For starters, Heritage just auctioned off three million-dollar coins. The 1927-D double eagle? Yes. The 1874 Bickford $10 pattern in gold? Yes. The 1913 Liberty nickel? Oh heck yes. Three coins - one auction, one session - for more than one million dollars. No other firm has auctioned three million-dollar U.S. coins as single lots in one sitting. That’s reason to smile.
This isn’t the first time Heritage has pulled off the hat trick, either (credit due to Senior Cataloger Mark Borckardt for the reference). Back in January 2005, Heritage rattled off its first three million-dollar coins. An 1894-S dime was the crowning glory, and it came only about 150 lots after two different types of Brasher doubloons, the Punch on Wing for $2.415 million and the Punch on Breast for $2.99 million, sold as consecutive lots. (Since then, another duo, the 1796 No Stars quarter eagle and the 1796 With Stars quarter eagle, have sold as consecutive lots at Heritage auctions for more than a million dollars, but there was no third million-dollar coin to complete the trilogy.)
November 2005 closed out that year with another hat trick, as the fantastic Phillip Morse Collection of Saint-Gaudens double eagles redefined the record books. Lot 6522, an Ultra High Relief, Lettered Edge coin from 1907 (not to be confused with the “merely” High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagle) went for $2.99 million. After Morse’s 1921 double eagle went for $1.0925 million, excitement built, since his 1927-D double eagle was still to come - and at $1.8975 million, it did not disappoint.
The two hat tricks of 2005 are important to the history of the company, but two key achievements make the January hat trick all the more remarkable. First, never before in history have three U.S. coins have sold in a single auction for over one million dollars hammer price, before Buyer’s Premium is added in. (Buyer’s Premium is the 15% difference between, for example, the “Sold for $900,000” announced for the 1894-S dime and the customer’s bill for $1.035 million.) At $1.1 million hammer for the Bickford ten dollar, $1.3 million hammer for the 1927-D double eagle, and $3.25 million hammer for the 1913 Liberty nickel, all three clear the bar easily.
Second, while the two previous hat tricks have been dominated by one consignor (the consignor of the Gold Rush Collection in January 2005, or obviously Phillip Morse in November 2005), the January 2010 FUN Auction’s three million-dollar coins all came from different sources. Ralph P. Muller proudly put his name on his collection and his 1927-D double eagle. I also know who consigned the Bickford $10 pattern, though as always, Heritage’s consignors remain private unless declared otherwise.
As for the 1913 Liberty nickel, even I don’t know who owned it. In the coin auction business, there are three broad classes of stories: the stories you can tell, the stories you won’t tell, and the stories you can’t tell. And as for who at Heritage “can’t tell” and who “won’t tell,” well, I won’t be telling…