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1854 $3 PR64+ Cameo PCGS. CAC....

2013 November 1 - 3 US Coin Signature Auction - New York #1191

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Auction Ended On: Nov 1, 2013
Item Activity: 8 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Location: Heritage Auctions
445 Park Avenue, 15th Floor
New York, NY 10022
Incredibly Rare 1854 Three Dollar Gold
PR64 Cameo, One of the Three Finest Certified
1854 $3 PR64+ Cameo PCGS. CAC. Heritage has the privilege of offering the numerically finest 1854 proof three dollar gold piece that we have ever handled in PR64 Cameo PCGS, a coin of immense historic importance and tied for the finest known.

The three dollar gold denomination was authorized by the Mint Act of 1853, a modern convenience that would supposedly enable the public to buy sheets of 100 three-cent stamps with one coin of the new denomination.

The plan failed miserably. The first pieces came off the presses in 1854; the public remained unimpressed, and for most of its short history, the three dollar gold denomination was little struck and seldom seen.

As Q. David Bowers writes in The United States $3 Gold Pieces 1854-1889:

"On April 28, 1854, the Mint struck 15 Proof examples that were sent by Mint Director James Ross Snowden to the Secretary of the Treasury James Guthrie in Washington. Others were retained at the Mint, including two by Chief Engraver Longacre. Interested numismatists could obtain specimens there. Thus was initiated what became an uninterrupted string of Proof issues, although production was exceedingly low for the next several years."

When cataloging the John Jay Pittman example (Akers, Part Two, 5/1998), lot 1886, David Akers published a census of nine pieces but added that a few other examples might survive. Akers wrote:

"Approximately 15-20 1854 Three Dollar Gold pieces were struck in Proof to mark the first year of issue of this new, unusual, and ultimately unnecessary denomination. We know that 15 Proofs were sent to the Secretary of the Treasury on April 28, 1854, and it is likely that a few others were struck for inclusion in presentation sets. Today, only an estimated 7-10 Proofs can be accounted for, nearly all of which are of relatively low quality. This would seem to indicate that most of the Proofs eventually must have ended up in the hands of non-numismatic people who did not know how to care for them properly."

A clue to the existence of subsequent proofs is also provided by Breen when he writes, "It is probable that a few others [proofs] were made at the beginning of the new coinage of this denomination, May 1, 1854." By the time Bowers published his series reference in 2005, he estimated that 20 to 30 proofs in all had been made, of which some 10 to 14 survive. For what it is worth, we publish here the combined certified populations at NGC and PCGS as of September 2013:

--NGC. PR64 (2); PR62 (2); PR61; PR58.
--PCGS. PR64 Cameo (3); PR63 Cameo (2); PR62 (2)

The certified populations thus include 13 specimens, likely counting duplications. One specimen is known in the Smithsonian. As Akers noted, most of the certified examples are at the PR63 level or lower. The present PR64 Cameo example as noted is tied for finest at PCGS assuming the two submission events are different coins, which we believe they are. The other PR64 Cameo PCGS is the Garrett-Johns Hopkins-Wayne S. Rich example (Bowers and Ruddy, 2/1979), lot 417; Bowers and Merena, 3/2002, lot 192: "Olive-gold with some delightful pale orange highlights", a piece that brought $73,600 more than 10 years ago.

The fields on this near-Gem are deeply mirrored and set up excellent contrast with the moderately frosted devices. A few light hairlines appear in the field, far less severe than on most specimens seen. The strike details are pinpoint-sharp, uniformly so. Another distinguishing characteristic from the Garrett-Johns Hopkins example is the coloration, here yellow-gold with a noticeable tinge of red around the margins. As one of the two finest examples of this incredibly rare first-year subtype, with the small DOLLARS on the reverse -- and the only PR64 Cameo with the CAC green label -- this piece should be set for some spirited bidding when it crosses the auction block, a standout coin even among the many great coins in this superb Platinum Night session. Population: 3 in 64 (2 in 64+) Cameo, 0 finer (9/13).
Ex: Ohringer Collection (Goldbergs, 9/2008), lot 1231, which realized $149,500.(Registry values: P7) (NGC ID# 289R, PCGS# 88017)

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