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Welcome to the Official Auction of the Whitman Coin and Collectibles Expo

Written by Q. David Bowers, Chairman Emeritus

Author: Q. David Bowers / Thursday, November 08, 2012 / Categories: From the Desk of Q. David Bowers
I am in Numismatic Paradise, so it seems! Actually, I am sitting comfortably and reviewing four (five when you include the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio world coins catalog) large, impressive and opportunity-filled auction catalogs for our official sale of the Whitman Coins & Collectibles Baltimore Expo, November 14 to 16, coming up quickly. Four catalogs for several days -- amazing! Time was when such a presentation would have sufficed for four different auctions at widely spaced intervals. Not so today, with increased technology, improved bidding techniques, and more.

The first catalog is titled “The November 2012 Baltimore Auction, United States Coinage,” and covers from November 14 through 16. How fascinating it is -- beginning with early American tokens and medals, one of my favorite series. Believe it or not, sophistication among buyers has increased to the point where such pieces are “hot tickets,” so to speak, in our sales, and always draw a lot of attention. Part of the reason is that each piece has its own story to tell, this in combination with generally reasonable prices. A very large collection of tokens and medals can be obtained for a reasonable figure. Then follow merchants tokens, Civil War tokens, and some interesting counterstamps, after which the transition is made into federal coinage with half cents, large copper cents, Indian cents, Lincoln cents -- you name it, continuing through the nickel series, silver, and gold. Items offered range from affordable types to scarce and rare issues, including condition rarities. The catalog concludes with commemoratives, gold coins, and territorial items. By this time I have contemplated over 300 pages.

The next catalog I am holding in my hand is “The November 2012 Baltimore Auction, United States Paper Money,” to be sold on Thursday, November 15. I love paper money, with colonial and early issues being particular favorites, along with those of the obsolete years. For the last you might enjoy my Whitman book, Obsolete Paper Money of the United States. I warn you, however, it might be addictive, and one reader of it has now spent well into seven figures on a landmark collection. I would not expect you to do this, but obsolete notes offer many opportunities. Indeed, there are almost endless scarcities and rarities in the present sale that will probably sell in the hundreds of dollars, not the thousands.

The Stephen L. Tanenbaum Collection of paper and cardboard scrip related to Civil War tokens begins with lot 4292 and contains many notes I have never seen before -- rarity deluxe, together with incredible historical appeal. Such notes, issued by the same merchants and others whose Civil War tokens are known are, for the most part, uncollectible. My late friend, Steve, spent 40 years tracking these down. There is not a large quantity, but certainly they are memorable. Confederate paper money follows, then early American federal notes from 1815 and other times, scarcely known today due to their rarity. Large size notes begin with a 1861 $5 Demand Note on Boston and continue in Friedberg number order to include type notes, scarce varieties, and more. If paper money is your forte, you will have a field day here. Fractional currency comes next, then a nice selection of small-size notes, followed by Gold Certificates and then National Bank notes, some of them being of extraordinary rarity.

Wait! There is more! Rarities Night will be on Thursday, November 15 as well. This continues a tradition dating back many years to the “Apostrophe” auctions of the 1970s, then our own Rarities sales. Offered in 194 pages are so many showpieces, so many Condition Census coins, so many remarkable rarities that to describe them all would take up thousands of words here. Let me say that the offering begins with the famous Libertas Americana medal, rated number one in The 100 Greatest American Tokens and Medals, the best selling book published by Whitman. From there I see Lesher dollars, then a 1793 half cent, quickly going to early large copper cents, then to small cents. The famous 1856 Flying Eagle cent is represented by not one, not two, not three, but four different examples in various grades. This, of course, is the most famous of all popular collectible rarities of the 19th century. Highlights among Indian cents, Lincoln cents and two-cent pieces follow. Now I see a two-page spread for a coin that is ever memorable -- a Superb Gem Proof 1851 silver three-cent piece tracing its pedigree to the Eliasberg Collection. Other silver three-cent pieces are notable as well, as are nickel three-cent pieces, nickel five-cent pieces (inaugurated by the famous 1867 With Rays Proof rarity), the Buffalo nickels featuring an amazing 1918/7-D in Gem Mint State. Half dimes include an affordable (in its context) 1792 silver half disme, the Childs Collection 1802, high-grade Capped Bust pieces and Liberty Seated issues. Dimes are likewise memorable, highlighted by a wonderful Gem 1916-D with full bands. Probably all bets will be off and the room will be up for grabs when this crosses the block. Actually, the “room” now includes the entire world -- what with countless thousands of our clients using the Internet to contact us and to bid. What a difference a generation makes.

Quarter dollars commence with the first year of issue, 1796, and continue to include many landmark issues, with some of the finest known Standing Liberty quarters as part of the presentation. Half dollars start with the first year of issue as well, continue through the early series with the rare 1796 and 1797, a group of simply extraordinary Liberty Seated issues, memorable Barber half dollars, and Liberty Seated issues. Early silver dollars are next, with emphasis on higher-grade examples from AU to Mint State. Then come Liberty Seated dollars with one of the great sleepers in the American series -- a Mint State 1840 -- followed quickly by Carson City Liberty Seated issues including the rarest of the series, the 1873-CC. Morgan dollars keep up the pace with scarcities and rarities including the rarer Carson City issues, a splendid 1895 Proof, and more. Commemoratives follow then patterns -- I dearly love patterns -- an offering laden with scarcities and rarities. Territorial gold, Hawaiian issues, and a gold ingot follow, after which I see federal gold commencing with dollars and continuing through other denominations including the famous 1879 Flowing Hair Stella, into half eagles, eagles, and double eagles. Finest known examples, Proof rarities, and other highlights abound. If you have been collecting for a long time and have almost everything, bring your want list to Rarities Night and it is likely you will find more items to contemplate. Wow!

As if the preceding were not enough, on Friday, November 16 in the evening we have a catalog titled “Early American Coin Session.” In cooperation with the Colonial Coin Collectors Club (C4) and their annual convention, a wonderful selection of colonial and early American coins is presented. Our offering begins with the John “Jack” Royse Collection, gathered by a connoisseur over a long period of years who worked with Larry and Harvey Stack. First to cross the block will be a Sommer Islands sixpence pedigreed to the Roper Collection, followed by an NE sixpence that was once featured in Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” column. A Willow Tree sixpence, a Lord Baltimore shilling, rarities in the state copper series and high quality reference books follow.

Then begin selections from the Ted L. Craige Collection, a connoisseur par excellence of years ago, with emphasis on Saint Patrick’s coinage that once circulated in New Jersey. I remember Ted as being a gentleman, connoisseur, and an expert in just about every colonial specialty. Next in the catalog -- a gallery of wonders -- comes colonial coins in more or less Guide Book order, beginning with Massachusetts silver, continuing to Rosa Americana, Voce Populi, French Colonies, and state coinages. Many high-grade pieces, Condition Census specimens, and others are offered, including those pedigreed to legendary collections of the past. The Rob Retz Collection of Fugio coppers is next, virtually definitive for the series, including rarities seldom seen in the marketplace. The David J. Wnuck Collection of contemporary counterfeit imitation Spanish colonial coins offers scarce and rare pieces that may be new to most bidders and buyers, as such pieces combine rarity of the coins and scarcity of information concerning them. It would seem that the word opportunity is particularly relevant here.

We have been the official auctioneers ever since Whitman conventions began. They have always been a pleasure to attend, and I look forward to the coming one. This event probably takes the cake for the great variety of scarcities and rarities offered along with basic type coins and opportunities at the entry level -- literally something for everyone. Please plan to participate on the Internet or in person. If you plan to go to Baltimore, I’ll see you there!