Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Whister & Davy Half Cent auctions - reflections

The Whister Collection of half cents (aka Bob Yuell), together with the remaining half cents from the Davy collection were sold by Ira & Larry Goldberg on Sunday, Sept. 4th at their new office in west L.A. A total of 458 lots were dispatched over about 5 hours of bidding.
Attendance at the sale was moderate - about what one might expect, given the narrow focus of the collections, and the state of the overall economy. However, the copper "faithful" were rewarded with the chance to add some truly rare and magnificent pieces to their collections. There were a few surprises in this sale, but few bargains. When I attend these sales, I like to highlight the "unusual" occurrences. These anomalies, whether they are coins that exceed their pre-sale estimate by a wide margin, or coins that sell for surprisingly low prices, add some zest to an otherwise mundane day in the coin business.
With that introduction, let me offer up some of the "surprises" that occurred during this sale:
● Lot 9 (Whister) was a choice (CC#4) 1794 C3a (R5) with an impressive provenance that included Willard Blaisdell and Ted Naftzger (normally associated with high-grade large cents). The pre-sale estimate was $9000-up, but the bidding soared to $31,000 for this beauty.
● Lot 63 (Whister) was the well-known 1808/7 overdate (C2/R3) in PCGS AU53. This coin had once been part of the famous Charles Dupont collection, and also belonged to Herbert Oechsner (collection sold by Stacks in 1988). Spirited bidding took this coin to $21,000 vs. an estimate of $6000-up.
● Lot 83 (Whister) was a high-grade example (MS63) of a fairly common variety, 1832 C2 (R2). In spite of a modest estimate of $1000-up, the bidding went all the way to $6500 for this wonder-coin!
● Lot 85 (Whister) provided a surprise of a different kind. This rare coin (1833 C1 in PCGS PF63 RB, R5 as a proof) was estimated at $6000-up, but it sold for a winning bid of just $6000. The coin's provenance included T. Harrison Garrett and Ted Naftzger. Perhaps the fact that the variety is also available as a business-strike made some potential buyer's hesitant.
● Lot 183 (Davy) was the high-water mark for this sale in terms of riveting bidding action. This humble, yet rare coin (1797 C3c, low-head with Gripped edge, R7) was graded G6 by PCGS (CC#3). Two determined bidders carried this coin to $170,000 vs. its pre-sale estimate of $30,000-up! Electrifying moments like these help keep the spark alive for all but the most jaded collectors or dealers.
● Lot 251 (Davy) was a spectacular mint error - an 1804 C8 (spiked chin) obverse brockage. The coin featured a beautiful incuse image of the obverse on the reverse, and the coin was also in superb condition (PCGS AU50, EAC V35+). This exquisite coin was hammered for $25,000 vs. an estimate of $10,000-up.
● Lot 344 (Davy) featured another unusual piece of Americana, masquerading as a half cent. A low-grade 1807 C1 (R1) was counterstamped with the busts of Washington and Lafayette (Brunk L-46). This fascinating and historic coin sold for a high bid of $2000 (vs. an estimate of just $400-up).
● Lot 395 (Davy) was the exceedingly scarce 2-star break die state of the 1811 C1 (R4). In spite of this coin's poor condition (VG7, but net AG3 due to pitting, cleaning, and a bend), it was estimated at $4,000-up. However, some satisfied bidder was able to acquire this piece for a bid of just $3000.
● Lot 396 (Davy), the very next lot, was a choice 1811 C2 (R3) graded AU50 by PCGS (and EAC EF40). This rare & beautiful coin brought a winning bid of $25,000 vs. an estimate of $6000-up.
The bid total for the Whister Collection (lots 1-98) was $557,780. This amounted to $641,447 with the buyer's fee (15%) added. All in all, pretty good for 49 cent's worth of change!
I personally had a very fine day, enjoying all the copper camaraderie that an event like this can offer. I met Bob Yuell (the Whister consignor) for the first time, and added four nice old half cents to my own set. There is something special about an event that brings a group of EAC people together.