The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 22, May 30, 2010, Article 26


I didn't run anything on this last week, but so many national outlets have picked up on it, I guess it's time. The private sale of a 1794 Dollar for a record price generated articles just about everywhere, it seemed. Here's one from The New York Times. -Editor

1794 Dollar It was an extraordinary week for rare coins and stamps, with two of the world's most valuable specimens being sold within days of each other.

If anyone doubts the enduring appeal of American currency, a sale completed Thursday of a sparkling 1794 silver dollar should put that to rest. The coin, believed by some experts to be the first United States dollar ever minted, was sold to a nonprofit educational group for $7.85 million, a world record for any coin.

“This is a national treasure,” said the seller, Steven L. Contursi, a California coin dealer who has owned it since 2003. He has exhibited it at a museum in Colorado and at collector events. The buyer, the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation, is expected to continue publicizing the coin.

Silver coins up to a dollar were authorized by Congress partly to show off the young nation's economic prowess. Of the 1,578 dollars made that first year, all by hand presses, about 140 have survived. This coin is considered the finest of them, with crisp, lustrous details still visible on the allegorical Lady Liberty's flowing hair. What appear to be heavy scratches across the coin are actually file marks, made when the coin was struck to ensure its weight in silver was precise.

Most Valuable Stamp On Saturday, the world's most valuable stamp changed hands. The sale, in a secretive auction in Geneva, was between unidentified parties for an undisclosed amount. The auctioneer, David Feldman, would say only that the buyer was an international consortium and that the seller was a financial firm auctioning the stamp to collect on a debt by its former owner. “The consignor was very pleased” with the result, he said.

The Swedish stamp of 1857, accidentally printed in yellow instead of green, became the world's most valuable in the 1990s, in a series of record-setting sales approaching $2.5 million.

The stamp has a glamorous past. The only one of its type ever discovered, it was found by a Swedish schoolboy in 1885, later seized by the French government as reparations after World War I and has since belonged to famous collectors including the king of Romania.

I suppose I wasn't impressed by the advertised price since it was a private sale. Had the coin traded hands for a dollar less than a record-setting price, the publicity outside of the numismatic field would have been negligible. Was the priced arrived at with an eye toward publicity? Perhaps, but we may never know, nor might we know if there were any side deals indicating that the "real" price was less. But barring evidence to the contrary I'll take the parties at their word and congratulate everyone involved - this "can't be bought for a million bucks" level of publicity can only help the hobby as a whole. -Editor

To read the complete article, see: $7.85 Million for U.S. Coin, and Extra for a Stamp (

Laura Sperber of Legend Numismatics commented on the sale in her Monday Market Report, and predicts that before long we'll see a rare coin reach the $10 million mark. -Editor

We knew it was a matter of time before something like this would happen. You had a hungry collector with funds who cherished a unique coin. He didn't really have many choices for the date. So it was matter of passing or paying the price. We do know for a fact, there were at least TWO other seriously interested collectors as well who wanted to own it. The new owner simply paid more than the others.

For those who feel the price is extreme, we do not. The coin is unique, high quality, and wildly historical. There is nothing else like it. We strongly believe should the new owner have the long term holding power, when sold, this coin will yet again break all pricing records.

Also, we strongly believe within the next year, the $10,000,000.00 price barrier will be broken. There are two coins that will easily do it when they come to market (not if-Legend has made an offer on one for much more).

Having a gigantic sale that creates a record price just adds to consumer confidence in the high end market. The DOES trickle down to ALL levels as well (I'm sure we'll read on the chatrooms how the typical eBay buyer does not care-but it does affect them). Collectors love auctions because they believe they were only one bid on top of someone else's. In this case, buyers of the rarest coins like seeing the highest levels have activity and move up in value.

To read the complete article, see: Legend Numismatics Market Report (

Bibliophiles and students of numismatic history will appreciate David Ganz' great article on the history of the coin in Numismatic News. The article is available on the NumisMaster site. Here are some excerpts. -Editor

1794 Dollar Price Chart Two major studies on the elusive 1794 dollar, one by Jack Collins, the other by Martin Logies, each agree that the coin is the top of the condition census. Some earlier remarks by catalogers who handled it as well as the Lord St. Oswald specimen, acquired at the Philadelphia Mint in the fall of 1794, lean toward the other as superior.

In any case, the test of which grade is the greater is measured in infinitesimal calibrations – and the one owned by Steve Contursi (and formerly Amon Carter, Jr.) – makes the case for a spectacular history that goes back more than 60 years, and in the process shows how a true rarity has fared.

The coin that broke all prior records – including the previous high of $7.59 million for the King Farouk specimen of the 1933 $20 gold piece – makes its first modern appearance when Col. E.H.R. Green's collection was acquired by Burdette G. Johnson and the St. Louis Stamp & Coin Company.

It's not every day that a major rarity is sold, and it doesn't always go up. The Neil-Carter-Contursi coin's next auction appearance was in 1986 at the Hoagy Carmichael sale by Superior, where Anthony Terranova was the buyer at $209,000. It then evidently passed through several familiar hands: Ed Milas and Marvin Browder (for RARCOA), Andy Lustig (1988) at $375,000, and in 1991, Superior's May, 1991 sale of “An Amazing Collection of U.S. Silver Dollars,” where it brought $506,000.

There were some intervening owners including Jay Parrino, but it is Steve Contursi who held it for the last several years, when he finally agreed to sell it to the Cardinal Educational Collection at $7,850,000.

All told, the Mint records show that 1,758 silver dollars were made in the first year of manufacture. About 120-140 specimens are known today, and ironically, it turned out that another of this early silver dollar date became the first rarity to cross the Rubicon of an auction where a single coin received a $100,000 bid.

To read the complete article, see: Price Jumps for 1794 Silver Dollar (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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