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1885 Half Eagle, PR65 Deep Cameo
Among the Few Finest Survivors

1885 $5 PR65 Deep Cameo PCGS. The present Gem proof Deep Cameo 1885 half eagle complements 1885-dated proof double eagle and three dollar gold specimens also in this Platinum Night auction. While the 1885 double eagle saw a mintage of 77 proofs and the three dollar gold saw a larger production of 109 proofs -- and a high survival rate -- the half eagle saw the smallest proof production of the three denominations at 66 pieces, and today few survive. Garrett and Guth peg the number extant at 20 pieces.
Why do the half eagles show a much-lower survival rate than the three dollar gold pieces? The answer likely lies in their respective positions within their series. From the token mintages even of business strikes in the three dollar series after 1878, astute numismatists of the day realized that the Indian Princess gold threes would likely cease production within a few years, which proved to be the case in 1889. William Idler was among notable dealers of the era who ensured that high-grade three dollar gold pieces -- proofs and business strikes -- would be preserved for posterity.
The 1885 half eagle, au contraire, was a member of a workhorse denomination. The Liberty Head fives had been struck continuously since 1839, and in 1885 they would continue for another 20-plus years. A proof 1885 half eagle was a coin -- and a denomination -- of no particular note, and if someone needed five dollars for spending money, there was no great loss, since the Mint sold proof gold coins to collectors for only a nominal sum over face value.
This specimen is certainly among the finest survivors today, displaying rich, even orange-gold color over surfaces that are nicely contrasted and show absolutely no distractions. The fields exhibit a typical strong orange-peel texture, and the strike is boldly defined throughout. PCGS shows only two Gem Deep Cameo proofs with a single PR66 Deep Cameo finer (6/12).(Registry values: P4) (NGC ID# 28CN, PCGS# 98480)

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Auction Dates
August, 2012
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 7
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Page Views: 722

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