Rare 19th Century Proof Coinage highlights Long
An outstanding selection of rare proof coinage from the 19th
century highlights our offerings in the upcoming 2013
June 6 - 9 US Coin Signature Auction
, to be held in connection
with the Long Beach Coin & Collectibles Expo. This auction will
open for bidding soon at HA.com/coins
An extremely rare branch
mint proof 1895-O Morgan dollar is, as an NGC-graded Proof 66
Cameo, the finest of only five known proof or specimen strikes of
this issue. Struck from heavily polished and lapped circulation
strike dies, this piece is clearly something special, perhaps
produced for a special occasion or visitor. This coin is profiled
in more detail below.
Four dollar gold pieces, or Stellas, grab collectors' attention
unlike any other denomination of US coin. Struck for only two years
(1879-1880) as an early attempt at an international coinage, only
Flowing Hair variety comes on the market with any frequency,
and this auction contains an outstanding example. Graded Proof-66
Ultra Cameo by NGC, is surpassed as a Deep or Ultra Cameo by only
two coins at the major grading services combined.
The three dollar gold piece is another odd denomination, which,
although much more affordable than the Stella, still commands high
prices whenever it's encountered as a proof. The 1876 is from the
second year of a two year run of proof-only issues, and while it is
not as rare as the 1875, the tiny mintage of 45 coins necessarily
limits its ability to collectors. This
piece, graded Proof-65 Cameo by NGC, is surpassed in numerical
grade by only six coins at the major grading services combined.
Although it was struck a few years after the close of the 19th
century, the proof
1904 double eagle in this auction deserves special mention.
Certified as Proof-67 Cameo by NGC, this coin is, simply put, the
single finest certified example of the issue, and a must for the
collector who wants the best. Proof 1904 double eagles are quite
rare, unlike their circulation strike counterparts, and examples
with significant cameo contrast are even more unusual.
Just a few of the many other highlights of this auction include:
Bidding on this auction is expected to open in a few days. As
always, we are looking for outstanding consignments for our next
auction, scheduled for July 11-14 at the Summer FUN show in
Orlando. To consign your material, please give us a call at
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Seldom Seen Selections: The finest of five known
proof 1895-O dollars
The existence of a branch mint proof 1895-O dollar was unknown and
unsuspected until recently. In Walter Breen's comprehensive 1977
, he mentions the existence of an 1895-O
quarter and half dollar, but no mention of a dollar. Wayne Miller's
1986 dollar reference mentions many known, probable, and even
definitely-not-proofs. The Anita Maxwell Trust Collection of Silver
Dollars, sold in our 1995 ANA auction, had eight branch mint
proofs, but no 1895-O. At that time none were even rumored to
exist. Today five examples have been certified by NGC: two
non-Cameo coins, one Cameo, and two Specimen strikes. Of those five
coins, the coin we are offering in our upcoming Long
is the highest graded, as NGC has encapsulated it
in a Proof-66 Cameo holder.
Wayne Miller refers to a lightly hairlined coin he once owned
that others (himself excluded) believed to be a branch mint proof.
Otherwise the traditional literature on Morgan dollars is silent
about the existence of proof 1895-O dollars. One must assume these
pieces were considered by Miller and others as Deep Mirror
Prooflike coins. But even the most casual glance at this coin shows
that it is clearly not a business strike Morgan dollar. It does,
however, follow the pattern of almost all other known branch mint
proof dollars (except the 1879-O) in that it was struck from known
circulation dies. There is nothing special about the VAM-3 variety.
It is notable only for slight doubling at the top of the 5 in the
date. But as with other branch mint proofs, this coin was adapted
from existing dies. New Orleans Mint personnel obviously had a need
for special strikes for some occasion or person(s), and they
specially treated the VAM-3 dies. However, unlike some branch mint
proofs, especially those from New Orleans, this piece shows no
trace of die rust.
The die characteristics on this piece and we assume on the other
1895-O proof and specimen strikes, are:
- Incomplete die polish in the field immediately between the
upper and lower folds in the cap.
- Evidence of heavy die lapping, most easily seen on the lowest
curl and truncation of the neck of Liberty around the designer's
initial, making that portion of the curl seem to "float."
- Several other spotty areas of die polish on the obverse: in
front of the eye, within the ear, below the ear, and several other
patches of polish are scattered throughout the hair.
- The reverse die was also heavily lapped. Several of the
peripheral letters, especially the I in UNITED are attenuated.
- Incomplete die polish is seen between the eagle's neck and
right (facing) wing, within and around the bowknot, and around the
berries in the first cluster just right of the bowknot.
These characteristics are roughly equivalent to what may be
found on Philadelphia proofs of the same era. Not only is that
remarkable when compared to P-mint coins, but it is unprecedented
in our experience among branch mint proof strikings.
In the July 2007 Numismatist, Neil Berman wrote a column titled
"Morgan Proofs and Specimens" in which he laid out the general
guidelines for branch mint proofs and briefly reviewed those he had
seen. For the general guidelines, he wrote:
"These pieces display bold detail for the date,
although weak strikes are acceptable on those issues that typically
are not sharp. Proof and specimen examples exhibit square or wire
rims because of the extra pressure put on the planchet during the
striking process. Since the U.S. Mint did not dump these Morgans
into sacks following their manufacture, they are devoid of
bagmarks, although other damage can be present. Such coins should
exhibit deeply reflective proof fields (a result of the specially
polished planchets and polished dies). Lastly, all the coins have
mintmarks. "A lack of any one of these characteristics does not
disqualify a coin from being a proof or specimen, but the absence
of several certainly puts the coin in question. Keep in mind
that the equipment at the branch mints was inferior to that at the
Philadelphia Mint; consequently, their products tended to be of
lesser quality." [Emphasis ours.]
This dollar meets all the criteria set forth above, except for
squared rims. The lack of squared rims was certainly not from a
lack of striking pressure, though. Unlike most 1895-O dollars,
which are poorly struck, this piece has an absolutely full strike.
That means complete hair detail over the ear as well as full
feather definition on the eagle. The fields show extraordinary
depth of mirroring, quite unlike that seen on Morgan dollars of
other dates that are Deep Mirror Prooflike. Die polishing is
complete from rim to rim, except for the minute areas noted above.
And as Berman noted in his column, this piece lacks bag marks.
There are contact marks, as one would expect to see on a proof,
but it lacks the tiny abrasions Morgan dollars display that were
housed for years or decades in canvas bags. The most obvious
contact mark is a shallow, angling abrasion just behind the mouth
of Liberty. On the reverse, there are three shallow planchet
defects in the field below ED of UNITED. Otherwise, the surfaces
are brilliant with no evidence of color on either side. The devices
are nicely frosted, yielding noticeable field-device contrast on
both sides. In-person inspection of this dollar will remove any
doubt from a prospective bidder's mind. As Walter Breen used to
say, "It carries its own credentials."
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This Week's Top Ten
The ten highest valued branch mint proofs or specimen strikes to
sell in Heritage auctions:
- 1856-O $20 SP63 PCGS. CAC. Realized $1,437,500
- 1855-S $3 PR64 Cameo NGC. CAC. Realized
- 1894-S 10C PR65 PCGS. Realized $1,035,000
- 1838-O 50C PR64BM PCGS. Realized $734,375
- 1838-O 50C PR63 Branch Mint PCGS. CAC. Realized
- 1906-D $20 Special Strike SP66 PCGS. CAC. Fourth 1906-D
Double Eagle Struck in Denver. Realized $440,625
- 1839-O 50C PR65 NGC. Realized $299,000
- 1855-S 25C Arrows PR64 NGC. CAC. Realized
- 1838-O 50C PR45 PCGS. Realized $276,000
- 1855-S 50C Arrows PR65 NGC. WB-1. Realized
Repeat appearance of two coins have been omitted, as have
Do you have a suggestion for a future top ten list? Send
it to us!
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