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A Special Note from A New Friend and Esteemed Collector

May 15, 2024 12 view(s) 6 min read
A Special Note from A New Friend and Esteemed Collector

I'm going to start this with an excerpt from my recent CSNS show report.

"I only got 3 hours of sleep that night as I had coins on my mind and I was obsessing over one of the most amazing pieces I had ever seen. It was offered privately so I cant tell you all what it was, but its the kind of coin that burns an image into your brain. I was pondering and trying to make it work, but in the end I couldn't reconcile the price and I had to pass."

Well folks, I ultimately decided that I could not let this one escape me. I thought it would be fun to walk you through the decison making process, and the dilemma of reaching for a coin thats seemingly "overpriced".

On friday mid day, I was seated at a table exploring the wares of a dealer whom I had not done business with before, but we had talked quite frequently and his inventory had always been interesting to me. Another collector walked up to his table and had asked about a copper coin in his case, and they had got to talking. Shortly thereafter, the dealer asked the other collector if he wanted to see a really cool liberty cap half cent. He grabbed that coin from the back, and when he turned around he had two coins in his hand. He put the half cent in front of the collector, and then tossed the other coin my way.

The coin was backwards in an intercept shield slab box, and when I pulled it out and got a look at it, my jaw dropped to the floor and my heart started racing. I have held some amazing coins in my hand, but this one had me "shook" (as the kids say). I then asked the only logical question to ask at that moment... "How much is it?"

The price almost blew me away, but I figured we were just staring high and I'd be able to chisel away to something more "reasonable". Boy was I wrong. I floated several offers and trade options that I thought would get the job done, but he was not budging. I was perturbed, frustrated, and somewhat defeated. I was trying to find a way to make it work in my head. Analyzing the sale prices of the similarly graded coins that sold a decade ago, and contemplating what they were worth in today’s market. Comparing the attributes of this coin to the attributes of the two higher graded examples and placing a current market value on them. I was trying to convince myself that this coin, based on eye appeal, was at least worth X % of what they were worth. Even the dealer said something to the effect of “I too had trouble putting a number on this coin, and ultimately I think I would find myself in the same predicament you are if I was on that side of the table right now”. I just couldn't get there mentally, and after 20 minutes of contemplation, I had to thank him for his time and take a walk.

"My minds telling me nooooooo"

That night, I could barely sleep with the mental image of that coin festering in my mind. I was thinking about how the pioneer market has been lately, and how there was a very real possibility that the coin would sell to someone else to be tucked away for decades. I was considering the possible upgrade possibilities for this coin, and wondering what the top pop example would have to be worth to make the number on this coin make sense. I didnt make any impulsive decisions and decided that I needed to sleep on it for several nights. Over the course of the next several days I was researching records, establishing trends, and weighing out pros and cons, upside and downside. I realize not everyone does this, but I've always approached my large purchases with a business oriented rationale, and always like to keep resale value in mind. Some say that collectors shouldn't do that, but to each their own. It works for me and it helps me to rationalize the amount of liquididty and the oppurtunity cost of holding coins like this.

In the end, I realized that I was trying to rationalize the irrational. From the moment I laid eyes on it, the little voice in my head, which interestingly sounded alot like Laura Sperber, was screaming at me to "Just BUY the COIN!". I had to take off my dealer hat off for a while and let my instincts as a collector steer me. I made a phone call on Monday, and today I have the coin in my hands.

"But my instincts, my instints, were telling me yeeeeaaayasss"

So with all of that said, behold my newest addition to my beloved pioneer collection. An 1860 Clark Gruber $5 MS64 housed in an old NGC fatty with a bean. Unbroken frosty luster and exceptionally well struck, this is one of the few pioneer issues that can be obtained in gem or near gem grades. The details are fully defined, down to the eagles feathers and the radial lines of the stars. Warmly patinated with a honey gold glow, its almost as if this coin puts off its own light. Some minor chatter in fields is completely toned in with a rich apricot patina, the eye appeal is truly sublime. I grade the coin a solid 64+, and of course it would not make sense to remove from the pristine NGC fatty from which it was likely graded by JA himself around 1990. There are several others in MS64, a couple even with CAC stickers, but I think the only rivals to this coin in terms of appeal are the 66+ (upgraded from P65) that recently sold for $480,000, and the lone PCGS 65cac that last appeared in 2006 as an NGC 65, where it sold for $96,000.

Often times with pioneer, you have to make concessions with several of many desirable attributes. Strike, Luster, Color, originality, contact, and CAC sticker. In many cases, you can only pick 3-4 of those, sometimes 5, but this was a rare oppurtunity for me to buy a coin that has it all. As you all know, I tend to prefer value grades such as AU55-58, as opposed to spending 62 money for a coin with only marginally superior appeal (the assay $20 is a one-off because of the spread). This example is leaps and bounds more appealing than any AU that I would be able to find, an for me the price jump was congruent with the eye appeal jump. Almost certainly the only piece of pioneer I will ever own in this level of preservation, I'm beyond grateful to have the wherewithal to give it a home.

Clark and Gruber Obverse Slab ImageClark and Gruber Obverse Slab Image
Clark and Gruber Reverse Slab ImageClark and Gruber Reverse Slab Image
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