Several long-time collectors bid a fond adieu to their treasures earlier this month as five world records were set in Heritage Auctions’ Jan. 21-25 sales.
Total sales – of U.S. coins and currency plus world coins and paper money – topped $90.68 million US (about $115 million Cdn.) during auctions held in lieu of the Florida United Numismatists (FUN) Convention and the New York International Numismatic Convention (NYINC). Both live events were cancelled due to COVID-19, and their auctions were held at Heritage Auctions’ headquarters in Dallas, Texas.
“Six coins broke the million-dollar mark and five world records were set—some by new clients who had never before purchased a coin before joining Heritage,” said James Halperin, Heritage Auctions co-founder. “We are truly honoured to be chosen to bring these collections to auction, as well as to serve our clients during this unprecedented era.”
Making headlines around the world, the $9.36 million US sale of the 1787 New York-style Brasher Doubloon, “EB on Wing” variety, set a world record for the most valuable gold coin ever sold at public auction. The example is the finest of all seven known “EB on Wing” examples.
The winning bidder spent more than $11.9 million US to purchase not only the Brasher Doubloon but five other 18th-century coins struck by Ephraim Brasher, a renowned New York City metalsmith (and the next-door neighbour of soon-to-be President George Washington). This sale also marked the first time the buyer purchased a coin at auction. Among the other Brasher-struck coins acquired by the anonymous buyer was a 1786 Lima Doubloon that sold for another world record—$2.1 million US.
While the Brasher Doubloons came to auction from the Donald Partrick Collection, another four coins that topped $1 million US – also setting world records – were from the Bob Simpson Collection (part four):
- an 1804 “Plain 4” eagle brought $5.28 million US;
- a 1792 “Silver Center” cent brought $2.52 million US;
- an 1885 trade dollar brought $2.1 million US, the highest price paid for this specimen; and
- a 1796 quarter eagle, “Stars on Obverse,” variety brought $1.38 million US.
Simpson’s unique 1943-D cent struck on a bronze planchet – described by auctioneers as the “iconic 20th-century wartime rarity and Holy Grail to error collectors” – also sold for a world-record $840,000 US.
‘DEL MONTE NOTE’ SETS WORLD RECORD
Collectors broke out into a bidding war and pushed the auction price of a U.S. $20 banknote – featuring a Del Monte banana sticker – to nearly $400,000.
Known as the “Del Monte Note,” it features a printed-over “Del Monte Ecuador” banana sticker obstruction.
“Most obstructions fall off shortly after printing, leaving behind a blank area of paper lacking the design, but errors with objects that ‘stick’ to the note and enter circulation are very rare,” according to auctioneers. “A few objects seen on other obstruction errors include a band-aid, paper fragments, scotch tape, and wood shavings. United States paper money is essentially printed in three stages: the first printing is the back of the note, the second printing provides the face devices, and the final printing includes both seals and the serial numbers. When this note was printed at the Fort Worth Western Currency Facility, it went through the first and second printings normally before the Del Monte sticker found its way onto the surface. The sticker’s placement is ideal, as it covers part of the second printing details and is overlaid by part of the Treasury Seal and the right serial number from the third printing.”
While some collectors believe this note was intentionally created – “probably the result of some very bored or creative BEP employee,” according to the lot description – its presence in the market is widely recorded. It passed through the regular channels of the Federal Reserve before it was released into circulation, auctioneers added.
“In the summer of 2004, a college student in Ohio received it as part of an ATM withdrawal and shortly thereafter posted it on eBay where it sold to the highest of 12 bids. The note was a bargain at around $10,000 on eBay as news of the note had barely hit the collecting community.”
After coverage in the numismatic press in the following weeks, the note remained off the market until 2006, when Heritage offered it in that year’s FUN sale, where it topped $25,000 US.
“Since then it has earned a spot on the cover of, US Error Note Encyclopedia second edition by Stephen M. Sullivan,” added auctioneers, who called the note “one of the greatest paper money errors.”
Pre-bidding lifted the bids to $210,000 US before the live auction began.
“From there, the winning bidder outlasted a determined phone bidder and two other live internet bidders to push the final winning auction price to $396,000,” auctioneers said following the sale, adding this selling price set a world record for error banknotes.
It was only the third time the note has been offered at public auction since its 2004 discovery.
ENGLAND’S FIRST GOLD COIN
Heritage’s NYINC sale, held Jan. 21-22, offered some historical rarities’ finest known examples.
One of only a handful of known examples of the first gold coin struck in England – the circa 1257 Henry III 20-pence gold penny – sold for $720,000 US as Lot 31154. Believed to be unique in this die pairing, the coin was first described and cataloged by 18th-century British numismatists. At the time of issue, gold was just “beginning to trickle back into European commerce after a dearth of nearly 500 years—a period during which the silver penny had reigned virtually unchallenged as the sole denomination minted throughout Europe,” according to auctioneers.
“Proposed by the famed British numismatist Sir John Evans to be the ‘true’ first portrait of an English king on the coinage prior to the Tudor issues inaugurated by Henry VII, we have been able to locate only seven pieces remaining of this issue, three of which are in private collections, with this likely being the finest known,” added auctioneers, who described the coin as being “of the utmost rarity, and one of the most fabled coins in all of British numismatics.”
Believed to be minted “in at least a modest quantity” but later melted down in large numbers, the coin is known with four die pairings.