a frame similar to the method that blacksmiths hang their bellows; by which means they can tip them backwards and forwards. They then have an iron crutch, or brace, which hooks into two eyes like crane eyes, put into the side of the crucible for the purpose of commanding it. The crucibles are filled with charcoal, after a fire being kindled in them, and two or three hundred weight of gold or silver put on the coals. Two large bellows of a curious construction, worked by hand, were brought up to the front of the crucibles, and their pipes introduced into two holes made for that purpose, which blows the fire with great force. The fire is constantly fed with coals until the ore is sufficiently melted for casting. Whilst it is running into the moulds, it cannot be destinguished [sic], the gold from the silver, both being all red as blood. When the ore is sufficiently heated, the bellows is moved back by means of something similar to cogs or rollers; the crucible is then tiped [sic] backward, on account of the holes made for the bellows pipes, until the metal rises above the top of a little spout like that of a pitcher, but it will not run until it is touched with a small stick with a piece of cloth round the end of it and moistened with some kind of oil; this when touched to the spout where it is wanted the metal to run from, will flash in a blaze like powder, and immediately the ore will run in a small stream not much larger than a pipe stem, into moulds cut in small flat iron bars, about twenty inches long, one inch and a quarter wide, and half an inch deep, with wooden handles to them. After the ore is drawn off in this way in bars, according to the dimensions of the mould, they are taken to a room further to the right in which the grand water works are fixed; in this room were more than ten pairs of rollers arranged very much like those that sugar cane is run through in the West Indies, made horizontal, and gradually decreasing in space. The bars of gold and silver are run through between these rollers, from one to the other, until they are laminated to near the thickness of a dollar, and the gold to that of a doubloon, having by that time the requisite width. By the time they are nearly reduced to a right thickness they are more than four feet long, the silver having a similar appearance to iron hoops. They are then taken to another room still to the right, and run through a plate which brings them to an exact thickness, at which time they are wide enough to cut out the dollar. After this they are passed under a sharp steel trepan of a roundish figure, hollow within, and of proportionable diameter to shape and cut the piece at the same time.

The “trepan” (from the Spanish “trepanar – to create a hole) was used to produce blank planchets of a uniform diameter.  If the thickness of the silver or gold strips were exact, each planchet produced using this method would be of consistent weight.  However, such technical perfection eluded the Mint, as will be shown in the discussion of silver pins and plugs in the next installment.

This instrument is fixed at the lower end of a screw which is made with a very large worm; this causes it to descend very forcibly, and when the laminated bar is held under it, every time the screw is turned it comes down and cuts a piece out of the silver the exact size of a dollar; but when a gold laminated bar drawn to a proper thickness, is placed under it, the screw is supplied with another instrument to pierce out a piece the exact size of a doubloon.

The next (and final) installment of Delano’s narrative will include details of actual coin production at Lima.

Filed Under: News


Ron Guth

Posted on February 18, 2017 by 2 Comments

I’m sitting here at the February 2017 Long Beach Expo in the shadow of one of the greatest coins in American numismatics – the $10 million 1794 Silver Dollar – and one of the greatest collections of U.S. Silver Dollars ever assembled – the Bruce Morelan Collection of Early Dollars. What Bruce has done is assemble many of the highest-quality examples of Bust Dollars from the 1794-1803 era. Thanks to the emergence of some incredible-quality coins in recent years, Bruce has had access to coins and collections that many of us never believed would ever appear on the market. When I wrote about this collection for the promotional brochure that accompanies this presentation, I called it the highest concentration of value in the PCGS Set Registry, meaning that the per-coin value in this set is simply off the charts.

The perspective I’d like to impart in this blog is from that of a “fly on the wall” who observed the comings-and-goings over a day-and-a-half day period. In other words, what was it like to observe the reactions of collectors and dealers as they examined this incredible set?1794 in holder

First of all, the marketing presentation for this set was stunning. Typically, PCGS displays important Set Registry collections in one or more cases in a designated area at major coin shows. For the Morelan Collection, PCGS took over a carpeted area measuring thirty by thirty feet (to my knowledge, that’s the largest area PCGS has ever devoted to a single collection). The premier coin in the collection, the PCGS SP66 1794 Dollar, took center stage in a specially constructed, secure cabinet, always attended by one or more of PCGS’ security personnel. A backdrop of large graphic panels presented each of the twelve coins in the collection with descriptive notes provided by Bruce himself. In front of the 1794 Dollar was a well-lit display case containing the remaining eleven coins in the collection, again with descriptive cards for each. The PCGS Marketing Department developed some fun, social media cutouts with which collectors could take photographs of themselves and their friends. In another area, a video monitor featured an endless loop of interviews about the collection with Bruce, David Hall, Don Willis, and me. PCGS Set Registry staffers Gayle and Cosetta were on hand to guide people through the display area and answer questions. PCGS Marekting Director, Steve Sloan, supervised the construction of the display and ensured everything ran smoothly.

On Wednesday, the day when dealers set up their booths, traffic was somewhat light, primarily because most of the dealers had already seen the coins when PCGS presented them at the Florida United Numismatists convention in January. Many of the dealers spent a lot of time examining each of the coins and relishing the experience. I kept hearing the word “Wow” over and over again, which was my reaction, too, when I first saw the coins on display. Many of the dealers had pictures taken of themselves standing beside the 1794 Dollar.

On Thursday, traffic through the exhibit was steady throughout the day. Hundreds of collectors and dealers took the opportunity to view these amazing coins. For most, this was their first exposure to coins of this type and quality, so we answered a lot of questions and explained the importance of the collection. The most common question came from collectors who wondered about the meaning of “Silver Plug” as it pertained to the 1794 Dollar. Normally, “plugged” is not a positive attribute because it means the coin has been holed at some time (usually for jewelry), then repaired by having the hole plugged. However, in 1794 and 1795, silver plugs were used, in the normal course of business, to increase the weight of some coins up to the required amount.

In the afternoon, Bruce Morelan, the owner of the set, came by. This was his first time seeing the display and his enthusiastic response was especially gratifying. Bruce is one of the nicest guys in the business, very approachable and congenial, and his passion for collecting is evident throughout his conversations about his coins. He held court and paused for photos with appreciative collectors and dealers who were present for this unannounced, special moment. Laura Sperber, who has assisted Bruce in building some of his world-class collections, visited the display. Here’s what she posted on her website shortly after her visit: “We actually had to wait in line to get our pics taken with the [1794 Dollar]! The display was beyond any we have ever seen anywhere.” Other veteran coin dealers commented that they had never seen a collection of such exceptional quality.

Kudos to everyone at PCGS who had a hand in presenting this fantastic display and, thank you, Bruce, for your willingness to share this unique collection.

Filed Under: News


Ron Guth

Posted on January 20, 2017 by 3 Comments

I’ve always liked U.S. commemorative coins, especially the so-called “classic” silver and gold commems (those issued from 1892 to 1954).  Two to three decades ago, this enthusiasm was shared by many collectors.  Today, however, interest in this series seems to have waned.  The justification for this judgment is the declining and flat prices for many of the coins in this series, especially among the silver versions.

What has happened?  This is a closed series, mintages are fixed, and the only changes have been an increase in the number of certified coins.  The designs are beautiful, mintages are low in many instances, and the coins are almost always Mint State, and nice.  Why are prices so low?  Or, asked another way, why aren’t collectors paying more attention to this series?  Regardless of why or how they have been lured away from classic commems, now might be a time for collectors to take another look at this fascinating group of coins.

Commem Index


Where, in fact, are commem prices today relative to the past prices?  Perhaps an examination of pricing history can gives us some context and perspective.  As a service to collectors, PCGS has built price guides for most U.S. series that go all the way back to 1970 and which are presented in graph form.  The graph of the index for classic silver and gold commemoratives shows a sharp peak in April 1989 followed by a sharp decline that ended nine years later, then ticked up gradually until October 2006, then declined gradually until the present time.  In 2016, the index began the year at approximately 25,000 and fell to an ignominious 21,000 by the end of the year.  The last time the index was this low was sometime in 1983!  Can you imagine being able to purchase any other U.S. coin today at a 1983 price?

Here are some of my favorites in the series:

1939 Arkansas1939-P, D, or S Arkansas.  Extremely low mintage of 2,103 coins (2,104 for the 1939-S).  Current PCGS Price Guide in MS65: $525 to $650 each.  In 1988, the Redbook listed an MS65 price of $950, and that was for the most common type!

1935s San Diego1935-S or 1936-D San Diego.  I live in San Diego, so naturally, I like this coin.  Current PCGS Price Guide in MS65: $120 to $135.  Huh?  The lowest Redbook price in 1988 was $600 in MS65.

1946 Iowa1946 Iowa.  This is a common coin in high grade, but $225 for a PCGS MS67?  A real no-brainer.  MS65s were $550 in the 1988 Redbook.

1928 OregonOregon Trail (any, but especially the 1939’s).  One of my favorite designs in the series.  As with the 1939 Arkansas commems, the 1939 Oregon Trail commems have low mintages (just over 3,000 each).  Current PCGS Price Guide in MS65: $550 to $575 each.  Again, the TYPE price for these in the 1988 Redbook was $750 in MS65 – and they certainly have not become more common.

If you’re a contrarian, give the classic U.S. commemorative coins a look.  You’ll find tremendous values there.  Have fun!



Filed Under: News


Ron Guth

Posted on January 6, 2017 by No Comments


Wayne’s World was a zany 1992 movie starring Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) as two “dudes” who broadcast a public access TV show from Wayne’s parents’ basement. The film was based on Saturday Night Live skits in which Wayne and Garth expounded on rock-and-roll music and girls. The film cost approximately $20 million to produce and went on to gross more than $183 million.

However, this is the story of a different Wayne’s World, a numismatic one that started several years later – on September 4, 1998 to be exact. On that fateful day, Wayne Homren, a member of the Numismatic Bilbiomania Society, started a weekly email publication directed at members of the organization. His stated purpose was as follows: “This is intended to be a moderated, low-volume mailing list, with no more than one message every week or so. Its purpose and use will evolve over time – please send us your comments and suggestions.” The second edition, sent to the eighty-eight members who had signed up by then, included two notices: 1) that the official club publication had gone to the printers and 2) that a member was seeking information about known copies of the Howard Rounds Newcomb book on the U.S. Large Cents of 1801-1803.

In the eighteen years since then, Wayne’s publication has become known as the E-Sylum (a play on Asylum, the name of the club’s print publication), it has grown in terms of scope and size, and it now goes to over 2,000 subscribers. The E-Sylum has become one of the most important, weekly sources for numismatic news and information. From its text-only, single-notice, initial publication, the E-Sylum has morphed into a sophisticated HTML-based presentation. The most recent issue (January 2, 2017) includes thirty-seven items in the table of contents, on a variety of subjects ranging from new numismatic publications, a coin treasure hunt, an obituary, a biography, bridges on ancient coins, 2017 coins from the Royal Mint, paper money, Victoria Crosses, and much more. The amount of work that Wayne puts into each issue is tremendous — and he has done it every week for eighteen years. Like Wayne and Garth of Wayne’s World, Mr. Homren is just as passionate as his favorite subject – numismatics. And, like Wayne’s World, the E-Sylum is public access – it is completely free of charge.

I look forward to each weekly installment of the E-Sylum and Wayne’s Words (Homren’s self-styled introduction – was this a deliberate nod to Wayne’s World?). Like clockwork, the E-Sylum appears in my inbox each Sunday night, a perfect time to relax and enjoy the fruits of Wayne’s work. Always, I learn something new and useful.

I invite you to become a part of the E-Sylum and Wayne’s “world” by subscribing here. Tell him PCGS sent you. To view all eighteen years of the E-Sylum, check out the Esylum Archives.

Filed Under: News


Ron Guth

Posted on December 13, 2016 by 2 Comments

One of the recent innovations out of the great minds at PCGS is Collectors.com, a tool that scans the internet for numismatic listings (or other collectibles), then combines them in a searchable format. This tool makes it easy for collectors to locate the coins they need and want for their collection without having to sift through a lot of meaningless data. More importantly, Collectors.com tracks down coins that a visitor to the web might miss completely on obscure sites.

Your first step is to visit Collectors.com. On the home page, you will see 10 different categories, including “Coins” in the upper left. Clicking on the “Coins” icon takes you to the main coin page. On the left side of the page is a listing of U.S., World, and Ancient coin categories with a variety of subdivisions. For instance, in the U.S. coin category, I see 31,259 listings just for gold coins. When I click on that subcategory, I get over 1,300 pages of gold coin listings (way more than I can ever want or afford). If I type “$20 gold” into the search bar near the top of the page, I get back 170 pages with over 4,071 listings (still way too much). If I narrow the search to “1884-CC $20 gold,” I’m down to 1 page with 19 listings. Now that I have a more manageable group of coins, I can sort them in a variety of ways, including by grade or price. Since I fashion myself as a quality buyer in this case, I’ll sort by grade from highest to lowest. I’m rewarded with two PCGS MS62 examples, one for $27,500 and another (with a CAC sticker) for $30,500. If I was ready to buy, I would click on either of the two coins and the system would put me in touch with the seller, and I could add a very special coin to my collection.

Since my interest is in German coins, I’ll head back to the home page and start a new search. Germany leads the World Coins section with a whopping 223,122 coins spread over 9,297 pages. If I search for just “PCGS,” I find an impressive 1,623 results in 68 pages. The most expensive PCGS-graded German coin on Collectors.com is a gold medal from Bavaria for $14,995, but I’m looking for something a little more generic. If I refine the search to “PCGS 1/2 Mark,” the system returns 47 results and a great group of coins from which to choose.

Up to now, you and I have been proactive in searching for coins. In other words, we only find coins if we initiate a search. However, Collectors.com has a great feature that allows us to create a watchlist so that if any coins show up based on our want list, we’ll get an instant email alert. We don’t even have to be on the site, yet Collectors.com will give us first shot at new listings. Pretty convenient, eh?

Here’s an even better feature. For those of us who participate in the PCGS Set Registry, Collectors.com will send us an email alert when a coin comes along that will fill a hole in our set or upgrade an existing coin. This makes it easier than ever to climb the rankings on the Registry, and it can even be critical for maintaining the top position. Also, as you visit your own sets on The PCGS Registry, you’ll sometimes see a “SHOP” button on your listings that alerts you to a coin you need for your collection.

If you’re serious about adding to and improving your sets, Collectors.com is a must-have tool. Try your own searches to see what turns up. I think you’ll be very impressed.

For some informative articles about Collectors.com, click here and have fun!

Filed Under: News


Ron Guth

Posted on November 10, 2016 by 1 Comment

barber-half-dollarWill you be happy with the Good-4?  Can you afford the VF30?

Collecting coins is all about decisions. Simply put, none of us have enough money to collect everything we want. Absent piles of cash, we must pick and choose among a variety of coins to decide where we want to spend our money and focus our energies. Many times, the choice boils down to aesthetics – what “floats our boat.” Do we like the ever-popular Morgan Dollar, the beautiful Standing Liberty Quarter, or are we attracted to the odd Half Cents of the 1793-1857 period? Even after we make an aesthetic choice, we must still address the tension between quality and cost. What is your preferred grade? What can you afford? Making these decisions BEFORE you begin collecting is crucial to a gratifying collecting experience. If you’re not happy with the quality you can afford, don’t even bother starting — you’ll be miserable early on in the process. If you run out of money before you can complete your set – well, that’s not much fun either.

Here’s an example of how this decision-making process works. Let’s say you really like the Barber Half Dollar series. What would it cost to build a complete collection where all of the coins are the same grade? The Barber Half Dollar series is relatively short, so it’s a matter of picking a grade and adding up the catalog values for all of the coins in the series. Fortunately, a lot of this data-crunching has already been done for you in the form of the PCGS Price Guide (for Barber Half Dollar, click here). In Good-4, you can expect to spend just over $3,000 to complete a set of Barber Half Dollars by date and mintmark. In VF-30, a full set of Barber Half Dollars would cost $22,740 (give or take) and in MS63 a complete set would run $165,000 (keep in mind that these are approximate figures, and they account for the time spent in hunting the coins down). If you had a budget of $20,000, you’d have no problem completing the set in Good-4 or Fine-12 ($9,417). However, a VF-30 set is probably out of reach unless you add more money to your budget.

If you are shut out of Barber Half Dollars, follow the same process for other series until you find one you like.

For $20,000, you can complete a set of Franklin Half Dollars in MS66 with money left over. How about a set of Standing Liberty Quarters in EF40? Or a set of Classic Silver Commemorative Half Dollars in MS64? Or a complete set of $2.50 Indians in MS62?

You decide how much money you have to spend, then hunt down a grade and a series you can live with. There is no right or wrong answer – collect what you like. Having fun is what coin collecting is all about.

Filed Under: News


Ron Guth

Posted on October 14, 2016 by 1 Comment

untitled1795 50C O-128   PCGS VF20

A Condition Census is a listing of the best examples of a particular coin. Such lists are developed to give collectors an idea of what coins are available, who the former and current owners were and are, and when and where the coins appeared for sale. Stripped-down versions of a Census give grades only. For instance, in the fifth edition of “United States Early Half Dollar Die Varieties 1794-1836″ by Donald L. Parsley, the census for the 1795 Overton-128 variety is presented simply as 30,20,15,15,12, indicating that the best known example is a VF30. In the new (2015) “Early United States Half Dollars, Volume 1, 1794-1807” by Steve M. Tompkins, the 1795 O-128 becomes Tompkins T-18 with a census of 30,20,15,15,12,12,10. Without knowing if the authors wrote about the same coins, it still appears that the best example of a 1795 O-128 (T-18) is a VF30.

However, neither author tells us anything about the coins themselves, thus if a collector wants to learn something (the overall appearance of the coin, the past auction history, etc.) about the VF30, where should he/she go? In the world of early Half Dollars, the next best stop is Stephen Herrmann’s “Auction & Mail Bid Prices Realized for Bust Half Dollars 1794-1839.” Once there, the collector learns that the highest grade 1795 O-128 ever offered for sale was a VF30 from Sheridan Downey’s July 1993 Mail Bid Sale #9. That particular coin was from the Overton Collection, it was the plate coin in the Overton book, it was certified by NGC, and it was withdrawn from the sale (for an undisclosed reason). Armed with that information, one can finally see an image of the elusive VF-30 1795 O-128 by going to the Overton book.  Herrman’s book provides much more information about the best 1795 O-128’s. His listing of the top seven citations (30,20,15,15,15, 12) looks surprisingly like the Overton and Tompkins censuses, but now we can see details about the individual appearances of each coin: the auction house, the sale date, the lot number, the price realized, and comments on some of the coins.

Armed with this information, plus visits to the Heritage and Stack’s/Bowers websites, data from the PCGS Pop Report, and TrueView images from the PCGS CoinFacts website, we can now construct a truly meaningful Census that looks like this:

VF30 (raw) – Overton Plate Coin. Overton Collection – Sheridan Downey Mail Bid Sale 7/1993:143, withdrawn
VF20 (PCGS) – Sheridan Downey Fixed Price List 7/2009, $1,950
F15 (PCGS) – Stack’s/Bowers 3/2014:5339 (as PCGS F15 28913629), $3,525
F15 (PCGS) – Sheridan Downey, sold privately in 6/1998 – Westmoreland County Collection of Early Bust Halves – Heritage 1/2008:1345 (as PCGS F15 13875463), $8,050
F15 (NGC) – Julian Leidman, sold privately in 4/1982 – Jules Reiver Collection – Heritage 1/2006:22508 (as NGC F15), $3,737.50
F12 (PCGS) – Michael Summers, sold privately in 8/2006 – Heritage 4/2008:954 (as PCGS F12 07342139), $4,887.50 – Heritage 3/2009:1910 (as PCGS F12 07342139), $3,737.50
F12 (NGC) – Heritage 4/2016:3417 (as NGC F12 2676127-003), $3,995
VG10 (NGC) – Silver Plug! Stack’s/Bowers 11/2015:20056 (as NGC VG10 3906316-001), $49,937.50

Now the collector can make a much more informed decision when buying or selling a 1795 O-128 Half Dollar. The same process can be used for just about any U.S. coin. In fact, that’s what we’re doing at PCGS CoinFacts. Check to see what’s available for your favorite coin.

Filed Under: News

Show Reports – The Next Best Thing to Being There

Ron Guth

Posted on September 15, 2016 by No Comments

I hate missing coin shows. They’re where all the buzz is. They’re where a lot of my friends are. They’re good barometers of the market. They’re like visiting scores or hundreds of coin shops in a single weekend. If I miss a show, I feel like I’m out of the loop. Thus, after the show is over, I immediately call up friends who I knew were at the show and ask them all about it. Or, thanks to the Internet, you can learn a lot about the show from Show Reports.

Show Reports are personal experiences as related by actual participants at the show.

For instance, I recently posted a “2016 ANA Diary” on the PCGS Blog sharing my experiences at the August 2016 American Numismatic Associations convention in Anaheim, California. Much of my time was spent in meetings, promoting PCGS CoinFacts, sharing information about coins, or answering questions at the PCGS Booth. My experience was much different from the dealers who were doing actual business on the bourse floor. So, even though I was at the show myself, I was curious to see the perspectives offered by other people. Several dealers post Show Reports, which are available to anyone with a computer (including you), so here’s what I found.

One of my favorite Show Reports is the one offered by John Agre at Coin Rarities Online . John specializes in high-end U.S. colonial coins and he is a very active buyer and seller. Plus, he tells great stories. I’ll let you read through his eight(!) days of entries to see what he had to say about the show.

Next up is Charmy Harker’s Show Report. Charmy is known in the industry as “The Penny Lady” for her penchant for Flying Eagle, Indian Head, and Lincoln Cents. Her Show Reports are among the most popular posts on the PCGS Message Boards. They are usually loaded with images from start to finish, including after-hour festivities (and great wines). For her take on the 2016 ANA show, click here.

Another great Show Reporter is Laura Sperber of Legend Numismatics, who posted Pre-, Actual-, and Post-ANA Reports. Laura’s Market Reports and Hot Topics are always exciting and they come from the standpoint of one of the leaders in the coin market.

Dave Wnuck, a former partner of the afore-mentioned John Agre, and now operating under Dave Wnuck Numismatics, LLC doesn’t report on shows per se, but he does issue an entertaining “Making The Grade” newsletter that often touches on his experiences at coin conventions. You can read archives of his newsletters here.

Numerous other people post show reports on the PCGS Message Boards and elsewhere. Combine that with the trade publications and press releases from the big auction houses, and you almost don’t have to go to shows anymore.

Okay…that may be stretching it a bit.

If you have a favorite show report, please post a link to it in the Comments section.

Even better, visit the next coin show and post your own Report!

Filed Under: News


Ron Guth

Posted on August 18, 2016 by 1 Comment

One of the most eagerly-anticipated coin shows of the year is the annual convention of the American Numismatic Association. This year (August 2016), the show was held at the Anaheim Convention Center, literally just across the street from Disneyland in Anaheim,. California. Everyone’s experience at this major show differs – this is my take on this major show.

Tuesday, August 9
I live in San Diego, about 90 miles south of Anaheim, so I left mid-morning, drove up to PCGS headquarters in Irvine, ran through some job-related tasks, then had lunch with Jaime Hernandez, a fellow PCGS colleague and the guy who knows as much about modern coins and their pricing as anyone. After lunch, I headed up to the Anaheim Hilton, parked the car, checked in, then headed over to the show, where setup was well under way. Most of the afternoon was spent glad-handing and talking about PCGS CoinFacts. It was great to reconnect with many old friends. After the show, I pretty much went into hermit mode and spent much of the evening reading “Mindset,” a great book by Carol Dweck that I recommend highly.

Wednesday, August 10
This was the first day of a series of annual meetings held by specialized collector clubs. First up was the John Reich Collectors Society at 8 a.m. David Finkelstein, a phenomenal researcher of early U.S. Mint history gave a terrific presentation where he tied the first deposit of silver coins at the Philadelphia Mint to the French government and a local French merchant. I suspect that more will come of this as David digs deeper. At 10:15 a.m., R. Lee Barrett gave a great talk about the history of female sculptors in America, including Laura Gardin Fraser, one of my favorites. At 11:30 a.m. Oliver Hoover presented a detailed overview of the portraits of Cleopatra on ancient coins (did you know there were more than seven Egyptian queens named Cleopatra?). After lunch, I spent some time at the PCGS table working on narratives for PCGS CoinFacts and talking with people who walked up to the table with questions. At 3 p.m., the Society of Beard Numismatists (S.O.B.’s) held their annual meeting in a designated area on the bourse floor. There I met up with P. Scott Rubin, who has written many CoinFacts narratives for us in the past. As the show wound down, I headed to the Heritage Platinum Night session, where they were auctioning off some really cool Colonial rarities. Back in the day, the auction room would have been filled; nowadays attendance is sparse because many bidders from all over the world participate in the auction over the Internet.

Thursday, August 11
Thursday started off at 9 a.m. with a presentation by Rick Snow of a new way to describe coins and to recognize and reward above-average quality coins. Rick was one of the first dealers to sticker coins; his Eagle Eye stickers are often seen on Flying Eagle and Indian Head Cents.

At 10 a.m. I participated as a panelist in the Numismatic Literary Guild symposium with Scott Travers, Donn Pearlman, Charles Morgan, and surprise guest David Ganz (former ANA president). We discussed collector education and consumer protection in the coin industry. The audience was sparse, but we had some great questions and conversations. At 11 a.m., I hustled over to the Whitman Publishing table to sign copies of “The 100 Greatest Women” book. Unfortunately, few people showed up and no one purchased a book. Around noontime, I had lunch with Steve Sloan, Director of Marketing for Collectors Universe, at one of the food trucks parked outside of the convention center. Beginning in the late afternoon, the activities were non-stop. At 4:00 p.m., my wife and I attended the ANA Awards banquet, where I received the Heath Literary Award (Second Place) for my article, “The 100 Greatest Women on Coins” in the ANA’s publication, “The Numismatist.” At 5:30 p.m., the Smithsonian Institution hosted a cocktail reception, where curator Ellen Feingold laid out some visions for the future. Jennifer Gloede, one of Ellen’s assistants, presented a “Spot The Counterfeit” game in which participants were asked to categorize fakes, copies, and real coins. This is a proposed, hands-on experience that will be rolled out in the future at the museum. It’s a fun, educational experience, and I’m happy to report that yours truly got it right on the first try. At 6:30 p.m., my wife and I dashed over to Ruth’s Chris for the annual meeting of the U.S. Rare Gold Coin Collectors Club. This is a group of collectors and dealers who play with the crème-de-la-crème of American numismatics. Unfortunately, we had to leave before the keynote speaker, Greg Rohan of Heritage, gave his talk, but we’re looking forward to seeing it on video. The reason for our early departure was the annual meeting of the Numismatic Literary Guild, an event known more popularly as the NLG Bash. This is the equivalent of the movie industry’s Oscar night, where hundreds of awards are given out to authors and researchers. Our own Don Willis received the Best Software award to PCGS’s mobile apps, and I won an Extraordinary Merit award for “The 100 Greatest Women on Coins” and the Best Internet Blog award for a series of posts entitled “The Lord St. Oswald Coins – Where Are They Now?” on the PCGS Blog. The NLG Bash is a raucous, somewhat irreverent affair, always a lot of fun, and always offering good food and camaraderie.

1844 DollarOne of the highlights of the Bruce Morelan Collection of Seated Liberty Silver Dollars

Friday, August 12
My wife and I started the day at the hotel breakfast buffet. The line at the Starbucks in the hotel lobby was out the door and around the corner. Waiting in line for 30 minutes for a cup of coffee is not my cup of tea (hey, that’s funny). At 9:00 a.m., I attended the annual meeting of the Early American Copper Club, an association of Half Cent and Large Cent collectors. I’ve been a member of this club since the mid-1970’s, and it was great to see some old friends. We had a lively discussion of PCGS versus EAC grading. Regardless of which side you’re on, it’s interesting to note that most collectors have their coins slabbed just before they sell them. Just sayin’. At 10 a.m. it was time for the first Meet The Expert session, where people can bring their coins up to the PCGS table for grading opinions and questions. We meet some great people this way, and we get to see some nice (and not-so-nice) coins. At 11:30 a.m., it was time for the PCGS Set Registry Luncheon. For many years, BJ Searls and her staff have done a tremendous job of running this event, which is a highlight of the show for many collectors. Mark Stephenson did a great job of emceeing the luncheon for the first time. Kevin Lipton inducted John Albanese into the PCGS CoinFacts Dealer Hall of Fame, and Q. David Bowers did the same for Augustus B. Sage, one of the first coin dealers in America and a founder of the American Numismatic Society. After the luncheon, it was back to the PCGS table for more customer and dealer interactions, and a pleasant hour or so poring over Bruce Morelan’s fabulous collection of Seated Liberty Silver Dollars. The big event of Friday evening was the ANA banquet, where friend John Kraljevich received the Numismatist of the Year honors and exhibitors received a spate of awards. This night is always the capstone of the show and a great way to end on a positive note.

Chi HoChi Ho, a former Collectors Universe employee, came by with his Boy Scout troop to say hello

Saturday, August 13
Final day of the show. Every Saturday at the ANA convention, the Rittenhouse Society meets for their annual breakfast. This group is comprised of authors, researchers, and numismatists who have made their mark in some significant fashion. I’ve been a member for many years and, for me, this breakfast is one of the high points of the convention. Whitman Publishing kindly funds the breakfast, Q. David Bowers emcees, and the meeting is an opportunity to catch up on each member’s accomplishments over the previous year and any projects they might have in the works. This year, we inducted Ray Williams, a well-known colonial collector and past president of the Colonial Coin Collectors Club. Welcome Ray!

After breakfast, I wandered the floor and said goodbyes to several dealer friends. Many dealers, who had already been at the show for a week or more, had departed, leaving empty tables scattered about on the floor. The show was definitely winding down.

Charles Morgan of CoinWeek came by to take the PCGS grading test and review the results. I won’t reveal his score (he’s planning to do that in his own video), but to his credit, he was fairly “close to the line” – in other words, he was either right on and, when he was off, he was neither too high nor too low.

At 11:30 a.m., I sat down for the final Meet The Expert session. Only a few people showed up this time, but in one of those rare, surreal moments, a man walked up to the table with two coins: a $20 gold piece and a silver dollar which his father had bequeathed to him. The $20 was a common date worth around $1,300; the silver dollar was the rare 1893-S. Initially, the owner thought the large gold piece was the more valuable of the two coins, but when I explained that the 1893-S $1 was a nice AU55, possibly an AU58, and worth $40,000+, he was taken aback. He immediately submitted the coin and I am pleased to report that it came back as a PCGS AU58. Discoveries as significant as this are rare, but this is why we hold these events. One never knows what treasures are out there waiting to be uncovered.

Final note
The ANA is a blur of activity. Writing this post reminded me of the many wonderful experiences one can have throughout the week. If you love coins, make sure to add the annual ANA convention to your bucket list.

Filed Under: News

The Lord St. Oswald Coins – Where Are They Now? – Part XI (Final)

Ron Guth

Posted on July 21, 2016 by No Comments

The Lord St. Oswald Large Cents – Final Installment

The Lord St. Oswald Collection contained 25 U.S. Large Cents, all dated 1794 except for a single, average-grade 1793 Chain Cent. The 1964 Christie’s sale offered 22 Large Cent; only three appeared in the 1992 sale. Fortunately for future researchers, the catalogers at Christie’s attributed all of the Large Cents by Sheldon variety numbers. Today, we know the whereabouts of most of the coins and their “modern” grades, all of which is revealed below. For purposes of brevity, the Lord St. Oswald Large Cents were presented in groups of five coins over five installments (please see previous blog posts). This is the final installment in this fascinating story.

226346Lot 165 “U.S.A. cent, 1794 (Sheldon no. 71) – in mint state, die clashing as last

Analysis: This was one of three S-71s in the Lord St. Oswald Collection. The New York firm, Stack’s, purchased this lot for the equivalent of $1,736. Subsequently, the coin made the rounds of some great “name” collectors: Dr. E. Yale Clarke; Tom Morley; John W. Adams; Herman Halpern; R.E. “Ted” Naftzger, Jr.; and finally Walter J. Husak. Both Noyes and Breen considered this coin to be the second finest example known of the variety; it currently resides in a PCGS MS64+BN holder in the High Desert Collection. Interestingly enough, Walter Husak owned TWO of the Lord St. Oswald S-71s – in 2001, he purchased the finest known example (see the next lot) from Mr. Naftzger, then sold this coin off as a duplicate.

Complete pedigree:
William Strickland Collection – Charles Winn (husband of Priscilla Strickland, son-in-law and cousin of William Strickland), Rowland Winn, 1st Baron St. Oswald of Nostell – Rowland Winn, 2nd Baron St. Oswald of Nostell – Rowland George Winn, 3rd Baron St. Oswald of Nostell – Rowland Denys Guy Winn, Major the Lord St. Oswald, M.C. – Christie, Manson, and Woods 10/1964:165, $1,736 (620 British Pounds) – Stack’s – Dr. E. Yale Clarke Collection – Stack’s 10/1975:43, $7,000 – Gordon J. Wrubel – Dr. Robert J. Shalowitz – Robert Emmer (Penn State Galleries) – Del Bland – Tom Morley – John W. Adams Collection – Tom Morley – New England Rare Coin Auctions 1/1981:20, $13,500 – Kevin Lipton – Herman Halpern Collection – Stack’s 3/1988:103, $26,400 – R.E. “Ted” Naftzger, Jr. Collection, sold privately on 2/23/1992 – Eric Streiner, sold privately on 3/1992 – Denis W. Loring, sold privately on 4/22/1995 – Walter J. Husak Collection – High Desert Collection

1748Lot 166 “U.S.A. cent, 1794 (Sheldon no. 71) – in mint state and red, die clashing as last two

Analysis: This lot was easily the finest of the three S-71s in the Lord St. Oswald sale. Baldwin & Sons purchased the coin for the equivalent of $2,940, presumably on behalf of Dorothy Paschal, the next owner. From there, it went into her friend, Dr. William Sheldon’s collection, where it stayed until he sold his Large Cents, en masse, to R.E. “Ted” Naftzger, Jr. In 1992, Naftzger sold his “entire” collection of early date Large Cents to Eric Streiner, but this coin was not a part of the deal. Instead, it went to Walter Husak in 2001 as an upgrade of the second finest example (see previous lot). In 2008, Heritage sold this coin as a PCGS MS65RB for $253,000.

Complete pedigree:
William Strickland Collection – Charles Winn (husband of Priscilla Strickland, son-in-law and cousin of William Strickland), Rowland Winn, 1st Baron St. Oswald of Nostell – Rowland Winn, 2nd Baron St. Oswald of Nostell – Rowland George Winn, 3rd Baron St. Oswald of Nostell – Rowland Denys Guy Winn, Major the Lord St. Oswald, M.C. – Christie, Manson, and Woods 10/1964:166, $2,940 (1,050 British Pounds) – A.H. Baldwin & Sons, Ltd. (London) – Dorothy I. Paschal Collection – Dr. William H. Sheldon Collection, sold privately on 4/19/1972 – R.E. “Ted” Naftzger, Jr. Collection, sold privately in 2001 – Walter J. Husak Collection – Heritage 2/2008:2073 (as PCGS MS65RB 13470600), $253,000

Lot 281 U.S.A., Chain Cent, 1793, wide date head of Liberty right with flowing hair, rev. legend around chain reads AMERICA, no periods (Sh. 20) [editor’s note: this is actually an S-2], rubbed on the hair over Liberty’s ear, otherwise good very fine, rare

Analysis: In 1992, Christie’s sold “The Property of a Gentleman” held by the Nostell Priory. Though no mention was made of Lord St. Oswald, it was easy to deduce that they were from that source. Why they were not included in the 1964 sale is unknown.

Complete pedigree:
William Strickland Collection – Charles Winn (husband of Priscilla Strickland, son-in-law and cousin of William Strickland), Rowland Winn, 1st Baron St. Oswald of Nostell – Rowland Winn, 2nd Baron St. Oswald of Nostell – Rowland George Winn, 3rd Baron St. Oswald of Nostell – Rowland Denys Guy Winn, Major the Lord St. Oswald, M.C. – Christie’s 2/1992:281, $18,375 – Alan Weinberg Collection

217882Lot 282 U.S.A. Liberty Cap Cent, 1794, bust of Liberty with “Amiable Face” right, rev. value in wreath (Sh. 30), rubbed on the high points, particularly Liberty’s hair above her ear and forehead, attractive problem-free surfaces, about uncirculated and rare thus

Analysis: By 1992, coin prices had advanced considerably over the nearly three decades since the 1964 sale. Lot 282, a choice Sheldon 30 sold for the equivalent of $13,895.64 — far more than any of the coins sold in 1964, including the Mint State 1794 Dollars. In 1995, Walter Husak purchased the coin for his expanding Large Cent collection, then sold it less than a decade later when he upgraded the variety. In its last appearance, this coin sold in 2013 as a PCGS MS62BN.

Complete pedigree:
William Strickland Collection – Charles Winn (husband of Priscilla Strickland, son-in-law and cousin of William Strickland), Rowland Winn, 1st Baron St. Oswald of Nostell – Rowland Winn, 2nd Baron St. Oswald of Nostell – Rowland George Winn, 3rd Baron St. Oswald of Nostell – Rowland Denys Guy Winn, Major the Lord St. Oswald, M.C. – Christie’s 2/1992:282, $13,895.64 – Anthony Terranova, sold privately in 8/1995 – Walter J. Husak Collection, sold privately in 4/2004 – Paul Gerrie Collection – Goldbergs 2/2013:19 (as PCGS MS62BN), $23,000

112148Lot 283 U.S.A. Liberty Cap Cent, 1794, bust of Liberty right, rev. value in wreath (Sh. 57), rubbed on the high points, denticles flat where edge not fully struck up between 9 and 1 o’clock, good extremely fine and rare thus

Analysis: This was the fourth S-57 from the Lord St. Oswald Collection. Though it was not as nice as Lots 150 and 151 from the 1964 sale, it was still a substantial coin, and it was certainly better than Lot 152, a Very Fine example. This was another Husak coin, on its way to an upgrade, called NGC AU58 in 2003. Its most recent appearance was in the sale of the Dan Holmes collection, where it sold for $15,525 as a raw AU55.

Complete pedigree:
William Strickland Collection – Charles Winn (husband of Priscilla Strickland, son-in-law and cousin of William Strickland), Rowland Winn, 1st Baron St. Oswald of Nostell – Rowland Winn, 2nd Baron St. Oswald of Nostell – Rowland George Winn, 3rd Baron St. Oswald of Nostell – Rowland Denys Guy Winn, Major the Lord St. Oswald, M.C. – Christie’s 2/1992:283, $8,421.60 – Eric Streiner – Superior Galleries 10/1992:69, $4,620 – Anthony Terranova – Chris Victor-McCawley, sold privately on 9/15/1997 – Walter J. Husak Collection – Superior 9/1998:1121, $7,762.50 – Superior 5/2003:380 (as NGC AU58), not sold – Chris Victor-McCawley & Anthony Terranova, sold privately on 1/9/2004 – Daniel W. Holmes Collection – Goldbergs 9/2009:92 (as Raw AU55), $15,525

There is one more coin that merits consideration. In 2004, Stack’s sold a 1794 S-31 Large Cent as lot 1056 with a pedigree to the 1964 sale of the Lord St. Oswald Collection (no lot number). This appears to be an incorrect citation, as there was no S-31s in either of the Christie’s sales.

This ends our discussion of the Lord St. Oswald coins. However, their travels are not over. They will move from collector to collector, from auction to auction, from one new steward to another, but we will continue to track them every time they reappear on the market. The Lord St. Oswald name will always be one of the most important pedigrees in numismatics.

Filed Under: News

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