1908 $5 PR67 NGC....
Near-Perfect 1908 Indian Half Eagle, Matte PR671908 $5 PR67 NGC. There were few proof gold collectors in 1908. Only 167 proof half eagles were struck, an increase from the 92 proofs produced the prior year. The 1908 quarter eagle had a comparable increase in proof mintage from its 1907 predecessor. The cause for the additional pieces struck was presumably the new designs by Bela Lyon Pratt. They replaced the long-lived Liberty types, which had been struck throughout the entire lifetime of most contemporary collectors.
Some who ordered the new Indian half eagle proofs from the Mint were surely surprised when they examined their specimens. Unlike prior designs, the devices were sunken into the field, with the high points at the same level as the field. These designs are often referred to as incuse, but this is a misnomer, since an incuse design would have opposite relief, with areas such as the cheekbone the lowest point of the design, instead of the highest. The proof finish of the Indian half eagle was also dramatically different from the Liberty type. Proof Liberty half eagles have mirrored fields and (at times) frosty devices, similar to the proof gold American Eagles in production today. The proof Indian and Saint-Gaudens types are matte proofs, with the same microgranular finish on both the fields and devices.
Proof Indian half eagles are easily distinguished from their business strike counterparts. The color is comparatively dark, since the fields lack reflectivity and luster is diffused. Since the pieces were well-made, the abrasions that plague bag-stored business strikes are absent on proofs. Finally, the proofs are fully struck, the extra detail most noticeable on the eagle's shoulder and the lower reaches of the headdress. The present piece shows all of these characteristics and is essentially perfect, save for a tiny Mint-made planchet flaw located directly beneath, but relatively distant from, the U in TRUST. This minuscule flaw serves as an identifier for any auction appearances. Census: 10 in 67, 1 finer (5/11).
Ex: Philadelphia Bullet Sale (Heritage, 8/2000), lot 691, which realized $30,475; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2007), lot 3129, which brought $48,875; Baltimore Signature (Heritage, 3/2009), lot 3051, which garnered $43,125.(Registry values: N10218) (PCGS# 8539)
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