The Finest Known 1856 Snow-3 Flying Eagle Cent, Mint State 66 PCGS1856 1C MS66 PCGS. Eagle Eye Photo Seal. Snow-3. Only two 1856 Flying Eagle cents are currently graded MS66 by PCGS: the present example and the Paul R. Gougelman example that sold for $83,375 as lot 1003 in Superior's sale of 6/2000. Whereas the Gougelman specimen was an example of the Snow-5 die pair, this coin has been attributed as Snow-3 by Richard Snow on the Eagle Eye Photo Seal. The Snow-3 die marriage is easily identifiable by repunching southwest on the 5 in the date. The significance of this variety to collectors has been growing since the 1977 publication of the book Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of United States and Proof Coins: 1722-1977, which included a special chapter devoted to the 1856 Flying Eagle cent. In that chapter, Breen constructed a chronological sequence for this issue. He also labeled the present variety (Snow-3) as Die Pair # 2 and stated that examples struck from these dies are "usually non-proofs, proofs rare." As the premier copper-nickel issue in Breen's chronology, this die pair has been ascribed to the earliest distribution of small cents to Congress, which Breen enumerated from correspondence in the National Archives as 634+ pieces.
Later research by Richard Snow was published in the 1992 book Flying Eagle and Indian Cents, which listed the die pairs of the 1856 in a clearer fashion and added unknown varieties (Snow-1 in copper-nickel and the previously mentioned Snow-5). In 1996, Q. David Bowers' book Enthusiast's Guide to Flying Eagle and Indian Cents expanded on the information from both Breen and Snow and weighed in on the question of the format of the 1856 Flying Eagle Cents. Grading experts submitted their opinions in that book in an effort to determine which 1856 Flying Eagle cent varieties are proofs and which are non-proofs. No consensus was formed. However, the information presented led collectors to desire the Snow-3 die pair over all others, creating a premium pricing structure that still exists today.
In Richard Snow's 2001 book The Flying Eagle and Indian Cent Attribution Guide, Vol. 1: 1856-1858, the current thinking regarding the 1856 Flying Eagle cent is presented. The Snow-3 die pair is accepted as a major part of the original striking period of the 1856 Cent. It is entirely possible that the production of many of the coins submitted to Congress were Snow-3 business strikes that were part of a trial press run at the Mint. This was a new size coin, struck in a new metal and with a new design. The Mint would necessarily need to test the presses at a normal speed to ensure that the coins would strike up properly and that planchets would not jam under the new conditions.
This is the finest known Snow-3 1856 Flying Eagle cent. Nearly all examples of this die marriage show softer details than proof 1856 specimens. The present representative exhibits slight striking incompleteness over the highest breast feathers and on the tips of the feathers in the eagle's left wing. This weakness actually confirms the Mint State status of this die pair. The satiny surfaces of this coin further attest to its status as a non-proof. An awesome beauty, both sides present even, honey-brown color, and there are no noticeable blemishes.
The Snow-3 die pair is only rarely known in proof. The PR66 PCGS 1856 Flying Eagle that sold as lot 5271 in Heritage's August 2001 Atlanta ANA Signature Sale is attributed as Snow-3, as it the PR67 specimen listed on the current (11/03) PCGS Population Report. The present coin, an unmistakable business strike, was the first coin photo sealed by Eagle Eye in the initial promotion of their service that provides a second opinion on a coin's grade. A unique opportunity to acquire a truly Mint State representative of one of the most popular coins in U.S. numismatics. (#2013) (Registry values: P5, N60000) (PCGS# 2013)
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