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1864 L on Ribbon Indian Cent
Gem Red and Brown Proof, Snow-PR2

1864 1C L On Ribbon PR65 Red and Brown PCGS. CAC. Snow-PR2. For many contemporary collectors who grew up filling up the old "blue Whitman folders" with Lincoln and Indian cents, those today are rewarding series, ones that many collectors abandon for a time. But a considerable portion of those collectors return -- more monied and focused than when they were younger -- and for many, the Indian and Lincoln cent series again form fertile and rewarding grounds for numismatic pursuits.
Among Indian cents, the 1864 With L is popular series semikey, even as a business strike. Near the end of 1864, the first year of the bronze Indian cents, the portrait of the Indian was sharpened, and the designer's initial L for James Longacre was placed on the ribbon behind the neck. The proof version of the 1864 L, however, is a legendary rarity, of which series expert Rick Snow comments in The Flying Eagle & Indian Cent Attribution Guide (second edition):

"This has long been the ultimate Indian Cent in the proof series. With an estimated mintage of only 20 pieces, they rarely trade hands. When top examples do come on the market, they usually set record prices. Buyers know that the opportunity to own this issue is so rare that a 'buy it at all cost' mentality is usually needed to win an example. Two collectors are known to possess multiple specimens, adding to the infrequency of specimens on the market.
"As with the No L coins, no accurate record of when and how many coins were struck exists. ..."

Snow estimates of the 20 estimated pieces struck, seven are known of the Snow-PR1, 10 of the Snow-PR2 (including the present coin), and only a single example of the Snow-PR3. The Snow-PR2 variety, as here, is identified by a heavy straight die line that parallels the Indian's jawline just below the ear, along with distinctive die lines on the reverse, near the olive leaves at 8 to 9 o'clock at the rim. Other "light crisscrossing die lines" appear in the field within the wreath.
Despite the Red and Brown designation, this Gem proof is a coin that displays far more red coloration than brown, an overall light copper-gold appearance that shifts at the obverse rims to light lavender. The strike is bold if not absolute, with the L sharp on the ribbon but minor (and expected) softness on some of the feather tips. This piece is the first Gem Red and Brown piece we have offered since we began our Permanent Auction Archives in 1993. A PR64 Red and Brown PCGS example in our ANA Signature (Heritage, 7/2008), lot 1543, brought $63,250. The last Gem Red and Brown PCGS example at auction that we are aware of (Bowers and Merena, 1/1999, lot 1031), brought $96,000. This coin poses a monumental opportunity for series specialists. Population: 3 in 65 Red and Brown, 1 finer (8/11).
From The Brooklyn Collection.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 229G, PCGS# 2280)

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Auction Dates
October, 2011
13th-16th Thursday-Sunday
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 14
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
Page Views: 7,423

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