The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 11, Number 38, September 21, 2008, Article 14


Alan V. Weinberg submitted this report last weekend, but due to an email glitch it arrived too late to include in last Sunday's issue. -Editor
I've just returned tonight from the Beverly Hills auction of The Ray Rouse half cents and the R.E. "Ted" Naftzger "remainder" early large cents. I say "remainder" as these cents are pieces that Ted had laying around his office and home and many were shown and marketed at successive Long Beach coin shows by confidant and large cent cataloguer Bill Noyes perhaps 3 years ago.

That is not to denigrate the coppers - they just weren't part of Ted's main collection and he was also still buying large cents up 'til approx 1995 after he sold his main collection to Eric Streiner.

The two early copper sales, back to back, were held at the Beverly Hills Crowne Plaza and were intermissioned by a very nice buffet courtesy of Ira & Larry Goldberg. The auction room was mildly crowded but, for the half cents, one could sense a lack of electricity or enthusiasm , quite unlike what one witnessed at the Walt Husak large cent auction. This was not for lack of publicity or marketing as the Goldbergs and Chris Victor McCawley & Bob Grellman did a superb job of that - exhibiting at shows, distributing attractive fliers and publishing many full page ads. It may have been related to the number of pre-Long Beach coin show auctions (five or six) and the current economy.

The nicest 1793 half cent, easily a super-attractive EF-40 (EAC grading) sold for only $30K hammer to a collector. I had thought it would hammer closer to $38K. But there were some big surprises: The 1796 no pole 1/2 cent EAC Fine 15 and slightly porous opened at a high $150K & hammered for $300K to a phone bidder with Tony Terranova the immediate underbidder. The Fine 12 1804 C-2 hammered for $57,500 to CVM, a startling price considering that this well-worn common date half cent may be found unattributed at any coin show. A Fine 12 1805 small 5 stems C-2 hammered for $36K to CVM. An 1831 C-1 Proof 55 hammered for $62.5K to Jim McGuigan. Chris Victor McCawley seemed to dominate the Rouse half cents, bidding for stock and for several clients. At the end of the Rouse half cents I asked whether my perception of a lack of audience electricity was what others perceived. And that was the general impression, with one dealer commenting that "everyone is short of money".

After the buffet dinner, the Naftzger "remainder" early large cents came up and some audience buzz and enthusiasm was again evident although the audience was noticeably thinner in attendance after the half cents had sold.

The "2nd finest" S-10 1793 Wreath cent (actually 4th finest) hammered for $195K to bidder # 97 with phone bidders driving it up over $150K. The MS65 red & brown 1795 S75 lettered edge cent , one of the top 2-3, hammered at $135K to a phone bidder with dealer Joe O'Connor the immediate underbidder.

The astounding 1796 Liberty Cap S84 large cent, the most common variety of the 1796 Liberty Caps, broke all large cent auction records by hammering for $600K (that's $690,000 with the buyers fee) to Richard Burdick , undoubtedly for a client.

It was a beautiful red & brown MS-66 which had been estimated by several knowledgeable people with whom I talked before the auction at $225-300K tops. A magnificent MS-66 red & brown 1797 S140 hammered at $165K to bidder 173 and a beautiful 1798 S179 MS65 brown hammered at $180K , again to Burdick. As did an 1800 S197 MS64 red & brown at $60K, an 1801 MS64 S215 at $80K and a 1807/6 S272 at $150K , all to the same Michigan buyer. That man Richard Burdick , whom I know well, has the taste and eye almost unmatched in American numismatics. His time in the hobby and his extensive show attendance just "walking the bourse floor" contributes mightily to his connoisseurship.

Doug Bird captured a choice 1802 S231 at $62.5 for himself. A magnificent 1803 S243 MS66 red & brown hammered for an astounding $210K. Active participants included Tony Terranova, John Gervasoni, Tom Reynolds, Dan Holmes, CVM, Bird, and some phone bidders (no doubt Steve Contursi was bidding on one) who captured a number of prizes.

There were no one or two bidders who dominated the large cents as happened with the half cents. And there was no evidence of money scarcity or fear of the economy evident in the sale of the Naftzger large cents. Indeed, after the large cents auctioned, another advanced large cent collector opined to me that people with money were scared to put their money into real estate, stocks or bonds and were choosing rare coins instead.

There was one thing that bothered a lot of collectors and which hopefully will be rectified when the middle and late date Naftzger large cents are auctioned next year. Most large cent collectors value pedigrees and original provenance envelopes that accompany a coin, particularly when those envelopes are inscribed in minute detail with comments and prior ownership history in the distinctive green ink handwriting of Ted Naftzger ("God" as he was known).

Examining the large cent auction lots, I often found the envelope scribbled thoughts of REN as interesting as the coin itself! Yet, these distinctively inscribed envelopes, some going back to the 1954 Anderson DuPont Stack's sale, were all scotch-taped to the coin slabs, the tape often ruining or staining the envelopes and in at least one case lifting off the green ink inscriptions !

Archival tape should have been used or the Naftzger envelope enclosed in an attached clear flip. Would you put a piece of sticky scotch tape on a piece of scarce currency? Well, the same applies to any old inscribed coin envelope or famous sale envelope. It literally impairs the appeal and value of the coin itself if the pedigree is important.

Wayne Homren, Editor

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