Some of the most notable American coins in numismatics highlight the sale of the Simpson Collection, Part I
Through Chris Bulfinch for CoinWeek … ..
Heritage auctions will sell Bob R. Simpson extensive collection of pieces from September 17, 2020, in “Important Selections from the Bob R. Simpson Collection, Part I” (Simpson Part I). The first part of the auction collection, assembled over decades by the fossil fuel mogul, contains notable rarities with a particular focus on American models.
Simpson, co-founder of XTO Energy, a natural gas company acquired by ExxonMobile in 2010, is described by Heritage in a press release announcing the auction “as legendary in numismatic circles as the coins it collects”. He purchased several large pattern collections over a period of several years, spending over $ 36 million on a single pattern collection in 2007. Numismatics entered Simpson’s life very early on, according to a World of coins interview published in Currency of the world January 3, 2011 issue. He started collecting as a teenager. Intrigued by what he thought was a bronze 1943 Lincoln cent, he started collecting coins more seriously after finding work as an accountant.
In 2017, Simpson’s collection of 85 Standard silver models was auctioned by Numismatic legend to Régence XX auction in Las Vegas. 2016 saw Simpson’s “Quintuple Stella” 1879 $ 20 gold pattern sell for $ 1.88 million. Prior to the 2017 auction, Simpson’s collection was estimated to contain 1,800 of the 2,000 American models listed in J. Hewitt Judd’s reference volume.
Laura Sperber, a Legend Auctions partner who has assembled the Simpson collection since 2002, said that although she was heartbroken to see the pieces up for auction, she “[does] I don’t think our 18 year trip is over. Simpson’s collector’s interests emphasized visual appeal and exceptionally high ratings, the “two loves of his numismatic life” being Indian Head Golden Eagles $ 10 and Proof gold patterns.
“Visual appeal is essential for him. He loves really wild colors. Sperber said.
She went on to describe the first part of the upcoming sale as “a good representation of what to expect overall.”
The upcoming sale is part of a winnowing process – which, Sperber pointed out, was not an indication of Simpson’s continued activity in the market. However, the patterns are not the focus of the first part of the sale. Gold rarities stand out, as do several subsidiary rarities such as the most beautiful known 1894-S barber’s cent, a legendary piece, one of nine known copies from the original edition of 24. Many notable designs are also featured in this sale.
“The man loves his patterns” Sperber said.
The parts that Simpson is parting with will be sold in six additional auctions after the first part of August, between November 2020 and August 2021.
Selections from the Simpson Collection, Part I
Gold dollar 1861-D
After the Confederate forces took the Dahlonega Mint in April 1861 they began to use the bullion shops and minting equipment to produce coins to finance the war. The result was the gold dollar 1861-D, “the best known and most famous” issue of the Dahlonega Mint, because of its notorious origin (Winter 74-75). Between 500 and more than 1,000 coins were minted by the Confederates, some of whom could have taken the gold coins as souvenirs.
Dies from the previous year were used to strike coins which, coupled with the “Confederate’s lack of minting expertise” resulted in poor quality coins. Simpson’s example shows the weak typing characteristic of the problem on the obverse. Mint staff may have tried to remove the collision marks that appear on the left side of the obverse (Winter, 74-75).
MS-64 + Certified with Gold Shield by PCGS, Simpson’s example (lot # 11188) is the most beautiful known, although according to the heritage list more than a dozen probably exist in uncirculated qualities. In fact, parts in About Uncirculated and above are more common than heavily worn examples. The relative prevalence of high-quality examples fits well with Simpson’s desire for eye-catching quality.
1862 Indian Head Cent Die Cap
Another notable piece in the auction since the start of the Civil War, an eye-catching die cap error will be auctioned on September 17th. Ranked 3rd in America’s 100 Greatest Error Coins, the Indian Head Cent Matrix Cap 1862 presented as lot # 11338 in Important Selections, Part I is “one of the most amazing and spectacular mistakes we have seen or dealt with,” according to Heritage. Billed as “a remarkable illustration of what can go wrong in typing operations,” the Simpson 1862 die cap sports a PCGS Gold Shield MS-67 backing.
Created by a blank stuck in the dies and knocked multiple times, Liberty’s profile is very crisp in the eight individual tabs deployed around it. The uniface error shows no real clue of the reverse design, erased during the unusual typing process.
1851 Humbert Octogonal 50 $ Gold
Inspiration for the $ 50 Commemorative Octagonal 1915 Gold Coin issued to the Panama-Pacific Exhibition, Humbert octagonal slugs occupy a rarefied place in the American numismatic imagination. Simpson Part I features several of Humbert’s octagonal slugs, dated 1851 and 1852.
Minted to fill a void of currency in circulation, and to create a means of paying customs duties according to the heritage list, the slugs were struck in 1851 and 1852 by Moffat & Cie., which served as United States Bureau of Analysis in San Francisco. Since only money issued by the federal government could be used to pay taxes and duties, coins from Moffat & Co. played an important role in trade.
Mint State examples of octagonal slugs are rare. According to the heritage list (lot # 11226), most parts are classified between Very Fine and Approximately Uncirculated. The Simpson example has a lettered edge that reads “AUGUSTUS HUMBERT UNITED STATES ASSAYER OF GOLD, CALIFORNIA, 1851” and “880” inscribed in the eagle banner.
1854 Kellogg & Co.
Another famous company operating in California in the late 1840s and early to mid 1850s, Kellogg & Co. issued gold coins with the precious metal from gold deposits. After arriving in San Francisco in October 1849, John Grover Kellogg worked for Moffat & Co. After the business closed in December 1853, Kellog and another tester started their own business, with the blessing of their former employers. They minted $ 6 million worth of $ 20 gold coins while the San Francisco Currency failed in its first year of operation. Their $ 20 gold coins are rare, although Mint State examples are “decidedly rare,” according to Heritage.
The Simpson coin has a long auction history, dating back to 1924 when it was sold in a Chapman auction for $ 77 at B. Max Mehl. The 1924 auction listing describes the piece as “a gem and extremely rare in this conservation”. A 1982 auction listing described it as “truly exceptional in every way” and “worthy of an offer to match its quality”. The Heritage List praises the piece as “deserving of the many superlatives lavished on it by previous cataloguers.”
Lot # 11177 is the finest known example of this type, in a PCGS MS-65 holder with a CAC sticker.
Model of an amzonian district of 1872
at Charles Barbier Amazonian motif, described by J. Hewitt Judd as “among [Charles Barber’s] better [productions] from the point of view of art and classicism (Judd, 170) ”, appears with an astonishing tone on this Model district 1872. Liberty pats an eagle’s head with her right hand, her left arm draped over a Union shield and a sword stylized to resemble a cross, while another eagle clutches another shield on the reverse.
Certified proof 65 with a Gold Shield and CAC sticker, lot # 11313 is one of the least known seven in silver. This particular type is identified as Judd-1195 and Pollock-1335. The pattern sports a hard-wearing finish with a deep red-orange tone that deepens around the periphery, although the tone of the obverse is deeper than that of the reverse.
1879 Washlady’s Dollar Model
Supernatural power seems to hold Liberty’s hair on the obverse of this dollar model 1879 should appear in Simpson Part I. Barber’s “Washerwoman»Motif, hailed as one of the most beautiful objects created by the Currency of the United States, is executed in copper, with dark tones around the date and the name. The edges of the pattern are fluted.
The Heritage List cites a fun auction listing from 1891 that serves as the origin story for the name “Washlady”: “L profile, with huge hair, held up by nothing visible …”
The Washlady design is popular and considered another of Barber’s best designs and among the finest US Mint products. This example (lot # 11139) is the most well-known PR66RD cameo and certified by PCGS. Heritage claims to have only sold another red copy certified by PCGS.
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Although best known for his pattern collection, the first “Important Selections from the Bob R. Simpson Collection” showcases the wide range of the Simpson collection, from California gold to large errors. The patterns accentuate the selections in the sale. A number of the finest known examples of coins known for their beauty, rarity or historical value are in the Simpson Collection and will go up for auction in September.
As Sperber says, “I think it will be a big boost for the hobby if we get new players and set a lot of records… the numismatic world will certainly never see a patterned coin supply this close.”
“I have never seen a collection with the insane quality that is offered hurt.”
Judd, J. Hewitt. The Official Red Book: A Guide to the Patterned Coins of the United States. Whitman (2008)
Winter, Douglas. Gold coins of the Dahlonega Mint: 1838-1861. (2013)