1834 $5 Classic PR63 Cameo NGC. First Head, Large Plain 4, Breen-6501, McCloskey 1-A, R.3. Like most known proof examples, ...
Extremely Rare Proof Cameo 1834 Classic Half Eagle1834 $5 Classic PR63 Cameo NGC. First Head, Large Plain 4, Breen-6501, McCloskey 1-A, R.3. Like most known proof examples, the large 4 in the date is close to the curl, and the date is a so-called "fancy" or "script" 8, with a larger juncture of the loops than the loops themselves. The arrowheads are large; the lowest touches the second A in AMERICA. The second S in STATES shows recutting on the middle curve, and the eagle has a tongue.
By 1834 the melt value of old-tenor gold coins had risen above their face value. Many of the older coins were relegated to the fiery furnace, lost forever to numismatic posterity. The Mint issued a new Classic Head design for quarter eagles and half eagles; the eagle had not been minted since 1804 and would not be coined again until 1838. The fineness of the half eagle was reduced and the net gold content cut by about a half-gram, proportionally so for the quarter eagle. The motto IN GOD WE TRUST was omitted--not to reappear on coinage until near the end of the Civil War--to help the populace easily distinguish the new, reduced-content coins from the old.
Only a single proof example, the Eliasberg coin, is known of the old-style Capped Head to Left, With Motto type. Later in 1834, the need for additional proof coins prompted further strikings of the Classic Head type. Some of those examples ended up in special diplomatic sets, such as the King of Siam proof set. Proof examples of the new type are more plentiful, and a handful exist today. The Garrett-Guth gold Encyclopedia reports that "All of the No Motto Proofs have a Plain 4." The 1834 Plain 4 proof coins are listed in 100 Greatest U.S. Coins, also by Garrett and Guth.
Auction offerings of proof Classic Head 1834s are truly rare. Our permanent auction archives show that only once before have we had the privilege to offer a specimen of this issue. Furthermore, only twice have we offered a proof of the Classic Head half eagle type, the second specimen an 1835-dated coin. The populations are minuscule: NGC shows six proofs of the 1834 issue and 10 pieces for the entire type, while PCGS adds two for the issue and three for the type, for a total of eight proofs of the issue and 13 for the type in all grades, including duplications and crossovers (10/06).
Prooflike coins are widely available of the 1834 Classic five. They are beautiful coins and generally well produced. However, there is a profound difference between a well-produced prooflike and a proof. The fields on this piece show a depth of reflectivity that simply cannot be duplicated on a business strike. Additionally, the striking details on this proof are fully brought up in all areas--a feature that may or may not be present on business strikings. The devices are also noticeably frosted, and NGC has recognized this as well with the Cameo designation. A few wispy hairlines are seen in the fields (with the aid of a magnifier), but the only reliable pedigree identifier is an angling mark on the chin of Liberty. Exceptional rarity and quality.
Illustrated in Proof Gold Coinage of the United States by Robert J. Loewinger, M.D., on page 50 as an example of the Classic Head type.
From The Dr. Robert J. Loewinger Collection. (NGC ID# 28BA, PCGS# 88180)
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