U.S. rarities last sold at 1954 King Farouk sale offered at auction

A scarce 1809/8 U.S. “Half Eagle” was among the top-earning lots of the Oct. 14-17 sale of the Maurice Storck Collection, which featured several coins last publicly offered during the 1954 “Palace Collections of Egypt” sale.

The “BD-1” Half Eagle variety is described by John Dannreuther – one of four founders of Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) – as the “scarcest date of this type.” While catalogues report a mintage of 33,875 pieces, “it is possible as few as 20,000 coins were minted,” according to Heritage Auctions, which conducted the four-day sale earlier this month.

“Of those, only 250 to 325 examples are thought to exist.”

Certified as Mint State-64-plus by PCGS, the coin was last offered publicly in February 1954, when Sotheby’s auctioned the holdings of Egyptian King Farouk. According to auctioneers, it “likely appeared” during the Palace Collections of Egypt sale as part of Lot 232, which included 11 early Half Eagles dated 1807-11. The group lot is believed to have sold to Bob Schermerhorn, of Dallas, for $600.

“It survives in spectacular near-Gem condition,” according to auctioneers, and ranks among the “very finest” known 1809/8 Half Eagles.

It brought $57,600 US (nearly $76,000 Cdn.) as Lot 18361.

The Storck Collection, which also featured several coins last publicly offered during the 1954 ‘Palace Collections of Egypt’ sale, included a group lot of selections from Storck’s library.

FAROUK COINS, CATALOGUE

Of the nearly 20 Farouk lots offered as part of the Storck sale, eight lots brought more than $20,000 US.

Another high-earning Farouk coin was Lot 18392, a 1799 $10 “BD-7, Small Obverse Stars” variety in Mint State-63.

“The reported mintage for the year, 37,449 examples, consists of two major varieties: Small Obverse Stars and Large Obverse Stars,” according to auctioneers. “Putting that into context, only about 565 Small Obverse Stars and about 420 Large Obverse Stars coins are thought to survive. Of those, John Dannreuther suggests as many as 350 are BD-7 eagles.”

It brought $55,200 US.

Also of interest was Lot 18451, a 19-piece group lot featuring the 1954 Farouk catalogue plus other personal numismatic reference books and memorabilia from Storck’s collection. It brought $840 US.

Altogether, the Storck Collection brought $3.375 million US (about $4.445 million Cdn.) from 1,870 bidders.

The top-earning lot was a 1795 $10 “13 Leaves, BD-2” variety in Mint State-61. Offered as Lot 18389, the coin – the United States’ first $10 gold piece – brought $162,000 US.

A LIFELONG COLLECTOR, DEALER

Maurice Storck received several prestigious military medals, including a Purple Heart, for his service during the Second World War.

Storck was born in 1922 and grew up in Portland, Maine, where he lived through the Great Depression before joining the American Numismatic Association (ANA) in 1948 (he was the first person to pay $100 for an ANA life membership).

His passion for numismatics remained strong as he served his country during the Second World War – he was the oldest survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack before his death last year – and continued throughout his life as a well-known coin dealer.

Storck was one of only a few U.S. numismatists invited to participate in the Egyptian government’s sale of the collection of King Farouk in Cairo in 1954.

“I bought more than one-third of Farouk’s regular-issue coins. Farouk got out with the jewels and the ancient coins,” Storck said in a January 1994 interview with Arizona Senior World. “He had his collection crated and ready to move when the army moved in. So he jumped on his yacht and beat it, leaving the antiques, coins and stamps. … He had one of the biggest collections in the world – he had the Red Book almost complete. … He had possibly the largest stamp collection in the world. It was sold just before the coins.”

A 36-year contributor to the Guide Book of United States Coins, he retired in 1970 after decades in the coin and stamp businesses.

Storck died last November at the age of 97.

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