Among famous numismatists, the name Louis Eliasberg stands tall, as the only person to assemble a complete collection of U.S. coins by date and mintmark. If this were his only feat, his collection would have been remembered as one of the greats. But combine the completeness with the stupendous quality associated with his collection, and it will forever be the greatest collection assembled. Our coin of the week, a bright shining star among the galaxy of stars in our Rarities Night Session, combines a key date from a perennially popular series, finest known status, and fantastic pedigree: the Eliasberg 1889-CC Morgan dollar, graded MS-68 by PCGS.
When the Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection was sold by us (Bowers and Merena/Stack’s) in April 1997, this stunning Gem was uncertified and called “MS-66” by our staff. The nearly perfect surfaces and beautiful toning in the devices and at the periphery inspired a fierce and spirited bidding war, with the gavel finally closing the lot at an astonishing $462,000! The coin is well struck for the date, with no blemishes, no matter how minute. Indeed, if this were a common date Morgan dollar graded at this level, it would be a memorable Gem. This coin is head and shoulders above all other 1889-CC dollars as it is the finest graded 1889-CC at both services, with the next highest PCGS-certified example an MS-65. It exhibits the original “Eliasberg” toning, in shades of russet-gold, battleship gray, with azure and crimson highlights accentuating the well-struck devices. A stunning coin visually.
The coin was subsequently certified by PCGS as MS-68 and offered in our (Bowers and Merena’s) January 2001 Sale, where it realized $529,000 and ended up as part of the famous Jack Lee II Collection of Silver Dollars. The coin was offered by Heritage in 2005 in their offering of the Jack Lee II Collection (unsold), and finally it sold as part of the Jack Lee Estate in January 2009. The early pedigree is just as impressive. Mr. Eliasberg acquired the coin in 1942, when he purchased the John Clapp Collection intact in a private treaty sale brokered by Joseph and Morton Stack. Clapp purchased this 1889-CC from the Chapman sale of the John G. Mills Collection in April 1904. The collecting of mintmarked coinage was only beginning to gain popularity in the final years of the 19th century, and beginning years of the 20th century, which is why the stunning condition of this coin is so impressive. A look at the certified populations show that most of these rare Carson City “cartwheels” entered circulation, and remained there for years. It is a bit of a numismatic miracle that some enterprising numismatist had the foresight to put it away. While we will not know for sure, it is possible that either Mills (or the person who owned the coin before him) acquired this piece directly from the Carson City Mint and lovingly cared for it from that time. Now it is time to add your name to the Mills—Clapp—Eliasberg—Jack Lee pedigree chain.
The ANA sale is quickly approaching, so make your plans to attend in person now. With thousands of coins across all categories and specialties in the offing, be sure you schedule enough time to view the lots. If this coin is of interest, take a few moments to review the surfaces, tilt the coin in the light, and watch the luster and patina mix to create a metallic work of art. Once the bidding begins, the sky is the limit; indeed, several Set Registry collectors will be vying for the opportunity to take their collections into the immortal level. We wish the bidders good luck, and offer congratulations in advance to the bidder who adds this truly historic Gem to his or her cabinet. The entire ANA sale is now posted on our website at www.stacksbowers.com and all lots are available for bidding. For lot viewing appointments in our Irvine and New York offices, please contact one of our auction services associates; for verbal lot descriptions, please contact one of our numismatic professionals.