Damon Estate coins may fetch $3 million
The century-old collection will be auctioned next week
NEW YORK » An 1883 Hawaii silver dollar with a portrait of King Kalakaua, graded in near-mint condition, is expected to top $75,000 when Doyle New York sells the collection of Samuel Mills Damon next week.
The auction Thursday will offer rare coins, medals and notes that were locked in a bank for more than 100 years. The collection may top $3 million.
"The coin market is as strong as it's been in the last 15 years," said Norman Scrivener, a Doyle consultant who organized the sale. Exhibition previews run Monday through Wednesday.
"There are a couple of items testing the six-figure range," said Scott Schechter of Florida-based Certified Collectibles Group, which graded and certified the collection for Doyle. "That's just the buzz I'm hearing." Rare-coin auctions gross about $700 million a year at auction, Schechter said.
While the frothy state of the rare-coin market points to strong results next week, the seller isn't exactly short of cash. The seller is a trust, the estate of Samuel Mills Damon, until recently the fourth-largest private landholder in Hawaii. In 2004, the estate's assets were valued at $900 million.
Damon, who died in 1924, had a rapid rise to fortune and political influence. The son of missionaries, Damon worked at the Bank of Bishop & Co., which benefited from the early whaling and sugar trade. By 1895, Damon was the bank's sole owner. It later merged with other banks to become First Hawaiian Bank, now owned by BancWest Corp. The trust sold its stake in 2001 to BancWest for $500 million.
Bishop & Co. provided Damon with a pool of coins from around the world, many of which were acquired for his collection.
Damon, a slight man with a thick mustache, wielded considerable political influence. He was finance minister and trusted adviser to the Hawaiian monarchy in the 1890s. Upon the death of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, she willed him vast tracts of land. The 2004 death of Damon's last remaining grandchild prompted the dissolution of the trust and multimillion-dollar payouts to 20 heirs.