By Rusty Goe
Numismatists (students and collectors of all forms of money) estimate that 4.2 million coins stamped with a “CC” mintmark have survived from the late 19th century. The “CC” stands for Carson City, the capital of the state of Nevada, and at one time the home of a U.S. mint whose workers made coins. About 4 million of the surviving “CC” coins are silver dollars, called “Morgans” by hobbyists after the name of their designer, George T. Morgan. The other 200,000 “CC” coins are divided into 9 denominations, 6 in silver and 3 in gold. If one of the planet’s 7 billion people wanted a souvenir coin from the Carson City Mint, he or she would probably buy a Morgan silver dollar. The next most plentiful supply comes from the ten-cent denomination, with its population of 100,000 or so pieces.
From one of the dates in the ten-cent (or dime) series, only one example is known to have survived. This is the celebrated 1873-CC dime, without arrowheads next to the date. Its fame dates back almost 100 years.
Because only one 1873-CC Without Arrows dime exists, only one person at one point in time can own a complete set of Carson City coins, which consists of 111 pieces representative of the 10 denominations (3 of which are silver-dollar in size). Only two collectors in history have accomplished this feat.
Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. became the first person to ever lay claim to owning a complete 111-piece set of Carson City coins. This happened in 1950, when Eliasberg bought the 1873-CC Without Arrows dime, for a then-record price of $4,000.
Fifty-four years later, in 2004, the collector known only as Mr. Battle Born, completed only the second 111-piece set of Carson City coins in history. He too achieved the goal by buying the 1873-CC Without Arrows dime, for yet another record price of approximately $1 million.
Stack’s Bowers Galleries, of Irvine, CA, will auction the Battle Born Collection of Carson City coins in Philadelphia on August 9, 2012. The company issued the first press release about this momentous auction in December 2011. A company spokesman claims that no other complete 111-piece set of Carson City coins has ever sold at a single auction event (Eliasberg’s “CC” coins were sold in three auctions over a span of fifteen years).
Enthusiasm in the numismatic community about the Battle Born auction has increased in each month since that initial announcement. The buzz about Carson City coins in 2012 has reached a fever pitch. Not since the General Services Administration’s public sale of some 2.83 million “CC” Morgan silver dollars in the early 1970s has Carson City Mint mania captivated the numismatic world. The editor of Coin World, in its special July issue, with its cover article about Carson City coins, encouraged numismatists to take advantage of the unprecedented Battle Born auction opportunity. He said, “Go forward and collect boldly!”
By the time Stack’s Bowers Galleries offers up the 1873-CC Without Arrows dime at the auction on August 9, 103 coins from the Battle Born collection will have crossed under the auctioneer’s hammer. The aggregate value of these coins could approach $8 million. The 104th coin offered that night—the 1873-CC Without Arrows dime—could fetch $3 million to $4 million. Seven more coins, all dimes, will finish out the sale and add another $400,000 to $500,000 to the session’s total. If the 111 coins in the Battle Born collection meet their price expectations, the consignor, who has requested anonymity, will receive between $10 million to $12.5 million. The total face value of the 111 coins is just shy of $700.
Currently, there is only one Carson City coin for every seventy-five U.S. citizens. When we expand the rationing worldwide, the proportion scales up dramatically. Owning a Carson City coin is a privilege, confined to a slight percentage of the national population, and a tiny fragment of a percentage of the world’s inhabitants. Those fortunate enough to have owned a Carson City coin have overwhelmingly done so by claiming a Morgan silver dollar. The chances of owning an example of one of the other nine denominations diminishes greatly, depending on the denomination and its date.
Owning a complete 111-piece set of Carson City coins is a royal privilege, reserved exclusively for one out of seven billion earth dwellers. Avid “CC” coin enthusiasts will treasure any piece they might win in the Battle Born auction, whether it is one of the more common Morgan silver dollars such as the 1885-CC, valued at $2,500, or the unique dime everyone is talking about. The breaking up of this esteemed set will disburse the individual pieces into more hands, thus making only a whiff of a movement to the balancing of the ratio of coins per people. Unless, of course, one individual buys the entire collection in the auction, to become only the third person in history to have owned a complete 111-piece set of Carson City coins.
Be sure to check back for the results, after August 9, 2012.