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The Only Proof 1833 Half Eagle In Collector's Hands, A Magnificent PR67, Ex: Randall, Parmelee, Farouk, Pittman1833 $5 Large Date PR67 PCGS. Ex:Pittman. When this coin was last offered for sale at public auction more than seven years ago, David Akers said: "A magnificent, stunning coin which, in my opinion, is the premier coin in the entire Pittman Collection." It is indeed a magnificent piece, and in our opinion, the only coins that rival this piece in sheer numismatic interest in this current sale are the two Brasher doubloons.
As a date, the 1833 is very rare with only 60-75 examples known of both the Large Date and Small Date variants. Only two proofs are known for the 1833 half eagle, both of which are Large Dates, and the other is permanently impounded in the National Numismatic Collection in the Smithsonian. That coin also is "only" a PR63. This coin was one of John Pittman's most significant acquisitions. The story is now well known, but for those who may not have heard it when John Pittman traveled to Cairo in 1954 to buy coins out of the Farouk Collection, he took out a second mortgage on his house. He certainly must have had an understanding wife, but as time showed he had a unerring eye for quality and value. He paid an astonishingly high price for this coin, 210 Egyptian pounds with a 5% government surcharge, which was the equivalent of $635 in 1954. As significant as that amount sounds in 1954 dollars, it pales in comparison to the actual value of this essentially unique coin in today's marketplace. When Pittman's holdings were sold in 1997-98, this coin realized $467,500.
The viewer of this coin will come away with two impressions. First is the incredible method of manufacture. The proofing process used to strike this coin is every bit the equal of the mass-produced proofs from the 1870s or 1880s. Obviously, this coin was produced with great care and most likely was intended to showcase the abilities of the newly opened Second Mint, which opened the same year this coin was struck. The second impression is the incredible, almost unequaled quality of this piece. This was made possible by the impressive list of only seven collectors who have owned this coin since the early 1880s. As mentioned, the fields are deeply mirrored and almost all the die polishing marks that created the proof surface have disappeared except for a short series at the obverse rim between stars 4 and 5. Significant amounts of mint frost are seen over the devices, which gives the coin a slightly contrasted appearance. The letters in LIBERTY were sunk into the die at the same depth as the fields, and as a result most of these letters show full proof flash. An interesting numismatic observation is that the letters in E PLURIBUS UNUM on the reverse scroll were punched into the die in a larger and different font than the letters in the surrounding UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. There are several light coppery alloy stains on each side, but these should definitely not be confused with carbon spotting. The most prominent of these alloy stains is located just inside star 3 on the obverse. Another one, lighter in color but larger when examined is placed at the bottom of the trailing curl on Liberty's neck. On the reverse, the most significant pedigree markers are located on each side of the D in UNITED: on the left side there is a bit of planchet roughness, and on the right side there is a small alloy stain. Originally struck in green-gold, over the past 150 years the surfaces have taken on a rich overlay of thin reddish patina. A few errant hairlines are seen in the fields, but these are not indicative of cleaning but instead are probably from the coin having lain on felt in a coin cabinet or from being inserted and removed from paper holders many years ago.
The opportunity to acquire this one-of-a-kind coin may not occur again for many years. If it is bought by someone who is as dedicated as John Pittman it could literally be decades before this piece surfaces again. Think hard and plan to stretch to acquire this prize, for it will surely bring significantly more in this market than the current owner paid when he bought it from the Pittman Collection.
Ex: J. Colvin Randall; Lorin G. Parmelee (NY Coin & Stamp Co., 6/25/1890), lot 1021; James W. Flanagan (Stack's, 3/23/1944); J.F. Bell, lot 355; The Palace Collections of Egypt (Sotheby's, 2-3/54), lot 246a; John Jay Pittman (Akers, 10/97), lot 933.
From The Gold Rush Collection.(#8167) (Registry values: P1) (NGC ID# 28B9, PCGS# 8167)
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