1861 Eagle, PR64 Cameo, Ex: Trompeter
1861 $10 PR64 Cameo PCGS. CAC. Ex: Trompeter. The
bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina,
that marked the beginning of the Civil War commenced on April 12,
1861, although the drumbeats of impending war had already been
heard for months with the election of Abraham Lincoln as president
in 1860 and the secession of seven Southern states by the time the
war began (four more would secede after the Sumter engagement).
One of Perhaps 10 Survivors
It is no accident that this rare proof eagle shares the same date, 1861.
Despite a reported mintage of 69 pieces, the 1861 proof eagles are extremely rare today. David Akers wrote in his gold reference from 1980:
"In direct contrast to the comparatively high mintage which is greater than for any other Eagle prior to 1887, proofs of 1861 are extraordinarily rare, at least as rare as any of the proofs with mintages of only 20-25 pieces. Therefore either the proofs of 1861 suffered an unusually high attrition rate or (more likely) most of the proofs were not sold and later were melted."
However, Akers did not have access in 1980 to the mintage for the 1859 proof ten, which is slightly larger at an estimated 80 pieces.
As we wrote when cataloging the PR65 Cameo NGC example of the 1861 eagle that appeared in our Orlando FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2013, lot 5907) but failed to meet its reserve:
"When Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth wrote the first edition of their popular Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins 1795-1933, they stated that the 1859, 1860, and 1861 proof eagles all appeared to have 'identical' survival rates, i.e., far lower than their recorded mintages of 80, 50, and 69 pieces, respectively. It is likely that only around 10 examples survive of each issue, including examples in the Smithsonian and the ANS collections.
"Perhaps that figure, 10, marks the number of active proof gold collectors in America around 1860. The rest of the mintage may have been melted as unsold, common Mint practice at the time."
America was about far-weightier matters in 1861 than collecting examples of what were, at the time, modern proof gold issues. And those numismatists who could focus on their sets were more apt to be pursuing the "early coppers," Colonial coins, Washingtonia, or ancient coins, all of which were fashionable at the time.
This PR64 Cameo piece is one of a number of coins certified at the PR64 level, but this example comes from the remarkable proof gold collection of Ed Trompeter, among the finest ever assembled. The fields on each side are jet-black and highly reflective, contrasting nicely with the medium yellow-gold, well-frosted devices. A moderate orange-peel effect occurs on each side. Some light hairlines in the fields are not at all distracting but account for the grade, along with a single small contact mark on Liberty's chin. The overall eye appeal is quite high.
PCGS has seen three grading events in PR64, but this is the only Cameo or Deep Cameo example of the 1861 eagle in any grade at PCGS (2/13). NGC has seen one PR64, four PR64 Cameo, and one PR65 Cameo, for a total of 10 submissions in all. We suspect duplications in these figures.(Registry values: P5) (NGC ID# 3WWL, PCGS# 88797)
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