1875 "Sailor Head" Five Dollar Pattern Struck in Gold, One of Only Two Pieces Known, Ex: Woodin, Farouk, Wilkison, Trompeter1875 $5 Sailor Head Five Dollar, Judd-1438, Pollock-1581, R.8, PR65 NGC. Ex: Trompeter. In the 20th century, only nine collectors have managed to acquire a substantial number of U.S. gold patterns. This list includes William Woodin, Waldo C. Newcomer; Virgil Brand, F.C.C. Boyd, Colonel E.H.R. Green, King Farouk, Dr. J. Hewitt Judd, Dr. John Wilkison, and Ed Trompeter. Gold patterns, including those of the "Sailor Head" design, have assumed near-legendary status among pattern specialists. Many are unique or R.8, making them unobtainable, or off the market for a generation or more to even the most determined collector, regardless of how well financed he might be. As one looks at the list of the collectors above, it is apparent how the ownership of gold patterns requires great patience. Because of their rarity it is impossible for more than two collectors in any given generation to attempt a collection of gold patterns. The last assemblage of gold patterns was tried by the late Ed Trompeter who managed to purchase 10 pieces in 30 years of collecting. Prior to Trompeter, the next major collector was Dr. John Wilkison--David Akers wrote a thin, well researched book about Wilkison's collection and Paramount's acquisition of his amazing 35 different gold patterns.
Apparently both this piece (Judd-1438) and the ten dollar Sailor Head (Judd-1443) remained together for most of the last century. The two pieces were broken up as a set sometime after Paramount bought all of Dr. Wilkison's gold patterns (of which these were a part), and not reunited until some 11 years later in 1984. The two coins reemerged in Auction '84, and it is this reappearance on the market in the summer of 1984 that we use as the base line for comparison of these two coins to others during the same 21-year time interval. In July 1984 these two "Sailor Head" patterns realized $83,600. The pair is reserved in this auction for $600,000, which yields a 7.1 fold increase. Listed below are several rare date half eagles in MS60 grade. Prices were taken from The Guide Book of United States Coins (37th and 58th editions).
1842-C Large Date half eagle $2,700 (1984) $18,000 (2005)=6.66 fold price increase
1843-C half eagle $2,100 (1984) $16,000 (2005)=7.61 fold price increase
1843-O Large Letters half eagle $2,000 (1984) $12,500 (2005)=6.25 fold price increase
1856-S half eagle $825 (1984) $7,500 (2005)=9.09 fold price increase
1868 half eagle $1,650 (1984) $12,500 (2005)=7.57 fold price increase
While each of the coins above have advanced in price by roughly a similar amount to the "Sailor Head" patterns, it should be noted that the exact number of high grade survivors of the half eagles listed above is unknown. Regular issue coins are subject to the appearance of high grade hoards (such as the S.S. Central America find of thousands of pre-1858 west coast gold). There are exactly two examples known of each of these two patterns. It is not difficult to imagine what even a small increase in demand would do to the price of these near-unique pieces. A slight increase in collector demand coupled with a continued strong collector market could easily catapult these two coins into the realm of million dollar pieces.
The five dollar gold pattern we offer here was once in the collection of Dr. John Wilkison. Wilkison was as savvy collector who realized early in his collecting career that wanted to direct his energies in the direction of major U.S. rarities. Around 1938 he and his wife went to St. Louis, and while his wife was out shopping he looked up the name of several local coin dealers. One he visited was Burdette Johnson. Wilkison told Johnson he was interested in major U.S. rarities, to which Johnson queried, "Well, do you have anything specific in mind?" Wilkison said he would be interested in a 1913 Liberty nickel. Johnson said he had all five of them and the price was $500 per coin. Wilkison asked if there might be a discount if he purchased all five, to which Johnson replied, "Son, my price is $500 each and I won't take $495." Wilkison declined, but apparently the meeting left a lasting impression on him. Several years later when he began to focus on collecting gold patterns, he paid unheard of prices for the time. He paid $4,200 at auction for the 1860 half eagle in 1944, and $5,500 for the 1868 eagle. Wilkison never backed down from a high price. He might lose sleep over a purchase, but his single-minded purpose in collecting compelled him to pay whatever was necessary to acquire a coin that he needed to further completion of his collection of gold patterns. Wilkison's most noteworthy trade was with Abe Kosoff when Dr. Judd's collection was put up for auction. Wilkison most wanted the Amazonian gold dollar in Judd's collection of gold dollar patterns, but he also needed several other of Judd's gold patterns. He worked out a trade with Kosoff for 21 of Judd's gold patterns in exchange for his entire collection (missing only nine coins) of U.S. proof gold coins from 1858 through 1899! The two 1875 half eagles he had purchased in 1954 directly from the Farouk Sale, along with his almost-complete Amazonian set. While the Farouk Sale is known for completeness and high quality, it is not known for particularly high prices. In fact, the two 1875 half eagles were one of Wilkison's most astute purchases among the other very high-priced patterns he purchased over the years. He bought both Judd-1438 half eagles for 300 Egyptian pounds, or $861.00. The two patterns were held in collections or by dealers from the days of William Woodin until 1979, when they finally went their separate ways. In David Akers' book on the Wilkison Collection, it appears that the obverse of one piece was photographed and married with the reverse of another. This piece is definitely the coin used for the reverse photo as it shows a small planchet flake in the field below the E in AMERICA. However, this piece has a small but noticeable planchet flake out of the field adjacent to star 9 on the obverse, but it does not appear on the plate in the Wilkison reference.
Designed by William Barber, the obverse of this distinctive pattern features Liberty facing left. The drapery over Liberty's shoulders presents the appearance of a collar on a sailor's uniform. Also, the word Liberty is set on a squared-off coronet with two trailing ribbons, this also resembling a sailor's cap. On the reverse, an eagle similar to the one featured on the regular issue twenty cent piece is poised in heraldic fashion. Beneath the eagle is a ribbon with the motto IN GOD WE TRUST, and above the words E PLURIBUS UNUM are set directly onto the field in tiny letters. Struck in gold with a reeded edge. The surfaces show a few tiny lint marks in addition to the two small planchet flakes that are mentioned above. Otherwise, the surfaces are exceptionally clean and problem-free. The piece has taken on a light overlay of reddish patina, and the fields are deeply reflective with considerable contrast noted on each side between the fields and devices. Weakly defined in the center of each side, which indicates a problem with die opposition. This would have been enough to keep this particular design from regular production as we see it here, significant design modifications would have been required for commercial usage.
Ex: William Woodin; Waldo C. Newcomer; Palace Collection--King Farouk (Sotheby's, 1954); Dr. John E. Wilkison, 1973; Paramount, 1976; A-Mark, 1978; Paramount, 1979; Auction '84 (Paramount's session, 7/84), lot 536 in the set with the ten dollar Judd-1443, where it realized $83,600; Ed Trompeter.
The sale of this pattern is contingent upon the sale of the Judd-1443. The two pieces must realize in excess of $600,000 for the pair; otherwise, both pieces will be returned to the consignor. (NGC ID# 26WV, PCGS# 61745)
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