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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 24, 2006

Damon Estate's currency collection fetches $3.8M

By Rick Daysog
Advertiser Staff Writer

This $10 bill, No. 1 in a series, was the first $10 bill issued by the Kingdom of Hawai'i in 1880. It was sold for $268,000 at an auction yesterday of the Damon Estate's currency and coin collection.

Estate of Samuel Mills Damon catalog

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The Damon Estate's coin collection has been sealed in a bank vault for decades, protecting it from wear and tear.

Estate of Samuel Mills Damon catalog

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Hundreds of rare coins and currency collected by Hawai'i banking pioneer Samuel Mills Damon were auctioned off yesterday for more than $3.8 million, or about double the estimated sale price.

The sale of the Damon Estate's coin collection far exceeded the expectations of Doyle New York, the auction house that conducted the sale.

The Damon Estate, a storied land and banking trust, is in the process of selling off all of its holdings.

"These coins have been living in a bank vault for many decades," said Louis Webre, vice president for marketing and media at Doyle New York. "This is truly a rediscovered treasure."

An extremely rare proof set of 14 mint-condition coins made to commemorate the 1876 U.S. centennial sold for $548,000. Doyle had estimated the proof set would sell for $250,000 to $300,000.

Joanne Fujita, who successfully bid on the coins on behalf of one of the Damon heirs, told Bloomberg News that the coins will remain in Hawai'i, where they will be publicly displayed. She did not disclose the name of the heir.

An 1880 bank note from the Kingdom of Hawai'i sold for $268,000. The note, the first $10 bill issued by the kingdom, exceeded Doyle's estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.

"They got fabulous prices for the collection," said Don Medcalf, president of Hawaiian Island Stamp and Coin, and author of the Hawaiian Money Standard Catalogue.

"It's like buying a flawless diamond."

Medcalf said the appeal of Damon's collection comes from the fact that the items have been tucked away in a bank vault for decades and protected from wear and tear. Coins in the condition of Damon's 1876 proof set are extremely rare, he said.

Damon, who died in 1924, collected the coins while he headed First Hawaiian Bank's predecessor. After he died, he left his assets, including his stock holdings in the bank and a large portion of Moanalua and Salt Lake, to his heirs.

The Damon Estate was once the state's fourth-largest land-owner, and at its height owned assets valued at about $900 million. It also was First Hawaiian's largest shareholder before it sold its stake to BNP Paribas several years ago.

Under Damon's will, the estate terminates with the death of Damon's last grandchild, which happened in 2004. The assets are to be divided among Damon's surviving heirs.

The coins sold in yesterday's auction are among the last of the Damon Estate's remaining assets.

Reach Rick Daysog at rdaysog@honoluluadvertiser.com.