Just a month ago, I had no clue I would be featuring a coin from the Saddle Ridge Hoard as the Coin of the Month. Nevertheless, here I sit today as an improbable owner of a coin recovered from the greatest buried treasure find in the history of the United States.
When I first heard the news of the Saddle Ridge Hoard, I found myself spellbound by many of the storys elements. Adding to my fascination is the incredible odds against anyone uncovering buried treasure of this enormity and value. Then theres the human-interest side of the story with John and Mary stumbling onto the hoard while walking their dog. Finally, John and Mary seem like people I can identify with, ordinary people simply paying their bills while trying to lead respectable lives.
Subsequently, when I heard that the family chose Kagins to distribute the hoard through Amazon, I set up an e-mail notification to inform me of the sale. At that point, there was no indication of what anyone could expect to pay for the coins.
Almost certainly, coins of this magnitude would be out of my reach to obtain. Up until now, the only coins in my collection I had spent over $2000 to acquire were an MS-62 1897-S Double Eagle when the price of gold was close to $2000/oz and a VG-10 1893-S Morgan Dollar. Although I did not know how much of a premium the Saddle Ridge coins would command, I thought they might rival those of the SS Central America and the SS Republic shipwrecks.
While working on my computer late in evening on Tuesday, May 27 I received my e-mail notice from Amazon and immediately linked to the sale. Confirming my suspicions, I found the price of the Saddle Ridge coins too steep for my budget. I simply could not afford to pay five or six thousand dollars for a common date MS-62 or 63 double-eagle. Its not as much that I wouldnt have paid the price, as it is the price was just too high. The XF and AU coins were more reasonable; however, I did not like the surfaces on many of those coins.
Lately, I have been buying the nicest looking coins in the grades I can afford. In other words, I am beginning to focus more on coins with eye appeal. This leads me to my Coin of the Month and a surprising PCGS UNC Details-Cleaning, 1889-S Double-Eagle with eye appeal.
While perusing the Saddle Ridge Coins, it wasnt long before I thought about sorting the listing from the lowest priced coin to the highest. It was there at the bottom rungs of the listing where all the un-gradable coins resided. At first glance, two things surprised me. First, the affordability (from the perspective of my budget) of the coins at $2575 per coin, and secondly the large number of details graded coins for sale. (Later I found out that there were just over 200 details graded coins in the hoard).
This got me to thinking, Maybe I can afford one of these. With the advantage of joining the sale shortly after it began, I pretty much had my pick of details graded coins.
When I first looked at the picture of the coin I bought, I was impressed with the lack of distracting contact marks on the coins surfaces. IMHO, without the cleaning, I think my coin grades at a minimum of MS-64. Next, from the PCGS picture provided the cleaning is barely noticeable with only a few hairlines and a side-swept look in the luster just underneath Miss Libertys truncated neck. In addition, there appeared to be the remnants of a thumbprint just in front of and on Miss Libertys face. At that, I pulled the trigger and bought the coin.
With my expectations sky high and thinking I pulled off the coin-buying coup of the century, I was disappointed when my coin arrived. Stunned, I came face to face with why my coin is details graded. I found that the cleaning hairlines were much more numerous and the thumbprint more pronounced than indicated in the PCGS picture.
Now what? Two facts are abundantly clear. First, it is this coin or no coin. To become a part of the Saddle Ridge story, I had to buy a details graded coin. Next, this coin is still the best of the details graded coins. Therefore, I am very pleased to be part of such a compelling numismatic story.
Now for a teachable moment, how could PCGS so effectively mask my coins problems? Well, I discovered that the angle of the light relative to the surface of the coin and the lens makes all the difference on the final image.
In the message board thread of my post, I am posting a side-by-side comparison of the lighting angle relative to the coin and the PCGS picture. With the lights and camera lens stationary, I simply rotated the coin underneath the camera lens until the hairlines either disappeared or reappeared. I often do this to rotate the luster on the coins I image to where I like it. Thus, in a manner of speaking PCGS imaged this coin to look its best and I am doing likewise.
Next, I wonder if John and Mary rather than the professionals at Kagins conserved this coin. I just cannot imagine a professional leaving a thumbprint on a coin unless the thumbprint is that of the coins original owner. Now wouldnt that be something if it were true?
In summary, I wonder what the dog gets out of all this. Is not the dog partially responsible for locating this hoard? I wonder if the dog gets a chew toy for Christmas or leads the life of doggie luxury. Did the dog alert John and Mary to the buried can by lifting its leg on a nearby stump? Alternatively, did the dog lead John and Mary to the hoard by playing fetch with the stick used to dig the can out? Inquiring minds want to know!
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