Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio is honored to offer the wonderful collection of Swiss coins assembled by Ervin F. Bickley in our official ANA auction this August in Chicago. Mr. Bickley, over the course of several decades, hand selected these beautifully designed and preserved coins from dealer stock and from auction sales in the United States and in Europe. During this time, he also assembled a collection of U.S. coins and formed a close relationship with Harvey Stack. When the time came to sell the Swiss collection, his family called upon Harvey Stack to assist, and it was consigned to the August 2014 official auction for the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money.
This offering of Swiss coins includes gold and silver issues, both from the Cantons and from the Confederation, from relatively common type coins in high grade to major rarities. Swiss craftsmen and artisans are well known for their work in jewelry and watch making, and this attention to detail has been a mark of Swiss coinage for centuries, offering some of the most intricate “city view” coins and beautifully presented gold pieces (among others). This collection exemplifies the attention to detail that was a hallmark of Swiss coins and our presentation may ignite a new area of interest for you.
Among the coins in this collection, the absolute standout is a lovely Zurich 4 Ducat of 1624, graded NGC MS-63. This is among the finest known of this type, listed as “Very Rare” and unpriced in Friedberg. The obverse depicts a rampant lion, holding a sword and orb, while supporting the Cantonal shield; the reverse shows the imperial crowned double-headed eagle. Struck from the taler dies, this is a major rarity that was missing from many of our important sales of world gold coins including the Louis E. Eliasberg and Kroisos Collection sales (2005 and 2008 respectively). This example boasts a strong strike and beautiful original golden surfaces. Some light hairlines account for the assigned grade, but by far, this is the finest certified by NGC. For the specialist in Swiss numismatics, this is an opportunity of the utmost importance, and should not to be missed. We have only been able to trace five examples sold in the last 13 years, the most recent in a September 2009 UBS auction. That piece, graded VF/EF, hammered for 23,000 Swiss Francs. The market has changed dramatically over the last five years, and we suspect that the Ervin Bickley example will surpass this record.
Perennially popular among gold coin collectors are the fabulous 100 Francs, issued in 1925, with a small mintage of 5,000 pieces. The demand from collectors is constant for this scarce issue, and we are pleased to present three examples from the Bickley Collection, graded MS-63 to MS-65 by PCGS. It is easy to understand why the design is so well loved, as the profile of a young “Swiss” woman faces left, her hair in a braid, floral garland around her neck and in the background, the Swiss Alps. The reverse is simple, with a radiant Swiss cross above the denomination, date and sprig of flowers. The 100 Francs is the finest rendition of this beautiful and simple design, created by Fritz Ulysse Landry and also used on the obverse of the 10 and 20 Francs pieces, which were issued in generous numbers and are a commonly traded bullion coin.
Among the silver coins from the Bickley Collection is a beautiful Basel city view double taler, circa 1710. This large silver coin, graded AU-58 by PCGS is deeply toned and quite attractive. Indeed, the intricate detail of the devices makes this a popular silver type coin among world coin collectors, and its selection in such a fine collection speaks of its quality. The obverse shows a view of the city of Basel within a beaded frame, with seven ships in the harbor, with the legend DOMINE. CONSERVA. NOS. IN. PACE around. The reverse depicts a Basilick facing right, his talons grasping the Cantonal shield, with eight shields connected by lion-headed Arabesques. Of the mythological beasts in heraldry, the Basilick is one of the more interesting, with a legend that dates to the ancient Greeks, and has been referenced in many classics in literature. The beast was created when frogs fertilized chicken eggs, the result being a serpentine beast with a beak and claws similar to that of a chicken. It is, according to tradition, the protector of the city of Basel, thus his prominent placement in their Arms. The intricate details of both sides are nearly fully struck up.
There are fine selections of Ducats and Duplones from Bern and other Cantons, as well as a selection of silver and billon crowns and minors, mostly in Mint State. We are honored to present this fine collection to the current generation of collectors. The Ervin F. Bickley Collection of Swiss Coins may long be remembered as being one of the more extensive collections offered at auction and we anticipate strong participation by specialists when these coins cross the auction block at the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio official auction for the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money. Catalogs are being prepared. If you are not currently on our mailing list, be sure to contact one of our auction services associates to reserve your copy. The sale is now closed to consignments, but we are accepting consignments for our November Baltimore sale. It is also not too early to consign to our January 2015 New York International Numismatic Convention Sale. If you have important world coins, be sure to contact your favorite consignment director.