1875 Three Dollar Gold Piece, PR64
1875 $3 PR64 PCGS. CAC. Aside from the unique and currently
unavailable 1870-S, the proof-only 1875 three dollar gold piece is
the rarest issue in the series, a classic American numismatic
rarity. Inclusion of an 1875 three dollar gold piece defines a
great collection of that series. Jeff Garrett lists it as number 29
in the third edition of 100 Greatest U.S. Coins. Garrett
writes: "The 1875 $3 gold piece has been a long-time favorite among
numismatists, given its tiny mintage and perennial fame."
Pedigreed to Lorin Parmelee in 1890
The '29th Greatest U.S. Coin'
Mint records state that 20 proofs were minted on February 13, 1875. However, current research shows that about 30 pieces are known today, suggesting an original mintage of approximately 60 proofs. Many pages have been written about the existence of original and restrike varieties, originating with Walter Breen in the 1950s. Breen explained that some pieces have prominent rust marks on the letters OL in DOLLARS, and assumed that those pieces were restrikes. Others have picked up the idea, such as Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth in the Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins 1795-1933, writing: "The mintage of 20 Proofs is on the low side, thanks to some extra striking that went on at a later date in secrecy."
In his 1976 auction analysis of the three dollar gold pieces, David Akers addressed the question of original and restrike pieces:
"The term 'restrike' has been used when discussing the 1875, but properly used, the term 'restrike' denotes a coin that is struck in a year later than its date. Such has not been conclusively proven to be the case with the 1875 three dollar gold piece, and although there are differences between known specimens, it is more than likely that they were merely struck at different times during the same year rather than in different years."
Determining the existence of restrikes, coins struck in years after 1875, necessitates an exhaustive review of dies and die states for all years. If a common obverse die can be found for 1875 and for later issues, and if the later issues are found to be an earlier die state, then the existence of true 1875 restrikes will be proven. In the May 2000 Bass catalog, offering this identical specimen, Dave Bowers wrote:
"The difference between 'originals' and 'restrikes' is a bit fuzzy as per contemporary literature, and perhaps if more details are learned from other specimens, the situation would become more clear."
The obverse of this specimen has the lower loop of the first S filled and shows a die line through the F in OF. Scattered die rust is evident in the fields and hidden in the devices. The reverse has a short die line near the denticles at 1:30. There are also raised rust marks on OL of DOLLARS. The existence of characteristics of both "original" and "restrike" pieces shows that there actually is just one die variety.
The late Harry W. Bass, Jr., owned two examples of the proof-only 1875 three dollar gold piece. The other specimen was retained for the Bass Core Collection, now on display at the American Numismatic Association museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Bass acquired this splendid Choice proof from the Eliasberg sale in 1982, where the catalog gave an earlier provenance to the Wilcox Collection in 1901:
"Of the greatest rarity-but 20 coined! The only specimen offered at auction in ten years! Originally from Parmelee collection through S.H. & H. Chapman to Seagrave to S.H. & H. Chapman again, and sold in the set to Wilcox."
Parmelee may have acquired this specimen directly from the Philadelphia Mint in 1875, as he was active throughout the 1870s. Just 15 years after it was minted, this piece realized $51 in the Parmelee sale, a substantial sum at the time. The second most expensive three dollar gold piece in that sale realized just $15, and most others sold for less than $10 each.
This beauty has highly lustrous yellow-gold devices with bold features that display delicate orange highlights, all over deeply mirrored fields with attractive greenish patina and faint violet overtones. Population: 4 in 64, 0 finer (11/11).
Ex: Lorin G. Parmelee (New York Coin & Stamp Co., 6/1890), lot 1398; Lincoln T. Seagrave; C.S. Wilcox, Esq. (S.H. and H. Chapman, 11/1901), lot 150; John H. Clapp; Clapp Estate (1942); Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; Eliasberg Estate (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 301; Harry W. Bass, Jr.; Bass Estate (Bowers and Merena, 5/2000), lot 283.(Registry values: P8) (NGC ID# 3EDP, PCGS# 8039)
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