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The Kernochan Family with ties to Mrs. William B. Astor to sell gold coin collection at Bonhams
1795 Small Eagle $5 AU58 PCGS. Est. $25,000-35,000. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- Bonhams announced the sale of the Kernochan Family Collection of United States Gold Coins in the Coins and Medals auction held on June 2, 2014 in Los Angeles. The 1859 PCGS PR62+ Cameo $20, one of the great rarities in the US coin series, is a highlight of the 24 coin collection. The only other known example was sold in 1982 as part of the Eliasberg Sale, which brought at the time an impressive $71,000. The current example would rank as the second finest known and is expected to sell between $100,000 to 150,000.

Early examples of Colonial Era coinage is also represented, namely a 1795 and 1807 $5 Half Eagle, both graded AU58 by PCGS. These coins are expected to bring between $7,000 and $40,000. All the coins have been in the possession of the Kernochan family and were uncovered in the bank vault of John Marshall Kernochan (1919-2007), an early 20th century patriarch of the family.

The Kernochans were an Irish immigrant family who first worked as colliers and teamsters, then made a fortune in dry goods in the 19th century. Joseph Kernochan’s (John Marshall Kernochan’s paternal great-grandfather) sons and daughters married into New York’s aristocracy and rose to become members of Mrs. William B. Astor’s “Four Hundred.” According to legend, this was the number of Society’s elite who could fit into her opulent ballroom.

Also headlining the June auction at Bonhams is the second part of The Champagne Lanson Bonnet Vineyard Collection of US Gold Coins. The well-publicized discovery occurred by chance in France in February 2012 when, according to the vineyard, several of the coins rained down on a worker remodeling a former grape-drying facility.

The original collection featured 497 US $20 gold coins minted between 1851 and 1928 and realized over $1 million. The coins were untouched for nearly a century and ranged in condition from Very Fine to Choice Mint State. This more modest grouping of 80 coins is composed primarily of US $10 gold Eagles, ranging in dates from 1839 to 1911 with values estimated between $700 to $3,000.

Paul Song, Director of the Rare Coins and Banknotes Department at Bonhams, says of the auction, “Bonhams is extremely pleased to be working with the Lanson-BCC Group for a second time. We are excited to offer the second part of this newly-discovered and unique treasure to auction, which will not only promote the presence of the Lanson Group champagnes within the US but with its success, half of the proceeds from the auction will go to the individual who discovered the coins. In addition, it is an honor to be handling a fine collection of US Gold Coins, which has been in the Kernochan family's possession since the early 1900s, and we are delighted to include it in this summer's sale."

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