Welcome to Steve's blog, sharing stories of his professional coin career, 1963 to date. Enjoy stories of Steve's numismatic journey.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Seated Dollar Bags Create Chaos

I’ve experienced some amazing numismatic moments during the past 50 years.  Last post described Amon Carter Jr. casually dumping an old leather bag of $50 gold slugs into a showcase.  Here’s another numismatic vignette . . . .

One day in the late 1960s I decided to make a trip to the San Bernadino Coin show.  I didn’t have a table, but needed to buy inventory, and I’d always had pretty good luck at this venue.

As I enter the show, I encounter a dealer table completely surrounded by humanity, many people deep.  The buzz was loud.  I dove into the crowd to see what was going on.

1871 Seated Dollar
photo by Debbi Estes
Once near the front I spied two showcases stacked to the rim with circulated Seated Dollars – probably about 2 bags worth, or 2,000 coins.  The coins were nice and original, mostly in the Good, VF, XF range.  Can you imagine seeing 2 original bags of Seated Dollars at a show?

To organize chaos, the dealer decreed we were to line up for a turn to look.  I stood in line at least two hours before it was my turn to  examine, select and purchase coins.  I chose about 20 coins at roughly $15 each – all Fine to VF, nice no problem coins. 

So where did these coins come from, you may wonder?  These bags of circulated Seated Liberty Dollars had certainly been part of the Treasury release of silver dollars in late 1962 and early 1963. 

Q. David Bowers, in his book American Coin Treasures and Hoards, describes his personal examination of many of the more than 10,000 circulated Seated Liberty Dollars which emerged during this period.  

The typical coin graded VF or EF and had light gray toning.  I recall no Mint State coins at all [in these bags], nor any extremely worn ones.  There were no great rarities such as 1851 or 1852, but there were a number of scarcer dates, such as 1844, 1848, and 1870-CC.

Bowers further surmises release of an uncirculated bag of 1859-O and others of 1860-O within the same Treasury program.  Those remain the most common uncirculated dates within the series.

1871 Seated Dollar
photo by Debbi Estes
I have never seen another hoard of Seated Dollars like the one in San Bernadino.  The coins I selected sold quickly to my customers.

Many contemporary collectors choose one or two Seated Dollars as type coins.  It’s easy to understand why more collectors don't undertake an entire set:  cost is about $125,000 to assemble a set in VF, without the 1870-S. 

The 1870-S is a superb rarity, often coming to market only when great collections are sold.  Other dates which complicate assembly of a full set include: 1851, 1852, 1858 and 1873-CC.

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