Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Sale of the Walt Husak Collection

Wow! I am still a little stunned by the magnitude of this event in Long Beach last Friday night.
After the long build-up, and the beautiful 414 page catalogue, and the long wait to view each & every coin, and much personal speculation about how the bidding might go, I am happy to report that it was all worth it, and then some!
Walt's sale met all of my expectations, and produced a lot of awesome surprises. I can say it was my privilege to be present.
The rare coin field produces very few stars, but after this sale, we must count Walter Husak among the luminaries in our hobby.
Sheldon, Naftzger, Paschal, Loring, Brown, Robinson, Rasmussen, and now... Husak!

I can't say enough good things about this man, or his collection. A true gentleman & family man who used his passion for Large Cents (and a few million dollars) to create a real thing of beauty - a personal vision translated into cuprous reality!
For breadth, how about 292 of the 295 originally enumerated Sheldon varieties? (301 coins altogether, with edge variations) Does it matter that he did not obtain the S15, or the S79, or S80? Not really. The truth is that he could have gotten them, but probably not in high enough condition to fit with the rest of the set (or, perhaps not at a price that seemed prudent to pay). For quality, how about 55 condition-census pieces dated 1794? (out of 57 1794 coins in the sale) How about 21 finest-known coins for 1794 alone?! Now THAT is passion!

There were enough highlights from this auction to fill a small book. I just want to mention some of the coins that were significant to me. For all the prices realized, I will refer you to the Heritage auction site. You might even be able to get their perspective on the sale. The web address is:

Two coins were notable for the prices they realized. These were LOT 2014 (1793 S13 Liberty Cap, CC-2) and LOT 2050 (1794 S48 Starred Reverse, CC-1). Each of these coins was hammered down for $550,000! The Sheldon-13 traces its ownership back to Joseph J. Mickley (whose collection was sold in 1867) and is 2nd finest known, behind the Eliasberg coin. The Sheldon-48 is the finest known of a very scarce (pop. est. ~60) and famous variety. The coin showed up in a Spink & Son (London) price list in 1972, and was prominently featured in the sale of John W. Adams' collection (Bowers & Ruddy, 1982). The one 1793 chain cent certified mint-state by PCGS in the sale (LOT 2002, S3, PCGS MS62) brought a winning bid of $220,000. The most modestly priced 1793 cent in this sale was LOT 2011 (S-11b in EAC F15) which was hammered for just $8500. The new owner of this coin can feel very good about this purchase. This sale had precious few bargains, but this coin was one. Another early surprise was LOT 2019 (a 1794, head-of-93, S18b graded MS63 by PCGS, and CC-4) which brought an astonishing $220,000 bid!

The momentum swung into high gear during the sale of the 1794's, with bids seemingly coming from everywhere - the floor, the internet, the book, and the phones. Every lot was hotly contested. Many budgets were strained as EAC collectors contended with investors for the best pieces. One coin that I was especially fond of was LOT 2066 (the finest known Sheldon-64, in PCGS MS65). It was bid to $130,000. The single finest known 1794 cent in existence (LOT 2069, S-67, in PCGS MS67 RB) brought an amazing $425,000 winning bid. This shimmering cent traces its pedigree to the Lord St. Oswald collection.

The 11 pieces in the Husak set of 1796 Liberty Caps would be worthy of a museum. I doubt if I will ever see such a stellar group again. After the sale of the 96 Liberty Caps, the investors seemed to be satisfied, and the focus returned to the hard-core EAC collectors who are the backbone of this series. As the sale moved on to the 1796 draped bust cents, the awesome S-93 (LOT 2094, PCGS MS 65 RB, and CC-1) was bid to $140,000. I had not seen any '96 draped bust other than a S-119 (Nichol's find variety) with this kind of eye appeal. Prices for the 1797 and 1798 cents were about in line with my expectations. The 1799/8 Overdate cent (LOT 2192, S-188 in EAC VF25, CC-5) went for $42,500 (less than its prior sale price in 2000). However, the next lot (LOT 2192), the famous 1799 S-189 "Abbey Cent" was bid to $140,000.

Momentum remained strong throughout the draped bust cents (1796-1807). I was a bit surprised when the 1801 S218 cent (LOT 2221, an R5 variety with 3-errors rev.) failed to meet its reserve of $24,000. Personally, I liked this coin a lot! Another coin that really impressed me was the 1803 S-263 (LOT 2266). This coin is the finest known for the variety, although not uncirculated (EAC AU50). Apparently I was not the only lover for this cent, as it soared to $16,000 vs. "book value" of $5000. This lot illustrates how difficult it is to use "the book" to estimate the value of a really nice cent (particularly in this type of sale).

Before I close, I think I should commend Heritage for the excellent way they conducted this auction. Sam Foose (with help from Bob Merrill) called the sale with great professionalism and personality. The catalogue will become a valuable Large Cent reference, and is a collectible in its own right. The venue was perfect for the auction, and all systems worked very well (almost all the time). All in all, it was a memorable night!

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Goldberg's Pre-Long Beach Copper Sale

I just made it home from the Goldberg's auction of Early American Copper in Beverly Hills (Feb. 10, 2008) and I thought I would post some of the highlights while they are still fresh.
This sale did not offer much for colonial or half cent experts, but there were over 750 lots of Large Cents up for grabs.
Attendance was very good, with every seat in the large ballroom at the Crown Plaza taken when the 1st lot of the session was called. Many copper devotees came out, in addition to the "usual suspects". I suppose this happened because there are actually two large copper events in Southern Cal. this week - the Goldberg sale, and the Walt Husak sale (this Friday in Long Beach).
While the Husak collection features many condition-census pieces (the top 6 coins for any variety), the Goldberg auction was rich in scarce varieties, with most of the coins in low grades. The affordable nature of the material made it popular with both collectors & dealers, and bidding was active.
Some of the highlights (and surprises, for me) include:
+ A high-grade 1793 wreath cent with lettered edge (S-11C) discovered only last year in England was hammered for $42,500, which failed to meet the pre-sale estimate of 50,000-75,000.
+ A low-grade example of the famous Starred Reverse cent (1794 S-48) went to an absentee bidder for $16,500. Although the coin is dark & corroded, the "stars" are plainly visible.
+ A beautiful 1794 S-61 (PCGS AU55) was hammered for $17,000 (vs. a high estimate of $12,500), after a furious round of bidding.
+ A very rare 1794 NC-9 (the 2nd finest of just 4 known) was hammered to one of the "Boys of '94" for $32,000. He will now have something to show off at EAC'08!
+ A remarkable run of six 1799 cents in a row were sold, with the lowest grade coin (just FR2) bringing a wininng bid of $1400. 1799's are popular!
+ For middle-date enthusiasts, there was an EF45 example of 1817 N-7 (with full "mouse top") that was hammered for $2800 (vs. a high estimate of $1500). I loved this coin, but I dropped out long before the end!
+ The sale featured two key-date 1823's in VF (one N-1 and one N-2), and they both cracked the $1000 mark.
+ An 1822 N-6 in AU58, with a pedigree that includes both Floyd Starr and Herman Halpern brought a winning bid of $3100. It is a very nice cent!
+ The late-date cents (1840-1857) featured a number of coins that were pedigreed to the famous Robbie Brown. My personal favorite among these was LOT 1590 - an 1846 N-1 in MS-60+ with shimmering iridescent overtones. This cent received lots of bids from lots of us, but the winner got it for $825 (plus buyer's fee))! What an awesome cent!
All-in-all, It was a memorable sale, and a nice prelude to the sale of Walt's magnificent collection.