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1895 Morgan Dollar, PR66+ Cameo
1895 $1 PR66+ Cameo PCGS. CAC. It was the year 1893 when
Augustus G. Heaton (1844-1930) published his pamphlet that we today
call Mint Marks -- although the original actually bore the
title A Treatise on Coinage of the United States Branch
Mints. Because of this seminal work, listing various "causes of
attractiveness" of branch-mint coinage, numismatists think of
Heaton as one of their own.
Extraordinary Quality and Starkly Contrasted
But in point of fact, Heaton seems to have come to numismatics later in life. For the first part of his career, he was primarily an artist and portrait painter, having studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the first American to study at the famed École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His paintings largely date from the 1860s to the mid-1890s. Most are portraits, but his most celebrated painting, The Recall of Columbus, records the historical event. It was exhibited, among other places, in Spain in 1892 and at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.
Heaton was a well-traveled man and a prolific writer, memoirist, and book illustrator. He served as third president of the American Numismatic Association from 1894 to 1899. In 1895, he paid a visit to the Treasury Building, next to the White House in Washington, D.C. Bowers writes in his silver dollar Guide Book that Heaton was escorted on a personal tour by none other than the current U.S. Treasurer, Daniel N. Morgan, and was
" ... allowed to peer into various storage areas. In Vault 1, measuring 89 feet long by 51 feet wide by 12 feet high, were 103,308,000 silver dollars! Vault 2 was packed with 48,000,000 more dollars. Also in storage were fractional silver coins, gold coins, and wrapped bundles of paper money--the numismatic equivalent of heaven. However, it was the silver dollars that dominated. Neither Heaton nor anyone else realized that these dollars, and others yet to be minted, would profoundly affect the numismatic hobby in America several generations later, yielding a treasure trove for all."
Although the timing is close, it is a tantalizing possibility to consider that Heaton may have been among some of the 12,000 business strike Morgan dollars recorded for 1895, if indeed such pieces were ever produced. A bag or 12 of 1895-dated business strikes could have nestled quite unobserved among the millions of silver dollars Heaton saw that day. Some, or most of those silver dollars, may have been transferred to other Treasury facilities at a later date, or they could have been melted later in the Pittman Act-mandated mass extinctions that actually began around 1920, the melting of some 270 million pieces.
We will never know the fate of those exact coins that Heaton saw, but it is a tantalizing possibility that a man who did so much to popularize modern collecting, by mint marks, may have been close to one of the most mysterious issues of the Philadelphia Mint. What we actually have today, though, are the proofs struck in the Philadelphia Mint in 1895. And this is certainly one of the finest we have seen in recent memory. Each side is mostly brilliant, with just a hint of pale golden color. The fields are deeply reflective and the devices heavily frosted, producing the desirable cameo effect on both obverse and reverse. The surfaces are essentially defect-free. Exceptional quality. Population: 4 in 66 (1 in 66+) Cameo, 5 finer (9/12).(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 27ZR, PCGS# 87330)
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