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Phenomenal and Rare PR68 Cameo 1885 Quarter Eagle, Finest Certified by Two Grade Points1885 $2 1/2 PR68 Cameo NGC. The year 1885 is, in some ways, a replay of the historic 1875 coinage issues, among the most interesting years in U.S. numismatics. Some coins of the year are quite common, while others are extremely rare--and some are legendary rarities, among the most celebrated of U.S. coins. In 1875 the gold coins from the dollar through the eagle were produced in minuscule quantities, all in Philadelphia, while huge quantities of minor silver coins flowed from the presses at three mints. Domestic silver dollar coinage in 1875 was nonexistent, although those same three mints produced many Trade dollars for export to the Orient. But in 1885, minor silver coinage was sparse, while four mints--Philadelphia, Carson City, New Orleans, San Francisco--spewed out millions of Morgan dollars. Philadelphia also manufactured millions of Indian cents, but only 1,000 business strike three cent nickels. Philadelphia saw considerable mintages for the gold dollar, half eagle, and eagle, yet the double eagle was only made to the extent of 751 business strikes plus 77 proofs--and the quarter eagle mintage was 800 circulation strikes and 87 proofs. (We mention the fabulous 1885 Trade dollar, of which five are known, as well, although evidence points to clandestine and perhaps ex-Mint striking at some later date.)
Thus it is that certain 1885-dated gold coins, while not perhaps in quite the same class of rarity as the 1875 issues, are not far off. The Garrett-Guth gold Encyclopedia opines concerning the 800 business strike 1885 quarter eagles, "With a mintage of fewer than 1,000 coins, the 1885 Liberty Head quarter eagle is one of the most popular issues of the entire Liberty Head quarter eagle series. There are very few coins in the entire United States series with a mintage of fewer than 1,000 pieces. Most of the surviving pieces can be considered mega-rarities. The 1885 quarter eagle is rare but available." Of course, the present PR68 Cameo specimen offers a tantalizing combination of absolute rarity and superb proof quality, one destined to be irresistible to a considerable cross-section of the collecting public, be they specialists in proof gold, those who specialize in the acquisition of noted rarities, or perhaps seekers of a high grade type coin that is also quite elusive in its series.
Of the proof issue, Garrett and Guth comment, "The Proof 1885 Liberty Head quarter eagle is a scarce issue, as would be expected for a coin with a mintage of only 87 coins. There is also added date pressure due to the rarity of the circulation strikes for the year. For some reason an unusual number of Proof 1885 quarter eagles entered circulation."
At the PR68 grade level, the present piece is unquestionably the finest graded of this elusive and in-demand issue, by a full two grade points at either service. The date is large for the design, and the bust truncation appears to have been slightly "notched" by the engraver to provide room for the 1 underneath. The left base of the 1 is above the center of a dentil. A tiny bulge, as made, shows on the upper loop of the second 8, and the 5 is open. Nearly horizontal die file marks show near the top of the vertical shield stripes, also as made. The surfaces are immaculate and the fields show slight evidence of the orange-peel finish seen on proof gold coins from this and the previous decade. The devices are "white" and the heavy mint frost provides strong contrast against the illimitable "blackness" seen in the fields. Identifiable by a tiny alloy spot that is located in the upper reverse field below the first S in STATES. PCGS has graded 17 examples, the highest a couple of PR66 pieces, while NGC has graded 19 proofs, with two PR66 pieces again the highest, save for this phenomenal example (10/06).
From The Dr. Robert J. Loewinger Collection.(Registry values: P3) (NGC ID# 2888, PCGS# 87911)
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