You Don’t See This Every Day!

I started collecting coins when I was just a little kid in the early 1980s. I remember going to my local coin shop and marveling at the old coins inside the glass case, wondering who may have held them. Did Abraham Lincoln use this Flying Eagle cent to pay for something when he was practicing law in Illinois? Did one of George Washington’s soldiers drop this coin on his way to Valley Forge, only to be found centuries later by a metal detectorist in a local park? The fascination really stemmed from the fact that I was holding it in MY hand now! The same coin Lincoln may have used, or a Revolutionary War soldier may have dropped on his way to battle. How amazing! How fascinating!

And then, some years later, there were slabs. Everything of any value is now tucked away neatly into a little plastic box, preserving it for posterity and ensuring that its authenticity is beyond dispute. There are many benefits to certifying coins. The biggest impact has arguably been the expansion of the hobby to the non-collecting public. Now, you don’t have to be a coin expert to know if a coin is authentic, if it’s been damaged in any way, or whether it’s been properly graded. Everything you need to know is right there on the label. But holding it in your hand is not quite the same.

The other day a client dropped off some coins for review. One of them is the coin pictured above: A High Relief MCMVII double eagle. Struck in 1907 from a design prepared by world renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, this coin is often called the finest design ever to appear on a U.S. coin, and one of the finest in the entire history of numismatics. When I was a kid, this was the one coin I was certain I would never hold. As I got older and more involved in the profession, I saw several High Relief Saints in holders, all very beautiful, but I never got to see one “in the wild” as it were. Until last week, that is. It’s truly a pleasure to be able handle this type of material, but the little kid in me is running out of numismatic dreams that haven’t yet come true!

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