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Original 1867 Rays Gem Cameo Proof Shield Nickel
1867 5C Rays PR65 Cameo NGC. Dannreuther-1A, State a/a. The
1867 Rays Shield nickel business strikes are conditionally rare
coins in the highest Mint State grades, but they are generally
obtainable for a price. The 1867 Rays Shield nickel proof
coins, however, are celebrated rarities, well-known to series
specialists and advanced numismatists. John Dannreuther, director
of research at PCGS, has delved extensively into the die
diagnostics and Mint history surrounding the 1867 With Rays and No
Rays proof issues--and reissues.
A Celebrated Numismatic Rarity
Much of what follows is from the summation in the Bowers Shield and Liberty Head nickels Guide Book and from Dannreuther's PCGS article, published in the June 2007 PCGS Rare Coin Market Report and reprinted on www.shieldnickels.net, titled "Third Obverse Die Identified for Proof 1867 Rays Nickel."
Three Different Obverse Dies Used
Dannreuther has established that three different obverse dies were used for the 1867 Rays proofs, which were restruck at various times, all paired with a single reverse die that was lapped on each reuse. The first obverse used, Dannreuther-1, shows the characteristics below:
--The left base of the 1 in the date is over the right side of a dentil.
Dannreuther writes concerning the first use of this obverse that it likely was used to produce 10 to 15 1867 With Rays proofs earlier than previously believed. Earlier research by R.W. Julian had indicated that, when the order was given on January 21, 1867, to suspend coinage of the With Rays design, chief coiner Archibald Louden Snowden had so far supposedly "refused" to make any 1867 With Rays proofs for sets. However, Dannreuther believes that is likely untrue since, based on the die emission sequence and die state information he has established, Dannreuther-1 is the earliest known stage of this obverse die. Dannreuther writes:
"Most likely, the 25 Proofs reported delivered on February 5, 1867 are the ones with the Pattern reverse, as determined by specialist Douglas Kurz. These No Rays Pattern reverse Proofs have a very slightly different (but later) stage of State a, indicating that some With Rays proofs were probably struck in January or early February right before the No Rays Proofs with the Judd-507 Pattern reverse."
Early Die State Markers for Dannreuther-1
The earliest state of this die, as on the present coin, shows numerous markers, including:
<<blockquote>R--All leaves are complete; none are "hollow."
--The 7 in the date is clearly recut and has not yet faded.
--No die polish is evident in the lower vertical shield stripes.
--All berries are complete and attached, with those at the inner right recut. The lowest inner-right berry shows a tiny die polish line to the adjacent leaf.
--A die line runs from the seventh horizontal stripe, angling down through several stripes. A curly die line from the 10th horizontal stripe runs down through the left side of the shield, ending in the circle or ball ornament (a.k.a. terminal volute).
--The left fletchings are detached at the lower right (lower front) portion (where they join the shield), but the detached part has not yet degenerated into a small lump or dot as on later die states.
The appearance of "hollow" leaves, a lump or dot at the lower-left forepart of the fletchings, the absence of visible recutting on the 7, etc. would indicate later die states and presumably coincide with a lesser degree of the marked field-device contrast also evident on this coin. The Reverse A, also from the earliest die state, displays:
--A slightly weak center ray below the second T of STATES.
--Full, rounded dentils from 3-5 o'clock, with no space between them.
Six Different Striking Periods
Dannreuther outlines six different striking periods with different dies and die markers evident for each--a remarkable conclusion, but one outside the scope of the present coin. Mint Director Henry R. Linderman (1867-69, 1873-79) was known not to be averse to lining his pockets when the call came from his numismatist friends outside the Mint for a special coin or two. Dannreuther speculates that perhaps the original Dannreuther-1 obverse die had been destroyed when more examples of the 1867 Rays proofs were asked for, leading to the production of the Dannreuther-2 and -3 dies, each time paired with the successively lapped Dannreuther-A reverse.
The Present Specimen
To summarize, although there may be more 1867 Rays proofs known than originally thought, many are later restrikes. This piece bears every hallmark of being one of the few (10-15) true originals struck, both in die diagnostics and the heavy cameo contrast and lack of die polishing notable on both sides. The piece is fully struck throughout, with reflective, untoned surfaces. The only mentionable flaws are some minor handling marks seen in the obverse field at 2 o'clock. Advanced numismatists might do well to consider the present opportunity extremely carefully. Census: 6 in 65 Cameo, 3 finer (5/10).(Registry values: P6) (NGC ID# 276H, PCGS# 83818)
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