Stack’s Bowers Galleries is set to offer a premium collection of $3 Indian Head gold coins at its Baltimore Whitman Coin and Collectibles Spring Expo auction, held after the convention at its headquarters. from Costa Mesa, Calif., April 5-8.
The Huberman collection has been built over 53 years and consists of 44 proof and circulation strikes. Most pieces in the set have been off the market since the mid-1970s, and many pieces have ownership histories that include landmark names in the hobby.
The series was first minted in 1854 and may have been issued to facilitate the purchase of postage stamps, although this reason is uncertain. As Stack’s Bowers Vice President Vicken Yegparian wrote in his February 21 World Currency column, “The Golden Numbers comprise an alluring series for a variety of reasons, starting with the fact that no one can quite put their finger on exactly why the oddly named series was produced in the first place!”
The last decade of the series saw limited mintages of Proof and Mint State coins. The major rarity in the series is the $3 Indian Head 1870-S coin, which is known from a single example that is in the Bass Foundation collection on display at the American Numismatic Association.
Another San Francisco Mint issue, the 1860-S $3 Indian Head coin, is one of the hardest dates in the series, with the “Red Book” citing a mintage of 7,000 coins and Stack’s Bowers citing Walter Breen’s 1988. Encyclopedia which reported, “2,592 of the 7,000 coins minted were found to be too light and were melted down and then changed to other denominations, leaving a net mintage of only 4,408 coins.”
Today, most surviving examples are well worn. When B. Max Mehl offered the collectible example at his Jerome Kern Collection auction in 1950, the Texas dealer called it: “The finest and finest specimen of this date and coin.” gold at $3.00 that I have ever seen. It is currently rated Mint State 61 by Professional Coin Grading Service.
The cataloguer observes: “Modest reflective fields support satin-finished devices that range from bold to full of striking detail. The color is a pale golden honey shade with slight traces of pink iridescence evident under a light. The wispy handling marks do little more than set the note and are fewer in number than you would expect at the MS-61 level.
It is one of four certified by PCGS in this grade, with two thinner, both outperforming the offered piece by a single point.
A $3 premium proof coin
The Huberman collection is particularly notable for its Proof coins, purchased at a time before third-party grading companies like PCGS and Numismatic Guaranty Co. added liquidity and reliability to coin grading. Perhaps the finest is an 1866 $3 Indian Head gold coin, graded Proof 66 Deep Cameo by PCGS, and bearing a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker, which is best known of the date. The lot description calls it “Extraordinary!” and explains, “The deeply reflected fields reveal a subtle ‘orange peel’ texture when viewed through a magnifying glass,” praising the devices’ soft satin texture and vivid yellow gold surfaces that ” border on numismatic perfection”.
Only 30 were struck and researcher John Dannreuther estimates that around half survive today.
The auction house comments: “The scarcity of bids on the market argues strongly in favor of the lower estimate but either way is a very elusive problem with quality specimens still lower part representing an important discovery.”
The piece in the set has a magnificent provenance dating back more than a century, to Thomas L. Elder’s sale of the William H. Woodin collection in 1911, and then to the move to the John H. Clapp estate, to which Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. bought it. in 1942. It was auctioned off by Bowers and Ruddy from the Eliasberg Collection portion offered as the “United States Gold Coin Collection” in October 1982. At the time, the New York Times called the de-emphasis of the Eliasberg connection curious in Bowers & Ruddy’s press releases trumpeting the sale, writing, “In effect, the company bills the material simply as ‘The United States Gold Coin Collection.’ However, there can be no doubt as to its source; the Eliasberg collection has been a household word for years among numismatists and its contents could not be confused.
Stack’s Bowers concludes in the current presentation: “As the best known, the Eliasberg Deep Cameo Gem Proof offered here is a historic rarity, the inclusion of which would put any cabinet on the numismatic map.”
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