Rare 120+ year-old coin collection sells for $1.6 million

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Rare 120+ year-old coin collection sells for $1.6 million
1836 Gobrecht Silver Dollar. Name on Base. Judd-60 Original, Pollock-65. Rarity-1. Silver. Plain Edge. Die Alignment I. Proof. AU Details--Graffiti (PCGS).

BALTIMORE, MD.- Stack’s Bowers Galleries just sold for the first time the very rare coin collection of James Allaire Millholland (1842-1911), which has been locked away for more than 120 years, for $1.6 Million.

The Millholland Collection brings us back in time for a rare glimpse at old-school collecting, when coins were acquired one per date and beautifully laid out in custom-built wood trays and cabinets. Stack’s Bowers Galleries and buyers in attendance experienced great excitement when the approximately 550 coins in the collection crossed the auction block in their Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Spring Expo in Baltimore on March 21 and 22.

James Allaire Millholland, born in 1842, was an active participant in the industrial explosion of the 19th century in western Maryland. His father was an early American railway master mechanic, responsible for the invention of important mechanisms on the early railroad. Millholland followed a similar path to that of his father, becoming a master mechanic and later a railroad executive, playing a significant role in railroads and mining companies in western Maryland. He found pleasure in collecting coins in his spare time, and collected through at least 1894, as the coins in his collection trail off in that year.

After having been tucked away for well over a century, Stack’s Bowers Galleries is honored to bring Millholland’s collection to the numismatic market. Nowadays, it is unheard of to come across a private collection that has remained untouched and intact for over a century, as most collections dating to the 19th century have long since been dispersed or are in museum collections. “Outside of Millholland family members, we at Stack’s Bowers Galleries were the first in over 120 years to catch a glimpse of these coins,” commented Andrew Bowers. “It was like opening a time capsule when Millholland’s grandchildren, now in their 80s, brought the collection to us.”

Upon opening the wooden cabinet, most probably built by the crafty Millholland himself, Stack’s Bowers Galleries specialists were stunned to find row upon row of gorgeous coins carefully laid out in wooden trays. Some were well used but still desirable examples of coins meant for circulation, while many were nearly perfectly preserved examples of Proof coins—specimens with a special mirrorlike finish prepared expressly for collectors. Over the century and a quarter in the wooden environment of the coin cabinet, many of the coins have toned, taking on colors of the rainbow that modern coin collectors love and will pay premiums to capture for their private holdings.

The collection includes all denominations from the half cent through the silver dollar, and begins with the 1790s-era coins struck for general circulation, with Proofs predominating with coins of the 1860s and later. About one third of the collection is composed of Proofs, which seemed to be Millholland’s preference, and some of these were very possibly purchased directly from the Mint. Millholland kept a meticulous manual record of his holdings in a pocket-sized personal ledger. Homemade listings were essential and commonplace in that era, as reference works and listings were not as prevalent as they are today. At the end of this ledger, Millholland listed several coin dealers with whom he apparently did business. The list reads like who’s who of the 19th century coin trade: Scott and Co. of New York City as well as Philadelphia dealers J.W. Haseltine, A.M. Smith, Mason & Co., and S.H. & H. Chapman, among others.

Today, coins are collected by date and mintmark, a tiny letter which indicates where a specific coin was minted. In some years, coins were produced at multiple minting facilities. But the Millholland collection is a product of its time, with a focus on collecting one coin of a date, with mintmarks being of no consequence. The collecting of coins by date and mintmark only started to take off in the 1890s, inspired by Augustus Heaton’s book known as “Mint Marks,” published in 1893, around the time Millholland’s active collecting came to an end.

The Stack’s Bowers Galleries team highlighted several pieces from the Millholland Collection, especially the 1865 Proof Liberty Seated dollar, which is third-party graded by PCGS as Proof-66+ (on a scale of 1 to 70), putting this lovely specimen in the upper echelon of its date and type with few finer pieces extant. Its vivid obverse rainbows are beautiful enhanced by elegant and complementary peripheral reverse toning. Millholland’s twenty-cent pieces—a short-lived denomination most Americans have probably never heard of—are highlighted by an 1877 that is third-party graded as Proof-66 by PCGS, one of the highest graded by that firm. Its surfaces present a gorgeous array of electric blue, gold and rose coloration from long cabinet storage.

Additional highlights of this collection included an 1856 Flying Eagle cent, the first year of the denomination struck in the reduced size that we are familiar with today, and an 1818/5 Capped Bust quarter graded MS-65+ by PCGS, one of the very finest survivors of this issue. Lengthy date runs of vibrantly toned half dimes, dimes, quarters, half dollars, and silver dollars rounded out the collection and feature every color of the rainbow. The collection included many coins of entry level value to rarities worth tens of thousands of dollars, popular key dates, and plenty of circulation strike issues to go along with the Proofs.

Stack's Bowers Galleries conducts live, Internet and specialized auctions of rare U.S. and world coins and currency and ancient coins, as well as direct sales through retail and wholesale channels. The company's 80-year legacy includes the cataloging and sale of many of the most valuable United States coin and currency collections to ever cross an auction block — The D. Brent Pogue Collection, The John J. Ford, Jr. Collection, The Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection, The Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection, The Joel R. Anderson Collection, The Norweb Collection, The Cardinal Collection and The Battle Born Collection — to name just a few. World coin and currency collections include The Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection of World Gold Coins, The Kroisos Collection, The Alicia and Sidney Belzberg Collection, The Wa She Wong Collection, The Guia Collection, The Thos. H. Law Collection, and The Robert O. Ebert Collection.

Topping off this amazing numismatic history is the inclusion of the world record for the highest price ever realized at auction for a rare coin, the 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar graded Specimen-66 (PCGS) that realized over $10 million, part of their sale of the famed Cardinal Collection. The company is headquartered in Santa Ana, California, with offices in New York, Tulsa, Wolfeboro, Hong Kong, and Paris. Stack's Bowers Galleries is an Official Auctioneer for several important numismatic conventions, including American Numismatic Association events, the New York International Numismatic Convention, the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Spring, Summer and Winter Expos, and its April and August Hong Kong Auctions.

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