Estate Sale Report (long & detailed, with pictures) UPDATE. some grades in (see recent posting).
There are often coin show reports posted on this forum. I thought it would be interesting to post a first-ever (as far as I know) estate sale report.
My wife searches for estate sales in this area that have coins or other interesting items. When she finds something, she forwards the sale information to me. I look it over and then decide if I want to go or not. Most of the time the sales are actually on-line-only auctions, with no in-person viewing available, and everybody in the world can bid. When there are actual in-person estate sales with coins, 98% of the time the coins are not premium items (high-priced circulated 90% silver, at best).
A recent sale, however, caught my interest. Here is the first batch of pictures shown for the sale (these were the only pictures of the coins, and the sale did not show much of anything else of interest beside these):
Top Row, Left Column:
The first thing I noticed is an apparent uncirculated Standing Liberty Quarter and a couple Liberty Head gold Double Eagles. The holders appeared to be the type that was typical for high-end coins prior to the advent of "slabbing".
Top Row, 2nd Column:
A naked Liberty Head $5 gold Half Eagle; "Harvey's" Lake Tahoe Casino silver dollar; a Barber Quarter (possibly higher grade but heavy blackish rim toning); an unidentifiable dime; a "Mercury" Dime.
Top Row, 3rd Column:
Two Native-Head $10 gold Eagles; two unidentified coins, possibly Mercury Dimes.
Top Row, Right Column:
Two Peace Dollars; possibly two gold dollars.
Middle Row, Left Column:
Three Morgan Dollars; two Peace Dollars; one gold coin.
Middle Row, 2nd Column:
Box of worn silver dollars (Morgan and Peace) and a worn Walking Liberty Half Dollar; blue envelope for 40% silver Eisenhower Dollar.
Middle Row, 3rd Column:
Two Canada gold Maple Leafs; mangled Lincoln cent.
Middle Row, Right Column:
The same mangled Lincoln cent; Washington state quarter; Lincoln steel cents; Silver Eagle in a Littleton Coin pouch; square silver ingot (I immediately recognized it as a circa-1969 Foster "Silver Eagle" 1/4-troy-oz bar).
Bottom Row, Left Column:
The same "blue" Ike Dollar; rectangle silver ingot (I immediately recognized it as a circa-1969 Foster "Silver Eagle" 1-troy-oz bar).
Other than the more-recent Littleton Silver Eagle, and gold Maple Leafs, these looked like they might be "old time" coins that hadn't seen the light of day for a long time. So I made plans to attend the sale. The rules for the sale were as follows:
The sale started Thursday morning at 10:00AM;
No early sales or early viewing;
The zip code for the sale was provided, but the address was not going to be disclosed until after 4:00AM on the morning of the sale (to prevent people from "camping out" at the site all night);
The first people in line get let in first, and then the rest of the line in order;
Saving your place in line was not allowed except to step away briefly.
The zip code of the sale was about an hour drive away. My wife suggested that we leave at 3:00AM so that we could be in the vicinity when the sale address was posted. I thought about that, but that would mean arriving there and waiting around for six hours before the sale would start. And the address was not going to be posted until 4:00AM or after. So we decided to depart after we had the sale address. The address was posted a few minutes after 4:00AM and we departed at 4:30AM. We arrived at the scene of the sale (a circa 1960s house) at 5:30AM. We were the first ones there. We beat the next person to arrive by less than one minute ! I was #1 in line, and that would turn out to be important. We brought our own lawn chairs and took a seat by the front door, with a four and a half hour wait ahead of us. Another hour passed before a fourth person arrived. Then a few more people trickled in. Several of the people in line knew each other as estate sale "regulars". Nobody was talking about what they were looking for. It was obvious that several people were there for the coins. One fellow (the forth person in line) had a loupe-style magnifying glass around his neck. I did not recognize him from any coin shows or anything. During casual conversation I gleaned that he was a jewelry guy, but I bet he was also interested in the gold coins. The general atmosphere was sort of like a party, or camping out with other people for "door-buster" deals on Black Friday. The discussion was that this particular estate sale company did not offer the best deals and the lady running it was pretty strict (and that would also come into play a short while later). The whole time I was waiting in line, I wondered how they went about pricing the coins. Did they have some expert appraiser look at them ?
At about 9:30AM the "jewelry guy" stated that he was going to get cinnamon rolls at a local place a few minutes away. Shortly after he left, the estate sale personnel arrived and went into the house to set up. About 5 minutes later the jewelry guy came back and offered us each a cinnamon roll. They were very good. Then before I knew it he stated he was going inside to offer the estate sale people a cinnamon roll. He walked right in the door and closed it behind him. "That Dirty Dog" I thought, it was all a ploy to get inside first ! But, unfortunately for him (and fortunately for me) the "strict" lady kicked him out and he had to go back to his 4th place in line. But his ploy did give him the advantage of having a first glimpse of what was there and where things were.
During the last few minutes of waiting I heard a discussion about another estate sale 5 minutes away that was going to open at 12:00 noon that day. My wife looked on her phone and found it. So we planned to go to the other sale later if we had time.
At 10:00AM there were about 20 people in line and the door finally opened up. The lady came out to state the rules before entry. The important facts were:
1) Credit Card payments ONLY (no cash or checks accepted). I assume that was for security reasons;
2) Coin viewing would be one person at a time. Since I was first in line, that meant I could look at every coin and buy or pass on each one, until I was done looking at all the coins. Only then could the next person step up to the case to look at the coins. So being first in line was a huge advantage at this sale.
I went inside and finally I was there at the case of coins. The first thing I noticed was a Standing Liberty quarter priced at $5,000. Whoa, that is a lot. Then I quickly glanced around and saw that the Double Eagles ware priced at $3,100. So not a good indication so far. I asked to see the $5,000 Standing Liberty Quarter. My first impression was that it was uncirculated, and fairly well struck. The date was 1929-D. I remembered that 1929-D quarters have a huge price jump for full head over non-full-head. According to price guides and sale history, to be worth even close to that $5,000 price, the coin would have to be MS-64 or better AND have a definite Full Head. I graded it MS-62 and close to, but not quite, a full head. So it missed on both counts. No sale. That told me someone with some knowledge (but perhaps not a grading expert) had priced these coins. But then I saw a Liberty Head quarter eagle priced at a reasonable $450. It was a 1903, and nice. I bought.
After my first pass, I had picked out three coins and three small silver ingots to buy. Other notable coins that I did not buy were:
1) The Double Eagles (two Liberty Head and one Saint-Gaudens, common dates, decent uncirculated, but only MS-63 or so - not worth the asking price);
2) The two Native-Head $10 Eagles (common dates, decent uncirculated, but only MS-62 or so - not worth the $1,900 asking price);
3) A 1880/79-CC (reverse of 1878) Morgan Dollar for $1,300. I liked this coin, and would have bought it, if not for a rather large scrape/scuff in the field in front of Liberty's eye.
4) A 1921 Peace Dollar that was inexplicably priced at $3,100. It may not have had any wear on it, but it was extremely dark toned (see above, middle row - left column).
5) The two gold dollars (1862 and 1889). Decent coins, but too high priced for the grade ($1,000 each).
I had been there a while and I felt the line behind me getting antsy. So I decided to relinquish my hold over the case and look around the house to see what else was there. I didn't find anything else. So I went back to the coin case and had to wait a little while for another turn. The person in front of me didn't seem like the type who would be interested in coins, but he bought one of the gold dollars and the "naked" $5 Liberty Head (which was a common-date 1882-[P] in EF).
When I got my second turn at the coins, one that I had thought about and was going to look at again was already gone (sold). it was a 1903-O Morgan for $600. At that price it would have to be a MS-64+ or MS-65 to be worth it. I graded it a MS-64 the first time, but I wanted to evaluate it again. But I did buy two more coins on my second turn.
I went outside to sit and look up some prices. I decided that the none of the other coins I was thinking about were the right price. There was a 1920-S Mercury Dime that had absolutely full bands and was uncirculated. For the asking price it would have to be MS-63 or better. I went back to the coin case for a third time. I looked at the 1920-S dime and there were just a few isolated wispy hairlines under the toning, so it was close to MS-63, but not quite, in my opinion.
But on this third (and last) trip to the coin case I finally noticed a Native-Head cent. Why hadn't I looked at it before ? Probably because I was distracted by the gold and silver coins. The cent was priced at $50. I took one look at it and knew immediately that it was an 1882 proof. So I bought that one as well. And hiding under the junk steel cents I could see some sort of token. So I asked to see it. I was not familiar with it. It had a hippo on it and looked somewhat old. There was no price and so when I asked the gal she decided on $2. So I bought.
Still remaining for sale were two gold Maple Leafs priced at $1,800 each. A pretty good price (better than current coin shop price) but not a screaming deal. I was about to buy them and then I realized I had better ask if there was any sort of buyer's premium. I was told it was 5%. So $1,890 (net) was a no-sale.
Finally it was time to check out. There was the issue of sales tax. I told them that there is no state sales tax on coins or bullion. They didn't seem to know anything about that. But, no matter, I produced a copy of my sales tax license so I wouldn't have to pay any sales tax since the items were for resale (eventually). At that point the lady stated that they waive the 5% buyer's premium for "wholesale" buyers (those that have a sales tax license). So I said, ok then, give me those gold Maple Leafs too.
By now it was about 11:15AM. We left the first site and drove to the other nearby estate sale and got in line. There was about 15 to 20 people ahead of us. This house was in a fairly expensive neighborhood (although this was perhaps the smallest house in the immediate vicinity). There were some art dealers in line since this sale had numerous paintings and prints (which I know little about). My wife showed me on her phone that there were some silver dollars in this sale. The rules for this sale posted in view of the line indicated that, unlike the earlier sale, cash was "preferred", but credit cards were also accepted. We waited in line about 45 minutes and then got to go inside. I went straight to where the coins were supposed to be. There were some junk Morgans priced at $25 and a larger number that were priced at $30. All were common dates. I picked out two at $25 and one at $30. I looked around the house and there were some items I was mildly interested in but nothing I decided to buy, except a little box with a few wooden nickels in it for $1 (for the whole box).
While waiting in the checkout line my wife was looking at the paperback books (priced at $3 each) and she found an older US Treasury pamphlet about how to identify counterfeit money. I added that to my purchases.
By 1:00PM we were dead tired and came home.
The following day I evaluated and self-graded my acquisitions. Here they are (in the order I bought them):
($450) 1903 Liberty Head gold Quarter Eagle. I grade it MS-65+ or maybe even MS-66 with a bump for the nice color:
($100) 1917-D Mercury Dime. This one has a really sensational unblemished appearance and just barely makes Full Bands. I grade it MS-66 FB. I really don't know why it was priced at only $100. This one was the deal of the day, I think:
($125) 1928 Standing Liberty Quarter. I grade it MS-65 Full Head:
($30 for 1.00 oz) | ($20 for 0.50 oz) | ($15 for 0.25 oz) 1969 Foster Hercaimy Silver Eagle ingots. These sell for a decent premium on eBay (typically $75 to $100 for the 1-oz, $40 to $70 for the 1/2 oz, $30 to $65 for the 1/4 oz):
($250) 1930-S Standing Liberty Quarter. Very close to Full Head, but doesn't quite make it. But I think the grade is MS-65 and with a little premium for having head details it was a decent deal for the price:
($175) 1912-D Barber Dime. It has a soft original tone. Looking under the toning there is only a couple very small ticks and no trace whatsoever of any rub or any hairlines. The greenish stuff appears to be wax, not PVC. Regardless, I will use acetone to remove the residue. I think it will grade MS-66:
($50) 1882 Native-Head Cent. The best thing about this one is that it is free of splotches and spots. I couldn't find a single hairline on it anywhere. I think PR-66 RB:
($2) Lotus the Hippopotamus token. Lotus was a famous Hippo that toured with the Barnes Circus for some 40 years. "PESCO" was a manufacturer of aircraft parts (fuel pumps hydraulic pumps, etc.). After I got home I noticed the small "STERLING" mark near the rim on the heads side. It is 28mm in diameter and weighs 11 grams (so about 1/3 troy oz net silver content). These come up for sale very infrequently - I believe it is fairly rare. This one has a bisecting die crack from the "OT" of LOTUS to the "F" of FORE. The die probably didn't last too long:
I do not know what the connection between Lotus and PESCO is. I assume the purpose of this token is for flipping (heads or tails). I found a record for one that sold a few years ago for $30, with the original PESCO box (which I do not have):
There is a place for personalized engraving below the front feet. The one that sold for $30 had such engraving - mine does not.
Apparently, the imagery on this token is based on famous photographs from 1937:
A 1937 postage stamp from Barbados features the heads-side photograph:
($1,800 each) Two Canada gold Maple Leafs. I will use the gold at my mint, since I had none to use prior to buying these.
So that was it from the first sale - a pretty good haul and definitely worth the effort.
Here are the (relatively mundane) items I bought at the second sale:
($25, $25, and $30) Ordinary Morgan silver Dollars which I will probably use as host coins for over-striking at some point:
($1 total) Group of wooden nickels. The Disneyland Frontierland piece typically sells for about $2 to $10 each on eBay, so that is where these are headed. I grew up in the Denver area and I went to all the coin shops. I even remember going to Dan Brown's shop in Denver. But I don't remember ever going to "Coin City" on Champa Street:
The four East Tincup woodies are interesting since I grew up near there:
And there are a couple listed So-Called Dollars from East Tincup:
($3) 1948-dated "Know Your Money" counterfeit education pamphlet produced by the US Treasury Department:
($ FREE) Inside the pamphlet (held in place with a paper clip) was this interesting "Money - Phoney" paper money counterfeit detector from 1951. I tried using it on some newer notes and it failed. But it seems to work on older notes.