Fans of classic coins are gearing up for one of the most exciting offerings of 19th-century coinage to cross the auction block in years. The Ralph and Lois Stone Collection of United States Silver Morgan Dollars will be featured at the Sotheby’s Historic Coins and Medals sale and will be on exhibition in New York City May 18-21, 2018 before the auction at 2:00 PM on May 21. This collection, assembled by northern California banker Ralph Stone over the latter decades of the 20th century, provides collectors with an assemblage of superb-quality examples of three-cent silvers, Morgan dollars, classic commemorative coins, and other fascinating pieces that fell off the numismatic radar many years ago.
The coins themselves are stunning and will surely inspire fervent bidding during the upcoming May 2018 auction. However, there is a particular feature about this collection that many longtime collectors of third-party encapsulated coins will appreciate: the fact that these coins are in vintage slabs from Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), representing the two major graders at that time. While seemingly few people bat an eye at cracking out coins from early-generation PCGS and NGC holders with hopes of upgrading for a higher grade by today’s graders, this has helped propagate demand for coins in vintage slabs and may eventually lead to significant scarceness of slabbed coins from the mid 1980s through early 1990s.
In fact, all of the Stone Collection coins are in slabs that date from the first ten years of the third-party encapsulation era, which essentially began in 1985 with the founding of PCGS. Therefore, perhaps this auction will mark one of the occasions when the old maxim “buy the coin, not the slab” might be aptly rephrased as “buy the coin and the slab!”
Helping to showcase the supreme quality of these rare coins in vintage slabs is the presence of “beans” (or stickers) by Certified Acceptance Corporation (CAC), a company founded in 2007 by PCGS and NGC pioneer John Albanese. Green CAC stickers are affixed to any coin that is considered premium for its grade, while gold CAC stickers are indicative of coins that, if resubmitted to a third-party grader, are virtually certain to receive a higher grade.
The coins in the collection include some exceptional gems, including some that could easily take a half-million dollars apiece. Among these are a CAC-approved 1893-S Morgan dollar grading MS65 in a PCGS slab, with pre-auction estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It’s one of just 100,000 struck and among the very finest-known examples of this iconic Morgan dollar key date.
Another Morgan series key bound to turn plenty of heads is the 1895 NGC Proof66 with coveted gold CAC sticker. It’s one of just 880 examples and is poised to cross the $100,000 threshold.
Yet another fascinating headliner is an 1884-S PCGS MS67 CAC Morgan, which is one of the greatest conditional rarities in the entire series. Purchased from the legendary collection of Jack Lee, the 1884-S PCGS MS67 CAC is estimated to command $300-500,000 and is miles superior to all other 1884-S Morgan dollars listed in auction records. Other marquee Morgan dollars up for bids from the Stone Collection are an 1892-S PCGS MS67 CAC and CAC-labeled 1893-O PCGS DMPL65 (or “Deep Mirror Prooflike”), both with estimates reaching into the mid six figures.
In addition to Morgan dollars, another exciting large-size silver piece in the Stone Collection is the 1865 Silver Indian Peace Medal, commissioned by President Andrew Jackson for Sihasapa Sioux warrior Kill Eagle, who helped in the rescue of Fanny Kelly after she was captured by a group of Oglala Sioux several months earlier. The peace medal, inscribed with the phrase “Brother, I am pleased with you!” is listed as “the only known Indian Peace medal with an inscription engraved by Presidential order.” This exceptionally rare piece is sure to attract enthusiasts of American history, Native American historians, and exonumia specialists and could hammer for $40,000 or more.