A few short days ago, while cataloging coins in our Irvine, California office for our upcoming June 2012 Baltimore auction event, I was given the opportunity to work on the Number One PCGS Registry Set of circulation strike Liberty nickels. Named the Land of Smiles Collection – which also includes top-of-the-pop Proof Liberty nickels certified by PCGS, as well as a few equally special pieces certified by NGC – the set was a pleasure to behold and a joy to examine in minute detail. Virtually every coin in the collection is the finest certified by PCGS or else tied for finest certified. All the dates were included, from both types of 1883 right through to the three 1912 issues – no 1913 was included, of course, as only five were struck and several of those have permanent homes in museum collections.
Of the 39 pieces in the collection, a figure that includes a few duplicate dates, there were two pieces graded MS-67+ and seven pieces graded MS-67, with numerous MS-66+ and MS-66 pieces also in the mix. Indeed, of the 39 pieces that crossed my desk, 33 coins were either the finest certified within their respective designation or else tied for finest certified! Many of the coins were richly toned as well, and the eye appeal across the board was nothing short of spectacular! Our consignor also has a great eye for overall quality, as most of the coins were as sharply struck as ever seen within the Liberty nickel series – the coin’s designer Charles Edward Barber would have loved this collection.
I was impressed by many of the coins owing to strike and other factors. There are two 1884 nickels in the collection, the pair of them making up the entire population – two pieces – of the date certified at MS-66+, with none graded finer. The 1885 and 1886 key date issues were MS-66 and MS-65 respectively, and the final date, the key 1912-S issue was certified at MS-65+.
In 25 years of numismatic auction cataloging in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire – and now on occasion in Irvine, California – many fine collections have come under my gaze. I have left my mark on complete collections of Indian cents, Lincoln cents, Buffalo nickels, Mercury dimes, and various other denominations, all of them thrilling in their time and all of them memorable to me. The Land of Smiles Collection has also left its mark in the numismatic corner of my mind. I’m certain that many of the world-class coins in the collection are destined to end up in other PCGS Registry Sets, and no doubt some of the pieces will go on to be the foundation of another top-ranked Registry Set. With a little good fortune, I may be the cataloger of that set as well!