1839/8 Type of 1838 Eagle, PR61
1839/8 $10 Type of 1838 PR61 PCGS. Our provenance record
lists exactly three proof 1839/8 Large Letters eagles. One of those
is held in the Smithsonian Institution, leaving just two available
for collectors, and those two vary widely in grade. We sold the
Superb Gem Ultra Cameo proof in January 2007 for $1.61 million, and
we are now pleased to offer a PR61 PCGS specimen, which will
undoubtedly sell for less, providing collectors with an important
Only Three Known, Two in Collectors' Hands
From the New England Rare Coin Galleries Set
Early in 1982, Heritage numismatist Marc Emory acquired this coin as part of a three-piece 1839 gold proof set. He relates the story of that acquisition:
"The morning after I arrived at the FUN show in Orlando in early January 1982, I called my European contacts as a matter of routine. To my astonishment, one of them said he had seen a nice trio of 1839 U.S. gold coins in high grade. I asked HOW high? They said 'extremely fine,' which in those days, was a very imprecise grade, indeed. I was excited as the same contact had brokered the sale to me of a proof 1839 quarter eagle and an 1839 proof No Drapery half dollar just a few weeks earlier. I consulted with my CEO [at New England Rare Coin Galleries], Jim Halperin, and asked him if he thought, as I did, that we might be talking about the first known complete set of 1839 proof gold. He said we couldn't afford to risk losing the deal.
"I turned right around from the warm Florida weather and flew back to Boston, got some winter clothes, ran back to the airport and caught a plane to Europe. Sure enough, it was an 1839 gold proof set. I trembled, as the feared European reception to my interest was forthcoming. I asked how much the trio cost, and the predictable response was, 'how much will you pay for them?' I didn't dare play with these people, as they were no beginners, even if they didn't quite understand the importance of what they were offering me. I asked them if they were aware that these coins were significantly better than just 'extremely fine.' They gave me a sly smile and nodded.
"I came up with a figure I hoped would satisfy them, and still leave us a margin when selling them in the U.S. Worse yet, I had to leave my offer while it was 'being considered,' which in Europe often means, 'we are going to offer the group to other Americans; you only get them if your offer is highest, and we reserve the right to tell them what you offered."
This amazing proof gold piece features the original distinctive Christian Gobrecht portrait of Liberty, known as the Type of 1838, an obverse design that only appeared in the first two years of the Liberty eagle series. The obverse die is overdated, the 9 punched over an 8. Short die file lines appear inside the reverse border, a few long enough to reach some letter tops. Otherwise, the reverse die is well-made. A slight clash mark appears over the eagle's left facing wing, seen on all three known proofs.
Although several stars are indistinct, the central obverse motif and the entire reverse design are crisp and complete. The rich yellow-gold surfaces show splashes of delicate bluish-violet overtones, with fully mirrored fields and satin devices. This piece was probably lightly cleaned at one time, like the other coins in this 1839 gold proof set; the surfaces show light hairlines that limit the grade. However, the eye appeal of this spectacular rarity remains strong.
Provenance Record of 1839 Proof Eagles
--PR67 Ultra Cameo NGC. Lorin G. Parmelee (New York Coin and Stamp Co., 6/1890), lot 1097; John Story Jenks (Henry Chapman, 12/1921), lot 5735; John H. Clapp; Clapp Estate; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; Eliasberg Estate (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 662; Mike Brownlee; later, Goldberg Coins & Collectibles (9/1999), lot 1817; Bowers and Merena (8/2003), lot 4042. An anonymous document from the late 1980s or early 1990s, discussing the proof 1838 eagle issue, records this piece as part of the Harry Bass Collection. It is doubtful that Bass actually owned this coin, as it was not retained for his collection.
--PR66 Deep Cameo. U.S. Mint; National Numismatic Cabinet; Smithsonian Institution. Illustrated by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth in Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins 1795-1833.
--PR61 PCGS. This is the piece from the three-piece 1839 gold proof set that Marc Emory purchased in 1982 for New England Rare Coin Galleries. It appeared in the May 1993 Bowers and Merena offering of the three-piece set and is now offered individually for the first time since its discovery 30 years ago. The present specimen.(Registry values: P3) (NGC ID# 28EF, PCGS# 8771)
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