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1908 Indian Half Eagle, PR66
Popular First Year of Design
167 Pieces Struck

1908 $5 PR66 NGC. Bela Lyon Pratt's incuse Indian Head design was introduced on the quarter eagle and half eagle denominations in 1908, and the general public saved many examples as novelty items. Anticipating great collector demand for proofs of the new issues, the Mint sharply increased proof set production to 167 sets for 1908. Initial orders were large, many coins were preserved over the years, and the 1908 is the most available Indian half eagle proof in today's market.
Unfortunately, the dark matte proof finish of the new coins proved to be extremely unpopular with collectors, who much preferred the brilliant finish of former years. The incuse design of the Indian Head coins was not suitable for this kind of reflective finish, so the Mint resorted to the matte finish that had been popular in European circles. The matte surfaces were coarse in texture and did not reflect light in the manner of the old mirrored proofs, but they had an artistic quality and showcased the sharply detailed design elements of the coins to good advantage. Present-day collectors appreciate the virtues of the matte finish, but contemporary collectors never accepted the matte proof issues. Orders declined every year until the Mint discontinued proof set offerings in 1916.
Probably 60-70 examples of the 1908 matte proof Indian half eagle are still extant today. Most examples seen are in grades below the Gem level, however. Mike Fuljenz notes "They are very rare in PR66 and extremely rare in any grade above this." Population data from the grading services has been somewhat inflated by resubmissions and crossovers.
The present coin is a spectacular Premium Gem, with sharply detailed design elements and virtually pristine fields. The khaki-gold surfaces display the subtle luster characteristic of matte proof issues. Eye appeal is outstanding. Census: 29 in 66, 11 finer (11/11).(Registry values: N7079) (NGC ID# BYJ6, PCGS# 8539)

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Auction Dates
January, 2012
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 6
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