A Collection Made in Heaven's Door
Updated: May 25
THE LEGARDA COLLECTION
She was a pediatrician, and he was an economist by profession. She was educated at the University of the Philippines and went to Stanford, while he went to Georgetown University and finished his doctorate studies at Harvard. She wrote one of the more important historical books for numismatics, while he turned his doctoral thesis into one of the most read and complete books about the Galleon trade. Both were bibliophiles and loved the arts. They amassed one of the finest private collections of anything that has to do with the country they loved dearly -- whether in Philippine paintings, religious art, and most notably, numismatics.
If Benito and Angelita were a match made in heaven, their collection of countermarked coins that went on auction at Stacks and Bowers last month is a collection made in heaven's door. It had almost everything for everyone. The auction had enough excitement, where prices exceeded everyone's expectations and jumped right out of the starting gate much faster than anyone could spell the name L-E-G-A-R-D-A. It was an auction that had enough excitement to last the whole night and the days after. Where a collection that was about to be broken up and sold piecemeal instead found itself at one of the premier auction houses for coins to be given the recognition it deserves. A recognition that was well deserved as the collection was built and created by the LEGARDA couple for almost half a century.
SOME INTERESTING FACTS AND OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE AUCTION AND ITS RESULTS
A total of 122 countermarked and counterstamped coins were auctioned off, with 4 having the MANILA counterstamp, 35 with the F7o countermark and the 83 with the Y2 countermark.
Out of the 122 coins 79 were straight graded and 43 had details grade, all graded by NGC.
A total of $1.24M was raised over two auction sessions of 77 and 45 coins respectively, and according to Mr. Wayne Berkley, VP of Client Services for Stacks and Bowers, a total of more than $50.0M was realized in this auction, making it the highest grossing auction sale in the company's history.
For the first session of 77 coins that occurred last August 21, I counted 19 buyers/participants that had purchased coins. Of course, this is not counting or considering that some floor bidders or phone bidders were bidding using the same paddle number for separate clients, so the best description or statement would be to say "There were 19 new owners for the first 77 coins."
The most expensive coin sold was the 2R F7o hammering at a whopping $168K. I was lucky to take a video of the auction with my mobile phone and iPad. It was a good thing both my hands were free as I wasn't planning to use any of them to trigger any bids and join the fray on this coin, as it was a tug-of-war up to the very end.
At the end of the bidding paddle 2320 won the coin with a bid of $140,000 ($168,000 w/BP). An image of the this $168k coin as borrowed from the Stacks and Bowers website:
There was one line in the description of the coin made by Stacks which may have summed up its rarity..."The fact that no other coins bearing legitimate F.7.0. countermarks have surfaced during this time attests to its immense importance and significance to the countermark series. To our knowledge the present survivor is the only known minor silver coin from this monarch and for all intents and purposes is UNIQUE!" Those words may have spelled the difference in convincing the buyers to jump in the bandwagon to bring up the coin to the level it had sold for. However, it has come to my attention that NGC may have recently graded an F7.0. 4R which, if proven authentic may affect the uniqueness of this 2R. But all indications still point to the fact that the 2R of the Legarda collection is still UNIQUE. We shall wait and see.
At the other end of the spectrum, the least expensive was the 8R Peruana Y2 at $312, which I am proud to say that I was lucky enough to purchase. I didn't bother to take a video of the auction of this particular coin, as there was no excitement, and it took less than 1 minute for me to win the coin. It was an XF-details "scratched" graded by NGC with very nice details.
The other notable coin, in my opinion, was the Sombrete De Vargas (War of Independence) coin. According to Stacks this coin was issued during the time of Mexico's War of Independence, and it is a combination of a rare host combined with a high grade (EF-40), which is probably the combined reason it hammered at $75,000 ($90,000 w/bp), making it the 2nd highest priced coin in this collection. I guess Queen Isabel would have been pleased with the final auction result of this coin that bore her mark.
The auction battle for this particular coin was not as exciting as the bidding that went on for the F7o 2R, but it had its moments:
It's an unusual-looking coin, one that jumps right out of the bat when first seen. That's how I felt when Stacks released the catalog or the initial images. The description on the catalog mentions it being a "wonderful host for the countermark series with very few examples known bearing countermarks." In fact, this particular countermark host/coin combination is a favorite of old collectors as most of the famous coin collections that specialize in countermarks and counterstamps have this particular CM/host combination in their portfolio. This should come as no surprise as this was issued during a critical and historical moment in Spain's history.
According to an electronic publication from the Numismatic Bibliomania Society, Sombrerete was a little town in Central Mexico in Zacatecas. There has been confusion as to whether it is a Spanish or Mexican coin, and this debate has been ongoing amongst numismatists. But one school of thought says it is considered both a Spanish coin and a Mexican coin. The former, because it was issued by by the Royalists loyal to the Spanish Crown and the latter because it was made in Mexico, issued at a time of the Mexican rebellion against its Spanish colonial rulers. Because of this rebellion the coin was made as a local emergency issue as it was nearly impossible to bring silver mined around the mountains of Sombrerete to the mint of Mexico. Don José María Vargas Machuca, contrary to what others thought, was not a General but was the superintendent of the mines of the region, and he supervised the production of these coins. Why he so prominently placed his name on them is one of the mysteries surrounding these coins, that gives it an added aura of mystery which I believe adds to its rarity -- an unusual host with the signature of a proud Mines Superintendent, what else can you ask for. Whatever Vargas' reason, one thing is sure, this particular coin that sailed and crossed the Pacific to Manila in the early 19th century and was given the Queen's mark found its way to this famous collection and eventually to this auction house, and finally this coin is now finding its way back again to the Philippines.
Another coin in the War of Independence series that is uniquely interesting and one that was a crowd favorite on my list, one in which I bidded up to 1/2 of its closing hammer price was one of three WOI coins in the whole auction. Lot 41309 had the Y2 countermark on an armored bust cast 8 reales Ferdinand VII Chihuahua host. Another good looking coin despite its odd looking condition, which one would feel should get an "environmental damage" details grade but instead is one of the highest graded coins in the whole auction at EF-45. I wanted to partner this
countermarked coin with a recent purchase. The same host coin graded VF30 by NGC but without the mark. It would have been something to have both coins in display in my collection. One coin stayed behind in Mexico to participate in the war and be tossed amongst soldiers while the other coin got on a Galleon and sailed across the Pacific to land in the Philippines only to get marked with the seal of the queen and to be a reminder to the Filipinos who've come across the coin not to even think about independence of any kind. Just sit back, relax and be quiet. Which one has more history to you? And which one do you think deserves the price it was sold for?
Coin hammered $26,000 ($32,600 w/BP). Proving once again that a combined rare host and a high grade will command a premium and will always have a slot in any serious collector's portfolio of coins.
Since I am sharing actual videos of the auctions, I might as well share the blow-by-blow of these two other coins, which I was also able to capture. This is for the Y2 countermark on an 1810-M IA Spain 20 Reales de Vellon of Joseph Napoleon. The coin is described as "exceedingly rare," which, I guess is a notch higher in the rarity scale than an "extremely rare" piece. The coin had an estimate of $10,000-$15,000 but because of its uniqueness it hammered $36,000 ($42,000 w/bp):
And, the other video I was able to take was the coin that was auctioned right before the Joseph Napoleon coin above, and this was the Y2 countermarked coin on a Peru 8 Reales but with a "highly sought after spelling error - 'Por Al Union'" I took this video specifically for a friend who, I knew was going to bid for it at all cost. One of those collectors I have deep respect for as I have learned so much from him in this vast world of Philippine countermarked coins. Congratulations my friend.
The top 10 coins in terms of final hammer price for the collection that was sold is listed below. Please note that the total sales generated by the top 10 coins sold ($748.8K) is around 61% of the total sale of all the coins of the auction. In other words, 12% of the coins generated 61% of the sale, a clear indication of the flight to quality. And my basic conclusion, which you may not agree is that collectors were willing to pay big money to include these coins of quality; quality in terms of their rarity and high grades, and these collectors were willing to pay for these coins at all cost. (for a complete list and final closing prices of the 122 coins auctioned, please download from link below)
The highest grade were two coins that graded AU55: Lot 41324, which is a Y2 countermark on a 1834 Caps and Rays with a Guanajuato mint hammered in at $9,500 ($11,400 w/bp); and
Lot 41297, which is an F7o countermark on an 1832 Peruana host hammered in at $4,600 ($5,200 w/BP).
From a collector's perspective, and in my humble opinion, I believe all information I have just described and outlined all point to the direction that the countermark market of Philippine coins is very much alive and well. There was a fear that a supply of more than 122 coins may flood the market as we are constantly seeing collections of old-time collectors being liquidated here in the Philippines, and in auction houses like Stacks. In fact, an auction on the 28th of this month is, from what I gathered a collection from a German collector. But this LEGARDA COLLECTION was not like any other auction of countermarked coins, this particular auction had a certain "je ne sais quoi" that had the following elements:
A lineup of different unique host coins that has never been seen in years. The past few auctions of countermarked coins focused on a particular coin, such as the beautiful 8 Escudo coin that was auctioned off months ago, and the triple countermarked coin of a year and a half ago. But this auction had more than enough hosts and coins that did not disappoint (please refer to GALLERY below for the images):
Lot 41280 -- An F7o on a chilean host dated 1822, described as an extremely rare and "possible unique" host-coin countermark combination. Coin hammered at $24,000.
Lot 41285 -- An F7o countermark on an Iturbide host dated 1822 that sold for $9,600. I was told by one of the more senior collectors of Countermarks that if he had the chance to buy just one from the 122 coins being auctioned, this would be his coin of choice. I'm surprised it sold for less than $10,000 but just as happy since I have a funny feeling that this coin is finding its way back to the Philippines.
Lot 41299 -- The famous and very popular Y2 countermark on a sunface host from Argentina. They say always a favorite amongst collectors and hardly goes to the market, which explains its price tag of $48,000. The closest I can get to having one in my collection is this medal and key chain from the Von's Money Museum located in Bohol, Philippines. (please see image of medal and key chain in the Gallery below)
Lot 41302 -- One of those that may have gone unnoticed but surely will be picked up by a collector with a keen eye and a taste for the unusual. A possibly unique coin given that it exhibits two of the same countermarks on the obverse. The only "double coutermark" (on one side) in the whole collection that was up for sale. This coin hammered at $28,800 and may be finding its way back to the Philippines.
Lot 41306 -- A Y2 countermarked on a Costa Rica host is described also as "exceedingly rare and possibly unique." This coin is graded Au53 making it another rare host/high grade combination; so I wasn't surprised it hammered at $60,000 and I am proud to say I am certain it is finding it's way back to the Philippines.
Lot 41313 -- An F15 NGC graded coin of a Y2 countermark on an Iturbide 2nd bust host that Stacks claims seldom appears on the market. This "extremely rare" coin hammered at $38,400.
Lot 41315 -- Probably the only Chihuahua Mint Caps and Rays host coin with a Y2 countermark in the whole auction. Not to mention a straight graded one at VF30 that closed at $6,600.
Lot 41317 -- A Y2 countermark on the obverse of an "extremely rare" 1829 EoMO LF Mexico Caps and Rays host. This is such a beautiful coin I believe bought by a very kind gentleman/farmer from Manila. This coin sold for $38,400.
Lots with a Guadalajara Caps & Rays host combined with a Y2 countermark. There were a few of this host/countermark combination that Stacks had described as a "sneaky host" bearing a Y2 countermark. It is important to note that the entire mintage of the 1830 Guadalajara host was shipped to the Philippines and most were given an F7o countermark. This auction had a few of these rare combination coins which makes them great pick-ups for any collector. It is unfortunate I wasn't able to get one as I was eyeing a couple, but budget just did not permit.
Lot 41339 -- A Y2 countermark on a Peru "Libre" 8 Reales with the "long tassels variety.' This particular coin graded XF-45 and hammered at $15,600.
Lot 41345 -- A Y2 countermark applied to both sides of the perforation on a 1786-Mo FM Carolus III bust. My favorite of the bust type hosts and one host/cm coin combination that I have been trying to purchase in the past 3 auctions I have participated in. According to Stacks this is one particular countermark where the crown pattern variety for both countermarks are clearly applied and very distinct. This coin sold for $22,200.
Lot 41346 - Another Y2 countermark applied to the obverse of a perforation on an 1832 Lima Peruana host. One would think that the coin from the previous lot (41345) with the double CM on both the obverse and reverse would be harder to find than this coin. On the contrary and according to Stacks, the perforated variants with countermarks on only one side of the hole are far less encountered than their counterparts that shows them on both sides. This probably explains the selling price of $24,000, a tad higher than the previous coin's closing price.
Lot 41347 -- Another countermark on a minor with a 4R denomination. They say the 4Rs are the second rarest silver denomination from the minor coin series. This coin hammered at $24,000 and has found a new home in the Philippines.
Lot 41350 -- A Y2 applied to the obverse of an 1830-Guanajuato 1 Real, considered one of the hardest in the series, which explains its $42,000 final selling price.
A provenance that is one for the books. Never was there an auction for a very important collection of a legendary Philippine collector that was opened up to the public. From what I gathered, Philippine countermarked collections are passed on as a whole to another collector as they are sold lock, stock and barrel. However, this LEGARDA collection was auctioned off with the intent of giving it the respect and recognition it deserves and to allow the simple collector to own a piece of a collection whose provenance belonged to a couple of legends in Philippine Numismatic history.
The description of each coin on the catalog and on the website/app was definitely a cut above the rest. This is the first time I've began to truly understand and appreciate the history behind countermarked coins just by reading and going through each description of each of the 122 coins auctioned off. First of all it wasn't as complicated as other resources and it made the reader aware of the technicalities in collecting countermarked coins and showed the reader exactly what you should look for in these coins. From a novice and beginner's perspective this is invaluable, and, in my opinion the author of these descriptions should really consider writing a book on Philippine countermarked coins. Coincidentally, the man in the videos posted above wearing a cap and handling one of the buyers on the phone for the bidding of the 2R and the Sombrerete is Kyle Ponteiro, the author of these comprehensive catalog descriptions.
This auction had a market for each collector. There were collectors at the high end of the pricing spectrum willing to pay whatever it took for a particular coin, while there were other collectors who took this opportunity to fill up the empty spaces in their collection for a longer term project, one that they have been building up for years; and then finally there were collectors like me, with limited budget but had the desire to have at least one coin added to his collection. A coin that bore the words "LEGARDA COLLECTION" on its label. A premium I was willing to pay for a coin that was not only a beautiful one but one that I can tell my kids the story of how I stayed up until 6am just to be able to capture all the information, participate in the auction, and eventually buy one coin from a collection that was really made in heaven's door.
It is important to note that the only other time an auction of this magnitude happened that had the same quality of coins (or even better) as regards rarity of hosts and highest condition was 6 years ago, when Stacks came out with the Ray Czahor collection. I was told that this particular auction had a little less coins at 106 but had higher grades and included countermarks on two RARE gold coins. Not to mention there were ten MANILA counterstamps including a double C/S and two 1830 Manila counterstamps, which has been described as a coin that is rarer than hen's teeth. I was also the auction raised around $250,000 for those 106 coins. Imagine what those 6 years had done in terms of prices of countermarked and counterstamped coins. I would like to believe if that particular auction were held now together with this LEGARDA collection I can only imagine what other records they both would break in terms of sales.
On a final note, amidst all the information gathered, outlined and described, there is one fact that I feel is the most important and the most relevant to a collector of PHILIPPINE countermarked coins -- that is the fact that out of the 122 countermarked coins auctioned off in Stacks and Bowers, more than 50% of these coins is coming home to the Philippines. That is one statistic that makes a lot of sense from my perspective.
(The author would like to thank Stacks and Bowers for the use of the Photos and information from the auction last month)
DOWNLOAD COMPLETE RESULTS OF LEGARDA COLLECTION
Stack and Bower's Catalog of the August 2021 ANA Auction of Ancient and World Coins
War of Independence Information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_War_of_Independence#:~:text=The%20Mexican%20War%20of%20Independence,Mexico's%20independence%20from%20Spain.
The E-Sylum: Volume 15, Number 54, December 30, 2012, Article 19: https://www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v15n54a19.html