This auction will be best remembered for the Philip Keller collection of colonials, which included, in addition to many other items, two hundred and seventy different varieties of Connecticut copper coins and eighty three New Jersey coppers. As I have minimal knowledge of the die varieties of colonial copper coins, I asked Greg Hannigan to comment. He actively deals in such items. Also, he has personal roots in Connecticut.
As “for the auction on Thursday night, it was very busy with phone, internet and floor bidders and went very strong,” Hannigan concludes. “The floor not packed at all, mostly just the usual suspects. However, [there were] also five or six serious collectors bidding strong. The tougher variety colonial coins [in this auction] were the key varieties of Connecticuts, Fugios and New Jerseys, which brought much higher prices then we have seen in the past. Of course, there were a few exceptions,” Hannigan explains. The “key varieties” tend to be those for which there are five to twenty pieces known to exist.
Some are even rarer. A 1785 Connecticut Copper with an “African Head,” lot #3179, is one of just three known. It is NGC graded Very Fine-30. I will not attempt to explain the pair of dies that were used to strike this coin. Hannigan’s “guess was it was going to sell for $80,000 or so, which [would have been] strong. It could have sold for $45,000. But, it opened at about $55,000 and sold for $115,000,” Hannigan observed.
Hannigan mentions three specific Connecticut coppers for which four to twelve are known to exist. “All three [are] very rare and went very strong,” Hannigan asserts. One, lot #3188, is a 1787 Connecticut Copper with a small head that is facing to the right and has a particular variation of the standard lettering on the reverse (back of the coin). The NGC determined that it does not merit a numerical grade and has ‘Good’ level “details.” Heritage cataloguer Mark Borckardt grades it as Good-04, in accordance with the standards of early copper specialists, and Hannigan agrees with this Good-04 grade. It is not a coin of tremendous quality. Hannigan was surprised that it “sold for almost $10,000”!
The next Connecticut Copper that Hannigan cites, sold as lot #3197, is said to be corroded and is certified by the NGC as having the details of a Good grade coin. Borckardt grades it as Almost Good-03. It realized $4600, many multiples of the price of a similar coin of a relatively common variety.
The third Connecticut Copper, which Hannigan mentions in the context of varieties for which four to twelve are known, is particularly important because the obverse (front) die used to strike it was later extensively modified and used to strike coins that look very different. Note that it has “environmental damage” and has ‘Very Good’ level details, according to the NGC. It was earlier in a January 1972 Bowers & Ruddy auction. It sold, as lot 3200, for $6325. “All three of these non-pictured [in the print catalogue], damaged and details coins,” Hannigan exclaims, went for more than double of what I [Hannigan] thought they would bring!”
The Keller collection is just too extensive to discuss in just a few paragraphs. I am glad that Greg Hannigan provided a few examples of rare and interesting Connecticut Coppers that realized surprisingly high prices. Also, there were a wide variety of colonial and U.S. coins in this auction. It was my intention here to discuss a few that are unusually interesting.