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Sheridan Downey Numismatist - Coins

Mail Bid Auction 56

Auction ended on August 9, 2023

Lot Number 86

Click coin to enlarge

1812/1 Large 8 -  O.101 R.5 PCGS AU 53 CAC

Ex Donald Parsley.  Twenty-six years ago this coin walked into a coin shop in Fort Meyers, FL.  The owner, Michael Herbert, graciously consigned the coin to my January 29, 1997 Mail Bid Sale No. 19.  Don Parsley won the coin in a furious bidding war with other notable collectors.  It has been off the market since then.  

The coin is untoned with extravagant luster for the assigned grade.  There is light friction on the high points but virtually none in the fields, just minor signs of handling.  The strike is excellent for the die pair.  The die break through stars on the left is spider-web thin, attesting to an early die state.  As the warped obverse die began to fail, most 1812/1 Large 8s will “rock” if placed face down,.  Before it was slabbed I placed the raw coin face down.  It lay flat.  

Newcomers to the bust half series must understand the history and importance of the `12 over 11 Large 8.  In October 1941 Stack’s catalogued and sold the collection of A.C Geis.  Geis, according to Stack’s, was then the oldest living collector in the United States, having started his collection in 1864!  He attributed his bust halves according to Haseltine’s 1881 Type Table, ignoring the “newer” guide published by M.L. Beistle in 1929.  When Geis located a variety not in Haseltine, he assigned it a “G” number.  His collection included an 1812/1 Large 8.  Stacks, knowing not what it had, catalogued the piece (in full) as follows: 1812 G.3 over 11, but large 8 in date.  Very fine.  The “G.3,” of course, was Geis’ personal attribution, distinguishing it from anything described by Haseltine.  Skip forward to December 1969.  New Netherlands Coin Co., headed by John Ford and Charles Wormser, conducted a Mail Bid Sale catalogued by Walter Breen.  Lot 817, according to Breen, was a new variety of 1812/1, one with a Large 8.  Breen ballyhooed his find and today receives credit for discovering this charismatic variety.  Al Overton listed it in his 2nd (1970) edition, rating it R.7.  The Red Book picked up the variety in 1972.

Though the rarity rating has dropped to R.5, the number of high grade examples is extremely limited.  No UNCs are known.  NGC has graded 2 pieces AU 55.  Neither holds a candle to the coin offered here.  The Charles Ruby-Donald Frederick coin is the only true contender for finest known.  In November 1996 Frederick graciously brought his coin to the Baltimore show so it could be compared to this one.  Collectors and dealers gathered to ooh and ahh.  I joined the majority in slightly preferring the Ruby-Frederick coin.  It appeared original, with somewhat mottled antique gold toning.  The die states and luster were identical.  The Ruby coin, perhaps, had less friction on the interior wing feathers.  Those who preferred the present coin pointed to its “flash” and honesty (no hidden defects).  Dr. Charles Link acquired the Ruby coin at the April 2010 Heritage sale of the Frederick Collection, where lot 2933, graded PCGS AU 53, brought $43,125.  Dr. Link has upgraded the coin to PCGS AU 55.  It does not carry a CAC sticker.  The Parsley coin, in fact, is the only 1812/1 Large 8 graded above VF to enjoy CAC approval.

Legions of collectors seek to complete an AU or UNC Red Book set of bust halves.  Captain Haseltine, M.L. Beistle, Al Overton, R.E. Cox, R.L. Miles, James Pryor, Louis Eliasberg and the Pogue family fell short, lacking a suitable 1812/1 Large 8.  One of you will succeed.  Good luck!  

Estimate: $50,000 and up

Auction Ended

High Bid Maximum Bid Total Price
Reserve met
$58,100 $56,650

Sheridan Downey, Numismatist
4400 Keller Ave., Suite 140, PMB 398
Oakland, California 94605
(510) 479-1585

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