Monday, February 23, 2015

Rick's Pedigree Coins - Pedigrees & Hoards: The Dr. Buzz Aldrin Collection

The following article is copied from an article I wrote for CoinWeek and was published on February 23, 2015.  Anyone interested in coins or currency should bookmark CoinWeek and read it weekly – great information and it is free.

Pedigrees & Hoards: The Dr. Buzz Aldrin Collection

By Rick Bretz for CoinWeek….
Okay, so you collect pedigree coins and have a fairly nice assortment. Well, I might be going out on a limb here but I’m pretty sure you don’t have this one:
Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions
This 1923-S Peace dollar accompanied Buzz Aldrin on the Apollo 11 flight to the moon. Normally, a 1923-S Peace dollar in this condition is worth melt, but with this kind of provenance it brought $31,070 in a Heritage coin auction in 2007. The Heritage auction description read:
Buzz Aldrin’s 1923-S Peace Silver Dollar Flown on the Moon Mission Aboard Apollo 11. This historic peace silver dollar flew to the moon with Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11 as part of his Personal Preference Kit (PPK). The coin, minted forty years before Dr. Aldrin was selected as part of the third group of NASA astronauts in October 1963, must surely be one of the rarest peace dollars in existence. How many collectors can point to a 1923-S Peace Dollar that has been to the moon? The coin has been encapsulated (slabbed) by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) with the following wording: “1923 S S$1 / Flown On The Moon Mission / Apollo 11 – July 16-24, 1969 / Dr. Buzz Aldrin“. -From the personal collection of Dr. Buzz Aldrin, accompanied by a signed Letter of Authenticity from him.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Rick's Pedigree Coins - Pedigrees & Hoards: The El Cortez Casino Collection

The following article is copied from an article I wrote for CoinWeek and was published on February 20, 2015.

By February 19, 2015

Pedigrees & Hoards: The El Cortez Casino Collection 


By Rick Bretz for CoinWeek….

Probably no other state has brought as many “hoards & collections” into the hobby as the state of Nevada. Several have interesting stories, like the Binion and Fitzgerald collections, but all started out as hoards.  The El Cortez Casino Collection, however, was true to its name–it started as a collection.

The El Cortez Casino Collection once belonged to legendary gaming pioneer Jackie Gaughan, the fourth owner of the El Cortez Casino in downtown Las Vegas. The El Cortez Casino has an interesting pedigree of its own; mobster Bugsy Siegel was its second owner. For many years, Jackie assembled a collection from coins found passing through the casino. While most were silver Morgan and Peace dollars, a few gold coins resided in his collection. I was told that the collection was on display at the El Cortez Casino for many years.

Jackie was the cornerstone of gambling in Las Vegas, and at one time owned 25% of downtown real estate. He also owned, had an interest in, or operated 11 casinos in the downtown area: the Pioneer Club, Las Vegas Club, Golden Nugget, Showboat, Union Plaza, Sundance, Nevada Hotel, Club Bingo, Gold Spike, Western Bingo–and his jewel, the El Cortez.

With such an expansive career, there are many stories about Jackie, and one of my favorites revolves around the mobster Irish Green. While the story seems to have grown in the telling, the version I heard was that when Jackie purchased the El Cortez he inherited a non-paying guest, Irish Green. Apparently, Mr. Green “did right by Bugsy Siegel” and was offered free residency at the casino for life. When Jackie learned of his “guest” he contacted Benny Binion (owner of the Horseshoe Casino) to try to talk Benny into taking Green off his hands. Benny’s response was, “Hell no, I have to feed him – you can house him.” And Irish stayed at the El Cortez until his death.  Rumor has it that the ghost of Irish Green still wanders the floor where he resided and maids have heard unexplained noises and doors open and close for no reason…

An interesting aspect of Jackie’s collection is its dearth of duplicates.  In most cases you’ll find one date/mintmark for a coin. The only duplicates I’ve ever seen are common-date Peace dollars.
The collection also contained a few gold pieces, but they’re extremely rare and seldom seen at auction. The only gold piece I’ve seen is a 1924 Saint-Gaudens $20 double eagle.

Gaughan sold his collection to Spectrum Numismatics International in December of 2007. NGC was selected as the authenticating agency to insure that the heritage of the collection was preserved and that collectors were getting the “real deal”. Over the next few years, pieces from the collection appeared in auctions and were quickly gobbled up by private collectors. Today, the coins are rarely on the market and command a healthy premium.

Jackie Gaughan died in Las Vegas on March 12, 2014, at the age of 93.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Rick's Pedigree Coins – David Lawrence Rare Coins (DLRC)

David Lawrence Rare Coins has just released their new website for coin sales and auctions and for Pedigree collectors – well it just really simplified your search for coins on their website.  In past articles I have written how DLRC has had some of the more difficult to find Pedigrees (North Shore Collection and Gilded Age Collection) and now he has made finding these rarities even easier.

 The pictures are amazing quality but the great part is that as you drag your cursor over the pictures, the respective full slab for that coin appears.  So you can quickly see the slab and see if it is a Pedigree that you may be interested in.  Often times there is not enough room in the coin description to list Pedigree titles, so they are omitted and you are forced to click on the coin to see the full slab and then hit the back button to return to your search.  Well, not any more at the DLRC website!  They simplified it, have great pictures and are consistent in their presentations.

You can give it a try at:

Also, while you are at it, check these pedigrees: 

And don't forget to check my "Pedigrees & Hoards" column appearing in CoinWeek on-line magazine.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Rick's Pedigree Coins - Pedigrees & Hoards : The Champagne Lanson Bonnet Vineyard Collection

The following article is copied from an article I wrote for CoinWeek and was published on February 13, 2015.  Anyone interested in coins or currency should bookmark CoinWeek and read it weekly – great information and it is free.

Pedigrees & Hoards : The Champagne Lanson Bonnet Vineyard Collection

By Rick Bretz for CoinWeek….

On a winter day like any other winter day in February 2012 in the village of Les Riceys, France, a common laborer of simple means awoke and headed to work at the Lanson Winery. Upon arrival, he was dispatched to help prepare a barn for the upcoming grape harvest.

Once inside the barn and busily cleaning and removing debris, the laborer noticed an old bag above his head and started to poke at it. Suddenly the obstacle broke loose and 497 U.S. gold double eagles rained down upon him. The hidden treasure of double eagles included both Liberty and Saint-Gaudens varieties, with dates ranging from 1851 to 1928. It isn’t known how long the coins were in the loft or how they got there, but the theory is they were hidden during World War II.

The day laborer showed his character and integrity by taking the coins to his supervisor.  After seeing the find and its potential worth, efforts were made to find the original owners but they were futile. As the story goes, like most of France the Les Riceys area incurred tremendous losses from the Nazi’s during World War II and complete families disappeared. Property records were lost, which included lawful ownership and operations of local businesses. Search efforts were unsuccessful and the double eagles remained in the hands of the Lanson Winery.
Representatives from the Lanson Winery smartly realized the collecting value of the find and contacted Bonhams, a well-respected and internationally-recognized auction house, to manage the auction release of the coins. Bonhams was delighted to have the opportunity to make this collection available to collectors and termed the find the “Champagne Lanson Bonnet Vineyard Collection”. Professional Coin Grading Service’s (PCGS) European Submission Center provided authenticating and grading services and applied the appropriate pedigree to the label. 

The coins were brought to public auction in Los Angeles, CA on June 3, 2013, and the collection sold for approximately $1 million. Private collectors, investors and coin dealers participated in the purchases and Monaco Rare Coins was successful in acquiring many of the coins and offered them in sets.

The day laborer was rewarded for his honesty by receiving half of the proceeds from the auction under French law and is planning on purchasing a home for his family.

Rick's Pedigree Coins – Binion Collection – White Labels – Standing Liberty Quarter

The Binion collector is used to seeing the common NGC green cowboy label on the slab for his coin.  However, occasionally, the traditional NGC white label will appear instead of the Binion cowboy label making the collector wonder “what’s up?”  Here is a little insider information for you:

First, go the NGC link shown below to verify the coin is a legitimate Binion Collection coin.

The NGC verification system will tell you if it is a legitimate Binion or not.  If the verification system does not say it is a Binion and the label indicates that it is, contact NGC.

So you found it is a legitimate Binion coin, but why the white label?  All the Binion coins originally graded/authenticated by NGC were encapsulated with the famous green cowboy label.  However, the following conditions resulted in some coins receiving white labels:

1.)    It may have been returned to NGC for re-holdering and NGC was out of the green cowboy labels or the customer failed to specify they wanted the cowboy label.

2.)    It was authenticated after the original/initial Binion grading/authenticating process.

But not to worry if this bothers you.  The last time I checked with NGC they still have the green cowboy labels and for a modest fee ($10 last June – 2014) they would re-slab the Binion for you.

Shown below is a 1930-S Standing Liberty Quarter from the Binion Collection in a white label.  Note that it has no grade on the label.  This is the first and only Standing Liberty Quarter that I have seen from the Binion hoard.  

Rick's Pedigree Coins – CoinWeek

For those following my blog on Pedigree coins, I have started to write for CoinWeek and my column should run every couple of weeks.  You can find CoinWeek at the following link:

A search engine appears in the upper right side of the page and if you type in my last name my articles will appear.  From there you can select the one that interest you; either the latest or one in the past. 
My writings for CoinWeek will be limited to Pedigree coins so I will continue to publish my blog – both the same stories appearing in CoinWeek and other articles.  I like the flexibility that the blog gives me in selecting a topic that may be other than Pedigree focused but still interesting to collectors.  I am thrilled by the opportunity to write for CoinWeek because it greatly broadens the audience to educate and promote Pedigrees.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Rick's Pedigree Coins – 1893 Fitzgerald Collection Morgan Silver Dollar

Every once in a while you get lucky and I got lucky about a week ago when searching Ebay for pedigree coins.  I was getting bored scrolling through the pages of Morgan silver dollars and about to quit when a listing for an 1893 Morgan silver dollar appeared and I recognized the Fitzgerald Collection label from the photo.  I could not believe it.  At first I thought I had the coin and checked my collection, but there was no 1893 listed.  Next I grabbed my book, “Fitzgerald Silver Dollar Collection – The Purple Gang Set” and turned to the population report in the back.  I quickly discovered why I did not have it – the population for this coin is “1”.  And this is the one – and only – authenticated and graded by NGC from that hoard.  Needless to say, it made my day!  It was one of the most exciting purchases that I have made in a while.