Published: September 27, 2022
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Carlsen Gallery
FREEHOLD, N.Y. – The term “old money” usually refers to the inherited wealth of established upper-class families or lineage possessing inherited wealth. Carlsen’s anniversary auction on September 18, which marked the firm’s 31-year milestone at its current location and featured period, American, English, midcentury designer and continental furniture, Americana, fine art and more, was literally dominated by “old money” in the form of bulk coins.
Among the sale’s top eight lots, all but two were bulk or single-specimen coins. Successful bidders here got their money’s worth and more. Russ Carlsen explained that the hoard of coins came from an estate. “The people said, ‘There are coins down in the basement,’ and I said, ‘Well, could you bring them up? I’d like to look through them.’ And they said, ‘We can’t lift the suitcase that they’re in.’ So I danced downstairs into the basement and retrieved them. It was quite a find.”
The sale totaled about $300,000 with only two or three lots left unsold. In these days of shrinking in-person attendance, Carlsen said he was pleased to see about 85-90 patrons in the gallery, augmented of course by the left bids, phone bidders and those registered with either LiveAuctioneers or Invaluable to participate online.
Leading the coinage was a lot of $588 face value Franklin half dollars going out at $11,875. Struck by the United States Mint from 1948 to 1963, the Franklin half dollar is, on its face, a 50-cent piece picturing Founding Father Benjamin Franklin on the obverse and the Liberty Bell on the reverse.
Second highest lot was a lot of $600 face value 1964 or earlier quarters, which settled at $11,250.
The US Mint first produced the Kennedy half dollars in 1964, a few months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. Congressional action resulted in the elimination of the Franklin half dollar design and creation of a coin to commemorate President Kennedy. Gilroy Roberts created the portrait of Kennedy on the obverse and Frank Gasparro sculpted the heraldic eagle on the reverse based upon the Great Seal of the United States. Kennedy half dollars can still be obtained from some banks for face value and are quite common. The ones minted from 1964 to 1970 get most of their value from their silver content, which dropped to 40 percent from 1965 to 1970. The silver content was reduced from 90 percent (in 1964 dated coins) to 40 percent silver. The popularity of collecting Kennedy half dollars is beginning to increase. In this sale, a lot of $492 face value JFK half dollars, 1964, brought $10,000.
Standing Liberty half dollars, sometimes referred to as Walking Liberty, are 90 percent silver, so even in very poor condition they are generally worth more than $10 per coin. It was issued by the United States Mint from 1916 to 1947, designed by Adolph A. Weinman, a well-known sculptor and engraver. Fetching $6,875 was a lot of $296.50 face value Standing Liberty coins.
The South African krugerrand coins have been legal tender since they were minted. They don’t have any monetary face value, which means their legal tender is valued at the market price of gold. It is the cornerstone of privately owned gold and became so popular worldwide that other nations began minting their own 1-ounce gold coins, such as the Canadian Gold Maple Leaf, Australian nugget, Chinese Gold Panda, American Gold Eagle and British Britannia coins. This popularity may have pushed a lot of three South African krugerrands, 1979 and 1978, to a final price of $5,400.
There was plenty of non-coin action to review. For example, an 18K Oyster Perpetual Day Date Rolex watch with diamonds was bid to $10,200, while a pair of diamond stud earrings, approximately 2.04 carats total weight, brought $4,500.
Among fine art highlights was a Louise Nevelson sculpture for the 1980 American Book Award. The Cubist monochromatic wood sculpture awarded to Ann Spinelli for her cover design for Joe Cottonwood’s Famous Potatoes. Numbered #37 of 100, the 15-by-15-5/8-inch sculpture earned $8,125. And an important pair of American School portraits found a new home for $4,500, while a Carl Wuermer oil on canvas, “The Valley from the Hillside,” left the gallery at $4,075.
Notable furniture across the block included an exceptional mahogany Phyfe School dining table at $3,900 and a low back plank seat Windsor bench in old paint taking $3,125. A New Hampshire mirror face clock closed at $3,125.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. The next sale will likely be in December, said Carlsen, date to be announced. For information, 518-634-2466 or www.carlsengallery.com.
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