RECORD! Stack’s Bowers Sells a 1794 Silver Dollar for $10 Million

The front of a 1794 "flowing hair" sliver dollar, so called because of the luxuriant locks on Liberty's head. The coin sold for just over $10 million in 2013, setting a world auction record for any coin.

What you see: A 1794 “Flowing Hair” silver dollar, described as a “unique superb gem specimen”. Stack’s Bowers auctioned it in January 2013 for just over $10 million and a world auction record for any coin. [Since writing this story, news broke that the coin would go to auction as part of the Bruce Morelan collection in Las Vegas in October 2020.]

The expert: Vicken Yegparian, vice president of numismatics at Stack’s Bowers.

What is the 1794 flowing hair silver dollar, and why is it considered one of the rarest and most valuable American coins? It’s America’s first silver dollar. It’s important for that one simple reason. It predates everything our currency stands for today.

How many 1794 flowing hair silver dollars are known to exist? Estimates range between 135 and 150. Undocumented ones still come out of the woodwork on occasion, but that’s the best guess on how many survive.

And how many 1794 flowing hair silver dollars are believed to have been produced? Records say 1,758 pieces were made.

How were they lost? Were they melted down? Actually, that’s a pretty good survival rate for coins from that era. People recognized what they were back then, and saved them.

And I take it it’s called the “flowing hair” silver dollar because the woman shown in profile on the coin has flowing hair? Exactly. If you look at designs for coins from the mid-1790s period, they show the personification of Liberty. They’re all patterned after the Libertas Americana medal in Paris at the Paris Mint. She has the same flowing locks, but with a liberty cap behind her.

Why was the 1794 flowing hair silver dollar created? What need did it meet? It was a necessary coin for the economy, and for the needs of civic coinage. It’s the product of money as a sovereign right. America was starting to flex its muscles, and what does a sovereign state do? Make its own money.

So issuing the 1794 flowing hair silver dollar was just as much about announcing America’s arrival as a country as creating money for its citizens to use? It was a tool for building our reputation? It’s all of that–making our mark in international waters, so to speak. Establishing a mint was one element of nation-building. When they [the U.S. Mint] started, they decided to start with the silver dollar, because the silver dollar was obviously bigger. It’s weightier and more impressive in the hand.

What would $1 in 1794 be worth in 2020 dollars? How much spending power did this coin represent when it was new? It was a very good amount of money. Talking in terms of inflation, it’s worth $25 today.

How much silver is in the 1794 silver dollar? Just over three-quarters of a troy ounce of silver, or .4735 ounces troy of silver, net.

And that’s important, because the government promised there’d be a specific minimum amount of silver in its silver dollars, yes? Exactly. The weight of coppers was stipulated within a certain range, but silver was much more stringent. The Mint was a fledgling, low-budget operation when it launched. It didn’t have the scientific standards we have today. Back then, if it made an underweight silver dollar, it’d scrap it. If it was over, it’d be filed down to the right weight. This coin had very few adjustment lines, but they’re common on all 1794 silver dollars and 1790s coinage.

The back side of the 1794 silver dollar features a spread-winged eagle. This particular example of the coveted coin sold for slightly more than $10 million in 2013, setting a world auction record for any coin.

How many 1794 silver dollars has Stack’s Bowers handled? Many of them. We’ve been in business since the 1930s. There’s a book documenting all known 1794 silver dollars. At least 75 in that book have passed through our doors–two-thirds of the known pieces traded through Stack’s Bowers or its predecessor.

This example is believed to be the first silver dollar ever struck in the United States. What evidence supports that claim? Before you strike a production run of coins, you test the example in a softer metal. The Smithsonian has a copper version. It’s in the same die state as this piece.

We should pause and explain how coins are physically produced… Stamps that make money are called dies. They’re heavy pieces of iron, with the design at one end. There’s one die on the top, and one on the bottom, with the metal between them. You activate the press and stamp the coin.

The lot notes say the coin shows “prooflike reflectivity in the fields”. What does that mean, and why is that important? Does it support the idea that it could be the first silver dollar ever struck in the United States? The overall surface quality has a prooflike appearance. That describes the reflectivity of the surfaces. It’s mirrorlike. That’s a quality of the die and its ability to impart that surface. That quality diminishes with each strike of the coin. This coin is very well-struck, very well-impressed. All the detail is fine and very visible.

So a coin with prooflike reflectivity is kind of like a print from an early state? That’s a good comparison, but coins are a little bit different. They go from a very reflective finish to a frosty and lustrous surface. Frosty and lustrous is not undesirable, just different.

What other clues support the notion that this 1794 silver dollar might have been the first to be struck? This coin was specially made from specially prepared dies. It didn’t go into a bag with other pieces. They [whoever struck the coin] might have wanted to present special coins to somebody. We don’t know who made it or who saved it, but someone put it aside, and someone saved it for it to have been in such perfect condition.

So we can say this 1794 silver dollar was among the earliest struck, for sure, but we can’t definitively prove it was the first? Today, each die has a serial number and we record the number of strikes. None of that existed in 1794. They had to jury-rig a press to make a coin this big. But we can say beyond a reasonable doubt it was among the first strikes, and among the first prepared. They polished the die to a glossy state so it would create a glass-smooth surface in the metal and impart a glass-smooth surface to it.

Do any other 1794 silver dollars come close to this one? Nothing. Nothing.

The 1794 silver dollar is described as being “Specimen-66”, as graded by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). What does that mean, and why is that important? That’s a very high grade for a U.S. coin. Anything remotely near it in silver dollars is huge. The scale is from one to 70. A grade of 67 is super-high. For this coin to be a 66 is a big deal. And it’s a big coin. It’s much easier to hurt a larger coin. If you drop a silver dollar on the ground, you can get a big dent in the edge. To have a 1794 silver dollar that’s so well-preserved and flaw-free relative to its peers… it’s a big deal.

The lot notes also describe it as a “unique superb gem specimen”. Could you break that phrase down and explain it? “Unique” means it’s the only specimen or specially struck 1794 silver dollar that we know of. “Superb” is an old term used in numismatics for over 100 years, from before numeric grading of coins. “Gem” is the best one on the tray. Calling it a “superb gem specimen” is gilding the lily.

What had to happen between 1794 and now for the coin to survive in such good condition? Someone had to forget about it and let it sit in a family collection for 200 years, or be really cautious in its handling. It’s a miracle that it’s survived this well. It’s indicative that it was specially made and specially saved.

Why didn’t Stack’s Bowers sell this 1794 silver dollar as a single lot in a stand-alone auction? It was part of a collection, so we kept it as such.

Have you seen this 1794 silver dollar or any other 1794 silver dollars out of their plastic capsules? By the time I saw it, it had been encapsulated for a while. I have held other 1794s, before they were certified. Getting a chance to hold it in its raw state is almost impossible. But even one that’s beat up and well-worn is very cool.

What estimate did Stack’s Bowers put on this 1794 silver dollar? We don’t provide printed estimates for most of our auctions, and we didn’t publish an estimate on the coin. Bidding started at $2.2 million and rose from there.

What was the previous world auction record for any coin prior to the 1794 silver dollar? It was $7.5 million, for a 1933 double eagle sold by Stack’s Bowers and Sotheby’s in 2002.

What was your role in the auction of the 1794 silver dollar? I was on the phone with a client.

Was the winning bidder in the room? A representative of the winner was in the room, doing the actual bidding–Laura Sperber, on behalf of her client, Bruce Morelan. It’s still in his collection today. [Since taking this interview with Yegparian, PGCS announced that Morelan will auction his collection, including the record-setting 1794 silver dollar, in October 2020 in Las Vegas.]

The 1794 silver dollar sold for just over $10 million. Were you surprised? I was super surprised. There were no previous comparables [similar lots offered previously at auction] that would say the coin would bring $10 million that day. The closest was the 1933 gold piece.

When did you know you had a new world auction record? The minute the hammer fell. I think everyone was gobsmacked when the number was presented. We all knew the record for the 1933 double eagle. To get to $10 million–that’s faraway an obvious record. No one thought it would happen. I think the bidders kept their cards close to their chests. I don’t think a new record was a glimmer in anyone’s eye.

This coin was the first to cross the $10 million threshold at auction. Could you talk about what that meant to the world of coin-collecting? It seems that coins are like books, in that sales records go back fairly far. I recall reading that a coin crossed the $1,000 auction threshold in the 19th century… It was huge. I don’t know when the $10,000 sale happened, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that one hit $100,000. It took another 20 years to pass $1 million. Twenty years after that, one hit $10 million. I don’t think we’ll cross $100 million any time soon. The next realistic threshold will be $20 million. Many “greats” can be attributed to this coin. This one could break its own record.

How long do you think this record will stand? I don’t think it will fall tomorrow, but I hope it doesn’t take 30 years. I hope the record will break in the near term.

Why would it be better for this coin or one like it to come to auction relatively soon? Sometimes, you need a coin to trade to get it into peoples’ consciousness. If it goes away for 50 years, people might forget about it or think they aren’t able to own it. This coin last sold in 1984, and it brought $250,000, or thereabouts. In 30 years, it’s gone from $250,000 to $10 million.

To what do you credit the rise in price? Is demand higher? There are more well-heeled collectors in numismatics. Liquidity in the market plays into the desire to own those things. With the stay-at-home orders [the shelter-in-place recommendations due to the COVID-19 pandemic], collectors might have extra time to put into hobbies.

What else could meet or beat it? Is it pretty much this coin or an 1804 silver dollar? Exactly. This coin, or an 1804 silver dollar. That’s where story and value meet. Another coin we talked about [that could do it] is the pattern coin for the $20 gold piece.

What’s a pattern coin? An artist or a sculptor might put out a design for a coin. The iterations don’t always survive in any form, never mind the coin. For 1907 [the year in which Augustus Saint-Gaudens died, after creating but not finalizing designs for an eagle and a double eagle coin] there’s one iteration of an individual head design that was used on the $10 coin [the single eagle]. It definitely hasn’t traded in recent decades at auction. A coin like that would have all the factors that would produce a price above $10 million.

Why will this piece stick in your memory? If it were a common coin from that era, of this quality, it’d be memorable. It’s a special coin in many regards, and it was a crowning moment in my career. It’s just superior.

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RECORD! A Beatles Shea Stadium Poster Sets the World Auction Record for Any Original Concert Poster

A 1966 Beatles Shea Stadium concert poster--one of a handful of surviving originals--set a world auction record for any concert poster at Heritage Auctions in April 2020.

What you see: An original 1966 Beatles Shea Stadium concert poster. It sold at Heritage Auctions in April 2020 for $137,500 and a new world auction record for an original concert poster.

The expert: Pete Howard, consignment director at Heritage Auctions for entertainment and music.

How often do you find original 1960s posters for Beatles concerts of any kind, not just the Shea Stadium one? It’s very unusual. There’s not a lot out there. I’m not going to say [genuine originals] are nonexistent, but when somebody calls me and tells me they have an old Beatles poster, I get bored pretty quick. It’s always some bootleg.

Do Beatles concert posters survive in larger numbers than concert posters that feature their contemporaries? Were concert-goers more likely to peel one off the wall and bring it home because it showed the Beatles? Surprisingly, and almost shockingly, that’s not the case. Beatles and Elvis posters are as rare as posters for Paul Revere and the Raiders. No one got the coolness of original Beatles posters then. No collectibles market was established at all.

So concert-goers were rarely moved to spontaneously grab a poster during or after the show? Yes. In the case of the Winter Dance Party poster, a person walking by saw it and took it down. Most of the time, they’d walk by. The show was over. Nobody said, “Gee, this will be worth money to somebody.” Nobody. Zero.

I have to say, the Beatles poster itself is not very interesting-looking. The band photo looks like it was shot in 1962–But that’s totally how the Beatles looked in 1966. Their current publicity photos from 1962 to 1966 would look the same. 1967 is when the sideburns happen. When they were touring, it was mop tops and suits and ties.

Still, it looks like whoever did it put five minutes of work into designing this thing. I can’t rubber stamp the five-minutes comment. They put a little work into it. They were following a template: Promoter, name of band, photo, venue, date, when tickets were available. It was boilerplate. The only creative thing in the format is the letters of the word “Beatles” are tilted a little bit to make it look more fun.

And I understand that some time after the show, the promoter started selling reprints of this Beatles concert poster? Sid Bernstein promoted the Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965 and 1966. In 1965, he didn’t make a collectible or worthwhile poster. The concert sold out instantly, so there was no need. In 1966, the Beatles didn’t sell out, so he made this poster. I can’t date when Bernstein did reproductions, but he did not pass them off as real. Plenty did some without his permission. Bootlegs are out there by the millions.

Before we spoke, I received a flyer from Heritage Auctions in the mail that showed this record-setting Beatles concert poster and a Grateful Dead “Skeleton & Roses” poster from 1966, which sold for $118,750. No disrespect to the Beatles poster, but the Grateful Dead poster… some designer lavished some time on it. They’re very different. Both are from the same year, and both were created for one reason only–to sell tickets. But the Grateful Dead design is a completely different concept and ethos, and there are different reasons to collect each poster. The Beatles poster is a rarity. The Grateful Dead poster was condition grade 9.8, which made it expensive. There are hundreds of first printings of the Grateful Dead poster out there. For the Beatles poster, there’s four. There are probably as many 9.8 grade Grateful Dead posters as there are Beatles [Shea Stadium] posters in any condition. That’s why they soared past $100,000.

As you just said, few copies of the original 1966 Beatles Shea Stadium concert poster survive. Is it possible to know how many were printed? A couple hundred is a good guess.

What’s the provenance of this Beatles concert poster? We don’t know whether the consigner went to the 1966 show together with his sister or if he went alone, but he saw the Beatles in Shea Stadium in the 1960s. Whether she went or not, she took down the poster. Fifty years went by. The sister passed away. He went through her stuff and found the poster. It wasn’t a new revelation. She’d hung it on her wall at home.

In November 2019, Heritage Auctions sold a different example of this poster for $125,000. Six months later, the record broke again. Could you discuss whether and how the two events were related? I get the impression the April poster might not have come out if the November poster hadn’t done so well. It’s not a coincidence at all. It shows you how strong and coveted the poster is.

The Beatles concert poster had a rating of Very Good Plus. What does that mean in this context? The image area is undamaged, and the poster is whole. There are minor folds or tack holes, but no major tears.

The Beatles concert poster advertises a show at Shea Stadium. Does the venue matter, or is it just gravy? It’s more than gravy. Shea Stadium is an iconic venue and it’s a huge part of Beatles history. It was considered the biggest rock concert in history at the time. If the poster said “Forest Hills Stadium, New York,” I’d expect it to go for a lot less.

What other Beatles concert posters are made more interesting to collectors because of the venue name? In America, nothing touches Shea Stadium. It’s the iconic venue, and it’s New York City. A German Beatles concert poster could hit six figures at auction. The right Cavern Club poster–where they honed their skills–could reach this [record sum].

Do any genuine Beatles Cavern Club posters survive? It’s iffy. There’s a “June 11, Beatles” poster in marquee style, which doesn’t have a band picture. There might be two or three that survive. But the rarity’s there, and the venue is there. It could challenge a Shea Stadium poster. A German one that would blow right by it is the Kaiserkeller club in Hamburg. The Beatles played there for a couple of months. There are only three handpainted Beatles signs, but they’re still posters.

What is the 1966 Beatles Shea Stadium concert poster like in person? It’s on cardboard, but it shows its age. One has to be careful in how they handle it.

What was your role in the April 2020 auction? Were you the auctioneer? No. Usually, I’m at the front of the podium, but it was the first coronavirus sale. I had to watch it from my computer, like everyone else did.

Did that make the auction of the Beatles concert poster less dramatic? I don’t think so. It was quite exciting to see it go up and up. I was completely on the edge of my seat, just dying.

When did you know you had a new world auction record for a Beatles concert poster? As soon as the hammer hit.

Were you surprised that the Beatles concert poster sold for $137,500? No, because it’s a great poster and it [the record sum] was very close to the last one we sold. We did have the 2004 result to measure things against. November 2019 was just short of that, and April 2020 was just beyond that.

How long do you think this world auction record will stand? What else is out there that could meet or beat the Beatles concert poster? I’d venture to say between 10 or 20 different posters could set a new world auction record. In the psychedelic poster world, a super-iconic Jimi Hendrix flying eyeball, if it came up in a high grade–9.8, 9.9, or 10.0–it wouldn’t surprise me if it beat the record. A large Elvis Presley from the 1950s with a picture on it–that wouldn’t surprise me. A Grateful Dead Skeleton and Roses poster, the next 9.8 grade could blow by a Beatles Shea Stadium and set a new world auction record.

Why will this Beatles Shea Stadium concert poster stick in your memory? Anything that sets a world auction record is going to completely stick in my memory. It’s bragging rights for the company, and it’s wonderful for the hobby. And it happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is another reason it’s memorable.

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Images are courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Pete Howard appeared previously on The Hot Bid talking about an original 1959 Winter Dance Party poster that featured Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper.

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RECORD! Pelé’s 1970 World Cup Winner’s Medal Commanded More Than $400,000

The front of the World Cup winner's medal awarded to Pelé in 1970. It sold for more than $400,000 in 2016, setting records for any Pelé item and any football or soccer medal.

What you see: The 1970 World Cup winner’s medal awarded to Pelé. Estimated at £70,000 to £140,000 ($86,400 to $172,800), it sold for £346,000 ($427,100) at a Julien’s Auctions sale in London in 2016. It’s the most expensive Pelé item sold at auction, as well as the most expensive football (aka soccer) medal ever auctioned.

The expert: Martin Nolan, executive director of Julien’s Auctions.

Who is Pelé, and why is he important? He’s regarded as one of the greatest football players of all time. He won three World Cups. He’s from Brazil, and he’s a humanitarian–he’s done a fantastic amount of work for charity. In 1999, he was named the athlete of the century by the International Olympic Committee, and FIFA (the International Federation of Association Football) named him Player of the Century. (Pelé shared the honor with Diego Maradona.)

Ah. So he’s kind of a big deal. A huge deal. When it comes to stars, he’s an absolute superstar.

Pelé’s birth name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how you get “Pelé” from that. How did he get that name? And what does it mean? He was born into poor circumstances in Brazil to a family of Portuguese origin. He was named after Thomas Edison, but it was misspelled as Edson. When he went to school, his favorite player was someone by the name of Bilé, but he mispronounced it as Pelé. The more he protested, the more it stuck. He became known as Pelé, and we know him as Pelé. In Portuguese, there’s no translation for “Pelé”.

Now, this 1970 World Cup winner’s medal–everyone on the 1970 Brazilian World Cup team received it, yes? It’s not the equivalent of a most valuable player award? Absolutely. Everyone who won got the medal.

Pelé won the World Cup in 1958, 1962, and 1970. Julien’s offered all three over the course of a three-day auction of Pelé’s personal collection in 2016, and this medal sold for the largest sum. Why? What makes the 1970 medal more valuable than the other two? Winning three World Cups is unusual and rare. No one else has done it to this day. It’s such a massive achievement.

Could you talk about what an absolute physical feat it is to win three World Cups? I see that Pelé was not quite 18 at the start of the tournament in 1958, and 22 in 1962, and 30 in 1970, which had to help, but still… when I watch a top-level soccer match, I’m always struck by how much running the players do. There’s a lot of running, and the game is played all with the feet, no hands. It’s the running, and the skill with moving the ball and passing the ball and moving the ball into the net–it’s a huge physical demand, and the World Cup is typically played in hot weather. Think about the huge demands on your body and your fitness level. And the speed you need to have is exceptional. Playing for 12 years at the international level is a phenomenal achievement. To win in 1958 and 1962 and still play in 1970–it speaks to the magnitude of Pelé as a person and an athlete.

While other players have won two World Cups, Pelé stands alone as the only three-time winner 50 years after he accomplished that feat. What does that say about how the game of football has changed over time? Is it pretty much impossible for a player to win three World Cups now? I think it’s changed and become more technical than the free-flowing play during his era. I won’t say it’s impossible, but football has become more technical than skillful.

When you say “technical,” do you mean it’s become more about knowing the rules over playing the game? Exactly. And there’s the technology available to us today, the competitors’ knowledge of how you play the game before you’re on the field.

You mean the ability to review tapes of previous games and study how rival teams play? Yes. That wasn’t applicable to Pelé.

Do you think Pelé will always stand alone as the sole three-time winner of the World Cup? To win it three times is so phenomenal for a player… there’s nothing to say no one can ever do it again, but so many things have to line up. There has to be luck involved as well as stamina and skill. It would be phenomenal to see it happen, but I think Pelé’s title is safe for another few years.

The reverse side of the World Cup winner's medal that was awarded to Pelé in 1970. It represents his third World Cup win, and 50 years later, he's still the only player, male or female, to propel the winning team to victory three times.

You had three Pelé World Cup winner’s medals to offer in the 2016 sale. What strategy did you use when scheduling them? Did you offer one on each day of the three-day auction, with the 1970 medal going up last? There was a lot of debate about that within our group at Julien’s. It was a three-day auction, six auction sessions, two each day. We worked closely with Pelé. He put his heart and soul into the project. He was inclined to sell the medals in one lot. I think he hoped to keep them together. In the end, we decided it was fairest to do one each day, in chronological order. That’s how it ended up. The three medals went to three different buyers.

Does the Pelé 1970 World Cup winner’s medal have inherent value? I see that it’s gold-colored, but I don’t see any information about a carat weight. Intrinsically, not really, but we didn’t focus on the intrinsic value of the medal itself. It represents a fantastic achievement by Pelé. That’s where the value was and is. It was his third World Cup win, and he scored the opening goal in the 18th minute of the game. That’s the story, that’s the history, that’s the value. That’s what we were selling.

What is the Pelé 1970 World Cup winner’s medal like in person? Are there aspects that the camera doesn’t capture? If you looked at it, you’d be underwhelmed by it. You’d walk past it and it wouldn’t get your attention. But if you put a picture of Pelé with it, it’s game over. It’s so incredibly light and thin, and yet it represents so many years of hard work, grit, perseverance, and stamina. For me, personally, holding it gave me chills.

I see that the Pelé 1970 World Cup winner’s medal has a ring at the top, so it could be worn on a ribbon or a chain. Did Pelé ever wear this medal after he won it? He probably wore it on special occasions, but he was the most humble, non-egotistical gentleman I’ve ever worked with. I’m a fan of Pelé. I work with celebrities all the time. To see someone who’s achieved so much be so down-to-earth and normal and take an interest in how you were as a person… working with him was an honor.

He didn’t flaunt it. Exactly. Of course he was proud of his achievements for his country, but on a personal level, it was not something he would flaunt.

How did people react in the lead-up to the Pelé auction? It was phenomenal. Even people who weren’t bidding in the auction were curious and came to the exhibit. Pelé was so unselfish with his time. We had two parties, one for VIPs and one for the public. He attended both. Everybody who wanted a photo with him, he took a photo with them.

Pelé has seven kids, so it makes sense for him to consign his collection to auction rather than try to decide who should get what. I imagine it wasn’t easy for him to sell, though. How did he react to the auction? Sad as it was, it was cathartic, it was liberating. He had been caring for and insuring the items. Now they’re all over the world, safe, and being enjoyed, appreciated, and celebrated. Pelé loves the auction catalog, and that’s a historical book–his collection is all documented now. He can look to the catalog to see what he achieved, and know the items are loved and will be appreciated for many years to come, and there will be no family fights.

Was the group of bidders that participated in the Pelé auction more international than that of other Julien’s auctions? Yes, definitely. South Americans were hugely involved, Europe was involved. The Middle East was buying, and North America, of course–a tremendously international auction.

What do you recall of the Pelé auction? We made it a fun event. On the first day, the Julien’s Auctions team all wore black shirts. On the second, we wore green shirts, and on the third, yellow shirts. [The shirt colors reflected the colors of each of the three volumes of the auction catalog.] For me, it was one of my all-time favorite auctions we’ve ever done.

What was your role in the Pelé auction? I was on the phone with a client who was bidding in the auction. We had two different auctioneers who would rotate. My days were busy. We brought a lot of staff from Los Angeles. It was such a big project, we needed all hands on deck. And my family are such big fans of Pelé, it became like a family event as well.

What do you remember about the sale of this particular lot–the Pelé 1970 World Cup winner’s medal? There was a lot of tension beforehand. You could feel it as we got closer to the lot. It was all building up to a crescendo, a frenzy. The two who got the other two medals bid, but it ultimately went to an individual in the U.K.

The Pelé 1970 World Cup winner’s medal ultimately sold for more than $427,000. Did that surprise you? Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised. It was estimated at £70,000 to £140,000–that’s a big-ticket item. I hoped we could meet that amount. To have it sell for more than three times the estimate was exciting. It’s almost half a million for something you can almost fit in your hand. If you close your fist around it, you can’t see it. It adds to the story of Pelé and brings it to life.

Was Pelé in the room during the auction? There’s a certain amount of emotion involved in letting a collection go. We encouraged him to watch it online.

What was Pelé’s reaction to the news of how his 1970 World Cup winner’s medal did? He was very pleasantly surprised. I recall at the time that we thought all three medals would sell for half a million. This, alone, sold for almost half a million. He was so happy with the result.

The Pelé 1970 World Cup winner’s medal set a world auction record for a Pelé item and a record for any football or soccer medal. How long do you think those records will stand? Would this medal have to come back to auction? Or maybe something from the 1966 World Cup could beat it? Some of those medals could. A U.K. player sold one of his [1966 World Cup] medals, but it was nothing close to this piece. If the Pelé medal came back again, it would set a new record, yes. In 2016, we were close to an election about Brexit, and unsure about spending money. There were 1,600 items in the auction. For one person, that’s a lot. Now there’s so little Pelé material out there. If it came back, the focus would be on this medal, and it would set a new record.

Why will the Pelé 1970 World Cup winner’s medal stick in your memory? You know what I deal with. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather have. The great hard work, what it required to keep his fitness level and his sanity and play the game before a cheering crowd in Mexico and score the first goal for his country… and to stand next to Pelé, who I came to know, and to sell it for a record amount–I’ll never forget. I’m so happy with what we achieved for him, and so happy with the result. I could talk all day about Pelé.


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Image is courtesy of Julien’s Auctions.

Martin Nolan previously spoke to The Hot Bid about a baseball signed by the Beatles during what proved to be their final concert;  a Lucille guitar played on stage by B.B. King the “Happy Birthday Mr. President” dress that Marilyn Monroe wore to serenade JFKthe first TCB necklace given away by Elvis Presley, a purple Prince-worn tunic that the star donned for a 1998 BET interview, which yielded a famous GIF; a Joseff of Hollywood simulated diamond necklace worn by Hedy Lamarr, Ava Gardner, and several other Hollywood actresses, as well as a once-lost 1962 Gibson acoustic guitar belonging to John Lennon that sold for $2.4 million.

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Every Bird on The Hot Bid

A late 19th century Russian silver rooster-form presentation cup offered at Freeman's.

Birds flock to The Hot Bid. Several featured lots and records have an avian theme. You don’t need binoculars to enjoy this roundup.

The flamingo image from the double elephant folio of John James Audubon's The Birds of America, sold at Sotheby's in December 2019.

Sotheby’s offered a rare double elephant folio of John James Audubon’s The Birds of America in a single-lot auction in December 2019. Selby Kiffer, senior vice president and international senior books specialist for Sotheby’s New York, spoke in depth about what makes the book legendary.

Ben Austrian's painting White Hen with Chickens, sold at Freeman's in June 2019.

A flock of paintings by Pennsylvania artist Ben Austrian appeared at Freeman’s in June 2019. White Hen with Chickens led the group.

A tall, snarky-looking Wally Bird, which is totally judging you, sold at Rago in January 2019.

A tall, snarky-looking Wally Bird offered at Rago in January 2019. Initially created as tobacco jars, collectors have long loved these British ceramics.

An Ira Hudson flying black duck, offered at Copley Fine Art Auctions in February 2019.

An Ira Hudson flying black duck graced the February 2019 sale at Copley Fine Art Auctions.

A spectacular Civil War-era quilt that showcased an eagle and featured several other colorful birds appeared at Skinner in March 2019.

In March 2019, Bonhams Los Angeles offered a stunning 2007 opaque ruby carving of an eagle in flight, done by Peruvian artist Luis Alberto Quispe Aparicio.

18th century natural history painter Sarah Stone depicted a charming foursome of parrots that could never happen in the wild. It sold at Dreweatts in November 2018.

Chris Barber of Skinner spoke about a robin carved by the late New Hampshire artist Jess Blackstone ahead of an October 2018 sale.

A ridiculously scarce 1834 French first edition of a magnificent ornithological book came up at Heritage Auctions in September, 2018. Pictured above is its plate on the red curlew.

A circa 1912 Elmer Crowell preening black duck decoy swam away with a startling sum at Copley Fine Art Auctions in July 2018.

An Earnest-Gregory dovetailed goose decoy, also offered at Copley Fine Art Auctions in July 2018, set several records.

An original comic panel from The Far Side by Gary Larson, featuring a human trying to talk to a duck, appeared at Heritage Auctions in May 2018. The human succeeded, and so did the auction house, which set a new record for original art from The Far Side.

A late 19th century Russian silver rooster-form presentation cup came up at Freeman’s in October 2017.

In June 2017, the late Australian artist Brett Whiteley’s Hummingbird and Frangipani appeared at Bonhams Sydney.

An absurdly rare near-complete Dodo skeleton sold for a record sum at Summers Place in November 2016.

A Gus Wilson red-breasted merganser duck decoy sold for a record sum at Copley Fine Art Auctions in July 2014.

A unique, large, four-panel Frederick Hurten Rhead tile featuring a splendid peacock set a record at Rago in 2012.

Images of White Hen with Chickens by Ben Austrian and the Russian rooster-form silver presentation cup are courtesy of Freeman’s.

Images of the Wally bird and the Frederick Hurten Rhead peacock panel are courtesy of Rago.

Images of the red curlew plate from the ornithological book and the original Gary Larson comic art are courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Images of the Ira Hudson flying black duck, the Earnest-Gregory dovetailed goose, the Elmer Crowell preening black duck, and the Gus Wilson red-breasted merganser are courtesy of Copley Fine Art Auctions.

The image of the near-complete Dodo skeleton is courtesy of Summers Place Auctions.

Images of the Luis Alberto Quispe Aparicio ruby eagle carving and the Brett Whiteley painting are courtesy of Bonhams.

Images of the Civil War-era quilt and the Jess Blackstone robin are courtesy of Skinner, Inc.

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