By Ed Reiter, CoinAge Magazine, October 2004 issue
Over the years, various governments have pursued five-year plans to jump-start their countries economies. Now, one of the nation’s largest rare coin and precious metal dealerships has announced a different kind of five-year plan one designed to expand public interest in collectible coins.
Monaco Financial of Newport Beach, California envisions a five-year program of major exhibits featuring ultra-rare U.S. coins, which it will show at conventions and other important events around the country. It plans to put together five different displays one per year with each containing at least one coin worth more than a million dollars.
The program, billed as the World’s Most Valuable Coins Tour, is aimed at promoting awareness of rare coins investment potential as well as the satisfaction U.S. coins can provide as collectible pieces of Americana.
Year One of the tour is well under way, and early returns suggest the plan is working to perfection.
Monaco launched the program this summer with a lavish exhibit built around the Farouk-Norweb specimen of the ultra-rare 1861 Paquet double eagle ($20 gold piece). The evocative display also incorporating numerous Civil War artifacts was formally unveiled in mid-August at the World’s Fair of Money, the annual summer convention of the American Numismatic Association, at the Pittsburgh Convention Center.
It served as the centerpiece of the show’s exhibit area and proved extremely popular with the many visitors who stopped to view it before entering the sprawling convention bourse.
Monaco planned to present the exhibit again in late September at the San Francisco Money Show, an important West Coast financial event, and also was seeking tie-ins at other potential venues, including large shows in Las Vegas and New York.
The ANA debut was a smashing success, according to Adam Crum, the Monaco director and vice president who is coordinating the five-year program.
We had an overwhelmingly positive response, Crum reported.
This tour, he explained, is basically a marketing tool to brand our company as the industry leader if you have or want to own the world’s most valuable coins.
Crum is already laying the groundwork for Year Two of the program, which is expected to get under way next summer at the 2005 World’s Fair of Money in San Jose, California, Monaco obtained the Paquet double eagle this year and anticipates getting the mega-star coins for future displays on loan from collector-investor clients.
I’m already negotiating with one of our clients to borrow another million-dollar coin for our 2005 exhibit, Crum related.
He said it would be premature to identify the coin, or other components of future displays, adding that the company also is respecting clients desire for anonymity.
The debut display set a very high standard for those to come. Its centerpiece the Paquet $20 is considered one of the most desirable and valuable of all U.S. coins and rarely appears on the market.
The elegant double eagle is named for Anthony C. Paquet, who prepared its reverse design a modified version of the Coronet (or Liberty) $20 while serving as an assistant sculptor-engraver at the Philadelphia Mint in the mid-19th century.
Paquet undertook the task in 1860 at the request of Mint Director James Ross Snowden. The objective was to improve the legibility of the inscriptions. Toward that end, the engraver made the lettering taller and more slender than it had been in Chief Engraver James B. Longacre’s original design a relatively modest change that enhanced not only the legibility but also the aesthetic appeal of the coin.
Tests went smoothly but when actual production began in January 1861, a serious problem became apparent at once: Paquet had made the border much too narrow, without a protective rim, and this would expose the modified coins to excessive, unacceptable wear in circulation.
Mint Director Snowden halted production immediately at the Philadelphia Mint and ordered reinstatement of Longacre’s original reverse. At that point, research indicates, only three pieces had been struck at the mother mint and one of these was subsequently melted, leaving just two surviving specimens.
By the time Snowden’s order reached the branch mint in San Francisco, 19,250 pieces had been produced at that facility with the Paquet reverse after workmen there resolved the technical problem. Even those S-mint pieces are extremely scarce, highly coveted and worth a handsome premium today. But the Philadelphia coins are in a class by themselves.
The Farouk-Norweb specimen the one in the Monaco display has been traced to virtually the day it left the Philadelphia Mint. It was acquired in the early 1860s by Benjamin Franklin Bache, a numismatist who lived in Philadelphia. It’s not entirely clear, though, exactly how and why the Mint allowed it to leave.
Prominent dealer-scholar Q. David Bowers has a theory.
It’s strictly hypothetical, Bowers said, but I would suspect that Mr. Bache obtained the coin from someone at the Mint in exchange for something else. The Mint was adding to its cabinet its coin collection at the time, and was doing so by exchanging coins with collectors. So that may be what happened in this case.
Over the years, the coin has changed hands a number of times and been owned for varying periods of time by some of the most prominent numismatists in the world, among them Lorin G. Parmelee, George Woodside, William Woodin (who served for a time as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury), Waldo C. Newcomer, F.C.C. Boyd and King Farouk of Egypt.
Col. R. Henry Norweb and his wife, Emery May, famed collectors from Cleveland, purchased the coin in 1954 for a paltry $5,000. It had reposed before that in King Farouk’s collection, and was channeled to the Norwebs in private negotiations involving Spink & Son of London and John Ford of New Netherlands Coin Co. in New York. The bulk of the Farouk Collection was sold that year in a famous public auction arranged by the Egyptian government after the king’s abdication.
Bowers company, Auctions by Bowers and Merena, offered the coin for sale after the Norwebs died in the mid-1980s and family members decided to disperse their collection. Prior to that, it hadn’t been offered at auction since 1890, when it came under the gavel as part of the Parmelee Collection.
The coin was the star of a Norweb Sale auction in November 1988, where it realized a stunning $660,000 then an auction record for any U.S. double eagle and one of the highest prices paid to that point for any coin.
Crum believes it would break all coin price records if it came up for sale today, including the current auction mark of $7.59 million, established in July 2002 by another former King Farouk coin the Egyptian monarch’s specimen of the 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle.
I’m convinced that this Paquet is worth at least as much as a 1933 Saint, he remarked. Only two of these are known, with this one being far superior, and we could certainly see more 33 Saints come on the market some day. After all, the Mint produced 445,000.
Crum believes that in the current strong market for rarities, the Paquet could bring $10 million or more and Monaco has backed up that thinking by insuring the current display for $10 million during its national tour.
Bowers, too, holds the Paquet double eagle in the highest esteem.
This, he observed, is the rarest collectible variety of the largest denomination of regular-issue U.S. coinage the $20 gold piece. And it’s more than just a mere die variety; it represents a new reverse design, so it’s sort of a type coin all by itself.
Only two examples are known, and this one is in superb mint condition. And besides all that, the coin has a pedigree back to the day it was struck one which includes a Who’s Who of numismatics.
If any coin belongs on a pedestal, this is it.
The Farouk-Norweb specimen has been certified as Mint State-67 by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America. The other surviving Paquet $20 has been certified as MS-62 by a different grading service.
Monaco’s display has a Civil War theme, underscoring the fact the Paquet coin first appeared just as that conflict was beginning. It includes several regular-reverse 1861 double eagles from various mints, plus a number of intriguing artifacts that help capture the historical significance of that turbulent time.
Among these are original Union and Confederate flags, a Union drum, a Confederate musket, busts of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee and perhaps most strikingly a cannonball embedded in a tree trunk from the Gettysburg Battlefield.
Crum has long been a passionate student of early U.S. gold coins, especially Type I double eagles those minted from 1849 to 1866 without the motto IN GOD WE TRUST on the reverse. As a dealer, he has handled a number of exceptionally rare gold coins, including the finest known 1880 gold proof set, complete with both varieties of the stella, or $4 gold piece.
His keen interest in early $20s led him to write an important book on the subject, “An Insider’s Guide to Collecting Type I Double Eagles.” Visitors who register with Monaco at any of the stops on the World’s Most Valuable Coins Tour will receive a free copy of the book. In addition, they will be eligible for a free subscription to the Coin Market Insider, a rare coin and precious metals newsletter.
Education is very important to us, and that’s another big reason for the touring displays, Crum said. There are lots of people buying coins that have no idea what they’re doing. I buy and sell coins because I love them, and I try to educate people on varieties of particular interest.
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