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Elusive Gem Proof Roman Finish
1909 Indian Head Quarter Eagle

1909 $2 1/2 PR65 NGC. It was not only Bela Lyon Pratt's innovative incused design for the Indian Head quarter and half eagles that collectors mostly disdained in 1908, the year of their introduction onto an unsuspecting populace. The Mint also chose to foist the unpopular matte proof format for all gold coinage onto collectors at the same time, a heavy, nonlustrous, grainy texture that most numismatists of the era loathed.
After the proof mintage of quarter eagles reached 236 pieces recorded for the premiere year of 1908--from collectors who likely had never seen and had no knowledge of what they were ordering--the second-year proof emission plummeted to a low 136 pieces.
Although the second-year issues were modified to something called the Roman or Satin Finish, in between the matte proofs and the traditional mirrored proofs of earlier (pre-1902) years. Those coins were not much liked by proof gold connoisseurs, either. A quick look at the NGC Census Report will confirm that the 1909 is by far the most elusive of the eight proof issues from 1908 through 1915. It is also the rarest issue in Gem proof or finer grades. The situation is the same at PCGS, which, although it has graded less proofs of the 1912 and 1913, has certified only a single Gem proof 1909, with none finer.
The present Gem NGC-certified coin does indeed appear as somewhat of a hybrid between the matte and reflective proofs. While it is noticeably brighter than a matte piece, it is not what one would think of as "lustrous" in the sense of radiance, and examination under a loupe will reveal a microscopic, fine-grained surface, somewhat like a matte proof but with much finer texture. Although collectors of the era may not have valued them, today a collector would find this lovely Gem to be a real treasure. A couple of hair-thin marks on the reverse above the eagle are the only mentionable contact on this delightful and attractive piece, a historic example of early proof gold experimentation during the renaissance period of U.S. coinage.(Registry values: N4719) (NGC ID# 289H, PCGS# 7958)

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Auction Dates
September, 2008
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 5
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