Coins and Medals Featuring the Robbins Collection of US Gold Coins

17 Dec 2013, starting at 13:00 EST .

Auction information

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1879 Flowing Hair $4 Proof 62 Cameo NGC
A classic design by George Morgan, founded in a proposal by Representative John Adam Kasson for international coinage. The bright, reflective surfaces exhibit a pronounced cameo effect against the frosted devices. An interesting note: NONE of the typical striations are present on the obverse, with only a couple visible on the reverse star under very close examination. Could this be one of the 15 Originals which supposedly show no striations that were allegedly coined in 1879? It is thought that somewhere between 400 and 800 additional examples were struck in 1880 for distribution to selected politicians and others. One of the most popular of all American coins, enough to make Stellas one of the few Patterns included among regular issue coins in most reference books, The Guidebook to U.S. Coins, a notable example.

The Stellas are "international" not in their conformity to other world gold coins, but in the fact that they state their weight and the relative proportions of gold and silver on their face. Presumably, gold was more appreciated worldwide in 1879 than were U.S. dollars, thus it was easier to determine the value of 6 grams of pure gold than it was to convert $4 based on some market or government-imposed rate. Regardless of intent, the Stella experiment failed and was abandoned. Ultimately, the dollar became an international currency all on its own, not due to experiments such as this, but because of the strength and stability of U.S. markets. (PCGS 8057)
Sold for US$ 146,250 inc. premium
1879 Flowing Hair $4 Proof 61 NGC
The four dollar gold piece, or "Stella," (its official name per the enabling legislation) is one of the most prestigious and sought-after of all United States gold rarities. The derivation of the term Stella is one that, while often recapped in numismatic circles, is not completely understood by many. When gold coins were first struck in the Mint in 1795, they were based on a unit of value called the 'eagle.' The eagle, equal in value to ten dollars, had a factual design of an eagle on one side. If the eagle is worth ten dollars, it would follow that a half eagle would be worth half that amount, a quarter eagle two and a half dollars, and so on. The four dollar gold piece, when it was proposed in 1879-80 (the new denomination was the brainchild of John Kasson as an international metric coin), was meant to be a new base unit for gold coins. The planners decided on the name of Stella. Similar to the eagle and other gold coins based on the ten dollar gold standard, the statutory "Stella" has a star on the reverse, since 'Stella' means star in Latin. Charles Barber engraved the dies for the Flowing Hair Stella in 1879, although he modified a design earlier done by his father, William Barber, from the previous year (the father had died in August of 1879).

A sparkling Proof example of a collectible quality for this beautiful design with nicely reflective fields supporting the raised, lightly frosted devices. Gleaming luster blends effortlessly with pale golden highlights on the satiny devices. Noted are some light roller lines through the portrait and star as on most of the issue. Sharp throughout; some minor hairlines and handling marks are visible under close scrutiny. Just a glance at the present lot will serve to underscore the reason bidders will eagerly vie for it. (PCGS 8057)
Sold for US$ 117,000 inc. premium
1795 $10 9 Leaves Reverse
BD-3, R.6. Designed by Robert Scot, an unknown (but presumably small) number of 1795 eagles (several different die pairings) were struck on March 1, 1796 on Warrant No. 58, which had a total mintage of 1,169 pieces; an additional 116 pieces were again struck on March 30, 1796, according to Breen. The BD-3 is, by far, the rarest 1795 eagle die pairing. An estimate of fewer than 500 pieces were struck with only about 20 surviving examples known in all grades. In fact, the 1795 9 Leaves is probably the rarest issue as there is in the entire 138-year history of the denomination. John Dannreuther writes, "It is not known whether the 9 leaves on the branch indicate an experiment or a die cutting error, but the fact that the reverse was changed to 11 leaves for 1796 and 1797 indicates that it was an intentional experiment. Perhaps the arrangement of 13 leaves was considered too crowded and grouping of 9 leaves was thought too sparse, leading to the introduction of 11 leaves on the branch in 1796."

According to history, at the time this was minted, gold coins were important public relations items for the United States -- ambassadors to the world, as it were. Because of this, care was taken to avoid releasing gold coins with die breaks or other blunders into circulation. Today, it is believed that there are approximately 20 examples known, making it the rarest of the seven known Small Eagle varieties this year.

The 1795 9 Leaves ten dollar, as a variety, become all the more popular in recent decades upon the release of new research into early gold coins. This variety was apparently known as early as 1926 when Waldo Newcomer paid $100 for a circulated example, several times the price for a more common 1795 13 Leaves variety. Since the 1960s, examples have been auctioned an average of once every two to three years.

This example exhibits a far better than average strike with the diagnostic die buckling in the field below the palm branch. The surfaces are mostly lustrous with the normal allotment of light handling marks. A couple of small marks are under ER of LIBERTY, a tiny black spot touches the lower right of the B, and another small mark is under ST of STATES on the reverse. Such minor ephemera are apparently common to most, if not all 9 Leaves coins, and their presence indicates nothing more than little pointers when differentiating one coin from another. The fields are semi-reflective, as often seen on 1795 eagles. An outstanding high grade example of the greatest rarity contained in the short-lived Small Eagle series of $10 gold coins, 1795-97. (PCGS 8552)
Sold for US$ 111,150 inc. premium
1903 $20 Proof 65 Cameo NGC
The tiny mintage of only 158 pieces represents the largest single proof production of the Liberty double eagle type, but when studying the certified population figures, we find that many of these have been impaired or lost over the decades. Walter Breen stated in his Proof Encyclopedia (1977) that "Aside from Garrett's at $6250 and Wolfson's, almost the only choice one auctioned in the last twenty years was that in KS 2/60; most others have been scrubbed or nicked up. Quoting the pathetic records on these would be a waste of time." In all Proof grades including Cameo examples, NGC has encapsulated 36 pieces, presumably a number of these reflect resubmissions. Only four pieces have been graded Proof 65 at NGC, all Cameo specimens. PCGS has certified only three examples as Proof 65 -- only a single Cameo, with none at a finer level at either service.

This is a remarkable Gem example with a full strike throughout including Liberty's hair, the obverse stars, and the center of the shield on the reverse. In 1903, the portrait of Liberty was lightly polished at the Mint, an attempt to eliminate cameo frosted heads as had become common to see, especially in the 1890s. While the profile certainly does not possess an Ultra Cameo contrast, the modest contrast between the deeply mirrored fields and the luminous portrait and eagle is unmistakable. Struck in deep yellow-gold with deeply mirrored fields, a single microscopic abrasion is on Liberty's vulnerable cheek. A mint-made lintmark on the reverse between UN of UNUM and the arrowhead group serves as a pedigree identifier for future identification. (PCGS 89119)
Sold for US$ 105,300 inc. premium
MCMVII (1907) High Relief $20 Flat Rim MS64 PCGS
A fantastic example of one of the most beautiful coin designs in United States and world numismatics. Augustus Saint-Gaudens' stunning portrayal of Liberty is struck up in full, high relief on this lovely specimen. Liberty's dress detail is immaculate and her legs are missing any mentionable nicks. The luster is uninterrupted as it flows freely across the fields and across the devices. Magnification reveals interwoven circles of light die polish; these raised circular die lines are seen on only the finest examples with surface preservation of the highest degree.

This beautiful coin issue was the result of work by Augustus Saint-Gaudens at the request of President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt felt strongly about bringing beauty back to America's coinage that he felt was boring and nowhere near the distinction of many Ancient Greek coin designs. Through all of the ensuing problems Saint-Gaudens and Roosevelt endured from the political sewing circle of the time, the project was successful and finally approximately 11,250 High Relief examples were produced in 1907. This quantity of High Relief examples was sufficient enough to satisfy Roosevelt but also enough to cause mint officials to complain about the negative effect of their difficult-to-produce design. Lower relief dies with Arabic numerals were subsequently produced and the mass production of "Saints", as we know them as today, began in full force. Out of the estimated mintage figure of 11,250 pieces, there are two varieties struck from the same dies, Flat Rim (Edge) and Wire Rim (Edge). The Flat Rim examples are substantially more scarce, probably on an order of 2-3x as the more commonly seen Wire Rim. (PCGS 9136)
Sold for US$ 32,760 inc. premium
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