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1943-S Bronze Cent, Second-Finest Known, AU58 From the Bob Simpson Collection Sells For $282,000.00

Featured in the 2016 February 4 - 7 Long Beach Expo US Coins Signature Auction - LOT #3087

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The sale of off-metal error 1943 bronze and 1944 steel cents in our recently concluded FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2016) was definitely one for the record books. The present cataloger (GH) had several of his own bundles of Thanksgiving joy getting to describe and write about so many monumental coins, the crème de la crème of the Lincoln cent series and true Lincoln cent “error coin royalty,” in the memorable words of NGC’s David Lange.

Whether we like it or not, change is an inevitable part of life. Even an advanced collector like Bob Simpson eventually turns his eyes in new directions. Collectors for years have been privileged to admire (or envy, or attempt to emulate, or drool over) his complete PCGS Registry Set of Lincoln Cents Off-Metal Strikes, Circulation Strikes (1943-1944) -- each coin, incredibly, in Mint State -- which was ranked #1 (of course) for five straight years by PCGS and has been inducted into the PCGS Hall of Fame.

Bob Simpson offered half of this top-grade set -- the steel cents, as mentioned -- in our January 2016 FUN Signature in the form of a 1944 Philadelphia steel cent, MS64 PCGS (offered at $146,875); a 1944-D steel cent, MS62 PCGS (brought $54,050); and a remarkable 1944-S steel cent, MS66 PCGS, the finest “steelie” certified from any mint (offered at $323,125). As we go to press with this catalog, some of those coins have sold and some are on offer at their reserve prices plus buyer’s premium.

To the best of our knowledge, however, Simpson retains for the time being his complete 1943 set of Mint State bronze or “copper” cents, including a 1943 Philadelphia, MS62 Brown PCGS; 1943-D MS64 Brown PCGS; and 1943-S MS62 Brown PCGS.

The present 1943-S bronze cent from the Simpson Collection falls under the category of “duplicate,” although it is in all other respects a fine coin -- nay, an extraordinary coin, the second-finest certified 1943-S bronze cent at either service -- that would form the centerpiece of virtually any set in which it resides.

Another Simpson “duplicate” (such an ugly word for such fantastic coins), his 1943 Philadelphia bronze cent, AU58 PCGS Secure-CAC, brought $305,500 in our January FUN Signature. The FUN January 2016 and Long Beach February 2016 Signature auctions at Heritage will undoubtedly remain among the most memorable offerings of off-metal Lincoln cents in modern numismatic history.

Some Context Around the Bob Simpson Collection

It is likely the last numismatic understatement of the year 2015 we will make to write that Bob Simpson owns some simply amazing, staggering coins. The entire numismatic world owes him a tremendous debt of gratitude for keeping his sets open/published so that collectors of all stripes and situations can admire those wonderful coins.

To examine the various Bob Simpson Registry Sets, either active or retired, visible at PCGS is to enter a numismatic Shangri-La, to enter a world full of miraculous coins that simply shouldn’t exist -- but do, each one of them in incredible TrueView images. This is a world including (currently) 60% of all the Judd patterns, a complete set of all four gold stellas of 1879-80 (and most of the pattern stellas), complete sets of 20th century gold circulation strikes, complete Barber proofs (all three denominations), four of the 10 most famous United States “ultra rarities,” complete two cents and three cent silvers, early half dimes, Capped Bust and Liberty Seated half dimes, the list goes on and on -- an amazing and bewildering array of coins, many of them in the finest grades known. And yet, of all those incredible Registry Sets, the Lincoln Cents, Off-Metal Strikes (1943-44) is currently the only one with the PCGS Hall of Fame recognition, and it is undoubtedly among the most admired and most commented-on of all his sets.

The Present Example, AU58 PCGS Secure-CAC, Ex: Simpson

Far more important than any technical description of this coin is its high Condition Census ranking as the second-finest 1943-S bronze cent that we can confirm through recent trades. As noted, this will remain the finest available 1943-S bronze cent unless and until Bob Simpson decides to dispose of his Registry Set of Mint State 1943-PDS bronze cents, or until the extremely unlikely appearance of another example that trumps both.

The surfaces are a light medium-tan, boasting excellent luster remaining throughout both sides despite a touch of circulation wear and some scattered detritus in the device crevices that actually serves to confirm this AU58 piece’s original, uncleaned status. A diagonal (northwest to southeast) scrape through Lincoln’s eye ends in the right obverse field. Obvious die polishing lines run north-northeast through the right obverse field. Bits of dark material appear in the upper loops of the 9 and 3, in the lower loop of the S mintmark, and at the upper obverse rim above the motto.

Roster of 1943-S Bronze Cents

We can confirm only six examples of the 1943-S bronze cents certified by the two major grading and authentication services. Perhaps as many as a dozen to 15 examples survive of the 1943 Philadelphia bronze cents, while the 1943-D bronze cent, MS64 Brown PCGS, in the Simpson Collection (for which he paid $1.7 million in 2010) remains unique, despite decades of searching on the part of thousands of collectors. The roster is based on publicized trades and public auctions; private trades may represent other examples that are unlisted here.

1. MS62 Brown PCGS Secure. “Found in the year of issue in a Mint-sewn bag of 1943-S steel cents” by Merl D. Burcham, per its early appearances with Superior Galleries (the Superior lot description from February 1974 is reprinted in Dr. Sol Taylor’s Standard Guide to the Lincoln Cent, fourth edition [1999], page 138); later to error coin dealer Frank Spadone; part of a $15,000 trade of “regular and pattern silver coins valued at that time [1965] between Spadone and Walter Farris of Bristol, Tennessee, per the Superior ads (and covered in a Coin World story on page 41, January 20, 1965); authenticated at some point by Walter Breen (before 1965, by which time Farris had obtained the certification); Dr. Charles L. Ruby Collection, Part I (Superior, 2/1974), lot 1991; Superior (6/1977), realized $49,500; Dr. Jon Kardatzke Collection (Goldberg Auctions, 2/2000), lot 257, as MS61 Brown NGC, brought $115,000; Legend Numismatics to Bob Simpson as MS62 Brown PCGS for $1 million (9/2012); Simpson Collection. “A tiny fleck of zinc is ... lodged in the bronze, just above the 3 in the date,” according to the Goldbergs description. Some muted mint red remains. PCGS certification #25510131.

2. AU58 PCGS. Ex: Simpson Collection, where it resided apparently from some time before September 2012 (likely as early as late 2010) until the present. Earlier provenance uncertain. This piece became the Bob Simpson “duplicate” when he purchased a 1943-S bronze cent in MS62 Brown PCGS Secure for $1 million in September 2012, a transaction arranged by Legend Numismatics. The present example. PCGS certification #18523980.

3. AU55 PCGS Secure. Purchased from an unspecified auction “sometime during the 1980s” and newly certified at PCGS in autumn 2015. Previously authenticated by ANACS. The Sorensen Collection / FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2016), lot 5267, brought $211,500. No further provenance available. PCGS certification #25653505.

4. AU53 NGC. Ex: Kenneth S. Wing Jr. Collection. A few light flecks on the reverse help with pedigree identification, including one on the right wheat ear, one at the left bottom of T in CENT, and one right at the midpoint of M in UNUM. Other scattered, tiny flecks appear in the central reverse. A near-vertical tick on Lincoln’s cheekbone is the most apparent obverse mark. “Discovered within a year of its issue, this attractive specimen remained in the same family for more than 60 years,” according to its NGC Photo Proof certification and extensive documentation provided by its current owner. Found in circulation in 1944 by 14-year-old collector Kenneth S. Wing, Jr. in Long Beach, California; Kenneth S. Wing family; sold to Rare Coin Wholesalers for $72,500 (7/2008); purchased from Park Avenue Numismatics for $173,000 (8/2008); Kerry Rudin. NGC certification #3184796-001; formerly in a slab with NGC certification #3210930-001 (now listed as AU53/Deleted by NGC) but reholdered due to scuffs on the slab. Photographed on NGC Coin Explorer.

5. XF45 PCGS. From a photo in the PCGS Condition Census on CoinFacts. A small tick at Lincoln’s temple, and a hairline-thin scrape from the obverse field left of T(RUST) to a hair curl above Lincoln’s head down to the ear, are the most obvious pedigree markers. Other small ticks show in the obverse field between the bowtie and goatee, and at the rear shoulder directly down from (LIBERT)Y. Copper spot at rear of head, below G(OD). PCGS certification #11456467.

6. VF35 PCGS. Dr. Carl A. Minning, Jr. Collection (Bowers and Merena, 8/1999), lot 1122, brought $51,750; Phillip Flannagan et al. Sale (Bowers and Merena, 11/2001), lot 6076, realized $62,100; Alfred V. Melson Collection, Part Two / Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 2/2010), lot 178, garnered $207,000; Geyer Family Collection / New York Signature (Heritage, 11/2013), lot 3510, brought $141,000. An abrasion runs horizontally beneath the bases of US in TRUST. Described by the 1999 Bowers and Merena cataloger as “King of the Small Cents / Nationwide Publicity Item!” PCGS certification #3457896.

Other Appearances

Although these examples appear in the NGC Census Report, there are no public trades known for any of them, leading us to believe they may be duplications of some of the pieces above.
A. MS61 Brown NGC. An example in this grade remains in the NGC Census Report. See #1 above, or this could be a duplicate.
B. AU58 NGC. From NGC Census Report.
C. AU55 NGC. From NGC Census Report.
Selections from The Bob R. Simpson Collection. (NGC ID# 22E9, PCGS# 82715)

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