Sedwick hosts record $3.1 million auction

9 Nov

A variety of rarities and strong turnout by bidders helped propel Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC’s Treasure Auction 24 results to over $3.1 million, a record-breaking sale for the firm. The sale, held live on Nov. 2-3 in Orlando, Florida and online on Nov. 5, featured over 2,300 lots. All prices cited include a 19 percent buyer’s premium.

Among the top lots in the sale was a set of specially struck 1915-dated Cuban gold pesos (lots 146-151). Five of the six coins, the 1, 2, 4, 10, and 20 pesos, are specimen strikes and certified as such by NGC. They are the only known specimen strikes for the series. The sixth coin, a 5 pesos, was graded NGC MS 66+ for its exceptional surfaces and is the finest graded for the type. All together, the set raised $473,025 on a combined $49,000 low estimate. The six lots were sold individually yet purchased by the same bidder. The top coin for the set was the specimen 20 pesos which took in $130,900 on a $20,000 and up estimate.

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Cuba 1915 Specimen 20 Pesos, graded NGC SP 63. Realized: $130,900.

“This was our largest sale yet,” said president and company founder Daniel Sedwick. “This result was helped by having a variety of rare coins that appealed to a wide audience of collectors.”

An example of one of the first coins to be struck in the Americas, a Mexico City-struck Charles-Joanna “Early Series” 3 reales graded NGC VF 30, went up for bid as lot 664. Once bidding had concluded, the coin sold for $83,300 on a $35,000 to $70,000 estimate.

664

This Charles-Joanna “Early Series” 3 reales (note the denomination as three dots between the pillars) realized $83,300.

Strong bids were placed for two large silver bars, lots 256 and 257, recovered from the shipwreck of the Atocha, sunk in 1622 off Key West, Florida. Both bars came with Mel Fisher photo-certificates, were graded Class Factor 1.0, were of similar weight (83 troy pounds, 2.3 troy ounces and 81 troy pounds, 6.56 troy ounces, respectively), and estimated at $30,000 to $45,000 each. The bars ended up selling for $59,500 and $56,525, respectively.

Latin American world gold coins fared especially well in the sale. Lot 206, a Cuzco, Peru, 8 escudos, 1837BA, FEDERACION type, graded by NGC as MS64+ Prooflike realized $53,550 on a $35,000 to $50,000 estimate.

206

This Cuzco, Peru, 1837BA 8 escudos graded NGC MS64+ Prooflike is the finest recorded on the NGC census.

Other top lots in the auction include:

  • Lot 5 – Mexico City, Mexico, cob 8 escudos, 1715J, special planchet and strike, NGC MS 64, ex-1715 Fleet, sold for $50,575.
  • Lot 90 – Seville, Spain, cob 2 escudos, 1619G, ex-Atocha (1622), sold for $38,080.
  • Lot 25 – Lima, Peru, cob 8 escudos, 1710H, NGC MS 63, ex-1715 Fleet, sold for $33,320.
  • Lot 247 – Gold “finger” bar, 466 grams, marked with fineness XVII (17K), twice cut, encrusted with coral, ex-“Golden Fleece wreck” (ca. 1550), sold for $30,940.
  • Lot 32 – Lima, Peru, cob 8 escudos, 1714/3M, very rare, PCGS MS62, ex-Pullin, ex-1715 Fleet, sold for $28,560.
  • Lot 1 – Mexico City, Mexico, cob 8 escudos, 1713J, NGC MS 64, ex-1715 Fleet, sold for $16,065.
  • Lot 901 – Argentina (River Plate Provinces), 8 reales, 1815F, Potosi mint, PCGS MS64+, sold for $15,470.
  • Lot 249 – Small gold ingot, 6.35 oz., dated 1959, New York Assay Office, ex-Bently Collection, sold for $13,090.
  • Lot 568 – Mexico City, Mexico, cob 8 reales, (1)715(J), from the pirate ship Whydah (1717), sold for $13,090.
  • Lot 1477 – USA (Philadelphia mint), high relief $20 St. Gaudens “double eagle,” 1907, wire rim, sold for $9,520.
  • Lot 1557 – Colombia, Banco de Panama, 5 pesos, ND (ca. 1869), serial RP 1715, PMG Choice VF 35, sold for $2,975.

Full prices realized can be viewed at auction.sedwickcoins.com. The company’s next auction will be held February 20, 2019 with a consignment deadline of March 3, 2019.

NGC-certified Cuban gold coins far exceed estimates at auction

7 Nov

Special article contributed by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation

 

Six NGC-certified gold Cuban coins struck in Philadelphia, including two that realized six figures, were among the highlights of an auction held Nov. 2-5 in Orlando, Florida. All far exceeded their pre-auction estimates at the sale by Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC.

 

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Cuba 1915 Specimen 20 Pesos, graded NGC SP 63. Realized: $130,900.

The two top lots in the entire auction were a 1915 Cuba Specimen 20 Pesos, graded NGC SP 63, and a 1915 Cuba Specimen 10 Pesos, graded NGC SP 64. Realizing $130,900 and $107,100, respectively, the coins represent an interesting time in Cuban history.

After a brief time as a US protectorate, Cuba became independent in 1902. Still, the US maintained considerable influence in the island republic for decades, as evidenced by the designer and mint of these gold coins, the first issued by Cuba.

Struck at the Philadelphia Mint, they were designed by US Mint Chief Engraver Charles Barber (famous for the US Barber Dime, Quarter and Half Dollar). The Cuban coins were issued in denominations of 1, 2, 4, 5, 10 and 20 Pesos, and a small number of Proofs were made. It is believed some 24 to 36 of the 10 and 20 Peso issues were struck in Proof, along with 100 each of the 2, 4, and 5 Peso coins. The most common is the 1 Peso issue, with some 140 Proof coins struck.

The 1, 2, 4, 10, and 20 peso coins from this set were clearly something different. They were not exactly Proofs, but also clearly not Mint State coins. It is apparent that these coins were struck with extra pressure in order to bring up the rims, and it is likely that the planchets were also specially prepared. This gave the coin a semi-matte appearance, in comparison to the mirrored fields of the Proof issues.

The top lot in the auction was the Cuba 1915 Specimen 20 Pesos, from this special, unique striking. This coin was from a set of six coins, which included five Specimens and one exceptionally nice Mint State example. While the 20 Pesos was only estimated at $20,000 to $40,000, it sold for an astounding $130,900.

 

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Cuba 1915 Specimen 10 Pesos, graded NGC SP 64. Realized: $107,100.

Also breaking the six-figure mark was the 10 Peso issue. It is also believed to be unique, and brought $107,100, far higher than its $10,000 to $20,000 estimate. The same collector who purchased the 20 Peso coin bought this one, as well as the other four coins in the set.

In all, the six coins realized $473,025, more than four times their cumulative estimates. Compare this amount with the result of a similarly graded 1915 gold Cuban Proof set (as opposed to specimens) that was sold as a single lot in January 2018 by Heritage Auctions for $180,000, and you can see that the set in the Sedwick sale is in a league of its own.

The remaining four Cuban coins were among the other NGC-graded highlights from the sale:

“We were very pleased with the results on NGC-certified coins, which are becoming a bigger part of our offerings with every auction,” said Daniel Sedwick, president and founder of Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC.

History and Design Merge with Classic Commemoratives

31 Oct

By Connor Falk

 

The classic commemorative silver half dollar series represents a merger of historical events and people with appealing coin designs. Issued between 1892 and 1954, classic commemorative halves were struck and sold to the growing coin collecting community in the United States. The use of coinage to represent important American events, places, people, and events broadened the appeal of coin collecting. Their designs reflect both the classical themes in use during the late 1800s and early 1900s, the art deco era of the 1920s and 1930s, and the post-World War II modernism during the late 1940s and early 1950s.

 

Due to their low mintages and wide collector market, the series has appreciated substantially from the $1 to $2 the coins were originally sold for. In this article, I’ll highlight three important classic commemorative coins as well as an overview of the other commemoratives in our Nov. 2-3 auction.

 

150th Anniversary of Captain Cook’s Discovery of Hawaii – 1928

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1928 Hawaii Half Dollar

Commemorating the sesquicentennial of Captain James Cook’s arrival at the Hawaiian islands on a commemorative half dollar was initially raised in 1927 by the territorial government of Hawaii. The bill easily passed Congress and was signed on March 7, 1928 by President Coolidge. The Philadelphia Mint struck the complete mintage of the type at 10,008 coins. Eight of those struck were used for assay purposes; the other 10,000 were sold by the Bank of Hawaii at $2 a coin. The commemorative proved to be very popular with collectors and quickly sold out. Since then, its low mintage, scarcity, and popularity both in subject matter and design have driven demand and it is now considered a key date in the classic commemorative half dollar series.

 

The obverse of the coin depicts a left facing bust of Captain Cook with the legends UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, IN GOD WE TRUST, and HALF DOLLAR just above, to the right, and below the bust, respectively. To the left of the bust, it reads “CAPT. / JAMES COOK / DISCOVERER OF / HAWAII.” The reverse shows a Hawaiian chieftain in front of a Hawaiian beach, holding a spear and with his right arm outstretched with the legends E PLURIBUS UNUM and 1778 1928 below.

 

The example in our sale, lot 1498, is graded NGC MS 63. The estimate on it is $1,250 to $2,000.

 

400th Anniversary of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s Old Spanish Trail – 1935

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1935 Old Spanish Trail Half Dollar

The authorization and design of the 1935 Old Spanish Trail half dollar was a personal project of L.W. Hoffecker, an El Paso coin dealer and ANA official (he would later become the organization’s president from 1939 to 1941). In his position as the chairman of the El Paso Museum Coin Committee, he lobbied the government for a bill to commemorate Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s expedition from Florida to northern Mexico from 1528 to 1536. Once the bill had passed, Hoffecker worked with a sculptor, Edmund J. Senn, to create the coin design in plaster based on Hoffecker’s original sketches.

 

The design takes some artistic liberties with Cabeza de Vaca’s travels: stops in St. Augustine, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Mobile, New Orleans, Galveston and San Antonio are shown despite Cabeza de Vaca travelling mainly by boat around the Gulf coast. Upon approval of the designs, the US Mint struck the 10,008 coin mintage in September. Hoffecker received 10,000 of the coins to resale for $2 plus postage; another eight were used for the Assay Commissions annual meeting. By most accounts, the coins were well-received by collectors and, though they took time to sell out, are rather scarce and desirable.

 

The obverse of the coin shows a cow head, symbolizing Cabeza de Vaca which literally translates as “head of a cow.” Above, the legends read UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, E PLURIBUS UNUM, and LIBERTY, below the legends read ALVAR NUÑEZ CABEZA DE VACA and HALF DOLLAR. The reverse design consists of a palmetto tree in front of a map depicting Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas with a line showing Hoffecker’s interpretation of Cabeza de Vaca’s journey. El Paso is marked at the far left. Legends read OLD SPANISH TRAIL above and 1535 – 1935 below.

 

The example in our sale, lot 1504, is graded NGC MS 65. The estimate on it is $800 to $1,200.

 

100th Anniversary of Missouri’s Admission to the Union – 1921

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1921 Missouri Centennial Half Dollar

The authorization for the Missouri Centennial half dollar called for a massive mintage of 250,000 coins, a reduction from the 500,000 called for in a prior draft of the bill. Such a mintage would easily make it one of the most common classic commemoratives, yet only 50,028 coins were struck. Of this, 28 were set aside for the Assay Commission. The 50,000 mintage was then sent to the Sedalia Trust Company for mail orders as well as sales at the Missouri Centennial Exposition at a price tag of $1.

 

Of these 50,000 coins, 5,000 were initially struck with a special notation 2*4 to the left of the bust before having this device ground off the dies. For the 45,000 without the 2*4 notation, 29,600 coins were melted after sales proved sluggish. The final numbers, 5,000 coins with 2*4, 15,400 without 2*4, are suspect as modern market prices suggest the availability for both versions is about the same with a slightly higher premium for the 2*4 versions. Many numismatic experts suggest a roughly even 10,000/10,400 split is more likely.

 

The obverse shows a left-facing bust of Daniel Boone wearing a coonskin cap with the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA above, 1821 and 1921 flanking, and HALF DOLLAR below. The notation 2*4 is present to the left of the bust, just above the 1821. The reverse shows a frontiersman holding a rifle and gesturing to the left, directing the attention of a Native American who is holding a peace pipe. A field of stars is set along the background with SEDALIA below and MISSOURI CENTENNIAL above.

 

The example with 2*4 notation in our sale, lot 1490, is graded NGC MS 64. The estimate on it is $800 to $1,200.

 

Other Classic Commemoratives in our auction:

Varieties of Rincón Three Reales of Mexico Charles-Joanna

29 Oct

By Cori Sedwick Downing

 

Some of the earliest coins struck at the Mexico City mint were in the 3-reales denomination, under the first assayer Francisco del Rincón (hereafter Assayer R). We can establish a relative timeline for Assayer R coins by the analyzing the quantity of lettering that is Gothic compared to the later Latin lettering. Sometimes other elements, such as the use of native punches instead of original Spanish punch designs, give us additional timeline clues. As a result, there are three varieties of 3-reales coins, in the following chronological order:

 
1. Coins with three dots for denomination and water running beneath the pillars (similar to but not the same as “pillars and waves” in later coinage)
2. Coins with three dots for denomination and no water
3. Coins with three bars for denomination and no water

 
There was some crossover of design from one variety to the next, and there was more than one design within each group.

 
By royal decree a quarter of the silver minted at the Mexico City mint was for 2- and 3-reales coins. Based on analysis of lettering, the 3-reales pieces were minted before 2-reales coins. The original decree mandated that 3 reales would be paid to
mint officials for each mark of silver they coined (according to Nesmith, the actual payout was 68 maravedís, or 2 reales, pp. 14, 43) Perhaps that’s why the 3 reales were minted in the first place; regardless, they were quickly discontinued by royal fiat.

 
How We Study the Coins

 
Many different design elements differentiate one coin from another. We usually analyze both the shield side and the pillars side separately, but we can also compare a whole coin to others. Instead of using the terms obverse and reverse, we prefer to say shield side and pillars side to avoid any confusion since there is a difference of opinion among numismatists as to which is the obverse and reverse.

 

CJ3RealesArticle1

Figure 1: Lot 615, Sedwick Treasure Auction #14, October 2013 (enlarged, illustrating important design elements)

 

Shield-side elements we analyze are the following:

 
• Whether the lion in the shield has a tongue and a crown
• Whether the pomegranate at the bottom of the shield has leaves or dots on either side of it
• Whether the crown is contained within the beaded circle or outside of it
• Whether there are four or eleven rondules in the crown
• Whether the mint mark of “M” is Gothic or Latin
• Whether all, some, or none of the legend around the shield contains Gothic or Latin lettering
• What the legend spells out (particularly how the legend ends and what stops are used to separate words)

 
Pillars-side elements we analyze are the following:

 
• Whether there are three dots with water under the pillars, three dots and no water, or three bars for the denomination
• In which direction the ribboned banner runs
• What is contained within the banner (in the case of 3 reales, PLVSVL or PLVSVT)
• Whether all, some, or none of the legend around the pillars contains Gothic or Latin lettering
• What the legend spells out (particularly how the legend ends and what stops are used to separate words)

 

Varieties of Three Reales

 
Three Dots for Denomination with Water Under the Pillars

 

 
The design element of water running under pillars must have been short-lived, given the scarcity of known coins—just four in total. This is the only Early Series coinage with this design, while waves under the pillars was a hallmark of the Late Series designs as well as later designs at other New World mints. Interestingly, the sea is calm on 3-reales coins, while the Late Series coins display choppy waters. For whatever reason, this must not have been a popular issue and was probably soon replaced by the three-dots variety without water.

 
The banner that runs between and wraps around the outside of the pillars always contains PLVSVL within it (an abbreviation for PLVS VLTRA). [It changes to PLVSVLT in the three-dots/no-water variety and reverts to PLVSVL in the three-bars variety.] The banner wraps around the pillars from lower on the left to higher on the right. [In the no-water type, the banner wraps in either direction. In the three-bars variety, the banner wraps in the same direction as the three-dots/water variety, with a Latin L instead of a Gothic L in PLVSVL.]

 
There are two known shield-side designs for this type:

 

• those with the crown (which sits atop the lions-and-castles shield) contained within the beaded circle; thus a legend surrounds the entire coin, and
• those with the crown outside the beaded circle (the design for all other Charles and Joanna coins).

 
Again, there must have been some experimentation with this design since there is no other denomination— Early or Late Series—in which the crown is contained within the beaded circle.

 

CJ3RealesArticle2

Figure 3: Lot 195, Sedwick Treasure Auction #4, November 2008 (illustrating Latin M and crown within the beaded circle)

 
Of the two known coins of the type where the crown is within the beaded circle, one displays a Gothic M mintmark on either side of the shield (the convention for coins of this period) and the other displays a Latin-M mintmark, as on the coin below. [This Latin mintmark also appears on two designs of the three-dots/no-water variety and was illustrated by Nesmith as his 5a variety. It is also interesting to note that one of those is a “crown within the beaded circle” design. Its shield side is a very close cousin, with the only discernible difference being “:” instead of “.” as a stop in the legend (all lettering is Gothic).]

 
Within the shield, the lions have tongues and crowns and the pomegranates have leaves. There are four rondules above the crown. This is true of most of the other 3 reales.

Of the second shield-side design—those with the crown outside the beaded circle—the lions in the shield are different, with a furry mane and no tongues or crowns (what Nesmith called a “native imitation”). They can be found on no-water 3 reales of the Nesmith 5b variety, of which three are known. There are probably two different legends which, like the above, are very close cousins. The legend may end in D or R on one and DE or RE on the other. The lettering is all Gothic except for Latin O’s in KAROLVS and IOHANA. The lions do not have tongues or crowns and the pomegranates have dots in place of leaves. There are four rondules above the crown.

 
On the pillars side of the coins, things are much simpler: all four known coins are struck from the same die. This lends credence to the idea that this was the lower die, or pila, which was sunk into an anvil, since that die received less wear and tear than the upper die, or troquel. All coins bear a Gothic R for assayer below the PLVSVL banner and three dots above it. All lettering in the legend is Gothic.

 
Three Dots for Denomination Without Water Under the Pillars

 

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Figure 4: Lot 517, Sedwick Treasure Auction #22, November 2017 (three dots, no waves)

 
The bulk of the at least 40 known 3-reales coins are of the three-dots/no-water variety, nineteen of which belong to one type, the Nesmith 5c. Two other types contain nine coins (Nesmith 5b) and seven coins, respectively, and the rest are unique or almost unique types. It is evident that these coins were minted after the “water” series, given the greater use of crude or Latin lettering as the Gothic punches wore out. The Latin letter N in the legend is composed of two vertical lines and a slanted line that runs in either direction (normal N or retrograde N). This is common in other denominations under Assayer R as well. Why this is true of only the letter N is unknown and indicates a lack of a proper Latin N punch.

 
The fact that there were only a certain number of Gothic punches from which to create coins is illustrated by the letter M. The Gothic oMo-oMo on either side of the shield contained a smaller M than was needed to finish INDIARVM on the legend of the pillars side and thus the small Gothic M at the end of the word looks strange.

 

On the shield side of the coin, there are two die carryovers from the three-dots/with-water variety, Nesmith 5a and Nesmith 5b.

 
There are seven legend varieties, ranging from all-Gothic to mostly crude or Latin lettering. The use of the retrograde N appears in the later coins with the cruder lettering. The O punch (in IOHANA) must have been an early casualty of overuse because that’s the first letter to make the change from Gothic to non-Gothic.

 
On the pillars side, the same ornament used to make the crowns of the pillars—a sort of three-petaled shamrock—becomes the initial part of the legend on that side at 12 o’clock, replacing the cross potent that was used in the three-dots/with-water series. It disappears again in the three-bars variety that followed. The final M in INDIARVM is either Latin or Gothic (usually Gothic).

 
The banner that runs between the pillars always reads PLVSVLT unlike the three-dots/with-water variety which reads PLVSVL. The banner wraps in either direction with Nesmith 5a and 5b types running from high left to low right and 5c from low left to high right.

 
Three Bars for Denomination

 

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Figure 5: Lot 615, Sedwick Treasure Auction #14, October 2013 (three bars)

 
The greater use of non-Gothic lettering and crude execution place this coin variety in the last of the 3-reales coins minted before being replaced by 4-reales coins (which turned out to be much more suitable currency). The ornament at 12 o’clock in the pillars legend is now different from both of the earlier versions of 3 reales, what Nesmith called a punch 9 (or 10 when worn). We still do not have a name or description for this punch as it does not appear on any other Spanish coin, whether minted in Mexico City or elsewhere. It only appeared on Mexican coins under Assayer R.

 
The only three-bars variety that Nesmith cataloged, which he called 5d, is not illustrated by any other coin we have seen and thus all three-bars coins are hybrids of it. Since it is photographed in his book, we know it exists. As with the three-dots/with-water variety, there are few specimens to examine and most are unique. Of the nineteen examples, four are unique. Why the mint transitioned from three dots to three bars is unknown; however, “bars” for numbers can be found on coins minted during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabel. The bars resemble old Spanish accounting shorthand for Roman numerals, according to Daniel and Frank Sedwick in the 4th edition of The Practical Book of Cobs (pp. 27-28). In a perfect timeline, it would make more sense that three-dots varieties would follow three-bars varieties, but this is not the case. As with many aspect of this complicated series, we don’t usually know anything with certainty. Dots were used for denomination in 2 reales. By the time 4 reales were minted, the denomination was expressed as an Arabic 4.

 
The three-bars type always has the same PLVSVL in the banner running between and around the pillars, and the wrap direction of that banner is as the three-dots/non-water type; by this time, however, the L in the banner is crude rather than Gothic.

 
An important discovery is that there is a die-match with the three-bars shield side and the earliest of the 4-reales designs as illustrated below. In addition, the later three-bars coins have eleven rondules in the crown above the shield, while all others (and all three-dots/with-water and three-dots/no-water) have four rondules in the crown. Again, this is part of the design carryover from 3 reales to 4 reales.

 

CJ3RealesArticle4

Figure 6: Die match from 3 reales to 4 reales

 
On the three-bars shield side, there is one die carryover from the three-dots/no-water variety, in addition to six other shieldside legend varieties (five are exclusive to four-rondule crowns, two are exclusive to eleven-rondule crowns, and one is found on coins with both types of crowns). Lions have tongues and crowns, and pomegranates have leaves.

 
There are two pillars-side legends which differ in the use of N or retrograde N in INDIARVM and a “:” inserted in INDIAR:VM. Many of the letters are crude, with H in HISPANIE bearing a diagonal slash to make it resemble a crude K.

 
Conclusions

 
The most important discovery from this research into the 3-reales varieties from the Mexico City mint is that there was a die overlap between 3- and 4-reales coins. Previously these were thought to be distinct entities. Now we know that, for some period of time, the mint produced 4-reales coins using a 3-reales shield-side die. While the coins are not the same size and weight, it was possible to do this since often the tops of the legend letters on 3-reales coins were cut off while the complete legend is discernible on the few 4-reales coins we can use for comparison.

 
Based on die details, we can state that there are three broad phases of coin production under Assayer R:

 
• 3, 2, 1, ½, ¼ reales were produced first,
• 4 reales were produced next,
• And the implementation of the rhomboid panel to replace the ribboned banner with some form of PLVS VLTRA (and limited production of 8 reales) was the final phase before the start of the next assayer’s tenure.

 
Within the family of 3-reales coins, there were three varieties: three dots for denomination and water under the pillars, three dots for denomination with no water under the pillars, and three bars for denomination with no water under the pillars. We have about twice as many examples of the second variety than either of the other two, and the first variety is exceedingly rare. But, who knows whether more varieties exist? And who knows whether there are more sub-varieties within each of these three? Perhaps if we ever see the 38 recorded 3-reales coins in “buena conservación” (well-preserved condition) from the Inés de Soto shipwreck we would be surprised. (Inés de Soto, p. 129) It is doubtful that any 3-reales coins with dots and water were found on the wreck, as none is illustrated nor mentioned in the description written by Alfredo Díaz Gámez. (Inés de Soto, p. 115)

PCGS-graded coins up for bids in Sedwick’s Treasure Auction 24

22 Oct

Heavy bidding is expected for a plethora of rare and historical coins graded by PCGS during Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC’s Treasure, World, U.S. Coin and Paper Money Auction 24. The lots up for sale run the gamut from rare shipwreck gold to South American coins and medals that are missing in major collections. The floor auction will take place Nov. 2-3, 2018 in Orlando, Florida and online at auction.sedwickcoins.com with an internet-only session to follow on Nov. 5.

PCGS-graded coins

Bidding on the above lots is open from now until the lots hammer down during the Nov. 2-3 sale. Bidders interested in viewing the lots in person can see them Oct. 25-28 at booth #1137 during the Whitman Baltimore coin show. Lots will also be available for viewing at the auction site Nov. 1-3. For more information regarding the auction, please visit www.sedwickcoins.com/ta24/catalog.htm.

Captain Sam Bellamy and the Whydah: The Fateful Decisions that Brought Spanish 1715-Fleet Treasure to the Shores of Cape Cod

19 Oct

By Daniel Frank Sedwick

Samuel_Bellamy2

Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy

Born in England in 1689, Samuel Bellamy became a sailor early in life and fought for the Royal Navy during Queen Anne’s War (War of Spanish Succession). Like so many other sailors, he was at loose ends after the war, so he decided to go to Cape Cod, probably to seek employment, in the spring of 1715. In July of that same year, the Spanish lost an immeasurable fortune in the 1715 Fleet disaster, wherein many thousands of coins and ingots from Mexico, Peru and Colombia went to the reefs and shores of eastern Florida in a hurricane. Such news was irresistible to an unemployed but experienced sailor like Bellamy, who soon formed a group of fellow adventurers to seek their fortunes chasing the treasures of the 1715 Fleet. This was his Fateful Decision #1.

 

After the sinking of the Spanish 1715 Fleet on July 31, the survivors sent longboats to St. Augustine and Havana to obtain relief. Just two weeks later the Spanish launched a rescue and salvage operation that continued into the year 1718. Without proper defenses, however, the salvage sites were sitting ducks for fortune-seekers, and news quickly spread to the two biggest Caribbean privateers of that time, Henry Jennings of Jamaica and Benjamin Hornigold of the Bahamas. It was not long before both of these famous pirates met Sam Bellamy.

 

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The red X marks the resting place of the Whydah.

Bellamy, along with his chief financial backer and second-in-command, the New Englander Paulsgrave Williams, arrived on the east coast of Florida to find that the Spanish had already begun salvage work and the treasure was not simply there for the taking as they had thought. The easy stuff was already salvaged by the Spaniards and being guarded onshore. Enter the pirates: After the news reached Jamaica in November, the English privateers Henry Jennings and John Wills sped to Florida and raided the salvage camps to come away with a reported 120,000 pesos in treasure. This vast fortune caused quite a stir back in Jamaica and launched a political battle between England and Spain that in effect gave rise to unabashed piracy based in the Bahamas, where eventually the King had no choice but to grant a general pardon in 1718 for any pirates who turned themselves in.

 

Sam Bellamy, meanwhile, faced having to return to New England empty-handed and answer to the investors who financed his salvaging venture, or instead turn to piracy. This was his Fateful Decision #2, and it brought him and his men to the Central American coast, where they exchanged their salvage vessel for two smaller and much faster boats known as periaguas (like huge canoes but capable of handling the seas). For several months they plundered ships off the Mosquito Coast, adding to their crew along the way. While heading to the better target of Cuba, Bellamy encountered the likes of Henry Jennings, fresh off his return to Jamaica with the 1715-Fleet loot. The timing was right for this veteran privateer to become Bellamy’s first pirate mentor. Together they attacked Baya Hondo, on the north coast of Cuba, on April 3, 1716, overpowering a French ship and taking its 28,500-peso windfall in the form of what were no doubt 1715-Fleet coins, which the Spanish in Cuba had just traded for illicit goods from the French. Word of another rich French vessel to the east attracted Jennings’ attention, although his scouts soon found that his rival Benjamin Hornigold had beaten him to it. The over-confident Jennings decided to go after Hornigold, and in a severe lapse of judgment, he left Bellamy with the loot in Baya Hondo. Now known as “Black Sam,” Bellamy took the treasure and ran, which was his Fateful Decision #3.

 

Jennings did not find Hornigold, but somehow Bellamy did, with a different purpose. Hornigold was not just famous for privateering but also for mentoring other buccaneers, most prominently Edward Teach, better known as “Blackbeard,” who was Hornigold’s second-in-command by the time they met Bellamy. Hornigold loved the fact that Bellamy had tricked Jennings, and he gave his new student the sloop Marianne. Throughout the summer of 1716, the pirate flotilla carried out successful raids, but increasingly the pirates grew tired of Hornigold’s policy of not taking British ships or cargo. During a careening stop, it was decided that Black Sam Bellamy would be the new master, and Hornigold, along with his protégé Blackbeard, was sent packing. (As a side note, Hornigold soon retired from piracy, taking advantage of the aforementioned pardon in the Bahamas in 1718, while Blackbeard continued his adventures in one of his prizes, which he named Queen Anne’s Revenge, later lost off the coast of North Carolina in 1718, and was killed by the British Navy in November of that same year.)

 

sed_why_bell

Closeup of the Whydah’s bell.

Bellamy, still in the Marianne, proceeded to ransack the Caribbean, taking over 50 ships along the way in a very short amount of time. In December of 1716, off Guadeloupe, Black Sam captured the ship Sultana, made her his new flagship, and installed his second-in-command Williams as captain of the Marianne. In February of 1717, somewhere between Cuba and Haiti, the pirates spotted a new, 300-ton slave galley and chased it for three days before finally taking her without a fight. Her name was Whydah, and she was on the homeward journey after just having exchanged her cargo of slaves for what again had to be Spanish coins from the 1715 Fleet. Bellamy and his men counted the treasure on board—20,000 to 30,000 pounds sterling in value—and divided it into 180 shares, one for each of the 180 pirates in the crew. Also divided were bags of gold from Africa, including gold dust and Akan gold jewelry, and reportedly East Indian jewelry as well. With all this treasure, and considering her newness and agility, Bellamy decided to make Whydah his new flagship and container for all the pirate loot, amounting to some four-and-a-half tons of silver and gold divided into 180 shares, not to mention other goods and an arsenal of cannons. In return for not resisting, Bellamy graciously allowed the former captain of the Whydah to sail away on the Sultana, leaving Bellamy and his pirates with just the Whydah and the Marianne.

 

For whatever reason—be it the needs of a New England carpenter to return to his family, or the objective of starting a new “pirate kingdom,” or simply to make repairs, Bellamy steered the Whydah and Marianne up the east coast and northward to the faraway shores of Maine. Even though each of his 180 pirates now had more wealth to his name than a typical lifetime of earnings for an honest man of that age, the captures did not stop, and the convoy added two more ships, the Mary Anne, which provided the gleeful pirates with a cargo of fine Madeira wine, and the small sloop Fisher, which gave them the benefit of a local navigator in the foggy and treacherous waters of the northeast (the fate of the Marianne at this point is unknown). Drunk from the wine and feeling confident in his ability to safely navigate, Bellamy made his Fateful Decision #4, which would be his last: The ships steered toward Cape Cod.

 

The historical record does not specify that Bellamy intended to stop at Provincetown at the northern tip of the Cape, but the fact is that he turned his ships that way when he should have turned more to the east if he was still headed to Maine. Romantics believe the reason for the return to Cape Cod—ignoring the risks of capture and prosecution—was a woman. Her name was Maria Hallett. Sam Bellamy met her by accident just before he left for the Florida coast in 1715, and the two fell in love immediately. Upon his departure, Bellamy told her he would return with vast treasures, marry her and start a new life with her as prince and princess of some island in the West Indies. Some even say she was pregnant when he left, and bore Bellamy’s son in his absence, only to have that son die under mysterious circumstances, all without Bellamy’s knowledge. It is hard to see Bellamy’s navigation toward Cape Cod on that fateful April night—and indeed the entire northward trek—as less than an attempt to see his beloved. Naturally the story continues with Hallett watching from the shore as the Whydah went down, and of course pining for Bellamy forever after. But as with any good love story, the facts have commingled with fictitious romance, and we will probably never know the truth behind Bellamy’s final fateful decision to steer toward Cape Cod and lose everything.

 

What Bellamy did not know, however, was that a storm was bearing down on the three ships and soon would wreck them all in the shallow sands off Cape Cod. For various reasons, most of the pirates and their captured artisans survived from the other ships, but only two aboard the Whydah lived to tell their tale. The pirates were soon captured and tried for piracy. These trials, in fact, provide many details about Bellamy and the Whydah that we would not know otherwise. In the end, each of the condemned pirates was goaded into penitence by the famous Puritan minister Cotton Mather before execution. Whether dying on the wreck or on the gallows, each pirate missed out on the general pardon of 1718 by just a few months.

 

The next famous figure in this story is Captain Cyprian Southack, the Boston official responsible for retrieving as much of the wreckage as possible. By his account, the Whydah lay in 13 feet of water just 500 feet from shore—but the cold water and poor conditions made it impossible to dive the wreck, not to mention the fact that the ship had capsized and sank into the sand upside-down, with all the treasure therefore buried deep below the ballast and cannons and everything else. His efforts to recover washed-ashore parts of the ship were rebuffed by the beachcombing locals, and he even got stuck with the bill for burying all the dead pirates.

 

sed_why_coins2

Examples of treasure recovered from the Whydah wreck site.

But Southack was an expert cartographer, and it was his data that made it possible for the Whydah to be found in modern times by Barry Clifford, whose sleuthing pinpointed the wreck site at more like 20 feet of depth an additional 1000 from the coast, due to erosion and rising sea levels that had even sunk a nearby town that Southack had used for reference. Clifford’s efforts were roundly criticized by the archeological community until his team recovered a large bronze bell with the actual name of the ship on it. Since then, Clifford and his team have recovered 48 cannons (plus twelve more still on site) and literally tons of treasure, including around 15,000 silver coins and hundreds of small pieces of Akan gold, with hundreds more still encased in yet-to-be conserved concretions—but the “mother lode” at the bottom has yet to be reached.

 

It is staggering to think of what riches from the 1715 fleet are yet to be found on the Whydah—intriguingly, there are gaps in dates and types of coins recovered from the 1715 Fleet in modern times that the Whydah instead could account for. Already we have seen among the Whydah recoveries many silver coins from the mints of Lima and Potosi that are scarcely represented in the 1715-Fleet finds of modern times. In gold coins from the Whydah we might expect to see Lima gold cobs of the year 1714, which are rare from the 1715 Fleet (not to mention the controversial date 1715, which may or may not have been possible from the 1715 Fleet for Lima). Most tantalizing of all are the hundreds of Mexican gold “Royals” (round presentation pieces) that are mentioned in contemporary documents but that exist only in small numbers so far from the 1715 Fleet recoveries. Barry Clifford and his company continue to search and salvage the Whydah site. When—not if—they find the “mother lode,” it will be a new day for the collectors and researchers of 1715-Fleet coins!

Want to see (and possibly own) two coins recovered from the Whydah? Check out lots 568 and 569 in our Nov. 2-3 Treasure Auction 24 HERE.

Bibliography:

Clifford, Barry (with Peter Turchi). The Pirate Prince: Discovering the Priceless Treasures of the Sunken Ship Whydah. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.

Clifford, Barry (with Paul Perry). Expedition Whydah: The Story of the World’s First Excavation of a Pirate Treasure Ship and the Man Who Found Her. New York: HarperCollins, 2000.

NGC and PMG-graded highlights in Sedwick’s Treasure Auction 24

17 Oct

Many rare and, in some cases, unique NGC-graded coins and PMG-graded notes are up for bidding in Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC’s Treasure, World, U.S. Coin and Paper Money Auction 24 to be held on Nov. 2-3, 2018. The floor auction will take place live in Orlando, Florida and online at auction.sedwickcoins.com with an internet-only session to follow on Nov. 5.

NGC-graded coins

PMG-graded notes

Bidding on the above lots is open from now until the lots hammer down during the Nov. 2-3 sale. Bidders interested in viewing the lots in person can see them Oct. 25-28 at booth #1137 during the Whitman Baltimore coin show. Lots will also be available for viewing at the auction site Nov. 1-3. For more information regarding the auction, please visit www.sedwickcoins.com/ta24/catalog.htm.

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