Very Rare 1864 Three Dollar Gold
1864 $3 PR64
Ultra Cameo NGC. CAC. This proof three dollar gold piece from
1864 represents the third component in our offering of a
complete six-piece 1864 gold proof set, also including the
gold dollar, quarter eagle, half eagle, eagle, and double eagle,
each coin certified by NGC as Ultra Cameo in grades ranging from
PR64 to PR66. Each coin in the set is offered as a separate lot in
relevant sections throughout this auction.
PR64 Ultra Cameo, Likely 11 to 14 Survive
Any proof three dollar gold coin is rare, broadly speaking; in fact, it is not much of a stretch to say that any unimpaired 19th century proof gold coin is rare, especially when one gets away from the one dollar gold denomination.
The Mint reports of numbers of proofs struck bear little relevance in terms of pieces actually released to the collecting public (as opposed to being put into circulation). In the case of the 1864 proof three, the reported mintage was 50 pieces struck. How many of those were bought by the collecting public during that crucial Civil War year, however, is another matter. Q. David Bowers, in his series reference The United States $3 Gold Pieces -- 1854-1889, estimates that only 11 to 14 proof examples survive today, noting that "The 50 Proofs were all delivered in one batch on February 11 . Likely, many remained unsold." He writes, "Proofs are formidable rarities, and over a long period of time relatively few have crossed the auction block."
It has been more than five years since we offered an Ultra Cameo example of this issue, specifically lot 1765 of our ANA Signature (Heritage, 4/2006), a PR64 Ultra Cameo NGC example that brought $27,600, a figure that would certainly be much higher today. By comparison, two PR64 NGC Cameo coins traded hands this year, one for $51,750 (Heritage, 1/2011, lot 5065) and one for $54,625 (Stack's/Bowers, 3/2011, lot 6462).
Die diagnostics distinguish the 1864 proof threes from the circulation strikes, which are double-punched at the date while the proofs are single-punched, and deeply into the die. The proofs show the date slightly to the left of business strikes; the ribbon ends show doubling or outlining. Proofs also show an unintended area of die polish on the neck, near Liberty's hair.
Those diagnostics are boldly evident on the present near-Gem Ultra Cameo proof, additionally awarded the NGC Star designation for superior eye appeal. The eye appeal is nothing short of amazing for the grade, with breathtaking cameo contrast that is deeper on the obverse, although both sides are well within Ultra Cameo territory. The obverse shows the frosted portrait pale, almost gold-white. A tiny planchet flaw appears behind Liberty's head and a few stuttering hairlines to the left of her nose, but they hardly detract at all from the incredible appeal. This piece is the sole finest Ultra Cameo example of the issue certified at NGC, although two PR65 Cameo and one PR66 Cameo are numerically finer (9/11).(Registry values: P4) (NGC ID# 28A4, PCGS# 98027)
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