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Like a $3 Bill?
May 17, 2012

If I had $2 million or $4 million, I certainly would not be bidding on what is claimed to be a possible second example of an 1870-S $3 gold piece.

In press releases and stories that have popped up online since yesterday, Four Seasons Auction Gallery of Alpharetta, Ga., says what could be the second example of the coin will be up for bids on June 2 and it could sell for those figures.

Nowhere in the press information does the auction gallery mention that the coin has been submitted to any experts for authentication and grading.

No PCGS. No NGC. No ANACS. No ICG. There is not even mention of an off-brand XYZ holder.

Instead we are told by the auction house that an unidentified European tourist found it in 1997 in a San Franscisco bookstore glued to an inside page of a souvenir book on which appears a story about the San Francisco Mint.

Also, the coin is not currently available for examination. The firm says the coin is insured by Lloyd’s of London and will be brought by armed guards from a bank vault to Four Seasons Auction Gallery on June 2 where the coin can be “previewed” only on auction day from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. under armed guard.

After that 90-minute period I guess buyers will be expected to bid for the coin.

I can’t help but ask myself that if some unknown discoverer of a supposedly incredibly rare coin or his agent can find Lloyd’s of London, he or she could also find Heritage, Stack’s Bowers or another prominent American numismatic firm that would submit the coin to all the rigorous examination and testing that these auction houses would insist on before challenging the unique status of the Harry W. Bass Jr. Foundation’s 1870-S $3 gold piece housed at the American Numismatic Association’s museum in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Even now there is time for the firm to arrange side-by-side examination of the two pieces by experts.

Unless that happens, I would hold onto my funds.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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