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MUSINGS ON THE KONSTANTINE COLLECTION BY SHERIDAN DOWNEY

Let’s let the cat out of the bag. Konstantine (I know him as “Mr. K”) is the 4-year-old son of Charles Link. Pop owns the coins, not Mr. K. I met Chuck Link in 1986 at a coin show in San Francisco. Ron Gillio, owner of Pacific Coast Auction Galleries, was selling an old-time collection of unattributed bust half-dollars from the Hope Ranch Collection. My mentors, Elton Dosier and Henry Hilgard, sat with me. We faced little competition. A bonanza of nice coins and interesting varieties came our way. There was one exception. Against the wishes of our greedy trio, a particularly desirable 1809 half-dollar was hammered down to a young man sitting across from us.

After the auction I made it my business to introduce myself. Chuck Link displayed a cherubic countenance that suggested that he’d yet to take up shaving. He assured me that he had. I further learned he had studied at Stanford. Glory be! My alma mater; Henry’s as well! An animated discussion ensued, during which Henry, Elton and I introduced Chuck to the addictive pastime of collecting bust half-dollars by die variety. As a college student, Chuck was low on the mother’s milk of coin collecting, money. He did not, however, lack a thirst for knowledge, be it in school or numismatics. For the next 15 years or so Chuck read, observed, listened and learned. When the rewards of his academic accomplishments arrived, he set about the task of assembling the finest set of Capped Bust Half-Dollars ever seen.

Mr. K’s 73-piece PCGS Registry Set of Red Book varieties will be auctioned by Legend Rare Coin Auctions on September 26. It is a small but important part of Chuck Link’s remarkable collection. At last month’s ANA World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia the “Konstantine Collection” was on display. It caused a commotion among BHNC members during lot preview. As the Convention neared its end Laura Sperber was kind enough to deliver the entire collection to my bourse table for unhurried, quiet examination. I made notes on each coin. Many, of course, are “old friends,” having passed through my hands in recent years. Notable pedigrees are legion: Eliasberg, Prouty, Meyer, Norweb, Friend, Gardner and Pogue come to mind. I was happily surprised that, in hand, the eye appeal of the coins generally exceeded that of the photos available on Legend’s web site. It is a testament to Chuck’s enthusiasm for the series that the forthcoming sale will not deprive him of a single die marriage! His remaining coins encompass all 450 die pairs listed in Overton – plus three more, the Crushed Lettered Edge proofs of 1833, 1834 and 1835.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SALE

Many of Mr. K’s coins would qualify as the “highlight” of a sale of capped bust half-dollars. In my time alone with the coins these are the ones that, for one reason or another, caught my eye. Your mileage may vary. Do not assume that a failure to comment on a coin indicates a degree of displeasure. I simply had nothing to add to the cataloguer’s description.

There are four 1807’s in the sale. The first year of Reich’s design is known for erratic, often dismal strikes. The 50/20, small stars and large stars varieties, lots 2, 3 and 4, are exceptionally well struck. The toning and surfaces of the 50/20 (ex Dale Friend), as well as the small stars, are first rate for the assigned grades, MS 63 and MS 62. The 1807 large stars (O.114, lot 4 in the sale) was graded gem MS65 at NGC and CAC; PCGS agreed and crossed the coin at grade, from the Newman sale. Though a later die state, the strike is remarkable, the surfaces nearly pristine.

The 1807 Bearded Goddess, lot 1, is an old friend. I first saw it at the November 1988 B&M sale of the Norweb collection. My cryptic notes on the coin survive: dark grey, massive break, original. I agreed with the grade, XF 45. It had been hidden away since “before 1913,” when purchased “by Albert Fairchild Holden from Alexander.” Larry Briggs, representing a customer, outbid me for the coin, paying $2,540. That was 30 years ago. Five years later the coin reappeared at the pre-ANA show in Towson, MD. Gordon Berg had a consignment of lovely bust halves from an anonymous collector. The Norweb Bearded Goddess was in the group. I did not let it escape. From there it passed to Gehring Prouty. Upon his death it went to Michael Summers. Then to David Kahn and, finally, to Chuck Link in 2008. The PCGS AU 53 grade includes well deserved brownie points for originality and late die state. I love the coin. NB: I’ve seen several PCGS 1807’s misattributed as O.111b and labeled “Bearded Goddess.” They are, in fact, examples of the scarce O.111a with a full beard. To qualify as the rare O.111b Overton requires the die break to continue through the eye and headband, into the cap. The Norweb-Prouty-Summers-Kahn-Link coin does just that.

1808/7 O.101, lot 5. A solid MS 63, lightly toned, well struck with excellent luster.

1808 O.103, lot 6. The Pogue coin, graded MS 67; pristine and pretty. Softly struck at the rims; the centers decently impressed.

1809 XXX Edge O.102, lot 7. A pretty coin. I like the subtle iridescence. Obverse well struck; the reverse with some weakness in the left wing, as usual. Graded AU 55 with CAC sticker.

1809 III Edge O.109b, lot 9. Terrific eye appeal. Ex Pogue. Late die state but well struck devices. A “wow” coin. MS 65.

1810 O.102a, lot 11. A pure white blazer graded MS 64. No argument. Chin and top of left wing weak, as usual.

1811/10 O.102(!), lot 10. A sticky R.4, graded MS 63 CAC, that should thrill die variety collectors. Weak rims, soft dot, as always. Ex Heritage auction, June 2015, lot 3957, with no mention of provenance. An important coin.

1811 Large 8 O.103, lot 12. Top eye appeal. Old-time album or envelope toning. MS 64. Wow!

1811 Small 8 O.106, lot 13. Well struck. Gorgeous sunset colors. MS 65 CAC.

1812/1 Small 8 O.102a, lot 15. Ex Newman. Original “antique” toning with color through stars and legend. Very pretty MS 64 with CAC sticker.

1813 50/UNI O.101, lot 17. Early die state with BOLD UNI! MS 64.

1813 O.107a, lot 18. MS 64 CAC. Great strike except top of left wing. Superb toning.

1814 O.103, lot 20. MS 66+ CAC. A whizzbang coin with cakey luster. Pastel halo toning. Wow!

1814 E/A O.108, lot 21. Well struck(!), early die state. Pretty coin. Dave Olmstead (Alpine Numismatics) found the coin in an ANACS holder in 1997 and sold it to Charlton Meyer. Link purchased it from me in 2008 and crossed it to its current PCGS AU 58 holder.

1815/2 O.101a, lot 22. Reasonably attractive. A private treaty acquisition in 2012 as NGC MS 64. PCGS settled on MS 63, noting, perhaps, cabinet friction on the chin and somewhat unusual toning.

1817/3 O.101a, lot 23. A beautifully toned coin, graded MS 63+. The only concerns are rather heavy drift marks on the reverse. Otherwise a 64+.

1817/4 O.102, lot 24. Not much to add to the extensive catalog description. The coin is a strong VF 35 with nice surfaces and no problems. Brent Pogue met me in the PCGS parking lot the day it was graded (along with other Meyer rarities). He became the new owner before we reached the airport. Great coin, nice provenance!

1817 O.111, lot 26. Exceptional strike and eye appeal. A gem. Graded MS 65.

1818/7 Lg. 8 O.101a, lot 27. Only MS 62, but with the look and eye appeal of a coin put away in the 19th century. I was reminded of the Garrett collection.

1818 O.107, lot 29. Full strike with original antique toning. A gem. Ex Friend and Gardner as MS 65 CAC. Now MS 66.

1819/8 Small 9 O.101, lot 30. Spectacular toning and well struck. MS 64+. Looks better. A couple of toning spots over the cap may have influenced PCGS.

1819/8 Large 9 O.104, lot 31. Nice surfaces and original antique toning. MS 65, no CAC. Near gem.

1820/19 Sq. Base 2 O.101a, lot 33. Beautiful album toning, Ex Newman, as NGC MS 64. Very sharp strike.

1820/19 Curl Base 2 O.102, lot 34. Top end 63. PCGS gave it a +. CAC approved. Cakey luster, antique grey toning. Couple spots on the reverse.

1820 Sm. Date, Curl 2 O.103, lot 35. Sweet AU 58 with original grey patina. Ex Downey, Hamilton, De Olden, Kahn and Link.

1820 Sq.2, Lg. Date, No Knob O.106, lot 37. Pretty, evenly toned obverse. The reverse a tad “splotchy.” MS 64, ex Friend.

1821 O.101a, Lot 38. Gem or nearly so. Rose centers, turquoise peripheries. Pretty! MS 65 at PCGS and NGC.

1822/1 O.101, lot 40. Late die state. Rich, even toning. Solid MS 63.

1822 O.114, lot 39. Well struck. Attractive russet toning. Minor toning spots, reverse. Graded MS 65.

1823 Broken 3 O.101, lot 41. I agreed with the NGC 64 grade when cataloging the Newman coins for Heritage. PCGS and CAC have followed suit. Subtle cameo portrait. Mildly reflective fields. Obverse well struck. Reverse soft at claws.

1823 Ugly 3 O.110a, lot 43. Lovely obverse. MS 63, with CAC sticker. A large toning spot on the reverse may bother some collectors.

1823 O.107, lot 44. A gem with pretty toning. Ex Friend. OK as MS 65. PCGS added a +.

1824/1 O.101, lot 45. Original pastel color and surfaces. Ex Gardner who bought it in 1997; looks like one of the Plimpton family coins sold by Sotheby’s. There were several 101’s. A sweet MS 64+ with CAC sticker.

1824 over var. dates, O.103, lot 46. Stupendous toning. Lovely MS 64 for the color enthusiast.

1824 O.104, lot 47. Gem from Eliasberg, with the familiar “Eliasberg look.”

1824/4 O.110a, lot 48. The obverse is fairly nice, the reverse spectacular. Ex Gardner, June 2014 @ $14,100 as NGC MS 65 to Jason Carter. Now PCGS MS 65.

1825 O.115, lot 49. A gem. Sharp strike with antique grey patina. MS 65.

1826 O.117a, lot 50. Great strike. The deep toning is probably original.

1827/6 O.102, lot 51. The Pogue coin. They don’t get nicer. MS 66 CAC.

1827 Sq. Base 2 O.104, lot 52. Gorgeous iridescent toning. MS 65. True gem. The most common die marriage of 49 varieties for the year – but not like this!

1828 Curl 2, No Knob O.101, lot 54. Light toning, great strike and luster. MS 64.

1828 Curl 2, Knob 2 O.107, lot 55. Love the toning and strike. Luster a little off for a CAC’d MS 65.

1828 Sq. Base 2, Large 8s O.108, lot 56. Original! Deep antique grey and rose toning. Strong MS 64.

1828 Sq. 2, Sm. 8s O.115, lot 57. Eliasberg gem, with the familiar look. Graded MS 66.

1828 Sq. 2, Sm. 8s and Lets, lot 58. A “grey dirt” coin with pristine surfaces. MS 65.

1829/7 O.102, lot 59. Eliasberg, with the typical creamy-grey color. Near gem, MS 64.

1829 O.115, lot 60. Fabulous color. MS 65. Few streaks in the planchet, obverse and reverse, may bother a few bidders.

1830 Sm.0 O.106, lot 61. MS 65 CAC, a grey dirt gem.

1830 Large Letters O.114, lot 62. Graded XF 45 CAC. I find it short on luster for a choice XF. Bland grey toning. Possibly the Olin Carter coin, PCGS XF 40. But not, as the catalog suggests, the De Olden example which was PCGS VF 35.

1830 Large 0 O.122, lot 63. Solid MS 65. Well struck with attractive grey-gold toning. Deserves a CAC sticker. From Steve Contursi, privately, in 2012.

1831 O.102, lot 64. Raucous color. Exceptional eye appeal. MS 65+ CAC. No argument.

1832 Large Letters O.101, lot 65. An MS 62 to die for. Sharply struck early die state. Very thin reverse die break. Ex Prouty. Nice!

1832 Sm. Letters O.122, lot 66. Blazing white luster. MS 64+ CAC. I sold it to Chuck in 2009, touting it as the best struck 1832 I’d handled.

1833 O.109, lot 67. MS 65. Rich, pale rose toning. Well struck 1833. Some weakness at the lowest drapery lines.

1835 O.103, lot 71. Scrumptious obverse color. The reverse, surprisingly, is untoned. Strong luster, nice surfaces, as expected of an MS 65.

1836 O.104a, lot 72. MS 65 CAC. Ex Newman, with album toning that drove bidders to new heights. Super eye appeal.

1836 50/00 O.116, lot 73. A mere AU 55, but nice for the grade. Last chance at a souvenir from Mr. K’s collection. A CAC sticker reflects the strong luster.

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