We’ve all heard the stories from coin dealers of folks who bring coins into the shop for appraisal or sale only to tell them the pieces they delivered were worth far less than the owners hoped. Such situations happen virtually every day at coin shops around the country.
Yet, in a world where common 1940s and ‘50s Lincoln Wheat Cents and circulated 1921 Morgan Dollars dominate transactions between coin dealers and their non-collector visitors, there is the occasional story in which both the dealer and the non-numismatist customer receive a mutually pleasant surprise.
That was certainly the case when an Ohio couple who had recently inherited a coin collection took a few $20 gold double eagles to Toledo Coin Exchange. Among them was an 1870-CC Liberty Head Double Eagle, a six-figure ultra-rarity with a mintage of only 3,789.
This coin, the rarest of all $20 double eagles from the Carson City Mint, is estimated to have approximately 41 survivors and none in uncirculated grades. Heritage Auctions sold a PCGS AU53 specimen in 2014 for $411,250.
The example that walked into Toledo Coin Exchange was recently graded by PCGS as a VF30, a grade point at which the handful of other similarly graded examples have traded for nearly $200,000.
It’s certainly not the type of coin that Toledo Coin Exchange Vice President Nick Karpinski sees walk into his shop every day. “The couple brought in three $20 gold pieces,” he recounts. “Our employee checked each coin, and when he saw the "CC," he pulled it aside.” After verifying the authenticity of the coin and its six-figure market value, he sprang the good news on the unsuspecting couple, who were shocked. “The wife even said that we should grab a mop because she thinks she may have just urinated on the floor.”
The coin, part of the husband’s family estate, came from his deceased parents. “The wife suspects that during the oil boom in their small Ohio town, that the coin may have migrated over to the area then,” intimates Karpinski, whose Toledo-area coin shop in northwestern Ohio resides in a state with a robust petroleum industry dating back to the late 1850s.
While he’s been a coin dealer for 18 years, Karpinski says he’s seen only a few coins as notable or valuable as the 1870-CC Double Eagle drop into the shop unannounced within the hands of non-collectors. “In the last five years, a few pleasant surprises for customers include a U.S. Assay Office gold piece, an 1856 Flying Eagle Cent, and a 1792 Washington Medal.”
But the 1870-CC Liberty Head Double Eagle unquestionably stands out among all the coins he’s personally seen appear at the shop. “It’s a low-mintage coin, to begin with, and with less than 50 pieces known to exist, this is an exceptionally rare coin. It was exciting just to hold the coin!”
After Karpinski and his team examined the coin, it was submitted to PCGS. “PCGS has our faith as the best in the marketplace for authentication and grading; there was no other consideration.”
For PCGS President Brett Charville, this story has a sweetly nostalgic connection. “I visited this shop as a kid,” recalls Charville, who was born and raised in north-central Ohio. “It was one of the first coin shops I ever visited, an hour away from where I grew up.” As for Karpinski, he ended up buying the coin. And what happened to the couple? Now, they’re going to pay off their house.