Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Col. Steve Ellsworth Half Cents

Heritage auctioned the half cents from the Ellsworth collection on May 29, 2008. This auction was the 4th time that Heritage has sold an important collection of Early American Coppers since 2000 (the other sales being the Rasmussen, Reiver, and Husak large cents). I have known "Col. Steve" since he launched his career as a dealer of early coppers in the mid-1990's. His pleasant personality and exceptional story-telling ability make it easy to spend time with Col. Steve. His extensive inventory and marketing style can make it hard to leave his table without at least one new addition to your collection! I was fortunate enough to go along with Col. Steve on a Civil War battlefield tour near Fredericksburg, VA during the 2001 EAC convention, and I can tell you that if you ever get such an opportunity, you must take it - he is an extremely knowledgeable and engaging guide.

The sale of the Ellsworth half cents consisted of only 120 lots, but there were many highlights none-the-less. The undisputed star was the Ellsworth 1796 C2 (with pole) in PCGS AU55. This remarkable coin (LOT 1647) was hammered down for an astounding $120,000. There was not a 1796 C1 (no pole) coin in the set. Also missing was the famous 1802/0 C1 (with REV of 1800). However, the 1802/0 C2 (with REV of 1802) in PCGS VF30 hammered for $8000 (LOT 1653). Some of the notable rarities in the sale included: 1795 C6b (Thick Planchet, R6) in VG8, 1804 C4 (Crosslet 4, w/ stems, R5) in VG8, 1805 C2 (Small 5, stems, High R5) in G6, 1806 C3 (Small 6, stems, R6) in G4, and 1809 C1 (R5) in VG8.

There were also some coins in the Ellsworth collection that were not particularly rare, but which I found to be interesting: The 1794 C5a (R4) in PCGS AU55 was hammered for $9500. The 1795 C1 (Lettered Edge, R2) was PCGS MS62, with a remarkable series of planchet fissures across the OBV - it was hammered for $11,000. The 1795 C5b (plain edge, no pole, R4) had a provenance that went all the way back to Lorin Parmelee in 1890! The Ellsworth 1832 C2 (in AU55) was once in the famous Roger Cohen collection (the Cohen half cents were sold by Superior in 1992, but I did not see any coins from this particular auction in the Ellsworth set). The beautiful Ellsworth 1831 (proof-only issue) in NGC PF65 BN (LOT 1735) brought a winning bid of $14,000. There were other proof-only dates among the Ellsworth set, although he did not complete the proof series (1842, 1845, 1846, and 1847 are missing). The die-state collection of 1804 C6 (Spiked Chin) was also quite fascinating, comprising a total of 16 different coins!

The catalogue from the Ellsworth collection features very nice color photos of most lots, and excellent detailed descriptions. The catalogue should be considered for inclusion in your early copper library.