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Gorgeous PR66 1908 Half Eagle

1908 $5 PR66 PCGS. Fine art and the coiner's art had one of their most remarkable intersections in the United States in the early 20th century, when a series of leading artists of the time took part in a comprehensive makeover of the nation's coinage. The change in designs--the fine art--also passed through the prism of the coiner's art and led to a number of changes in Mint technique. One of the most readily visible changes was the introduction of European-inspired matte proof techniques starting in 1908, when this proof half eagle was issued.
The change was controversial. A handful of sophisticated collectors supported the switch, among them William Woodin, whose letter to an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in 1910 was reprinted in Roger W. Burdette's Renaissance of American Coinage 1905-1908. It reads in part:

"I am surprised at the statement that the dull finish of the gold proof coins was objected to by many collectors. If any collectors objected to this finish it was because they did not understand that the St. Gaudens [sic] designs are not adapted to the production of polished proofs."

Such arguments from authority (or as some would hint darkly, European-based snobbery) held little sway with collectors confronted with a dramatic change to proofs that had had mirrored fields for decades. The matte proof controversy eventually led to a two-decade moratorium on the manufacture of proof sets.
This is a gorgeous orange-gold Premium Gem matte proof that witnessed the beginning of the controversy. Finely granular orange-gold surfaces are effectively undisturbed, and the detail on even the smallest devices is exquisite. A delightful specimen. Population: 11 in 66, 1 finer (6/10).(Registry values: N7079) (NGC ID# BYJ6, PCGS# 8539)

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Auction Dates
August, 2010
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 3
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