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Ultra-Rare 1866 Nickel Pattern
1866 5C Five Cents, Judd-521, Pollock-549, R.8, PR61 NGC.
Design. A fantastic muling of two obverse dies, originally used on Judd-461 and Judd-464, to create a two-headed coin. Obverse: Portrait of Washington, with the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA around, and the date below. Reverse: Bust of Washington, with the motto IN GOD WE TRUST above, and the date below. Struck slightly off-center, in silver, with a plain edge.
Commentary. This extremely rare issue was struck from genuine Mint dies, but was almost certainly not struck in the Mint. Specimens of this design have been reported on nonstandard planchets in a bewildering variety of metals. The present coin has a diameter of 0.850 inches, far larger than a standard nickel (0.808 inches-0.811 inches). The large diameter and the slightly off-center strike of this example indicate that it was not struck with a close collar. Since close collar technology was used for all issues at the Mint in 1866, it is most unlikely that the coin was produced there. In addition, the use of an expensive metal, like silver, to test the dies for a nickel coin was not standard Mint procedure.
The collector most often associated with unofficial restrikes using Mint dies was Joseph Mickley, because a number of these dies were seized by the government at the posthumous sale of his collection (Mason, 11/1878), lot 917. Mickley may have been the person responsible for producing the present coin, but there is room for doubt. The dies used to strike the present issue were absent from among those seized at the Mickley sale. Dr. George Fuld relates that the dies used for this mule were donated to the Boston Numismatic Society sometime between 1869 and 1878 (see The Numismatist, 5/1998). Mickley may or may not have been the donor. Fuld reports that the dies were destroyed only in 1956, affording ample opportunity for someone other than Mickley to make the restrikes. An example was sold in the Crosby Collection (Haseltine, 6/1883), lot 1776. Sylvester S. Crosby had close ties to the Boston Numismatic Society, making him a viable candidate for restrike honors. Whoever produced the restrikes made only a few of them. Experts can account for only three survivors today. Both NGC and PCGS have certified one coin at the PR61 level, with none finer (11/08).
Physical Description. The obverse is sharply struck, with crisp detail on the portrait. Several die striations are noted, but few handling marks. The reverse displays prooflike surfaces and a particularly sharp strike. Two planchet flaws are noted, one at the rim at 6 o'clock, and the other in the field near the neck. A beautiful prize for the collector of Washingtonia or the pattern specialist.
Provenance. Ex: Rare Coin Review No. 21 (Bowers and Ruddy, 1974), p. 43; River Oaks Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 11/1976), lot 298; Public Auction Sale (Stack's, 1/1987), lot 503.
From The Lemus Collection, Queller Family Collection Part Two. (NGC ID# 29LD, PCGS# 60718)
View all of [The Lemus Collection, Queller Family Collection Part Two ]
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