1804 Dollar, Other Legendary Coins Passed Up in Oct 8 Auction — And Here’s Why

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1794 Dollar PCGS SP66

By COINage News Staff

A series of iconic coins were offered for sale last night as part of the Legend Rare Coin Auctions offering of the Bruce Morelan Collection, a cabinet of fine coins representing some of the rarest and most valuable coins known anywhere in the world. Among these rarities were the 1794 Flowing Hair dollar and 1804 Draped Bust dollar, both internationally known as two of the most famous silver dollars in the world. They, along with several other notable rarities were passed last night, and many other coins hammered for lower prices than expected at the October 8 sale in Las Vegas, Nevada.

What does this mean? And why did some of the most famous coins known fail to hammer for a bid? World-known coin expert and author Scott Travers explains it’s a function of an extraordinary offering at a most unusual time. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic,” Travers remarks. “Under normal circumstances, these coins would have been offered in multiple sales over the course of months, perhaps at a major regional show such as the January Florida United Numismatists Convention, with a parade of spectators watching on as bidders on the floor compete with online bidders for these incredible trophies.”

But that isn’t what happened. The 1794 Flowing Hair dollar, graded by Professional Coin Grading Service as a Specimen-66 and believed to be the very first silver dollar ever struck, was up for sale with an estimate of more than $8 million. However, this coin — currently standing as the most expensive individual coin ever sold at public auction with a previous record of $10 million — was passed over.

The same goes for the 1804 Draped Bust dollar, a coin that is widely regarded as “The King of American Coins.” The 1804 dollar once held the title as the world’s most valuable before relinquishing that crown to other coins, including the aforementioned 1794 dollar. Yet, it couldn’t muster any bids with a $3.2 million starting bid and estimate of $4.5 million. These two major rarities, which caught the attention of national media outlets from well beyond our hobby, made the news today for different reasons than originally anticipated. But Travers says not to worry.

“A gorgeous 1796 Draped Bust dollar that previously sold for $1,175,000 in a Numismatic Guaranty Corporation holder was bought by John Albanese last night for $600,000 in a PCGS slab,” Travers notes. “It’s no secret these and other coins sold at distress prices.” He adds, “in all my books I say that what a willing buyer pays a willing seller is fair market value, but there was a compulsion to make this sale during very trying times — with many of the current market players being thinly capitalized entrepreneurs.”

But Travers says other parts of the market remain strong. “In my view, the sweet spot is in the $7,500 to $25,000 range,” he says. These coins include many well-known rarities in popular series, including widely collected 19th-century types and virtually all the major 20th-century series. At the end of the day, Travers asserts that last night’s sale represents nothing more than an anomaly — clear air turbulence for a plane cruising otherwise blue skies. “The coin market remains strong, and as economic conditions eventually return to a sense of normalcy after this pandemic is over the numismatic marketplace will only continue getting stronger.”

*Image is courtesy of PCGS TrueView.

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