The Tacasyl Collection - Bonhams to offer magnificent US proof gold coins in September

1880 $4 Stella Coiled Hair Cameo PF-67 NGC
George T. Morgan, designer (attributed)

Obverse: Head of Liberty facing left, wearing diadem inscribed LIBERTY, her hair braided and tightly coiled on top of her head; around, ★6★G★.3★S★.7★C★7★G★R★A★M★S★; below, 1880.

Reverse: Large five-pointed star inscribed in incuse: ONE / STELLA / — / 400 / CENTS, in five lines; around outer rim: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA — FOUR DOL.; around, within outer legend: E – PLURIBUS – UNUM — DEO – EST – GLORIA.

Condition: NGC Proof 67 Cameo (Certificate number: 1963260-004 – Photo Proof 10-07; previous Photo Proof 04-05 [number 1916321-002]: "NGC has certified just one other as PF67 Cameo and none finer").

A rich yellow-red color with exceptional frosting of the devices over deeply mirrored surfaces. A minimal lint mark to the right of the second 7 on the obverse, and a small (mint-caused) line ascending from the upper left point of the star between .7 and C are two hallmarks to identify this specimen. An amazing example which is virtually unimprovable.

References: This Coin Published: Breen (Proofs) p. 167 (8); Akers (1976) p. 82; Akers (Patterns) pp. 53, 104; Garrett & Guth (Encyclopedia) p. 170 ("One of the finest pieces known for the issue..."), 570; A Guide Book to United States Coins (The Red Book), 59th ed., 2006, pp. 233, 399; 66th ed., 2013, pp. 252, 423; this piece used to illustrate the type on the NGC Coin Explorer website. Other references: Judd 1660; Pollack 1860; Breen (Encyclopedia) 6411; Garrett & Guth, 100 Greatest U.S. Coins. (PCGS 88060)

Condition Census: Tied for finest known. NGC records only two other examples as Proof 67 Cameo, none finer; PCGS records none graded this perfectly preserved (Proof 64+ Cameo and Proof 66 without the cameo designation, the finest). (07-13)

Rarity: Exceptionally rare. One of the classic rarities of the entire United States series. Although the precise mintage records are thus far lost, the consensus of researchers is that no more than ten to fifteen were produced, with nearly ten surviving examples (though the Red Book cites only eight) having been confirmed (without duplication of listing); Teichman (U.S. Patterns website) lists nine confirmed examples including the Smithsonian example (the presently offered lot is his number 2). According to the PCGS records of auction appearances this is the finest certified piece ever sold at auction, and according to Guth & Garrett is finer than the Smithsonian coin by three full points. According to the 2006 Red Book, this coin when last sold at auction realized a price within the top-20 all-time U.S. coin prices ever realized up to that time, its price only exceeded by such iconic rarities as the 1933 Double Eagle, 1804 Dollar, 1913 Liberty Head Nickel, Brasher Doubloon, and 1894-S Dime.

Provenance: Gold Rush Collection, Heritage, January 12, 2005, lot 30044, PR66 Cameo NGC, "an exceptional cameo proof," (but incorrectly identified in the census as example 2 or 5 [Kern or DuPont]; it is example 3), ($977,500); Stack's Fixed Price List, Summer 1997 as part of a complete set ($875,000); Winner F. Delp Collection, Stack's, November 17, 1972, lot 792 ($35,000).

Note: The Coiled Hair design has long been attributed to George T. Morgan, and a close comparison of the two designs clearly defines the hands of two different engravers. Charles Barber, succeeded his father, William as the sixth Chief Engraver of the Mint in 1879. He was, by almost universal agreement, technically gifted but a lackluster artist. Morgan, an Englishman, by comparison, was recommended for the assistant engraver's post precisely because of his artistic gifts, which were amply displayed in his series of pattern half dollars in 1877 and 1878, and of course his well-known silver dollar.

Here the coiled hair design is not only treated with greater naturalism than Barber's flowing hair design (even the pupil of Liberty's eye is delineated), but the design itself is more sophisticated. The braided plait on top of Liberty's head is delicately and intricately engraved, and the portrait of Liberty is fully modeled and has a distinct individual personality. By contrast, the flowing hair design presents a more distant, cool effigy of Liberty with her hair more heavily engraved, both aspects of which are more in keeping with Barber's well-established use of classical sculpture for his inspiration.

David Akers also noted that there may be an aura of mystery surrounding the issue of 1880 Coiled Hair Stellas. In his extensive examination of examples during his long career, he noticed that the issue came with two distinctly different finishes. The first group (as displayed on this specimen and that in the Smithsonian, for example) has frosted devices and mirrorlike fields; those of the second variety are effectively brilliant proofs with little if any cameo contrast (indeed, Akers states that they appear polished). He suggested that one variety, probably the first group (as the Smithsonian's example bears these features) may be original strikes, and the other re-strikes, but there is no data thus far known which would support such a conjecture.

Suffice it to say, as Akers did, "this stella remains the rarest of the four." In fact, the 1880 Coiled Hair Stella has long been thought of as the 'great white whale' of the four coin series, and while the voracious collector Virgil Brand is known to have owned more than one example, it eluded even such great and sophisticated collectors as T. Harrison and John Work Garrett, the Norwebs, and Harry Bass.

Los Angeles - Bonhams is pleased to announce the sale of "The Tacasyl Collection of Magnificent United States Proof Gold Coins" on September 23 in Los Angeles. This collection of 27 lots represents a nearly complete collection of every major gold design type issued in Proof in the US between 1836 and 1915.

Each lot in this collection could be considered a highlight in its own right. Every coin is either the finest known example, or one of the finest of its type, and the majority have been cited in various standard reference books either by virtue of their rarity or impeccable condition. The entire collection was graded a number of years ago by the Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC) and the tally of grades is amazing, with the least well preserved coin being a Gem Proof-65 (there are only two of these, both of which are either the finest known of the date or tied for that honour with a single other example). Another three coins are graded Proof-66 and are also either the finest or tied for finest known of their date. Of the remaining 22 lots, 12 coins are graded Proof-67, an astonishing nine pieces are Proof-68, and the last coin, a Saint-Gaudens MCMVII high relief is an incredible Proof-69.

Of the many highlights in the Tacasyl Collection, the remarkable set of Stellas (four dollar coins) is a standout. These four coins, produced in 1879 and 1880 were patterns struck at the Philadelphia Mint by order of Congress in an unsuccessful effort to create a coin which could be used in international

trade. Although they are technically pattern coins, historically they have been collected as part of the regular series of coins made for circulation and are among the most coveted of all denominations. Each of the four Stellas to be offered has been graded by NGC as Proof 67, and although they will be offered as individual lots (with estimates ranging from $200,000 to $1,000,000) as a matched set, they are, according to the NGC website, the finest ever assembled.

Paul Song, Director of the Rare Coins and Medals Department at Bonhams, said of the Collection: "Having the opportunity to sell the Tacasyl Collection is an honour for Bonhams and personally, one of the highlights of my career. When I first saw the collection I was staggered not only by the exceptional quality of each coin, but by their individual rarity. I am in awe of the collector who assembled these coins; his emphasis on quality was paramount, and his success at having achieved
his goal is unquestionable."

The two earliest coins in the collection are also among the rarest; these are the 1836 Quarter Eagle and Half Eagle (the only two gold coins produced by the Mint in that year). The 1836 Quarter Eagle grades a superb Proof-66* Ultra Cameo (estimated at $200,000-300,000) and the Half Eagle an amazing Proof-67* Ultra Cameo (estimated at $400,000-600,000). Both of these are the finest known (and there are only a total of six Quarter Eagles and four Half Eagles known to exist in Proof). They are both believed to have been owned by an English family from their date of issue until their rediscovery by an American numismatist in the mid-1990s.

The collection also contains a complete gold Proof set from 1845 (each coin to be offered individually)
consisting of a Quarter Eagle Proof-67* Cameo (estimated at $180,000-250,000); a Half Eagle Proof-
66 Ultra Cameo (estimated at $200,000-300,000); and an Eagle Proof-65 Cameo (estimated at
$150,000-200,000). Each of these coins is of the utmost rarity – only about four examples of each (including an example of each in the Smithsonian Institute) are believed to exist, and these are among the finest examples known in private hands.

The first lot of the sale, an 1855 Type 2 Gold Dollar has been graded Proof-66* Ultra Cameo and is
tied for finest known honours (estimated at $250,000-350,000). This transitional design was only made for three years and Proof examples of this date are of such rarity that even the National Collection
does not have an example. This specimen has a distinguished pedigree stretching back over a century and was once part of such famed collections as those formed by Ed Trompeter, Louis Eliasberg, John Clapp, and Elmer Sears (1909).

The sale will conclude with a section of Double Eagles, and as with the rest of this remarkable Collection, "they are spectacular," according to Song. There are three major design types for the Liberty Head Double Eagles. The first type was produced between 1850 and 1865 and all are of the

greatest rarity in Proof. The example from 1863 in the Tacasyl Collection is Proof-65 Cameo, and was formerly in the collections of Harry Bass and Gaston Di Bello. The coin is estimated to bring $250,000-

The second design type was produced between 1866 and 1876, and during this 11 year period the
Mint struck a meagre total of only 335 proofs, of which a mere handful have survived. The 1870 Proof Double Eagle to be offered has been graded a remarkable Proof-67 Ultra Cameo. It is one of the finest known examples known of the date and tied for finest known honours with a single other coin for the entire eleven year design type. It is estimated to realise $350,000-425,000.

The last of the three Liberty Head Double Eagles is the star of the section. Dated 1891, this coin is an incredible survival. It has been graded Proof-68* Ultra Cameo, and has been published by one of America's most renowned numismatists as "the finest $20 [Liberty Head] proof ever seen." It is rare as a date and an astonishing rarity by condition. Of the more than one million (both proofs and business strikes) Liberty Head Double Eagles graded by the two major services, a mere six have been graded "68,"and this is the only example to bear the star designation for exceptional eye appeal. It is estimated to bring $300,000-500,000.

One of the most famous of all United States coins is Augustus Saint-Gaudens high relief Double Eagle struck in 1907 which bears the date in Roman numerals. The Tacasyl Collection is graced by an astounding example of this most popular of all US gold coins. It is one of the very finest in existence, having been graded a spectacular Proof-69. Estimated to realise $400,000-500,000 it comes from the renowned collection of Saint-Gaudens coinage formed by Philip H. Morse (in whose catalogue this coin was called "essentially perfect").

These are only a few of the extraordinary coins and other sections are no less impressive. For instance, there are examples of both Satin and Matte Proofs for each denomination of the Saint- Gaudens and Bela Lyon Pratt designs. Their grades extend from Proof-67 to Proof-68, with estimates ranging from $45,000 to 175,000.

Song, states of this unique Collection: "This will be a landmark sale - every coin in the Tacasyl offering is a gem and will be a highlight of each new collection it enters."

The Tacasyl Collection of Magnificent United States Proof Gold Coins" will be exhibited at Bonhams offices in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The coins will also be shown at major trade shows in 2013, including the American Numismatic Association's World Fair of Money, in Chicago August 2013. Private viewing will be available by appointment.

The illustrated auction catalogue for the sale will be available online for review and purchase in the weeks preceding the sale at For more information about the department, please visit


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

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