Ron Guth is the Chief Investigator at the Numismatic Detective Agency, and this week he published a blog article on a recent discovery - a Baldwin & Co. gold piece from the Eliasberg collection. Nice find!
Recently, a client asked me to track the provenance on his 1850 Baldwin & Co. $5. Heritage Numismatic Auctions sold the coin -- in a PCGS MS61 holder with a CAC sticker -- as part of the Buffalo Bayou Collection in the January 2022 F.U.N. Sale (lot 4490). The catalog description listed a prior provenance to the Riverboat Collection, also sold by Heritage in April 2014. No additional prior provenance was offered. Since this was a significant condition-rarity example, the client was curious to know if the coin had appeared in any earlier sales. Rarities like this seldom just pop up out of nowhere, so a search is warranted.
Auction records for the 1850 Baldwin & Co. $5 are sparse, as might be expected for a Rarity 5 Pioneer gold coin, but there were several clues that narrowed the field. NGC reports an MS64 example – too nice to be this coin. PCGS reports a second MS61, but that coin has a big rim cud at upper right – something this coin does not have. Superior sold a raw MS60 in 1988, but that's now the second PCGS MS61 with the rim cud. Kreisberg & Cohen sold three Uncs. in the 1975-1980 period, but that was after Eliasberg stopped collecting. Stack's sold a raw Unc. as part of the J.F. Bell collection in 1944, but that coin is now in an AU55 holder. The Unc. details, cleaned example sold by Heritage in August 2011 didn't match, nor did the raw AU58 sold by Stack's in January 2007. The next level down was a group of five PCGS AU55s sold at various times from 2002-2017, but they also did not match the client's coin. Finally, there was the raw AU55 sold by Bowers & Merena as part of the Eliasberg collection in 1996. Below AU 55, the chances of making a match began to dwindle considerably.
I almost missed the Eliasberg match (sort of like having your 8 pound test line snapped by a 22 pound bass). The image in the 1996 catalog was not all that clear and the grade mis-match was almost too great. However, upon closer examination, there were enough matching markers to make a positive identification (see image above).
Upon hearing the news, my client was understandably surprised and pleased. Having a connection to the Eliasberg provenance is an important cachet for any coin. This was a big one that didn't get away.
Provenance research can often be boring and unfruitful, but discoveries like this make it all worthwhile. Thus, I'd like to modify the angler's saying to this:
A bad day researching coins is better than a good day at work.
P.S. There's a possibility that the provenance of this coin goes back even farther. The image of Lot 60 in Henry Chapman's 1924 sale of the Arthur C. Nygren collection has some matching markers, most notably the weakness in the denticles below the date, but there are not enough matches to reach a 100% confidence level. For now, I'll leave it at
To read the complete article, see:
The Eliasberg Project: Rediscovering the 1850 Baldwin & Co. $5
Wayne Homren, Editor
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