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Six coins and currency making FUN news

Coin and currency collectors converged on Florida for FUN recently, and Heritage Auctions was there adding to the excitement with a series of signature auctions.

The first week of January each year, numismatists (a collector of coins and currency) from across the country and around the globe gather in Florida for FUN. While the 'Sunshine State' is clearly home to all types of fun, the FUN we're talking about is the Florida United Numismatists (FUN) convention. The event includes a show, educational programs, and of course, auctions.

Even though the temperatures are not quite as warm as FUN conventions of the past, there is no shortage of hot news and happenings from the bourse floor (show area) and auctions. Heritage Auctions, a familiar presence at the FUN show, kicked off its coin auction season in fine style, presenting seven days of signature coin and currency auctions.

FUN With Coins & Currency

Today, Jan. 9, is the final day of FUN auctions through Heritage. With that, we can report sales through Monday through Heritage Auctions during the FUN auctions have surpassed $40.9 million in U.S. coins, $11.3 million in U.S. currency, and $1.6 million in World currency. Plus, in another part of the country, New York City to be exact, Heritage Auctions’ reports World coin sales topping $14.5 million during auctions presented by the firm during the New York International Numismatic Convention (NYINC).

But back to the FUN. Below are eight highlights from Heritage Auctions’ FUN auctions:

Flowing Hair Stella

1880 Flowing Hair Stella $4 U.S. gold coin, sold for $750,000. (All photos courtesy of Heritage Auctions,

1880 Flowing Hair Stella, $4 U.S. gold coin. It is a scarcity among U.S. coins with Heritage Auctions reporting just 18 examples of 1880 Flowing Hair Stella coins making appearances at auction. This example, PR67 Cameo, features a portrait by Charles Barber, while the reverse reveals a five-pointed star at the center and the inscription ONE STELLA/ 400 CENTS, among other inscriptions. Initially, the four dollar coin was created in 1879 as a possible format for international coinage. At the close of the FUN auction, this example of the Flowing Hair Stella changed hands for $750,000.

Chief Coiner Tyler Aims for Progress

Reeded Edge Half Dollar

1838-O Reeded Edge Half Dollar, sold for $444,000 during Heritage Auctions' sales during the 2018 FUN convention.

We all love a good mystery, and clearly bidders felt the same way when a marvelously mysterious 1838-O Reeded Edge Half Dollar specimen came to the auction block. The example is one of just 10 known examples minted as part of a test run at the New Orleans Mint. Issues with coin presses and general operations at the New Orleans facility resulted in challenges involving coin production.

However, it appears Chief Coiner Rufus Tyler wasn’t throwing in the towel without at least attempting a couple ‘creative’ solutions. He utilized leftover, unused dies from 1838 in his trial run of half dollars in January of 1839. This Reeded Edge Half Dollar is a product of Tyler’s test run. It soared to $444,000 during Heritage Auctions’ series of FUN Signature Auctions.

1861-O double eagle $20 gold coin

1861-O double eagle $20 gold coin, another coin from the New Orleans Mint, struck $312,000 at auction.

It seems the New Orleans Mint, for a period, was a bit like the little engine that tried and tried. While it’s ‘sister mint’ in Philadelphia minted nearly 3 million double eagle coins in 1861, the New Orleans operation turned out 17,741 twenty dollar gold pieces in that same year. Of course, with the Civil War getting underway in 1861, the mint reported to three different authoritative agencies, beginning with the federal government (Union), then the State of Louisiana, and finally, Confederate control. The 1861-O double eagle was the final produced at the New Orleans Mint until 1879, according to Heritage Auctions’ catalog description. During Heritage’s 2018 FUN auctions, an uncirculated New Orleans double eagle 1861-O twenty dollar gold coin drove bidding to $312,000 until the gavel fell.

'Copper Cent' Wins a New Car (Or Not)

One of only six traced examples of the famously erroneous 1943-S bronze Lincoln Cent came before bidders during the signature auctions Heritage Auctions presented during the 2018 FUN Convention. The coin, as you may remember or recall hearing about, was the subject of a nationwide treasure hunt. According to the Heritage Auctions’ catalog description, the bronze planchets had unintentionally become stuck in tote bins and entered the coin press, during a time the entire country was practicing conservation in many ways - including the Mint using zinc-coated planchets instead of the traditional copper blanks. 

1943 'Copper' Cent

1943-S bronze Lincoln Cent, commanded $228,000 during Heritage Auctions' FUN auctions.

Even best intentions (conserving resources) can produce unexpected outcomes, like the unique 1943 bronze cent. Ultimately, that led to rumors that automobile pioneer Henry Ford would reward someone who found a 1943 ‘copper’ cent with a new car. Although Ford Motor Co. attempted to put the cap on that rumor and right quick, it still produced an widespread exploration for the elusive ‘copper’ cents. The example presented by Heritage Auctions during the FUN Show brought $228,000.

Gold Certificate

Uncirculated Series 1882 $20 Gold Certificate, commanded $210,000.

Coins and currency are some of our most fascinating indicators of happenings in history. For example, as you just read, the 1943 ‘copper’ cent gained notoriety for a number of reasons, including the fact that it was a matter of minting using a metal being conserved as part of support for the war effort. The same is true of the uncirculated Series 1882 $20 Gold Certificate that lead all lots during Heritage Auctions’ FUN Currency Signature Auction. The 1882 examples were issued for a total of 18 years, however, there was a noticeable lapse between 1891 and 1898, according to the auction catalog description. It was during that time that the Panic of 1893 swept the country, lasting into 1898.

Profitable Error

With very few of the total number of Series 1882 certificates printed as a result of this, the early specimens are that much more scarce and appealing. With that, the example presented during the auction at the FUN Convention, commanded $210,000.

Inverted Reverse note

1907 large-size $5 note with an inverted reverse, changed hands for $12,000 during Heritage Auctions' FUN auctions

It seems nowhere does a mistake present the possibility to be more profitable, than in numismatics. Such is the case with a $5 note from the prestigious Richard Merlau Collection of Large Size Error Notes. Although the note, issued in 1907, feature an enchanting vignette on the obverse, it’s the ‘whoops’ evident on the reverse that makes this note a massive wonder of erroneous proportion. The example became the property of the winning bidder for the price of $12,000.

As is always the case with Heritage Auctions, there are auctions of various subject interests happening regularly, but looking ahead to coin-related sales, Heritage will present its NYINC World Coins Signature Internet Auction Jan. 16-17.

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