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Gem Prooflike 1831 Quarter Eagle, BD-1
Tied for Finest Certified

1831 $2 1/2 MS65 Prooflike NGC. Breen-6134, BD-1, R.4. Bass-Dannreuther Die State a/a or c/c. Due to the highly prooflike, reflective nature of the fields, the die state is difficult to determine with certainty. Is this coin an early strike with pronounced die polish, or is it a later state where die lapping has effaced earlier die clashes? Viewers must decide for themselves. (Bass-Dannreuther write that "the lapping is so light that distinguishing between State a and c is nearly impossible; the clashed state, b, is obvious.")
There are quite a few examples -- relatively speaking, and in the context of the extreme rarity of all early U.S. gold -- of prooflike business strikes that in the past have been called proofs. The situation is exacerbated, as well, by the evolution of the term "proof" itself among numismatists to a much stricter definition than prevailed throughout much of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
John Dannreuther makes some telling comments concerning the Bass specimen in the popular reference:

"There are unequivocal Proofs of this date, but this is not one of them. Since the intent of the coiner is the final arbiter of whether a coin is a Proof or not, we shall never be 100% certain on this coin. Whether it is a Proof without full credentials or one of the first circulation strikes after the Proofs were struck is a moot point."

In the case of the present coin, while the Prooflike designation is applicable in spades, to us there is little doubt that this piece is not a proof in the modern sense. The trimming of mint luster around the rims and the lack of the complete rim-to-rim die polish one would expect to see on a proof are the deciding attributes. The pronounced field reflectivity complements the prevailing reddish-gold coloration. The strike is sharp, save for on the eagle's left (facing) wing, next to the shield. This piece is tied with one other as the finest Prooflike certified at NGC; there are four MS66 non-Prooflike specimens numerically finer (2/11). An important and highly attractive specimen of early gold. (NGC ID# BFWA, PCGS# 77671)

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Auction Dates
Apr-May, 2011
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 6
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