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Extremely Rare 1879 Proof Gold Eagle1879 $10 PR64 Cameo PCGS. We believe that exactly eight proof 1879 eagles survive today, nearly all Choice or Gem proof quality, although one polished proof example appeared at auction over a decade ago. It is possible, but doubtful, that the population could increase to 10 coins. In addition to the present example, whose previous pedigree has not been established, we are aware of the following pieces:
PR64 Cameo. Smithsonian Institution.
Proof. American Numismatic Society.
PR64 PCGS. Stack's (10/1970), lot 955; Harry Bass Collection (Bowers and Merena, 10/1999), lot 1571
PR64 Cameo NGC. Garrett Collection (acquired directly from the Philadelphia Mint); Trompeter Collection.
PR64 Cameo NGC. Genaitis Collection (Heritage, 8/2001), lot 7946.
PR65 Cameo NGC. Heritage (1/2006), lot 3546.
PR60, polished. Bowers and Merena (5/1992), lot 1541.
Die lapping has caused the "floating curl" situation, with the curl hanging down behind the neck essentially detached at the top. Slight lapping of the reverse die is also evident, particularly at the left ribbon end. There are few other die characteristics to attribute this piece as a proof, although it clearly is an unmistakable proof. It is not as highly lustrous as some of the smaller denominations, yet the devices still retain exceptional mint frost with brilliant yellow-gold devices and impressive mirrored fields. Although a few faint hairlines are visible on each side, a tiny lilac toning spot in the right obverse field may be the only visible pedigree marker. Unlike the smaller denomination gold proofs of this date, eagles and double eagles are extremely rare with deep cameo contrast, and may not exist for this denomination.
Little has been written about this issue over the years, despite its extreme rarity. Walter Breen wrote in his Proof Encyclopedia: "Exceedingly rare, seldom offered. Survivors number about 10." David Akers had little more to say in his Auction Analysis of the series: "Proofs of this date are more rare than the mintage would suggest and they are just as rare as the proofs of 1877 and 1878." Akers examined 369 auction catalogs for his survey of gold eagles, including nearly every important sale from 1921 to 1980, and found only five auction appearances of proof eagles dated 1879. Our current survey, still a work in progress and numbering more than 500 catalogs already examined, shows just 13 auction appearances of this date in proof format, including several repeat appearances of the same coin.(Registry values: P3) (NGC ID# 28FH, PCGS# 88819)
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