Thursday, May 21, 2015

Rick’s Pedigree Coins – Pedigrees & Hoards: Shipwreck Coins

Shown blow is a reprint of an article appearing in COINWeek on May 21, 2015.  COINWeek is an on-line coin magazine that is free for numismatists to read and enjoy.

By May 21, 2015

Pedigrees & Hoards: Shipwreck Coins


By Rick Bretz for CoinWeek….

Thanks to a fellow pedigree collector, I’ve started to add shipwreck coins to my collection. There’s a lot of information available on each shipwreck, and the stories are as interesting as any “land-based” hoard so why not?

The nice thing about building any pedigree collection is that you can establish your own rules for a set. You could, for example, collect one example each from the shipwrecks you wish to include. You could also target one shipwreck and collect as many different varieties or dates from it as you can.

Or you could pick and choose from an endless variety of approaches the ones that best suit your own collecting interests.

Personally, I limit my collection to one example from each shipwreck, and the coin must be of United States mintage. I’ll touch on another interesting collection later, but for now let’s move on to a more macro look at the shipwreck-coin collecting niche of our hobby.

NGC Guidelines for Grading Shipwreck Coins

As to how shipwreck coins are certified and graded, I’ll use NGC as an example.

Grading shipwreck coins is complicated by the environmental conditions the pieces have endured, but in my opinion, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) has developed a sound and consistent strategy to recognize these conditions and still provide uniform grading standards. For a comprehensive understanding of the process, you can read the complete article detailing the company’s procedures here.

One interesting point they make is that silver coins are susceptible to the “environmental damage” tag and do not receive “hard” numeric grades. However, gold coins–being made of sturdier stuff and not as easily damaged–often avoid the “environmental” tag and receive real grades.

A quick summary for understanding NGC grading is shown below:

Grading Standards for Shipwreck Effect Designated Coins

·         SHIPWRECK EFFECT AA coin exhibiting minimal surface disturbance from saltwater exposure, and exhibiting superior eye appeal for a shipwreck artifact;

·         SHIPWRECK EFFECT BA coin showing evidence of light surface disturbance from immersion in saltwater. May have some areas of moderate disturbance, not affecting central design elements. Coin possesses above-average eye appeal for shipwreck recovery coin;

·         SHIPWRECK EFFECT CA coin displaying moderate disturbance to its surface from exposure to saltwater, while possessing at least average eye appeal for a recovery specimen. Accurate attribution and identification is not hindered by any surface impairment;

·         SHIPWRECK EFFECTPortions of the coin exhibit heavy to severe disturbance from saltwater exposure, with metal loss affecting the design. While accurate identification and attribution may be possible, it is no longer possible to draw conclusive determinations about the coin’s surface prior to saltwater exposure.

                                                 (Source: NGC)

Highlights of Notable Shipwrecks with U.S. Coins

With the help of my aforementioned fellow pedigree collector, I have developed the following summary of notable shipwrecks containing U.S. coins authenticated by NGC and PCGS:

SS New York: The SS New York was a side-wheel steamship that operated between Galveston, Texas, New Orleans and New York City. On September 5-7, 1846, the ship encountered a major hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico after leaving Galveston and was lost at sea. The ship’s cargo included U.S. gold and silver coins as well as foreign coins. Gold coins found in 1990 were thought to have been part of New York’s cargo but confirmation wasn’t forthcoming until 1994. Authenticated by NGC.

SS Central America: The SS Central America operated between New York and San Francisco through the Panama Canal. On Sept. 12, 1857, the ship was caught in a hurricane off the South Carolina coast and sank. When she went down, Central America was carrying primarily U.S. gold with some silver and foreign coins. It was initially found in 1988 but legal battles ensued and recovery is ongoing. Authenticated by PCGS and NGC.

SS Brother Jonathan: The SS Brother Jonathan was a paddle steamer that sank in heavy storms off the coast of California on July 30, 1865. The ship was carrying a large quantity of U.S. gold coins. Located in October 1993. Authenticated by PCGS.

SS Republic: The SS Republic was a Civil War-era side-wheel steamship operating between New York and New Orleans when it was lost in a hurricane on October 25, 1865. The ship contained a fortune in gold and silver coins meant to assist in the rebuilding of New Orleans after the Civil War. Discovered in 2003 off the Georgia/South Carolina coast. Authenticated and Graded by NGC.

As with other pedigree/hoard coins, there’s a lot more to each story and extensive coverage can be found by conducting a web search for the respective shipwreck. In this article, I just want to give the reader a taste of what’s out there.


As I mentioned earlier, there are a number of ways to assemble shipwreck coin collections.

One that I find particularly interesting is a collection limited to 1861-O (New Orleans Mint) Seated Liberty half dollars from the Republic shipwreck. During the year 1861, the New Orleans Mint was operated by three different governments: the United States Federal Government, the State of Louisiana after it seceded but before it joined the Confederacy, and the Confederate States of America (in that order, of course). With the help of the large number of half dollars found on Republic, experts were able to define characteristics (specifically die cracks) unique to each government’s mintage.

Before I close, I would like to pass along a couple tricks I learned identifying listings for shipwreck coins in the “Big Three” auctions:

  1. Heritage: Whether you set up an automatic search program or just use a regular search, the selection criteria default to searching only the listing title. Heritage is extremely inconsistent when it comes to pedigree or shipwreck information in the title line so you’ll miss a large number of coins. I just searched “shipwreck” (April 25, 2015) in the standard Heritage search and found three active auction coins. If I manually modify the default program to also search in the coin description, 21 current shipwreck coin listings appear. That’s 18 more coins that you’d otherwise miss. To me, that’s a big deal, since many of those coins are highly collectible.
  2. eBay: eBay has nothing to do with either the listing or description so it’s tremendously inconsistent and you will miss coins. My suggestion is to try different search term combinations. For example, I was searching for SS Republic coins and I found some that failed to mention the name “SS Republic” but did say “1861-O Shipwreck Coin”. Conversely, when I searched for just the term “shipwreck”, I found listings that failed to include “shipwreck” and only showed “SS Republic”. It’s all over the map, so perseverance is key.
  3. GreatCollections: I don’t have any advice for you here because these guys are consistent and disciplined in how they represent their items. If it has a pedigree, it’s in the title.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Rick's Pedigree Coins – Skidaway Island Collection of Bust Half Dollars

Heritage Auctions introduced an exceptional collection of Bust Half Dollars to pedigree collectors at the Dallas Invitational PNG US Coins Signature Auction at the Gaylord Texan Hotel on February 26 – March 1, 2015.  The collection was graded by NGC with “Skidaway Island Collection” on the label.  The Bust Half Dollars have exceptional eye-appearance and are a true “collection” versus a “hoard” of coins.  The collection included 437 of the Overton numbers ( and approximately 500 Bust Half Dollars in total.  Ownership previously resided with a private collector who remains anonymous.   

Some of the Skidaway Busts acquired in the Heritage (February PNG) auction are now starting to appear in the secondary market at coin shops, shows and on Ebay.  However, if you would like an example for your pedigree collection and don’t necessarily feel like paying the flip premium then you are in luck as the coins are still appearing in current and future Heritage auctions.  Just click on the Heritage link and search “Skidaway” in Bust Half Dollars (  You should see about 25 current offerings.  

The following photos show the amazing quality and beauty of a few of the coins Heritage presented: 

(Photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions)

(Photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Rick's Pedigree Coins - Jacksonville, Florida 2015 Spring Coin Show

The Jacksonville, Florida Coin Club will present their 2015 Spring Coin Show on May 29-31.  Also, I will be attending the show during limited hours to sign copies of both my books.  You can contact the club for the exact times.  

May 29-31, 2015
Show Hours:
Friday: 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Saturday: 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Sunday:  10:00 AM - 3:00 PM

FREE Admission & Parking


Matt Adams, Bourse Chairman
(904) 703-3311


Monday, May 4, 2015

Rick’s Pedigree Coins – Pedigrees & Hoards: The Palace Collection of Egypt’s King Farouk

Shown blow is a reprint of an article appearing in COINWeek on May 4, 2015.  COINWeek is an on-line coin magazine that is free for numismatists to read and enjoy.


By Rick Bretz May 4, 2015

Pedigrees & Hoards: The Palace Collection of Egypt’s King Farouk

By Rick Bretz for CoinWeek….

A lot of my writing about Pedigrees & Hoards is based on the research of others–gathering and processing information from many sources, trying to make contacts with people involved in the discoveries, and then writing the story as you see it.

Sometimes you have to work hard to massage the data you find into something resembling a coherent story. Other times, you run across an article so precise and so well-written that it’s a shame not to share it as-is.

In that vein, I’m going to quote two paragraphs covering the “Palace Collection” written by coin blogger James Bucki in an article entitled “Top 5 Famous Coin Collections of All Time”.

No. 5: King Farouk of Egypt

King Farouk I of Egypt (1920 – 1965) ruled Egypt from 1936 to 1952 when he was overthrown in the Egyptian Revolution and forced to abdicate. Farouk was known for his extravagant lifestyle and glorious spending sprees. In the 1940s, American coin dealers would frequently travel to Egypt to sell him thousands of dollars worth of coins at a time. His collection included approximately 8,500 gold coins, all five known examples of the 1913 Liberty Head nickel and hundreds of U.S. pattern coins, some of which are unique.

The most famous of his numismatic possessions was a complete set of $20 gold Saint-Gaudens double eagles, including the rare 1933 issue. In February and March of 1954, Farouk’s numismatics holdings were sold at the Palace Collections of Egypt coin auctions in Cairo, Egypt. Many of these pieces found their way into other famous coin collections such as the Harry W. Bass Collection, the Norweb Collection and John J. Pittman’s.

While there is much more to the extravagant lifestyle that King Farouk lived, Bucki does an excellent job of recapping several of the highlights contained in the Palace Collection. Two of the most renowned coins in the Farouk Collection were the 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle and of course his 1913 Liberty nickels.

The story of the ’33 Saint is interesting even without its attachment to the Farouk Palace Collection, but when you couple elements of a numismatics, illicit coins, international diplomacy, and a record-breaking Sotheby’s auction, it only adds to the appeal.

 The Palace Collection was broken up after Farouk’s ouster in 1955. The ’33 was supposed to be returned to the United States Government, in accordance with an agreement with Egypt. However, the coin mysteriously disappeared.

In 1996, it was alleged that the long-lost Farouk ’33 had resurfaced. The government set up a sting operation in order to get it back. After a lengthly legal dispute, that coin was “monetized” and sold at Sotheby’s for $7.6 million. It was supposed to be the only “legal” ’33 a private collector could ever own. A recent court decision surrounding the Langbord-Switt hoard of 10 1933s might change this.

Farouk’s 1913 Liberty Head nickel did not lead as interesting life as the 1933 double eagle, but it is still a crown jewel in any collection with only five known to exsist. It is thought that the Palace Collection contained two 1913 Liberty nickels, but at different times.

Despite being a huge and numismatically-important collection, pedigreed coins from the Palace Collection are not as common as one might expect–primarily because the auction took place long before the era of PCGS and NGC.

Still, the coins are out there and the attachment to Farouk brings premium money for many of these fantastic coins.

My example from the Palace Collection was an 1893 Liberty Head nickel.

The coin was authenticated and graded by PCGS and CAC and is featured in my book, Rick’s Legacy – Pedigree & Hoard / Coins & Currency (2015). Sadly, the USPS destroyed the nickel in their negligent handling and now it is lost forever, with only part of a shattered PCGS slab remaining.



Thursday, April 30, 2015

Rick's Pedigree Coins – Binion Collection 1880 8/7 “O” Top-100 VAM-6 Morgan

Several months ago I wrote a column about the new auction site released by David Lawrence Rare & Certified Coins and suggested that Pedigree collectors give it a look.  Well, if you have been giving it a weekly review then you hit a “home run” this past weekend for rare and more difficult to find Pedigrees.  Some of the Pedigrees featured were from the Highland Collection, Newman Collection, Nevada Silver Collection, Binion Collection, McClaren Collection and Longmire Collection.  But if you missed the DLR&CC auction, it is not too late to pick up a quality coin from some of these collections because many are listed as make-offer or still have a few days remaining in auction time.  A few of the noted Pedigree I found interesting are:

  • Highland Collection:  A great assortment of 1889-CC’s, 1893-CC’s and 1893-S Morgan’s offered in auction and as make-offer.  They also have more difficult Morgan dates 1894 and 1895-O’s.  All are graded by NGC.

  • McClaren Collection:  While coins in the McClaren collection are plentiful and mostly common dates, DLR&CC does have an 1887/6, VAM-2, Morgan graded MS63 by NGC that is an interesting variety to have in a Pedigree collection.  This coin would add some respect to an otherwise “ho hum” McClaren collection. 
  • Nevada Silver Collection:  The Nevada Silver Collection is supposedly the Walking Liberty half dollar variety from the Binion Hoard and a favorite of many collectors.  DLR&CC has a couple MS67’s (NGC) in auction that are stunning.

  • Binion Collection:  An 1880 8/7 New Orleans Top-100 VAM-6 Morgan silver dollar from the Binion Hoard.  The NGC Census Report shows that there were only 2, 1880 8/7 New Orleans Top-100 VAM-6 Morgan silver dollars found in the Binion stash.  With a hoard population of only 2 coins, any Binion collector would go all in to catch this rarity.

1880 8/7 New Orleans Top-100 VAM-6 Morgan
 I will offer my readers two bits of advice if you decide to use the DLR&CC auction site.  First, do not wait until the last 15 minutes or less to sign in for an auction.  Much like the old Teletrade site, it is very busy in the closing session and you may not get in.  Second, don’t wait until the last second to bid and try to snipe a coin.  You may not get your bid placed in time and even if you did, the clock has some time added back on it to give competitors a fair advantage in bidding.  The web address for DLR&CC is:  . 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Rick's Pedigree Coins - Pedigrees & Hoards: The Miami Beach Mansion Currency Hoard

The following article is copied from an article I wrote for CoinWeek and was published on April 21, 2015.  Anyone interested in coins or currency should bookmark CoinWeek and read it weekly – great information and it is free.

By April 21, 2015

Pedigrees & Hoards: The Miami Beach Mansion Currency Hoard

By Rick Bretz for CoinWeek….

I like to compare this story to the “Wall of Greed” story. It’s similar in many ways, and in many other ways it’s just the opposite.

Most of the information in this article was developed with the assistance of Marc Michaelsen of Marc Michaelsen Inc. in Boca Raton, Florida. Marc was one of the currency dealers participating in the acquisition of the find. I tried contacting PCGS to gather additional information about who submitted the hoard, when it was submitted and how much was submitted, but it’s been three weeks and counting with no response from them.

The Story

In 2009, a contractor was remodeling a 1920s’ home in the Miami Beach area when he discovered a hoard of approximately 2,000 notes hidden in the wall behind a bathroom sink. The currency was wrapped in a cheesecloth material that was almost completely decayed and while some of the bills were damaged, many were in remarkably good shape given that they were endured the Florida heat, humidity and hurricane season for approximately 80 years. The hoard consisted of 1930s-era small size notes and certificates, most having been printed at the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank. Many of the packs of $5 and $10 notes and silver certificates still had the original bank seals and were in Mint State condition.

A little background for younger readers is probably in order.

In the late 1920s and throughout the ’30s, the USA was suffering from the Great Depression. People had little faith in the banks as they failed in record numbers and regular folks lost their life savings. Many people stopped using banks and hid their money in houses and barns and even buried it for safekeeping. As a result, several hidden treasures have been uncovered during recent remodeling as witnessed by the 2006 “Wall of Greed Hoard” and 2009’s “Miami Beach Mansion Hoard”.

In this case, the contractor notified the homeowner of the find and, surprisingly, the Miami house was still owned by the family of the original owner, but three generations removed. Apparently, the grandparents hid the money in the wall without telling their children, who later inherited the house. In time, the grandchildren became the owners and lived there, not knowing of the currency hidden in the bathroom wall until the contractor discovered the treasure.

The grandchildren realized that the currency might have a collectible value so they explored channels to sell the find. Ultimately, the Miami Beach find was purchased by David Manley (Currency House Inc. in Deltona FL) and Marc Michaelsen (Marc Michaelsen Inc. in Boca Raton FL). PCGS was the authenticating agency for the hoard and PCGS labeled one set as the “Miami Beach Mansion Hoard” and the other as the “Miami Beach Hoard”. Collectors should note that regardless of the difference in labeling, both sets of currency came from the same Miami Beach find–the only difference being the two dealers that were involved.

The homeowner rewarded the contractor for his honesty by sharing the proceeds of the find with him.

And now you can see why I like to compare the “Wall of Greed” and its confrontation with “Miami Beach” and its cooperation.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Rick’s Pedigree Coins – Rare Binion Collection Silver Dollars offered in Heritage & GreatCollections Auctions

In my recent article in CoinWeek and in my blog about the Binion Collection, I stated:

“Assembling a set by date and mintmark has become more difficult as time passes, with the rarer coins residing in private collections–from which they may not resurface for many years. Most of the Binion coins available now are the most common of date/mintmark varieties; however, an experienced collector occasionally will dissolve their collection and rare varieties will suddenly appear at auction.”

I no sooner wrote those words than 3 of the most difficult to find silver dollars from the Binion hoard appeared in auctions.  In case you missed them, here is a summary:

  1. GreatCollections Auctions:  1882-O, MS63, Binion – Hoard population 16 silver dollars. 

(Photo courtesy of GreatCollections Auctions)

  1. GreatCollections Auctions:  1900, MS63, Binion – Hoard population 30 silver dollars. 

(Photo courtesy of GreatCollections Auctions)

  1. Heritage Auctions:  1886, MS66, Hot 50 VAM-1C “3+2” Clash, Binion – Hoard population 4 silver dollars.    

(Photo courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries)

Congratulations to the astute buyer who grabbed these rare examples.  And to those collectors that missed them, you might want to add Heritage and GreatCollections to your search list and check their auctions every week or so.  Both auction houses offer a wide variety of Pedigrees although you may have to do a bit of research to find them.   

Heritage Auctions =
GreatCollections Auctions =