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V12 2009 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 44, November 1, 2009, Article 15

BIRCH CENT PRE-AUCTION MANEUVERING

Alan V. Weinberg contributes this anecdote to our discussion of pre-auction maneuvering among collectors and dealers. -Editor

Neil Berman's comment on John Ford's auction ethics reminded me of a similar experience at Bowers & Merena's November 14-15, 1988 Norweb part III sale in New York City.

For many years, and until today, I've sought to add a nice 1792 Birch cent to my 1792 U.S. pattern collection which lacks that coin and the 1792 Wright quarter to be complete.

The 1988 Norweb part III sale contained two Birch cents. I liked the 1st one, a smooth problem-free VF, delightful light brown color. The second (Ex Fine) had unsightly right field tooling. I'd figured to bid up to $70K hammer ($77K total at the time) until Ford, during lot viewing, told me it was fake.

I decided Ford knew best and I did not bid. It hammered for $32K to Tony Terranova and immediately sold privately to Denis Loring for another large cent collector. It was indeed genuine. Today, it is in the Smithsonian and forever out of "numismatic circulation" - donated by Stack's some years later.

The 1792 Birch cent is one of a handful of truly rare American coins, so rare that all the money and contacts in the world matter little. It's the opportunity to acquire one that matters.

Emery May Norweb did in fact own three Birch cents - probably unprecedented in numismatic history. The dark About Unc pictured enlarged in color on the Norweb III sale poster was in fact fake and did not appear in her auction sale. So whether Ford confused the two coins or was disingenuous to me in calling the Norweb auction coin fake, to this day I'm uncertain. But I can guess...

To read the previous E-Sylum article, see: JOHN FORD'S PRE-AUCTION MANEUVERING (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v12n43a11.html)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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