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    1870-S Seated Dollar, XF40
    One of Only Nine Confirmed Examples
    The Miles-Queller Coin

    1870-S $1 XF40 NGC. For four weeks in the winter of 1914, the ANS sponsored an exhibit of Colonial and U.S. coins drawn from all the prominent collectors and dealers of the era. When one views the catalog of that exhibit today, the number of major rarities is simply staggering. Such an exhibit probably could not be duplicated today. Even if collectors and dealers of today would cooperate and allow their major rarities to be exhibited, the cost of insuring such an exhibit would likely be prohibitive. A review of the exhibit and catalog, as interesting as it would be, is beyond the scope of this write-up. The mention of one major rarity would slight another that would be omitted. However, it is important to note that the catalog is organized by area of specialty and interest, and then by exhibitor. There were 27 exhibitors, and needless to say, the list reads like a Who's Who in numismatics from a hundred years ago.

    One of the exhibitors was H.O. Granberg, from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Granberg made his name and fortune in the railroad and mining businesses. Among the many rarities he contributed to the ANS exhibit was one in the United States Coins chapter on page 36. Under the Silver Dollars section and San Francisco Mint subsection is: "1870. Only specimen known. No record of issue in the mint. (Illustrated.)" Undoubtedly the 44-year-old Seated dollar was little noticed among the well-known rarities on display. However, one collector who did take notice was Waldo C. Newcomer, another former railroad employee who then rose to prominence in banking. Newcomer had similar collecting interests to Granberg's, and after a theft of his collection in 1913 (and sometime before 1916), he purchased both the Granberg and Heaton collections. Among the coins he purchased was the allegedly unique 1870-S silver dollar.

    As Nancy Oliver and Richard Kelly point out in "The Saga of the 1870-S Silver Dollar" in the May 2005 Numismatist, after Waldo Newcomer purchased the coin, he exhibited it at the 1916 ANS in Baltimore. This time the piece was noticed, and The Numismatist reported:

    "Another excessively rare, if not unique, variety of the silver dollar is the one of the regular die struck in 1870 but bearing the small letter 's' on the reverse, which is shown to most of the collectors probably for the first time, and which to many up to this time has been unknown."

    The mystery of the 1870-S dollar had begun, a mystery that would remain unsolved until 2005.

    The explanation of the rarity and importance of the 1870-S Seated dollar is rooted in the building of the San Francisco Mint and the laying of its cornerstone on May 25, 1870. For months it had been known that among the items to be included in the time capsule in the new Mint building would be a complete denomination set of U.S. coins dated 1870. The 1870 dies were received in December 1869, shipped from the Philadelphia Mint to San Francisco -- with a couple of important omissions. The gold dollar and three dollar dies lacked an S mintmark. Once the reverse dies were received from the Philadelphia Mint and production began in earnest on all of the coins for the time capsule, it was discovered that there was no obverse die for the Seated dollar. Oliver and Kelly found evidence of a close working relationship between San Francisco Mint Superintendent A.H. LaGrange and Carson City Mint Superintendent Abraham Curry. They theorize that LaGrange asked for and received an 1870-dated dollar obverse die from Curry. Unfortunately, vast amounts of data from the various mints were destroyed some 30 years ago as a cost-cutting measure -- we will never know for certain. The speculation is plausible, however, as one telegram survives from Curry to LaGrange, dated March 2, 1870:

    "I have this day to acknowledge the receipt of silver dollar radius plates, and take this occasion to renew my thanks for your kindness."

    What exactly "silver dollar radius plates" are is unknown, but this brief telegram underscores the working relationship between the two mints and the superintendents.

    Oliver and Kelly also speculate that an S-mint silver dollar would be an excellent memento for the groundbreaking ceremonies. It is logical to conclude that such coins would be unknown to the collecting public, since they were produced under clandestine circumstances; that is, there is no mint record of the production of these dollars. When one examines the roster of the known 1870-S dollar specimens, it appears that is precisely what they were intended for -- mementos -- and most appear to have been used as pocket pieces. They certainly show evidence of many years' ownership by non-numismatists. Only one of the nine known examples is Uncirculated. Other pieces are scratched, one shows a test mark, another is pitted, and still another tooled.

    The commonly accepted number of 1870-S dollars produced is 12. In the absence of mint records to back up that number, or any other credible primary source, we are left with nine known examples, another that allegedly appeared and then disappeared around 1990, and an 11th piece that is presumably still entombed in the cornerstone of the San Francisco Mint building. That would mean one other piece is lost, which would bring the total to a nice, round figure of 12 pieces. The roster of known and rumored 1870-S dollars follows:

    Roster of 1870-S Seated Liberty Dollars
    1. James A. Stack Specimen, MS62 PCGS. Morton and Joseph Stack; James A. Stack (1944); James Stack Collection (Stack's, 3/1995), lot 212; Rudolph Collection (Stack's, 5/2003), lot 2136, realized $1,092,500; Legend Collection of Seated Liberty Dollars, displayed at the 2005 ANA Convention in San Francisco.
    2. Norweb Specimen, AU58 PCGS. Colonel E.H.R. Green; Col. Green estate until 1942; Burdette G. Johnson; Anderson DuPont Sale (Stack's, 11/1954), lot 2551; Art Kagin; Ambassador and Mrs. R. Henry Norweb; Norweb Collection, Part III (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), lot 3825; Jim Jessen Collection; offered as part of a silver dollar set in Coin World, January 1996.
    3. Eliasberg Specimen, AU53 PCGS. Henry O. Granberg; illustrated in the 1914 ANS Exhibition; William H. Woodin; Waldo C. Newcomer; exhibited at the 1916 ANA Convention; Col. Green; Col. Green estate; possibly George H. Hall Sale (Stack's, 5/1945), lot 1576; Will W. Neil Sale (Mehl, 6/1947), lot 202; Stack's; Louis E. Eliasberg; Eliasberg Collection (Bowers and Merena, 4/1997), lot 2243; Stanford Coins and Bullion; Certified Acceptance Corporation (John Albanese, purchased for $1.3 million in 2/2008).
    4. Ostheimer-Gardner Specimen, XF40 PCGS, formerly XF40 NGC. Compton Collection; M.H. Bolender; Alfred and Jackie Ostheimer; Ostheimer Sale (Lester Merkin, 9/1968), lot 372, bought in; Gilhousen Sale (Superior, 10/1973), lot 1339; ANA Sale (Superior 8/1975), lot 1125; Julian M. Leidman; Gary Sturtridge; ANA Sale (Bowers and Ruddy, 8/1978), lot 1160; James E. Pohrer; ANA Sale (Kagin's, 8/1983), lot 2707; Leon Hendrickson and Sal Fusco; private collection; Phoenix Rare Coin Galleries (7/1992); Richmond Sale (David Lawrence, 11/ 2004) lot 1497; Jack Lee III Collection (Heritage, 11/2005), lot 2226; Central States Signature (Heritage, 4/2009), lot 2581; Boston Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 8/2010), lot 1089; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2014), lot 5295; Gardner Collection Part III Signature (Heritage, 5/2015), lot 98571; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2016), lot 5462.
    5. Eureka Specimen, F/VF scratched. Reportedly discovered by an 18-year-old man from Eureka, California, before 1922, who kept it until the 1970s. Numerous scratches and nicks; Donovan II Sale (Steve Ivy, 7/1978), lot 1128; Auction '85 (Paramount, 7/1985), lot 1270; Manfra, Tordella, and Brooks fixed price list, spring 1987.
    6. Queller Specimen, XF40 NGC. Possibly Charles M. Williams; Adolphe Menjou Sale (Numismatic Gallery, 6/1950) lot 2181; possibly Clinton Hester; Abe Kosoff FPL 1955; Ben Koenig; Fairbanks Collection (Stack's, 12/1960), lot 617; Samuel Wolfson Sale (Stack's, 5/1963), lot 1431; R.L. Miles, Jr. Sale (Stack's, 4/1969), lot 1612; Autumn Sale (Stack's, 9/1978), lot 345; David Queller; Queller Family Collection (Heritage, 4/2008), lot 2129, realized $805,000; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2015), lot 4173; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2015), lot 4173. The present specimen.
    Note: Walter Breen believed this coin once belonged to 19th century collector Matthew Stickney, but it did not appear in the 1907 Henry Chapman sale of his collection, and his daughters insisted that offering was completely intact. It may be that the coin was sold privately before Stickney's death, but this seems dubious. It is possible that Virgil Brand owned this coin at some point.
    7. Carter Specimen, VF. B. Max Mehl; Col. E.H.R. Green; James Kelly; Jack Roe; James Kelly again; Jerome Kern (B. Max Mehl, 5/1950), lot 941; Amon G. Carter; Amon Carter Sale (Stack's, 1/1984), lot 285; L.R. French Sale (Stack's, 1/1989), lot 56; James Stack, Sr. Collection (Stack's, 11/1989), lot 546.
    Note: This coin has often been listed as a Waldo Newcomer duplicate, but the Newcomer inventory owned by PCGS lists only one coin. Newcomer's notes, written in the late 1920s or early 1930s, include, "Reported that seven were struck but only these two known. Granberg and Woodin specimen (mine) was the only known specimen. Hesslein has one about fine with initials scratched on one or both sides. Mehl is negotiating in another, making three in all. Hesslein offered me his in April 1928 for $1300.00." Thanks to John Dannreuther for this information. The Carter coin is probably the one Mehl was "negotiating in."
    8. Schultz Specimen, VF25 PCGS. Norman Schultz Mail Bid Sale (12/1935), lot 1302; B. Max Mehl; King Farouk; The Palace Collections (Sotheby's, 2/1954), lot 1676; Hans Schulman, per Gaston DiBello's annotated catalog of the Farouk sale; 1960 ANA Sale (Conn and Whiteneck, 8/1960), lot 1168; Fall Festival Sale (Ben's Coin Company, 10/1961), lot 430 (Ben Dreiske was one of the founders of RARCOA the following year); 10th Anniversary Sale (Kreisberg-Schulman, 4/1967), lot 1253; Herman Halpern Collection (Stack's, 3/1987), lot 1203; private collection; 72nd Anniversary Sale (Stack's, 10/2007), lot 5294; Baltimore Auction (Bowers and Merena, 2/2008), lot 2035.
    9. Boyd Specimen, VF Details PCGS, tooled to remove initials F.H.I. engraved before Liberty. Drake and Munro Collections (William Hesslein, 12/1926), lot 900; F.C.C. Boyd; World's Greatest Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 5/1945), lot 271; Southern Sale (Hollinbeck, 2/ 1951), lot 1248; Earl M. Skinner Collection (New Netherlands 11/1952), lot 162; Charles A. Cass; Empire Collection (Stack's, 11/1957), lot 1759; Quarter Millennium Sale, Part III (Hollinbeck Coin Company, 3/1964), lot 519; 274th Sale (Hollinbeck, 11/1967), lot 1162; Ancient, Foreign and U.S. Coins (Stack's, 6/1996), lot 1940; 73rd Anniversary Sale (Stack's, 10/2008), lot 457; Baltimore Auction (Bowers and Merena, 11/2009), lot 3086.
    10. San Francisco coin, Mint State (unverified). San Francisco Mint employee, 1870; family of preceding Mint employee; owned by San Francisco-area military officer, examined by dealer Sam E. Frudakis who was unable to retain the coin for verification and identification.
    11. A specimen rumored to be in the cornerstone (whereabouts today unknown) of the "Granite Lady" second San Francisco Mint, unverified.

    Physical Description
    The surfaces of this piece are bright throughout, with a pale layer of golden and lilac toning. The brightness and color is evenly matched on each side. Unlike several other circulated 1870-S dollars on the roster, there are no mentionable or distracting marks or other problems on this piece. Both sides show the normally expected number of small abrasions that a coin would receive from circulation or as a pocket piece; the brightness is also consistent with several years' residence in a pocket. The only larger mark that helps identify this as the Miles-Queller piece is located to the left of the O in OF. The strike is soft, as always, on the head of Liberty. The mintmark is also predictably small, and it appears to have been weakly punched into the reverse die.

    The 1870-S dollar is a major rarity in the Seated dollar series, and is also one of the premier rarities in 19th century numismatics. It is seldom available in any condition, and usually several years pass between appearances at public auction of one of the nine known pieces.(Registry values: N1) (NGC ID# 24ZF, PCGS# 6965)

    Weight: 26.73 grams

    Metal: 90% Silver, 10% Copper

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    Oct-Nov, 2016
    31st-2nd Monday-Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 22
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 4,820

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