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1863 Half Eagle, PR66 Ultra Cameo
Likely Less Than a Dozen Known

1863 $5 PR66 Ultra Cameo NGC. Few business strikes survive of this low-mintage half eagle issue, produced at the height of the Civil War to the extent of a mere 2,442 pieces. The 1863 quarter eagle, a legendary rarity, was not made at all as a business strike, but the proof half eagle is almost certainly rarer. Only 30 examples each of the quarter eagle and half eagle are recorded in proof format, but today 15-20 pieces of the quarter eagle are known, compared to about a dozen or less of the half eagle. The 30 gold proof sets of the year were delivered on March 23, with a few extra pieces of the one dollar and three dollar pieces, according to Breen. (Some of those proof gold pieces may have been later melted, according to an exchange Breen reports between coin dealer Samuel H. Chapman and early proof gold collector John F. McCoy, whose collection was auctioned in 1864 over a period of nearly a week.) Both the business strike and proof half eagles are of the Type Two reverse, introduced on the P-mint coins in 1860.
The 1989 Breen Proof Encyclopedia states "not more than a dozen around"; more-recent references, such as Garrett and Guth, estimate 10 to 12 examples, consistent with the combined NGC/PCGS population data. NGC has certified only four coins, including one impaired PR50, two PR65 Cameos, and this PR66 Ultra Cameo as the finest. PCGS has graded six coins, the finest a single PR65 Deep Cameo (11/09).
This appears to be only the second time we have offered a proof 1863 half eagle in any grade since we began maintaining our Permanent Auction Archives, the first a PR64 Deep Cameo PCGS coin that brought $69,000 in our Dallas Signature Auction (11/2005, lot 2421).
The present coin is well-balanced, with even, moderate yellow-gold patina on each side and little evidence of contact. It is perhaps only a few light, undistracting field hairlines that preclude an even finer grade. Liberty's cheek in particularly is clean, as are the devices throughout. For pedigree purposes we note a tiny planchet indent, as made, in the field over Liberty's head, between stars 7 and 8. The strike is fully brought up, as expected. This coin poses an important opportunity to obtain the finest certified example of this momentous rarity.(Registry values: P4) (PCGS# 98453)

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Auction Dates
January, 2010
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 5
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