Rare 1870-S $3 gold coin could fetch $4 million at Four Seasons, June 2 One of the rarest coins in American history – the legendary 1870-S $3 gold piece, only two of which are known to exist – will come up for bid on Saturday, June 2, at Four Seasons Auction Gallery in Ga
News-Antique.com - May 15,2012 - (ALPHARETTA, Ga.) – One of the rarest coins in American history – the legendary 1870-S $3 gold piece, only two of which are known to exist – will come up for bid on Saturday, June 2, at Four Seasons Auction Gallery, where it is expected to bring a dizzying $2-$4 million. The auction will be held at Four Seasons’ spacious gallery in Alpharetta, just north of Atlanta.
The 1870-S $3 gold coin is so steeped in legend and lore that the only other known example – valued in 2007 at $4 million and part of the Harry W. Bass Collection, on display at the American Numismatic Association museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado – was believed by many to be the only one in existence, despite reports and documents that suggested otherwise.
Now, it appears a second one has come on the scene, and its own story only adds to the cache and mystique of the coin itself. It was purchased in 1997 by a European tourist who found it in a San Francisco book store, glued to one of the inside pages of a souvenir book specific to the era and on the same page as a story about the San Francisco Mint, where the coin was struck.
The tourist sat on his find for 15 years, aware of what he had but waiting for just the right moment to consign it to an auction house that would properly represent it. That turned out to be Four Seasons Auction Gallery. “I am truly honored to have been chosen to sell this coin,” said Steve White of Four Seasons Auction Gallery. “This could be our single largest selling lot ever.”
In 1870, the superintendent of the San Francisco Mint ordered that a single 1870-S $3 gold coin be produced, to be put into the cornerstone of a new building addition. But the coin’s exact location was never specified and to this day it has never been positively identified. One story maintains the coin was removed by force from the cornerstone, but that’s not been proven.
In any event, the original coin suffered some damage along the way, and the decision was made to produce a second specimen. The “S” character, indicating a San Francisco strike, was added to the cast by hand, by the coinier J.B. Harmstead, resulting in the shape of the “S” being different from all other S’s in the series (1854-1889). That is believed to be the Colorado coin.
That coin appeared in the William H. Wooden Sale in 1911, where it was advertised as a duplicate of the coin in the cornerstone. It was later purchased by the Baltimore collector Louis Eliasberg in 1946 for $11,500, a princely sum for its time. The same month, Eliasberg acquired an 1854-S half eagle coin for $5,500, and the year earlier he paid $8,000 for an 1822 half eagle.
The 1870-S $3 gold coin was later purchased in 1982 for the Harry Booth Collection for $657,500, and placed in the