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1834 Classic Head Half Eagle, PR61 Cameo
Very Rare Early Proof Issue
Plain 4, McCloskey 3-B

1834 G$5 Plain 4 PR61 Cameo PCGS. First Head, Breen-6501, McCloskey 3-B, R.7 as a proof. The 1834 Classic Head, Plain 4 half eagle is a plentiful issue in business-strike format, but proofs are very rare. Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth estimate a half-dozen specimens are extant today, and Walter Breen identified at least two Classic Head proof varieties for the date. No mintage records of proof specimens were kept in those early times, but we know at least two coins were struck for inclusion in the famous King of Siam and Sultan of Muscat presentation proof sets. These coins were struck late in the year, and the coins included in the sets were of Breen's second variety, later classified by Dr. John McCloskey as Variety 1-A.
Unlike most examples of the proof 1834 Classic Head, Plain 4 half eagle that have sold in recent years, the coin offered here represents the McCloskey 3-B variety. In his Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Proof Coins, Walter Breen described this variety as:

"First Head. Breen II-1. [2+] Truncation large and wide; large 4; wide date; 4 away from curl; A's clear of wing and arrow, leaf away from U. *Early state: guide lines left and r. of 5D., left of base of U (when coin is held so that U is upright), between bases of D S, between bases of F A."

One diagnostic not mentioned by Breen, but easily detected, is the lack of a tongue in the eagle's mouth. The present coin fits this description exactly, including all the guide lines that indicate the early die state. Breen complied a roster of seven possible examples of this variety, but several coins on his list (Eliasberg and Norweb) were later determined to be prooflike coins, not true proofs. Most of the other examples have not been seen since the 1950s or '60s, and the images from their last appearances are not detailed enough for plate matching. Even the proof status of most of the coins cannot be reliably determined from the old photographs. The only coin from Breen's roster that has been imaged in recent years is the example in the Smithsonian Institution. Our Auction Archives include records of seven offerings of proof 1834 Classic Head, Plain 4 half eagles over the last two decades, but all of these coins appear to be of the McCloskey 1-A variety, the type used in the King of Siam proof set. It seems certain that the McCloskey 3-B variety is even more elusive in proof format than Breen's small roster suggests.
This coin displays sharply detailed design elements, with enough mint frost to provide noticeable cameo contrast with the deeply reflective fields. The bright yellow and greenish-gold surfaces show a number of minor contact marks and hairlines in the fields, all consistent with the grade. Absolute rarity, terrific historic interest, and strong visual appeal make this coin a must-have issue for the advanced collector. Population: 1 in 61 Cameo, 1 finer (9/12). (NGC ID# 28BA, PCGS# 88180)

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Auction Dates
October, 2012
18th-21st Thursday-Sunday
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 10
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
Page Views: 1,022

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