“King of Southern Gold Coins” – a tiny, 1849-C “Open Wreath” gold dollar

The “King of Southern Gold Coins” – a tiny, 1849-C “Open Wreath” gold dollar – is returning to Charlotte, North Carolina – the “Queen City” – for the American Numismatic Association’s (ANA) National Money Show™, March 21-23.

Produced for regular circulation nearly 155 years ago at the United States Mint’s first branch in Charlotte, this $500,000 coin has a past shrouded in mystery. Only four examples of these 1/2-inch gold coins are known to exist, and none were discovered until the late 1920s or early ’30s – the last in 1978.

The little gold coin will be exhibited at the ANA show by New Orleans-based rare coin dealer Blanchard and Company for its owners, who wish to remain anonymous.

The roots of the King of Southern Gold Coins can be traced back to North Carolina’s gold rush in the 1820s, the development of the Charlotte Mint in 1837 and the discovery of gold in California in 1849. The last event spurred creation of two new gold coins – $1 and $20 – which proved to be the lowest and highest denominations issued by the U.S. Mint for regular circulation.

The Charlotte Mint issued its now rare $1 gold pieces – the smallest of American coins – the first year they were authorized by Congress. However, no records exist that shed any light on why only four of that mint’s open-wreath gold dollars remain today.

“The story about this coin may be lost to the past, but for us it is a wonderful piece of history returning home,” says Jerry Sajbel of Charlotte, who is the general chairman of the ANA National Money Show. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see this and other great rarities that represent the history of this city and state.”

This “King of Southern Gold Coins” will join an assortment of other historic Charlotte gold pieces, valued at more than $250,000, displayed by Douglas Winter Numismatics of Dallas, Texas. Author of the reference book Charlotte Mint Gold Coins: 1838-1861, Winter is a consultant to the Mint Museum of Art, which once housed the city’s coin production facility.

Thousands of collectors and hundreds of rare coin dealers from across the nation will attend the ANA National Money Show at the Charlotte Convention Center. Co-hosted by the Charlotte Coin Club and North Carolina Numismatic Association, the show (free and open to the public) will feature more than 30 hours of educational programs, a treasure hunt for school-age children, a wide array of exhibits, and a sale by Heritage Numismatic Auctions of Dallas.

The ANA has arranged discounted room rates at The Westin Charlotte (866-837-4148) and Hampton Inn Charlotte Uptown (704-373-0917). To make reservations, call the hotels directly and mention the show. (To take advantage of the discount, reservations must be made by February 17.)

The ANA also has arranged airfare discounts on Delta Air Lines (call Delta Meeting Network® Reservations at 800-241-6760, File No. DMN191440A) and United Airlines (call United Meeting Specialists at 800-521-4041, Meeting Code 510CW). Or call M&M World Travel Service at 800-426-8326.

The National Money Show at the Charlotte Convention Center, 501 S. College St., will be open from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, March 21-22; and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 23.

For additional information about the National Money Show, contact the ANA Convention Department, 818 N. Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80903-3279; telephone 719-632-2646, fax 719-634-4085 or e-mail or visit the ANA web site at www.money.org.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 11, 2003

CONTACT: Stephen L. Bobbitt

Telephone 719/632-2646 x113

E-mail pr@money.org

Saint-Gaudens’ Personal Ultra High Relief Double Eagle

A very rare coin - Double Eagle Ultra High Relief by St Gaudens

The personal 1907 Ultra High Relief double eagle owned by renowned artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens — the world’s first gold coin to sell for more than $1 million — and a silver dollar-covered 1949 Buick “Woodie” station wagon highlighted the Santa Clara Coin, Stamp & Collectibles Expo.

“This will be the first Northern California exhibit of the 1907 Ultra High Relief that originally was owned by its designer, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and later part of the famous Norweb Collection. In 1999 it became the first gold coin to sell for more than a million dollars,” said Ronald J. Gillio, Santa Clara Expo General Chairman.

Ohio philanthropist Albert Fairchild Holden obtained the coin in 1907 directly from the family of sculptor Saint-Gaudens. Holden’s daughter, Emery May, inherited it in 1913 and it became a centerpiece of the legendary collection she and her husband, U.S. Ambassador R. Henry Norweb, assembled over the decades.

Described as “the ultimate American gold coin,” it sold for a record-setting $1.21 million in May 1999. Less than two dozen Ultra High Relief specimens are known to exist, and this is one of the finest known.

Graded PCGS PF-67, the coin now is privately owned by an anonymous collector, and will be displayed in Santa Clara courtesy of Torrance, California dealer, Mike Bobb.

Another numismatic attraction at the Santa Clara Expo will be the appearance of the Harolds Club “Woodie,” a 1949 Buick station wagon decorated with 430 silver dollars. Originally owned by Reno, Nevada casino owner, Harold “Pappy” Smith, the car toured extensively at rodeos, county fairs and parades across the United States during the 1950s.

The Expo was sponsored by the Professional Coin Grading Service, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, eBay, Inc., Heritage Numismatic Auctions, Inc., British Royal Mint, Spanish Royal Mint, UBS Numismatics of Basel & Zurich, World Money Fair Basel, Coin Link, CoinFacts.com, and the Cupertino Coin Club.

For additional information about the Santa Clara Coin, Stamp & Collectibles Expo, contact Expos Unlimited, 1103 State St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Phone: (805) 962-9939. Web:www.SantaClaraExpo.com.

For immediate release News media contacts:

Ronald J. Gillio (805) 962-9939

Donn Pearlman (847) 509-5777 x 18


Editor’s note: There is no apostrophe in the title, Harolds Club.

King of Siam Proof Set Gallery

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has graded and encapsulated the rare and historic set of United States proof coins presented to the King of Siam in 1836. Consisting of nine denominations ranging from half cent to eagle, this amazing proof set has been known to numismatics only since 1962, when it surfaced in England.

NGC certified rare coinNGC certified rare coin
1834 King of Siam
Half Cent Piece

For a time exhibited at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, this set was recently purchased from its previous owner by Mike Bobb of Mike’s Coin Chest in Torrance, California. Now that it has been certified by NGC, the set will be exhibited at NGC’s table during the Fall 2001 Long Beach Expo in California.

NGC certified rare coinNGC certified rare coin
1834 King of Siam
One Cent Piece

When revealed to the numismatic community in 1962, this set was contained within a custom made case covered in yellow leather, that being the color of Siamese royalty. Inside, the coins were held by slots depressed into a lining of blue velvet. Two of the slots were empty, and it is assumed that these once held proof examples of the 1834 half dime and the 1834 Capped Head quarter eagle (the type with motto E PLURIBUS UNUM). All of the coins present are dated 1834, with the exception of the silver dollar and gold eagle. These two are dated 1804 and feature designs typical of that time.

NGC certified rare coinNGC certified rare coin
1834 King of Siam
Ten Cent Piece

Research by Eric Newman and Kenneth Bressett resulted in the publication in 1962 of a book in which the story behind this mismatching of dates was revealed. When commissioned by the State Department in 1834 to prepare two complete sets of the current coins, U. S. Mint Director Samuel Moore interpreted this to mean that such sets would include, in addition to the pieces then being coined, the silver dollar and the eagle, two denominations not minted since 1804.

NGC certified rare coinNGC certified rare coin
1834 King of Siam
Quarter Dollar Piece

Rather than prepare hubs for these two denominations featuring designs then common to the other pieces, he had the Engraving Department prepare 1804-dated dies of the types last used for them. He was unaware, however, that the silver dollars struck in 1804 bore dates of earlier years. Thus, the first silver dollars dated 1804 were minted in 1834, these being the “original” or Class I dollars of which just eight are known.

NGC certified rare coinNGC certified rare coin
1834 King of Siam
Half Dollar Piece

A very thorough account of the history behind the coining of the King of Siam proof set and its presentation to King Ph’ra Nang Klao was written recently by Q. David Bowers. His book, The Rare Silver Dollars Dated 1804 and the Exciting Adventures of Edmund Roberts, goes into great detail. It recounts the long journey by which Roberts presented this set and other gifts to the king in April of 1836.

NGC certified rare coinNGC certified rare coin
1834 King of Siam
Silver Dollar Piece

Well preserved within their velvet bed, the nine coins that comprise the King of Siam proof set received very impressive grades from NGC. Both the 1834 Classic Head quarter eagle and the 1804 eagle have been certified as Proof-64. The set’s quarter dollar, half dollar and half eagle, all dated 1834, achieved gem status, grading Proof-65.

NGC certified rare coinNGC certified rare coin
1834 King of Siam
Half Eagle Piece

Finer still are the collection’s copper pieces of 1834, the half cent grading Proof-66 Red/Brown, while the lovely cent was certified as Proof-66 Brown. Easily the finest coins in this historic set are the 1834 dime and 1804 silver dollar, both of which received the lofty grade of Proof-67. The latter is the finer of just two 1804 Class I dollars certified by NGC.

NGC certified rare coinNGC certified rare coin
1834 King of Siam
Eagle Piece

Mark Salzberg, Chairman and CEO of NGC, was delighted to have this famed proof set reside within the company’s holders. “It’s terrific to see these coins again after ten years,” Salzberg said. “It makes one reflect on the learning curve that results from examining so many rare and outstanding pieces since that time.”

NGC certified rare coinNGC certified rare coin
1834 King of Siam
Golden Eagle Piece

U.S. Mint Marks

1914dadMint and Dates of Operation

P – Philadelphia, PA 1793-present
Almost all coins from Philadelphia have no ‘P’ mark (primary mint)

C – Charlotte, NC 1838-1861
(note: gold coins only)

CC – Carson City, NV 1870-1893

D – Denver, CO 1906-present

D – Dahlonega, GA 1838-1861
(note: gold coins only)

O – New Orleans, LA 1838-1861; 1879-1909

S – San Francisco, CA 1854-1955; 1968-present

W – West Point, NY 1976-present

Note: Curiously, there are two ‘D’ mint marks on US coins. For coins dated from 1838 to 1861, the ‘D’ indicates the coin was struck in Dahlonega, GA. For 1906 to present coins, the ‘D’ mark shows Denver, CO minting.

Panama Pacific Fifty Dollar Octagonal Gold

Panama-Pacific International Exposition Fifty Dollars. Photo Courtesy Anaconda Coins

Ever since Balboa first gazed upon the Pacific Ocean in 1513, Europeans had dreamed and schemed of ways to connect the Gulf of Mexico with the large ocean to the west. Four hundred years later that dream was realized with the opening of the Panama Canal. It took ten years and many millions of dollars to construct the giant locks through Panama’s deadly jungles, but completion of the monumental project assured America’s stature as a world power. It had been apparent since the Spanish-American War that floating a two-ocean navy was logistically overwhelming, and shortly after the conclusion of hostilities, plans began in earnest to connect the two oceans.

Congress felt the canal was of such importance that in 1915 it appropriated 50 million dollars for an exposition celebrating its completion. San Francisco was selected as the site of the festivities, giving that city an opportunity to showcase the rebuilding undertaken since the devastating earthquake of 1906. Congress also authorized a series of commemorative coins to mark the occasion: a silver half dollar, a gold dollar and quarter eagle, and an extraordinarily impressive pair of $50 gold pieces. One unusual aspect of the legislation provided that of the 3,000 fifty-dollar coins authorized, half were to be round and the other half octagonal in shape. These massive gold coins were modeled after the fifty-dollar gold octagonal “slugs” struck in Gold Rush California by Augustus Humbert and their round counterparts struck by the Wass-Molitor firm in 1855. Although the coins produced by Humbert at the U.S. Assay office at San Francisco were officially authorized issues, the Pan-Pac fifties would be the first coins of that denomination issued by a U.S. Mint.

New York artist Robert Aitken was selected to design both the round and octagonal fifty-dollar coins. Aitken was an accomplished sculptor, but the Panama-Pacific commemoratives were his first attempt at coin designs. Critics had a field day with his creation, ignoring the aesthetic merits of the design and complaining that “there is nothing American about the coin except the inscription.” On an artistic level, however, Aitken’s work is a rather successful attempt to blend classical Greek motifs with modern coinage. He used the same design for both coins, but slightly reduced the design elements on the octagonal pieces to fit within the border. His subjects were the Roman goddess Minerva (after the Greek goddess Athena) and an owl, symbols, as he put it, “full of beauty in themselves,” that would also express “the larger meaning of the Exposition, its appeal to the intellect.” Aitken’s appeal to the intellect, however, required some interpretation, which fortunately was included on the packaging accompanying the five-piece sets consisting of the two fifties, a quarter eagle, gold dollar, and silver half dollar.

To the Romans, Minerva was the goddess of wisdom, skill, contemplation, spinning, weaving, agriculture and horticulture, all undoubtedly admirable qualities. Ironically, she was also the goddess of war, albeit representing the more reflective and civilized side of conflict. As the central design of the Panama-Pacific $50 pieces, she wears a crested helmet, pushed back to signify peaceful intentions—a symbol of American sentiment towards a Europe deeply embroiled in the carnage of World War I. The date appears in Roman numerals—MCMXV—at the top of Minerva’s shield. The entire central design is surrounded by a “Morse code” circular border, actually a long and short-beaded motif, also adapted from Classical Greek design. Although some critics of the day remarked about the dolphins encircling the border of the octagonal pieces, sarcastically commenting that it seemed as if the canal was built for their benefit, the dolphins quite suitably symbolize the uninterrupted waterway created by the canal. The coins’ reverse depicts an owl perched on a Ponderosa Pine, surrounded by cones. Owls were sacred to Minerva, and the bird is commonly recognized as a symbol for wisdom as well as for watchfulness, alluding to America’s need for vigilance on the eve of its entrance into the European war. The beaded border is repeated again on the reverse, separating the central design from the statutory legends that surround the perimeter of each side: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and FIFTY DOLLARS on the obverse, PANAMA-PACIFIC EXPOSITION and SAN FRANCISCO on the reverse. The motto IN GOD WE TRUST appears above Minerva’s head, while E PLURIBUS UNUM is to the right of the owl. Aitken’s initials are tucked away on the reverse in the field above the R in FRANCISCO, while the S mintmark is located between the lowest right pinecone and the beaded inner border.

Because of the coins’ large size, a special 14-ton hydraulic press used for striking medals was sent from Philadelphia. Although officials considered striking the coins on the fairgrounds, the final decision kept production in the San Francisco Mint. The first coins were struck on June 15, 1915, and a total of 1,509 octagonal and 1,510 round fifties were produced by the end of the summer. The odd 19 pieces that exceeded the authorized mintage were reserved for assay. The first 100 coins struck were distributed to various dignitaries and Mint employees. Despite the popularity of the coins’ large size and appealing design, only 645 of the octagonals and 483 of the rounds were sold. The remaining pieces were melted in November, 1916.

Intimately associated with the promotion and distribution of the Pan-Pac fifties, as well as several other commemorative issues from the early 20th century, was Farran Zerbe. Zerbe’s numismatic reputation and political clout was such that he was placed in charge of the Exposition’s Coin and Medal Department, which he incorporated into his own traveling exhibit called “Money of the World.” As an energetic promoter of numismatics for several decades, Zerbe did more to popularize coin collecting in this country than any other individual, with the possible exception of B. Max Mehl. Zerbe marketed the five Pan-Pac commemorative issues in various combinations: single coins, short sets of three, full sets of five and double sets of ten coins that showed both sides of each coin. He offered the coins to collectors through the mail, to the general public at the fair and in special mailings to bankers. Although his marketing methods were laudable, finding buyers at $100 for a $50 gold coin when wages were low, interest in numismatics was insignificant, and political and economic uncertainty high, was a difficult task at best.

The artistic beauty, size, and rarity of the Pan-Pac fifties place them among the few commemorative issues that are widely recognized and sought by non-specialists. The net mintage figures reflect both their absolute and relative rarity: the lower-mintage round variety is the scarcer of the two. Many surviving Pan-Pac fifties suffer from slight handling friction on the cheek and helmet of Minerva and on the upper portion of the owl’s breast. Often the corners of the octagonal pieces will show rim bumps and nicks. Most examples will range from AU-55 to MS-63: gem examples are quite rare and seldom offered for sale. Almost as coveted as the coins themselves are the original-issue holders: The cases made for single $50 pieces have sold in the $400-$800 range, while the hammered frames for five-piece sets bring several thousand dollars each. The extremely rare double-set, framed holder is even dearer: one example sold several years ago at auction brought an astounding $18,000!


Diameter: 1.74 inches

Weight: 83.55 grams

Composition: .900 gold, .100 copper

Edge: Reeded

Net Weight: 2.41757 ounces pure gold

Photo Copyright Anaconda Coins.

1794 Bust dollar

The 1794 Bust dollar that many experts now believe is the first silver dollar struck by the United States Mint remains on exhibition at the American Numismatic Association Money Museum through August with displays also now planned by the coin’s owner, Steven Contursi, at the ANA conventions in Kansas City, Missouri in April and San Francisco, California in July.

Photo credit: Rare Coin Wholesalers & Tom Mulvaney

1894 S Barber Dime With a Mintage of 24

by Frank M. Zapushek,

While answering some questions at a recent show, an ILNA member asked me, “Why would the U. S. Mint produce just 24, 1894 S Barber Dimes?” I did not have a good answer, and told him to look in the next Digest.

1894-S Dime, PCGS Proof-66, that just sold for $1,322,500 in an auction conducted on March 7, 2005 by David Lawrence Rare Coins.
Photo Credit: David Lawrence Rare Coins.

First, lets cover the theory in” Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins”. Mr. Breen states that the 24 coins were struck by Mint Superintendent J. Daggett for a group of banker friends. Seven of Mr. Daggett’s friends each received 3 coins, and he gave his three to his daughter.

Mr. Daggett told his daughter to put the coins away until she was as old as he was, then she could sell them for a good price. On the daughters way home, she supposedly used one to buy a dish of ice cream. She kept the other two until 1954 when she sold them to coin dealer Earl Parker.

In David Lawrence’s “The Complete Guide to Barber Dimes”, Mr. Lawrence covers the same theory as Breen. He also covers a story released by Farran Zerbe, former President of the ANA.

Mr. Zerbe’s story was published in the April 1928 issue of “The Numismatist”. Mr. Zerbe stated the coins were struck to provide the 40 cents needed to close a bullion account at the San Francisco Mint by June 30, 1984, the end of the fiscal year. Any even dollar amount ending in 40 cents would do fine, so the Mint employees struck the 24 dimes. The Mint employees did not know they were creating a rarity, because they expected to mint additional dimes by the end of 1894. December 31 came and went, with do request for additional dimes. Mr. Zerbe stated the two or three pieces were obtained by Mint employees, just to have a new dime. When the employees realized the dimes were rare, they sold them for $25 or more apiece. In 1928, when this article was written, only three or four specimens were know.

Mr. Zerbe’s explanation was very similar to an earlier account by J. C. Mitchelson, a Kansas City collector. This theory is most likely the explanation that the San Francisco Mint wanted to release.

In 1972, journalist James Johnson attempted an accounting of the 1894 S story. After the article ran in Coin World Collectors’ Clearinghouse on September 13, 1972, Mr. Johnson received a letter from Guy Chapman. Mr. Chapman stated that he had seen the two 1894 S dimes in 1954, just after dealer Earl Parked had purchased the coins. Mr. Johnson explained that Earl Parker had been told by Mr. Daggett’s daughter that the banker story was true.

The dies used to strike the dimes were specially prepared and the dimes were carefully struck. This would not have been done to round out the books, but the special treatment would hardly be a surprise for presentation pieces.

The second part of the question presented me more hurdles to jump. “The 1894 S specimens are listed as Proofs, but in the “Red Book”, only one is listed and it is listed as “MS 60 $465,000”. Why?

Since no Proofs were minted in 1894, the coins should be considered business strikes. Now what does the “Red Book” consider a Proof? 51st Edition, 1998, “A ‘proof’ is a specimen striking of coinage for presentation, souvenir, exhibition, or numismatic purposes.”

Sure sounds like the coins are “Proof” to me. How about you?

One example sold in 1973 by dealer Art Kagin for $46,000. The coin was graded extra fine because of a scratch on the reverse and a planchet flaw. In 1988, Superior Auctions sold this coin for $64,000 and it was graded Proof 60.

Adding to the problem is the grading of the coins that have been in circulation. One specimen is graded About Good and another is graded Good. If you are under the believe that these are not Proof coins, they you will except the circulated grading of these coins.

If you are under the belief that the 1894 S Barber dime is a Proof coin, then the coins mentioned above should be listed as Impaired Proof 3 and Impaired Proof 4.

After hours of investigating this coin, I have come to the conclusion that there is no correct or incorrect conclusion. If you believe the coins were struck to close a bullion account, then the 1894 S Barber dime is a business strike and should be grade as a business strike coin.

If you believe the “banker story”, then the coins should be graded as Proofs. Or maybe we can come to a compromise, how about Special Mint Struck. SMS, every hear of that before?

No matter what story you believe, one point can be agreed on by everyone. “The 1894 S Barber dime is way out of reach of the average collector !”

Have a question, need an answer, drop me a line. Frank M. Zapushek PO Box 1993, Bloomington, IL. 61702. If writing, please include a SASE. Or email me at

The finest known 1845-O Seated Liberty dime

The finest known 1845-O Seated Liberty dime, graded PCGS MS-69 and from the legendary Eliasberg Collection, is one of the many attractions in the Kansas City sale by Bowers and Merena, the official auctioneer of the ANA National Money Show.

Photo: Courtesy Bowers and Merena