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1850 Quarter, PR68
1850 25C PR68 NGC. Briggs 3-C. Ex: Pittman-Kaufman. The
former Philip Kaufman 1850 proof quarter, earlier pedigreed to the
John Jay Pittman Collection, is by three grades the finest of the
three confirmed specimens. The flawless and fully struck surfaces
display rich golden-brown centers bounded by plum-red and
Single Finest Certified
Only Three Proofs Confirmed
Walter Breen, in his 1989 Proof Encyclopedia, calls the issue "prohibitively rare" and claims to have seen records of only two 1850 proof quarters, "aside from those in the unseen proof sets." Similarly, David Akers writes in the May 1998 catalog of the Pittman Collection:
"The 1850 Quarter in Proof is exceedingly rare, even more so than the Proofs of 1847, 1848 and 1849, and it is in the same rarity class as the 1840, 1841 and 1844 Proof Quarters of which only two or three examples of each are known. Just two Proof 1850 Quarters are known with certainty, with possibly a third example also extant, although the third piece ... is not as obvious a Proof as the other two and is open to debate as to its original minting status."
In addition to the above pieces, Walter Breen mentioned others in his Proof Encyclopedia. Some original "Proof" sets were actually a combination of proofs and business strikes. Breen also mentioned a complete 1850 silver and minor proof set in the collection of H.P. Smith, lot 1240 in the Chapman Brothers sale. That coin has not been identified and is almost certainly one of the three confirmed proofs. Other sets mentioned by Breen are doubted.
Akers wrote of this coin in part in the Pittman Collection:
"Thin date. Open 5. Superb! The quality and beauty of this coin are so extraordinary that no written description can possibly do it justice. The strike is absolutely full and there is a high wire rim, especially prominent on the obverse in the upper right quadrant. The fields are deep mirrors and there is great proof luster under the superb toning which is a fiery reddish-gold, violet, blue, and gold. There are a few faint lines in the fields under the toning, but these are planchet lines that were present at the time of striking and not hairlines. There are tiny die defects on the upper right side and lower left side of the 0 in the date; these defects are characteristic of Proofs and appear on both indisputable Proof 1850 Quarters I have seen. The John Jay Pittman Collection has so many exceptional Proof coins of great quality and beauty that it is difficult to single out any one coin as the 'most beautiful'; but, if one were to do so, this 1850 Quarter certainly would be one of the leading candidates. ..."
Variety: Briggs 3-C. The reverse die also struck the proof 1844 and 1847 quarters offered in preceding lots. Short die lines are noted from the dentils above the ME in AMERICA. Other die lines are evident near the denomination.
Population Data (5/14): The sole PCGS example is graded PR62. NGC has certified three pieces: a PR62, a PR65, and the present coin. The PR62 NGC likely "crossed over" to become the PR62 PCGS.
Heritage Commentary: In the era prior to third-party certification, a number of prooflike 1850 quarters were sold or cataloged as proofs. Since the advent of PCGS and NGC, only two different certified proofs have appeared at auction. One, of course, is the present coin, and the other, the PR62 PCGS, is ex: Stack's (1/1993), lot 455; Bowers & Merena (8/1998), lot 156.
Regarding the PR65 NGC specimen, John Dannreuther relates that Paris' Bibliothèque Nationale in 1986 traded a proof 1850 quarter out of a complete 1850 proof set (including gold) for French coins that the institution lacked. In the last appearance of the Pittman-Kaufman coin above with us, we wrote that the set was "reportedly obtained by Alexandre Vattemare from the Philadelphia Mint in 1850." Ed Hipps (1986) displayed it at the 1998 FUN convention, according to Akers.
Provenance: R. Green (5/1949); John Jay Pittman (David Akers, 5/1998), lot 1317; Phil Kaufman Collection / Orlando FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2008), lot 3035; Greensboro Collection, Part IV (Heritage, 8/2013), lot 5591. According to Akers, this piece is probably from the H.P. Smith Collection (Chapman Brothers, 5/1906), lot 820.(Registry values: P5) (NGC ID# 23WD, PCGS# 5544)
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